Review This

Oftentimes, on the last day of the year, newspapers, TV shows, websites, etc, all have a review of the major events of the year, or occasionally you’ll get a reflection about the passage of time, reverence for the past, hope for the future, that sort of thing. I have done it myself. I thought about the year of 2004, and realized that the most remarkable thing about it for me, was its *relative* unremarkablity. There were three very significant events:
– Kevin and Amanda had a son, Kilian, in April
– My grandma, Bettie Bock, passed away on August 31
– Just days later, my cousins Sarah & Dan had a son, Jake

These were the major things — the ones that will mark 2004 in my memory. Other than those, I’m quite happy to report that after the better part of three years being spent in flux, I can say the following things about myself:
– I have been living in this apartment for six months now, and I have no plans to move for at least six more.
– Early next month, I will mark my 1-year anniversary working back at the Financial Aid Office, and that’s the first time I’ve had the same job for 12 months since 2001.
– Everything on the horizon points to a perfectly agreeable and worry-free 2005.

My best to you and all those close to you in the New Year.

Recap, Etc.

I said to myself yesterday when I got to work, “I should blog,” but I didn’t feel up to it. It was a long but enjoyable weekend, I wish I would’ve had Monday off, to be honest. I’m looking forward to eventually having a job where one actually accrues “vacation,” cuz then I’ll be able to (theoretically) take these useless Days of Christmas off.

So yeah, Mom and Dad stayed over on the 23rd, that was nice. We had a late dinner at Brooklyn Grill, where I locked the keys in the car. Mom has the triple-A, though, so shortly after we got done eating, the car was open again. No harm, no foul on that front.

We left for Milwaukee around 11 on the 24th, and so we arrived at Jen & Joe’s in advance of the Packers-Vikings? game. That was a helluva contest, no? Quite an enjoyable game, and when we got down to the 2-minute warning, Dad, Joe and I had reasoned that if it went to OT, we would have to forego 5:30 church and go to midnight mass instead. Thank goodness Mike Tice is a moron (and a moron who has a job for at least another year, which delights Packers fans across the midwest). Grandma, Uncle Dave, and Adam came over for the game as well, and Joe’s mom, Kathy, went with us to church and hung out for the evening as well. Nice ‘Eve’ in general.

On the 25th, we opened some gifts, everyone gave and received adequately, then we stopped over to the Saffords before heading to Mukwonago for the Bock X-Mas? shindig. That event was kind of a blur for me — it seemed like we weren’t there that long, and I didn’t get a chance to talk to everybody, but I did get my turn to hold my little 2nd cousin Jake, who looks exactly like his mom, or exactly like his dad, depending on who you ask when. Aaron brought some fabulous beer from Capital Brewery, whose wares I had not sampled previously, and Dan and I decided we should go up north for ice fishing next month.

Boxing Day we went over to Grandma Markowski’s house, and I thought it was kind of funny that for the first time that I can remember, we all sat together in the basement watching some of the Bizarro Packers-Vikings? Game: whereas the premium matchup on Christmas Eve decided the NFC North champion, Sunday’s game between the Bears and Lions would settle the question of the division’s biggest loser. That turned out to be Chicago, although they got seriously hosed on a touchdown call in the game’s waning moments, so that debate may not be so cut-and-dried. Something else that day that I found to be hilarious: Uncle Dave and Grandma bought me the same pair of gloves at Kohl’s. Now I have a spare.

On Sunday night, back at Jen & Joe’s, the 6 of us played Jen’s new DVD-based trivia game, “SceneIt?” Everyone else assumed that I would dominate the game with my vast wealth of useless movie knowledge, and as it turns out, they were right. It was a fun game, though. Dad even knew a few answers, and humored us all by staying awake for two full games.

I ended up staying over one extra night and then calling in to work on Monday morning. I arrived back at my desk @ 10:45. I think I’ll probably work another couple hours on Thursday to make up the difference. Or I might not, depends how I feel after tomorrow. I’m gonna guess “bored out of my skull.”

After the NFL weekend, my playoff tree encountered a few very minor changes, most notably, the unexpected Green Bay victory in Minnesota leading to a playoff contest @ Lambeau.

Good Day, and Welcome, To Day 12

First of all, check out this fantastically humorous story that I read off the AP wire.

Today I’m at work just until noon, which, y’know, is nice, with the, uh… all the work I have to do. I’m gonna go home later for the Classic Tidying-Up? Trifecta: laundry dishes floor. Should be fun; Mom and Dad are getting in at 8, so I also need to pick someplace to go for food after they arrive. Or I guess I could pick something up. I dunno. We’ll see. What do you think?

