Friday, August 15, 2008

The End of an Era

An "era" can be defined in several different ways. I don't think that I know the true, actual definition, but I think I have one that applies here:

"A period of time where something amazing occurred relatively regularly and was observed by a regular audience of tens of people across the world."

The "era" I'm referring to in this instance is the existence of this here blog. Many (George, Tom, Mallory, to name a few) have come and gone in the world of blogging, and yet I have stayed strong up until the last couple months. What happens is by the end of the night, I'm just not ready to relay my innermost thoughts out into the internet world. Plus, I like keeping some secrets. It's kind of nice.

I'm not completely dismissing it altogether. You can expect a post right before the beginning of the upcoming NBA season in November for my annual Season Preview and when I get the urge to write some movie reviews, you can bet that they'll show up here. But you can go ahead and take me off your bookmarks. Because there won't be regular updating. . . as much as that truly saddens me deep down.

I can blame it on so many things. It could be work (where I still put in 38 hours a week, struggling to sell that second tie to Casual Joe) or school (which starts again in - gulp - ten days) or the gym (which I joined last week, and will begin attending 3-4 times a week once I return home from Maryland, where I type from now) or the time I spend with my girlfriend (contentedly no longer my fiance', Heather means more to me now than ever before and we work hard everyday to move closer to a time that we can spend more time together, even in a place that has both our names on the mailbox) or hanging with friends whenever that actually happens (loneliness is Public Enemy #1 for me right now at home, with everyone pretty much either in Los Angeles or in the surrounding areas - but when one shows up in the A.V. you better believe I'm all over it) or ANY NUMBER OF OTHER FACTORS OF MY LIFE. . .

But the blame (not necessarily a bad thing) is only on me, the original Rambler (and as long as I own the access to this site, I will always maintain that pseudonym) and my desire to put my fingers to a keyboard and produce journal entries for both my own pleasure and yours (I presume).

And now on this, my Third Anniversary (wow. . . three years), I shut it down. Like I said, there will come times when I post on here something special but then it will end up being just that: Special. And not expected. And certainly not regular (not that I have been either as of late).

So thanks for reading as always - you consistent readers know how much it meant that you would even take a second to read my Ramblings. All four of you : )

Take care as always and thanks for being a part of something special. . .

Until (much) later,

JUSTIN

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Monumental

This is post number 299 in the history of A RAMBLER'S RAMBLING. . . I want number 300 to be a big deal, so I have decided to just preview what it will be and let you know that I just got back from a LEGENDARY banzai trip to Viva Las Vegas (prefix courtesy of hundreds of hours of marketing) with my good buddy Cy and I have tons of stories, memories, and money (well, actually, just $50, but for my first gambling experience, I'm stoked to leave with money that wasn't mine in the first place!) from my time there.

And all that will come very soon - -

Until then, while I was reading Bill Simmons' most recent magazine column, I came across one of the best lines ever about fandom and what it means to truly follow a team closely:

"We'll always find ways to care as much as we always did, if only because the day-to-day process of following a team is such an enormous part of our lives. Losing that passion would be like giving up morning coffee or not exercising anymore; a routine is a routine."

Amen.

O, and we are T-Minus 16 days and counting to THE DARK KNIGHT. There are no other words to say except:



O yes!!!

See you soon with my Vegas memories : )

Until then,

Monday, June 23, 2008

Entertainment. . . Now

Over the time that I failed to blog (that being the 50 day break that I took) I did not fail to be entertained by all things, well, entertainment. Movies. Music. Television. Lots of new types of viewing or listening pleasure have entered into my life and quite a few of them are top notch, ahead of the curve, overall amazing entries into my Entertainment Interests. So let's just get right to them, shall we? Away we go:

MOVIES

So far, I have seen 15 of the films released in 2008 (although there are many more on the to-be-viewed list) and it is increasing every week as those films that were released in the first quarter of the year are starting to come out on DVD. I'm also trying to make it out to the Cinema in order to take in those large-screen versions. Of the 15, only three have earned the much desired A grade (two of them A-'s), but you'll see that here. Here are the grades followed by a very brief review, in the same type of nature as the internet site, Four Word Film Reviews (but mine will actually tell you whether or not you should see it).

IRON MAN – (A)


Almost as perfect as Batman Begins


FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL – (A-)

Another raunchy/sweet Apatow-produced home run

KUNG FU PANDA – (A-)

Familiar Dreamworks formula. Pixar-level execution.

CLOVERFIELD – (B+)

Worthy of all the hype.

INDIANA
JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL – (B)

Just good to see Indy again (don't mind the aliens!)

HAROLD AND KUMAR: ESCAPE FROM GUANTANOMO BAY – (B)

Dumb and hilariously over-the-top.

DEFINITELY, MAYBE – (B)

The rare pleasantly surprising rom-com.

BE KIND REWIND – (B-)

Original story; competent story-telling.

21 – (B-)

Read Bringing Down the House instead.

RUN FATBOY FUN – (C+)

Simon Pegg should go back to writing his own material.

THE RUINS – (C)

Decent addition to the college/teen horror genre.

SEMI PRO – (C-)

A ridiculous and unfunny "comedy."

THE GRAND – (C-)

I guess Poker can't be funny.

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS – (D+)

Just watch the trailer instead. Or go to Vegas!

THE HAPPENING – (D-)


M. Night Shyamalan needs his head examined.



I had planned on doing both music and television this morning too, but now I have to get ready for work - I will attempt to finish that up tonight or even tomorrow morning. But I'll get all the goods on the new Weezer, Coldplay, and My Morning Jacket CD's as well as my thoughts on the new season of The Mole! Until then, have a great Monday!

Until later,


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Exceeding Expectations

I do realize that it has now been 50 days since my last REAL post here on my blog. I needed a break. I paused in the middle (well, almost middle) of my planned 21 TO 21 thing before my birthday for many reasons. School was closing down and I began to desire (more than usual) to do well in my classes. I had coasted to what I would figure to be two A's and two B's, which would be fine (an overall 3.4 GPA) but towards the end of the semester, I decided that that would not be good enough. I actually sought to complete an assignment on time and to the best extent possible. I had myself prepared for tests and my finals as well. And what occurred?

I got the best grades I have gotten since my freshman year in high school. I completed the semester with two A's and two A-'s, giving me a 3.85 GPA and pulling my overall college GPA to over 3.5, which is my goal over the FIVE years that I will spend in college. Yes, five. Through my advisement and my own planning, I have discovered that I will need to spend one more year in college to earn my Bachelor's Degree. This is caused by my change of major between my first semester at CSUN and the one I just completed as well as the transfer from AVC to CSUN that provided some classes the opportunity to not count towards my degree. In addition to that, I would much rather not take more than 12-14 units a semester and I refuse to take summer courses because I want to be a sane individual through my schooling. I just do better when I take less classes per semester (as evidenced by my full point increase from the previous semester to the one I just finished). And I enjoy my schooling more when I can devote more time to the classes I'm taking.

Beyond this, blogging was not high on the To-Do list.

But now, four weeks into my summer vacation, I'm just a working machine, spending 40 hours a week at the MW. And it is going well. Every one of my last three weeks there I have exceeded my "Weekly Goal" and the week that just ended had me selling over $6900, essentially tying my highest week ever. My sales are higher because (gasp!) I'm spending more time there! Shocking that I can actually sell - maybe that's why I'm there in the first place. I love that my total sales over this last month meet or exceed every one of my counterparts. I now feel completely adequate and ready to move into the "Slow Period" of the Summer knowing that I can sell up to or better than everyone else in that store. Just bring on the customers!

The only kicker is that I have not seen Heather in nearly two weeks. . .

And there's actually some news on that front as well, but that will have to come next time as I am heading to actually see that better half of mine. She just got home since she just finished her quarter and has one week off (her "Summer" so to speak). So tonight, that means we get to watch KUNG FU PANDA, which I think will be good. And if not, at least I get to see this in its real context:



O yes! SKADOOSH!!!

Anyway, I'm back. And I'm better than ever. Expect more frequent (well, I guess anything is more frequent than once ever 50 days!) posts and just bring on the comments (Seriously - I need them to keep up my desire to be on here!) and enjoy as always!

So here we go - - -

Until later,

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hiatus.

Wikipedia (the true all-knower of the internet; if you don't know what it is, just ask any college student or recent graduate) defines "hiatus" this way:

"A break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc."

But see, I have come to realize that a more specific definition should be added to the page. . .

"A 50-day break from a blog that has meant much to the writer."

What does this mean?

It means that I will see you again on Saturday, the 50th day in a row that I have not posted (well, except for this - but, well, whatever).

