You Should Be Watching Bob’s Burgers

While everyone else is raving about the events from last night’s Game of Thrones (I know, right, Oh Em Gee, Purple Wedding FTW!), I’d like to point to a show from last night that’s getting a bit less attention.

I’ve been super into Bob’s Burgers from the start.  I’d have gone as Louise last Halloween if the thought hadn’t occurred to me too late to find bunny ears.  Often I don’t find animated series until a full season is out and available and getting its due, but this time was different.  Already a fan of Archer, all I had to hear was Jon Benjamin and I was down.

One of the elements of the show that struck me from the first was the amazing family dynamic.  It’s in the first episode that Bob Belcher, the family patriarch, utters perhaps one of the best known lines from the show:

"Listen, you’re my children and I love you but you’re all terrible at what you do here and I feel like I should tell you, I’d fire all of you if I could."

"You’re terrible, you’re all terrible."  But Bob, an underachiever with great heart and a true passion for his work, is a supportive father and husband.  Of course, he has to mess up because why else would we watch, but more so than with many shows, I really love their family dynamic.

Last night’s episode managed to make the show salient for me a new ways, and revealed a constant thread throughout.

Bob’s Burgers is a sexually progressive and open show, and I don’t quite know how I’ve missed it so far.

In season one, episode 6 (“Sheesh! Cab, Bob?”), Bob moonlights as a taxi driver to give his eldest daughter Tina the birthday she deserves.  She’s a social awkward—her first words in the show are lamenting an itch crotch—tween turning teen but she’s intelligent, unique, and a super sweet older sister to Louise and Gene.  Linda, the matriarch, doesn’t have to push much to convince Bob that they need something special for her 13th birthday and so for weeks Bob drives a midnight cab and lives on 15 minute naps.

It’s sweet.

It also does wonders for how we see Bob.  He quickly realizes that most of his clientele are either gross—like toss your cookies in a cab and then run away gross—or they’re transgender sex workers.  Guess who he becomes friends with?  And, you know, often a show like this might have him connect with the sex workers only to drop them with the credits, but Marshmallow comes back several times over the series.  They’re still friends.  It’s pretty great.

Then there are the throwaway jokes from Gene, the middle child and only son, who often refers to himself as the pretty daughter, or to how he’ll grow up to be a confident woman.  Only they’re not really throwaway jokes, are they?  They’re frequent, and funny, and ever so slightly tinged with the fact that Gene is in the middle in many ways.  He certainly wants to connect with his siblings—the more traditionally masculine Louise and the boy/zombie-crazy Tina—but these jokes also feel genuine in a way.  They’re supposed to mess with Bob, but they do so only up to a point.  I’m not implying that Gene is gay or trans or anything.  He’s just a goober little boy right now, but Bob and the rest of the family accept him for who he is.

So long as he only says “beefcurtains” on his birthday.

These elements of the show have always been funny but they took on a greater meaning with last night’s episode.  “The Equestranauts” starts off like a straight parody of the often strange world of Bronies.  If you’re not sure what that is, I’ll wait here while you read this.  Very quickly, however, Bob jumps into this strange subculture—of which Tina is an unknowing participant; she thought the con was for all the fans, not just the adult men—to defend his daughter after she’s taken advantage of in a non-sexual, non-creepy way by one of the fans.

But the show is not content to write off all of the fans as loons.  The vast majority of the Equestranauts are fun, nice people who are into something a little outside the mainstream and they’re not judged for it.  Linda sees Bob in his horse costume and makes apparent references to an interest in pony play.  Louise, the youngest daughter, makes a comment about discovering a new kind of men (those who loves a young girl’s television program).  And though there are comments about the whole con being a little sexually awkward, Tina admits that’s part of the reason it’s in her wheelhouse.  She is a little sexually weird, as are all thirteen year olds.  Even if they weren’t, they might as well be.  What the hell is that new hair about?

What’s far more significant than a little strangeness is the open, safe environment that the con represents, not the cloistered strangeness of one of the participants.  He’s written off as the aberration, rather than indicative of the subculture as a whole.  For Bob and Bob’s Burgers, what is most important is love, acceptance, and inclusiveness.

There’s no need for judgment because everyone is interested in working together.  Sometimes, that just means getting the in-laws out of the house.  Other times, it means cementing their love for one another in novel ways.

Seriously, if you aren’t watching Bob’s Burgers, get on it.  Hilarious, forward looking, incredibly awkward.

How to Take a Break

I’ve hit a rough patch with the novel and as with all things writing, I’ve come here for my self-mediated therapy.  Here we go.

How does one know when to take a break.  To ensure that I’m always putting work in, whether I want to or not, I assign myself daily word counts.  I tell myself, often, that it’s ok to write the count only to delete it the next day.  Of course, I never do.  It’s hard to delete words I’ve written, even when they suck, so I usually archive them away to sit in a file that I’ll never open.  Might as well delete, but I don’t.

