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Monday, September 29, 2008

Taking a Short Recess

Dear 3.5 faithful readers. I regret to inform you that I am taking a small break from blogging. As much as I would love to continue bastardizing the English language and making you somewhat giggle at the things in my brain, duty calls. Between home rennovation, which I detailed the reasons for in a previous post, as well as the impending release of our pride and joy, the knowledge base, here at work I am unable to keep up with the slackery that is blogging.

Don't worry, though. I'm still compiling a few posts in my spare few minutes and will deliver them with much gusto when I return sometime in October. On the docket are a few tasty morsels such as The House That Mongo Bought, My Pick For President and The Greatest High Schoolers On Film: Honor Roll. These with a few holiday themed posts will promise to roll a few eyes if not extort laughter from your souls. Fear not, Mongo will return.

Until then, snoop around at some older posts and have fun. Click on a few ads, buy some Mongo shorts, it's all good. Take care you crazy kids.

Mongo out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can't You Smell That Smell?

I have four cats and to plagiarize Bill Cosby, "The reason I have four cats is because I do not want five." I love them dearly. Now only one of those four cats are actually there because I wanted them to be. The first one, Oscar, was a stray that my wife rescued outside the back door of my townhouse in 2003. Of course, he had to have a friend, so I agreed to adopt another cat. In November, I checked out the local shelters and adopted Emmy as a playmate. Instead of having a playmate to keep Oscar out of trouble, I now had two cats equally capable of mischief and no way to prove which one is guilty.

Then in 2004, I moved into my house, and my wife, again, rescued more animals. This time it was a set of twins from the farmers' market she worked. Enter in Willow and Lucy. Now, Oscar and I have resigned ourselves to the fact that we are the only men in the family since the addition of my daughter in 2007. We have that bond over the television and eating and generally any chance he can get to come get in my face.

Making up the rest of the clan, Emmy is considered the alpha female and dictates when breakfast and dinner is going to be served. Willow is the shy runt who could rip you a new asshole. She seems very timid, but we really don’t trust her. The last cat is Lucy, the sweet docile one who is in love with Oscar and loves to eat. Since Emmy is such a voracious eater, I have to wait until all the cats are present to put the bowls down or Emmy will be done and move onto everyone else’s bowl. Willow just lays on the floor waiting patiently while Lucy worries that Oscar isn't there yet. He's always the last one to the kitchen. The only reason he shows up is because Lucy goes and rounds him up. She’ll walk into a room and cry at him to come to the kitchen. It's hard to believe that her and Willow are sisters. They couldn’t be more opposite. Willow is quiet and calculating, Lucy is loud and sort of dim. I know all of this by observing them over the last four years. I'm like the Jane Goodall of domestic short hairs. Isn’t my life pathetic. Oh, did I mention I am allergic to cats?

That's right. I am allergic to cats. If I get cat hair near my eyes, they swell up to the point where I look like Benecio Del Toro. I treat with a nasal spray but sometimes the side effects are that my nose dries out and bleeds. Oh well. Still, they are family and I wouldn't get rid of them for the world. That is, until last month. I had recently been in Nashville and apart from a week of cat free breathing I never really noticed that I had cats. Sure, the litter boxes are out in the open, but the house never really smelled like cats lived there. Now, there would be those few occasions where Oscar would come down to the litter box carrying a newspaper under his paw and we knew what that meant. Sometimes, his timing couldn't be worse because my wife would be with someone in the next room and he would forget to cover his mess. Actually, I think he refuses. He's such a priss. Other than that, the house is pretty good. It wasn't until I came home from my trip that I noticed the smell.

I usually go through a brief bout with cold and allergies after a trip. Between travelling in an enclosed plane with that recycled air and being run down, my immune system is off guard. Couple that with being re-exposed to cats and I lose a week of good health as soon as I walk in the door. Usually, it clears up within days. Yet, even with the cold, my senses were in perfect working order. In fact, for some reason, I have an acute sense of smell. My wife thinks I’m nuts. I think I have a good chance at a guest shot on Heroes. I can be working around the house and come upstairs to the living room where my wife and my daughter are sitting and as soon as I top the steps, I catch the scent of a dirty diaper. My wife, who has been not more than a foot from the child is oblivious. I, on the other hand, am standing there with watery eyes.

Super Smell aside, I didn’t quite notice the stench that had taken up residence in my basement/family room/man cave. I didn’t really have time to. Before getting on the plane for home, my wife called me to inform me that they were taking her Mother to the hospital. I was pretty much on baby detail while my wife shuttled between work and the hospital. After she was discharged a week later, my wife was in a wedding and we spent all weekend driving all over creation to a rehearsal dinner on the other side of Pittsburgh, dropping the baby off at my folks, and going back to Pittsburgh for the wedding, and then repeating the whole process again. Since I am at work during the week, I miss out on being downstairs until the weekend. I had noticed the smell, but chalked it up to the litter boxes needing changed. After I did that, I still noticed the smell. I couldn’t figure it out. My wife thought I was crazy because she didn’t smell it. Even upstairs, I could smell the smell of cat urine. Dear God! I have cats!

Now, while I knew that there was a smell in the house, my wife didn't believe me until she found the evidence. She reached for a music book that was sitting on the floor up against a filing cabinet next to the piano. The bottom third of the book was warped, discolored, and wet. Besides that, the smell of ammonia nearly knocked her off the piano bench. We now had proof that a cat was peeing on the carpet. We just didn’t have a suspect. My wife immediately blamed the boy, Oscar. I told her I wasn’t convinced but in my house, if you have a Y chromosome, you are guilty until proven partially to blame. Short of making Oscar wear an outfit with yellow P on the front, my wife gave him the cold shoulder. Meanwhile, I spent the evening using our carpet scrubber to get the carpet cleaned in that spot. But anyone who has owned a cat will tell you, that will not fix the problem. As I said, I lost a whole weekend due to the wedding so, we missed the next two or three acts. We still had no real suspect, just my wife’s intuition. It wasn’t until my wife was standing downstairs, attending to some bills, after the hustle and bustle died down that she actually had her suspect nailed. She heard this sound like water hitting fabric and was knew she had her suspect. She had finally caught Oscar, or so she thought. There, underneath her piano with an earnest look on her face was Lucy, the most docile of all four cats, peeing on the carpet.

