Thursday, April 19, 2012

Make It Count


Watch this. 
Take it to heart. 
Let it inspire you as it did me. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

" 'Parks and Recreation's' Ron Swanson: simply irresistible"

While trying to recuperate from the stress of last week, I netflixed a bunch of Parks and Recreation episodes. I only watch few shows (especially because I don't have a tv and only now have netflix thanks to my mom's account) and therefore what I do watch better be good. Parks and Rec definitely fits the bill. Hilarious. When I saw this article about Ron Swanson, I had to share. He's a fantastic character and I may possibly be in love with him. I can't do him justice and therefore I'm going to let the article take it from here - 

This post is a direct copy and paste from here.
By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
March 28, 2012
There are many reasons to watch NBC's marvelously funny "Parks and Recreation," but at this point I only need one: Ron Swanson.

Swanson is played by Nick Offerman, an actor blessed with a deeply melodious voice and wickedly expressive eyebrows who has mastered, if not invented, the art of over-the-top understatement. But Swanson is a sum of several parts — an exquisite creation of Offerman's talent, but also of writing and directing, of hair, makeup and wardrobe.

And I love him with all my heart.

My love for Ron Swanson is so fair and wild and true that it has become difficult for me to appreciate even the cockeyed wonder that is Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope or the comedically perfect pairing of April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy (Chris Pratt) if Ron is not in the scene. My love for Ron Swanson is so close to devotion that I have begun to measure every man on television (and more than a few in real life) against him, and all of them fall lamentably short.

Which shouldn't surprise me. Though there are plenty of "guys" on television, there are very few men. Ron Swanson is a man.

He wears slacks, not skinny jeans or even pants, and his sweaters are collared. He is comfortable with firearms. He can fix things that are broken and solve really tough riddles. He is quietly rude and quite often chivalrous. He plays the saxophone.

Ron Swanson doesn't wear vests and drink tea, doesn't pop Vicodin and sexually harass his staff, doesn't live with two other goofy guys and a girl, or another man and his child. Ron Swanson isn't a smart-mouth member of law enforcement; neither does he murder people ritualistically and then blame it all on a traumatic childhood incident.

Ron Swanson laughs like a little girl and gets away with it because he understands things that other humans of his chromosomal order appear to have forgotten, including:

1. Hair. A man should comb his hair, after which it should appear combed. I could write a sonnet to Ron's hair, which rises on a semi-Elvis wave, in perfect harmony with the mustache echoing it below.

2. The mustache. After years of enduring the mixed message of carefully tended scruff — "I'm too busy/disaffected to shave! But I manage to be unshaven in an even and meticulously shaped way!" — it is a relief to see a man with real facial hair. Sorry, Selleck, there's a new 'stache in town.

3. The bod. Ron Swanson does not look like he weighs less than me. What with the general waifishness of men on TV, I cannot overstate the aphrodisiac effect this has on a woman.

4. The diet. Steak, bacon and Scotch. Three of the best-tasting, best-smelling things in the world.

5. The attitude. Ron is not apathetic, Ron is Zen. He is a public servant who hates 99% of the public, a government official who does not believe in government. He will not suffer fools at all, save the fools he has come to love and those he will protect with his life.

When the show began, Ron was just one of a very loose and unformed ensemble. Part of upper management, his character seemed designed mainly to serve as ballast, the grimacing, feet-dragging yin to Leslie's overly zealous cheerleading yang. Slowly he was allowed glimmers of humanity, through his grudging admiration of Leslie and his mentoring of April, a young woman as antisocial and indifferent as he.

Because "Parks and Rec" did not have a real conflict at its heart, or even an über-narcissist, à la "The Office," the characters have all become a bit more lovable without falling into a sentimental sameness. Miraculously, Ron, like April, has been allowed to maintain his mien of disdain while his otherness has only increased.

Over the years we learned of Ron's bizarre psychosexual past, including his marriages to the glacially powerful Tammy One and addictively kinky Tammy Two (played to great effect by Patricia Clarkson and Offerman's real-life spouse. Megan Mullally, respectively), of his strange childhood spent learning anachronistic skills (in a recent episode, he recounts working in a metal factory and a tannery "while trying to finish middle school") and his firm belief that most government is a waste of time and money.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday Morning Struggles

Below is a cronology of this last Tuesday morning in March. Welcome to the play-by-play mundane life of your typical (or not so) UM kiddo.

2:45 AM - Finish writing a paper for my Urban Planning class titled "The Greening of Ann Arbor". Ace Deuce is a relatively eco-friendly city, although still very, very far from being 'sustainable', as you could surmise. The positive policies and systems in place include utilizing solar energy on many city-owned structures such as the Kerrytown Farmer's Market, three local parks, and a handful of the downtown parking meters; over 30 miles of bike lanes in the downtown area - working towards a goal of 78 miles; and the vibrant local food culture. Ann Arbor is a foodie hub. It's wonderful to see the Farmers' Market coming back to life on bustling Saturday mornings after a slow and empty winter. Ann Arbor definitely has plenty of room for improvement in its sustainability, but it's off to a great start and is far ahead of the majority of American cities.

