Thursday, February 16, 2012

10 Random Thoughts About the “Survivor” Premiere Last Night

1. People do not pack properly.

  After 20-plus seasons, some of those fool contestants show up on the island wearing formalwear and exaggerated bling. What the hell are you gonna do with 6-inch spiked glitter heels and a Versace petticoat? Your name is not Ginger and you did not arrive on the S. S. Minnow. You are going to be dirty, nasty and chafed within three seconds, so there’s no point in pretending the island comes equipped with a model runway and fashion photographers.

2. Somebody always has to talk smack before we even know their names.

  Jeff’s helicopter blades haven’t even stopped turning, and some yokel is already spouting off about how they are going to win the whole thing or that somebody else is a worthless piece of crap that should be beaten with a club for even showing up. Look, Louden Bitter, did it cross your mind that maybe your ass needs to be nice at least until the second episode? That person you are blurrily flipping off right now might be the very person you have to sleep next to in a badly-built hut for three months.

3. The names may change, but the people stay the same.

  We had all of our requisite stereotypes in full view: the giggling bimbos, the strutting himbos, the sassy and confrontational girl with messy hair trying to be street, the country boy with an accent the size of Idaho, the really smart girl who was probably president of the Chemistry Club but doesn’t have enough social skills to fight her way out of a garment bag, and the old guy that just isn’t going to make it to the end unless everybody else gets dysentery or is just really, really stupid.

  Special mention to this season’s “Flamboyant And Chatty Gay Guy“: Colton Cumbie. (Yes, he’s even using a drag name.) I always hope they find some semi-studly guy that won’t twirl his way through the jungle like Celine Dion on acid, but I guess it’s just not in the “Survivor” script book. (Gotta help those slow viewers find the gay one, right?) And here comes Colton, wearing pearls and a Justin-Bieber tribute hairstyle, ogling the men and immediately becoming best friends with all the women.

  And when Colton when into Nelly Overdrive (hey, another drag name) during the competition, skipping down those steps above the net and flitting his hands in turbo-prop fashion? Seriously, I thought he was actually going to take flight and sail over the giant net, landing down the beach in a chorus line from South Pacific.

4. Speaking of being over it, Jeff really is.

  He’s just not as invested as he used to be. (He’s been at it for years now. How many ways can you ask “Survivors ready?” and still get excited about it?) The meet-and-greet opening scenes on the latest beach used to be a lengthy “welcome to the family, we’re going to have a swell time, good luck to everybody”. Very welcoming and supportive. Now we’re down to Jeff bellowing “you people go there, you people go here, figure out how to make fire or you’ll die, and somebody goes home in three days. Go!” Then he runs off to wherever he goes when it’s not time for him to raise his hand in the air or share stories by a campfire.

5. The “Survivor” producers like to mess with the players’ heads.

  For this season, we’ve divided into two teams, one for all the women and one for all the men. (Um, we’ve done that part before, folks. Recycling isn’t always a good thing.) Then they made the teams tramp off in different directions, lugging things through the jungle, with people sweating and cursing and pulling underwear out of places it shouldn’t be, only to have both teams end up at exactly the same beach, where both tribes will live together in one seething mass of ambition, greed, deception and unpleasant hygiene issues.

  I found it rather amusing, but the players did not share my enthusiasm. They didn’t want to live together. It’s so much easier to hate another team when you don’t see them all the time and they live in a different place. (Hey, that whole USA/Russia Cold War thing worked out just fine for decades, did it not?) It’s hard to do the plotting and the manipulating when there are so many people sitting around watching you plot and manip.

  Oh, and there’s not going to be a Redemption Island this time around. When you gone, you gone. You could tell by most of the players’ eyes that this announcement was rather irritating, since it meant they would have to get it right the first time, no lolling around on another island and thinking of clever ways to get revenge on your former best-friend alliance-member that threw your ass under the Tribal Bus.

6. Muscle mass apparently comes from unused brain cells.

  As usual, we had our standard quartet of beefy guys that immediately bond, probably because they have the same gym membership. They are already entirely convinced that they will make it to the end, in a triumph of physical dominance and possible steroid-usage. What they fail to realize (as these quartets usually do) is that the extra baggage they brought with them (you know, the arrogance, the bigotry, the sexism) is more than enough fuel to cause the weaker people on the island to band together and whack at the giants’ knees until they fall.

