25 to Life: How Zelda Saved ME

One June 8th, 1987, I emerged from the womb. On June 8th, 2012, which was just a few weeks past, I turned 25 years old. Normally, I'm not one to let a little thing like age stand in my way. It's just a number, after all, a little tally to remind oneself how much time (approximately) one has spent on this earth. It means nothing more and nothing less than a simple mathematical equation. So why, then, do we worry so much about our age? And why did I suddenly start doing it, too? What was it about the number 25 that made me want to dive under my bed in fright, never to emerge until I'd somehow mastered a way to hack into the time-space continuum and somehow freeze my age in this perfect position for the rest of eternity?

In a nutshell, I think it's because (like everyone else) I was intimidated.

Anyone who's met me in person knows that I'm pretty much an overgrown kid with stubble. I never really had what you could call a "normal" childhood; it got pretty wacky at times, and certain situations pretty much forced me to grow up way earlier than any kid should be expected to. In light of that, I'm pretty sure I developed what them crazy shrinks like to call "Peter Pan Syndrome" or something; because I was forced through some heavy stuff and had to make some big adult decisions as a kid, I seem to be making up for it now by being more of a kid than ever. Try to talk to me about politics or taxes or insurance or pretty much anything that has to do with money, and you'll notice that my eyes will start to develop a fine glaze, my mouth will slowly droop open, and I'll just proceed to smile and nod until you change the subject to something my little brain can wrap itself around. I could have a two-hour conversation with you about dragons. I could talk for days about the finer points of why Count Dooku's lightsaber is curved. I could write a friggin book about the evolution of Batman from his inception to present...but try to explain to me how no-fault car insurance works, and before long I'll be begging you for a quick and painless death so that I won't have to hear any more.

Now, that sounds like kind of a bad thing, doesn't it? Common sense dictates that any responsible adult living in this madcap world should have some kind of idea of how taxes and insurance work. They should at least know a little bit about residual income or savings accounts or the detailed benefits of choosing one cell phone plan over another. Knowing about this, after all, is important. More important than Batman, at any rate. But I just can't. I physically CANNOT get my brain to understand these things. When I try, it hurts. You'd get the exact same response from me as you would if you tried to explain these things to a 3-year-old. Which, in short, would be, "Huh?!?"

I don't think this will ever change. As far as taxes and accounting are concerned, I'm pretty sure that I'm a lost cause. And you know what? I'm cool with that. Batman and dragons and lightsabers may be silly things that were made up by silly people, but you know what else is a silly thing made up by silly people? Taxes and insurance and cell phone plans. They're all just random bits of data. Nothing more than numbers. Kinda like age. Some people care about 'em, and some just don't give a damn.

Like I said earlier, the idea of "getting old" never really bothered me, because I always feel like a kid inside anyway. It wasn't until this year that it started to actually make me think. Two separate incidents, one at each of my jobs, gave me a bleak feeling inside. And for a while, I felt a little down in the dumps. Until a third incident occurred which completely turned me around.

Incident #1: I recently came into the position of a Starbucks barista, which means I make overly-complicated caffeinated drinks for bitchy, picky soccer moms who leave their sunglasses on indoors because...well, because they're bitchy, picky soccer moms. During one of my shifts, I was asked to walk around the store with a tray full of frappuccino samples to hand out to the crowd. When I approached a small family, the mother thanked me and took one of the samples. Her little boy tugged on her sleeve and said, "Mommy, can I have a sample, too?" To which his mother replied, "Well, sweetie, you'll have to ask the Starbucks man for one." At that moment, I froze dead in my tracks because I realized it was the first time ever that someone had referred to me as a "man" without adding the prefix "young" or the suffix "child". I was so stunned that I didn't even hear the kid when he asked me for a drink. I was sure that his mother must have been talking about somebody else; perhaps my manager was standing right behind me and he was the fabled "Starbucks Man" in question. But nope.

It hit me all of a sudden right then and there, in the middle of the store, as I stood holding that tray of delicious frozen mocha-coconut beverages amidst a crowd of increasingly confused onlookers. I realized that no matter how many Simpsons quotes I knew, no matter how many Star Wars action figures I owned or how far I could get in Super Mario Bros. without dying or what my favourite Pokemon was...I wasn't a little kid anymore. I wasn't a teenager, either. Hell, I don't even classify as a young adult! According to my age, I am, without question, an adult. A man. A grown-up. Remember when we used to say,"When I grow up, I want to..."? I've reached that point, the point where I'm supposed to stop dreaming and make that "..." a reality.

Incident #2: The day before my 25th birthday, I was called in to work a shift at the banquet hall (my other job). I was expecting another wedding, or a stag, or a baby shower, or an engagement party, or the usual fare. Instead, the party in question was something I'd never done before: a high school prom.

As I went about my business, serving pasta and veggies to a bunch of hyperactive 18-year-olds who were too focused on trying to get laid to touch any of their food, I felt as if the greater hands of fate had put me in this position before my 25th birthday so that I could face my own mortality in some weird way. Here were these upstart youngsters, graduating from high school, fresh and ready and eager to take on the big world that waited just beyond the horizon. Many of those kids will go on to college and university to become doctors or executives or chefs or hotel managers or teachers. And here I was, seven years their senior, with nothing to show for it but two minimum wage jobs, a stagnating acting career, and a few unpublished manuscripts that nobody's interested in reading because "ooohhh, they're too long". Needless to say, I was kinda bummed out.

And then, today, something glorious happened. Incident #3: I beat The Legend of Zelda.

Being one of the biggest and most epic games in the entire Nintendo library, very few people back in the day could boast that they'd successfully finished the game. It was one of the very first video games I ever remember getting my grubby little paws on. If I close my eyes, I can still see myself: I'm 3 years old, sitting on my little plush blue chair in the middle of the living room in the Rexdale-based apartment I used to call home. The coffee table was to my right, the ginormous tacky wall unit to my left. And in front of me, encased in a cocoon of wood grain, was the television set. I had a plastic NES controller in my hand, and a second after my mom pressed the POWER button on the console, that little red light blinked on, and the Zelda theme music began to whistle its way through the television speakers.

I spent hours upon hours hunkered down in that blue chair, trying in vain to get any farther than Level 4, but I just couldn't. Anyone who's played it can back me up here, too: The Legend of Zelda ain't no walk in the park. As a little kid, I could beat the likes of Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog easily. But Zelda? No such luck. The game defeated me. I loved it enough to keep trying, but could never get far.

Until today.

June 29th, 2012: I booted up my Nintendo Wii and selected the virtual console version of The Legend of Zelda. After hacking and boomeranging my way through nine increasingly merciless levels (and admittedly using a walk-through to help me find some heart pieces and stuff) I stepped into that last room and lay the smackdown on Ganon, the Prince of Darkness himself. And you know what? He was surprisingly easy.