I told Knitt I would copy a CD for him and then I forgot to bring the damn thing to work today. Ah well. Maybe he’ll still be around when I get home from work later.

Not a lot to report today, other than wishes for the season, since it seems unlikely that I’ll blog again until 12/27… kinda wish I could come up with something substantial and important to say, but… might have to save those sentiments for the year-end recap.

Oh, I guess I do have two things:
1) I watched Alias for the first time last night (thanks to Knitt) and got kind of pissed when I realized that I once wrote a character that is basically just a middle-aged, male version of Sidney Bristow.

2) It was a couple years ago I filled out the NFL Playoff Tree week to week. Sorry that I offer no explanation/justification. At this point, I just let the season and history speak for me. Here’s what I’m thinking this year:

The Continuing Drudgery & Some Forgotten Weekend Excitement

So I sat down today at my desk and promptly got up to make coffee. The morning’s snow removal delayed my arrival by about 12 minutes, which, in light of the amount of business that happens at the university over the holidays, didn’t mean shit.

I thought of something else that I should’ve asked for for Christmas this morning, and isn’t that always the way? People start (appropriately) badgering each other around Thanksgiving for gift ideas, and at that point, I’m consistently drawing a blank. Maybe I should start seriously contemplating the holiday buying season on Labor Day.

I talked to Schneidie this morning (or rather relayed a few emails back and forth) and got word that Tom Elko is returning to the midwest. I’m anxious to talk to Tom and get the low-down from him. Tom owns a record label, and this reminded me of the weekend’s story that I forgot to tell.

So Joe and I went to the Admirals game on Friday. After the game, we went to meet his brother Steve out at Ambassador, and to have a smoke. I did have a very nice pipe at the bar there, although that fact is relatively inconsequential with regard to the story.

We’re sitting there, and the bar is sparsely peopled, and if you’ve been to Ambassador with any of us, you know that bringing in some music (in the form of a CD) is a fairly common practice. I had just purchased a record called “O” by Damien Rice, because I really liked the song “The Blower’s Daughter,” featured in the movie Closer. I liked the CD a lot, and asked Becky (the bartender) if she would play it.

Well there was this pair of older women (and I mean that relatively; they looked to be in a 44-52 range, agewise) seated at my left, and I think the one closest to me might’ve misunderstood when I asked Becky, “You wanna play my CD?” The older woman almost immediately asked, “This is your CD? This is you singing?” Of course I said no, because I would never presume to take on the identity of a successful recording artist (which I am not). Instead, I told her I produced the record.

Now of course, we have all told innocent white lies, especially in taverns or clubs or the like, most often in the interest of making ourselves seem bigger, or smaller, or simpler, or more complex, but always, alwaysalways, more interesting. Why would I say that I was a record producer? Because I know that having the job of producing records, even if it is not cool, SOUNDS COOL. Why am I telling this to a woman who, strictly from an age disparity standpoint, could be my mother? Well the answer to that is simple: “Why not?” I get to feel cool for a few minutes because I’ve become a record producer without having done any of the work associated with producing records, and she gets to feel cool for a few minutes because she talked to someone at a bar with a cool, interesting job.

What I did not anticipate in saying, “Yeah, I produced this,” are two facts which will immediately make me, the successful producer of a record which has a single in a hit motion picture, look, and, more importantly, feel like a gigantic ass.
1. This woman has an 18-year-old nephew who is an amateur recording artist.
2. This woman’s nephew recently recorded a song that he wrote for his uncle, her brother, WHO DIED IN COMBAT IN FALLUJA, and the song was played for the first time at this soldier’s funeral.

What followed I’m sure you can predict, since you are probably an American, and hence, you have probably seem a sitcom in the past 30 years. Oh yes, she definitely had a copy of the nephew’s CD right here, and could I listen to it, and of course I can, I’m a record producer, I can tell her what I think of the song, definitely, and yes, it is good, I’m not just saying that, no, believe it or not, people don’t ask me to do this all the time, and the thing is, it’s a fantastic story — the nephew, the brother, the Army, the war, all that stuff, and I’d love to take the CD with me, because even if it’s not exactly something I, Mr. Record Producer, would be interested in, the good news is that I have several Record Producer Friends, and it might be up the alley of one of them, so thank you. Yes, I’ll definitely take your email address. Nono, I’ll just get in touch with you.

