Broad Generalizations

Women are complicated. At least that’s what they tell me.

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means the internet will be filled with equal parts sappy romantic gestures and not-so-secretly bitter observations about said gestures. The singles portion of the population will be forced at some point in the day to ponder where they’ve gone astray in their quest to swap DNA: women will wonder where the good guys have gone whilst the men lament their inability to understand the gentler gender. For my part, I’ll be embracing the misery by watching some terrible movies. Maybe Twilight. For science.

In truth, I like to think I have a better grasp on what goes on inside women’s heads than most guys. Sure I can count my ex-girlfriends on one penis, but I’ve had enough platonic female friends (their choice) and older sisters (parents’ choice) to know how they think. Notice I say “how” and not “why”. There will never be an answer to the latter.

I’ve done my best to distill the information into this easily digestible post, but be aware that as the title suggests, these don’t apply to all girls. Just most of them.

Women Don’t Rank Things

Quick, name your top 5 U.S. Presidents.

If you’re a guy, odds are you spouted off some combination of Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, Wheelchair Roosevelt, and either JFK or Clinton for their allegendary lady prowess. If you’re a girl, you probably named Lincoln and Washington, mumbled one that’s still alive, then trailed off and changed the subject. It has nothing to do with interest in history or politics (okay maybe a little). Girls just don’t rank things and guys rank literally everything from their favorite pro athletes to their most satisfying dumps.

It all makes sense. According to an evolutionary study that I just made up, males have been programmed to compete with each other until they establish who’s the Alpha and who’s the Beta and who’s the Cera so on and so on… I don’t actually know the Greek alphabet. And we apply this hierarchy mentality to everything. Shirts I never wear are at the bottom of the drawer, food I eat most of is at the front of the fridge, and kitchenware I use often is still on the stove. Because why would I bother washing it and putting it up when I’m just going to use it tomorrow?

For females, it’s much simpler: there are girls they like and girls they don’t. If Mean Girls taught me anything, it’s that the Queen Bee isn’t necessarily the dominant girl as much as she is the group’s social compass for what to love and what to hate. That carries over to their stuff too. Ever wonder why girls go berserk for a walk-in closet? It’s because they like all their clothes and like being able to see all the things they like at once. Also it means being able to store and care for items according to their individual needs.

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Remedial Community 101

If every show currently on television were going to be cancelled tomorrow and I could only save one, it would be ‘Game of Thrones’. If I could save two, the other would be ‘Agents of SHIELD’. But if I could save three, the third would undoubtedly be perpetual underdog ‘Community’.

The Study Group… and Chang

Not to be a pompous ass, but I’m going to be a pompous ass and say most people don’t seem to get Community‘s humor. It can be heavy on meta-jokes that rely on viewers being familiar with other movies or tv shows, and admittedly some episodes (and more recently, seasons) are weaker than others. To make matters worse, there are enough running jokes that depend on your continued viewership to make ‘Arrested Development’ jealous. The result is a show that tends to cater to its own narrow demographic of media-savvy fanatics and not much else. It’s not an easy show to jump into late and be able to fully enjoy, and with four seasons and nigh 100 episodes in the books, it’s not likely to increase its following by enough to ensure a sixth season.

To their credit, they’re trying to address the issue. They’ve brought back the original show runner Dan Harmon, who they dumped unceremoniously after season three in favor of the notoriously hard to work with Chevy Chase (who is himself gone now), and they’re approaching the new season with a tweaked concept and a re-pilot of sorts. They’re trying to let anyone can jump on board come January 2. Still, the people most likely to keep watching are those who are attached to the characters and familiar with the show’s tropes.

In an attempt to recruit more viewers, I have sifted through and hand-selected 8 episodes of Community for potential new fans. These aren’t necessarily the best episodes or even my favorites (okay some are), but they’ll give you a taste of what the show has to offer that others don’t, introduce you to the hilarious character dynamics, and get you primed for what’s sure to be an epic Season 5. All in 3 hours or less.

So put down the ‘Breaking Bad’. The show’s over and you’re still a loser for not keeping up. It’ll keep until summer.

1. Pilot, Season 1 Episode 1

[Editor’s note: click the titles to watch. I made it that easy.]

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As with any good story, you have to start at the beginning. Pilots are designed to sell networks on the continued viability of the show, and as a result, they tend to be overloaded with information, depict easily-distinguishable generic characters, or present high production values that drop steeply in following episodes. Community commits none of these trope crimes.

Sure, it starts out simple enough. Jeff the disgraced former lawyer is attracted to Elizabeth Shue-lookalike Britta and uses oddball Abed to get the info he needs to break the ice. She needs help in Spanish so he tells her he has a study group, not knowing Abed has recruited Annie (the pretty, driven girl), Troy (the cocky former athlete), Shirley (the divorced mother), and Pierce (the old rich, possibly racist guy) to join as well.

If that all sounds cliche, it is. For the first few minute. With no desire to actually be in a study group, Jeff prods them into blasting past the niceties and airing their dirty laundry. It only takes two scenes to see there’s more to each of them than meets the eye. But the frenzy he’s whipped them into turns Britta off and he has to calm them back down to win her back over. He does so with a deftly precise speech, which will be one of the show’s signatures for years to come.