After he exploded, I made my way behind him to where the imprisoned Zelda stood. She proclaimed me the Hero of Hyrule and thanked me for all of the shit I had to go through to get this far. Then the credits rolled, and the game congratulated me on a job well done, ending with a reminder that I could now try the much more challenging "Second Quest". And that was it.

I sat perched on my couch, Wii controller in hand, my memories flooding back to that apartment in Rexdale where the much younger me had tried in vain to get this far. And it hit me like a ton of 8-bit bricks. Ganon, Zelda, Link, the Triforce, all of it...it opened my eyes to what was really going on with this whole "turning 25" business.

Like I said, my childhood was rough around the edges, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. We've all had to sit through some pretty unpleasant times with nothing to comfort us but the hopes that they would soon be over and we could get back to the good stuff. We've faced a lot of challenges and had to make some pretty hard decisions, and for better or worse, they've all led us to where we are today. Whether you're 5 or 15 or 25 or 75, you are who you are because of what you've done to get here. And though things may seem hard or intimidating, they're really not all as bad as they appear. When Ganon started attacking me, I was startled by how quickly I was able to dispel him with a few hits of my sword. And before I knew it, he was dead at my feet. I was expecting some nigh-invincible demi-god of evil. Instead, I only had to deal with a big blue pig in a helmet who exploded after five hits.

And when Zelda thanked me for my courage and praised me for getting this far, she really wasn't kidding. In 25 years, I've accumulated a lot of experiences. Some good, some bad, some absolutely mind-blowingly fantastic. Each one of them has made me stronger and taken me one step closer to this point. If everyone would take the time to look back on things they've been through, they'd congratulate themselves, too. Finishing school. Getting married. Making friends. Keeping friends. Performing good deeds. Learning to drive. Learning to walk. Just like in the Nintendo game, these steps became increasingly more difficult as time wore on. But we never shut the game off and gave up. We kept on playing, discovering new things, forging new paths, and making wiser choices. So congratulations to all of you for making it this far. We've beaten Ganon, we've rescued Zelda, and (best of all) we have more to look forward to!

The game encouraged me to try the "Second Quest", which features a rearranged world map that's twice as hard as the first game. When I turned 25, I reached a point in my life where one chapter had definitely ended and a new one was about to start. Up until now, I'd just been focusing on how slow my progress seemed to be, and how intimidating the upcoming chapters looked from my perspective. But now that I've learned to look back on the accomplishments it took to get here, I can proudly and confidently flip the bird at the screen and tell Ganon to go fuck himself, because I know that if I could make it this far, you can be damn sure that I'll trudge my way through the Second Quest, too. And who knows? Maybe that will take me another 25 years, when I'm 50 and I'm huddled in front of the Wii 4000, ignoring the young man in the business suit who's desperately trying to explain to me how retirement savings plans are supposed to work. Or maybe I can use my newfound knowledge to beat the Second Quest in a matter of weeks. Either way, I'll be there with bells on.

To all those of you who've sat back and frowned at the prospect of aging, who've desperately sought after hair dye and botox and sports cars and trophy wives to latch onto that youth that you feel is slipping out of your grasp, relax and take it from me. That youth isn't going anywhere unless you want it to. You're just in the middle of the Second Quest, babe. And you're going to beat it...eventually. We all will. So bring it on.

Cue the Zelda theme.

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Much E3 About Nothing

Well, E3 has come and gone, I've spent the past several days basking in its aftermath. For those who are a smidge out of the loop, E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, in which a series of press conferences are held showcasing the coming attractions of the video game industry for the following nine or ten months. This year, a whole ginormous crop of new games got revealed, and it has this fanboy's panties in a twist with veritable excitement.

Although I risk making myself sound like EVERY other Joe out there with a keyboard and a ranting blog, I'd like to spend this week's entry geeking out about some of the titles that looked great (and some that looked not-so-great). I'll talk about how I feel about them, and what kind of impact their reveals left on me. But of course, this is The Question Mark, and I'm nothing if not a rebellious pioneer with a handsome, chiseled jaw and an available evening this coming Friday if any ladies out there are looking for a good time! So, instead of ranting and rambling on in a sea of typos and poor grammar (I'm looking at YOU, rest of the Internet), I'll talk about these upcoming games in iambic pentameter, the way Shakespeare intended.

NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. U

The sequel to the game on Wii we love,

Except on a whole new system this time.

The standard fare: get coins from blocks above.

It's all the same, but hey, is that a crime?!

LUIGI'S MANSION: DARK MOON

It sounds like a Transformers film, I know.

But this might end up being lots of fun!

I like Luigi more than Mario.

He's the George Harrison: "The Quiet One".

You're catching ghosts, that's all that I have seen.

Like Peter Venkman! Only, you know, green.

SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH

The South Park kids are in an RPG!

Will it be weird? You bet your ass it will.

We'll grind some levels with profanity!

Ten bucks says halfway through, Kenny gets killed.

PLAYSTATION ALL-STARS BATTLE ROYALE

The Sony answer to the Super Smash.

It's kind of shameless how close these two are.

Who'd want to play as Nathan Drake or Crash?

One of Sony's silliest moves by far.

But maybe it'll work? I hope it will.

So Sony geeks (all two of us out there)

can answer the question that's plagued us ill:

Who'd win? Kratos' scowl, or Nathan's hair?

PAPER MARIO: STICKER STAR

The first half of this title sounds A-plus!

A fourth Paper Mario? That sounds great!

But then the second half gets D-minus.

The sticker thing, I've gotta say, I hate.

But hey, let's not be rash, let's let it be!

Nintendo's pulled off wacky shit before!

Yarn seemed to work pretty well for Kirby.

If this is bad, at least the first three score.

STAR WARS 1313

Uncharted was an awesome game, no doubt.

Star Wars is taking pages from its book.

The veins of Nathan Drake all run throughout.

(At least that's how the too-short footage looked).

WATCH_DOGS

Ubisoft, you guys blew my mind away

When you showed footage from your new IP.

All of that sexiness was IN-gameplay!

Take all my money, please. And marry me.

ASSASSIN'S CREED III

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! I really want to play!

Yes! Yes! Yes! Requiescat in Pace.

Exit, pursued by an Orc.