We couldn’t understand it. Why Lucy? Oscar was an immediate suspect because he is a male. While he is the only boy cat, he’s worse than a woman when it comes to litter box hygiene. He prefers to wait until I clean out the box to use it. He hates getting litter on his paws. Sometimes, it sounds like he’s building an addition in the litter box because of the noise of his paws scratching on the sides. He’ll do this for five minutes. He was also innocent of the accusation and my wife apologized profusely. Now, that we had our cat, we had to solve our problem. We had two spots identified where urine was soaked into the carpet. Soon, two became four as I found another spot right at the corner of our bar as well as a throw pillow upstairs in our living room. Until that point, I had been laying on it at night while we watched our usual 11 O'Clock News, Family Guy, and HGTV shows before bed. That was an easy fix. In the wash it went. The bigger problem was how to get that smell out of the carpet. However, we first needed to understand what was wrong with Lucy.

We took her to the vet and there was no obvious physical reason why she would be going on the carpet. We had to obtain a sample, but with four cats it’s hard to know exactly where and when she’ll go since we both work. The vet seemed to think that it was behavioral and that perhaps Lucy was being bullied and blocked from the litter box by one of the other cats. Immediately, I thought of Emmy. She is the alpha female and has been known to chase the other females and run them down in the hallway. Still, her and Lucy don’t have much beef towards each other. They are both big eaters and overtake Willow and Oscar’s dish when they leave. Here, I was now guilty of accusing a cat before all the evidence was in on the issue. We confined all the cats to the upstairs and kept a litter box within sight. So, we either have it smell like urine downstairs or worse upstairs. Let me tell you I am not happy at all about this situation. Anyway, we kept on eye on the cats habits and noticed that Lucy would still not want to go in the litter box. She seemed afraid. She ended up going right outside of it which gave us our sample. The results came back that there was no conclusive evidence that she had anything wrong with her. In order to deal with this fear we removed the lid to the litter box and she began to use it. At this time, we are now on day three of using the litter box exclusively. Unfortunately, since Oscar is prissy when it comes to the litter he manages to get litter everywhere when he scratches. Another thing I hate because I usually do not wear shoes around the house, socks most of the time, but even still I hate seeing it on the floor.

With Lucy on the road to rehabilitation, I began turning my attention to salvaging the downstairs. My wife has already begun teaching on the road at her students’ homes but we are still confining the cats to the upstairs. By now, a lot of the urine has dried which makes it ten times worse because the crystals are more pungent than the liquid form. I first moved the piano to the garage since it had soaked up some of the urine and now smelled. With that gone, I could concentrate of removing the smell from the carpet, if I could. I began using our carpet steamer in hopes that I could liquefy and suck up the offending particles. Unfortunately, all that did was soak the carpet and allow for mold. I have a dehumidifier running most of the time to help. Since the issue went into the padding and backing, I knew I had to figure out a way to dissolve the particles.

I bought some stuff called Simple Solution which has a money back guarantee. I poured a bunch on the spots and allowed it to soak for 10 minutes then sucked it up. The smell stuck. Then, I did the unmanly thing. I read the directions, fully. I had to allow the solution to soak into the carpet for ten minutes and then use a towel to suck up excess moisture. Then allow the solution to dry on its own. Within 12 hours, the carpet and the entire downstairs smelled ten times better. I thought the battle was won. However, after 24 more hours the smell returned and the spots that had smelled better were now just as bad as they were before. By now, I’ve used almost a gallon of the solution and at $21.99 a pop, I’m not buying more if it won’t work. I’m returning it for a refund.

We’ve both come to the conclusion that we need to replace the carpet. It was something that was always on our radar, but after four years, we never found the time or the extra money to start renovations of our downstairs. We also had originally planned to replace all of the carpet, but now, we’ve decided to put carpet on one side and tile on the other. The garage is our main entrance for us and company so we figured it would be better to have tile that can be cleaned easily if anyone tracks in water or dirt. That way they don’t track it into any new carpet. I also wanted to do a faux hard wood flooring but I’ve been told that moisture, especially cat urine, can destroy it. I just have to convince my wife to get something that is durable and will also be a final solution, meaning neutral in color. Yeah, it may not match the paneling or the rest of the carpet, but the walls are eventually going to be replaced with drywall and the rest of the carpet will be a burgundy color with some ceramic or slate tile in front of the wood burner at the other end of the basement where the carpet will remain.

It’s a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of head ache for two people who had hoped to slow down the pace of things after our daughter’s first birthday. With a wedding, a mother in the hospital, and now this right before the holiday season, I don’t see us slowing down anytime soon. Some people have said to me, “Just get rid of the cat.” I know we’re three cats short of the “Crazy Cat …” label but I’ve become attached to them. They are part of the family and I love them just as much as anyone else. I couldn’t bear to put them outside and wonder if they have a warm soft place to sleep or are they getting enough food and shelter, let alone are they safe from other animals or the busy street that runs past our house. Call me a Tree Hugging, Animal Loving, Hippie if you want but that’s how I roll. I slow down for animals on the road, flash the headlights at oncoming drivers, and occasionally honk in areas of deer crossing traffic. While, I do not condone what Lucy did, I can’t help but think that she really has a problem and it’s my job to try and fix it, not just get rid of her. She deserves the same rights as we do as long as she’s not infringing on others. It’s an inconvenience but it’s something that can be fixed, somehow. If anything, my wife isn’t unforgiving about her pissing on the carpet. She just wishes she would have pissed on the couches. She’s been after me for a couple years to get new ones and I haven’t pulled the trigger, yet.

How could you not love this face?

For those of you who love cats in general, go here. I Can Has Cheezburger: LOLCATS
I love this site.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Matter of National Security?

The best kept secret in America was out in the open for a while. Can you guess what it is?

It is the cornerstone of an entire organization’s existence. To reveal it would destroy the organization. It’s the kind of information people would kill for. Those that are keeping the secret from the public have faced scrutiny about their practices. They have been protested in the past. Is it the truth about The Da Vinci Code? Nope. That’s going back a bit far.

No, this best kept secret is only 68 years old and for the past 20 has been kept safe at the organization’s headquarters with two combination locks, behind three locked doors inside a vault. Only two people know the secret at any given time and no one knows their names or rank. When the need for tighter security arose, the secret was relocated temporarily. It was whisked away in an armored car under guard. Evidence linked to the secret can be seen from space by satellite. The conspiracy thickens. Is it the alien at Roswell? Nope, but you’re getting closer.

All of this silliness is merely to protect the original recipe for the 11 herbs and spices found in Kentucky Fried Chicken. The measures taken to keep the secret recipe secure mirrors a political thriller. Multiple suppliers are used to blend ingredients yet only have a portion of the recipe. One can only imagine Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt trying to penetrate security to steal the piece of yellow notebook paper stuffed in a filing cabinet. While Jason Bourne may smash his way in, overpowering the guards, Ethan sneaks in disguised as Colonel Sanders then takes to the ventilation shaft and dangles over the filing cabinet trying to crack the combination locks. The reality is much more boring. The recipe was slid into a briefcase and handcuffed to a security expert with the instructions, “Keep it safe.” Soon it will be back in its little filing cabinet at KFC headquarters along with samples of the herbs and spices in vials.

Next time you enjoy a bucket of original or extra crispy remember that a lot time in effort went into making sure you get the Colonel’s brand, even though he’s been dead for close to 30 years. It was everything he stood for. Not bad for a guy who pretty much failed at everything he ever attempted and at one point had even resorted to possibly kidnapping when all else failed. He did not go through with it. In that he successfully failed. Instead he went on to open his franchise and died of leukemia in 1980. Oh, and for those of you wondering how KFC is close to the Roswell incident, check this out. One of the most well known firsts in food related trivia is that Wrigley’s was the first item to include a bar code. Well, in 2006, KFC became the first corporate brand name visible from space.

The coordinates for the image are Latitude & Longitude: 37.646069, -115.750710
If you can believe it, the Earth just became a billboard. How long before there are little signs in space telling aliens which exit to take in terms of gas, food, lodging. Just so you know, Saturn has already got a Starbucks on Titan. They got great Macchiatos.

More steam means more foam!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11th: Who were you?

It's a day like any other, really. The morning air is a little crisp. The school buses are running. Traffic flows like there is not a care in the world. It's hard to believe it has been seven years. If you were born in late 70's or early 80's you only have knowledge of this one event as a definitive moment in your history. I have a few and my parents and grandparents have plenty more. What defines a historical event as having to serve as a marker post in our memory. By that, I mean who decides that something is so important that it requires the question, "Where were you when...?" Does it have to be a tragedy? Can it be a happy occasion? History is more remembered for what went wrong as opposed to what went right. With that as a primer, I figure I might as well relate my 9/11 tale as everyone with an outlet for their thoughts or writing is prone to do these days.

I was living in an apartment about 20 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. My job as a Customer Service Representative kept me at weird hours. I was working 10:00 am to 6:30 pm. My clock radio was set to go off just at 8:30 am just like every weekday. Somehow, I must have bumped the alarm switch over to radio instead of off because the seven minute snooze delay passed and the radio came to life while I was showering. After finishing, I distinctly heard voices in my apartment. I was still dating my wife at the time and thought she had come over and was watching television. I gave a couple "Hellos" before realizing what had happened. Since it was the morning radio show that I liked, anyways, I left it on while I changed. That's when I heard it. It was right after 9:00 am and one of the guys said a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I thought it to be a horrendous accident resulting in pilot or mechanical error.

I switched off the radio and headed into the living room to watch the news on CNN. Sure enough, there was the footage of the plane going into the tower. What I didn't realize was that I was watching footage of the second plane hitting and from the angle of the camera, I didn't know the first plane had already hit. At this point, I had still chalked it up to an accident. The crawl told me otherwise as I began to read that it was the second plane. My heart sank. "This was no accident." I thought. Realizing I had been standing there for a half hour, I hurried up and got my ass to work.

By now, I had forgone my normal morning radio station in favor of one that broadcast The Howard Stern show. After all, he was in New York City at the time. With one eye on the road and another in the air, reports started coming in about more planes. I remember thinking it was a rather beautiful day. The sky was so clear and blue. On any other day, I might not have noticed how perfect the weather was or even cared. Today, it was noted and has been forever remembered.

Sometime around 9:30 am and the news of the Pentagon being hit just came over the radio. I was in utter shock. How was this happening? Should I continue going to work? Do I need to make preparations for a war? What are we doing to combat this? All these thoughts raced in my mind while each one of us on that highway drove along a little slower listening to how this all unfolded.

I got to work and began my shift just as Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA. Now, it was truly real. When it was New York and the Pentagon there was a feeling of just being a spectator. But when we heard that a plane crashed less than an hour away, by car, from where we were sitting, it took on a whole new meaning. Again, more reports about more planes being hijacked. It was hard to tell which information was real, rumor, or just someone hearing the same story in a different way. In between phone calls I kept trying to get information from the Internet but most news sites were being crashed by the influx of people hitting the sites. In one of the conference rooms, someone had put the projector on CNN and we watched in shifts on a big screen.

I hadn't heard from any of my family or even from my girlfriend by the time the second tower had fallen. Not that I really worried about them. Although, with unconfirmed reports about exactly how many planes had been hijacked and the fact that they had gone from hitting specific buildings to just crashing in fields I began to wonder when the next crash would occur. The day seemed to go in slow motion. I still couldn't get anyone on the phone because of everyone being on the phones. Later I found out my girlfriend was fine. She had been student teaching at a nearby elementary school and they were in lock a down. Parents couldn't even come get their kids and there was a blackout of information in an effort to shield the children from the horrors. My wife tells me that she told people that they should have this on for them. This is a tragedy and it affects us all. These kids need to know that we are not safe, right now.

After work, we both sat in my apartment and just became numb from watching the news coverage. It was at this point that I felt my worst. For whatever reason, whether it be the need to feel something either more horrific or less, I expected there to be more attacks. I thought this was an all out war. It seems rather morbid but I felt like there should have been more destruction and I almost wanted it in a sense. Not that I wanted more people to die, but it was like there should have been more crashes. We decided to take a break and walked outside my apartment. It was dark, now. Usually, when we would look up at the sky, we would see all kinds of air traffic. Being 20 minutes South East of Pittsburgh lent itself to being a thruway for planes on their way into Pittsburgh International Airport. But that moment, the sky was for lack of a better word, silent. The air did not have that familiar sound of jets. There were no little blinking lights with vapor trails streaming across the sky. There was an empty pit where my stomach was and I didn't know how to feel.

As the days came and went, I couldn't seem to get enough news coverage. As they found another survivor or a body in the rubble I wept no matter what. As life began to resemble some form of normalcy I kept waiting for more. Where was it? It was such a sudden attack and then nothing. Why haven't we found these people, yet? As more and more information came out and the complexity of this plan was revealed to the nation, I was in shock. This had been in the works for awhile and I didn't know it. That clip of Mohamed Atta walking through airport security on an endless loop burned into my mind.

Suddenly, that pit in my stomach became filled. It was filled with anger over what had happened. We were attacked. Someone came into our country, hijacked our planes, and killed our friends and family with them. I was all for retaliation at that point. I was an advocate for the use of extreme prejudice against these terrorists and their organization. I was realizing why I wouldn't be a good military man or President. My emotions were ruling in place of good judgement.

Don't get me wrong, I still feel anger and bitterness every year. I still get choked up and nearly breakdown every September, thinking about all the families that lost someone in the attacks. I still can't believe after seven years we still haven't caught the man responsible for propagating these attacks. Sometimes I wish I could just go overseas and look for him myself. I don't want to join the military and fight. I just want to sneak in, find him, and bring him back for justice. Killing him would be too nice and might play into his beliefs. He deserves a lifetime of pain and suffering.

Since 2001, I've been to New York City and seen Ground Zero. With all the hustle and noise of the street, there is a pocket of silence that surrounds that place. I stood there and just wept. It was hard not to completely break down into sobs. I've been to Shanksville, too. It's a long drive and being in the country, the silence is even more pronounced. The wind whips along the field and takes your breath away every so often, which is rough when you have enough trouble breathing from the lump in your throat. It's a somber place and even more so because it's practically in my backyard.

With seven years behind us since that day, I wonder if I will be affected when there is 10 years gone or 20. When the invasion of Kuwait happened in 1991, we began living from news hour to news hour. The 24 hour news cycle was born. Since then, it's grown faster. Our attention span has dwindled to nothing and we absorb sound bites instead of articles. We scan and move on quicker as technology advances the playing field. In 20 years will we even remember what the day was like? The little things that stick in our mind may blend into a tableau of bits and pieces of information that we've committed to memory in order to answer the question, "Where were you?" And then I think we forget to ask the question, "Who were you before?"

9/11 changed the way we live, work, and play. You can't say certain things without coming under observation. Travelling is now a serious thing. Our beliefs have changed. Our trust in the system that is supposed to protect us has been tested. We are different people, now. Those of us with even the greatest of tolerance for those who do not share our views have had that moment where we felt afraid of someone who didn't look like us. We profile. We suspect. We jump to conclusions before all the facts are in place. We are our own 24 hour news cycle. We're more concerned about getting the results before we have a chance to check the facts. Part of it is our Attention Deficit Disorder and maybe part of it is trying to stop another tragedy before it can happen. Sort of an internal Minority Report version of pre-crime.

As we sit and reflect or visit and commemorate, ask yourself, "Who were you before 9/11?" The answer may surprise you when you think about who you are now.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On the Road Again

On occasion, usually once a year, I get the opportunity to do a little travelling for business. It's nothing fantastic but it is a nice little break from the office. The predominant reason for my travelling is for training that relates to my job. Here's a little compendium of recent travels for work and five tips that might help you avoid my pitfalls.

Tip #1 Think about your flight. Are you taking carryon luggage? You might not want to sit in the front row. You have to stow items in an overhead. If it’s a long flight, you might not want to sit in the back, either. You may find yourself with a bunch of people hovering in the aisle waiting for the bathroom. When you check in, take a look at the seat assignments. You may just find an empty row and be able to stretch out a bit.

Now, I am not a huge fan of flying. In fact I can count on Count Rugen's right hand how many times I've flown in my life. All, but two of those trips, occurred post 9-11. It's funny how much air travel has changed in the last seven years. I don't mean that in a way of saying that before 9-11 it was one way and now it is another. I mean that in the last seven years the concept of air travel and security has constantly changed. For one, I have to take my shoes off before I get on a plane. Two, unless I plan on only being somewhere for one day, I either have to pack every toiletry I have into the approved size bottles and hope that I have enough clothes so that I can fit my bag in the overhead, or I have to check a bag and have everything stuffed in there and hope it doesn't get lost en route. With that being said, I will give certain airports a lot of praise. They have done what they can to make the security procedures adequate and seamless. However, there are some places and some flights I'd rather not be on again in my lifetime.

Tip #2for the business traveler. Really decide if getting miles are worth crappy flights. I have a US Airways card and I try to fly with them when I can. However, they aren't the power house they once were. The new thing is Southwest and more than one person has told me to go with them. They offer better flight plans and roomier accommodations. However, I can't wear that revealing tank top I like because they say I'm inappropriately dressed.

At the end of August, I had to go to Nashville for business. With fuel prices and the entire country tightening the belt, travelling became a lot more ridiculous. I had to check one bag which cost me $15.00. I also had a lap top bag as a carry on item. I made the arrangements with our travel people trying to find the most economic and shortest flight. For some reason the major carrier, and coincidentally the one I get points with, did not have a direct flight to Nashville. On the trip down, I had a stop in Washington DC. Let me tell you, that was not fun. First off, the trip to DC was great. The cabin had only two seats on either side of the aisle and I ended up having an empty seat next to me. However, when we got to DC, everything changed. We got off the plane into the terminal and had no clue where to go. Our connecting gate was not clearly marked on the directory maps. Next, we had to take a shuttle. We had to walk down this really awkward and bouncy set of steps down onto the tarmac to load into the shuttle. We then travelled about 500 yards to another terminal. Then we sat for an hour waiting to board our flight. During that time I heard several loud speaker announcements which were intelligible. I would consider Reagan International Airport to be a somewhat high profile and busy place. One would expect a certain level of quality that goes with a major metropolitan airport as opposed to say, Elmira Regional Airport in upstate New York. For the life of me I could not understand what people were saying.

Finally, we began boarding. We were directed down a set of escalators and onto another shuttle bus which took us around the perimeter of the airport terminal. There was a lot of broken concrete in the area. It was a little reminiscent of that scene in Aliens where the marines are driving into the colonists compound. It showed the same sense of desolation and disrepair. After getting to our destination, I realized I was not going to be happy. We were sitting in the middle of a runway. We actually boarded a little plane on the runway. My coworker, who is by her own admission, freakishly tall, hit her head on the ceiling of the cabin. Again, I thought it was going to be a nice trip because I had an empty seat next to me. That idea became short lived as this little stick thin girl came be bopping along and climbed into the seat next to me. Then, came the wait. We sat on the runway for a half hour waiting. It turned out that we were travelling with a group of special needs adults and one of the wheelchair bound members had somehow scraped their elbow while being unloaded from the shuttle. Now, we needed to wait for paramedics to come out to the runway to check him out, clearing him for flight. A half hour later, we were all loaded. The hour and a half flight was one of the most uncomfortable I had ever been on before. This tiny twig of a girl next to me seemed to take up so much space and I spent the trip hanging over my arm rest into the aisle continually being bumped by the flight attendants.

The trip home was just as bad. This time we had a similar plane flying from Nashville to Philadelphia. I thought my luck had changed because I managed to have a seat to myself. That was until the guy in front of me realized he was in the wrong seat. Turns out, so was I. We were in each other's seat and he wanted to change. So, while he got to sit by himself, I was forced to sit next to a guy reading the paper taking up the center arm rest and some of my seat. Again, I was stuck hanging over the arm rest for the hour and a half flight to Philadelphia. Philadelphia International was pretty easy to figure out, but man was it packed. There were a lot of lines for everything and I skipped lunch and just sat in my seat for two hours waiting for my connecting flight back to Pittsburgh. Now we had to deal with Andrew. To describe Andrew you have to remember Bill Cosby's comic bit about flying to California with little Jeffrey who was four years old. Andrew was much the same age and temperament. He ran back and forth through the chairs at the gate and bothered anyone who was sitting near the window. His mother was totally ineffective at keeping control of him and several times he wandered into the busy midway. The more she said his name, the more I was pissed at her. I kept thinking, "Go get your kid. Tell him to sit down and not move." When he did sit, he would constantly ask if it was time to go, "Is it now? Is it now? Now? Now?" While it was annoying, I have the ability to block these things out and not show any disgust. What was more annoying was the level of frustration that was mounting on my coworker seated next to me. I could see the vein start to protrude and steam was coming out of her ears.

When we did, finally get to board, I had the front seat which gave me great leg room, however, my laptop had to go into an overhead storage bin about five rows back. I was seated next to another person, but the ability to stretch out made it easier to get comfortable. Unfortunately, when we landed, everyone was on their feet and in the aisle. I couldn't get out of my seat because of the line forming, let alone get back to the compartment with my laptop. A little miffed, I just told a guy, who made eye contact with me, to open the bin above him and grab the bag in the middle. Hopefully, I would be done flying for a little while. That was the equivalent to about four trips worth of disgust.

Now, once I'm where I need to be, I like to get into a nice hotel and get situated. I'm the kind of guy that likes to get to my room, unpack what I need to and prepare everything for the next day, so that I can just go to bed without worrying if I need to have something ironed or if I suddenly realize that I forgot something. I've been fortunate to be able to travel a day ahead of my schedule, giving me the evening to get acclimated to time changes and geography. A lot of times, I will get in, get settled, and then meet up with my fellow travelers for dinner. Afterwards, if the option is available, I'll make a note of where I need to be in order to maximize my sleeping and morning preparation. It sounds rather organized and I'm usually a fly by the seat of my pants type of person when I'm home but in another state where I am at the mercy of public transportation or lengthy trips home, I'd rather be prepared than suffer.

Hotels can be neat or scary depending on your perspective. I've worked in the hotel industry and even done a stint for some extra hours on the clock helping out housekeeping by stripping rooms. Believe me when I say, there is no five second rule, even on an unmade bed. If you do any travelling which puts you in a hotel, I suggest watching those reports on television where they check out hotel cleanliness. It doesn't matter if it's a Five Star Rated Resort or a No Tell Motel on the side of the interstate, germs are not a discriminating species. I've been in some pretty scary places in the past. I've also been in some small places.

In 2006, I took a flight from Pittsburgh to New York. I checked one bag and took no carryon luggage. Everything went smoothly and all was fine. We caught a taxi from the airport and arrived at our hotel. Have you've ever seen those old Warner Brothers cartoons where Bugs Bunny or another character live in an area that gets overdeveloped and they are left with their little rabbit hole or home in the middle of a bunch of high rises. Yeah, that's what this hotel looked like. We had the option of a few different places but at nearly $300 a night we wanted to be good kids and try to be a cheap date.

Tip #3 for the business traveler. If the company is paying for it, go with something a little more than cheap. While, I'm the first person to yell about corporate spending being out of hand when it comes to depriving the little guy of benefits and the ability to stay ahead of the cost of living. If tithe big boys are going to fly first class and stay in a five star resort, the least I can have is a clean room with a king bed and a view.

First off, we go to check in and I'm standing there with two guys who have normal everyday sounding American names. I'm the only idiot with an ethnic name. Yet, Zamir and Nabil (I'm not making this stuff up folks) couldn't get the American names out without having to sound it out. They came to my name and it rolled off their tongue like it was Brad Pitt. After the hooked on phonics lesson, we went up to our rooms. Each of us opened our doors and fell into the room, tripping over the corner of the bed. I thought it would be nice to see what kind of view I had, so I opened the blinds and there I was staring at a brick wall. All those New York City dwelling clichés were being rung up with every new discovery. I had no dresser so I stood my luggage up on the stand and just worked out of there. I could stand outside the bathroom to wash my hands. This was going to be fun. In all, the trip wasn't bad. I ate good, got to see a little of the town, walking everywhere. I probably lost three pounds just from walking.

They usually rent this room out to a blind dude

Walls in room may be closer than they appear.
Later that year, we had to fly to San Jose, which was a five hour direct flight. I didn't mind having a direct flight, but it was a bit long. Anyways, once we landed we managed to circle the block five times before finding out that our hotel had been bought by another company and had already changed the sign out front. Now, this place was cool. It was a Holiday Inn of all places. It was only a two story complex right next to Highway 101, which in my mind screams motel, but it was built around a courtyard with a beautiful Spanish style theme. The rooms were very nice, although the bathrooms were dated in the sense that they had a pocket door instead of a regular door.
Build a little bird house in your lobby.

Cool Courtyard

Wouldn't it be love-a-lee?
In 2007, we travelled to Denver for more training and stayed in the Double Tree. If you get a chance stay there. First off, they give you a big chocolate chip cookie, which is nice. The rooms were great and the view of the mountains in the background was awesome. By far the nicest hotel I stayed in was the Embassy Suites in Niagara Falls for my honeymoon. We had mentioned that we were on our honeymoon and they bumped us up to a junior VP suite with a fantastic view and gave us free valet service. In November, they must not get that much business, so they figured on just being nice. Our room was a two room suite with a living room in the front, a bathroom with Jacuzzi tub with a window directly above it. If you opened it up, you got a fantastic view of the Falls. It also had an electric fireplace. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Being in different cities like Niagara Falls, Denver, San Jose, or Nashville, you pretty much have to drive everywhere. I will say, that I have not had a major problem finding my way around different cities, but sometimes directions can be confusing and if you don’t know the area, you may find that landmarks have changed or road work conditions can hinder your progress, greatly.

Tip #4 Before leaving or if you have the capabilities after you arrive, print out some directions to your destinations. I try to carry a bunch of different turn by turn directions so that I can plan any activity based on time and effort needed to arrive.

I had just recently got a new phone and as a promotion I was given a month free of a navigational device which uses your phone as a starting point. I highly recommend using it, because it really helped me out a few times. Call your provider and tell them that you are going on a trip and want to test drive it and they may be possibly just give you a free month in hopes that you will keep it.

Now that you have directions, let’s go eat. This is probably my favorite part of a business trip. I go out to eat about two or three times a week but it’s never any place glamorous. When I’m travelling, it’s no holds barred. I will get the occasional McDonald’s or other fast food if lunch is not provided, but with the company buying and most people abusing the privilege, I don’t feel too bad going to a steakhouse or a Cheesecake Factory one time. In fact, my usual ritual for going out is to hit a Cheesecake Factory and a Hard Rock Café in every city I travel to. Hard Rock’s are a trendy, touristy place. They’re different everywhere you go, so you’re experience is never the same whenever you go to a new one. I’ve been to seven so far and from my experience the best has been New York City. It is also the biggest, in my mind next to Denver and Myrtle Beach, respectively. Niagara Falls and Nashville appear to be the smallest in size with San Francisco somewhere in the middle of them all. Nashville is set up to have its gift shop across the parking lot in a different building. Myrtle Beach is the most exotic, having an Egyptian theme. The restaurant is built inside a pyramid. Pittsburgh is one of the disappointments, unfortunately. While it is very nice inside, there is a lot of wasted space and it doesn’t have that same Hard Rock feel as the others.

Tip #5 Plan out some good places to go eat. Do a search online and check reviews. Remember, unless you’ve been there before, you never know what you might be getting into. Big name franchises are usually a safe bet, however, you may miss out on a diamond in the rough. Also, make sure you check out the expected manner of dress. You are on the road and don’t have the option of pulling out a good set of clothes if you didn’t already pack them.

On our New York trip we wanted to find a little place to unwind after all the walking we did. Next to our hotel was a bar called Desmond’s but we don’t really understand soccer or rugby the way some do. We stuck out like a sore thumb and thought it would be wise to not make a scene as the dumb looking tourist in the wrong place. Instead we ended up drinking at a ESPN Zone or a big name eatery. That can get expensive. So, we hit the streets in search of a friendly little pub. Unfortunately, it appeared that a lot of bars in Manhattan required three forms of ID, a blood test, and a reference from Donald Trump. Thinking we were going to be out of luck, I suddenly came up with an idea. Instead of looking, let’s just ask someone. Let’s find a normal everyday guy, like us, and ask him where he would go drink. I spotted a doorman in front of a high rise and asked him where three guys in jeans could get a drink. He said, “Head down the street and turn left.” We followed his directions and wound up at a little place called Mulligan’s. We walked in and knew we had made the right decision. For the Manhattan Cosmopolitan and Appletini scene, I’m sure it was considered a dive. But to us, it was a diamond in the rough. U2 was playing in the background. People of all ages were sitting around just relaxing. Great place. I highly recommend it if you can find it. I know it’s somewhere in the vicinity of the Empire State Building and Times Square, if that helps.

That’s all I got for you, today, intrepid travelers. All I can say is that develop a system and things can go really smooth for you. If you are a laid back kind of person that doesn’t put much thought into it, that’s fine, too. Just remember, towels on the floor are going to be taken, and to make the trip go a little better, imagine the flight attendants doing their safety spiel to a techno rhythm. That always makes me smile.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The 50 Greatest High Schoolers On Film. Part Five: 1-10

At last, the final ten are here. In no particular order, I give you the number one high schooler on film in each of the categories.

10: Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valanis) from Hoosiers
Jimmy Chitwood sort of comes out of nowhere. After sitting most of the season out, distraught over the death of his coach. However, without Jimmy, there would be no coach Dale to lead the team to victory and there would be no game winning shot by Jimmy in the end. Showing up at a town meeting on whether to keep Coach Dale, he announces that he wants to play with one caveat. "Coach stays, I play. He goes, I go." With that, the Cinderella story of Hickory High is set in motion as the action comes down to a single play, like most great sports films. Jimmy is set up to be a decoy while Merle is supposed to take the shot. Jimmy eyes the dismay in the faces of his team and boldly states, "I'll make it." Guess what happens? While the character is based on Bobby Plump, the dramatic license is evident as details were changed to give the final game a little more oomph. Not that it really needed it, the true story of Milan High School that inspired Hoosiers was a thrilling tale that came down to Bobby Plump scoring the winning basket putting Milan up 32-30 in the end.

Babes9: Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) from Fast Times at Ridgemont

Linda Barret, by the pool, has got to be one of the greatest masturbatory fantasies of all time, next to Jamie Lee Curtis in Trading Places. Now, while that is not why she is on the list at the number one spot, it certainly helps. The scene has been parodied numerous times and according to the DVD extras, a lot of video stores reported tracking errors during that scene. In addition the scene teaching Stacy how to fellate a carrot is classic. Her only downfall is not knowing to knock on the bathroom door before entering. Totally awesome. Totally awesome. Alright Hamilton.

Studs8: Jim Stark (James Dean) from Rebel Without a Cause
Jim finds himself confused and out of place in his new surroundings. He finds it hard to exist in between his quarrelling parents. In fact his sense of betrayal by his father's lack of courage to stand up to his mother worsens his unrest. The smoldering containment on his powder keg persona only adds to his studliness and he breaks you heart shouting "Your words are tearing me apart." He befriends the loner and misunderstood Plato, offering up his jacket and plays house with him and Judy acting as the absent father to Plato while fulfilling his own dreams of being proud of a father figure. It's really tragic that it takes the death of Plato, wearing Jim's jacket, for Jim's father to realize his need to be a man. It could have been Jim that was shot and Mr. Stark would have had his son die thinking of him as a coward.

Nerds7: Lucas (Corey Haim) from Lucas
Corey Haim has a hit with as much frequency as the locusts appearing and this was one of his few gems among the duds of Fast Getaway, Body Shots, and Dream a Little Dream 2. Lucas is one of those nerds that just doesn't get why he is a nerd. He falls for and tries to win the heart of Maggie, a pretty older girl, who ultimately ends up with Cappie, our number 4 Jock. Lucas does his best to try and dissuade Maggie from the well known, popular crowd. He claims to live in a huge house when in actuality, he cuts their lawn. He calls cheerleading "superficial", knowing that being drawn into that world will kill his association with her. He attempts to steal a kiss while listening to the symphony from underneath a bridge. Yet, the reality is that Lucas is still the nerd. He joins the football team which is seen as a joke. He's terrorized by the jocks, he loses the girl he pines for, and gets pummelled in his attempt to prove himself on the football team. But it wouldn't be an 80's movie if the nerd didn't come out on top. It also wouldn't be an 80's movie without a slow clap that leads to all out applause signifying victory.

6: The Heathers (Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, and Kim Walker) from Heathers
It is often said in times of imminent decimation that it is better to be at the right hand of the devil than in his path. Veronica's inclusion into the titular clique of Heather's is just that. Kill or be killed. In high school, social death lasts a lifetime. She doesn't like them. In fact, in some sick and twisted world, she thinks they deserve to die a horrible death in and out of the high school scene. She just doesn't admit it, to everyone besides her boyfriend, J.D. Intimidating and mean spirited, the Heather's bully such students as Marth "Dumptruck" Dunnstock and Betty Finn. While only one Heather (Chandler) actually dies, the damage is done. They are now more popular than ever yet Heather McNamara attempts suicide, falling victim to the strategy that if you kill the leader, the followers will be lost. Meanwhile, Heather Duke seizes the opportunity to take over command of the clique showing her true bitch colors.

Bad Asses
5: Jason 'JD' Dean (Christian Slater) from Heathers
Bad asses can be considered good or bad. While the previous four were on the side of right, number one on the list is as bad as it gets. His lust for violent justice against those he deems too socially sick to coexist in this world might stem from seeing his mom blown up in a building demolition at the hands of his dad. Well, maybe he's just a complete psychotic f@#k, instead. Either way, JD's manipulative nature gets the better of Veronica. He's like a Faustian allegory come to life in high school. He rides in like James Dean but is more like the Angel of Death in disguise. He plots to kill the Heathers as vengeance for all those they smite. It doesn't matter that the punishment doesn't fit the crime. He is judge, jury, and executioner of the law he says proclaims, "The only place different social types can genuinely get along with each other is in heaven." Prolific, in a sick and twisted manner. Since the Heathers are merely a mouthpiece to the problem, his final solution is to just blow up the school in a show of suicidal solidarity. He manages to get most of the student body to sign a petition declaring their mutual disgust for society and plan to die together in a suicide pact. Ironically, everyone thought they were signing a petition to get a popular band to play the school with their big hit, Suicide. Don't do it. It is only fitting that he commits suicide by his own treachery freeing everyone to live in this world as they are, hopefully inspiring change. Whether Veronica decides to do just that after usurping the role as head Heather, or Veronica, is left to be seen. Perhaps, we will find out in the sequel, Heathers 2: Electric Boogaloo

4: Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) from The Karate Kid
and Greg Tolan from Just One of the Guys

You had to know it was coming. The greatest bully that ever walked a high school or swept a leg is the one, the only Billy Zabka. At some point during the 80's, the film Gods came down unto Hollywood and shone a light onto Billy's head which told producers and casting agents that he was their man. Was he ever. He and the Cobra Kai tortured Daniel LaRusso throughout that film. In the beginning, Daniel brings his YMCA East Coast Offense while Johnny Lawrence brings the West Coast version in the form of the mostly unethical and downright vicious style of his Vietnam Vet sensei, John Kreese. From thereafter, at every chance, the Cobra Kai give Daniel chase until after a horrendous beating, Mr. Miyagi intervenes and sets up a more civilized and controlled fight in the form of a karate tournament. Of course, we know in the end, Johnny has to go down, but as far as bullies go, he's still a follower and even though he thinks he can beat Daniel, he listens to his sensei and tries to further disable Daniel during the final match. What you don't know about Johnny Lawrence is that immediately after his defeat, he shamefully retreats to another school in LA and poses as bully, Greg Tolan, picking on those without martial arts training. Unfortunately, things go horribly askew. Again, his girlfriend leaves him, he gets attacked by someone who looks very similar to Daniel LaRusso, but is actually a girl, and gets beat up at the prom. He reluctantly returns to the tournament and is nearly beaten up by his sensei for losing the tournament. No one really knows what happened to Johnny after high school. Some say he went to Grand Lakes University and continued to try and bully those around him while being the star of the swim team. We do know that he was punched once and didn't retaliate. Today, he's an Oscar nominated filmmaker.

Freaks and Geeks
3: Farmer Ted AKA "The Geek" (Anthony Michael Hall) from Sixteen Candles
Of course, the number one Geek has to be "The Geek." Anthony Michael Hall is the quintessential geek and king of the dipshits. You see, nerds don't lead, per se. Geek's love being in charge, clearly when the have no reason to be in that position. But, a Geek can still get the girl without changing his ways. A nerd usually has to rise above his oppressor's in some outlandish fashion. Farmer Ted busts onto the scene in full geek regalia trying to hit on Samantha during the bus ride home. He then pursues her at the dance that night leading to a heartfelt shop talk about men and missed birthdays. Now, Ted pulls a nerd move in securing Samantha's underwear in order to boost his social status among the undesirables, but yet his geeky cocksure attitude moves him to crash Jake's party ending in him being trapped under a glass table while his wing men get taken home by brutes and carefully left on the curb. Don't worry though, he shows up later toting drunk and unconscious Caroline, Jake Ryan's (Number 2 Stud) girlfriend in exchange for Samantha's panties. He gets the girl by default, even though he did do the deed in the back of Mr. Ryan's luxury car. The Geek shall inherit the Earth, let it be written.

Dead and Undead2: David (Kiefer Sutherland) from The Lost Boys
Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire. It's also fun to be the Number One Dead High Schooler on Film. While, I am not sure completely sure David ever went to high school, being that Kiefer Sutherland was only 21 at the time of the movie's release, I'll accept that he could have been in high school. I'm the one making the list, so deal with it. As the numero uno dead guy, David was sadly only number two on the vampire totem pole. He was, however, responsible for getting Michael Emerson, Starr, and Laddie to be half vampires. Also, his legacy lives on in the sequel as had fed off of Shane at the bonfire making him the head of the Tribe. Oddly enough, Angus Sutherland is Kiefer's half brother in real life, too. He also makes an appearance in the comic series, The Lost Boys: Reign of the Frogs. Sadly, he appears to bite it, no pun intended, at the end when Michael goes toe to toe with him, impaling him on a set of Grandpa's antlers in his taxidermy workshop. It's sad really, because a little known fact is that David had been considering getting his GED and attending night classes at Santa Clare Community College. You don't know. It could be true.

Slackers1: Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) from Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Just before the final bell rings on the first day of senior year, we are introduced to Jeff Spicoli, hotboxing in a Microbus. That's pretty much Spicoli in a nutshell. "No worries, mon." His philosophy on life is that all he needs are "some tasty waves and a cool buzz." Well, that and some pizza delivered right to class. Unfortunately, math was not his strong suit or he would have ordered enough for everyone in class since he had to share. His nemesis is the disgruntled teacher, Mr. Hand who pretty much holds the keys to his graduation in his hand. He actually makes Spicoli late for prom by giving him an impromptu history lesson, proclaiming that Spicoli will probably "squeak by." Among his most awesome moments are wrecking Jefferson's car and coming to the realization that, "People on 'ludes should never drive." Fortunately, his dad is a television repairman with an ultimate set of tools. Sometime in the future he manages to save Brooke Shields from drowning and blows the reward money on having Van Halen play his birthday party. How awesome is that for the number one slacker? Totally awesome.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The 50 Greatest High Schoolers On Film. Part Four: 11-20

Oooooh! I can almost feel it. We're getting there. Just 20 awesome teenagers left.


20: Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) from The Breakfast ClubAndrew reported to Saturday detention, a product of his jock status. Like the other characters that live in John Hughes' universe, he was there for being what Vernon thought he was, a jock that follows the jock pack. His crime was taping Larry Lester's buns together. In some ways he did it for his team and his old man. Never being able to make decisions for himself. He was a sad case study in allowing cliques and high school politics decide who you are and who you can hang out with at school. Almost wishing a knee injury would permanently end his high school wrestling career. After that what would be next, college wrestling? Who gets the accolades, him or his old man? While originally he as ashamed to be in detention with the likes of the others, at 4:00 pm he took that one step towards being the person instead of the athlete when he turned his eyes towards Ally Sheedy's basket case.


19: Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) from American PieAmerican Pie offered up little more than an updated version of every80's teen sex romp to come down the pastel pipeline. When Jim has the chance to try and seduce the sexy and well proportioned foreign exchange student, Nadia, his delivery is typical of every teen from Pee Wee Morris to Seth. However, we must not overlook the hottness factor of Shannon Elizabeth's Nadia. The fact that she doesn't want a jock like Aus or aprick like Stiffler only adds to her appeal. The fact that she sprawls herself across Jim's bed naked and takes to her own devices to pass the time lands her in the number 2 babe of all high schoolers.


18: Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) from Sixteen CandlesJake Ryan is one of those few on screen studs that never gets the chance to woo you like he could. We are given no previous background other than he's rich and bored with his blond bombshell girlfriend, Caroline, exploiting their status as the "Power Couple" to maintain reign over the student body. We could have used some more interaction with Ted to give us a little more depth to his wanting to be with Samantha after watching his girl self destruct at his latest soiree. Still, he takes on Ted as a friend and even allows him a shot at his girl. He also comes to save Samantha from one of the most bizarre weddings complete with remembrance of her titular cake candle count. Bravo, Jake. Bravo! You are a stud. Yeah, Dat You!

17: Duckie (Jon Cryer) from Pretty In PinkIn terms of nerds Duckie isn't so much a nerd as he is just a hopeless sidekick.He pines for Molly Ringwald and has little to offer her in the same way that Andrew McCarthy can. His manner of dress and his choice of hair styles leaves little room for studliness. But, in our own way we all love Duckie and probably at one time was The Duck Man.
16: Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) from Cruel IntentionsShe plots to ruin a young and innocent Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon.) She uses sex as a weapon to get Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillipe) to do her dirty work. She helps Cecile Caldwell (Selma Blair) learn how to French Kiss! If it weren't for all the scandalous gossip and back stabbing, Kathryn might have made it onto our list as a babe. But the teen adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses gives Sarah Michelle Gellar a chance to take her Emmy winning turn as the daughter of Erica Kane to a whole new level of bitchiness.
Bad Asses
15: John Bender (Judd Nelson) from The Breakfast ClubAs the resident thug and low life, John Bender poses little more threat than a bad case of the flu. But, when you think you've got him figured out he either shows you a little more heart or sinks to a new level of depravity brought on by cigarette burns and bad family Christmas experiences. The fact that he offers to take the fall for the rest of his "Breakfast Club" by staging an impromptu basketball game to distract Vernon from the jail break shows a little of his soft side. When he pulls a switchblade on Andrew and gives you his rendition of a night at the Bender's, you know he's for real. To think the bad boy can end up with the "princess" is seen as more of a benefit to privileged Claire than it is to improve his image. Bender must keep his tough guy persona among his friends and if there were to be a sequel to The Breakfast Club, where Bender and Claire end up together, you can only imagine the changes she would have made to his everyday life. The kind of changes that would drive you crazy.
14 Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) from Back To the FutureBiff captures all the necessary qualities needed for the number two bully . He's big, ugly, and dumb. He's also committed to his craft. On day one of Calvin Klein's stay at Hill Valley High in 1955, Biff nearly comes to blows with the alter ego of Marty McFly. When he's not giving junior a hard time, he's dishing out enough for Marty's future father, George. Oddly enough, the climax, which involves George McFly standing up to Biff, securing Marty's existence doesn't leave Biff a shattered and destitute man. In the beginning we see Biff in a horrible suit, having to borrow George's truck for whatever reason. While George and his family's status slides to the other end of the economic class, Biff seems to be sporting a better wardrobe while waxing the McFly's car. As it plays out in the sequel, he even owns his own detailing business. Not bad for a bully.
Freaks and Geeks
13: Napolean Dynamite (Jon Heder) from, duh, Napolean Dynamite...gosh are you stupid?As far as the socially inept are concerned, Napolean is their king riding atop a Liger, displaying kick ass illegal ninja moves banned by the government. While, technically in the nerd family, Napolean's freakish looks derived from his use of Moon Boots and Afro hairstyle are only complimented by his geekish ways of dangling action figures from bus windows and proclaiming victory in tether ball. Still, his awesome Jamiroquai dance moves keeps him separate placed into this category and not in full nerd mode.
Dead and Undead
12: Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) from Dead Poets' SocietyAlthough Neil is alive for pretty much the entire film, his death resonates all the way back to the opening as Keating has Neil read the introduction to their textbook, Understanding Poetry. Neil is a tragic character in that he would rather be dead than submit to the unrealistic expectations of a his military mentality father. It's an ironic twist that Neil plays Robin Goodfellow, a mischievous faerie, which is in direct contrast to his organized and serious father. At the end, the students, now being taught by the headmaster after Keating's termination, are forced to read that same paragraph that Neil read in the beginning. The feelings of remorse over the death of their friend and Keating's leaving springs the students into action. Standing upon their desks, they cry out "O, Captain! My Captain." While the life lessons were learned by all the class, Neil embodies the greatest lesson of Keating, Carpe diem. Thank you, Neil. Thank you.
11: Ferris Beuller (Matthew Broderick) from Ferris Beuller's Day OffFor those of you ready to topple your computer upside down and go Wild Bunch on me for not placing Mr. Beuller anywhere in the top 10, remember this. Each category has five total students. Ferris is simply the number two Slacker of all time, not the the 11th. That being said, Ferris pulls of one of the all time greatest, if not implausible, feats of ditchery. He reduces his sick days from nine, gets his girlfriend out of class with the ole dead grandmother routine, cons his best friend into letting him borrow his Dad's Ferrari, gets seated in a posh restaurant posing as the sausage King of Chicago, catches a foul ball at a Cubs' game, lip syncs Wayne Newton and the Beatles in a parade, all while dodging the principal. Not a bad days work for the number two slacker.

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