Tuesday, May 18, 2010

No ma'am I can't time travel to adjust your claim....

My last call of the day at work was one of those that makes you want to rip your hair out or slam your head into a car door.  It kept me there ten minutes past my shift.  It wasn't because I was dealing with a difficult caller.  Well, she wasn't difficult in the sense that she wasn't irate or angry, but she was difficult in the intelligence department.  This one caller asked for something that borders on the impossible unless you have a quantum displacement device.  That's right, I had a woman asking me to essentially alter space and time on her behalf.

Let me give you some background.  When this woman, we'll call her The Crazer, signed up for our company's services, she was given the impression that a certain preventive procedure was covered in full.  There is no way of knowing if someone told her the wrong information or if she just heard what she wanted.  Chances are that it was the later of the two choices, but it is a moot point once you get the big picture.  Well, long before she ever went into get such a procedure, she was informed of the exact and more correct coverage for the service.  On top of that, she still hasn't gotten such a service.  She is caught up on what she interpreted a year ago rather than the correct benefits are.

Now, when you put things into the present perspective, the woman doesn't have anything to complain about.  She was given the correct information before she ever went in for the service.  Since she never had it done and was given the right benefits, she is essentially held to the policy as it is written.  It is pretty cut and dry for anyone with a brain.   Had she went and had the procedure before being corrected, we could go back and review was she was told originally and possibly reconsider and pay the claim.  However, she never went.  She now knows how it goes.

That logic didn't sit well with The Crazer.  She seemed to be stuck on a trivial point from when she was sold the plan.  The fact of the matter is that we can't change her plan or coverage.  That's just impossible....unless we were to travel back in time to when the policy was created.  She was one of those people that once you clearly explain the answer to her question, she changes what she was asking about.  Naturally when I tell her that we can't change her benefits, she decides that she wanted clarification between the coverage for two separate, but related procedures.  Well, when I clearly stated the difference between them, she promptly told me she already knew that and had a different concern.  This went in circles because whatever she questioned had a logical answer, so she had to cycle to another concern.  It was my own living paradox of insurance hell.  I was stuck in a loop that I was probably not getting out of until it was well past my shift.  Ugh.

The crazer didn't understand the basic element of theorhetical physics that declares that whatever happened, happened.  She was given the correct information and never had a procedure done on false assumptions.  She never had it done period.  Since nothing had happened, nothing could be fixed.  That seemed to be some kind of mind blowing concept for her.  The Crazer's brain could only go to ten, but somehow the basic logic I presented her seemed to crank it up to eleven.  Apparently a speaker blew out on her.  Bitch just didn't get it.

She wasn't quite clear where and when she wanted the problem fixed.  At times I thought she wanted me to Quantum Leap my ass back a year to correct some jackass in the sales department.  It was as if she believed that was a possible feat.  I hope that she realizes that sports betting is a higher priority on my list compared to her petty issues should I ever travel back in time.  As the conversation continued, I realized it wasn't as simple as a blast to the past.  Apparently, this woman expected me to go into the future to have her claim adjusted.   A claim that had not yet even been submitted because she never had the damn colonoscopy done.  Somehow she wanted to appeal something that hadn't happened yet.  Even if it were possible to go to the future, it would have done nothing for her today.  But hey, maybe she would have gotten that appeal is quicker than anyone had before.  She could maybe brag about that.

I had expected to have Doc Brown run into my cube to tell me to stop talking to this woman before I unraveled reality.  That did not happen.  Instead my patience was unraveled.   

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My LOST series retrospective 1 of 7: How it hooked me

This week’s blogs are not for all of you people.  That is because my subject matter will be so focused that it will be seven consecutive nights about the same thing.  It won’t make a lick of sense to most of you, whereas others will know exactly what I am talking about.   Of course I am referring to my favorite television series of all-time, LOST.