As always, until later. . .

P.S. What do you think of the new layout???

Friday, April 25, 2008

15 to 21: A Birthday Countdown




2. A shopping cart. Not as obvious a story-starter, but it's a good one.

I had a group of friends, my sophomore and junior year specifically, that included two guys (Matt and Kevin - once humorously referred to as Mevin and Katt by mistake haha) who were one year older than me. We played on the basketball team together and were often seen together on the weekends and any time that we actually would go out and do anything. Cy later joined the group and the four of us formed a pretty solid group of guys that hung out and had each others' backs. It was cool.

Well one night we were hanging out and we were at a Coldstone in Lancaster that was pretty proximal to a combination KFC/Long John Silvers and we wanted to go over there for fun (we were pretty respectable and didn't do anything illegal - this was "fun" for us). As we got closer (we walked since it was so close) we noticed some carts in the parking lot of a Target that sat right next to the aforementioned fast-food place. So we began playing with them (too many viewed episodes of JACKASS, you could say). Being much taller, Matt and Kevin (6' 4'' and 6' 5'' respectively) had Cy and me (both about 5' 8'') get in carts and they started pushing us around the parking lot. Then I got an idea - well, it was really a last-ditch effort to save myself from the pain that would eventually come from the Demolition Derby-like games we were playing.

(Note: I actually had to call Cy about this because I do not remember exactly who was pushing whom, but I am 75% sure that Matt was pushing me and Kevin was pushing Cy - no, it's not that important, but it is part of the story).

You see, we had drifted closer to the KFC/LJS and I mentioned to my driver (pretty sure it was Matt) that we should try to go through the Drive Thru in the shopping cart! Mind you, it was around 2200 or so and there was not a lot of people around, so it was completely doable. Well off we went and into the line we entered. There was one car ahead of us and we were fine. Then a car pulled in behind us! There we are, two high schoolers, one pushing the other in a Target shopping cart, in the Drive Thru of a fast food restaurant. We were stuck. . .

As we got to the Ordering Spot, we were greeted in a normal fashion, and asked what we wanted. We figured that they would just tell us to get out of line, or something to that effect, but there was no such rebuke. Well Matt and I had about 79 cents between us and scanned the menu for anything that we could afford and then we found it: a biscuit! The delicious KFC biscuits could be purchased at something like 50 cents apiece, and that worked for us poor, non-working juveniles. So we ordered a biscuit, were asked if that was all (we assured the lady that yes, that was plenty), and we then pulled around. . .

We were still a car behind the window, but when the girl leaned out to take the payment from the car in front of us, she had to do a double take (and it was the truest form of one ever - she actually went back through her little door and then popped out quick and looked straight out at us, smiling and laughing!). When we pulled up to the window, there was a group of 3 workers at the window, all laughing. One popped out and said (sorry about the language. . . gotta stay true!) "This is the funniest fucking thing I've ever seen!" and the others just continued laughing. . . we had made somebody's night, and we couldn't have been more full of ourselves.

O, and we ended up with two biscuits. . . and we didn't pay them a dime!

So I guess that just goes to show that a little laughter does go a long way and that a lot can be said for high schoolers who just want to have an innocent bit o' fun at the expense of a Drive Thru. So fast food restaurant managers everywhere, listen closely: Just let 'em do it. They aren't hurting anyone. . . and there's much worse things that they could be doing. And just admit that you actually think it's funny, too. It helps the process a bit!

That's good for that one - - see you tomorrow with the thrilling conclusion of this trilogy of stories within a 21-part series of stories. . . not sure what that makes this exactly, but I know that it's outside of my geekdom to decide. . .

Until later (As always!),

Thursday, April 24, 2008

16 to 21: A Birthday Countdown

Ok, enough with the teasing. Let's get right to the stories (if you don't know what I'm talking about, check out last night's post). . . After some consideration, I have decided to break this up over three nights since these are all very detailed-oriented stories. So we'll start off with the first one and then the next two will be posted on the next two night successively. I'm posting anyway, so why not drag it a little, right? Enjoy!




1. Not only is that an amazingly funny picture of Heather and I, it leads me to a couple stories.

The first, I guess, will have to describe the picture itself. It's actually really simple. There is this band called the Scissor Sisters (I actually know nothing about them) and way back in September 2006, my good buddy Cy blogged about them and posted that picture on his blog - I simply copied that picture and put it on mine last night. I guess when they were more of a big deal, you could actually go in, put pictures of anyone you knew into their system, and those faces would go onto the bodies of those figures and do a dance to a song of theirs. I tried to do it again by going to their site, but that was to no avail. Kind of a bummer. Still a funny picture though :)

But it also led me to remembering how Heather and I used to take swing dance lessons (if you're wondering how I could ever get there from that picture, I guess it's just the fact that the figures danced. . . or at least that's what I'm going to say!). You see, back during the summer between our junior and senior years (I think. . . yeah, that sounds about right) Heather and I decided to take the aforementioned classes. We had gone to see Aimee's dance recital that spring and there had been some "Swingers" (not the keys-in-a-fish-bowl kind, but the dancing kind. . .in case you were unsure!) and it looked like so much fun! So I said "Hey that looks like so much fun." (I'm pretty consistent, you see.) And that got me into a world I never thought I'd see myself in.

We began taking a once-a-week class at Desert Stars, the studio that Aimee calls home so often during the week. Our teachers were a middle-aged hip couple named Paul and Lynette. For one, I have to say that Paul looked like a cool, buff version of Uncle Rico from the god-forsaken movie NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (o yeah, I don't like that movie. . .). I think that helps with the story, but I'm not sure why. . . Either way, we started this class as one of probably 6 couples. It obviously started off extremely rocky, seeing that I was born with two left feet. O, and I have no rhythm. Turns out you need some of that to get good, so I worked hard at not making myself look like a complete idiot. Over time, we got better (Heather was a natural - it was really just about getting me comfortable with doing any form of movement in front of people that did not include a basketball) and eventually we were one of only 3 couples who went consistently. We got good. Then we got even better. And then we even entered into a Swing Contest (I'm not kidding) at this place in Palmdale. We took honorable mention, if I remember correctly, just because we were so nervous about what we were doing. But it was all leading up to our most public display of dancing and one that I swore would never occur. . .

During our senior year, Cy and I hosted an annual talent show called the ToKnight Show (get it? our mascot was a Knight. . .). Usually the hosts just kinda strung along some banter in between the "acts" and tried not to cause the show to drag on too long. But Cy and I had wanted to host it since our freshman year and when we got our opportunity, we jumped at it and ran with it all the way. We wrote an entire script (with the help of our friend Justin, who also acted in our play-of-sorts) for a time-traveling adventure starring two scientists (Dr. Brown - me - and Dr. White - Cy, a Filipino. . . pause for laughter. . .) who had created such a machine. We went to all sorts of eras and associated the acts that we had with the time periods we were in (Example: a Rock band during the Prehistoric age. . . give us a break, we were high schoolers!). Well after the intermission, I claimed that I had just taken a trip to the 1950's and learned how to dance, invited my "assistant" (that would be Heather, who played the lovely Sandra Dee) out, and cued up the swing music (a song entitled "Nosey Jose" by Bull Moose Jackson) that we had listened to hundreds of times, practicing our routine. We then danced in front of several hundred on-lookers and. . . it went amazing. We nailed almost every step right on the beat and got a great big hand upon completion. What was special about it was that no one knew we were gonna do it and no one even knew we had been taking lessons, so it was a huge surprise! Great fun all around!

I do miss being good at something like swing dancing, and Heather often brings up the fact that we should go back and take lessons again, but it's too difficult since we live so far apart. Maybe one day. . . I'm serious. I would love to get back out there and be as good as we once were. I fear that I would not be nearly as good and would struggle with that, but I think we would pick it right up. . . just like riding a bicycle!

And that's about it for tonight. . . check back in tomorrow night for the story starring a shopping cart! Let the guessing begin!!!

Until later,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

17 to 21: A Birthday Countdown

Not much in the area of energy this evening. Or desire to blog, for that matter. But I'm not gonna quit that fast (but I do have to admit, it's really difficult to do this every night). . .

And since I'm not really all here tonight (and the fact that it is now after 0130. . .) I wanted to just post a couple pictures that brought back some memories that I will share with you tomorrow night. Call it a teaser post tonight. . . Kind of like the number up there (17). You can go see R rated movies but you can't do all the stuff 18-year-olds can do, like, you know, be an adult. . .

Anyway, here are three pictures that will hopefully make you laugh after I divulge the stories about them tomorrow night. . . Enjoy!!!