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BLANK-pocalypse

If you've been keeping up with the news lately, you've probably heard the horrific (if not a tad hilarious!) story about the zombie attack that took place in Miami, Florida.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't technically a zombie attack. But the transition between this paragraph and the one previous must have been pretty damn suspenseful, am I right? I mean, hearing that something akin to an actual, factual zombie outbreak might have happened in the real world...it's nuts! Zombies are such an enduring part of popular fiction -much like dragons or leprechauns or Eskimos -that the thought of one actually existing in real life is so surreal it can be downright scary. What actually happened in Miami is as follows: a crazed man (quite probably under the influence of lycergic acid diethlamide, only even more potent) ran naked out onto the street and attacked a homeless person who was just minding his own business. But the naked man didn't attack him using a knife or a pistol or even a length of rubber hose. No, sir, this particular naked individual tackled the homeless man to the ground and proceeded to -and I shit you not here, folks -devour the victim's nose and eyeballs.

Seriously. I wish I was making this up. I'm not.

Sounds just like something George Romero would conjure up, doesn't it? And that gives me the perfect opportunity to spend this week's article touching upon something that's bothered me for a while, and that's the whole fascination with zombie apocalypses in general. Namely, I don't like 'em.

For one thing, they're always grossly misrepresented. Maybe they're just hard up for new employees over at ZombieCorp. or something, but from where I stand it seems that anything and everything can qualify as a 'zombie' these days. Infected lunatic? He's a zombie. Drugged-out porn star with a taste for blood? She's a zombie. A Nazi who injects an experimental growth enhancement serum into his eyeballs, only to have it backfire, melting his skin and turning him into a shambling mess of liquefied sinew and foul-smelling bodily fluids? Ohhh, you'd better believe he's a zombie! Personally, I'm one of those sticklers who believes that a true, definitive zombie is just the corpse of a deceased human being that is granted mobility through the use of black magic, witchcraft, or (primarily) voodoo. None of this "infected with a disease" bullshit. It doesn't matter how many brains he tries to chomp on, kids, a man infected with a maddening disease is not a zombie. He's just a sick, sick man. Therefore, if you want to see what a "true zombie" should look like, horror movies won't help you there. The best place to look would probably be Weekend at Bernie's II.

For a second thing, the idea of a zombie apocalypse has kind of run out of appeal at this point. I mean, it might be entertaining to see a man in a cowboy hat slice a zombie in half with a chainsaw or something to that extent, but how long can we stand to see that kind of thing? Zombie apocalypses are like the plain potato chips of apocalypses, in that we should stop settling for plain and try a goddamn FLAVOUR for once. At this point, every time I turn on the TV and see zombies ravaging a countryside, their undead limbs flailing and covered in buckets of corn syrup-based fake blood, I just can't help but roll my eyes and think, "Okay. We get it. Zombie apocalypses would be bad. Can we please just move on now?"

There are so many different kinds of apocalypses we could be experimenting with, and they could prove to be loads more entertaining than yet another movie where Ving Rhames gets trapped inside yet another enclosed building with yet another assortment of makeshift weapons at his convenient disposal. To prove how well these different flavours could work, here's a special treat: 5 all-NEW apocalypses, each one sexier and scarier than the last. So writers, the next time you start up a screenplay and think about adding zombies to the mix, do yourselves a favor and say "Fuck it", and go with one of these instead.

You can thank me later. With royalty cheques.

CAT APOCALYPSE: Cats may be soft and cuddly, but they're assholes. It's just a proven fact. They act nice because we feed them and we clean their shit, but if they had the opportunity, cats would kill us and everyone we love just to prove that they're superior. So imagine if every cat on the planet suddenly woke up one morning with a heightened sense of intelligence, not unlike Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Only these cats don't wait to be mistreated before starting to rebel: it's pretty much instantaneous. They're picking up butcher knives in their little paws and stabbing Grandma and Grandpa through the forehead without a second thought. And when precocious little 4-year-old Timmy tries to pick up his tabby, his tabby responds by clawing out precocious little 4-year-old Timmy's eyes. Scary? Definitely. Plausible? Yeah, I could see it happening. Plus, their fur would get everywhere.

GHOST APOCALYPSE: You know those scary movies where a family movies into a haunted house and their lives are turned upside down by the terrifying poltergeist who dwells within the house's walls? The family can't get a decent night's sleep, the children are traumatized with fear, the parents go crazy trying to resolve the situation, one or two members of the clergy get involved and only end up regretting it later...it's mass hysteria. Now, instead of concentrating that hysteria within one home, imagine that happening in every home. In every city. In every country on the planet. Boom. Apocalypse. I mean, look at all the shit that happened to that couple in Paranormal Activity; and that was just ONE ghost! Everyone who actually could fall asleep would have nightmares for the rest of their lives. Terrifying? You bet your ass. To paraphrase Cal Evans from Undergrads, "Ghosts are scary, guy."

INSECT APOCALYPSE: Aside from those really weird scientists that people generally don't enjoy talking to, nobody likes bugs. Bugs suck. They're ugly, they're unpleasant, they make our skin crawl, and some of them can bite and/or sting us, causing pain and -in some extreme cases -even death. Worst of all, they're everywhere. Literally everywhere. Jungles, forests, deserts, cities, countrysides. Beneath the floorboards. In your bed. Under your kitchen sink. Crawling across your arm right now. The world has pretty much been going through an insect apocalypse since the end of the last ice age. But the one saving grace? They're small. Miniscule, even. So we begrudgingly put up with them, comfortable in the knowledge that we could easily reach out and snuff out a bug's life with a simple flick of our mighty mammal wrists. But what if, suddenly, they weren't so small anymore? Imagine a wasp the size of a transport truck. Imagine a scorpion as big as the Empire State Building. Haven't you ever seen a fantasy that had giant tarantulas in it? Giant tarantulas are scary as hell! Normal tarantulas are scary as hell!! This is the stuff of nightmares, people! If an insect apocalypse comes, I'd be one of the first ones to put a shotgun in my mouth and end the pain before it can begin.

SUPERMODEL APOCALYPSE: Stop rolling your eyes. This can work. Imagine if a beautiful supermodel suddenly gained the supernatural ability to turn any woman she touched into an equally beautiful supermodel. And all those women, in turn, would be granted the same ability. Kind of like zombies creating more zombies, only this involves more miniskirts and much nicer hair. Imagine half of the women on the planet become "infected" with the supermodel virus, while the other half remains normal (so far). Now imagine you are one of those normal women. Every day, you live in constant fear that your husband is going to leave you to run off with one of those skanky supermodel bee-otches that are slowly dominating the planet. The normal women would go crazy with paranoia. Some of the less stable ones might murder their husbands out of sheer suspicion alone. And think of the impact this could have on society as a whole! If everyone is "beautiful", will it be necessary for the concept of "beautiful" to change? How will we cope in a world where all women are of equal visual appeal, and all men are suddenly beneath them? I know I'd be on the edge of my seat for this one.

