A Ron Swanson Appreciation Post

I lead a Ron Swanson appreciation life. I listen intently at the feet of this mustachioed man for nuggets of wisdom about the failure of government, the beauty of meat, and the joy of living a bachelor life.

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Known best for his dashing good looks, inherent charm, and furrowed gaze, Ron is the quintessential macho man. He loves fishing and carpentry, basketball and camping. The smell of bacon makes him weak in the knees, and he can never resist a good steak.

But he also has a softer side that makes him all the more lovable. Ron is the loyal, dependable rock amidst the storms of life. His wise instruction comes easily. In fact, he plays the unwilling sage in the Parks department. Although he never opts to listen to others’ woes, they inevitably come to him in search of advice because they know he always delivers. 

His journey has been rough from the start. He started working at a sheet metal factory at the ripe age of nine. He undertook two insane divorces (both to women named Tammy) and lived to tell the tale. 

By night he tours local night clubs in secret as the illustrious Duke Silver, a saxophone player with great popularity among the ladies.

But two aspects of his personality shine brighter than the rest.

First, he respects strong women.

Ron deeply respects Leslie, even though he enjoys teasing her for her unwavering dedication to the Parks department. While he may have dated two of the most completely neurotic women in TV history, he became attracted to them because of their confidence and assertiveness. He even helped Andy with his women’s studies class because he enjoys learning about powerful women.

Second, he loves breakfast food as much as I do.

Breakfast food is the best food, and Ron whole-heartedly agrees. A framed poster of a breakfast plate hangs in his office. When at a strip club, he turns away from the show in order to enjoy the full breakfast buffet served in the back. He acknowledges the beauty of waffles, but, more importantly, the divinity of bacon.

Ron Swanson is essentially the coolest person on TV right now, and he doesn’t even try–as in one scene, where Tom Haverford is trying pick-ups lines on girls in the government building using Ron’s raccoon cap. Not one lady finds his conversation piece particularly inviting, so a disappointed Tom returns the cap to Ron. Ron places it back on his head, and immediately a woman stops by his office to compliment him on his cap.

A smiling Ron looks cheekily at Tom, as if sharing a private joke with himself. 

I love this man.

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Be Batman

Lately I’ve been ruminating on the form of power to choose one’s direction in life, and while doing so, my thoughts turned to Batman, the self-made superhero.

While I cannot deny the brilliance of superheroes such as Zatanna and The Flash (who received their powers supernaturally or by accident), self-made superheroes have always fascinated me. True, we cannot all be heirs to billions of dollars with which to create high-tech gadgets and armor, but the origins behind Iron Man and Batman are worth more than their price tags. In fact, their origin stories offer wisdom and philosophy that other heroes’ stories may not. But for right now, I will focus on Batman’s story because I am biased and will always defend my favorite superhero.

Before Batman, there was young Bruce Wayne, heir to the influential corporation Wayne Enterprises. When he was faced with the senseless murder of his parents, he had a choice. He could allow himself to become consumed with hatred and revenge, or he could rise above his circumstances and promote justice in a broken world.

Peter Parker (Spider-Man) faced a similar trial. He had to deal with the murder of his uncle Ben in addition to the untimely loss of his parents. But there lies a fundamental difference between his and Bruce’s story: Peter already had the radioactive spider venom in his veins when Ben was murdered. Ben’s death merely provided a new outlet for Peter’s powers and identity as a superhero. On the contrary, when the Waynes died, Bruce was still a child. He did not have the paranormal capabilities Peter and other heroes did. But Bruce did have a strong desire to bring justice to Gotham. He also recognized that his resolution would require extraordinary power, and so he made himself into “the caped crusader,” Batman.

It is also important to note that while the death of his parents certainly gives Bruce the motive to become a hero, it is Bruce himself who finds the power to forge his identity as Batman. Like every human, Bruce has limitations that set him apart from his Justice League contemporaries, but he wills himself to rise above these limits and become an equal force to that of Superman and Wonder Woman.

Through Bruce’s story we can realize our power to choose and to accept the idea that no matter how poor our circumstances, we alone have the power to decide what will affect us. If there is one thing we can control in life, it is how we receive these challenges.

