The other day I was talking to my wife about my struggles with writing. I wanted to submit some short stories for a publication but I was having trouble coming up with things to write about. She asked me a very sensible question: “What do you want to say to the world?” I thought about it, and only one answer came to mind then, and I still don’t have a better one:
I feel drained, hollowed out. Not all the time, of course, but it’s my default state now. Some days are good, some days are bad, but the common thread through all of them is a bone-deep exhaustion. Not exactly the kind of thing that a reader is dying to pore over. There’s good reason for it, of course, just like there’s a good reason for the depression, the feelings of powerlessness, the nagging question of whether life’s mundane responsibilities like paying bills and worrying about a credit score is worth it due to an occasionally overwhelming existential crisis that’s part and parcel of our every day.
Last week’s podcast about A Quiet Place got Jules and I thinking – what makes a great horror movie for us? What elements do we like to have, or need to not have? We answer those questions and talk about our favorite movies, just to prove that fact that I actually DO like things. Then we shit on the ones we really hate because honestly it’s a lot more fun to do that.
Well, I violated the edict and name of the new podcast on the second episode, since we had absolutely no drinks before or during the recording of this podcast. But it is the first-ever Timely Movie Review on my blog, so there’s that! Join Jules and me as we discuss A Quiet Place, the John Krasinski and Emily Blunt movie about people shushing each other. We recorded it as soon as we got home, so you can tell there are feelings about this critically-adored film (95 inexplicable percent on Rotten Tomatoes!).
By the way, we spoil the shit out of this movie. Listen if you don’t care about what happens, or if you’ve already seen it and realized that there’s no point in caring about what happens.
Saddle up, folks: it’s time for a podcast!
The Shovelcast is dead, because the name wasn’t very good. I wanted to call it Two Drink Minimum, which would be a requirement for anyone on the podcast, but being a popular phrase it’s already taken. So then I wanted Three Drink Minimum, but that’s also a podcast, where the hosts have no more than 3 drinks. NO MORE THAN THREE. THAT IS THREE DRINK MAXIMUM YOU IDIOTIC SHITNUGGETS.
So anyway, welcome to episode 1 of Four Drink Minimum. It’s a podcast about whatever I feel like, but probably mostly pop culture and nerd shit. On this very special episode I was able to round up Christian and Allie Gebhart, the stars of the 3 Shovelcasts I’ve done. They are the biggest Star Wars fans I’ve ever known, and I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to find a person more into it than Christian. So their feelings about The Last Jedi are strong, as you’ll here. Also joining me is my awesome and incredible wife Julienne, and another Star Wars fan and all around cool dude Kurt Anderson.
So join us as we heap tons and tons of praise on the bold new direction the Star Wars movies are going!
I know, I know. I do like two blog posts in 10 months, then I do 2 in two days. Some people binge drink; some people binge blog. And some people do both, like me!
Anyway, it’s still February, the All-Time Aravan Award Winner for Shittiest Month 1600 years in a row (seriously, it’s so shitty that we cap it at 28 days unless we need to make the calendar still work, then we grudgingly add a 29th every four years and resent the fuck out of extending it), so technically I can get away with a 2017 awards presentation. And if you disagree, the terrible Academy Awards won’t be held until fucking March, so take it up with them if you think I’m too late. So you know what that means.
IT’S TIME FOR THE MOTHERFUCKING 2017 ARAVAN AWARDS, BABY!
Before you get too excited, let me pause and explain what the Aravan Awards are. From the archives:
…Coming up with a top ten list has to be the easiest writing job in the world. Jot down ten things, come up with superficial reasons for their inclusion, and then explain how blatantly wrong you are as just “a way to get people talking about it.” It’s the ultimate mail-it-in, who-gives-a-shit approach to writing.
So I am TOTALLY in!
So sit back, relax, and cheer for your favorite candidates as I google the World’s Shittiest Trophy and use the first image that comes up as the award for this year:
And now, here it is – YOUR 2017 ARAVAN AWARD WINNERS!