In retrospect, the thing I regard as thoroughly amazing is that Becky, who knows me and knows what I do, stood behind the bar during this entire exchange and did not call me on my fib, so I probably owe her for that. Morally, I decided that I would need to forward this boy’s CD on to someone I know who has actual contact with the recording industry, and the only one I know like that is one Thomas P. Elko.

My only hope is that he’s still in the business, because otherwise I’m going to hell for sure.

Grades Are Up, and All Is Well

Whoo dog — the apparently perfect planning for Fall 2004 has culminated in decisive victory for The Bocko:
(here was once a picture of my two A’s)

So now that that item is released from my brain, I can focus completely on the holiday season and finalizing plans for the Global New Year’s Extravaganza.

This past weekend I was in MKE for the Admirals-Wolves? tilt @ the B.C. on Friday night. Joe and I sat in the third row off the ice, only 15 bucks, and I thought you really can’t complain about that — pro hockey is pro hockey, even if it is AHL. On Saturday, I helped Joe clean out the garage and put up some Christmas lights before going to a graduation party for one of his co-workers. The party was @ Kelly’s Bleachers in Milwaukee. There were a LOT of jock-looking men there. I mean a LOT. We played darts and Golden Tee w/ Lefty.

In case you were wondering: the Packers still suck, and they’re gonna suck their way into the playoffs, where they will suck adequately to be quickly dispatched from the post-season. The defense is abyssmal, and by ‘abyssmal’ I mean they need to get rid of everybody but Grady Jackson, Nick Barnett, and Darren Sharper. It’s almost depressing that the offense is light-years ahead of the other hosers, cuz that gives us the fans this perpetual glimmer of hope. If the Eagles don’t win the NFC, I’ll be surprised.

I still need wrapping paper.

Mom and Dad are going to stay over @ my place on Thursday night, then we all travel together to MKE on Friday. I should try to have some food around the house or something when they get there.

Oh, another in my series of brief and minature holiday season movie reviews:
Ocean’s Twelve is spectacularly entertaining, despite having a markedly inferior script to the earlier film. As I said to Lorch and Wordell (and anyone else who asked) I could watch Steve Soderbergh direct this cast as these characters taking a two-hour Greyhound bus trip and be entertained. If you are looking for a good time @ the movies, give this one a shot.

If you have wireless internet on your handheld, did you know that my page renders beautifully?

I looked at my earnings statement from last week, thought about how much money the Feds have taken out all year long, and panicked thinking it didn’t seem like enough. I looked myself up on last year’s tax table, though, and figure to be in good shape. Getting the earned income credit again this year would kick ass. Unfortunately, I know just about nothing about how it works, and so I just write in the numbers that the lady on the telefile tells me to put in there, then I go “WHOO-HOO!” when I get a refund.

Petters has come to agree with me that when you’re a single guy looking for a nice single woman, two criteria you should shoot for are:
1) attractive
2) doctor and/or lawyer

OK, I guess that’s about it.

Frighteningly Painless

The more I think about it, the more I want to say that this semester was simply an aberration. Somehow, I managed to take two courses at once whose workload I found to be extraordinarily manageable, and by that I mean I didn’t have to go the library at all this term.

Neither course included a research writing project, which is consistently the item that causes the greatest frustration for me in post-secondary education. The spring promises no such fortune. In an independent study, I mean to take research upon myself, and in Charlie Hill’s class, there will certainly be a large paper at one point or another. I think I’m prepared, especially after this (relative) vacation of a fall.

Over the weekend, I did a few different things. Friday night, the Financial Aid Office had its Christmas party at the home of our assistant director, Mike White. Mike started back in October, and has relocated from Ann Arbor, MI. His house is awesome. He says it’s especially neat to have furniture now.

After that event ended, Knitt and I took a ride to see Closer up in Appleton. I enjoyed it. The reviews you’re hearing are accurate – it’s a movie for grown-ups. It is a disturbing, real-feeling story of the pain of relationships. Joe and I agreed that we felt pretty bad after it was over. I think going to movies should be like that from time to time. I also think that you should buy Napoleon Dynamite when it comes out on DVD.

Saturday, I spent the daytime hours cleaning the apartment and poring over some poetry revisions.

Sonofabitch, I need wrapping paper.