1.


2.



3.



Until later,

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

18 to 21: A Birthday Countdown

Sigh. . .

Another SUNS loss tonight. We're two losses away from going home for the summer. But I'm not worried yet. The Spurs did what they were supposed to do - they took care of their home court. Now we go home for two games, and we take care of business there, and it's all of a sudden a best-of-three series. I never give up on my team. Ever.

But now I'm a little low and I need to blog to pick myself up, I guess. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. . .

The only thing that I can think about right now is high school. I stopped by my high school today to lead an ex-teacher of mine and his wife over to my house to watch the game (he's a Spurs fan - plus, he's a really cool guy). As I was there (I've been there more than just today as of late, but it's on my mind nonetheless) I got to thinking about some of my memories from my time there. And the funniest thing about it all is that a couple of them are available on YOUTUBE. Yes, the video capital of the world contains videos featuring yours truly. One, for example, shows several of us seniors sitting around in the gym during some routine thing for us as soon-to-be-graduates.

(Go to the 1:07 mark for the classic "Justin thinks you sound stupid" face)



That one is not as funny, but it is interesting to see us all back when we were high schoolers. I know it wasn't that long ago and all, but I still find it funny. I feel like I have changed quite a bit over the last 3 years, and I'm sure all of the people in the video would agree they have too.

One thing we got to do as seniors was participate in Senior Celebration at Six Flags Magic Mountain. It was just ok, but it did allow for a group of us to get together and ride the Log Jammer. . . what follows is a practically only-Cy video of 5 of us on the Log Jammer. The absolute funniest thing about the following video is that it has been viewed almost 1700 times! Who has watched this video!?!?!



And the final video from Senior Celebration featured our friend Justin (not me) creeping up on some ducks (or geese. . . can't remember) that were making this weird hissing noise. Look, I'm not promising awesome material here - I'm just sharing with you some high school memories (that also happen to be on YOUTUBE):



I really wish that more stuff like this could have been taped and put on YOUTUBE. I wish I could re-live some of those high school memories that I can only do my best to describe. . .

But not tonight. I'll leave you with just the videos tonight for two reasons. One is that it is late and I have a long day tomorrow. Two is that I'm still reeling from the loss earlier. . . I can't help it. I'm a die-hard fan. It's what I do. . .

Until later,

Monday, April 21, 2008

19 to 21: A Birthday Countdown

As I walked into work this morning, I noticed a small note next to the computer where I clock in. It read "Justin and Jim: You need to clean the men's bathroom today." There might have been a smiley face after that, and if there was, I didn't see it. And if I would have seen it, I would definitely have erased it. My statement in my head was "I stopped cleaning bathrooms the day I stopped cleaning tables." Which had been true. Until today.

Jim and I tackled the rather gross men's bathroom (I took the sink and mirror; Jim got toilet duty) and finished in under 10 minutes, but it was the nature of the job that frustrated me. I'm there to sell suits, not clean bathrooms. I don't get paid nearly enough money per hour to scrub anything. Plus, wouldn't you figure that a company like the MW would be able to hire some sort of cleaning/janitorial service to clean their bathrooms. I don't know. . . it was just frustrating, and quite gross, and that coupled with the fact that I had no sales in the five hours I was there, well, I considered today a bit of a waste.

But that scrubbing got me thinking about my past jobs. You know, the ones that actually required me to clean up after people. . .

So I figured I would provide you a couple stories from my time at JC (Johnny Carino's, for those not in the know) that make me glad I no longer call that restaurant my place of work:

- One night at JC, we had a large birthday party, complete with many kids, in the one large room we often had parties in (did I mention it was large?) and it was finished off with cake for the guest of honor. This cake was provided by the guests, but it was not really eaten per se. I would say that it was more smeared and smashed into crevices of booths, left under tables, and not enjoyed, as evidenced by the plentiful amount of leftovers on our small bread plates throughout the room. When this party left, it took two of us table tenders (wow. . . haven't made that reference in a great while) a good 15 minutes to completely restore the room somewhat back to its original state, although that was futile, as cake stuck into booth crevices is just too ridiculous. . . The moral of the story: Don't have kids.

- Another night at JC gave my buddy Chris the opportunity to clean up after a toddler who could not make it to the bathroom in time. Now usually, this would mean some form of vomit or spit-up, depending on the age of the child. Well, this was a special event, and I thank God that I was not there, or else I probably would not have had a job after. You see, this child could not make it to the bathroom in time before an explosion that no diaper could have contained. I remember hearing that story the next day and laughing so hard and telling Chris that I would have never cleaned it up. Poor guy never thought of that angle. . . And I'm afraid, that might have been another one of those booth crevice situations, too. . . The moral of that story: Again, don't have kids.

- On the whole, the job was rather thankless. Cleaning tables, that is. In my time picking up after messy eaters, I accidentally stuck my fingers in tomato sauce, spilled beverages of all kinds over myself, had plates shatter at my feet (both my fault and others), was blamed for all sorts of evil that only a customer awaiting a table could create, and even was left to discover some rather unfortunate materials in the bathroom. . .

- Which reminds me. . . There was once a time when I entered the men's bathroom to do my hourly clean-up and as I entered the larger stall, I smelled something awful. Now, it's a bathroom, so I continued to walk towards the toilet and noticed several toilet seat covers on the ground to the right of the toilet. As I got closer, the smell got worse. I wrapped my hand in toilet paper and lifted the edge of one of the papers on the floor. What I discovered was more throw-up than I think I have ever seen at one time (at the time, that is - I do believe that I have seen more at other times since then). The thing that I thought as I covered my mouth and backed away was "How in the world did this person miss the toilet?" It was literally over all the tile to the right of the toilet and nothing in the toilet. . . Either way, I was the lucky buck who got to wheel the mop over to the bathroom and clean up after this person (never did see the culprit. . .). This was not even the only time that I had to clean-up throw-up (are both of those hyphenated? I say yes.) either. . . Another time, it was in the girl's bathroom, and it was almost the same situation. Lucky for me, I got to mop that one up too.

That's good for now, but I would like to make a point as to why I think my time spent at JC was worth it. Not only did I make some good money for awhile (some weeks, looking back on it, were more profitable than some at the MW) but I began my journey to where I am now. At the time, I had been searching for a job for months on end, not able to beg for a job with anyone. But a new restaurant in town gave me an opportunity to begin anew. I started as a Host, performed well, eventually moved to Table Tending, became a certified trainer, gave them everything for almost 1.5 years and then left when they weren't willing to be flexible with my hours when I wanted to coach basketball. I had trouble leaving because I had no set income if I left, but I asked a friend to get me in at his job (that would be the FL) and I interviewed there, earning a job there only two days after my last at JC. I worked hard there too, putting my time in for 6 months and when an opening occurred, I took over as the Assistant Manager, running a relevant retail store for hours on end at times. It was there that two women came in and I did my thing and I was offered a position at the MW as a paid salesman. The real deal. The Show. And it's through this job that I will be able to begin my future. No matter what it is. . .

Back tomorrow night after GAME TWO. . . Just remember friends, if the SUNS win, it will be a happy post. If not, well, then go ahead and expect the worst of times. . .

Until later,

Sunday, April 20, 2008

20 to 21: A Birthday Countdown

Here's the thing. . . I am in no mood to blog. I just finished watching Game 1 of the SUNS/SPURS series from last night. That should be enough to get my point across. . .

But it got me thinking. I knew the outcome of the game. There was no way that I could avoid finding that one out (actually, there probably was - - but I couldn't do it to myself). Instead, I put myself through the misery of a double overtime game that I knew would end with my team on the losing end when all was said and done.

So what does that say?

It says I'm a fan (and maybe a little bit of a masochist. .). And that is how you can describe me and who I have become. If you have visited this site even once before, it is likely that you saw a post that discussed something about my beloved Phoenix Suns. I truly do live and die by the fate of my team. And it is that strong commitment to my team that leads me to the next step on the road to my 21st birthday. . .

20 to 21:

There are many stories that I could bring forth via my fandom, but the one that sticks out to me the most is the one that is providing me with hope as I struggle with the loss in Game One.

It was the 2006 NBA Playoffs. My SUNS were in the first round against the 7th seed Los Angeles Lakers as the 2nd seed and had just come off of losing the "home court advantage" (for those not in the know, these playoff series are a best-of-seven with the team with the better regular season record getting 4 games at home in a 2-2-1-1-1 fashion. . . follow?) by losing Game Two after a Game One victory. My best friend George (as big of a Laker fan as I am a Suns fan) and I decided we had to go to Game Three in Los Angeles as we were only an hour from the stadium and it's not every day that our favorite teams battled it out in the playoffs so close to home. So we found tickets on EBAY and made our way to the Staples Center on April 28 for what would be one memorable evening.