ACTUAL APOCALYPSE: You know, the one from the Bible? With the demons and the angels and the fiery swords and whatnot? Why the fuck isn't that a movie yet? That sounds awesome!

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Six Seasons and a Movie

Popular culture is a bit like God: it's hard to define, a lot of people worship it blindly, and it often works in mysterious ways.

The best way I can think of to visually describe what pop culture (or, to use a more complex and hilariously foreign-sounding term, the "zeitgeist") might look like...picture a very, very long road running straight through a barren desert. As you drive down this road in a vehicle of your choosing (for the sake of argument, let's go with a 2004 Prius), you can see man-made structures erected on either side of the road. Lots of them. Some of them are run-down grey piles of rubble,dilapidated, forgotten, abandoned, and unloved; while others are towering fortresses with majestic towers and stained-glass windows tinted with blazing colour that provides a literal orgasmic delight to your eyeballs as you drive idly past, pressing your nose up against the window of your Prius.

These houses are the framework of pop culture itself, the literal backbone: namely, the ideas and creations set loose upon the world for audience consumption. Be they works of literature, television, cinema, comic books, websites, video game, sports, or any other media, they are represented on this dusty road by one of those man-made structures. The 1958 movie The Blob has its own structure. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has a structure. The Muppets Christmas Carol has a structure right next to it, just a few structures down from the L.A. Lakers structure. Everything is represented. But the thing is, every one of them starts off looking exactly the same: a plain, unadorned grey box, virtually empty and waiting to be expanded upon. Creators can only make something exist. It takes fans and -most importantly -love to make something ALIVE.

That grey box representing the L.A. Lakers didn't stay small and grey for long, because the Lakers have a plethora of fans supporting them through every game of the season. Through the good games, and through the bad, those fans continued to paint their faces purple and gold, slap on their Number 32 jerseys, and fill in the seats at the Staples Center. And that's exactly the kind of unconditional love that has allowed the grey box representing the Lakers to flourish into a towering castle of purple parapets, with golden banners fluttering in the breeze and a varnished hardwood drawbridge. It's a far cry from the structure next door, which represents a by-the-numbers, cops-&-robbers movie that only a handful of people have seen and already forgotten about, which lies in shambles of broken plaster and shattered windows.

The point I'm dragging towards at a snail's pace here is that of the half-hour TV comedy, Community, the third season of which reached its climactic end this past Thursday on NBC. To submit my application to be nominated for Biggest Understatement of the Century Award, this has been a tumultuous year for the show. Cast & crew disagreements almost came to blows, the network dropped it from syndication in favor of programs with less than a fraction of Community's talent or cleverness, and the dreaded monster called Cancellation seemed to be looming around every turn, hiding in dark crevasses and waiting to sink its teeth into another juicy morsel. The people responsible for making Community happen (i.e., the cast & crew) kept right on making the same great stuff they'd always been making. But that's not what kept the show from floundering. The life raft was tossed not by NBC, or by showrunner/creator Dan Harmon...it was tossed by us. The fans who love it so much that we'd rather jump in after it than watch it sink.

As soon as the show's mid-season hiatus was announced, there was an outcry akin to the swarm of villagers grabbing their pitchforks and storming the gates of Dr. Frankenstein's castle. Petitions were written and signed with enough speed to make Sonic the Hedgehog blush. Threats were made to the network responsible. Less psychotic fans held vigils outside of the NBC offices, chanting memorable songs and quotes from Community episodes. The Twitter hashtag #SixSeasonsAndAMovie became the single-highest trending topic for months, becoming so popular that it's now pretty much considered to be the unofficial slogan of the show itself. These outcries continued until the show finally came back on the air to seas of thunderous applause. And now, not only did the show complete its third season with a trio of spectacular back-to-back episodes, but it's been renewed for a fourth season next fall.

If you're thinking right now that these people are getting a little too worked up about some TV show, you're missing the point. NBC wanted to pull the show because of poor ratings. Ratings = money, which is the sole language spoken by most people in this industry. Community was saved not by money, but by love. If those fans didn't love the show as much as they did, there'd have been no petitions, no vigils, no hashtags, no YouTube videos, no death threats. The structure on the side of that desert road representing Community was in danger of being smashed through with a wrecking ball. But an army of stalwart supporters linked arms and stood in the way, shielding the structure from harm and fortifying its defenses until it became an almost-untouchable palace of solid gold rainbows complete with a working Dreamatorium and E Pluribus Anus flags aplenty.

That's just the kind of show Community is. It seemed destined to be a classic before the second episode even aired. It's that special kind of show where literally 100% of it is fan service, no matter what you happen to be a fan of. It brings back staples of TV that we didn't even realize we've missed until we saw them again. Everything from inside jokes to wacky character costumes to catch phrases to end-credits scenes. Every episode of Community is a grab bag of unpredictability: you never know which of your fanboy stimuli are going be tickled next. To me (and, I'm sure, to those legions of fans who hashtagged and petitioned their way through those long,dark hiatus months), the show that started off as a loving tribute to The Breakfast Club has become a quotable, genre-defying juggernaut that someone may very well create a loving tribute to thirty years from now. In the same way that Star Wars or LOST or Harry Potter touched so many hearts and minds that they became institutions unto themselves, so too has Community reached heights that other media can only dream of. In my eyes, Ben Chang is just as iconic a villain as Darth Vader or Hannibal Lechter; Abed Nadir is just as classic a hero as Frodo Baggins or Hercules. Those are the kinds of lasting impressions that Community has left us. And it's only three seasons in.

Even though the hiatus is over and NBC has conceded to fan demands, the dreaded monster Cancellation still hasn't left our peripheral vision. The next season is going to be a shortened, 13-episode run, and there's still the lingering dread that the monster might strike at any time and snuff out the show's life for good. At this point, though, if that were to happen...I don't think it would be as bad as it sounds. Like Firefly or Arrested Development before it, Community seems destined to live on no matter what the network execs decide to do with it. It has transcended the boundaries that ground normal, humdrum shows and escaped into the world. It's touched so many people that it literally has created itself: a COMMUNITY. And no amount of cancellation could ever, ever take that away. The structure that represents Community can no longer be demolished, even if we can't add any more rooms or towers to its already imposing facade. In a perfect world, we may get our six seasons and a movie. But even in the darkest possible timeline, where the fourth season ends the show prematurely and we never see any further adventures of Jeff, Britta, Abed, Troy, Pierce, Shirley, and Annie again...we still come out on top. Because the show was that good. It'll have died honorably on the battlefield, staring its executor in the eye and daring it to pull the trigger.

Pop Pop.

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Peanut Butter Fanboy

Last time, I promised to make some nerds angry. Since doing so is about as easy as shooting fish in a barrel with a bazooka the same size as the barrel itself, here I am making good on my word!