Yeah, so that’s what I did during the day Saturday, and late in the evening, I went bowling with Lorch and Jamie. They had karaoke at the bar there, so I wowed the patrons with some favorites from the J.A. Bock Karaoke Catalog: “Just a Gigolo,” “Piano Man,” and, catering to the crowd, I closed with “Friends in Low Places.” I was a big enough hit that one girl wanted to sing with me (but she couldn’t find the song she wanted) and another drunk townie wanted to go home with me. At that point, we evacuated.

Sunday I worked on some more homework, and I also had a bunch of people over for the Packers game. Knitt, Lorch/Jamie, Dave Schrubbe and the Poquettes all came over. I fed them popcorn and pizza. I thought for sure when the Pack was down 13-0 at halftime, they were going to get beat at home (again) by the Lions of all teams, who had never beaten Favre at Lambeau. It was nice to see them pull out the victory, but at the same time, it’s unfortunate from a fan’s standpoint to know your team will be in the postseason and get spanked by one of the elite teams in the conference. Ah, well.

Speaking of sports and no pain, did you see the Crew send three guys out of town in the past week? Michael Hunt, a columnist for the Journal-Sentinel?, put it in perspective for me this morning when he basically said, “Hey, check it out: the Brewers plucked these two guys off the scrap heap and turned them into trade bait. Not bad.” Not bad indeed. With the Bucks season in full force now, it’s time to start asking, “How long ’til spring training?”

Some States of Affairs

I was out at my local Target store on Thursday for some holiday shopping and the like. I browsed the DVD section of the store, and came to a startling conclusion:
You no longer need to watch TV at all, ever.

Get rid of your cable, get rid of your satellite, forget the whole thing.

Everything you could ever want to watch on TV is now almost instantaneously available on DVD. At the most, you’re looking at a wait of one calendar year from a given show’s “season premiere” until you can catch the whole thing in its entirety, with no commercials, no delays between episodes, and all at whatever time you like. This realization led me to a question:
Is it actually more cost-effective to buy TV shows by the season on DVD, rather than paying for a cable package?

Figure your average individual watches 4 television shows religiously; that is to say, every week, you sit down and you tune in to see your favorite characters’ latest exploits. Let’s say two of them are an hour long, two are half an hour. That’s three hours of TV that you definitely watch every week, and you pay your cable company to provide programming for 168 hours a week.

Let’s say you pay your cable provider about 45 dollars a month for your average basic package, which would include your local network affiliates, and “basic” cable channels. At 45/month, you’re paying about 1.50 a day, which breaks down to just under 7 cents an hour. (Puts it in perspective for those of you who’ve worked in customer service, because I could tell you stories about some nutjobs calling up to get refunded for their cable being out for an hour-point-five. “Certainly, we can do that for you sir, I’ll credit your account the 12 cents.” That usually shuts ’em up.)

So at 7 cents an hour, and 165 hours a week that you DON’T watch TV, that’s 10.31 a week that you’re paying to have the TV turned off. During the summer, just about everything is in re-runs, so you don’t need to watch then, and so that’s basically 135 bucks down the shitter, and when all is said and done, 135 plus 10.31 a week for 40 weeks, this average person is pissing away 550 bucks a year on TV that’s not being watched.

Now, TV on DVD varies in cost, of course. An average season of a half-hour sitcom is probably going to run between 30 and 45 dollars, and you get 20-26 episodes. We’ll guesstimate on the high end, so at that rate you’re paying about 1.74 per episode, and at 24 minutes per episode, around 8 cents a minute.

The hour-long shows are generally gonna be more pricey, in the 50-80 range, and again at the high end, you’re looking at 3.08 per episode for 26, and 45 minutes per episode, you get about 7 cents a minute. So, on average, you can get the same TV you would’ve watched on cable, at 7.5 cents per minute, 3 hours a week for 40 weeks, and after you account for the commercials, you’re down to 138 minutes, and that’s 42 minutes you’re not getting back, so bottom line:
45 + 45 + 80 + 80 = 250.

You can see the same TV you would’ve watched DURING AN ENIRE CALENDAR YEAR for 250 bucks. Now, I know you’re going to have some questions, and I think I’ve already answered them:

“What about news? News doesn’t come out on DVD…”
You got the Internet? All the news you need is on the web. And if you don’t have high-speed, guess what? All that money you’re going to be saving on TV, you can afford it.

“What about the Packers???”
Go to a bar. Or go to the home of friend who’s dumb enough to pay for TV.

Worst-case scenario in both instances: bite the one-time bullet, put up an old-fashioned antenna on top of your house, pull local news and sports down from the air.

It’s over, man. Stop paying for the TV.