I was one of maybe a handful of SUNS fans in the entire stadium. Imagine 20,000 fans worshiping at the altar of the purple and gold, and there's me, just trying to make that gold a more orange color! I bravely draped myself in my Steve Nash jersey and George (donning his Kobe "The Rapist" Bryant jersey - - no, he will never live that one down from my standpoint) and I took the game in from the upper deck, but the front row of said nose-bleed section. It was an exciting game that ended in a Lakers victory, 99-92. Within the first minute of the game, an already feisty series got a bit more physical as a skirmish broke out. Later in the game, former Laker Kwame Brown knocked Suns player Boris Diaw down and decided it was best to stand over him in a taunting manner. This only added to the animosity that the two teams (and fans, apparently) had for each other.

Every now and again, I would feel something hit my back. I assumed popcorn, candy, or something like that, and as long as it wasn't gum, I was ok with it. However, once the game ended, I was introduced into a world of Suns-hating that I had never visited before, and looking back, quite possibly could have gotten ugly.

As George and I tried to exit the unsafely crowded stadium, people began squeezing ever closer together to get to the escalator down to the main level. When a couple people (it's a safe bet that these wonderful individuals were mildly intoxicated) noticed my jersey, a fun chant of "Phoenix Sucks" began to break out. Mind you, the series was now 2-1 in favor of the Lakers, giving them the inside track to winning the series and sending the Suns home for the summer. As the chant got louder, I felt closer shoving and more direct forms of abuse as more food items were thrown in my direction and I sensed that things might get out of hand.

I was not the only one. A security guard pushed his way towards me and asked me if I would like an escort out of the stadium. I declined, thanking him for his offer, as I assumed it would be just fine getting to my car. Boy, was I ever wrong (in retrospect, I wonder what would have happened if I had agreed - would George and I have been taken out a secret way? Or would I just have received a worse case of vocal abuse with a security guard on my hip?). . .

As I made my to the top of the escalator, George and I began to look around. This escalator is essentially the center of attention in the area of the stadium with people standing around on three levels awaiting their turn (waves of people would be allowed to go, and then a period of nothing, as to alleviate the amount of people leaving at the same time). Once again, my jersey stood out (some of you may be saying, "Justin, just take off the jersey!" No thanks. I don't give in that easily. I would be so embarrassed to this day if I had succumbed to the pressure.) and a new chant of "Phoenix Sucks" began to echo through the corridor surrounding the escalator. I was essentially standing on an escalator surrounded by hundreds of Laker fans, singling me out as the anti-everything they stood for. I was the only Suns fan within vocal range, and they made sure that I was aware who won the game. I cannot explain to you what that felt like. There very well could have been 500 people standing in that vicinity that night and every single one of them (Except for George - he kept saying "Shut up! He's my ride home!") was yelling at me because of the team I support. I was worried, but not really, as I assumed once I got outside, everything would be better. . . Not so much.

Unfortunately, we had exited the side of Staples Center exactly opposite of the side we entered, thus causing us to walk around the entire stadium and then down a couple blocks to reach our parking garage. As we exited the stadium, I was approached by a guy who was approximately 30 years old. This man had 2 small children in tow and was also clearly filled with magical liquids that made him act a little obnoxious. He came right up to me, got in my face, and said "It's over! It's over! Phoenix sucks!" Now, if you know me, you know that I am a smart ass. Up until then, I had kept my mouth shut, but I just could not take it anymore. I said to him "You've gotta win 4" as he walked away from me. . . Mistake. He stopped, spun, and immediately was in my face once more, saying loudly "What did you say, boy? I'll beat your ass!" Quickly, I responded with "Dude, you've got kids with you!" and walked away with George. . . Crisis One averted.

George and I were talking and laughing, trying to show that I had no desire to stir any trouble (Which was true) and it did work for the most part. One woman walking the opposite direction as me came right up to me and began lifting my jersey, saying "Take that shit off." I grabbed her arms, moved them away from me, and politely said "Get the hell off of me!" (No, that's not true. . . I did say something to the effect of "Ok. . ."). We made it to my car, but not before I witnessed another Suns fan walking the other direction who was being slapped around with those awful "Thunder Sticks" as he walked. George and I exchanged quick glances and booked it to my car as to avoid any actual assault and battery, which we both were pleased to find did not occur.

Now why does this story bring me hope? Well two days later on April 30, a dagger was inserted into my heart when Kobe Bryant hit a jumper as time expired to win Game Four in overtime, giving the Lakers a commanding 3-1 series lead. It was all but over. My "You've gotta win 4" statement was still true, but it was looking grim for our chances, as we had to win three games in a row after we had just LOST three in a row. I never gave up though, and neither did my beloved SUNS, as they came back to win Game Five and then the thrilling Game Six in Los Angeles thanks to Tim Thomas of all people. This of course gives me the opportunity to post this video so all my Lakers fans friends can enjoy it:



After that, we won in overtime and took that momentum and destroyed the Lakers in Game Seven in Phoenix and went on to later lose in the Western Conference Finals, but it was an amazing playoffs that displayed resiliency and perseverance in my team.

And that's what we now need, down 1-0 to the Spurs, which, in comparison, is nothing. All we need to do is win Tuesday night and home court is ours. . . so here's to that happening!!!

And now I retire to my bed for the evening. . . Hope you enjoyed the recap of one of the most memorable night of my life and I hope you return tomorrow night for the continued journey towards my big 2-1. . .

Thanks again and as always -

Until later,

Saturday, April 19, 2008

21 to 21: A Birthday Countdown

So here we are, the beginning of a journey to my 21st birthday, which lies just a mere 21 days away. Some may say I am making too big a deal out of it, but I say I'm not making ENOUGH out of it. So there. . .

When I was at lunch the other day with my sister Aimee, I asked her what she thought I should fill these stories up with, seeing that I had 10 ideas, tops, and that I gotten myself into something maybe I couldn't accomplish. But helpful sister that she is, she gave me a few more ideas and created new ideas in my head that I then decided to lay claim to. So all in all, I feel ready to embark on this trek towards the big 2-1 with you, as I give you a true collection of stories about the years that I have lived and the times that I've had:

21 to 21:

I think the most logical place to start something like this is at the beginning. I was born on May 10, 1987 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Scottsdale Memorial North Hospital was the first building that tried to contain me in any way, shape or form (that is, if you don't include my dear mother's womb). Around the time that my mom began heading into the labor period, she was given a bowl of tomato soup. Almost immediately after completing said soup, my mom threw it all up, giving one very unfortunate nurse the scare of a lifetime as the red tomato soup came up completely undigested (do I need to explain. . . I don't think so). I now believe that this traumatic event caused a rift and has led to my complete dislike for tomatoes by themselves and in most situations (no, I don't want ketchup, tomato soup - obviously - or tomato on my sandwich; but I have grown to like tomato sauce with Italian food, and most mild salsas do me just fine!).

As I was on my way out of my watery home, the doctor began letting everyone know that I was nearly there (everyone being all three sets of my grandparents, my mom's sister, and both my parents, naturally). My parents did not know the sex that I would be, but the doctor seemed to have an idea. He began saying "Here she comes, here she comes!" (inside, I'm sure I was not amused). My dad insisted, however, that I was a boy and there were no ifs, ands, or buts about it. "It's a boy" I imagine he claimed. "Here HE comes!"

And at 9:57 p.m. local time, I did. There I was, a bundle of joy, I'm sure. Wrapped in the traditional blue blanket and passed around the room to all the family, I'm sure (only after the pros made sure I was all good).

And so began my journey into the world.

***UPDATE***

My mom posted a comment here and it gave some added details to the eventful weekend of my birth and I figured I would give it its due and put it after all of my words:

"The fact that I had been there all weekend and that it was Mother's Day -- and that my doctor was a Mom too helped make it all the more profound when you finally appeared to make my first Mother's Day memorable -- along with your grandmothers. Actually everybody was waiting outside the "delivery" room in anticipation except for Grandpa Bruce & Grandma Pam -- they were actually there for the "event", if you will. Minutes later -- and only minutes -- the rest were ushered in to welcome you into our family. The funniest memory I have though is when they wheeled me to my room, at midnight, there was an entourage with balloons, video cameras and it was like there was a movie star or something - we all watched you get your first bath -- no privacy there -- thankfully Dr. Haas made it in time though - arriving with wet hair from her shower she just made it :) I love these memories. Hope you don't mind me adding to them. Love, Mom "

- - -

Come back tomorrow for the stirring continuation :)

Until then,

Thursday, April 17, 2008

There Can Only Be One

All season the NBA has been showing commercials with their new slogan, "Where Amazing Happens" and they have all been very good. . .