Marvel movies have a villain problem. At least, that’s what occasionally bubbles up from the depths of internet think piece generator, which I think lies between the third and fourth levels of Hell, just behind people who don’t pay attention to where their cart is in the store and just above folks who call people without texting them first. Sometimes it’s an offhand comment when praising the villain of one of the movies (like I’ve seen a bunch with regards to Killmonger in Black Panther) or as entire droning essays about how the villains aren’t compelling or whatever. It was after reading the praise for Killmonger that I went onto Facebook, the homeworld of bad opinions, stupid memes, terrible discussions, and inane observations, as well as the second level of Hell, and offered up this little tidbit of bad opinion and inane observation:
It was a random and off-the-cuff statement tailor-made to troll the kind of people who take this kind of thing too seriously. But it did make me think about who I thought were the top-ten Marvel movie villains, which then turned into a rumination of who the worst were, and finally ended up as a spreadsheet-driven ranking of each and every Marvel movie villain based on various criteria. Which led to this article/think-piece bubbling up from my own place in the circles of Hell.
(TL/DR: I wrote my own tabletop RPG. It’s terrible, but I love it. The files are at the bottom.)
I’ve been mulling over an idea for a new blog post. It’s about the idea of “the perfect is the enemy of the good” and how it’s negatively affecting discourse, opinion, and results. It’s a heavy one, and I know it’ll probably piss off a few liberal and conservative friends, or possibly everyone. However, it’s so heavy that I haven’t mustered the energy to produce it. So this post has nothing to do with it. I don’t even really know why this is the introduction to this post, which is about role-playing games. I guess it’s because I treat my blog like a conversation between the two of us, and if you’ve ever talked to me in person you’ll know that I ramble a bit and go on tangents, especially when I’ve had a couple drinks and I’m my Authentic Self. So here we go on the blog post that is about as opposite as a heavy politically-motivated discourse as can be without being just a post of pictures of otters being the representation of everything that is good in the universe.
I love role-playing games of all sorts. LARPs. Video games. Hell, Choose Your Own Adventure books. But my ultimate love of the form is one of the first ones I discovered: the tabletop RPG. I read my first DnD rulebook when I was 10 and fell in love. My imagination soared with the never-ending story potential, and the side of me that later became an accountant loved the idea of rules providing a framework on which I could hang my imaginings. It was like playing Guns (that venerable game wherein two or more people take sticks and pretend to shoot each other, followed by the volleys of “Nuh-Uh” and “Ya-huh” to determine if someone was hit) but with a way to prove who had shot whom and what would happen. I loved it.
A while back I came across some old stories I’d written and mostly forgotten about. I remembered them immediately, like old friends you’d thought long lost. In the world of nostalgia and memory, they were beautiful. Then you look at them and you realize how ugly they are, and misshapen, and your very soul cringes and hopes no one ever sees them.
Then you do like I do, say fuck it, and throw them up on your blog.
I didn’t want to go.
I just wasn’t in the mood, really. I’d been working all day, and would have to do the same tomorrow. The prospect of driving for an hour to go home, then to ride in a car for two hours in order to be surrounded by strangers, followed by disappointing news, then on top of that having to ride all the way back home feeling down – it wasn’t an appetizing thought.
Hell, I was already depressed and anxious enough. Those two feelings tend to follow me almost all of the time, and it always takes at least a little effort to keep them at bay. Some days are worse than others, and on that Thursday they were feeling pretty damn strong. I struggle now and again with, well, a lot of things, and some days are harder than others. The really fun thing about my own particular cocktail of misery is that my depression makes me want to be alone, my anxiety makes me unable to cope with social situations (to the point where I often find myself unable to face the prospect of asking another person to give me food when they are literally being paid to do that very thing and so I’ll skip lunch instead), and – here’s the fun part – being alone makes me more anxious and depressed. It’s a good time.
(I am absurdly pleased to host this post (with the most) on my blog. These are not my words, but I am 100% behind them. I am also proud to have something worth reading on my blog for a change.)
Hi, I’m Jules. I’m Alan’s wife and I’m writing a guest blog here instead of on my own blog because I just got a job that requires me to interact with folks in DC and now I’m paranoid about the people I work with finding it. It’s not that I think they’d take issue personally with the content, it’s just that the things I have to say about this aren’t the most professional things I’ve ever said. So with that disclaimer, here we go!
So the year is 2017 and apparently, Charlize Theron only makes badass lady movies now. Let me be (probably not) the first to say that I am 100% here for that. Mad Max: Fury Road was hailed as a feminist masterpiece, which it unequivocally was. It was also just a really fabulous action movie and, considering it was a reprisal of an 80’s franchise, that’s pretty impressive. But I’m here to talk about Theron’s most recent empowering bombshell, Atomic Blonde, which is in a whole different class. It’s not set in a post-apocalyptic desert world, it’s set in late eighties Berlin. It’s fiction, sure, but it’s not exactly fantasy. That very fact is groundbreaking in terms of the portrayal of strong women.