The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

The Day After — President Barack Obama

Barrack Obama elected as the 44th President of the United States of America

Barack Obama elected as the 44th President of the United States of America

Well, it’s the day after and here I sit taking in all the wonderful sentiments surrounding me.

Only days ago, only a few feet away from my cubicle, a cry rang out through my aluminum walls, “I hate Elizabeth Hasslebeck! I HATE her!” It was Evie, my twenty-something coworker down the hall. “If she says one more word, I’m gonna, its just … everything about her, just AHHH!”

It very well could have been my candy-induced, Halloween lull, but for reason (unlike my fellow coworkers) I felt calm in the early months of November. I work in a decidedly liberal environment, but had managed — remarkably — to keep a cooled temperament. Could this be the first signs of maturity?  No?! I managed to stay steady despite the all the animation around me. I’m like a European living in Texas: tea in hand, never getting too worked up over the 9-1 football squad.

After last night’s charades, I came into work this morning alive to the possibility of happiness that would come from my fellow coworkers.  I knew they’d all be on the verge of ecstatic (which is a good thing) and on my way in, I tried to prep myself with a little soul-searching of my own. It was in that morning mist that I tried to make good on a mental promise I had made some years ago: I wouldn’t be ‘that’ guy. Although I don’t agree with the President elect’s policies, I do agree with his sentiments. Fact: It’s tough to say that uniting the country is a bad thing.

It wasn’t really until early September that it hit me that Barack Obama was going to be our next President. I had held out till then, at least, tried to hold back the wave of intoxication that would follow in that single thought’s wake. ‘Barack Obama (coined ‘Barry’ by many already), our 44th President‘, will take some getting used to. And all this jumping and jiving makes me think I need a break from it all. It’s been a long campaign, has it not? There’s been a lot of firsts: a black man elected as Commander and Chief. A female presidential contender. And a VP I came to concede that I was legitimately attracted to. The 2008 run (which seemed to last the better part of two years) has finally come to a close. The dust has settled across the nation as the masses scamper home to their beds. The rallies are over. The microphones are shut off, for now. The voice of the people, although never silent, can rest awhile.

I don’t know that many of us could have done what these two men did: run rampant for 24 months, fighting back strict personal prying, holistic investigation and uber-stressful schedules amidst a raucous and crumbling economy, national pride and foreign policy. It surprises me that McCain made it this far. To be honest, by my calculations he should have died somewhere between the second and third debates. And as I sat in front of the television watching his secession speech last night, I couldn’t help but whisper to my roomate, “I wonder if he’s just sitting there, breathing deep, thinking, ‘its over…its finally over…’”. The face of a man who had just lost an election faced the nation, like many before him, with pride and dignity. He appropriately quieted the crowd when they booed, and eloquently made way for the star of the night. It may have been his only play, but still, nice job John; classy final move.

But where’s the rub? Why all of this now? Is this to make lemonade of a the lemons of loss?

Absolutely not.

For the past year, maybe more, I’ve been a proponent of change – right change. Well, more specifically, correct change. I’ve been proclaiming a better, cleaner, simpler America. I was never a supporter of Barack Hussein Obama and I don’t know that I’ll ever be thoroughly enthralled by his every move. I am, however, an American. Which is to say, there’s a price attached. As an American we’re given a choice: the option to choose right or wrong, pro or anti, lover or fighter — or maybe both. Those opportunities are given to us by a history of blood, sweat and tears and although sometimes lost amid the wear and tear of the daily grind, they should never be far from our daily living. Yep, it’s important to remember both where we came from and where we’re going. It’s important to have a dialogue with everyone around us in order to serve them, love them and enhance that daily living. But I do have a few questions. At what point though, does discussion (as arguing is so often believed to be) become divisive? Its true, there are three sides to a discussion: the mouth and the two ears. At what point do we instill confidence in our leaders by giving them our trust first and questions later? At what point do we give them trust, in accordance to the respect they deserve?