But now that it's playoff time, they have put into motion a series of commercials featuring 2 NBA players saying the same lines at the same time in a half-screen type thing.

The combinations of young stars like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul



and title-contenders Kevin Garnett and Lebron James



are good, but my favorites are the ones featuring my guys (of course).

Here is the first one of those two, which features two future Hall of Fame point guards, Jason Kidd, and my man, Steve Nash:



And this one will go down as one of the greatest commercials ever as it pairs one-time teammates, and now rivals, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal:



- - - -

Check back in tonight for my NBA Playoff Predictions!

Until later,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's Playoff Time!!!

Today is my second favorite day of the year (I think - I'm not making a blanket statement here. . . I'm just saying it right now. My first favorite day would be the first day of the NBA's regular season. . .). . . and today is the last day of the NBA's regular season. Why is this such a big day? Because it signals the beginning of the playoffs! The playoffs begin on Saturday and I could not be more excited about this year. The road to the championship is a tough one for my beloved SUNS but I'm always hopeful, like a good fan should be.

I had get to my initial thoughts (go ahead and expect 2 posts about the NBA playoffs before they begin on Saturday - this one and another one more focused on exact predictions) and also needed to post the bracket for what would have occurred had the NBA switched over to a format like the NCAA. I talked about this last year, and I still think that is not a bad idea, especially since if it was this way, every playoff team would be at least .500 instead of having an awful team like Atlanta sneak into the awful Eastern Conference Playoffs. It would certainly provide an interesting several rounds. . . Check out the first round:

1. Boston
16. Portland

8. Utah
9. Orlando

5. San Antonio
12. Golden State

4. New Orleans
13. Cleveland

6. Houston
11. Denver

3. Los Angeles
14. Washington

7. Phoenix
10. Dallas

2. Detroit
15. Toronto

- - -

If all of the top seeds won, we would be looking at this for the second round:

1. Boston
8. Utah

5. San Antonio
4. New Orleans

6. Houston
3. Los Angeles

7. Phoenix
2. Detroit

- - -

Holy crap! And the "Final Four" would be:

1. Boston
4. New Orleans

3. Los Angeles
2. Detroit

- - -

Not that this year's playoffs are gonna be bad (it's actually going to be one of the greatest ever!) or anything, but that would be incredibly entertaining - - -

But in the end, it's all about what is set up and for that reason, I'll leave you with this thought about the playoffs before my post in a night or two:

BRING ON THE SPURS!!!!!!!!!!

Until later,

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'll Be Brief (For Now)

So here's the plan, Stan. . .

My goal here starting on Saturday is a post every night leading up to my birthday on May 10. The reason I will be starting on Saturday is that it is 21 days before my 21st birthday, and I will be doing a post called "21 til 21" on that day and so on ("20 til 21," etc.). Each day I'm gonna re-live a story that I may or may not have shared on this site in the past through my 21 years alive. I know it's not much, but I think it could be fun. If anything, it will get me to posting again, and it will be more about the past and not about my present and/or future. . .

Which is completely and utterly up in the air.

As an "Update" of sorts to my previous post this past week, I have to say one more thing about "Who I Am":

- I am starting to realize that I just might be depressed. The distance between Heather and I (the 95 miles, that is) is starting to really take its toll on our relationship. Our rare moments together are amazing and are everything to each of us, but the moments apart are much more prevalent and much more difficult. It's tough. And I know it sounds so. . . sad. But guess what? It is! We're working hard at something that every day seems less and less likely to succeed. Which is exactly the opposite of what we want - -but the lows are so low. . .

So we're working through things. And I know that posting that here is probably not the right move, per se, but it's what is going on for me at this time. It weighs on me every day. And it keeps me from putting my best foot forward (Except, of course, for those moments that we are actually together - no one brings out the best in me like her!). . .

So look for those posts starting on Saturday and enjoy the trip down memory lane as I near a milestone birthday!

Thanks as always :)

Until later,

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Who I Am

In honor of my first post in nearly a month (hopefully a sign that much more is to come in the near future), I decided to provide you with a little insight into who it is that you wanted to post all this time. Recently, I have decided where it is I think I'm headed on this life-trek and in doing so, discovered a little bit about myself in the process. This is partly for me - when you put something into print, you mean it a bit more than if you just think it - but it's also for you, my readers. I know all of you (I assume, of course, but I deep-down hope that there are hundreds of people out there with no idea who I am save for this here website) but you may not be aware of who I actually am or what I think about different things. And what I have to say may not be what you want to hear, but it's just the way the ball bounces, I guess. It's not a confessional period, but you might learn a thing or two. And you can judge. It's ok. Just know that I wouldn't judge you if you said any of the following to me. The rest is up to you. . .

So without further ado, I give you. . . Me:

- I am Justin David Gott, but while you are here, you may call me the Rambler.

- I am a mere thirty-eight days short of my 21st birthday (but don't tell anyone, I've had a drink or two already).

- I am white and please don't call me Caucasian until you can point out the country of Caucasia on a map and prove to me that my ancestors came from there. I'm serious.

- I am engaged to be married to Heather Lynn Acuff, my girlfriend of over four years, but because of our individual career aspirations, family influences, and overall goals for the future, may never actually go through with the process of joining in holy matrimony. Only time will tell if our love will stand the test of distance and scholastic endeavors. Either way, one thing is certainly true: I love that woman more than you can imagine.

- I am an alumni of Desert Christian High School (Class of 2005) and Antelope Valley College (Class of 2007) and currently attend California State University, Northridge, where I am majoring in Family Studies Education and minoring in Human Sexuality.

- I am planning on using that degree and the teachers credential that I will attain a year or two after I graduate to become a high school teacher, but more importantly, a basketball coach. My goal is to teach either a Health-type class, a Sex Education class, or even Physical Education, with the main focus on being the best coach that I can be. My aspirations continue beyond a high school, as I hope to, once a Masters Degree has been achieved, coach in college.

- I am at my best when people doubt me and tell me that I can't do something.

- I am severely addicted to basketball. Whether it's playing, watching, or (eventually) coaching, the rush that I get when around the game invented by Dr. James Naismith cannot be expressed with words that I know. I bring the ball up the court at the park in a 5-on-5 bloodbath and pull up for the game-winning three, and I feel alive. I watch Steve Nash, the point guard of my beloved Phoenix Suns, do amazing things and create opportunities to be victorious, and I feel the highest highs when good happens and the lowest lows when the unfortunate occurs. And when a player on a team that I'm coaching follows an instruction that I gave, performs the act perfectly, and is elated at their newfound ability (it happened several times when I was an Assistant Coach last season at Desert Christian), there are absolutely no words to express the pride and joy that I feel. That orange ball has brought to me a love that I didn't know existed. I have sacrificed my body by diving on a wood floor to attain a possession. I have sprained both of my ankles so many times playing basketball, that occasionally, they just give out and I fall to the floor. I wept bitterly as my high school career came to a close at the hands of Yeshiva High School, knowing that I would never again play in front of a crowded arena. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat. There is no other way to describe how much that game means to me, and that is why I need to be around it for the rest of my life. I cannot live without it.

- I am a person who respects those who have faith, whether it be in Jesus Christ or Mohammed, because they are able to go out on a limb that I am presently too petrified to venture out onto. I cannot be considered a "Young Man of God" (has been said of me, to be honest) because I don't know what to think anymore and I don't want to let anyone down at the same time. I'm sorry, but I don't pray and I have seen the inside of a church no more than 3 times in the last year (Christmas Eve being one of those times). I struggle because I can't stand "religion" and how it stops people from being a normal human being and creates all sorts of problems.

- I am open-minded and accepting instead of intolerant and hypocritical. Call me crazy.

- I am 5'8'' but my driver's license says that I am 5'9''. No, I didn't shrink. I lied. I wish I was taller.

- I am grateful for my height (yes, I realize what I just said) because as a wise man has told me, we short people have been challenged by bigger people our entire lives, so there is never a reason to be afraid of them. Been there, defeated that. Thanks. Now bring it on.

- I am a natural cynic, believing that the worst possible thing is most likely to occur. It makes it a lot better when fantastic things occur.

- I am a big brother. I have an almost-16-year-old sister (a brilliant, beautiful young woman who can dance circles around any other girl, literally) and a nearly-7-year-old brother (hard-headed, hilarious, and bound to be a millionaire one day). They are a part of me, so don't even think about messing with them. That little endeavor, my friend, will end in pain.