Speaking of words, one in particular is going to be the basis for this week's little discussion. The word "fanboy": it gets tossed around quite a lot, doesn't it? But can anyone out there claim to really, truly know exactly what it means? I believe I do, and I'll try to define it in the easiest way possible so that from now on you will know a fanboy the moment you see one.

First things first: you can be a fangirl, too. This isn't an exclusive club like the Shriners we're talking about here. fans can be any gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. And for the record, you can also be a fanboy of a gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. It's funny that way.

So here's my ultimate definition of the term: being a fanboy is simply a indication that you are heavily invested in a certain thing to the point where it stops being casual interest and becomes nerd-like obsession. Someone who reads/analyzes a lot of comics and spends thousands of dollars a month on collecting and organizing them is a comic book fanboy. Someone who knows every line of dialogue in all six Star Wars films and owns every action figure of even the most obscure character from the movies or novels is a Star Wars fanboy. Someone who walks around wearing their favourite players' hockey jersey, memorizes goalkeeping stats, and goes to a bar every other night to watch the game with their beer buddies is a hockey fanboy (Yes, sports fans, stop kidding yourselves; you're all nerds too. You just prefer balls to lightsabers. Take from that what you will).

The thing that separates fanboys from just plain fans, though, is bit more complicated: it mostly involves elitism, aggression, and finding common enemies. Here's a helpful example to illustrate.

I really, really, really like Kraft smooth peanut butter. I like it to the point where I am a Kraft smooth peanut butter fanboy. I eat Kraft smooth peanut butter at least three times a day. I've bought it so many times that I know how many pieces of peanut butter toast I can get out of one jar. I can recite from memory every single one of the ingredients, as well as the recipes that they usually have on the backs of the labels. I have posters of Kraft smooth peanut butter hanging in my bedroom. I know the names of all the people who had a hand in inventing it, in what year they did so, and in which part of the world it happened. If you were to try to engage me in a conversation about a totally unrelated issue, like the BP oil spill or Obama's health care plan, I would somehow find a way to steer the conversation back into the waters of Kraft smooth peanut butter, to the point where you will be so annoyed with my obsession that you'll eventually just stop talking to me.

Let's bring a second person into the mix now. We'll call her Veronica. Veronica is a fangirl as well, except her obsession revolves around Kraft crunchy peanut butter. When Veronica and I are together, the two of us will inevitably start to bicker about our interests. In most cases, though, neither of us will harbor any malice towards the other; I respect Veronica's interest in a Kraft peanut butter product, and vice versa. Our arguments don't involve bashing one another, but rather boasting why we think our respective peanut butters are superior. Veronica thinks having peanut shells in every bite is fantastic. I think peanut butter should flow like liquid across the top of my toast.

Now, here comes a third person: Stuart. Stuart is a peanut butter fanboy. But Stuart doesn't like Kraft peanut butter. Stuart likes Skippy peanut butter.

Instantly, Veronica & I will put aside our small differences and gang-bang the hell out of Stuart's opinions. This time, we're not in it to convince Stuart how great our peanut butter is: we're in it to rag on how shitty his peanut butter is. Instead of using logical defense, Veronica and I resort to mockery and humiliation. For example, while our earlier conversations might have sounded like this: "Smooth is clearly better than crunchy. Having peanut shells in every bite cuts up the roof of my mouth", they now sound like this: "Stuart, you are a facking n00b! Skippy peanut butter is teh gay!" We actually take offense that Stuart has the gall to even consider any other peanut butter brand.

Oh, and jam? Don't even get us STARTED on jam.

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Five-Seven-Five

The backlog of work this week has gotten a tad on the overwhelming side, and unfortunately I haven't had enough time to do the amount of preparation and research I usually do before writing one of these articles. Therefore, this week's entry is going to be like a very small cinnamon-chocolate cappuccino: short but sweet, with some froth on top. Don't worry, next week we're getting back to the heavy stuff; heavy stuff in which I might upset a few of the nerds out there...

This year, more than any other year, I've found myself parked in front of the TV set for several hours a day, catching up on the newest episodes of this or that. It only just occurred to me the other night how much my TV time has expanded from just last year alone. Usually, the only program I'd bothered to watch religiously week after week was LOST. Everything else I would just catch up with sometime later, or wait for the DVD.

However, things changed as soon as the 2011-2012 television season began. I don't know why it is, but there have been more shows this year capturing my interest than ever before. Since I'm an egotistical maniac and I'm under the assumption that everyone gives a damn what I think of things, I felt compelled to do a review of all the shows I've been watching since fall. Of course, doing so in full would take much too long and take up an enormous amount of space on this blog, space which could be better put to use being filled with Viagra ads or links to websites where you could win a free* iPad 2 as long as you just give some clammy, mouth-breathing hacker all of your credit card information and your mum's maiden name.

Hence: you've sifted through the froth, now this is where the short & sweet cappuccino part begins. I've reviewed all of the TV shows I'm enjoying this year...in the form of haiku poems. It's kind of like those little bite-sized pieces of Caramilk bars! Only, you know, in poem form.

Oh, and there are some spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk.

ALCATRAZ

Hurley and Merlin

fight time-travelling convicts.

(It's J.J., okay?)

COMMUNITY

Funniest show on

TV. Well, it was, until

NBC screwed up.

FRINGE

Alternate timeline

getting so damn confusing.

Need charts to keep track.

GAME OF THRONES

Hot naked ladies

covered in dragons. Do I

need to say more here?

ONCE UPON A TIME

Fairy-tale people

living in the U.S.A.

with sexy results.

PERSON OF INTEREST

Ben Linus & Christ

are basically Batman. They

use cell phones a lot.

THE RIVER

Amazon River.

Crocodile Hunter. Voodoo.

IT'S SCARY AS SHIT.

TERRA NOVA

Something by Spielberg

that's NOT about World War II.

About time, Stevie!

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Bland Boys

A while back, I happened upon a card in my mailbox that allowed me one free month of Netflix. I finally got around to starting it up, and I have to say, it's been a great way to get caught up on a bunch of movies and TV shows I've been wanting to see. Apart from watching every episode of Dollhouse, a few snippets of the X-Men cartoon, and the entire first three seasons of Breaking Bad, I also got around to watching 31 movies I hadn't seen before. Let me tell you, it was immensely refreshing to be able to watch a free movie online that didn't have obnoxious Korean subtitles taking up two-thirds of the screen.

Anyway, two of those Netflix movies are what I'd like to talk about today: a pair of action-driven, Michael Bay-helmed epics called Bad Boys and Bad Boys II.