3:20 AM - Lay in bed exhausted and rack my brain as to why I didn't fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

8:00 AM - Alarm clock rings - snooze that shit impulsively.

8:10 AM - Alarm clock rings - snooze that shit again, obviously.

8:20 AM - Alarm clock rings - actually pull myself out of bed and shut it off. Get ready in a haze of residual sleep. Decide coffee is necessary. Due to using up most of what I ground over the weekend of my wonderful Lobster Butter Love RoosRoast, I begin to grind some more before realizing how loud a coffee grinder is. Receive a hefty sum of suite-mate karma, no complaining next time I get woken up by one of them, I suppose. Apologies to my poor suite-mates.

8:50 AM - Leave the dorm, coffee in hand and head out into the chilly Michigan Spring morning. Campus is still relatively empty and everyone I pass looks just as tired as I feel.

9:10 AM - Urban Planning starts and I hand in the paper I was working on through the night, relieved. Commence yet another terribly boring lecture by an uninspired professor reading roughly off the powerpoint. Sitting in the second row wasn't the best idea as I struggle to keep the heavy weights of my eyelids open. Almost fall asleep twice. Coffee is still too hot to drink.

10:00 AM - class ends and I rush out of the room and straight into the soft crevices of the Dana commons couches. The one in the corner, farthest away from the grad students actually doing work (ha). I start chugging the coffee and eat a piece of toast with coconut butter I managed to pack while the coffee was brewing. I relax a bit and check my email, and begin browsing blogs. Get inspired to write my own blog post, somehow this is not what I was going for, oops. Decide to not do a reading for my 11:30 class that I didn't have time for last night. After writing that paper, my academic motivation is hovering above E. Flip through a couple NPR stories and listen to NPR's "This American Life" until I realize that I'm not actually listening to it. Switch over to some Bobby Dyl music and procrastinate by writing this instead of reading.

11:40 AM - The Built Environment - my second class of the day will start. There is a high probability I will fall asleep and drool on a desk. Or not, the coffee is starting to kick in. Either way, Tuesday is off to a slow start. Here's to hoping it will pick up.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

The People of Espresso Royale

     A convenient study spot of UMich students, the Espresso Royale café on State Street likes to boast and take seemingly immense satisfaction in their alternative, hipster-ish atmosphere. Unfortunately, their pride and annoying air of unconventionalism is wrongly assigned. Espresso is a franchise, concentrated in Midwestern locations. The eager students who innocently frequent here assume it's an Ann Arbor institution. Nope, not the case. Yet even with all my criticisms, you will still find me here semi-frequently. Crack it up to the convenient location - across the street from campus and two blocks from my dorm. And the fact that it's neither Starbucks or the UgLi, the other more popular and viable study options. Starbucks is sometimes fine, however usually I don't feel up to sitting in and among such pretension that is the chain and the ridiculously long and specific drink dessert names ordered by your typical high-pitched sorority girls, hauty looking business men, or just plain obnoxious bros. The UgLi (Sharpiro Undergraduate Library) is this with an added obnoxious factor of at least 100, the suffocating academic atmosphere, and the subtraction of comfortable seating. It's a rarity that I willingly study or choose to spend time there.
This picture doesn't accurately display the UgLi's ugliness.