- I am a good listener. People come to me with problems and I give advice. Take that Dr. Phil!

- I am a lover of all types of music (except techno - sorry Moby). If you randomized my iPod, you could get the following 5 recording artists: Johnny Cash, Kanye West, Linkin Park, Alabama, Weezer. Do it again and you could get: Eminem, Michael Buble, Jimmy Eat World, Confederate Railroad, and Coldplay. I have seen Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Maroon 5, and Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert. I'm going again this summer to see Lynyrd Skynyrd, but this time with Hank Williams Jr. Country is at my heart (I just bought the new Alan Jackson CD and love it) but I will never abandon good ol' rock-and-roll. O, and that rap stuff? Yeah, I can't get enough and I have been known to bust a move from time to time. . . It's true.

- I am a non-smoker and will be until the day I die. All kinds. I have been around marijuana but have never used it. Don't want to. No interest whatsoever. The person I marry will also be a non-smoker. No questions asked.

- I am a Wardrobe Consultant at the Men's Wearhouse, which is a fancy way of saying that I'm a salesman. And I can bullshit with the best of 'em. But unfortunately, the United States' economy has decided to drop like a lead weight in the ocean, and I have been left scratching and clawing at every retail customer who walks through our door. But I'm good at what I do, and I've only been there five months. And I will get you to like what you're wearing. And yes, I do guarantee it (Sorry Mr. Zimmer!).

- I am just like 99.999% of the men out in the world today: I have seen/viewed pornographic material.

- I am a boxer-briefs type of guy, converted in the past year from the baggy boxers. That was a dumb high-school phase. But the BB are here to stay. Trust me.

- I am jealous of those living the "College Lifestyle" if only because my closest friends live so far away from me. My best friend lives in Georgia. Two of my other close friends live in Thousand Oaks and Ventura. Heather lives in Pomona. I live in Lancaster. I lose.

- I am the proud owner of Marty, my 2008 Scion xD, who I purchased in January. I make a payment of $296 a month and happily at that. Marty is everything that I have wanted and more and I am happier every day that I decided to take the plunge and buy him.

- I am one of maybe 10 Americans who does not have a credit card. But that will be changing. Very soon.

- I am emotional. I have been known to cry at many things, namely movies (not all of them, of course, but I don't deny it happening from time to time) and congratulatory moments. You know, like the time when your mom says she is proud of you over the phone while you're driving and you're thankful that no one can see you break down as you listen to her tell you how great she thinks you are. No? Didn't happen to you? Sorry, must have been just me who was blessed like that. . .

- I am the son of a hard-working perfectionist who has taught me how to care for a family and run a household correctly. He is the son of a hard-working perfectionist who taught him how to care for a family and run a household correctly. Those are Numbers 1 and 2 on my Heroes list, and I love and respect them both immensely. I hope to one day be half the men they are, but at the same time, will not settle for half. They wouldn't want that.

- I am dedicated to several television shows: House, Scrubs, The Office, anything with Chef Gordon Ramsey, and the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert combo.

- I am completely against and cannot stand the following television shows: Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Everybody Loves Raymond (I have my reasons!), and American Idol.

- I enjoy reading good books about all sorts of topics. Books are the original form of escape for those seeking it. And they never go out of style, that's for sure.

- I am a registered Independent. I don't know who I want to vote for in the presidential election in November. On personal levels, I like Barack Obama's age, confidence, and suavity; I like Hillary Clinton's tenacity, perseverance, and stubbornness; I like John Mccain's. . . umm. . . nothing! I don't know why, but I can't stand him. But guess what? He's the one I'm leaning towards just because he doesn't support Universal Health Care and is Pro-Life. . . Dammit!

- I am frugal, but when I want something that I feel like I can afford, I usually buy it. Hence, my massive DVD collection. And my ever-expanding work wardrobe. But it is my belief that there will always be ways to make money and that will never change, regardless of the state of the economy.

- I am a frustrated consumer who cannot stand paying almost $4 a gallon for gasoline. I think it's fishy that since President Bush has been in office, gas prices have risen from $1.60/gallon to nearly $4. It can't all be blamed on 09/11, sir.

- Ultimately, I am a never-say-die, hard-working, steadfast and immovable, dedicated, content but always striving for more, witty, genuine, and relatively simple individual. I am never afraid to succeed, and will always be a winner (that's not some happy Fortune Cookie telling me that, either - that's my other hero, who I know as "T").

And now I am heading to bed to prepare for another twelve hour day. I hope you learned something, or at least found something interesting about yours truly. If you did just that, then come back and see what else I have to say or am up to in the weeks, months, and even years to come (no plans of stopping A RAMBLER'S RAMBLING here).

And as always, take care of yourselves. And just remember:

"You will miss 100% of the shots that you don't take."
- - - Devin Thomas

Until later,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Just Plain Funny (and the Awesome!)

In the wake of another downer of a post (Monday's Return of the Ass of the Week) I figured I would bring you a series of pictures, links, videos, and other fun multimedia forms to make you either smile, laugh, or both! I do hope you enjoy, because I did, and that's the only reason that I would put them out there in front of you. . .

The Just Plain Funny

- Jack Nicholson is in favor of Hillary Clinton? The tape doesn't lie. . .



- This little girl is the cutest and thinks that STAR WARS is actually pretty simple to understand. Just watch it. And just remember: Darth Vader will getcha!


- Although it has been said that it was an accident (not by Kobe himself, but by analysts of the following clip), I still think this video is hilarious because it contributes to the theory that Kobe Bryant is one of the biggest (fill in the blank) in the NBA.




- This summer is going to be one of the best summers for comedies ever (which I will preview by the end of April)! Among the titles vying for best of the best are PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (Seth Rogen and James Franco), FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (Judd Apatow-produced), ZACH AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO (new Kevin Smith film), STEP BROTHERS (Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly) and one that I will highlight right now, TROPIC THUNDER, which stars Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr, who plays, wait for it, an actor trying to earn himself the accolades of moviegoers by playing a black man. Don't believe me:



O YES!!!!! I can't wait for this summer!!!

- Don't say white guys can't play defense. Thanks Kyle Korver! (Photo Credit: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)


The Awesome

- My all-time favorite basketball player is running for mayor of Sacramento. I have Kevin Johnson's jersey hanging up in my room. I acted as him many a day in the hallway of our old house in Lancaster as I performed entire SUNS games. And he is an incredibly upstanding, go-get-em type guy that I hope has a long future in the world of politics, because I think he can change things for the good (he is hoping to bring some light to the ghetto-type areas of our state's capital). Go get em KJ! And it also gives me a chance to show this video again. . . Eat it Hakeem!

- - -


I'll be back soon with another fun post like this. I like doing them because it brings what I find on the internet to you! Hope you enjoyed at least one of these things!!!

Until later,

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Return of the Ass of the Week

Well welcome to you all!

I've had three tests in the last seven days and now I sit at my computer watching Deal or No Deal of all things (I swear it's because of the contestant!) and I figured that I would take the time and put together a column that I have been pondering for some time now. Ladies and gentlemen, it's the grand return of the "Ass of the Week," although since it has been a month (almost exactly - I last did one of these on 02/02) between these posts, this could technically be considered the "Ass of the Month." But I'm not doing that. This is instead "The Return of the Ass of the Week" as the title says. But I do have to mention, in the words of the wise Randal Graves, "There is only one Return, and that's of the Jedi." But I'm sure he'd be ok with me just snagging the title for a brief moment. . . I hope.

Please enjoy and let me know what you think about this one. Thanks!

- - - - - - - -

The group of people that I will chewing out this week usually have their fair share of haters amongst the crowd. But that doesn't mean that I can just let them do their thing without getting a bit of lip. Or a tongue-lashing. Or something like that. . .

This week's winner of this now prestigious award are the too-rich bigwigs out there who make decisions about the lives of those so far below them with no regard for their hopes, dreams, or desires. Call it a broad generalization, but nonetheless, it's a rousing victory for the cronies. . .

I actually have two reasons to how I came to this conclusion this week. The first has to do with something that I read through Roger Ebert's website and a blog done by Jim Emerson, a guy who helps out Mr. Ebert occasionally. In the blog, Emerson discusses how Glen Hansard, part of the duo that wrote and starred in the film ONCE, has claimed that the company that created the cover for the film's DVD release has screwed with his original intention. And upon further review, he could not be more right on:




I don't know if you can see it there, but the picture on the left is the original poster, which also appears on the cover of the Original Soundtrack. The picture on the right is what is on the DVD cover. Some of the things that Hansard points out in the interview is that they are shown holding hands on the DVD cover, which is an action that the characters never do during the film. Furthermore, the cover is substantially brighter (not a huge deal, but still important nonetheless) than the originally intended poster (designed by Hansard himself) and the other half of the duo, Marketa Irglova, has been made taller to put her closer to the height of Hansard. The guitar they are waking on is made more prevalent and Hansard was put in a bit more trendy clothing, also stretching the true nature of the film.