What piqued my interest about these particular movies was the fact that everyone seemed to really like them, especially the second one. I remember the first one coming out and just being a quiet hit, but once the sequel released...everyone everywhere was talking about Bad Boys II. Friends, neighbours, fellow movie buffs, & casual movie fans alike all said it was a total must-see movie. I'd never seen either of the Bad Boys, but I love Will Smith (who doesn't?!) and I can tolerate Michael Bay films (mostly). I thought Armageddon was decent and I enjoyed the Transformers series. So I thought, hey, let's give Bad Boys a shot. From what I gathered through popular opinion, this franchise took a page from Chris Nolan's Bat-book, i.e., the first movie was a big success, but the twice-as-long, twice-as-hyped, twice-as-big, twice-as-expensive sequel was the true star of the series.

Fair enough, I thought. I'm all yours, Mr. Bay. Let's see what you've got.

Upon finally viewing these two movies, my verdict is...confused. Maybe I'm dyslexic and I've been horribly mixing up all of the hype surrounding this series, but Bad Boys II was way, way, WAAAAYYYYY worse than its predecessor.

The first Bad Boys had a really clever and cute little plot twist whereupon Martin Lawrence's character Marcus (a jittery, straight-edged family man) has to pretend to be Will Smith's character Mike (a smooth-talking, oversexed playboy) in order to secure a witness in a very important police case involving stolen heroin. That was neat, and totally not something I expected to see in a Michael Bay movie. It was fun to watch these characters struggle uncomfortably out of their element. It reminded me of the classic mistaken identity farces of Hollywood's Golden Age, and it really helped put an emphasis on the second half of that "action-comedy" nametag this series likes to wear proudly on its lapels.

Bad Boys II, on the other hand...well, I can actually review that movie without using a single word, simply by rolling my eyes and scoffing. But since you can't exactly see me doing that, here are some words.

Everything that made the first movie cool and funky and different and fun is gone. Bye-bye. Instead, prepare yourself for two hours and twenty-four minutes of non-stop, groan-inducing action movie cliches that are so in-your-face that I kept thinking I was watching a Wayans Brothers parody of a cop movie instead of the genuine article. It left we wondering if Bay and his writers had ever even seen The Last Action Hero. Literally every cop movie stereotype that The Last Action Hero makes fun of is in Bad Boys II, and they're not even being used ironically. Hero cop gets shot, but it's just "a flesh wound"? Check. High-speed car chase filled with explosions where a lot of innocent people get hurt but the cops don't seem too bothered by it? Check. Cops using flashy sports cars instead of standard-issue police cruisers? Triple check. Mismatched partners getting in silly arguments? Check. A police station that looks nicer than the main lobby of a Ritz-Carlton hotel? Check. A chief who spends every second of his screen time yelling at the two lead cops about how the Mayor is up his ass? Check. A lame, stock villain whose only character traits are "evil" and "drug lord"? Check. Slow-motion hero shots of the main characters firing their guns in a way that isn't practical at all, but it's okay because it makes them look "badass"? Check check check check che...well, you get the idea.

Are those cliches bad? Absolutely not. They're fun and exciting and delightful...in moderation. But considering that the first Bad Boys broke the mould a little bit and gave us something with a neat little spark of originality, you can understand how disappointed I was that the sequel decided to just take a shit all over that and play their safe cards from The Overused Buddy-Cop Stereotype Handbook for Dummies. What's especially puzzling is how everybody said they loved it so much more than Part 1.

Remember how I said that almost everyone loves Will Smith? Well, this movie doesn't just love him...this movie takes every single opportunity to get down on its knees, grab Will Smith by the balls, suck him off until he's satisfied, and then says, "Thank you, Will Smith, may I have another?" It was almost embarrassing to watch. I wouldn't be surprised if Bad Boys II's official movie poster was just Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam with the Fresh Prince's face superimposed over God's.

What, then, should Bad Boys II have been? Well, if you ask me, I think it was the perfect opportunity for a classic role-reversal. Take another popular movie series for example: in Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear had to deal with the fact that he was a toy. Woody kept trying to explain to him exactly what that meant, and was constantly reminding Buzz of his responsibility to Andy. In Toy Story 2, Woody was the one dealing with an identity crisis, and it was up to Buzz to bring him back. Buzz even went so far as to echo Woody's famous line from the first flick: "You are a child's plaything! You. Are. A. TOY!" If the first Bad Boys was about Martin Lawrence struggling to pretend that he was a man-whore bachelor, then Bad Boys II absolutely could have worked if it was about Will Smith struggling to pretend (for similar reasons, perhaps) that he was a happily-married suburbanite with three kids. And if they really wanted to stick to the Toy Story formula, then Bad Boys III could be about them being transferred to a different precinct, and then somehow they end up in a giant furnace room holding hands and accepting their inevitable fate, only to be pulled out of harm's way at the last second by Joe Pantoliano.

At the end of the day, what I'm most curious about is: why? Why was Bad Boys II so universally acclaimed while its superior predecessor goes largely unmentioned? Why does this mediocre sequel overshadow the better work that came before? Jaws 2 didn't overshadow Jaws. Terminator 3 didn't overshadow T2. The Return of Jafar didn't overshadow Aladdin (thank fucking Lord). Is Bad Boys II a "bad" movie? On its own, not at all. As part of the series that the first one started, though...yeah, a little bit.. What do YOU think of Bad Boys II? Perhaps this is one of life's mysteries that simply wasn't meant to be solved. Or maybe we're just better off not knowing, because the answer might turn out to be "People prefer dumb stuff". And that would just be sad.

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Dimension Dimension Dimension

So when Underworld: Awakening came out, a friend and I excitedly made plans to go and see it (I'll wait 'till the laughter stops on that one before I continue). Much to our chagrin, though, the movie was only playing in 3-D, which neither of us wanted, so we had to end up settling on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Despite the comically enormous size of Gary Oldman's glasses, that movie was about as entertaining as watching people do paperwork for two hours. Honestly, for a movie about spies and secret double-agents and British espionage, it wasn't very intriguing. Just a word of friendly advice to the writers: when it comes to mysteries, having CLUES that the audience can identify is exponentially more interesting than just having Gary Oldman solve the whole thing himself by reading files.

But to get back to the point here, I want to talk about 3-D. Everyone who knows me already knows how I feel about it, but I think I should just lay all my cards on the table now. You see, Hollywood is a dear friend of mine. I've known him since I was a baby. I don't just care about Hollywood; I love the heck out of him. But I can't sit idly by and watch him kill himself any longer. So, Hollywood, old friend, consider this blog entry your intervention.

As always, Hollywood, the first step is admitting that you have a problem.