Now, I am not suggesting that you all put on a ski mask and become your town’s trademark vigilante like Phoenix Jones (though that would be a pretty cool hobby to put on your resume). I do, however, wish to illuminate one of the lessons our favorite “Dark Knight” has taught us over the years. When faced with a crisis (big or small), do not let it defeat you. You have the power to decide how the crisis will affect you, if it will shape your character for the better or worse. When in the heat of a crisis, step back a moment, evaluate whether the concern is even worth your time, and always know that you have the power to walk away if it isn’t.

In the end, I offer one wise rule to live by: “The most important thing in life is to be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.”

Teenage Happiness 101: an essential guide to important adolescent experiences

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the classic teenage experiences portrayed in movies and TV. As with most imitations, these portrayals usually do not occur in “real life,” but some part of me yearns to have those same experiences–the experiences that apparently result in happiness and sometimes even theatrical lip-syncing to a song that perfectly describes your feelings.

Ok, so maybe my wish is unrealistic. While I enjoy the idea of these teenage traditions, my brief encounters with such have only disillusioned me further with the petty drama and overall bandwagon nonsense that typically go with it. But a girl can dream, yeah? No?

In any case, here are 5 experiences that my incurable addiction to Netflix Instant and cable TV has taught me about finding happiness in the adolescent years:

Join a glee club

“Glee” has illustrated the power of the show choir, the uninhibited feeling you get when singing Journey’s classic hit, “Don’t Stop Believing” with your closest pals. Don’t let my nonchalance fool you; I am whole-heartedly committed to the idea of joining a glee club to solve teenage loneliness, to find a significant other, and to add some unnecessary drama in life. Just look at the indescribable expressions of joy on those faces. I yearn to feel as free-spirited as Artie appears in this photo, spreading his arms wide (symbolically, of course) and casting a lighthearted smile into the distance. Because a little glee (plus creepy teacher-on-student moments, dramatic sighs, and tribute episodes with the illusion of storyline) goes a long way.

Become a member of an inseparable group

The concept of an inseparable group of friends (typically boy/girl for added drama) a la “Saved by the Bell” or “Beverly Hills, 90210” is a TV staple. My older sisters religiously watched shows such as these, and so my lust for a fun, crazy, but undoubtedly solid gang of friends has been ingrained in my head for as long as I can remember.

Now, membership in a particular type of group depends on your personality. Maybe hanging out with a lot of friends all the time just isn’t yours style. And I don’t blame you. I would definitely get sick of the restrictions that come with being in a clique (dating only those in the group if it’s boy/girl, hanging out with only those people, etc.). Perhaps you’re meant for more of a Harry/Ron/Hermione type trio that allows a bit more freedom, or you’re bound to be a floater who hangs out with whomever he or she pleases as I do. It’s obviously your decision.

Just know that if you’re not in a gang of friends, you’re missing out on the pure essence of being a teenager. The illogical antics, the prevalent effect of mass hysteria, and the pressure to always feel included. And perhaps the warm and fuzzy feeling that your inseparable group always as your back. I’ve found the last experience to be rare in the types of groups I have met, but maybe I’m too cynical to keep looking.

Note: if you have already joined the glee club, than huzzah! You have found your gang of misfits.

Fall in love

(Sure Kevin and Winnie are a bit young when they first realize their love for each other, but they are the paragon of adorable puppy love, and I wish I could have had this in middle school instead of a bad haircut and an unending supply of angst, ok?)

First love. The butterflies, the jitters, the sweaty palms and weak knees… You finally find a person that completely understands how you feel on the rollercoaster of emotions that is teenagedom. And then you get the added bonus of a make out buddy!

I’m not the best authority on the subject. I typically just crush on someone and then slowly lose interest once I find someone new. But you find this plot device in just about every TV show and movie out there about high school, so it must be kind of a big deal, right?

Date a brooding vampire

Essentially, if you find your life uninteresting or in need of some supernatural excitement, you should either wait for a handsome vampire to move to your school or you should move to a small town with an excess of clouds in hopes of finding a brooding vampire in your biology class. Once you have found a suitable bloodsucker, simply get him to become obsessed with you, and voila! Your life will never be boring again.

However, make sure that you play “hard to get” or appear perpetually unimpressed by his mysterious persona. This will ensure that he will continue to try to please you and convince you that he is worthy of your time, no matter what he says about “being dangerous for you” or “a threat to your very existence.” NBD, guys. NBD.

(For added effect, make sure your vampire has heavy eyebrows and perfectly sculpted hair. Blue button-down optional, but highly recommended to complement his alabaster glow.)