Now to me this is a big deal. What's the point of all of this? Is it to sell more DVDs? This is clearly rhetorical -- I guess what frustrates me about this particular instance is that people WILL in fact fall for the illusion that the marketers have created for ONCE. People searching for a romantic comedy will find one in ONCE (apparently). This could not be further from the truth. It's an at-times heart-breaking, but ultimately inspiring drama that feature powerfully moving performances, beautiful music, and (spoiler alert) a potentially sad ending (for some). Not the bright, shining, hand-holding imagery that they want you to envision when picking up the DVD. As Hansard mentioned in his acceptance speech at the Oscars, they made this film for $100,000 (although the production budget is said to be $150,000 - either way, it was really cheap to make) and as of right now ONCE has brought in nearly $17 million combined between the domestic and international box office. You think they've already made enough money. . .

I'm gonna go with yes.

Here's a second idea for you if that is not enough for you to agree with me (which is always possible). . . And this one actually hurt more.

You see, I found out on Friday that because of the lack of business we are doing at the MW that one of our tailors was going to be let go on SATURDAY. The next day! We didn't find out until the day before. Just crazy. Look, I know it's a part of business - I get that. But why does a guy like Sam, one of the sweetest old men you could ever meet, have to lose a job so that other higher-ups can keep theirs. That's right, Sam, the guy whose wife just underwent a bunch of chemotherapy for cancer and uses his skills as a tailor to earn medical benefits for his sick wife and his son who has Downs Syndrome, has to be let go instead of maybe cutting back on both tailors' hours. And of course the whole "letting go" thing - yeah, that's just a slang term for "Thank you. Now get the hell out." It was so sad. We went and got him a cake that said "Thank You Sam" on it and when we took it back to him, Sam, who somewhat resembles Gepetto from "Pinocchio" but without the mustache or hair on top of his head (so really, he looks nothing like Gepetoo. . .) began crying and telling us that we were like family to him. It was truly heart-breaking. But hey, at least George Zimmer can maintain his billion dollar business. . . (and not that it was Mr. Zimmer's decision - I have actually gotten to meet him and he is seemingly a very caring individual - but it was his underlings who went through with the releasing of hard, honest workers).

It's just wrong. It goes along with the fact that gas here in the Antelope Valley is now at $3.50, which is just ridiculous, and the companies that distribute the gasoline were posting record returns last time I checked. There is just too much of a difference between those lofty big-wigs that get to roll around beyond comfortably and those who work harder than anyone and have to scrape by uncomfortably.

So why is it my goal in life to become one of the former??

Well, I guess that's for another day. . .

Hope you enjoyed my ramblings and all tonight. Have a fantastic week and love each other always!

Until later,

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Every ONCE in Awhile

Three things right off the top:

1) Yes, things have started to get busy for me and no, that's not the reason I haven't been posting. More often than not, it's because I get to the end of the night and just don't feel like putting my fingers to the keyboard. Sue me.

2) I know what you're already thinking, and no, this post will not mention my beloved PHOENIX SUNS beyond the following statement: We're fine. Don't agree with me? That's just ok with me. I'm a die-hard and you're not. Again, sue me.

3) Please don't sue me. I'm an engaged college student doing my best to just get by.

- - - Ok, so now that that is out of the way - - -

I'm just gonna fly through my updates as quick as I can, mostly because it's getting pretty close to the end of the night. And you know what that means :)

And away we go. . .

- I watched most of the Oscars on Sunday night. It was not as necessary for me to follow as closely as I did last year (you remember the running diary, right?) because I had to write two articles for the AVC Examiner the day after the broadcast. And I did. But this year, it was strictly pleasure and my hope that NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and, more importantly, the Coen Brothers left the show victorious. And they did. But it was three moments in particular that had nothing to do with NO COUNTRY or the Coens that actually, in all honesty, made yours truly tear up. One was of course the inclusion of Heath Ledger at the end of the classic In Memoriam montage. It still gets to me that he's gone. The second was the performance by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova of their song "Falling Slowly" from the brilliant film ONCE. That performance can be seen here:



And then the third was the absolute best part of the show. By now I'm sure you have heard that they won the Best Song award at the Oscars and then Hansard gave one of the most humble acceptance speeches ever. But it was the moment when Irglova was not allowed to speak because the music guy played her off the stage that it got sad. How could they do that, right? Well a few moments passed and then a commercial happened. Then Jon Stewart did something that the Academy has now taken down from Youtube. So I'll just explain what you probably already know. He brought out Irglova to have her moment instead of riffing on something that he had pre-planned. And then she brought the heart just like her comrade and proved that people who love what they do and that work hard at it do win some of the time. And that, my friends, is what it is all about! O, and go rent ONCE. It's amazing!

But you knew that. . .

- School has been going well and now it is starting to roll even quicker now. Had a test today and got at the very least a B but probably an A. Have another one Thursday. It's school alright. . .

- I had a $1500 sale today at work and now have $3000 for the week after only two days. I still have three more work days this week and I'm gunning for my best week ever. Wish me luck!

- Heather and I went and saw DEFINITELY, MAYBE last weekend and it was actually quite good. Ryan Reynolds is a great talent who I am glad to see getting away from the likes of VAN WILDER. He has a bright future. Great cast all-around and I'm glad that romantic comedies are getting wittier and more guy-friendly. Good stuff. (GRADE: B)

- I saw this online on a Myspace that asked me to be their friend. It just makes me warm all over:




. . . I love it . . .

- I just finished going through the whole series of STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP again. It's just brilliant.

- I will post again this week (before March begins) and I do know that I haven't posted an "Ass of the Week" column in some time, but I'm gonna get all of that up soon. I'm trying. Work with me here. . .

O and the more comments I get, the more I post. So if you like reading my thoughts, my concerns, my plans, and most importantly, my RAMBLINGS, then give a little click click to the comments button at the bottom of this post. . . Just a thought. . .

Thanks as always - - -

Until later - - -

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Saturday Grab-Bag

I have been planning this post for several days now as a Mid-Week Grab-Bag but now it’s Saturday and I was in a bind to do it before the weekend and my new “Ass of the Week” column which should go up tomorrow night (yes, I know it's a day late - sorry). And as always, I welcome ideas for that column there. If you hear something in the news or read something on the internet that you think is worthy of this esteemed web site (and really, what isn’t) then either comment on the most recent post with a link, or you can always e-mail me at gottjustin@hotmail.com and I will be happy to give you credit for the find. . .

But that’s neither here nor there. So much has happened over the last week or so and I realized that I haven’t updated you out there so much on my school (which is not overly difficult, but that drive 4 days a week is killer!) or work (well that there just gets me upset) or engagement plans (don’t circle any dates on your planner just yet) or movies (don’t see THERE WILL BE BLOOD – trust me on this one) or, of course, the SUNS (you thought I forgot, huh?). Well all that is coming in the following paragraphs in all of its non-chronological goodness. I do hope you enjoy as always!

And away we go. . .

- So I’ll begin I suppose with the news that you all heard and immediately thought of me after: the SUNS, my beloved team, traded 4-time All-Star and SUNS-lifer Shawn Marion (we drafted him) along with our back-up left bench. . . I mean point guard. . . Marcus Banks (don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out!) to the Miami Heat for veteran center Shaquille O’Neal. I’ll let that simmer for a second. . . Ok, so now that I’ve begun to boil, here’s what I’m thinking about the whole thing. I am extremely skeptical. In fact, when I initially heard that we were even discussing such a trade, I got upset and claimed that I would cry if we made the trade out of anger and frustration. Shaq is old. Shaq is slow. Shaq is the anti-Sun! Why would we take on this giant (literally and figuratively) contract – 2 more years at $20 million each – for an aging big man that has a questionable amount of gas left in the tank?

The reason that I was not as worried as some was because I knew it would never happen. First year General Manager Steve Kerr would not begin his career as a man in charge of a team with a trade that made this little sense, right?

Wrong.