The X-files was my previous favorite television series.  I never thought that it would be replaced.  At least not until I was real old and liked a silly old person show like Matlock.  Low and behold, the year 2004 came about and dropped a special gem onto my television set.  I remember watching the first episode in my dorm room.  Honestly, it was a complete accident that I ever bothered to turn it on.  For whatever reason, I had ABC on that night.  I don’t even know what else was showing.  I had read bits and pieces about the show on various websites but didn’t give it much thought.   It sounded like a dramatic Gilligan’s Island to me.  It was nothing that hadn’t been tried before (oh how I was wrong on that point). 
So there it was, on my television, by accident.  I nearly turned it off when it came on, but then I recalled some of the advertisements that had previously come up.  It surprised me that I was watching the pilot episode because I assumed it was halfway through its first season by that point.  Since I realized that I was watching the very first episode, I decided to keep it on.  My first thought was that I recognized that one guy from some other show.  Lucky for me, there was the IMDB on my computer to give me a hand.  As it would appear, it was the guy who played the bearded older brother on Party of Five.  Hmmm.  I wasn’t so sure about this.  He woke up in the jungle and ran around in front of a plane engine that blew up behind him.  There was some pregnant woman and that guy who looked like a hobbit.  There was a lot going on, but I understood the main premise.  They crashed on a deserted island and they were royally fucked.

After the chaos slowed down we caught up with the heroic doctor guy played by Matthew Fox.  He was all banged up and bleeding a bit from some damage.  I was starting to lose interest when I fell in love at first sight.

There she was.  Kate Austin.  Who was played by some no name Canadian actress who went by Evangeline Lily.  Now that is something I could tune into every week.  However, I am not a teenage girl, so I don’t watch television shows or movies just because one of the stars is hot.  Kate, however, wasn’t hot as much as she was cute.  The girl next door type.  I could deal with that.  There needed to be something to hook me so that this show could become something I could watch every week.  Something.  Anything.  Could something just happen for me already!

Then the questions started to be raised.  What is with the handcuffs?  Why is the hobbit so squirrely?  Why is that long haired hick so racist?  OMG, can we trust an Iraqi?  That Asian guy probably beats his wife!  What is with the creepy old man?  These questions seemingly warmed me up for the first official “What the Fuck” moment I would have watching LOST.  

There was something in the jungle.  It appeared to be big and capable of causing some trees to be rustled at their tops.  Even better is that it sounded like something big.  A creature of sorts.  Possibly a dinosaur?  No?  Really?  I dunno.   Some people immediately thought it sounded like an elephant.  Psh. As if, internet geeks.  The point is that it was the first moment where I realized that the island wasn’t just an island in the Pacific.  It was some kind of Lost World style island with some shenanigans from deep within.  I could follow that.  

Eventually we had some characters run into the jungle to find the plane.  We learned the plane mysteriously lost contact with the mainland.  Then we learned that the Hobbit was a drug addict.  This was getting interesting.  These people are a real fucked up bunch of people.  At this point I was immediately theorizing that there had to be something involving aliens.  That plane ripped right open in the flashbacks.  What the hell does that?  A UFO, that’s what.  I needed a moment to catch my breath a bit and HOLD ON!   WOW.  Okay, I’m hooked.

Maybe I was almost hooked.  Getting hooked didn’t happen until a mother fucking polar bear came running through the jungle.  Where the hell did a polar bear come from?  Even more of a question was about where the redneck got his gun from?   He probably shouldn’t have that.  He was bound to take a shot at the Iraqi soldier.   It was in the second half of the pilot episode where Kate became even hotter because she was the one who was on the plane in handcuffs.  A bad girl next door?  Okay.  That sealed the deal.  The icing on the cake was the mysterious transmission in French that had been sounding off on a distress alert for about 16 years.  That is some messed up shit right there. 

And that, my friends, is what got me hooked on LOST with the first episode.  At that point it was just interesting.  I had no idea that it was going to become my favorite show.  What they did in the six years to follow was beyond my wildest dreams for a television show.  With each episode I would become more intrigued about the past of the characters and the mysteries of that island.  Eventually Jack would see his dead father.  John Locke would find a hatch in the middle of the jungle.  A creepy man known as one of The Others would abduct Claire.  Voices would whisper in the jungle.  A pirate ship would be found in the middle of the island.  The list goes on for mysteries established in the first season of the show.   The most intriguing of which would be the various moments where we saw the castaways’ lives interact long before they ever got to that island.  Little did we know at the time that this was perhaps the most important fact of them all.