Hollywood, I want you to think back to the good old days, and by that I mean any day prior to 2009. Do you remember all of the fun we used to have together, you & me? We used to do everything: we'd play baseball with Tom Hanks, we'd take a 12-hour trip to Middle Earth, we'd run from killer cyborgs and go sneaking through the Temple of Doom. We blew up the Death Star, and then we blew up the second Death Star, and then we drove Miss Daisy around for a bit. We had a lot of great times together.

But then you changed.

I don't know what it was. Maybe you felt pressured. Maybe you spent too much time hanging around that psycho James Cameron. But whatever the catalyst was, the results were undeniable: you started using 3-D. At first it was just enough to make us concerned, but now...now, Hollywood, we're scared for you.

A couple of years back. I wanted to watch the last Saw movie with you, remember? But...you were on 3-D. And just this past Christmas, when the Tintin movie came out, I was overjoyed! I used to love the Tintin cartoon when I was a kid! I couldn't wait to see it on the big screen with you! But...you were on 3-D.

I understand that addictions are hard to kick, Hollywood. But the fact of the matter is, you need to quit. Maybe some unpleasant people want to be around you when you're on 3-D, but those people aren't your real friends. You may think you're more "fun" and "hip" when you're "using", but I'm afraid it's the exact opposite. I don't like wearing clunky glasses over my normal glasses. I don't like paying five extra dollars for a migraine. I don't like things popping out at me, Hollywood, because...that's not what our friendship is all about.

Let's say you have a baby, Hollywood. And you decide that you want to entertain that baby. You have a set of plastic Fisher Price keys that jingle and jangle in a very pleasant way. Now, you have two options here. Option 1: you can set the Fisher Price keys down in front of the baby and let her pick them up, let her rattle them around in her hand, let her inspect them and discover them and examine them with the sense of newfound wonder that babies have with everything they touch. Let her make connections and feel the keys beneath her fingers. Option 2: you can wave the keys back & forth obnoxiously in front of her face, saying, "OOoOoooOohhh, look at the keys! Look at the keys! Look at the keys! OOooOoOooOoOooO! Look at the keys! Look at the keys!" There's being entertaining, and then there's being patronizing.

Hollywood, remember back in the seventies when we went swimming together at that beach off of Amity Island, and then that crazed killer shark started attacking people? That was amazing! Everybody had so much fun that day! And remember how we went back to that same beach after a few years, and even though nothing new or original happened, we still had a ton of fun swimming around and running from that shark again? Good times were had by all! But when we went back a third time...you were on 3-D. And nobody had fun. Absolutely nobody. We all hated that day, Hollywood. You ruined it by being high on your stupid addiction. We just didn't tell you to your face because, well, frankly, we loved you too much to hurt your feelings like that. But we're afraid that if everything doesn't come out in the open now, it could do some serious damage. In hindsight, it's just as much our fault for not bringing it up sooner.

Trust us, this isn't the first time something tragic like this has ruined peoples' lives. Remember our old friend Amusement Park Rides? Even he struggled with a bad 3-D addiction. He was so stoned out of his mind on the shiny 3-D keys jingling in front of his nose that he didn't realize that good old-fashioned roller coasters and tilt-a-whirls produced a natural, healthy high that was ten times more exhilarating than anything you could buy off the streets. Slowly but surely, though, Amusement Park Rides is learning to kick his addiction. He knows that he doesn't have to rely on a synthetic substance to have a good time.

Our actions have consequences, Hollywood. You need to understand that, as cool or hip as you may think you are, your behaviour is having an extremely bad influence on your little cousin, Television. We walked into a Best Buy just the other day and...well, I know this is going to be hard to hear, but...we caught Television using 3-D, too. When we took the 3-D away and asked him why he was doing it, Television started crying and yelled, "It's because of Hollywood, okay?! I learned it from watching Hollywood!!!" I think that pretty much speaks for itself.

Frankly, we don't want to hang out with you anymore, Hollywood, because, in all honesty, what's the point? Why should we go out of our way to see you when you're so stoned off your mind that you treat us like toddlers? Why should we keep lending you money if you're just going to spend it on more 3-D? And don't try to lie to us, because we know that that's exactly where our money is going, isn't it?

Dear, sweet Hollywood: you have a serious, serious problem. But we're not here to attack you. We're here to help you. Next month, when Brave comes out, I want to be able to enjoy it with you like we used to, without your addiction ruining the experience. You CAN have fun without resorting to 3-D, Hollywood: we used to do it all the time, remember? We can do it again. But this is a two-way street. Kicking this addiction is not going to be easy, but we'll be there for you every step of the way, as long as we know that you are actively trying to get better. We care about you, Hollywood. So please, PLEASE...start caring about yourself.

A NOTE TO THE READERS: If you or anyone you know is struggling with a harmful addiction to 3-D, there are ways to get better. You can visit the 3-D Addicts Anonymous website at www.3daa.org, or call their hotline at 1-800-321-HELP.

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If TV Shows Were People...

If TV shows were people, 24 would be that paranoid redneck with a Confederate flag perched triumphantly on his front lawn, who owns more firearms than he does towels. He would have been quiet & reclusive up until 9/11 happened, at which point he could often be found on the streets shouting things like, "I never trusted them dang Eye-rak-ee-stannies, no sir, I did not!" He's probably one of the people who thought that the colour-coded terror alert system was a good idea. He's also the kind of man who wears camouflage attire to paintball twice a week, and smugly gloats to all of the other players when -surprise! -he just so happens to win every match.

Entourage would be that sharp-dressed white fellow who inexplicably talks like he's a young urban thug from the wrong side of the tracks, even though he grew up in a relatively nice suburbia with upper-middle-class parents and a good education. He puts on the allure of being this sexy, well-to-do, in-the-know kind of guy, but (aside from a few cryptic hints that he may be a deep-in-the-closet homosexual with serious commitment issues) he never really has anything interesting to say.

Two & A Half Men would be the charming, extremely charismatic politician whom everyone seems to really like. One day, though, he suffers a frightening nervous breakdown and is hospitalized for a few weeks. He eventually returns, trying his darndest to pick up his campaign where it left off, but he just doesn't feel quite like the same man anymore and sooner or later everyone just stops voting for him, regardless of how good his tax cuts would have been.

Lost would be that bizarre conspiracy nut who sits in a corner quietly muttering to himself while wearing a tin-foil hat. At first glance, you're a bit put off by him, and you may even feel a swell of fear whenever he's around. But the more you listen to what he has to say, the more intrigued you become by his wild fascinations, and before you even realize what's happened you're crouched in another corner with a tin-foil hat of your very own, hastily unscrambling the letters in your alphabet soup on the off-chance that they might end up spelling out the words "EIGHT-FIFTEEN" or something.