Find the perfect date, dress, etc. for the school dance

TV and movies typically forget to mention the overall sweatiness and exhaustion that accompanies school dances, instead focusing on the romance and (of course) drama. But there are a few portrayals of school dances I agree with and enjoy for their sincerity: the homecoming dance scene from “Freaks and Geeks,” the school dance scene in “Sixteen Candles,” the initial awkwardness of the prom scene in “Pretty and Pink,” and the prom scene in “Napoleon Dynamite.”

What matters most at these types of dances is having fun. Sure, you want to have the perfect look for the pictures, but what you will remember years from now is the actual dancing. Having a date is great, but not the main objective. “Pretty and Pink” advises that, in the end, you should go with whom you feel comfortable–even if you end up parting on the dance floor (which I still don’t entirely agree with since I would have chosen Duckie over Blaine any day).

Perhaps TV and movies push these ideas of adolescence because they are the memories you look back on and can recall exactly how you felt at the time, the person you were when you first fell in love or first realized you had a solid group of friends on whom you could rely. Sure, the awkwardness is often overlooked on the big screen, but the emotions are real–even if soap opera-esque glee clubs and gloomy vampires are not–and the nostalgia will last a lifetime.

Everything I needed to know in life I learned from “Teen Titans”

Ah, childhood obsessions. They certainly leave their marks.

I can still see remnants of them around my room: my unfinished pig collection from sixth grade, forgotten sketches of Neopets, piles of stuffed animals that I haven’t the heart to let go… But some of these obsessions have carried me through the years; “Teen Titans” is one of them.

To this day I attribute my knowledge of good and evil, the importance of the choice, and the power of the individual (as well as the team) not to “Harry Potter” or the “Eragon” series (although both of these series are quality), but to “Teen Titans.”

“It’s simple: there is good and there is evil. There are those who commit crimes and those who stop them. The two sides are opposite, as different as day and night. And the line between them is clear… Or at least, it’s supposed to be.” – Robin, “X”

Robin teaches that vices and virtues are not as black and white as some children’s stories would have it portrayed. We have both good and evil inside of ourselves, and it is our decision upon which part we will act. When Robin decides to adopt a new persona, Red X, to gain inside information on his arch nemesis, Slade, he discovers inside himself a darkness that he had previously denied. Robin’s internal struggle makes for an interesting debate on the evils of man. That, and he looks quite attractive in his Rex X getup. Just sayin’.

As one of the most controversial characters on the show, Terra definitely left an endearing lesson: we always have a choice. She tried to run away from her problems. She even tried to blame other people for her decisions, citing that she was helpless and that she “didn’t have a choice.” But in “Aftershock, pt. II,” after serving as Slade’s apprentice and nearly destroying the Teen Titans in a stunning act of betrayal, Beast Boy reminds her that it is never too late to make things right:

Terra: You have to stop me Beast Boy. Please….I don’t want to fight anymore…
Beast Boy: Then don’t let Slade control you anymore!
Terra: I have no choice…
Beast Boy: That’s a lie! You’ve always had a choice! You chose to work for Slade, you chose to betray us, and now you’ve chosen to give him control. Slade isn’t doing this Terra, you are!
It’s your life, Terra, your choice. It’s never too late.

Terra subsequently takes this advice to heart and sends Slade into a pit of lava. Unfortunately, she ends up being turned to stone in the process, but her story is immortalized: we always have a choice.

Of course the Teen Titans work as a unit, but there are certain circumstances in which it is up to the individual to determine their fate. Such is the case with Raven, the darker, more mysterious member of the team. During season 4, we begin to unravel Raven’s past. Her father, Trigon, is the root of all evil. (And you thought you had daddy issues…). Raven was designed as a portal for Trigon’s takeover of Earth, and it seemed as if she could not stop this event from happening.

But that didn’t throw her. In “The End, pt. III,” She vows to stop running away and takes matters into her own hands. In her final confrontation with her father, Raven stands up to fight for her fate and to stop Trigon from furthering his evil deeds. When Trigon reminds her that as her father he could take away her powers, she replies: “You may have created me. But you were never a father!  Father’s are kind! Father’s protect you! Father’s raise you! I was protected by the Monks of Azarath. I was raised by my friends! They are my family!” She blasts Trigon for a final time, banishing him from Earth, and saves the world in one heroic sweep.

While watching this show may have set unrealistic expectations for how awesome teenagedom would be (seriously, I’m still waiting for my powers to arrive or at least for Professor X to enroll me in his School for Gifted Youngsters), “Teen Titans” taught me important lessons that continue to impress me in my older years. Even the somewhat goofy episodes have some tidbit of life wisdom woven throughout (sans the cheesy, “Full House” type atmosphere). “Teen Titans” is one childhood obsession I am proud to still have today.

Life Lessons from “Pocahontas”

There’s always that one childhood movie which you spend countless hours watching and re-watching until it almost becomes routine. So was Pocahontas.

I’ve heard stories (since it was long before I started keeping a mental inventory of everyday occurrences) that I would watch Pocahontas every day if I could. If we were away from the TV and I started to fuss, you better believe my three older sisters would sing “Colors of the Wind” or “Just Around the Riverbend” to appease me. I can say with almost certainty that they had the movie memorized since I watched it so much. To this day they fondly quote Grandmother Willow’s proverbial sayings at family gatherings.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie, but at my recent trip to Disneyland/California Adventure, I had the pleasure of reliving my childhood obsession while watching “World of Color” and while visiting the Storybook building in CA Adventure. While reminiscing in the music and stunning artwork of the film (seriously, I never realized what a visual masterpiece it is), I paused to let the weight of Pocahontas’s words soak into my skull.

Wisdom may be found in even the most unlikely of places, and Pocahontas, one of the most underrated yet most beautiful Disney films around*, offers some great treasures to live by.

  1. Although in the past they have considered themselves to be the superior race, white people know nothing. Pocahontas wastes no time in revealing this to John Smith.
    “You think I’m an ignorant savage / And you’ve been so many places / I guess it must be so / But still I cannot see / If the savage one is me”
    She goes on to note how whites “think [they] own whatever land [they] land on,” though the Earth is not “just a dead thing you can claim.” And how they “think the only people who are people are the people who look and think like [them].”
    Although these may seem vague generalizations, Pocahontas put into words–or song–what I had been thinking for years during history class. And in the simplest way to boot.
    Often times the ways of men in that time disgusted me, until I stopped to consider the almost uncomfortable familiarity of our present ways. Because most things have not changed. What Pocahontas teaches is timeless and has universal applications.
  2. We can attain true knowledge and insight if we look through a new perspective.
    “If you walk the footsteps of a stranger / You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”
  3. We are all connected.
    “In a circle, in a hoop that never ends.”
  4. We, inevitably, take things for granted.
    But Pocahontas asks us to “roll in the riches all around [us] and for once, never wonder what they’re worth.”
    This line especially makes me consider our materialist society and how we sometimes we view nature purely as a pool of resources for our own gain when in reality its value cannot be placed. The nuances of nature truly are priceless.
    “How high will the sycamore grow? If you cut it down, you’ll never know.”
  5. We’re terrified of the unknown.
    “The water’s always changing, always flowing / But people, I guess, can’t live like that / We all must pay a price / To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing / What’s around the riverbend / Waiting just around the riverbend.”
  6. We shouldn’t always choose the safest paths in life.
    “Should I choose the smoothest curve / Steady as the beating drum?”
    For in the winding journey we sometimes learn the most.
  7. And, of course, how one person can change everything.
    Smith: “And if I never held you / I would never have a clue / How at last I’d find in you / The missing part of me.”
    Pocahontas: “If I never knew you / I’d be safe but half as real / Never knowing I could feel / A love so strong and true.”
    This lesson intertwines itself with Pocahontas’s comments on the unknown. Sure, we may be happy and safe never knowing one person, but we would never taste that indescribable feeling of having said person in your life, to know “how precious life can be.” Life would seem half as worthwhile.

I could write pages and pages about some of these lessons (though I haven’t the time at the moment nor do I think many people would read it–if anyone is reading this current post at all).
Pocahontas illuminated the way the world was, is, and can be if we live by these lessons. This gem has philisophic implications I have yet to fully recognize–all packed into a pleasant 81 minute journey through pre-colonial America.

*Yes, I know its historical accuracy is questionable at best, but let’s consider the film as a complete work of fiction and appreciate it as we would any other beautiful story.

Sick, sad world.

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Every year I try to give New Year’s Eve a chance to redeem itself, and every year it disappoints me in some way.