The past decade, for better or worse (and there’s been plenty), we’ve eliminated respect from the American equation. Like it or not, the people have spoken. Barack Obama is the resounding favorite in an election of divided truths. I think its time to stop and think, to sit and listen for a change. I’m not a big fan of protesting democracy.

Three years ago, after an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I vividly remember sitting on my couch speechlessly disgusted at what I had just heard: a 60 minute diatribe of hate, disrespect and rage towards our current President, George Bush. One man, damningly proclaimed responsible for all the evil in the world, was left to rot in a never ending sea of spite and purified rage. Sure, who hasn’t been ashamed of Bush at some point? Who hasn’t been ashamed of all the presidents, at some point, that have held office in my lifetime? Problem is, at that moment, listening to one of America’s citizen’s speak so fervently hateful words, I was disgusted of this country’s citizen(s). What if the rest of the world is watching this? I felt like the father that looked behind his shoulder to see if the kids were watching, immediately ashamed of what was on.

Then a light bulb went on.

What about my thoughts towards the Clinton administration? How much legitamate hate did I have stored up in my hypocritical head? And that’s where it began … I promised myself on that day, come November 2008, I wouldn’t be ‘that’ guy. Whatever it looked like, I’d work towards common ground. I wouldn’t be filled with spite. I’d discuss with two ears and one mouth. And as this attitude rose up in me — the evangelical Right — it’d fall gently on a more beautiful America.

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November 5, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jerry Manuel: Mets Make the Switch

Randolph (left) with Manuel (right) discussing life, liberty and the pursuit of some wins in New York.

Five years ago, I walked into my new dorm room at Biola University more scared than savvy. I didn’t know what to expect. And frankly, I was a little embarrassed that my parents waited there with me. Soon, a body walked into the room––Travis. He was on the baseball team, something that I had hoped to achieve in the next coming months, but would opt out for the game of Lacrosse, instead. To say that Travis was quiet would be like calling an air horn loud. He was one of the most unassuming, easy-going guys on the face of the planet and remains that way today. As I looked around the room, I saw various family pictures of the two current tenants and wondered if there were any space for me––a freshman––among the artifacts of these 20-something Juniors. As I surveyed the desk of the other unidentified roommate, I noticed a familiar face. A face that I had partially grown to hate, but in some ways…appreciated. It was the face of a rival. A famous rival, but a rival nonetheless. There on the desk lay a picture of Jerry Manuel, the coach of the Chicago White Sox (at the time) and a rival of my gloriously over-preforming (at the time!) Seattle Mariners. As I heard a voice behind me, I turned around to see Anthony, my second roommate.  He had about as much fat on him as a Pez dispenser and after introducing ourselves, it became apparent that he was simply Jerry, minus 25 years.

In the year that followed, I got to know the in’s and out’s of growing up in Major League Baseball and the more we talked, the more I felt as though I needed to go out and buy a White Sox hat. We had some great discussions––Anthony was anything but normal, with an upbringing that rivaled the Kardashians, but in many ways, he seemed to see his childhood as memories in the same way I did. My quality time in the backyard, his at Dolphin Stadium. I remember watching Griffey round third in 95’, he rushed the field in 97’.

I got a chance to speak with Jerry a number of times, mostly colloquial baseball chatter, but always with a sense of wonder on my end. When I visited their home a couple years back, I got the chance to speak to Jerry on a little different platform. We talked baseball, of course; steroids, Bonds, expansion, etc, and I tried to convince him to take the Manager position in Seattle, but he maintained that he was, “…done coaching for a while.” At the time, he was really considering taking the Bench Coach position for the Mets and I pleaded with him, “Why the Mets?!” He said that he loved the Mets and that New York was a great city to play in and since his playing days were past tense, it was the atmosphere and the guys that kept it fun. He told us all that if Willie Randolph didn’t last, he wouldn’t be opposed to the Manager’s role, but that Willie would do a terrific job. He signed off by saying, “If ever you’re in New York, and you just need a day off, come on down to the ball park.”

Well, Willie-days have come and gone in New York and June 15, 2008 marked the beginning of Jerry’s interim coaching tenure in New York.