     But Espresso can be surprisingly unique, most notably with the customers. I've had a questionably high amount of awkward run-ins and/or struck up conversations from the people around me. Every time I enter, there's always a potential to add another to the list. The majority of the customers are average students or 'normal' people, the minority of odd people present an unexpectedly large influence on the place. Right now as I survey the café there's a dude full on asleep in a lounge chair to my right. A surely genius professor with gray hair is working away with a bright fuschia laptop case. There's a group of guys aged in the mid-thirties standing around a table talking.
     Today, a moderately good-looking dude walks past my comfy chair, deliberately turns around while staring at me and proceeds to sit at the empty table beside me, in the seat nearest me. Five minutes later he tries his hand at a conversation/pick-up by commenting on the new (and by new, I mean at least since January) furniture arrangement and how he likes it because I'm here. I'm working (after a long weekend of procrastination) and so is everyone else around. I smile and nod uncomfortably and turn away back to my computer hoping to send him a hint. He does and then offers up "As long as I have a plug, I'm happy". An hour and a half later, he still hasn't plugged in his laptop. Even the normal looking people here can surprise ya. Update: now a girl has come up to him and they are conversing. She asks if he's David and tells him that he talked to her 'over there' yesterday about Jazz. He says "Right, uh, tell me your name again?" ... 
     In previous Espresso encounters, the infamous T. Kacey Brennan, one of the Ann Arbor staple hobos, has sat right next to me and my friend and gets right into telling us multiple times "I'm a famous comic book writer, Google me, you'll see", holding up a newspaper clipping. After unsuccessful attempts to brush him off with nervous nods and quick smiles with eyes glued to our laptops, my friend offers up a "Cool, I'll have to do that sometime..." as he obviously waits for us to google him that very instant and be impressed. We left soon after.
     One time an old guy with a temple sat by me and proceeded to hold a heated phone conversation about Iraq and government conspiracies and what he's doing about it. Many a glare was shot his way by the rest of the café customers, due to his pompous self-righteous air and extremely loud and graceless voice. I remember opening the photobooth app on my computer to record his amazing and hysterical conversation.
     I am cursed and/or blessed with an indescribable, alluring air that attracts weird guys to sit near me in coffee shops. It happens just too often to be coincidence. Nevertheless, if you delight in observing awkward exchanges or odd people, Espresso Royale on State is your place. It may not be as alternative or awesome as the trust-fund college student, eager to jump on the 'hipster-trend' thinks of it; the drinks may not be anything special; and it's not an original institution opposing the starbucks-on-every-corner mentality that the company would like you to believe. But man, there are some jems of experience you can find there if you're lucky.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Zen and the Art of Weekending

There's no need to glorify the weekends, I'm sure no one will dispute their delights and simple pleasures. Are you in the weekending mood? What mood is this you may ask. Well friends this is when the weekday stress gets lost somewhere between your pillow and your coffee mug. There is work you could be doing, but you've gained this wonderful sense of time. It's the opposite of haste. You take time to enjoy being alive. Perhaps you take deeper, longer, more filling breaths. You appreciate everything you don't seem to have the time to notice during the week. The soothing sound of the coffee maker, the pacifying drizzle of muted spring rain, the way the daffodils shot up and unfolded themselves before anyone even knew they were growing. The weekend mood allows you to devote yourself to a Bob Dylan album. All the way through. Twice. (Play the video for a soundtrack similar to my morning)

 During the weekends, if you practice the Zen and Art of Weekending, you'll revel in the freedom, the happiness, the lightness. You'll let yourself sleep in. You'll prepare a sweet and satisfying breakfast (which is an Art in and of itself, no doubt) to enjoy in back in bed. You'll grind up some coffee and bust out the French Press. Why? Because it's the weekend.

This is my nest
 The Art of Weekending is all about repose and relaxation. After a sweet morning of lounge and breakfast; a quick, cool bike ride in the pillowy mist outside brought me to yoga class. My body felt strong and powerful. My poses keep improving and I'm very proud of the stage I'm at now. My chaturangas are all upper arm whereas before I'd take the weight off by lowering my hips a bit too early. It was sweaty, it was strengthening, it was reviving. I left centered and blissful, returning home to take a long shower. Yes, singing in the shower is integral to weekending.

Peace, friends. Now go get back to practicing the Art!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Spring

Today, it is Spring.
The cold is out, despite never being in to start with. This winter was a pathetic attempt, producing no more than 4 inches of snow at a time, only to melt into the wet, brown ground within hours. There was no snowman making, there was no hat wearing.
And now it is Spring and it is 80˚.
My particularly rude welcoming stems from many things. It was a beautiful evening last night, the lowering sun flushed everything in warm gold. I decided to take a run/walk outside, to observe the goldness seep into the very molecules of the city and then to fade as the sun slowly set. If you know me, you know I don't really enjoy running. I find it pointless and boring. But my heart was eager to immerse myself in the outdoors and so I went. Forty minutes later I returned with a pounding heart and soon after I went to bed.
I awoke to my alarm clock with minimal strength to turn it off. I was so tired and exhausted, I needed to stay in bed. I missed my 9am class and woke at 11, struggling to pull myself out of bed and gather my stuff to head to class. My throat was sore, my glands were most definitely swollen, my eyes peaked, and my energy levels at zero.
Whether from this alarming weather, something I ate, or my body not used to running, I don't know, but something was way off.
I spend the majority of the rest of my day in bed napping, reading blogs, pining to farm, and eating citrus.
I am pretty disappointed that I couldn't celebrate Spring rightly. I had a whole day of activities planned, including taking a trip to the arb for some nature, going to not one, but two back-to-back yoga classes (couldn't even make it to one), and gardening with a student group on campus. I'm getting pretty bored laying here so I will bike to my brothers to make dinner, we'll see how that much will exhaust me.
The weather is supposed to peak tomorrow (86˚!) and then slowly go back down to the low 60s. Seeing as the days are only getting longer, I will have plenty more days to indulge in it.
M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i. Of no relevance to this post. None. 

Still, a wasted first day of Spring is never a good thing...