7. Some people just don’t pay attention.

  And now we’re talking about Kourtney. (Um, not the Kardashian one. That Kourtney doesn’t live in huts on islands. She buys them.) Our Kourtney, standing on top of that giant tower and preparing to leap into the net, was not listening to Jeff, with his helpful instructions about how to properly survive the plunge. She didn’t do anything like he said, and home girl ended up with a broken wrist. Damn, girl. You seem really sweet and all, but maybe you should have respected Jeff’s hollering instead of thinking about where you’re going to put your next tattoo.

  After the snappage, Jeff stops the competition, calls in Medical (I still don’t understand why those people have Australian accents), they drag Kourtney off to a full medical facility apparently located in an unnoticed cave somewhere, and Jeff pronounces that since the guys were ahead when Kourtney bounced wrong, that the guys automatically win Immunity.

  Unless… the guys agree to play again. I’m fully expecting them to do so, since most of them are so full of self-confidence and self-love. But they don’t. The bitches. One of the girls is going home tonight.

8. Chickens can run fast. Mmm hmm.

  Especially if the humans coming at them are wearing inappropriate clothing or singing random show tunes. Quick little cluckers. So both teams decided to work together to catch the hurtling feather balls, and then they would share them. Turns out “working together” meant the girls and the not-as-cute guys screamed and thundered about, while the self-defined God Boy Quartet basically stood around, took off their shirts, and watched each other do preparatory muscle-flexing. (Cooking is really a woman’s job, right?)

  End result, an amazingly-talented farm girl caught both chickens, then decided she wasn’t going to share them after all, mainly due to that tiny little issue where the guys stole an axe and things from the girls  (well, one guy, actually, the guy who might have had plastic surgery or just naturally looks plastic and pinched, but the other guys did high-five him for doing it, because boys are stupid). Fair’s fare. If you snatch my tool you can’t touch my chicken.

9. Those hidden idols end up in the weirdest places.

  So, folks are barely on the island and not fully hating each other yet, when Sabrina manages to stumble over one of the hidden idols. Turns out, though, that she has to give it to someone on the other tribe before the next Tribal. That sucks in an amazing way. (They never made Russell give up any of his 26 idols, ever.) So Sabrina ponders and strategizes, then finally gives it to Liza Minnelli, figuring that he might really need it, what with Colton all alone over there, awash in a sea of testosterone and protein drinks.

10. Here, kitty kitty.

  So the girls end up at Tribal. Things are really nice and friendly for about two seconds. Then Christina really gets into it with that Alanis Morissette chick, the angry one with the hair. Alanis is mad at the way Christina bartered with the guys to get some of their fire, but in the end Christina did get them some fire, so Alanis just needs to go off somewhere and write a bitter song about it for her next album. (“You Oughta GO!”)

  Turns out no one is going anywhere, at least not directly from Tribal, according to Jeff. Kourtney and her jacked-up hand will not be returning to the game, so no vote tonight.

  Claws grudgingly retract, and the girls head out into the night. Trudging through the quiet moonlight, they don’t notice Colton standing under a banana tree and doing his Judy Garland impressions…

Sunday, February 12, 2012

20 Perfectly Good Reasons Why I Shouldn’t Go To Work In The Morning

1. I really don’t want to go.

2. See above.

3. I shouldn’t be driving on the nation’s highways when I’m angry and bitter about my destination.

4. I’ve worn everything in my closet. I just don’t have the strength to put on the same ugly outfit one more time.

5. Jesus doesn’t want me to go. At least I think the email was from Him. Or it might have been Jay-Z. Or Jamie Lee Curtis. Somebody with a J-name thinks I should stay home. And send my bank account passwords to them so I can collect the 5 million dollars that a lonely Saudi Arabian prince left to me because he didn’t have any other real friends.

6. I could pay it forward by letting someone else take my spot and park closer to the front door.

7. Sally Struthers was just in a commercial about starving children someplace poor and I won’t be able to focus at work if I’m thinking about them.

