Posts Tagged ‘american’

Magical Mystery Caffeine

April 13, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

I’ve often bragged that I’m addicted to absolutely nothing, except my children.  Without giving illegal or dangerous addictions even the respect of a mention, I’ve actually evaded the all-American addiction of caffeine.

This has a good news/bad news effect.  I like the fact that I am not in need of caffeine, and that I can drink as much or as little as I want without any unwanted side effects.  I don’t like the fact that when I do need something in my system to keep me alert, I have nothing to turn to.

I knew once I graduated from college that I would never touch coffee.  I’ve heard that most people start drinking the sludge either in the military or in college, and all for the purpose of staying awake.  Personally, I believe I’m immune to caffeine’s electricity.  On the few desperate occasions that I’ve downed Mountain Dew after Mountain Dew in an effort to stay awake, I’ve never been rewarded with any kind of energy boost.  I can send two liters of Coca-Cola down my gullet, and crawl into bed for a long night’s nap.  While in college in the ‘80s, Jolt Cola was introduced, and I have to believe that college campus sales alone kept the company afloat.

Jolt was basically a gag product.  It said right on the label “All of the sugar and twice the caffeine!”  It was as if the marketing team behind it was laughing at the American consumer, saying, “Go ahead, we dare you.  Buy this in public, so everyone will know that you are a junkie.”  Yet, it sold like spiked hotcakes.

Not like my friends.  Their good news is that the crud is waiting for them every morning, whether at work or home (or on every street corner now!).  Their bad news is that they cannot function without it (and are, thus, addicts).  I know several human beings who advise others not even to say “hello” to them until they’ve had one entire coffee and about 20 minutes for it to work its alchemy on their nerve endings and vocal chords.  It’s rather sad.

Unless you’re me.  Then, it’s rather humorous!  (Insert evil echoey laugh here.)

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My Birthday Movies

March 18, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

Every year, from 1978 until 1984, I celebrated my birthday by going to lunch and a movie with my dad.  Beginning in ’78, my parents gave all three of us kids a choice between a party and such an outing.  I think it speaks very highly of my parents that we never really considered a party, in which we’d get a potential trove of gifts, but immediately went for some special parent-bonding time.

Among the seven birthday movies I saw with Dad, three stand out.  I think they are memorable to me because each was a different “kind” of movie to which I was first being exposed.

In 1978, Dad and I went to see a sci fi picture called Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I had no idea what the title meant, being 12, but the television commercials were very intriguing!  What I was most fascinated by during those two hours was not the special effects achievements, not the direction, and not even the story.  I was fascinated by this new exposure to the “PG movie”!  Until that day, all the movies I ever went to see were Disney-level adventures, in which the bad guys were bumbling and humorous, the plotlines were silly and the conflict was absent.  Here was a brand-new type of entertainment, in which people talked like people (and even cursed!), the danger felt dangerous, and you really didn’t know what was going to happen next.  Of course, I had no clue what a marvel Close Encounters was and would become.  I just knew that I liked it.

Three years later, I made my dad’s eyes roll when I announced that I wanted to go see Ralph Bakshi’s animated milestone American Pop.  “You want to see a cartoon?” he jokingly whined.  Turning 15, I was determined to be a commercial artist, and turn my bedroom hobby of drawing into a career.  The fact that an adult-oriented animated film was being released was reason enough for me to be intrigued, let alone the fact that two of my other hobbies were history and music, and this flick promised to present the history of American music.  From World War I era Europe to Jimi Hendrix and punk rock, my dad and I watched one family’s generations experience tragedy and success, all with an entertaining soundtrack.  It took many, many years for this little gem to make it to VHS, and longer still for it to be released on DVD, but even after witnessing advances in animation far beyond Bakshi, this classic still entertains me.  Not only for the accomplishment, but for the memory of that first viewing.

The next March, I shocked my dad again by requesting to see Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip.  I was turning 16, and was a big fan of comedy.  I guess my first exposure to live comedy was my parents’ The Best of Bill Cosby album, the entirety of which I had committed to memory by the age of seven!  I knew very little about Richard Pryor when I saw Sunset Strip, but I was highly entertained by the performance.  Again, it was an adult performance, and I suppose in retrospect I wanted to see it to take another step toward adulthood.  Pryor used dirty words and talked of dirty adult situations, and from my rather naïve outlook, this was all captivating.  I was also impressed that he was able to not only discuss in great detail his June 1980 “mishap,” in which he literally caught on fire while freebasing cocaine, but also his hard road through recovery, which included him watching news reports of his own death while in the hospital.  Richard Pryor made me laugh, but he also earned my respect in that performance.

Milestones of one sort or another each, these films, as well as the four others I saw for my birthday, stand out mainly because of the fun and activities of the days out with Dad, but these three also stood out as singular examples of impressive cinema, and all three are highly recommended.

Ten Wishes for Christmas 2010

December 21, 2010

by Thomas M. Pender

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10.)      A GPS system that actually keeps up with my progress, effectively eliminating the need to utter the phrase “Make the next legal U-turn.”

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9.)        An exercise regimen that follows my personal credo “No pain . . . NO PAIN!” and a diet that consists of nothing but all-I-can-eat buffets.

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8.)        A forced Saturn recall of the Ions in which the power steering just stopped working.  (Thanks, guys!)

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7.)        The ability to wipe out bad credit . . . or at least wipe out those who know about it!

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6.)        A Samoyed puppy, especially if it can use the toilet and answer the phone.

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5.)        Large, flat televisions that hang up on your wall, and some method by which we can record all the programs we would normally miss! . . . Oh, wait . . .

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4.)        A worldwide adjustment to the female human psyche, whereby lazy chubby nerds are deemed the most desirable men on the planet.  (This is not entirely selfish.  I know several people who would appreciate this!)

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3.)        Eternal youth for the original cast members of Star Trek and Firefly, plus ongoing television episodes and big-screen adventures.  (This probably proves my point on #4, huh?)

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2.)        A doctor’s note, explaining that I have Tourette syndrome  (I don’t actually have Tourette syndrome, but wouldn’t it be great to have a free pass in your wallet, giving you the right to blurt out how you feel about anything or anyone at any given time?)

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1.)        The safe and immediate return of every American soldier.  No joke.