Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The End of Parks and Recreation (AKA: 5,000 Candles in the Wind)

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The following post contains a few spoilers and a lot of nostalgia about the finale of the show "Parks and Recreation." Please proceed with caution. Also, if you've never watched the show, I recommend that you treat yoself and start immediately.

It seems like forever ago and yesterday at the same time (but it was actually sometime in 2010) that I first discovered "Parks and Recreation" on Netflix. And at first, I didn't care for it. In season 1, while they were still trying to find their footing, I almost gave up. But I didn't. I think part of me erroneously assumed that Leslie Knope was a female version of Michael Scott, as I had often heard the show compared to "The Office."

The two shows are filmed in a similar style and both follow the employees of a work place, but their list of similarities pretty much ends there. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can really start enjoying "Parks and Recreation."

Luckily, I continued to watch and I slowly fell in love. By season 3, when Adam Scott and Rob Lowe joined the cast, I was a goner.

"Parks and Recreation" is easily my favorite television show since "Gilmore Girls," which is, in my most humble opinion, the absolute highest quality of show.

There are so many elements to "Parks and Recreation" that make it fantastic -- from the self-referential humor to the way the characters grew throughout its seven season run. There's no way I could do the show justice and accurately convey how wonderful I think it is in this post, but I am going to try.

Leslie Knope is, to me, one of the strongest characters in television history. She started out as an under-appreciated public servant who just wanted to turn a pit into a park -- and she ended up serving as governor for the state of Indiana. "Parks and Recreation" is about many things, but Leslie Knope is always at the center of it. This show is about personal growth as much as it is about professional growth.

The most beautiful thing about this show is just how far Leslie has come in all aspects of her life. She started at the bottom, and she ended at the top. Outside of her political achievements, Leslie's personal life also came full circle. She started out as kind of a hoarder with a crush on Mark Brendanawicz (loser) and ended up married (with triplets) to Ben Wyatt (aka "Ice Town"), who very much complements her in every way. Ben is very much the syrup to Leslie's waffle and their love story is literally one of my favorite things in the world.

Leslie's relationship with each individual character is another beautiful thing -- from her almost creepy admiration for Ann Perkins to the mutual respect she and Ron Swanson share (the episode where she gave him a quiet birthday with a steak and some whiskey instead of a surprise party is one of my favorites). "Parks and Recreation" has always thrived on an equal mix of humor and heart, and I think that's what sets this show apart from so many others.

I was a bit skeptical when this final season was announced. Season 6's finale was perfect and would have been a great note on which to end the show, but I'm actually glad that we got this short, final season to actually say all of our goodbyes.

Every character received closure that was fitting for that character, and that's something that a lot of shows do not provide. On the other hand, many shows have endings that are a stretch or that sacrifice a character's well, character just to get to the ending that the writers have in mind. "Parks and Recreation" avoided all of that. Each character remains true to the character that they are. No one is exactly the same as they were in season 1, but everyone has had the chance to flower and bloom into a more badass version of their original self. And I think that's just great.

Anyway, I could probably go on forever with how much I love this show. But I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to list out just a few more of my favorite things:
  • Li'l Sebastian (we miss you in the saddest fashion)
  • All of Ben's weird, nerdy idiosyncrasies
      • The Cones of Dunshire
      • that Letters to Cleo t-shirt
      • the claymation venture
      • calzones!
  • Bert Macklin, FBI
  • All of Leslie's praise for Ann
      • ex: "Oh Ann, you beautiful tropical fish."
      • ex 2: "Ann, you poetic and noble land-mermaid."
  • Jean-Ralphio and his sister Mona Lisa -- who is, btw, the woooorrrsssst!
  • Chris Traeger who is -- LITERALLY -- the most excited person of all time!
  • Ron Swanson's words of wisdom
      • "Any dog under 50 pounds is a cat, and cats are pointless."
  • All the weirdo people of Pawnee -- from Joan Callamezzo to Crazy Ira and the Douche to Councilman Dexhart to Perd Hapley

It has been a very long time since a show has been able to make me laugh out loud and cry from vigorous emotions all in the span of an episode, but "Parks and Recreation" has given me that on multiple occasions. I'm very excited to see where everyone goes from here in their careers, and I'm very much looking forward to the inevitable day when NBC releases an overpriced box set of this series so I can just give them all my money even though I can rewatch it on Netflix.

Dammit, Jerry! It's really all his fault.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

The Future Freaks Me Out

I do not like the unknown. I do not like it one bit. While one can argue that the future is never certain, I always try to take steps to prepare for it. I'm a planner. I'm not a risk taker and I definitely don't like surprises (unless they're good ones -- like, "surprise! Fall Out Boy has a new album coming out").

This is why I'm a little surprised at how well I'm handling my most recent predicament. 

Yesterday, my place of employment confirmed that they will be shutting down our office effective March of next year.

Yay for potential future unemployment!

Basically me (x)

Part of the reason I'm not completely paper-bagging it is because we all have kind of seen this coming for months now. I work in a customer service call center for an insurance company that you've heard of. We have several call centers throughout various states and the Virginia center is the smallest. The first sign of trouble came last year when our center was put on a hiring freeze for all of 2014 and 2015.

This didn't strike us as good news seeing as all the other call centers were hiring. We were losing employees, but we weren't replacing them. That's when the gossip first started.

The gossip powder keg exploded when some of our supervisors started jumping ship. Some supervisors uprooted and moved to one of the other call centers with very little notice. Then we had two supervisors leave the company entirely. Several other people applied for and received promotions which required them to move. The future was looking bleak, but still the managers neither confirmed nor denied the rumors.

Yesterday, we received that confirmation. I was not at work when the news hit. I received a call from one of my coworker friends who broke the bad news. When I heard, I honestly felt more relief than anything because they're giving us a full year to prepare for the shutdown. By Virginia law, employers are really only required to give 60 days notice. The fact that they're giving us a full year before the doors close really speaks to the quality of the company I work for.

Example of Kindergarten-like gifts
I've never loved my job -- except for my first few months, which was training. The job itself can alternate between not entirely unpleasant and godawful. I am the person you call when you need to talk to your insurance company. If you missed your bill or your rates have gone up or you got a letter saying something on your policy is changing -- I'm the person you get to bitch out. 

Not all the calls are bad. There are plenty of people who just call to make a payment or to ask a simple question. I speak with employees from banks and car rental companies as well as internal employees who need clarification on things. However, the job is very far from my dream career and it can sometimes be very disheartening. 

With all the said, I couldn't have picked a better company to work for. After years of working at a company who places no value on the "little people," it was refreshing to work for a company who makes you feel like you matter as an employee. It was refreshing to work for a company who admitted that the job was a hard one and who did the best they could to alleviate the mundane by giving us silly little gifts or free casual days or by having cubicle decorating contests. All of this made me feel a bit like a Kindergartner, but I'll admit that those things were always welcome and always made spirits rise a little bit.

Although I'm afraid of what will come with the next chapter in my life, I'm thankful for the time that I did get to spend at this job. I'm thankful for the friends that I made and the opportunities that it has opened. This imperfect job taught me a lot about insurance and just how bad the consequences could be if you let your insurance cancel. If it hasn't happened to you, be thankful. It isn't good. This imperfect job helped me branch out and learn to get involved. This imperfect job has helped me to greatly lessen my outstanding debt and has enhanced my savings. It was the best thing I could have possibly asked for at a time when I was making very little money and still paying all of my own expenses.

I didn't expect this post to turn into a love letter for a job that I complain about more than I praise, but that's the direction in which this went after I started typing. I honestly expected this post to take on a more nihilistic tone rather than a reflective one. It's funny how you start something with one mindset and it completely changes by the end of your thought. I guess I have the rest of the year to think through all of this and exactly how I feel about it.

But, for now, it's back to the drawing board.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Win $60 and More!

Hello everyone! Today, I'm participating in a fantastic giveaway hosted by Kathy from Him & Me (But Mostly Me). The big winner will take home $60 cash, a blog design by Amanda Wood Designs, and a wine glass by Tabitha. So what are you waiting for? There are plenty of easy ways to enter. Get to it!



Monday, February 16, 2015

How To: Prepare For Winter Weather When You Live In The South


So you live in the south and you just found out your location is expecting at least one inch of snow? To some southerners, any kind of accumulation is basically a blizzard. It can be a terrifying time. Never fear! I have created this extensive how to list to help you figure out what you need to do to get ready for the impending apocalyptic weather.

As for my qualifications -- I have lived in the south for most of my life. I've experienced winter weather first hand. I'm also a blogger and I have considerable experience in creating lists. For proof, please click here and you will see all the other lists I've created. This is legit.
 
So let's dive in. Here's what you do when you find out you'll be expecting winter weather:

1. Panic

Some people will say to not panic, but I am here to tell you that this school of thinking is outdated. Snow is scary. 

Another terrifying part of winter weather is the fact that you might get stuck somewhere. If you get snowed in, it is hard telling how long it will be before you'll be able to burrow out. I know what you're thinking  -- snow melts in the south pretty quickly. 

To that, I say: you just never know. It's best to be prepared to be snowed in for the long haul. That brings me to my next point...

2. Immediately head to the grocery store

If you don't go now, it might be too late. You need to go out to the store before things start to get really crazy (like, you know, accumulation). It's best to stock up on about a month's worth of the following items:
  • bread
  • milk
  • eggs
  • toilet paper
  • beer
Because, although you probably won't be snowed in until March, it just never hurts to be prepared. 

So what are you waiting for? Get to the store now. Right. Now. Otherwise, you'll just be left with all the broken eggs and the skim milk. 

Southerners are notorious for destroying a store's entire inventory prior to a "blizzard." Go on and get your milk and bread. I will be here when you get back.

3. Post updates on social media

Are you back from the store? Good. 

The next thing you need to do to prepare for the impending storm is really more of a humanitarian effort than a selfish one. You need to post updates of the weather on social media so that your fellow southerners know what's happening.

For example, you can take a picture of the snow flurries and post about it on Facebook so that people without windows know what's going on. 

You also have the option of vocalizing what otherwise would have been an internal debate with yourself about whether or not you're going into work. 

Example tweets:
  • Forecast says a possible 2-3 inches of accumulation. Not sure if we'll close early or if the roads will be bad. Should I go in? #dilemma
  • Decided to go into work. Will be in late because of #slowdrivers. #RoadsNotEvenSlick
  • Boss decided to close at 2 today. Going back home now. Should've just stayed in bed. #SnowDay

4. Make a joke about global warming

There is no better time to comment on your feelings about global warming than when your area gets that one major snowstorm of the season. These jokes are always fresh and always hilarious.

For example -- I said something akin to, "Take that, Al Gore! The only inconvenient truth about today is that I'm not going to make it to Starbucks."


5. Equip yourself with plenty of entertainment

I do not recommend going to Redbox since you might end up paying $30 per DVD depending on the severity of the winter storm. There's just too much that is unknown to justify a pre-storm Redbox trip.

However, this is when a Netflix or Hulu subscription come in handy. Assuming you don't lose internet. Or power. Just make sure everything that can run on a battery is fully charged.

It's the perfect chance to get caught up on all those shows you keep meaning to watch!


6. Only go on food runs if you're ok with casualties

Take a word from me on this. I come from a place of experience and a place of concern. Even if you think, "It's only a short distance. I can go out and get some food and it'll be fine."

Then you end up like me and poor Maurice back on Christmas in 2010:


Whoops!

But seriously. Even if you don't take any of my other advice, please be safe and stay home if the roads are bad. Winter actually can be dangerous -- especially if you live in an area that is as ill-prepared for snow and ice as where I live.

That's been today's PSA. How's the weather where you are?


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Unpopular Pop Culture Opinions

We all have our opinions. There are some opinions, however, that tend to get me into trouble -- or at least get me a variety of looks in social situations. I will call these my unpopular pop culture opinions. We all have them. These are mine.

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1. Will Ferrell is not that funny

I'm not a fan of Will Ferrell. I'm not a fan of Will Ferrell and I don't think Anchorman is very funny. I also can take or leave pretty much anything Ferrell appeared in on "Saturday Night Live" and I am a huge "Saturday Night Live" fan.

There are some movies I've liked despite Ferrell's presence in them, but I've never watched something and thought, "Wow. Will Ferrell really made that movie." 

For example, I liked Blades of Glory but I think there are plenty of competent comedic actors who could have played that role just as well as Ferrell. I'm just not a fan.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is literally the only movie I've gone to in theaters and walked out of before the movie was over. I honestly thought it was terrible.

2. I don't think Beyonce is that great

Don't get me wrong. I acknowledge that Beyonce is a talented and beautiful woman. And there are some songs that I do like. But lately it seems like Beyonce is put on this very high pedestal and people think she can do no wrong.

I honestly like her earlier music more than her more recent stuff. Give me "Crazy in Love" over "Drunk in Love" any day. I'm pretty sure that opinion alone is enough to get me shunned by a decent amount of people. Sorry, but I'm not sorry.

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3. Kristen Stewart is a talented actress

I wrote a post about this awhile ago. Yes, Twilight is an awful series. Yes, K. Stew (are we still calling her that?) is very awkward in interviews and comes off as kind of a bitch (I really think she's just socially awkward). However, I think she's done a good job with her roles outside of Twilight.

The best two examples I can come up with are Adventureland and In The Land of Women. In Adventureland she plays a kind of sad, depressed character... One could say that it was just Kristen Stewart playing Kristen Stewart, but I would disagree. There was something very understated about her performance that made you really connect with the character not just because of what she said, but by what she portrayed with her actions and expressions. 

I don't think she's the best young actress out there by any means, but I think people need to cut Kristen Stewart a little bit of a break. 

4. Parks and Recreation > The Office

I'm not sure if this is an unpopular opinion everywhere or just around people that I know.

It took me longer than I would like to admit to get into "Parks and Recreation." I initially thought it was a clone of "The Office" with Amy Poehler playing a female Michael Scott. After a few episodes, I realized how wrong I was.

I think the thing that really resonates with me about "Parks and Recreation" that doesn't necessarily with "The Office" is how connected I feel to each of the characters. In "Parks and Rec," I feel a bond with almost all of the main characters -- Leslie, Ron, Ben, April, Andy, Tom, etc. With "The Office," I really only felt that bond with Jim, Pam, Andy, and a few others. The characters in "The Office" were often played up to a level of extreme weirdness for the sake of comedy. Which is fine -- it often worked. But it also made me less able to see those characters as human beings.

With "Parks and Rec," I feel like every character could be someone that I'd actually know and could actually work with. They all have their idiosyncrasies, but it isn't played up as much as it is on "The Office."

And, I don't know, I just really love the world that "Parks and Rec" created. I like to believe that there's someone just like Leslie Knope out there somewhere, taking the town by storm one empty lot at a time.

5. Emma Stone > Jennifer Lawrence

I love both of these girls, but I'll admit that it's made me a little sad that Emma Stone has seemingly been overshadowed by Jennifer Lawrence. 

Emma Stone got my attention originally in Superbad, followed by Easy A. She also impressed me in The Help, Crazy, Stupid, Love, and Birdman. There's something about Emma Stone's presence that engrosses me more than Jennifer Lawrence. And again -- I'm not trying to hate on Jennifer Lawrence. I think she's great as Katniss and she really did deserve that Oscar win for Silver Linings Playbook.

But I just feel like Emma Stone hasn't been getting much credit these days. And I really think she's a much more fun, mesmerizing presence. Damn you J. Law! 

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6. "House" and "Bones" are both boring shows

I've tried to get into "House." I can't do it. I understand that part of its appeal is that Hugh Laurie is supposed to be kind of a dick, but I don't want to suffer through half a season before he wins me over with his intellect and wit. You know? 

And "Bones" is kind of the same way. I gave "Bones" more of a chance than I did "House." I watched about two seasons of "Bones" before I gave in.

The biggest problem with shows like this -- and I'll lump in most crime and medical dramas -- is that it takes like three years before any development ever happens with the character's personal lives. I'm not saying I want instant gratification, but a little bit of movement in the first season would be nice.

I'm one of those people who cares more about the characters and their own personal issues than I do about who killed the prostitute or whether or not patient A is going to get his heart transplant. I just don't care about that. So it's always been hard for me to get into shows where it's a different case every week.

I just can't do it. Maybe I'm just too impatient.

So those are my unpopular pop culture opinions for today. Please feel free to share your thoughts on these and comment with your own unpopular opinions!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Busy Week (AKA: Bragging About My Awesome Life)

I haven't posted much in the past couple of weeks. There's a two-fold explanation for this. 1. I am very lazy. 2. Last week was incredibly busy for me and I've been too tired to keep my eyes open during the little down time I've had.

Here's what I've been doing.

Last Saturday (not yesterday, the one before that), my awesome friends conspired and threw me a surprise birthday party. They were very sneaky about it and I was under the impression that I was going over to my friend's house for a chill night of watching movies. Lo and behold, I get to the door and everyone jumps out and surprises me. It was really cool and reminded me how awesome my friends really are. 

Most of the gifts were at least somewhat farm animal themed. Here's one of them in action:


There was also birthday cake, personalized to me. Aww.


The very next day, my friend David and I headed down to Charlotte, NC for a Motion City Soundtrack concert. They're one of my favorite bands and this marks the third time I've seen them live. They're amazing and this time was no exception.

Here's a photo that they took and I found me in the crowd!