I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, the pains of being a dedicated fan.  Looks like I need to go out and buy a sicky Mets hat.

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Sports | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Matthew (Jonah Hill) looks on with Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) in one of the film’s rare clothed moments.

I Can Forget Soon Enough

By Bryce VanKooten

The night was quiet. The bold spring sunset had faded from existence and most of us were freshly done with our final papers, save one man. Andy, one of my dorm-mates — brilliant, lazy, looks exactly like you think he would — had yet to start his paper. In that moment of steady disregard for anything related to planning, an infamous quote was born. “The key to writing a great paper is hiding poor ideas behind great structure.” It was not until now that I fully realized the truth of his words. Today, after a long viewing of a bellowing, sub par film, I’m amazed that others (even a team of professionals) have yet to figure it out.

Last night I lost just under two hours of my life. Not to sleep (which I would have traded ten times over), but to the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. As I entered the theater, I was convinced that sitting in the front row would not ruin my experience. Despite my carnal intuition, this movie could not have more needless sex than Jud Apatow’s previous films (40 Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, etc). I had been invited for free, how super-bad could it get? Ah, who doesn’t love famous last words…

For my sanity (I couldn’t be more serious), I’m going to skip over the first half. I’ll summarize by saying I vaguely enjoyed it. There are not words to express the angst and pain I felt for the final 4,500 minutes of this nightmare, though ‘angst’ and ‘pain’ seem to work nicely, for now. If the first half were an intriguing magazine cover, the second half would be the naked guy on page one, and page two, and three and so on, and so on, and so on, etc.

For pity’s sake, I’ll give you the high points … okay, that’s about it. Let’s recap.

Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) is busted up pretty bad after his girlfriend and budding TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) breaks up with him (he’s naked and I can’t emphasize enough how not funny this is… every time). To reboot, he takes a trip to Hawaii where he meets a fresh-and-fun-brunette-hotel-clerk Rachael (Mila Kunis aka; Family Guy’s Meg Griffith), but finds out that his newly departed girlfriend has arrived with her new 60’s-inspired, rock star boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Russel Brand). Got it? Shenanigans ensue and much ‘awkwerdity’ is had, mostly thanks to the seemingly fail-safe-for-a-laugh waiter/hotel helper/Aldous stalker, Jonah Hill.

After Peter becomes jealous of Sarah and Sarah turns out to be jealous of Peter (what a twist!), the movie ventures onto a path the most clearly resembles an un-funny porno. Coincidentally, Aldous (who doubles as the funniest onscreen and the most crazed) got less time on screen than the blankets they all retreat to. The movie continues with a terrible script, an even worse storyline and one of the most distasteful and incredibly unfunny movies I’ve seen in the past decade.

I’m guessing, by the end of the film, we’re supposed to like Peter Bretter (or at least feel sorry for him––which I didn’t). But in a comedic sense, how can you like, or give any emotion to someone that doesn’t entertain you? I suppose he entertained me when he took the lengthy banana out of his Margarita Smoothie and muttered, “Whoa, look at this guy.” But outside of the few moments when he was perfectly drunk, he was plain torturous. This movie hinged on blatant, insanely awkward (re: not awkward-funny, just really dumb) male nudity. I lost track the 4th or 5th time, but there had to be a good half dozen shots of the same guy on the big screen. And what’s the most ironic part of all of this? Jason Segel, the man’s who wore his birthday suit once already in Knocked Up, decided to write his own story this time. I’ll lay it out for you simply: It’s his script. He was likely naked when he wrote it.

All horribly raunchy, 40 Year-Old Virgin had a story, Anchorman remains a recent classic and Superbad was, well … funny. My apologies for not being able to grab Andy three years ago, given him a Flux Capacitor and a megaphone and told him to scream his line at the top of his lungs all the way to 2008. I hope Forgetting Sarah Marshall will be soon forgotten (oh, that was too easy). And judging by the way The Forbidden Kingdom preformed this weekend, Forgetting Sarah Marshall may not be all it was knocked up to be.