And just like that, the smartest comedy on tv was born.

Quotent Quotables: “Woah, you just wrinkled my brain.”

2. Physical Education, Season 1 Episode 17

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Though there are a lot of great episodes with their semi-iconic moments between the pilot and ‘Physical Education’, this one is the best at capturing the show’s bread and butter while showing off the peanut butter, jelly, ham, and cheese as well (don’t try to figure out which is which, it’ll be awkward for everyone).

Jeff is thrilled to be taking a billiards class so he can show off his style while the rest of the group tries to set up Abed with a potential secret admirer. Things go awry when the billiards coach wants Jeff to wear gym shorts instead of his leather jacket and designer jeans, and the group finds Abed’s usual antics to be… undateable. Hilarity, obviously, ensues.

If the series has a foundation, it’s Jeff’s fragile ego and staunch resistance to learning lessons (while accidentally learning lessons) and the group rallying around Abed to make themselves feel better. Both are on full display here. It also sets the standard for Greendale’s endless supply of absurd “professors” who provide ample opportunities for guest stars.

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A Skateboarder’s Vows

If my life had gone much differently than it has and I had followed through with a brief 6th grade itch to become a professional skateboarder, these are the gnarly vows I would’ve made to what would’ve been my totally rad bride.

“Helga,

The first time I saw noticed you, you were riding goofy-stance.
I thought, “Hey, she’s goofy like me.” I had no idea.
When you punched a cop and got arrested, I knew you were the one.
I kicked him in the ribs so I could keep you company.

The first time I held your hand was on our way to the emergency room.
I busted my head open trying to jump way too many stairs.
I was trying to impress you.
It totally worked.

The first time we kissed was your birthday.
I bought you new trucks because you complained your old ones were squeaky.
You didn’t think I was listening, but I was.
Your squeaky trucks are the only ones I ever listened to.

And now we’re finally here.
Ready to make the big drop in on the half-pipe of life together.
There’s no one I’d rather be skating with.
Except maybe Tony Hawk, but he’s taken.

I, David, take you, Helga, to be my goofy-footed wife.
To ride and to wreck from this day forward,
For ollie or for nollie,
For kickflip, for heelflip,
In street skating and in verts,
To grind and to boardslide, never to bail,
Even when our grip tape has gone smooth.”

P.S. Real skaters out there feel free to use this. Just do us all the courtesy of videotaping it and sharing. Ride on.

At World’s End

To me, the Will Turner-Elizabeth Swann romance is one of the greatest of all time. But I’ve come to realize that most people — especially women — don’t agree in the slightest, to which I say, “Fair enough.”

After all, Will Turner comes off a bit bland (by the way, his surname should rightly be ‘Smith’ after his profession, but in conjunction with his first name would paint an entirely different picture). And he tends to get moody and clam up. And he repeatedly opts not to keep his fiancée in the loop when pulling some trickery. So yeah, I get it. Not exactly the ideal guy.

On the other hand, Elizabeth Swann isn’t just semi-royalty… she’s intelligent, she’s witty. She knows how to freaking sword fight and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Even if that means laying the (lip) smack-down on some chump to save her dearly beloved’s life. In summary, she’s pretty much the ideal woman.

But take the microscope off the individuals for a moment and take in their story as a whole. You’ve got two people who are ridiculously passionate about each other, so much so that they tend to overlook some important aspects of their relationship — most notably, communication. Yet despite the rough waters they have to fight through (pun totally intended), neither one of them wavers for a moment when it comes to the two of them. All the struggle, torment, and occasional trickery is always a means of inching closer to their other half. If that isn’t romantic, I must have a gross misunderstanding of the word.

The most polarizing point of contention I find is how their story ends. They’re finally married and wouldn’t you know it, ol’ boy becomes the new Davy Jones, and they’re forced into a life with only a single day every decade together. I put myself in those boots — and assuming my entire lifetime thus far counts — it amounts to less than 60 hours of wedded bliss. For every 3650 days of ferrying dead people from one end of who-knows-where to the other, only one of raucous love-making, sweet nothing-whispering, and every other conceivable form of connection with your effing soul mate. As most of you statistically-minded people know, that sucks.

But here’s where you have to scale down a little and see the relationship for what it is: two people, so madly in love with one another that ten years of not even being able to exchange letters is worth that one day. On a practical level, yeah, it would be grueling and painful and more than most people could bear. But if it weren’t difficult and extraordinary, it wouldn’t be worth making a movie about, would it?

I think long-distance relationships are like a heavy vaccination — if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. What’s that old saying? “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” My philosophy has always followed that fairly closely. If two people really care for one another as much as they say they do, a few hundred miles in between them is nothing. The slight emptiness of being apart is a constant reminder of how much they mean to each other, how much they care. The trouble is, that constant state of yearning is never the goal; ultimately, they want to be side-by-side (and if they don’t, they should probably re-examine the nature of their relationship). And that’s where the problems start. One half realizes there are other guys/gals that are already right there within arm’s-reach with the potential to replace that other guy/gal. Doubts creep in. Jealousy rears its ugly head. And inevitably, the split happens. It’s a process that’s been repeated more times than an Anchorman quote.