8. It’s very possible that I may not get out of bed until noon, and this complicates things.

9. The police are probably very tired of asking me questions about dead co-workers found in the break room.

10. I’m tired of having to make up lies about that.

11. I’m fairly certain that my boss is Satan. I’m guessing Hell is doing some type of outreach program.

12. My CD collection is out of alphabetical order. I can’t live, if living is without being able to find the right Madonna album within five seconds.

13. I’m preparing for that extra day at the end of this month. You need to have a plan for these things.

14. I have some yogurt that’s about to expire and I need to attend to that. Dairy gone bad is not a pretty thing, and you have to be vigilant.

15. Someone I know could get pregnant at any moment, and they’ll want me to work on a list of baby names. And possible baby daddies.

16. There’s got to be an episode of The Golden Girls that I’ve seen less than five times.

17. The people in Congress don’t have to work, so why should I?

18. Scotch the cat just informed me that one of his higher-priority puff balls is missing. All other planned activities are on hold until the recovery operation is complete.

19. My fortune cookie message says “Good things are coming your way.” I know that can’t possibly happen at work, so I better stay right here and wait.

20. There are only 316 shopping days until Christmas.

Friday, February 10, 2012

20 Redneck Valentine Greeting Cards

“I love you more than beer.”

“You complete my bobble-head collection.”

“You tractor-pulled my heart.”

“Your eyes sparkle like moonshine.”

“You are the prettiest girl in the Wal-Marts parking lot.”

“I love you like a sister. Oh wait…”

“Love means never having to say which one of them kids is really mine.”

“The day we got married was the best day I’ve ever had with a shotgun in my back.”

“You had me at hello, I’m here to slop the hogs.”

 “You sure look nice sittin’ next to my gun rack.”

“I can’t really read this but the pictures are shiny.”

“I would love you even if I couldn’t use your teeth to open my beer bottles.”

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you better check for ticks.”

“Don’t forget I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to stop getting her pregnant every 20 minutes.”

“I don’t know how to quit you from running after the mail truck, but you sure can make a fine cherry pie.”

“You’re the only woman in the world that doesn’t have a restraining order on me.”

“If you can’t be with the one you love, it’s probably because you’re in jail.”

“I love the way you hold my spittoon.”

“Roses are red, violets are blue, banjos played at our wedding, and lots of cows mooed.”

“I would finish the fourth grade for you.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cruise Control - Part 23: The Grove of Questionable Fruit

Click Here to read the previous entry in this series…

  Luckily, the tour bus driver did not immediately make us become drug-trafficking terrorists, so that part was good. Instead, the bus simply began rolling along a two-lane highway, working its way up into the lush green hills of this part of the island. During this part of the trip, which took a bit, we managed to learn a few more interesting things about Jamaicans and how they roll.

  Speaking of rolling, it soon became abundantly clear why so many of the local citizenry were red-eyed and laid back. With the way folks drove their questionable cars around here, it was obvious that sooner or later everyone was going to be involved in a fiery crash, so you might as well be relaxed and having fun when this happened. And if your herb selection was especially fine, you might not even feel any pain when they used the jaws of life to cut you out of your crushed, vintage moped-car.

  Those modified and rusty contraptions were everywhere, darting madly to and fro, with absolutely no regard for lane markings, pedestrians, or chances of survival. At first, ensconced in the behemoth tour bus like we were, I wasn’t too concerned. Surely those gnat-mobiles would steer clear of our gas-belching supertanker, chastely and quickly getting out of the way.

  Nope. They came flying at us from all directions, little Davids frontin’ some tude with Goliath, performing feats of automotive gymnastics that made Nascar drivers look like two-year-olds in a sack race. Our driver, apparently quite skilled in the art of not killing anybody unless he really had to, managed to avoid major carnage and kept the casualty count to a minimum.

  When I wasn’t watching the continual game of chicken, with my sphincter permanently clenched, I was perusing the mountainside and the hundreds of homes that we were winding through in our quest to reach the heavens. This review was also eye-opening, presenting a weird mix of “I’m not sure what happened here”.

  There would be a beautiful mansion, older but still quite fine, and right next to it would be a complete hovel, some sagging, door-less hut that would probably fall over if you sneezed in that direction. Then another mansion, another hut, some goats, a pristine swimming pool, a shiny convertible that probably cost more than Alaska, two more huts, mansion, hut, pack of shoeless kids throwing rocks at each other, a possible dead body, mansion, and a beauty parlor that, if I understood the sign correctly, offered treatments that somehow involved the skinned animals that were hanging just inside the busy door.

  The dichotomy increased the higher the bus climbed, with some of the mansions getting turbo-swanky and some of the huts consisting of mere paper and discarded drinking straws, even leaning against the swanky ones in a tired and dispirited manner. Wow, was this a true patchwork of society, with all income-levels living together, literally, in a harmonious fashion? Or was it more of the reefer madness, with folks so hydro-planed that nobody cared who lived where or why? (Biff: “Muffy, I do believe I spy a family moving into the cardboard box we threw out after we bought the 75” plasma TV.” Muffy: “That’s really sweet. Do we have any bean dip left?”)

  Then, as the bus paused in the middle of the road so another daredevil gnat-car that had hit the failblog could be dragged out of the way, I got a closer look at a few of those mansions. Some of them truly were pristine, with finery and huge bank accounts clearly evident.

  But many of them had seen far better days, with peeling paint and even busted windows. Then I realized that some of the huts were actually attached to the mansions (intentionally, and not in one of those “hey, crazy things can happen during an earthquake” kind of way). This created a warren of accommodation, with rambling housing that fluctuated from high-end to friends in low places.

  What was going on here? It was obvious that this area, terraced and layered on the steep hills, had been a ritzy enclave at one point, with the fine houses and the stunning ocean views. But things had apparently happened, going in a direction that hadn’t been foreseen, and I was fascinated, wanting to know the history. How did this come about?

  I glanced at the bus driver, wondering if he might have some tales to tell, but he appeared to be completely invested in simply getting the damn bus up to higher elevations, forcing the groaning vehicle to navigate the twisty, ever-climbing tiny lanes that led to our destination. It was probably best that I not distract him at this point, as we were still in peril from those kamikaze makeshift vehicles which had little regard for things like public safety and physics, darting about and making people scream.

  I turned to my niece Tara, who was currently engaged in a conversation with two other bus-riders, a duo that I would later learn had the quaint monikers of “Cricket” and “Danny”. Tara was being polite and all, nodding at appropriate moments as Cricket and Danny rambled on about who knows what. But as soon as she spied me spying on her, Tara began to make subtle facial and hand gestures that I really should check out this Danny person.

  I really didn’t care. If Tara had been enough of a slacker to allow herself to become involved in a dialogue with complete strangers, then she was on her own. If she had willfully chosen to ignore the teachings of my famous document, “Uncle Brian’s Ten Reasons Why You Never Speak To Strangers In Public”, she would have to work her own way out of the mess. Little did I know that my brazen disregard for the details of her current predicament would lead to a future moment of humiliation and shame.

  Besides, we had more important things to worry about at the moment. Namely, our bus driver had decided that it was super important that we suddenly turn off the main highway (okay, the main, tiny, one-and-a-half-lane road peppered with chickens running amok and stoned people buying beef jerky at questionable establishments), and proceed down another road that really wasn’t a road at all. It was this rutted, dusty pathway, something that Boy Scouts would build to earn a vague merit badge, and then nobody would use the path again. Ever.

  But we were using it now, so we had to assume that it actually led to somewhere, other than our mystifying disappearance and an episode on that TV show “Cruise Excursions Gone Terribly Wrong”. Magically, this turn of events managed to get everyone on the bus to finally stop talking, even the chatty Cricket and Danny, a silence that thrilled Tara, allowing her to sigh and slump in her seat, praising Jesus for the momentary release.

  We were now barreling through what appeared to be a fruit grove of some kind. There were trees, and they had fruit hanging from them. Lots of trees and lots of fruit. What we didn’t have so much of was the actual nature of this fruit. The hanging things were green, that much we understood. Beyond that, who knows. (I somehow felt moved to announce that they must be lime trees, a declaration that caused at least 7 passengers to turn and glare at my obvious idiocy. This is why I wrote the pamphlet about never socializing with strangers, can you hear me now?)

  Then the bus driver finally spoke up, uttering his first words, or at least the first words that I remember. (There was a lot of drinking on this cruise, let’s just leave it at that.) “Those are orange trees.”

  Orange trees? Then why the hell is the fruit green? I should have taken that right there as a warning sign that something was wrong on this island and we were doomed to have an unpleasant experience whilst our asses were being hurled across a zip-line. If fruits are not the right color, ain’t nobody gonna be happy at the end of the day.

  But I kept my mouth shut, mainly because opening it would allow the clouds of billowing dirt from the primitive road-path to shut down my lungs. I was fairly certain that I did not want to be treated for respiratory ailments in this particular setting.

  Then we left behind the jacked-up, wrong-colored fruit trees and plunged into some serious jungle action. The dirt path continued, at least the wisps of it that we could see, deep into the leafy darkness that one can only describe as “this is the scene where everybody who isn’t listed in the opening credits of a slasher movie will meet their untimely demise courtesy of a random farm implement”.

  Of course, no one else seemed to be bothered by the fact that our innocent bus ride was one stabbing away from becoming a terror fest. After all, they were just trying to relax and have an exciting adventure, babbling about stupid touristy things and whether or not the gear we would have to wear on the zip-line would be uncomfortably binding. I was the only one noticing the fact that we seemed to be traveling on a road that wasn’t a road at all.

  Then it suddenly became very evident that the road was a total sham when we hit a particularly evil bump that had everyone bouncing off the ceiling of the bus and landing in awkward positions that would have been deemed sexual on “Cinemax After Dark”. Now the crowd was paying attention, with startled gasping and whatnot. Then everyone got very quiet. Which was a blessing, actually, because I’m not a fan of people who talk for no reason, but it was a little sad that it took the possibility of death to make them shut up.

  The driver remained stoic and disinterested in our possible anxiety attacks, maneuvering the bus deeper into the jungle and further away from any news-photographer people who might capture our travails for public consumption, with our tragic story sandwiched in between commercials for miracle laundry detergents that could remove blood stains from just about any fabric.

  Then the lethargic bus driver became somewhat animated, slamming on the brakes and hurling our bodies into another round of impromptu acrobatics. It seems we had encountered another bus, heading down the mountain from the Zip-Line Extravaganza, and since the dusty road was only one lane (and barely that) we were at something of an impasse.

  I looked around for a flight attendant so that I could order a stiff drink. One did not immediately appear.

  Instead, our driver did something grinding with the gears, and we were suddenly going backwards. This did nothing to increase my supply of happy thoughts, as our adventure had been eye-opening enough rolling in a forward direction. Now we were thundering in reverse, probably blindly, because I was fairly certain that the only thing the driver could see in his rearview mirror was me clawing my face.

  Who planned this stupid road? Geez.

  Then we took an abrupt turn and the bus was now shunting its way (backwards) down one of several little road offshoots that I had noticed on our way up. (I had just assumed that these tiny secondary paths led to places where they buried the corpses of tourists who hadn’t tipped adequately.) Instead, these obscure byways had been planned for the exact predicament we were now facing, with two busloads of manic tourists facing off. How clever. But still annoying.

  The other bus shot past. (I’m not sure that they ever slowed down at any point, the hags.) Then our vehicle lurched back out onto the road and we continued the climb heavenward.

  Some time later, hours, weeks, who knows, we pulled into a little encampment that appeared to be our destination. The driver threw open the bus door and gestured for us to get the hell out of his ride. We complied post haste, yearning to be some place that was stationary and not life-threatening.

  As our party reassembled off-bus, a representative of this zip-line thing came moseying out of what might be the main headquarters. (Think awkward, questionable hut in the middle of nowhere.) She welcomed us with the enthusiasm of someone who has just discovered that the light bill is overdue, then she launched into a well-worn speech about the delights to be had at Camp Zip. (The gift shop was mentioned at least 47 times.)

  In her closing remarks, this woman mentioned something along the lines of “And if you need to tinkle before screaming your ass off 300 feet off the ground, we have facilities located just over there.”

  I didn’t even have a chance to look where she was pointing. I was suddenly knocked to the ground by a determined individual who clearly relished the tinkling opportunity, a person with urgent needs that caused her to relinquish all societal protocol. As I lumbered back to my feet, I caught a whiff of the perfume trail left by the dashing damsel.

  It was Tiffany.

  Apparently she had some very urgent business to address. Little did we know that it would turn out to be a very good idea that she did so…

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