April 21, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tourney Time: Only a Flip Away!

Many Shining Moments…

North Carolina Duke

Tourney time has arrived and my food intake has now officially gone on sabbatical in hopes of breaking that hiatus with chips and salsa for the next two weeks.

First things first, we all know its a crying shame that Jon Brockman rolled his ankle in the University of Washington’s ‘basketball Apple Cup’, thus severely weakening UW’s hopes for a championship. But we must face facts: the Dawgs are not in the tourney. I know, I know its ridiculous and the world won’t be the same without them but — OJ ain’t in jail neither — so I suppose this world still upholds various, mind-blowing atrocities.

The sports world is wrought with the woes of a poorly-filled bracket. Each piece of advice claiming supremacy above the rest. Then it dawned on me: what if I threw my proverbial bracket into the hands of George Washington? No, not the team (they didn’t make it to this year’s tournament), I mean the President. More precisely, the President on the quarter. Yes, let’s do it. That is my stance. That is my advice. Before you fill, before you scribble and scratch and rant and rave; flip a coin.  Flip two coins. Flip till there’s a victor –– this is the President of the United States speaking.

Round 1:

The flips began much more smoothly than I had imagined the first round going with all my #1’s and #3’s squeaking by with wins. I noticed that I had suffered devastating loses by two #4’s, three #5’s and…all my #2’s. Who would have thought in round one Austin Peay could present itself as a clear favorite?! With my #1’s still in tact, the next toss rose high…

Round 2:

Soon I found that this game didn’t allow for as much control as I thought it would. Each flip causing new emotion as if the coin was speaking fact and no longer rose as a game. Surprisingly, all my #1’s made it through round two sprinting headlong towards round three.  I’m sweating…

Sweet Sixteen:

UNC faced off against a blazing Winthrop team who had just taken down Washington St (my father’s Alma Mater) in the first round only to slip by George Mason in the second. Kansas would have to defeat Villanova for their chances for National Title to stay alive. Memphis would face off with Michigan St and UCLA will play the LDS boys from BYU, respectively. As the Coin was flipped, in true Presidential form, our Elite Eight held three of the four #1’s (what?!), with the only loss coming to our Midwest buddies, Kansas.

Who has the stamina  to overcome President George? Up until this point, it seemed nearly feasible. Outside of UMBC, San Diego and my boys over at Austin Peay, this could happen…maybe. My Elite Eight was as follows:

Louisville over UNC
UMBC over Villanova
Austin Peay over Michigan St.
Purdue over San Diego

Sometime between the Michigan St.––Austin Peay game, I drop my quarter in toilet. I was sitting there doing flips and — bloop! — there it went. I’m finishing this out with a Penny.  Generally, rules are rules and I would have to go after George, but this is flippin’ basketball folks, and Lincoln knew better anyway.

The Final Four:

Apparently Lincoln didn’t know squat either because Austin Peay pulled out the upset…again.  Lucky-to-be-there Purdue didn’t show up and got smashed, whereas Louiville came to play — simple as that.

My Championship: Austin Peay vs. Louisville.

As I sit here thinking of the implications of this flip, nothing is going through my brain except, “Come on Louisville, come on Louisville.” If Louisville wins, there’s still hope for this to come true. Without thinking, my thumb released. As it turns over in air, my eyes read its high looping arc, all fate resting on its descend.

Louisville wins!

If I were a gambler, I would be out a lot of cash right now. I’m not, I’m a blogger. I’m a blogger that takes back everything he said about flipping a coin. Don’t do it. Never do it. To be forced to watch your teams fall to the wayside and get played like black/red Roulett is far too painful. I feel like the guilty middleman, forced to deliver the news. As I sit there in their locker-room, I look into the player’s eyes and slowly begin. “I’m sorry guys, it wasn’t your day. That terrible, under-performing UMBC team brought a lot of talent into this gym tonight.” Devastated, they look at me, hoping for answers. I open my mouth and say the only thing one could. “I know, its like, I mean, what are the chances…”

March 20, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment