Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's up with that?

Death. It's something that's been on my mind lately. My Grandma has been battling cancer for less than a year now and it is finally taking over. She had radiation and chemotherapy and when you're in your mid 80's it takes a lot longer to heal mentality and physically. She went through two stages of the treatment and now she's caught pneumonia, which will ultimately be the cause of her death. Now why my Grandmother got treated with radiation and chemotherapy, at the age of 85 is beyond me. I'm disappointed with the doctors and how they handled the situation. As a simple layman I don't know the full situation - or have the privy to understand an oncologist's decision tree when it comes to viable treatments - I'm just a bystander. I AM also not sure if my grandparents were swayed to make the decision, but paying for treatments that cost over $50,000 to have a 1 in 20th chance of survival at the age of 85? REGARDLESS, my Grandma had the final say on the matter and she made a decision to say fuck you to cancer and I will always appreciate how she confronted it with such conviction. One day, I hope to be fearless like that. My Grandma was and is a fighter: beating cancer before and giving an earnest effort to beat it now. But, this process and the last couple of months have just seemed like a legal way of assisted suicide. You may not agree with me at all. I don't condemn that. Each situation is different and our direct and indirect battles with illness shape our opinions and who we are.

Maybe this problem/debate stems from the fact that people in today's modern society, at their core, feel that doctors have all the answers. That there is always a cure or at least a chance for survival. We all want to hear that. But, at what point does an action not justify its means. Frankly, in my opinion, it can be summed up by the auditing principle of materiality. In other words, does the economic cost outweigh the economic benefit. It's a tough debate and the world isn't perfect. I'm just a little upset right now, as one can tell. If one want a deeper analysis into this, check out this documentary and it might help to uncover what might incentive people to treat an 85 with terminal cancer throughout their entire body.

For most of my teenage years, as a young adult, and through all of the shit that is happening now, death has been on my mind. It's not one of those things I grapple with day in and day out. And in doing so, it opens up another can of worms such as what is the meaning of life and all that good stuff. No no, it doesn't haunt me. It just bubbles to the surface when I hear about horrific deaths, people being cut short of living fruitful lives, and/or the thought of losing someone close to me. Death is something that I cannot define, and when I try and define it, it's so elusive that my definitions have changed throughout all stages of my life. It's one of those weird attributes of human life that is certainly going to be with you and around you. How we define death is like trying to define love. If you ask a 5 year about love (about loving their blanket or teddybear) it's going to be immensely different from answer you get from a 70 year old (about devotion to their spouse, about loving their children/grandchildren unconditionally). It's important to understand that each will explain love with a strong conviction and certainty no one can deny. No one has a right to tell them they are wrong. And even if they are in one's eyes, they aren't.

Same with death. It's the equalizer that doesn't seem to equate to what we think it should be. Knowing that we have a finite time on Earth with our friends and family is hard to comprehend and therefore it isn't given much attention until it's too late. It's hard for me, especially surrounding the relationship I have with my parents. When I was younger they were enforcers. When I was in high school and college they were enablers. Now, as I grow older, they are some of my closest friends. The hard thing is dealing with knowing that you have a limited time with them. The same goes for my brother and sister. For me, when I first went off to college, it was hard to come to the realization that I had lived with my parents for 18 years and then with my siblings for 15 of them. And now after college, I'm in Minneapolis. Still close to Milwaukee, but by all means not across the street or down the hall in our house. I think there is something to be said how different developed nations are from undeveloped nations and the mentality we have towards family life. When we deem the time is right, we move away from living in a nuclear family setting to create our own, to be independent, to make careers, to explore our own desires. While that is fantastic and unique, I just don't know how healthy it is. It causes people to grow apart unless they are dedicated to one another. It's a phenomenon that I just can't wrap my brain around.

Call me hypocritical. It's just hard to reify something like that. Connections between a family can be so indicative of one's innermost nature. It's just hard to break the bonds, let along the togetherness of a singular unit. Now, I'm blessed with a fantastic family and I know that ia not the case for everyone. Even if that is the case, it is hard to say that different personalities in your own household when we were growing up did not shape the person you are today. Even if they are in the smallest capacity today, who knows. Twenty years from now, those small characteristics might blossom and define the person you are or strive to be. They may be the highlights in your own legacy.

Ranting and raving. That's what this blogging thing is all about, I guess. I just wanted to make people question it more and appreciate the fortunate lives we are all given. I'm not trying to be sentimental. I'm just trying to figure out the relationship we all have with death and furthermore the meaning of life. This is a philosophical question that I've tried to read/learn about for myself. Whether it be texts such as Tuesdays with MorrieDeath of Ivan Ilych, or Myth of Sisyphus.

It's hard to wrap my head around it. I would just like to know of it and to see if there is something beyond it. Is nirvana possible, is there a heaven, is there a Shangri-La? But as anyone tries to decipher any of these questions, it's important to genuinely appreciate our relationships and the time we spend with people. In doing so, maybe I just answered all those questions right there. Maybe not.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Caffé Espresso: A Green Bay Gem

I noticed while in college many of my fellow students never thought too highly of the greater Green Bay, WI dining options. Outside of your standard Texas Roadhouse, Noodles and Company, Olive Garden and Applebee's (if you've been to Applebee's you've also been to Chili's and T.G.I. Friday's), I doubt many people, even those from Green Bay, know of some of the phenomenal places to dine. You have to converse with locals to usually find these places. However, I can recall one Green Bay native once telling me their favorite place in GB to grab drinks was Applebee's, and I couldn't believe they admitted that self-belittling fact -- I felt embarrassed for them. I mean, I guess I moderately understand what they are saying; I refuse to ever go to Applebee's again unless I'm inappropriately intoxicated. Regardless, Green Bay has a few establishments I can recommend.

Believe it or not, Downtown GB holds some found-in-a-diaper-gold eateries. Outside of the high and low bar scene, cleverly weaved around crap joints like Kittner's and amazing places like St. Berndan's Inn, there is my favorite restaurant of the city -- Caffé Espresso.

I was introduced to Caffé Espresso by my father, and since then I never turn down an opportunity to step into the restaurant's doors. If you are looking for a good cup of coffee, solid alcohol beverages, a fantastic meal or just a place to have a conversation; check Caffé Espresso out. When I interned only a few blocks away I tried to make a weekly trip there. I'm still astounded such an establishment exists next to the poopy country bar, Stir-Ups.

Caffé Espresso draws an extremely diverse crowd along with with an unbeatable, unique experience between a "let your hair down" atmosphere and a supper club setting. The dark and jazzy lighting throughout the small bar/lounge and dining area has a Dinkytown presence.

I have trouble recommending what to get for food, since I've never had anything there I didn't love. My personal favorites are the impressive CCQ and Sicilian Steak Sandwich. The first time I had that sandwich I didn't realize food could taste that good. Nonetheless, Caffé Espresso's menu has assorted Greek and Mexican options -- all extraordinary amazing. Price range? I would say you could get a full meal for roughly $13.00 (including meal and coffee). Not cheap but nothing outrageous. In addition, for those of you into coffee-liquor drinks - prepare to be blown away.

I'm not knocking on you haters who live for Red Robin or Subway, but I want to introduce people to a privately owned, well-run and underrated place to eat. Like many, I'm big into the counter culture businesses. Caffé Espresso is my favorite place to court girls on dates, catch up with a friend or conduct some business logistics. Hit it up!

Their website --

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Weather in Minneapolis

The weather here in Minneapolis has been unseasonably warm the past couple of days. It's been misting on and off tonight and it really is beginning to feel like Mother Nature is just being a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing. I was in Green Bay last weekend and it was much of the same. It's got the feel of a string of spring days that rise up and overpower the winter weather with gusto. But, alas it's just the beginning of winter and before things get better they have to get worse. The agony and deceit - Mother Nature, you B.

If you're located anywhere in the upper midwest and looking for a reliable source for getting a good guesstimate on how much snow a winter storm might bring I use For me, the highlight of the site is the forecast graphic.

I just wish it snowed already, because Mother Nature's gimmicks are getting the better of me.  If there is one thing I'm looking forward to with the snow that is coming sooner or later - it is skiing.


-Gossip Girl

Monday, December 12, 2011

Retail Shoppers Are A Strange Breed

If a cultural anthropologist has never done a case study on retail shoppers, I highly suggest they should. I recently took a trip to the Bay Park Square Mall in Green Bay, WI before I headed into work. Other than being slightly stir-crazy at home, I'm not sure why I went. I obviously didn't have enough money to purchase anything, but perhaps I enjoyed pretending I was interested in buying a cruddy cell phone case or a picture with Santa. And let me set the floor straight - Bay Park is not the greatest shopping mall. If you compare it to what you find in Chicago, Milwaukee or Minneapolis, it's very average. Bay Park Square has your basic shops but is quite small, which actually works in favor of many of the stereotypical but often true and embarrassing shoppers from Green Bay. Due to the mall's small setting, the fat and lethargic thrive in this building. It's only a three minute electric scooter trip from A&W to Payless Shoes!

So, I walked in, saw a man spit on the ground, and I proceeded to browse the stores. After roughly 15 minutes, I had enough but wanted to grab food before I left and decided to go eat in the sticky, packed and loud cafeteria. However, somewhere in-between Mrs. Field's Cookies, the obscene number of single mothers, Hot Topic and outrageous amount of un-bathed people, I lost hope for humanity. Witnessing the 50+ year-old man wiping down tables and the fully uniformed mall cops meandering around the teenagers making-out by Gloria Jean's made me fairly depressed. Was this going to be me someday if I don't get my act together? Cleaning after sloppy eaters and telling tweens to stop kissing? Regardless, you should all try seeing it from the other end -- the worker's end.

75% of the individuals who walk into where I work are mindless people with no idea what they are looking to buy. I'm convinced the florescent lighting and overhead music creates a dream-like state for these people. I should get paid extra for every time I ask a costumer if I can grab a shoe size for them, they respond with, "Oh, no. I'm not buying anything today. Just browsing your selection," I go to do another task or help someone else for a few minutes and the same person comes up to me holding a shoe and says, "Where did you go? I wanted to try a bunch of these on." That story is tame in comparison to others I can tell you.

You'd be shocked how enraged people are when an item isn't in stock or how often customers don't believe me when I tell them we don't have a particular product in their size. I always offer to order the item for them or have it transferred in, however, they don't listen. Take this conversation for example:

Me: I'm sorry, sir. We only have displays for the football cleats in colors and have all the sizes only in black. However, I can size-up your son with the same shoe in black and then we can special order the specific size and color for no extra cost.
Customer Fart: So, you don't have that in a size 10 in the yellow?
Me: No, sir. But like I said, I'd be happy to figure out your son's size and order the cleat for you. You don't have to buy it either, we will order it in regardless so he can try it on. That's how Nike (or any brand) wanted to do it.
Customer Fart: Well, what about that one? (he points to the same cleat but in blue)
Me: Um, no, like I said, those are just displays, we order in the colors and sizes.
Customer Fart: Well, I mean..We really want that yellow one right now...

This conversation will continue you for another 5-10 minutes as he implies they REALLY want a size 10 in the yellow, as if I'm hiding it in the back from him in a secret vault. The customer is just waiting for me to say. "Ohhh, so you DID hear about the secret shoe vault in the back! Alright, since you know about the vault, I'll go grab that size 10 in the yellow for you!"

I had another customer grab me as a walked buy to ask for the price on a backpack:

Me: All the backpacks are $59.99.
Customer Diaper: What?? $59.99?? Do you people realize what economical times we are in??
(I wanted to say, "Sir, I have a college degree, and I'm working in retail. I'm very aware.")

What concerns me the most is how worked up, angry and confused customers are regarding merchandise. I question what some customer's lives are like when they are excessively calling and coming into the store looking for a size medium in a specific sock, which I have explained we don't get in -- this has been going on for over a month now with a married couple.

I had one customer who I went and grabbed a shoe for, but when I returned he looked outrageously baffled. Hand on face, mumbling to himself, eyebrows flexed in disbelief..

Me: Is something wrong, sir? I have that pair of shoes for you.
(The gentleman begins to try to speak but nearly nothing comes out. I wait a few moments and he eventually says...)
Customer Poopyface: Why would....I mean, you have...You have two shoes up here...and they are the same???
Me: Oh, yes. We have to keep all the spots on the wall filled, and in order to keep it full it's usually necessary to have duplicates on display.
(Honestly, a standard question we get, but never has someone been this concerned about it before...)
Customer Poopyface: But, I mean, WHY would you have TWO of the same shoes up here?? (as we throws his hands in the air)
(I wanted to respond with, "You know, I explained why, but I can go get you an Advil and you can sit down for a bit if you need to, okay?"

I could rant off story after story of these happenings. These people and their mind-sets are outrageous. For a person to go into a store wanting an obscure item, being fairly aware we won't have the product and then proceeding to yell at me over not having it is fairly ridiculous. Employees are not hiding what you're looking for and they don't control the stock; all employees can do is facilitate the product that is in stock with the customers. These unpleasant customers go hand-in-hand with the shoppers who spend four hours in our store, the people who are waiting to get in at 9 a.m. to purchase roller blades on a Monday and the other individuals who come to the shoe department to ask me about the hunting rifles.

People's IQs drop the instant they step into retail stores. Don't believe me? On my way out of the Bay Park Square Mall I noticed a man painfully deciding on what gumball to purchase from the machines with his wife.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

FYI - Podcast might be coming soon

Steve and I might be doing phone calls with each other, recording them and then posting them on the blog. We're still figuring out the logistics but we hope to do it soon. The purpose being just talking about random stuff and then letting other people listen. If it goes well we might have 3-way calling or Steve and I talk with other people besides just talking to each other.

Hopefully it will be more successful than our freshman year at St. Norbert where we were kicked off the school radio indefinitely.

More to come.

Shane Smith: Vice Magazine

If you haven't heard of Shane Smith, you should definitely check him out. Put it simply, he's a wild guy that is an amazing story teller, two things that are rarely found running alongside each other in the world today. He got on my radar when my buddy Marcus told me about his Vice Guide to Travel on Netflix (not sure if it is still up on streaming). If it is still up on streaming I would definitely check out his Liberia visit. It's pretty eye-opening.

There is a great article in the New York Times about him dealing with aging and it gives a quick snapshot into his world. He's like the evil twin of Richard Branson, instead of doing wild stuff for himself, he does video journalism on wild things that mainstream media can't touch (or doesn't want to). Great journalist that brings absolutely shocking stories to the surface in a really unique and raw way.

Here's the article:

Also, he was recently on Joe Rogan's podcast. Rogan really enjoyed his talk with him and if you follow Joe Rogan's podcasts, you know its good when Joe Rogan is totally engrossed with the guest (I was too).

Podcast download found here:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Some things on TV I like and dislike

I try to watch as much TV as possible. I don't really like those individuals who say, "Oh, well I don't really watch TV," or, "My family doesn't watch very much TV," because those people aren't being honest. Whenever I confront a person who says a false statement along those lines I respond with, "Oh, well my family watches A LOT of TV. It's ALWAYS on. We try to have a TV in every room of the house." With that being said, there have been some things on television I've either really liked recently or have been unnecessarily angry about. Take a look, kids....

The Lady from the Target 2day Sale Commercials
Evaluation: Terrible.
It troubles me what market of people these commercials appeal to. I'm even more bothered by the fact these commercials were ran and approved by high members of Target's advertising group. You would think any normal person in on that board meeting would view one of those commercials and say, "Uh, hey, this is really bad." The lady is extremely annoying, not funny and only furthers my hate for Black Friday shopping. Ideally I never see her again.

Joe Buck and Troy Toy
Evaluation: High Level of Hate
Perhaps the worst sports casting duo in recent history, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman need to be split up and have their casting careers ended. For whatever reason, they undoubtedly don't like the Green Bay Packers. Troy has looked for every way to not compliment a Packer QB since Favre -- as if praising another quarterback would take away from his career. In addition, Joe Buck simply sucks and leaves nothing on the table in terms of professional analysis. But don't forget, the team is complemented by the useless Pam Oliver on the sidelines. Her involvement makes me curious who's granddaughter she was to get that job. Regardless, Buck and Troy Toy should never cover a Green Bay game again; it's what's best for everyone.

Above the Influence Commercial of Girl Throwing-up Pictures and Trophies
Evaluation: Hilarious, love it.
These commercials are always a personal favorite. The creators have been filling me with smiles and laughter for years. In a recent one, there is a girl at a party who runs into the bathroom and begins to vomit out frames of herself and friends, awards and other objects into the toilet. It's pretty great. I continually can count on Above the Influence to get me in a good mood before I go out.

WLUK Fox 11's Good Day Wisconsin
Evaluation: Embarrassing
When I catch glimpses of this broadcast in the morning I cringe. The show's personality talent and topics display the low quality TV news expected by a Green Bay, WI market. If a staff member of a New York news team ever witnesses this show they will be in shock, because the show is embarrassing for me as a citizen of Wisconsin. Good Day Wisconsin is painful to view. In an early morning haze, I'm sometimes not sure if what I'm watching is real. Every individual on the show has an over inflated view of themselves and is under qualified in what they do. Pete Petoniak, their big bad weather man, acts as one of the morning hosts with Rachel Manek. Their conversations are so awkward a woman could miscarry a child. Take a watch tomorrow morning and if the first words out of Angela Kelly's annoying mouth from the field are not, "Hi, guys!" I will buy you a hot dog. The issue is these three anchors are trying to be morning hosts for entertainment when they should stick to the little they are mildly good at - reporting news and weather, not commenting or creating conversation. In addition, the entire station talks with a "sing-song" tone to EVERYTHING. Listen to NPR, Fox 11 staff, they never do this. And Don't even get me started on sports reporter Drew Smith...

Justin Bieber Perfume Commercials
Evaluation: Stop it.
I was sick over the last few days, and I had the displeasure of viewing one of Justin Bieber's Someday perfume commercials. Obviously I was extremely upset after it was over. However, I kind of want to buy this for a lot of girls I know and see if they ever use it. When they don't I'll keep asking, "Hey! How's that perfume?? Do you like it?? Ugh, it just turns me on when I smell it!" Please stop it, Bieber. I don't dislike you, I just don't really want to have to see or hear you at all anymore. Can't we replace him with an older child star like the vampire kid from the Munsters? Now that's how you sell a product.

New Seasons of Dexter and The Walking Dead
Evaluation: Amazing.
Not much to say. I'm a big fan. Dexter to me is Sex and the City to almost any girl. The Walking Dead is really good too, not as good as Dexter, but still a fun show to watch. I didn't know you could create a drama based off of zombies so good. Thanks, AMC.

Golden Corral Chocolate Fondue Advertisement
Evaluation: Gross.
Nothing sounds most disgusting to me than sharing fondue with a crowd of people at Golden Corral. Can you imagine the types of individuals sticking their dirty hands in that and double-dipping? Based off of how sticky the salt shakers are there, I'm not going near that thing.

ITT Tech Commercials
Evaluation: No more, please.
These just need to stop. I hate them. The stories they tell don't make me feel very good. Almost every time ITT Tech tells a story about a minority citizen who now has an entry-level job after working at Golden Corral for 9 years (better than me I guess...) Then they show the wife and she says something like, "Before, we were going pay check to pay check, and now we do okay." I'm done with these.

Regular Show - Cartoon Network
Evaluation: Good stuff.
Watch it, seriously. One of the better children cartoons I've seen in years. Seriously, watch it. Try this clip out for size -