There had never been a show quite like it.  It was a rarity at the time because of its serial nature.  You needed to catch every week to understand what was going on.  There were no stand alone episodes.  It was one big story, like a series of books.  This kind of thing usually didn’t work with the short attention span of America.  However, it did work.  Good writing, good acting, and a great story-telling method established brilliant characterization amidst a superb mystery.  LOST revolutionized the storytelling method known as the “flashback”.  I will be talking about that concept tomorrow night.

As for the rest of the week, expect some of the following ideas to come from me:

My list of favorite episodes
The episode that propelled LOST to the next level
My favorite characters
LOST’s biggest contributions to television
Science Fiction goes main stream
My thoughts re-watching earlier episodes with the knowledge of where everything is at now
My flash sideways story

The list might get bigger or smaller depending on how much time I have.   I am sure my fellow LOST fans will appreciate what I have to say.  If you aren’t a LOST fan and are still reading this, well, you wasted your time.   Time for sleep.  I have a busy week ahead of me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The greatest thing I ever put in my mouth....

Have you ever eaten something that transcended the experience of eating?  I am talking about a delicious treat that is more than just nourishment or a means to pass the time.   More specifically, I am referring to food that gives you a true and pure emotionally response.  The kind of feeling that lifts your spirits and has the capacity to make your day better.  In essence, I am referring to eating something that might even make your pants tingle.  I had such a treat on Tuesday evening.

It was a cannoli.  Not just any cannoli, but a chocolate chip cannoli from Savvy’s Italian Cuisine down the street from my apartment.  Oh, many of you are wondering what the hell a cannoli is.  I know what you are thinking.  It totally does sound like some form of innuendo for a devious sex act.  In fact, I’d like to invent a maneuver just to name it cannoli.  However, it is something far better than some sex move involving the dipping of testicles is something or another.  Cannolis are Sicilian desserts consisting of a fried pastry shell wrapped around a creamy filing made from a sweet cheese.  Cannoli is actually the plural version of the word cannolo, which means I have been an uneducated prick and have been using the word incorrectly for days now.  It should be noted right now that the cannolo does loosely relate to filthy innuendo because the English translation of the word means “little tube”.    Size doesn’t matter with these things though.  It is all about what is on the inside.

In the case of the one I had Tuesday night, there were some chocolate chips on the inside.  Even better was that the whole pastry tube was covered in a chocolate shell.  The first bite surged a warm feeling through my soul.  I couldn’t recall having anything like it.  Not even the Donut Cheeseburger at Fat Sandwich Company made me feel like that cannolo did.  It was as if that one dessert managed to give my stomach and taste buds a proverbial hand job.  You can’t help but smile a little when that happens.  You enjoy it so damn much that you feel like you may be making a lewd spectacle of yourself.  Gosh, I hope that little girl a couple booths away didn’t watch me eat that thing.  She might have nightmares.

While I was rambling on about my foodgasm, I decided to check the foremost authority on innuendo and slang regarding the word “cannoli”.  As it turns out, I was a little wrong about the word being strictly food related.  There does happen to be a nasty alternative use for the word.  And let me say first that I am impressed with the versatility of this word.  Who would have thought it could accomplish so much more than just being a dessert.  See for yourself by reading the definition of “cannoli” as told by the good people over at Urbandictionary.com.

A sexual maneuver where a male has sex with a female on top of his comforter, and just when he is about to cum, he pulls out, busts his nut all over the girls face, rolls her up in the comforter and pushes her off the bed. This gives her the appearance of a cannoli with the "cream" on her face and the comforter acting as the cannoli shell.

Well, that really brings a disturbing image to my mind.  However, it hasn’t deterred me from wanting another cannolo.  In fact, I kind of want one right now.  The dessert, not the bedroom pastry.  The dessert is much cheaper and probably doesn’t call you an asshole.  On second thought, the dirty version of cannoli isn’t so bad.  It also brought a smile to my face.  Ultimately, though, I will have to settle for whichever one is easier to get tomorrow night.

I live in Green Bay, Wisconsin, so my guess is that it is a toss-up.

Seriously, though.  That thing was really fucking good.  I thought about going in there tonight, just for that.  I decided not to on the off chance that the people running that place are familiar with the slang term for their delicious treat.  A single man, coming in alone, and ordering just a desert may be coming off as a little bit of a creeper.  And what the hell do I do on the off chance that they also run a secret prostitution ring that specializing in dessert themed sex maneuvers?  I bet you didn’t think about that.  The world is a place full of tough choices like this.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Betty White is an Iron Woman

The Dark Knight was a rare example of a sequel being better than the film that preceded it.  I suppose you can also include Spiderman 2 and X-Men 2 in that category as well.  Hell, you could argue that movies based on comic books tend to get better on the second go around.  So, it is not out of the question to have high expectations for Iron Man 2.  Director John Favreau put forth a great effort on the first go around.  All the components were there to make Iron Man 2 the superior film.  The same director was back along with the same charismatic lead actor.  On top of that, the power of the internet allowed for the absorption of feedback from the movie’s fan base.

The problem for Iron Man 2 is high expectations.  There really is nothing wrong with the movie as a whole.  It is a fantastically fun movie that I enjoyed immensely.  The expectations may have even blinded me a bit as to how well the movie really was.  Stand alone with no comparison, people would be head over heels for Iron Man 2.  Unfortunately, most people are already in love with the first movie and will be loyal to it.  That’s a shame.

Robert Downey Jr. once again oozed with charisma while Micky Rourke brought forth an understated performance as the movie’s villain, Whiplash.  Technically, there wasn’t a bad performance in the movie.  Sam Rockwell delivered as Tony Stark’s professional rival, Justin Hammer.  In fact, Rockwell more often than not, was a scene stealer, which is an accomplishment when Downey Jr is on screen with him.  The person that enjoyed the most was Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Tony Stark’s assistant.  I never really cared for her until the first Iron Man.  She has grown on me because she demonstrated that she can be funny.  The best parts of the movie are when she is on screen interacting with Downey Jr.

I’ll leave my assessment at that.  No need to dwell on the plot and break down all the nuances.  Just trust me when I say Iron Man 2 is worth your time.  Also, please trust me when I say it is ridiculous to compare the movie directly to The Dark Knight.  There is no question that The Dark Knight was an Oscar quality film.  It is one of my all time favorites.  However, it is a completely different kind of movie when you compare it to the Iron Man films.  The only thing the movies have in common is that they were based on comic books.  That isn’t stopping people from comparing the movies.  I think it is ridiculous because it is like comparing apples to oranges.  The movies have vastly different tones.  Sure, both have plenty of action, but the down time between the action differs.  The Dark Knight was moody and dark whereas Iron Man 2 is light and comedic.  So I ask all of the naysayers to think twice when trying to compare the quality of these two sequels. 

That’s all I have on Iron Man 2.

Did anyone catch Saturday Night Live last night?  You know, the one with Betty White.  The most watched SNL of the year.  The one that everyone had been waiting for.  As it turned out, the wait was well worth it.  There is no question that Betty White delivered with her appearance on SNL. 

Inititally there was some concern that her appearance would be downplayed because a half dozen or so former cast members were going to be on the show as well.  As it turns out, White was in every sketch.  I had expected them to give her a couple breaks since she is 88 and was up way past her bed time.  Nope.  My assumption is that she didn’t want it that way.  And that was fucking awesome. 

The lesson last night on SNL was that there is no substitution for old fashioned comedic delivery.  Betty White is a funny person, so she can make even the poorly written bits at least somewhat funny just by delivering the lines.   If you haven’t seen it, you should catch it on Hulu.  You should especially like the reference to the “Wizard of Ass”.

This afternoon I took in The Descent Part 2 on DVD.  The Red Box machine had it, so I figured it was worth a buck.  Very few movies aren’t worth a dollar.  I loved the original Descent.  It was one of the few movies I can recall making me legitimately jump since I was a kid.  Hell, it even gave me a nightmare the night after I first saw it.  It is a creep fest.  The sequel was unnecessary, but since the movie was cheap to make, they went ahead and did it.

The Descent Part 2 was not bad.  It wasn’t anything earth shattering either.  They did a couple of cool bits that kept the story and kills a little fresh.    If you are bored on a rainy day, this one wouldn’t be your worst option.

Brewers swept the Diamondbacks this weekend.  Good for them.  They scored quite a few runs while doing so, as well.  The pitching seemed very solid as well.  Narveson was a force in the 5.1 innings he completed today.  The kid is getting strike-outs, which is fine as long as he keeps the run totals down.  6-1 win, so I can’t complain.

The Packers will be sending out notices as to what games that Brown County lottery winners will be going to.   I paid immediately, so I would think that there is a damn good chance that a regular season game will be awarded to me.  I have four tickets to the game, whichever it may be.  One is already going to Nate Dizzle.  I may sell the other two if for some reason I get awarded tickets to the Vikings game.  That would be epic.  Nate hates Favre with a passion, so it would be a fun experience for him to go to his first Packers game with Favre on the opposite team.

There are my weekend rants.  Sorry for the lack of excitement.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Me and TV last night

I don’t know how many of you watch my favorite television series, “Lost”, but I feel compelled to talk about it anyway. Not because I want to enlighten you or convince you to follow the show, but more or less because I had a strong emotional reaction to last night’s episode. Yes, a television show made me have an emotional reaction. I hope that isn’t a problem for you.

I am going to try my best to describe this without throwing out any spoilers. Can that be done? We are about to find out. As anyone with a television knows, it is the final season of “Lost”. More specifically, we are embarking on the final few episodes. It is been a six year journey about a plane that crashed on a mysterious island with ominous inhabitants and mystical events. There were just over a dozen main characters in the pilot episode. Some of them have been killed off and then replaced with newly introduced characters that may or may not have been killed off as well. The thing “Lost” did with these characters was develop them from day one. In fact, character development was the strength of “Lost” for its first few seasons. Getting attached to those characters allowed for viewers to hope they all got happy endings.

As of last night, a few of those characters were officially denied their happy ending. In case you weren’t picking up on the subtlety, I was referring to some people dying. Death wasn’t anything that wasn’t done to characters on “Lost” before. Someone basically died every season at some point. The difference was the emotional impact of those other deaths. Most of the show’s previous kill jobs were done to advance and set up the overall story arc. They were on characters we didn’t yet learn to love. Last night, however, pulled the rug out from under “Lost’s” fans.

I’m not going to lie. I nearly shed a tear last night. This final season of “Lost” created a lot of questions that I wanted answers. There were motivations I needed explained and battle lines that needed to be made clear. The discovery of the show’s true bad guy came with an emotional kick to the balls. It took the death of a few characters to hammer the point home that we now have an official big bad to root against. It all was made clear in the closing moments. That was right when I got a rush through my body as I felt pissed off right along with the castaways of Oceanic Flight 815. I spent years being more concerned about creating theories about the island’s mysteries rather than having someone to truly hate. Not the case anymore. I can now spend the next few weeks hoping someone gets their ass kicked. And to me, that’s pretty fucking awesome.

Last night’s television viewing also included the latest episode of “Glee”. That show really is phenomenal. It is unlike any other comedy on television right now. I would like to say it is the best comedy right now, but that isn’t an easy thing to say. There is some tough competition in the form of “Parks and Recreation” and “Modern Family”. All three of those shows are putting out quality every week. One thing I do know for certain is that “Glee” will win at least one Emmy. The category of this award is simple: Best Actress in a Comedy Series.

Jane Lynch’s performance as the diabolical cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester is the best thing about “Glee”. Some credit should go to the writing of the character’s sharp lines and dastardly behavior. All the other credit goes to Lynch. She slam dunks her performance each and every week. Her character basically is her. It couldn’t be played by anyone else. That is how much she has owned her performance all season long. The great thing about it is that she has gotten a few moments to show the softer side of Sue Sylvester. The nuances she portrays allow for Sue Sylvester to be more than a caricature. Oh, and it should be noted that she’s pretty fucking funny as well.

The annoying thing about watching the shows last night was that they kept being interrupted by storm warnings and tornado trackers. I understand the need for safety, but it really surprises me that, in this day and age, we don’t have a better way to relay the information. I missed several minutes of “Lost” because of storms that were nowhere near my home. Then, “Glee” was delayed by almost 2 hours because Fox 11 decided to start it late. I think they should just refer people to the internet or scroll info across the bottom of the page. People who can’t read can be on their own. It would be a twisted form of Darwin at work…