We made the trade and now this is a fact:

But I’m coming around. I’ll admit I was upset that first day. I felt that we had permanently given up a chance of winning a championship during the Age of Nash. But after Shaq’s press conference where he was introduced as a SUN

I began to feel different and now I am border-line excited. Not only will Shaq improve Amare Stoudemire as a player (he will actually benefit the most out of everyone) because he provides Amare the ability to leave the paint without fear of no one in there to rebound. Shaq himself called his time as a Sun as the “Amare Stoudemire Project” so I’m ready for it to begin. We’ll see. As a fan, I’m an eternal optimist, even amongst skepticism (of which, there is plenty), but I still feel we have a chance to do some damage once the playoffs begin. Only time will tell. . .

- The next logical place to go is work. Unfortunately, it is deathly slow at the MW. Our annual sale is over (not that was lucrative) and it is as slow as it has been for the last two months. Unfortunately, this job has not been as financially stable as promised. I say “promised” because it was practically shoved down my throat that I would be completely comfortable once I began to get rolling. However, in a severe twist of fate, I have not had a pay check that exceeded the amount I would be making at the FL in the last two months. That is just plain frustrating and there are no other words to describe it. It’s not the fault of the people who recruited me – it’s supposed to be busier than this. But the amount of people that walk through our doors on any given day is miniscule and a good percentage of those people are extremely cheap, making it that much more difficult to sell enough to make any money at all. You see, the better the sale, the better my commission. So when Joe Nosuit comes in and just buys a $250 suit with nothing else, I make about $7.50. Wow, thanks. Now everything is wonderful!

It’s just really difficult. I was optimistic that this was the type of job that I could have for several years as I move through college. And with what they “promised” me, it was not even an issue. But now it is. And I’m about 2-3 more puny checks away from e-mailing my District Manager (who recruited me) that something needs to change. Unfortunately again, I can’t make more per hour, since every Wardrobe Consultant makes the same. It’s all about my sales. And I’m not having any. . . So, again, that’s nothing but frustration and it leaves me sitting at work, typing away at a blog, describing my frustration. Kinda makes it more frustrating. . .

- Now school. My classes are pretty all over the place. My Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday classes start at 1620 and go til 1850 while my Wednesday class is from 1800 to 2045. I have one class each day. So I drive about two hours each day; about 110 miles round-trip. Times four. That’s a good almost 450 miles a week plus my in-town driving to work and such and I easily top 500 miles a week. I’ll put it to you this way: my new car is about a month old. It already has 2000 miles on it. . . But the classes themselves are mostly interesting, at-times extremely boring, and altogether just a bridge to my future in teaching. I’m getting more and more excited about the prospect of teaching at a high school and coaching the basketball team. That’s a good picture J But here’s a quick recap of each of my classes and what they entail, along with the return of the Justin Teaching Grade Scale (JTGS) , where I evaluate my professor on the really important things. You know, like entertainment qualities.

Family and Consumer Sciences 230: Life Development (Monday)

Taught by Professor Rigney-Hill, this class is a trip through the life of all of us, from conception to coffinization. It’s mostly lecture, with an emphasis on group activities and such, which never excites me, as I would usually prefer to just go to class, do my thing, and get on my way home. And this is even more obvious to me when I know no one in class and I don’t meet anyone in the first couple of weeks that is necessarily worth making them “single serving friend,” to steal a line from FIGHT CLUB. But it’s ok. The teacher is nice and I think she has made a pretty simple class that I should have no trouble getting an A in, but I could easily coast to a B if I chose that road instead (which I don’t plan on doing). She’s got a semi-strong New Jersey accent and is pleasant enough, even amongst all of the Power Point goodness. Overall, just an average class. JTGS: 5 out of 10

Family and Consumer Sciences 330: Child Development (Tuesday)

Taught by Professor Giordano, this class is all about the kids. Three classes in and we are just now on the actual childbirth process. Luckily in this one, there are three people that I could see myself chatting up throughout the semester. One girl named Casey I knew from a couple of my Journalism classes last semester so we started re-living those classes and stuff like that on the first day. I also met another girl named Denise who is pretty cool and actually from Lancaster, no less! So of course we have the evil commute to discuss among other things. The one thing about my three FCS classes is that I am one of only a handful of guys in each of them. So in this one, a guy and I started making life a little more enjoyable for ourselves amongst all of the class discussion about things like getting your weight down after having a baby, the types of foods that you crave during pregnancy and a phrase that I never thought I would ever hear: “Frankenstein Vagina.” For those who want to know what it means, it was in reference to a post-birth mother and the way that her husband might look at her. . . I stayed quiet and just doodled on my note paper! But our teacher is nice, young, and funny and she does make the class enjoyable, even though it’s not her specialty. Again, I could probably get an A, (and most likely will) but a B can be achieved with little to no effort on my part. Overall, it’s one of my better classes. JTGS: 7.5 out of 10

Sociology 452: Sociology of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender People (Wednesday)

Here’s where the fun begins. Taught by Professor DeCrescenzo (spelling?) this class delves into the psyche of each of the communities listed above, as well as other similar types of individuals. No textbooks – only memoirs that have been written by members of these communities and the class time is taken up by discussion on the passages which we have to read each week going into class (on average about 75 pages – not a lot at all, especially since the memoirs are easier to read than text books). We are going to have guest speakers and we also have to lead a class discussion on any topic that we wish in relation, of course, to the topic of the class. Some might immediately ask why I would ever take a class such as this. That is actually the easiest of questions to answer. It would be na├»ve of Americans to believe that people with any of the above orientations have no effect on society and culture today. Having now been in the world of college for almost three years now, I can tell you that people identifying as gay or lesbian are quite common and quite influential. I have enjoyed many conversations with individuals like this and have learned a whole heck of a lot from them. And as far as I’m concerned, these are people. That may seem a bit obvious to some, but for others, I swear, it seems like anyone identifying as gay or lesbian are considered less than human. Again, until we discover that they are all chronic child molesters or are in fact robots, than they deserve the same respect as you want in return. Our teacher is brilliant, funny, and relatable, even to those of us in the class (I would say about half) who are straight. I look forward to the class each week and I’m excited to see my A go in the column at the end of the semester! JTGS: 9 out of 10

Family and Consumer Sciences 320: Family Resource Management (Thursday):

Taught by Professor Schlesinger, (again, I'm not sure about spelling - these teachers have difficult names!) this is my least favorite class. It's supposed to be about how to manage a family and the resources that comes with having one, I suppose. But instead, we have spent the first three weeks discussing, among other things, what values are. We are defining things that need not a definition, since we are all college students and not seven years-old. It's weird. Plus, her voice is literally grating to my ears. The only thing that gets me through the class is a former Desert Christian alumni, Hannah, who graduated in my class. Both her and her roommate are in the class and so we discuss how bored we are throughout the time we are there (which is the whole 2.5 hours - it's a doozy). It will be another easy B, but an almost assured A because of the simplicity with which the class is run. Overall, it will be a bit of a waste of time, but it will be an easy grade. JTGS: 3 out of 10.

And that's really it for school. The drive is tough, but it works. It is something that has to be done and it will pay off eventually. I hope.

- On the movie front, I'm gonna make a couple quick recommendations and a couple "Stay Away" comments for some others. But quick is the optimum word. I promise. . .

GO SEE:

ONCE - the independent film from earlier this year that caught all the critics by surprise is just brilliant. A true musical, I don't need to say anything more than just do yourself a favor and go rent it. It's under 90 minutes long and if this gets you going, then you should absolutely go rent it immediately:



NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN - I saw it again a couple weeks ago with my dad after we both completed the book and I tell you right now: this film is a damn-near masterpiece. The only issues I have with the movie are trivial and are mostly regarding the way the book is brought onto the screen, but overall, it is a perfect adaptation of an intensely strong novel. If you don't have to have hope at the end of a movie to enjoy it (I still love that you hate this movie, Heather!) then try to find it in your theater.

AVOID AT ALL COSTS:

THERE WILL BE BLOOD - My dad and I went to see this after we both thought it had the potential to be a GANGS OF NEW YORK-like film, seeing that Daniel Day-Lewis is in the starring role. A gritty, true historical tale, perhaps? How about a frustratingly tedious mishmash of confusion and absurdity instead. I'm sure it's art to many, and I can see how it is getting the accolades when it comes to cinematography and such, but I cannot see the quality that is supposedly so present throughout the movie. Sorry.

FOOL'S GOLD - No, I didn't see it. Just please don't go. Promise me. My Canadian friend Mike said it best.

- Beyond that, I don't have much more to recap right now. I'm working from 1100-1800 tomorrow so I'm planning on coming home and writing up my "Ass of the Week" then. So expect it up some time tomorrow night!

Thanks as always for reading and enjoy your weekend!!!

Until later,