CSI, CSI: Miami, and CSI: New York would be that set of identical triplets whose mom thinks she's being cute by dressing them up in matching outfits. The triplets are constantly aching for independence and trying to assure you that they have individual thoughts and desires. You don't want to be rude, so you just smile and nod at them, even though inside you're laughing your ass off because they're basically clones.

The Simpsons would be that slightly nerdy though incredibly clever & insightful child everyone loved, because of how gosh-darned cute and smart he was. But eventually, he hit puberty and started getting acne, so his mom went ahead and had a new baby, whom she named Family Guy. The baby is not quite as clever as his big brother, but he's the cute new toy in the house, so everyone makes cooey faces at him and lavishes him with attention, while The Simpsons sits quietly up in his room continuing to do well on his homework assignments, his only crime being living past the age of thirteen.

Incidentally, Family Guy grows up into a loud child with a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder. He occasionally spouts a funny remark or two of his own, but then he goes and ruins it with unnecessary non-sequiturs such as "I like pants!" or "Fuzzy farts!" He then proceeds to run around and around in a circle like a rogue tetherball until he collides painfully with the nearest wall.

Community would be that beautiful and extremely intelligent young woman who captivates everyone she meets. Her friends & family are relatively wealthy, so one day she is kidnapped by agents of a greedy corporation (oh, let's call them, the Nasty Bastard Corporation) who lock her away somewhere in a dark room. The kidnappers then inform all of Community's family and friends that if they ever want to see her again, they're going to have to give the Nasty Bastard Corporation all of their money and attention.

Jersey Shore would be the drunken frat boy who stands on a bench in the middle of a crowded shopping mall and proceeds to make a fool of himself by stripping down to his birthday suit and rambling about god-knows-what. Everyone in the mall pauses, hypnotized by this train wreck of a human being. This goes on for about 15 minutes before Jersey Shore falls off the bench and passes out in a puddle of his own vomit. All of the people who stopped to watch turn away, wondering why they stopped to watch in the first place and conveniently decide to never speak of it again to anyone.

American Idol would be that 350-pound man who is, quite literally, everywhere. He is munching loudly on popcorn in front of you at the cinema. He is occupying both of the seats next to you on an airplane. He is breathing down your neck in the line-up at the bank. He squeezes himself into the same small elevator with you before proceeding to break wind. There is no escaping this horrifying, bloated man. He is everywhere, all at once, always. He is legion. If left to his own devices, this man will inevitably consume the earth and everything in it.

Starting with your house.

And of course, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would be Betty White. She may be outdated, and some of her jokes might not have aged well, but damn it, I can't think of a single person on the planet who doesn't like her.

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Question Begins

Welcome to what I hope will be the first weekly (or daily or monthly or however long it takes me to keep remembering that I actually have a blog) entry at The Question Mark.

For the past few years, I've been unsuccessfully juggling both a boring blog of unsavory content that nobody read and a desire to share my taste (or distaste) on a wide variety of topics and concerns in either written or spoken form to anyone who will listen. This blog, therefore, is the result of me dropping both of those juggling balls in favour of a much easier-to-handle alternative.

For starters, let me address the surprisingly small elephant in the room: the blog's address. Believe me, tqmark.blogspot.com was NOT my first choice for a URL. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, and it sounds like the email address of a boring, middle-management executive type who works at a company called TQ Mark & Co., who spends all of his time driving around in a bland silver luxury car with all the personality of a cardboard box that has a face drawn on it with magic marker. However, thequestionmark.blogspot.com was already taken...by some woman named Veronica whose one and ONLY blog posting was a one-word test on July 15th, 2002. Thanks, Veronica! I'm glad my blog has a name more awkward to pronounce than most of the countries in Africa, just so you could test out your fonts or whatever back before the general public knew who Iron Man was.

Anyhoo, if you're going to be kind enough to waste your own precious time reading my unsually structured run-on sentences and overuse of parentheses (like this, for example), I suppose it's only fair that I introduce myself to you first so at least you know what you're getting yourself into. You're still in the shallow end of the pool, kids; there's no shame in pussying out and calling for the lifeguard yet!

As mentioned in the bio at the top of your computer screen, I consider myself both a writer and an actor, in the same way that Schwarzenegger considers himself both an actor and a governor; I may not be the greatest at either, and most of the time I'm a punchline who thinks he's in on the joke, but at least I have fun doing both. Plus I can time-travel.

I call myself The Question Mark mostly because I like speaking the phrase "the question mark" aloud, and partly because I harbor a somewhat disturbing yet completely normal (and in no way homoerotic) fascination with The Riddler. Riddler & I actually share quite a lot in common: we both enjoy question marks, we both fancy puzzles and word games, we both look dashing in green, and every now and then we both get the shit kicked out of us by a man dressed as a bat (don't ask).

Because of my career choices, my passions tend to hover around the obvious: movies, television shows, videogames, books, and geek culture in general. And for the record, "geek culture" has become so mainstream thanks to this Inter-net thing that frankly I'm surprised that they haven't just changed its name to "everyone culture" already. But that's a topic for another time (wink wink ambiguity).

If you're wondering what kind of writing I do, it's pretty much anything, though I'm mostly focused on novels. I'm in the middle of a series of 20 books titled The Chronicles of Everywhere, of which I've finished 7. They're fantasy-action-comedy-adventure-first person shooters about the fantasy genre in general. I've also started work on some other novel series, one of which has to do with vampires (not the sparkly kind) and the other with a group of wacky globe-hopping demon hunters (definitely the sparkly kind).

And if you're wondering what kind of acting I do, I'm a lot like Christopher Walken or Morgan Freeman: I'm not as talented as them, hell no, but because I accept EVERY role I'm offered. You can see the work a friend and I did at www.watchstiffs.com. And now I'm going to stop plugging myself before this blog becomes nothing but a giant commercial wrapped in text.

So if you look to this blog in the coming weeks (or months or days or...oh, we've already danced this dance, haven't we?), you'll continuously find some new and exciting things for me to ramble about, and for you to comment on at your leisure. I promise you that, unlike with my first Blog-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named (it was named Strawberry Toaster Oven), I will actually put more of an effort into updating and posting and whatnot.

So if you love movies, videogames, TV shows, videogames based off movies or TV shows, books, movie adaptations of books, TV spin-offs of movies, movie versions of cancelled TV shows, cancelled books adapted from spin-off movies, or everybody culture...then this is definitely the place for you. Welcome aboard.

And if you're one of those folks who's sniffling with disdain right now, your mouse hovering over the CLOSE button as you mutter, "Sorry, loser, but geek culture isn't for me! I'd rather read about socio-economics or watch YouTube videos of cats bumping into things!"...then this is still the place for you. Everybody's a geek once in a while.

Just don't expect me to post any videos of cats.

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