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Yeah, we had a pretty good view. That's an important thing to me, considering my height disadvantage.

The concert was Monday night, but we came in on Sunday and stayed with one of David's friends who lives in Charlotte. Sunday, we went to a Super Bowl party. It was my first time watching the Super Bowl. I was the token person who didn't know anything about sports. But the Puppy Bowl sure was cute!

I went back to work for one day -- Wednesday -- and on Thursday we headed down to Greensboro, NC to see Craig Ferguson perform stand-up. Craig Ferguson has been one of my favorite comedians for years. I wrote about it here.

Craig was hilarious. His opening act was Josh Robert Thompson, who voiced Geoff the robot on "The Late Late Show." It was glorious.

Strangely, we were some of the older people at the Motion City Soundtrack concert but some of the youngest people at the Craig Ferguson show.  #Observant 


So that's what I've been up to! The next couple of months are going to seem boring in comparison, I'm sure. Has anyone else been up to anything fun during the winter months?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Forever Young... A Final Farewell to the Braverman Clan


Warning: This post contains spoilers for the final episode of "Parenthood." Please avert your eyes if you don't want to know what happens.

This past Thursday -- on my 25th birthday, by the way -- NBC aired its final episode of "Parenthood," which has been my favorite family drama since "Gilmore Girls" went off the air in 2007. In traditional "Parenthood" style, the final episode had me blubbering like a baby by the time the credits rolled.

"Parenthood" has proved time and again over its six season run that it could tackle tricky topics without casting judgment and without glossing over emotion. This show has dealt with alcoholism, autism, cancer, abortion, cheating, and pretty much every other issue that a family of that size would encounter. And it has done so in a way that never felt cheap. Despite the fact that it is a family drama and by definition had its share of cheesy, heartwarming, gag-me-with-a-spoon moments, it still presented an unflinching honesty which I always appreciated.

I think the thing I'm most thankful for with the finale is that they managed to pull off a really classy ending. There wasn't anything terribly unexpected. They didn't pull out any shock value surprises. There were rumors throughout the season that Zeek wouldn't be the one who ended up dying -- but that maybe one of the kids (Crosby was widely speculated) would die in a freak tragedy. I'm glad they didn't do anything like that.

Everything tied into a nice little bow -- and I appreciate that. Although we know that the family continued to endure issues and challenges, we see that everyone ended up being ok in the end. And really, that's all we need to know.

Although I sometimes like open-ended finales, I'm glad that "Parenthood" wrapped it all up and didn't leave us wondering. We know that Julia and Joel got back together and that their family blossomed. We know that Sarah and Hank stayed together and Amber finally met a guy worth staying with. Ryan finally got his shit together. Crosby made The Luncheonette work. Etc, etc.

As I sat and watched the final episode, I was struck with just how far some of these characters had come. Primarily Sarah and her clan.

Sarah was a loose cannon in season one. She couldn't control her kids -- especially Amber -- and she had to move back in with her parents when she was in her late thirties. Yikes. A failed engagement and a failed career in graphic design later, she finally falls in love for real with Hank. She finally settles into a life she loves and she finally gets to tie the knot with someone who really loves her.

Amber, who started the show as the misunderstood but still sympathetic teenager, grew by leaps and bounds over the course of the show. I was initially disappointed when her character got pregnant. However, I was incredibly proud of her for sticking to her gut and telling Ryan he had to get himself together if he wanted a part in the baby's life. It takes a strong person to decide to raise a baby alone -- and Amber proved that she had grown into a person strong enough to take on that responsibility.

In addition, Drew really surprised me over the last couple of seasons. He blew me away this season when he drove Amber out to see Ryan and refused to leave her alone with him. I think Drew was a hard character to write in the beginning. He kind of blended into the background and, for awhile there, all the writers seemed to do was give him silly relationship drama. Thankfully, they strayed away from that at the end and showed Drew as a really grounded young man who loved his family more than anything and who would do anything to support them. Drew's speech at Sarah's wedding is what started to get me misty eyed there at the end. 

I could go on with a separate commentary on each of the pertinent characters, but I'll stop there. It seems that a lot of my favorite shows are coming to an end soon and, while it makes me sad to know that I won't be graced with new story lines about the Braverman family, I'm happy that the show ended where it did. 

I'm not sure how well I'm going to handle the end of "Parks and Recreation," however. Thankfully I have a few weeks to curtail my emotions from this before I have to deal with that. 

nbc.com

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