And that’s part of what makes the conclusion of the Turner-Swann story so unique to me. It’s the ultimate long-term relationship, and it succeeds. But despite the other-worldly conditions under which it exists, the reason it works is perfectly simple: they belong to each other. Whatever inner turmoil or loneliness might eat away at them and occasionally make them miserable, “they” are absolute. I’m sure Elizabeth is perfectly capable of finding another gent who wasn’t bound to eternal servitude of the vitally-challenged, a man who would be a perfectly suitable husband, father, and life mate. But she didn’t. She chose not to cheapen their history, she chose the narrow path to happiness, she chose to always save that seat next to her for only Will.

And isn’t that what we all want? Not just someone that will hang out with us every day or to hold hands with during movies or any of the classic farcical clichés that compose the shallowest of summer flings. We want someone who isn’t going to bolt when things get tough. Someone who won’t give up in the face of adversity. Someone who will stay faithful until the world ends.

And that is why I think it’s one of the best romances ever.

…. that and the pirates.

The Quan Dynasty

Although you may not realize it, I do, in fact, have a master plan. I try to keep it flexible in the event of massive change, and recently said flexibility has been tested thoroughly. But have no fear: the Quan Dynasty will become reality.

So I’m a kid person. Always have been, always will be. Most people who know me know I get it from my mom. She’s such a kid person that she had four of them and takes care of other peoples’ for a living. And she likes it. After being drafted to assist with short-handed classes, I figured out that there were people in the world who enjoyed all those faces I practiced in the mirror and voices I recorded and played back on my walkman. And strangely enough, they didn’t judge me. They just laughed. Sure they were half my age, but I’ll take a laugh any day of the week from anywhere I can get it. I’m guessing that affirmation that I could mean something to someone for at least a fleeting moment is what made (and still makes) me enjoy hanging out with and entertaining kids.

So naturally, eventually, I’ll be having some of my own one day. Seven, to be exact.

That’s where the plan is right now, anyways. Why seven, you ask? Several reasons. Certainly the fact that seven is considered a holy number plays into the equation. Seven archangels, seven heavenly virtues, seven days of creation, etc., etc. It’s just a good solid number. But on top of that, there are seven continents.

“But David, what’s that supposed to mean?” Read on, you who dare.

There are a lot of kids out there in the world that are more or less doomed. Headed for a life of poverty, disease, possibly early death, or worse. And it kills me. Kids are the easiest people in the world for sick people to take advantage of. Consequently, they’re the hardest people in the world for us to watch such things happen to. They’re just kids. And through no fault of their own, they get to grow up in an environment that will make them exactly like the people who mistreat them. It’s  a vicious cycle that can really only be broken in one of two ways: you change the environment around them or take them out of it. And for me, the latter is the most viable option, given my intense lack of influence or money to do the other.

So it occurred to me that, while I’d always imagined having kids that shared 50% (more or less) of my genetic material, it might be more responsible as a human being to raise kids who were already born and without a home to call their own. Adoption, as it were. In this way I’ll take my mom’s two attributes and combine them into one: have four (plus three) kids of my own while actually taking care of someone else’s.

So back to the seven continents thing. I’ll adopt a child from each of them. And eventually, each one of them will return to their native continent to rule it with an iron fist.

The plot thickens.

The world is quickly becoming a veritable melting pot of cultures (at least from my distinctly misinformed perspective), and what better way to embrace that than to base my Dynasty on that philosophy? Seven continents, one family. Sounds like a killer tagline to a warm family comedy, doesn’t it? The world will eat that up like fruit gushers — as fast as humanly possible.

“But wait David, where are you going to find a kid to adopt in Antarctica? Are there even kids there? Are there even people?”

The answers are, “I’m not”, “Not adoptable ones”, and “Yes, anywhere from one to five thousand, depending on how crazy them scientists are feeling.”

But you know what? No one wants to rule Antarctica. What’s there to rule? Ice? Penguins? Crazy scientists? No thank you. My plan, as it were, is to adopt two kids from Asia. Possibly twins. Because that continent is freaking huge and populated that it’s probably going to need to rulers anyways.

“But wait David, what about your wife? What if she doesn’t want to follow through on this plan?”

Hey, guess what? You don’t need a wife to adopt kids. And as my dog can attest to, I’m perfectly capable of raising kids on my own. So while having a nice lady to help me cultivate my master plan (and you know… kiss and stuff) is kind of ideal, she shan’t be denying me my team of multi-cultural future tyrants and their global domination.

But fear not, for their cruelty will be saved only for the wicked, while good favor and mercy await the honest and meek. In this way the Quan Dynasty shall be forever remembered as a time when the world was at peace and all was well. Not like all those other dynasty’s that everybody hated and talked about them behind their back and drew obscene cartoons of them on the bathroom wall.

So…. yeah. That’s the plan. Just a little something to look forward to.