Don’t get me wrong; last night was fun. But I find the NYE traditions oddly depressing.

For instance, the societal ritual of rampant drinking. I recognize that alcohol is customary during celebratory occasions (though I do not entirely understand why), and it seems acceptable that one would have a few drinks to ring in the new year. But when you’re stumbling all over the place and can hardly move your feet in a fashion that resembles walking (let alone can walk in a straight line as is the usual test), there is something glaringly wrong. Not only with the drunkard, but also with society.

Why do people feel the need to drink themselves to waste on New Year’s Eve? Was 2011 really that bad? And even if it wasn’t, and you’re either drinking because you enjoy the “buzz” or because everyone else is also drinking, what is the point? Why would you spend all this time and money on New Year’s parties if you won’t even remember the night when you arise the next morning?

My sober New Year’s Eve last night at the fair was enjoyable for the most part. Although I do not condone drinking, watching wasted people embarrass themselves while dancing enthusiastically to cover bands is amusing to say the least.* Plus, although pricey, the food was awesome, and there is no denying that. I certainly loved watching the firework display with a strawberry-banana-Nutella dessert crepe in my hand, and I even had a fun time busting some moves with the others to classic ’80s hits.

But contrary to popular opinion, you can enjoy yourself without alcohol and wake up in the morning with your memories intact. No pounding headache or nausea included. Imagine that.

*even if the concept of cover bands saddens me. Just imagine forming a band with the sole intent of entertaining nostalgic adults eager to relive their glory days. Then add the bitter reality of how your original material isn’t good enough, so you’re forced to live vicariously through another band’s renowned identity. Sometimes I stop to wonder what kinds of lives these people lead offstage.

“Something always brings me back to you.”

My sister first told me about the MTV show “My Life as Liz” during my freshman year when it first aired. She said I looked and acted just like the titular character, and she recommended that I watch the show to see for myself.

The first episode I watched, “Liz’s Got Talent? Part 1” didn’t particularly impress me. Liz and I seemed to share a similar viewpoint on the world and the same humor to boot, but I wasn’t sold.

That soon changed when I watched the prior episode “My Sketchy Valentine” in which Liz finds herself bequeathed with red carnations by a “secret admirer.” Turns out, (SPOILER) that Cori Cooper, her popular arch nemesis, had sent the carnations to humiliate Liz when she would discover no such admirer at the Valentine’s Day dance.

I can pinpoint it to the very scene: after being shown up at the dance, Liz sits on the hood of her car (“Juno” style) while gazing pensively at the stars and thinks, “I wonder if it’s always going to be like this. I mean, am I going to be like 80 years old at the old folks’ home, and Bob with the bad prostate is going to stand me up at the holiday social? What if life is just one long continuation of high school?”

I was only about a semester into my own high school experience, but I couldn’t help but agree. I had already been stood up in a different way only a few months prior and had wondered the same thing: is it always going to be like this?

And even though the reality of the show is questionable, “My Life as Liz” immediately became one of my endearing guilty pleasures. Nearly two years have passed since I watched my first episode, and I’m still hooked on the first season.* There’s something undeniably relatable about the story of the slightly eccentric girl fighting her way through high school. Sure, Liz isn’t exactly the “nerd” she proclaims herself to be, but she offers a different perspective from the typical teen dramedy.

“My Life as Liz” is my comfort show. Although it may not be the most universally accepted or even the most intellectually stimulating, I find comfort in the familiarity. I know all the lines, the jokes, the dramatic eye rolls, but I still find joy in watching it when home alone on one of those nights.

While I certainly enjoy other, perhaps wittier, shows, something always brings me back to Liz. It never takes too long.

*The second season not so much, but that’s another story.

Why I came and where I’m going

After a blissful year or so on Tumblr, I decided that my first little blog wasn’t enough.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Tumblr. I’ve met amazing people there, received words of wisdom from quotes and photos posted on the site, and learned a whole lot about a score of different fandoms I had no idea existed.

But the problem with Tumblr is that most people just want photos, fan-fiction, or funny observations. From what I’ve experienced, few people actually want to read long discourses of your inner thoughts. Unless you dumb it down a great deal and add a bunch of reaction gifs to accentuate your point.

So I came here. Here I shall post my thoughts on life, pop culture, adolescence, what have you. I’ll be sure to keep it hip, and (more importantly) honest ’cause this is my not-so-humble opinion.

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