I write every day with infrequent and brief breaks at most.  Over Spring Break, I didn’t write anything and managed to get by without worrying about it much.  This past weekend, I did the same.  My lady and I needed some time out on the lake devoted to fun and one another, and we got it at the expense of a couple thousand words.  Again it felt good.

But when I sat down to write this morning I was all doubt.  I doubt often.  I read something recently that good writing is plagued by self-doubt, revision, deletion, and lots of feelings of inadequacy and wishes to give up.  Bad writing just requires typing.  It’s a nice thing to hear as someone who doubts their writing often, but this has been different.  For a few weeks, my doubts have extended beyond the chapter, and the character’s motivation, and the general plot out to the series itself, which I increasingly want to finish just so I can archive the whole thing as an experiment before moving on to something better.

So how does one separate the usual doubt and reticence, which ought to be met with renewed vigor, from the undeniable truth that this story or character or scene or whatever needs to be let alone, for a while if not indefinitely?

Care

One thing that seems to characterize the latter as distinct from the former is a lack of care, both for and about the subject at hand.  One alone, for instance a lack of emotion for the character you are writing or a lack of care about the devotion you’re giving to the story, is problematic enough but when coupled with the other is pretty fair evidence that you’re getting ready to spiral out of control and loss the work you’ve been pouring yourself into for ages.

Spontaneous Problem Solving

You have to worry, if you’re a plotter rather than a pure discovery writer, when you’re constantly having to save the story from your poor planning.  Lately, I’ve felt that not enough is going on in the story and I have to fight between the urge to push the envelope and the resulting clean up that necessitates.  When you create problems not central to the story you’re telling, for the sake of mixing things up, that can be a problem.  Then again, something a scene just needs some mixing.  Or a plot needs some random fussing.  Again, this is a fine line and probably different for everyone, but I like designing a plot as a solid framework and allowing the vines to embellish without overtaking the structure.  If the structure is struggling, beware.  If the foundation is cracking, fix and run away.  At least for a while.

Motivation

I’m far less certain about this one.  It may merely apply to my ilk.  I happen to think that, though will power is finite, you should general possess a consistent level of motivation and enthusiasm for telling a story.  If you need to write but never want to, that’s consistent.  If you look forward every day to working, again consistent.  It’s when you start to wobble, start to oscillate wildly, that you ought to be concerned.

Of course, we’re not machines, and you also have to be conscious of other circumstances that might be the root cause.  Poor drivers have a lot of accidents, there is no degree of separation from cause and effect there.  Drug addicts with severe anxiety don’t have a drug problem so much as a severe anxiety problem, treated improperly, so of course you have to be careful how you connect the dots.

So if it’s all subjective, how it it helpful?  I think that’s part of a process.  This is one of the reasons I like to write posts directed outward that are very much about what I’m experiencing.  The end result is, hopefully, as much for you as it is for me.  Watching and knowing yourself allows you to monitor major changes and what needs to be done to make a project of your life better, but we don’t do any of that in a vacuum.

Duh, I know, but platitudes and aphorisms are repeated for a reason.

How, then, does one take a break without disengaging?

This is a big concern for me.  I don’t ever want to take time off just because something isn’t working.  Struggle is important and helps on the process to learning from mistakes and bettering yourself and your process.  And my girlfriend pointed out this weekend that I’m of a strange mind that very much appreciates and prefers the European attitude towards time off and play while holding myself to a very American style of overwork and hard earned time off.  She says, and I believe, that we deserve time off by virtue of being thinking, breathing beings.  Easier applied to others than myself, though.

What form does the break take?  I’m inclined to perhaps spend more time researching while always keeping an eye out for mere procrastination.  In the past, I’ve let one project sit and worked on another, smaller one to clear the mind.  You can, and I do, keep an idea buffer for a list of interesting writing prompts.

Of course, it may be the case that none of these quite works for you.  Maybe none of these will help you get that struggling work back on it’s feet.  But maybe you look at Heinz 57 and think of the 56 earlier attempts that all amounted to practice.  Or the million light bulbs attempted before one worked and changes the very nature of evenings.

Maybe all of this is to say that there is always a positive light to shine on difficulties.  I’ve certainly been pretending this is the case for long enough, making sure that I always feel up to any task.  Some certainty that I can stand to the task is always a boon.

And so too is boredom.  Sometimes you just need to let an idea sit in the ether and if it doesn’t grow maybe that’s your answer.

Of course, I’m not there yet.  For now, I’m just in the torturous uncertainty in between, pretending to know more than I do because at least while I’m pretending, I know that the answer is somewhere in there, kicking around and waiting about 55 attempts to come forth with what I need to make the next step in the right direction.

work on something else, or allow wandering and hope for the boon that can be boredom.

Review: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

One of the first things to strike you is that AAGTLOE seemed to be equal parts a necessary task and a labor of love for the readers.
image
Writing down his experiences leading up to his first space flight, through his career as an astronaut, and through his retirement is as much for him as it is for us and its part of a life-long commitment to happiness and pursuing passions.  It’s really quite a fulfilling reason to write a memoir.
Col. Hadfield hasn’t been on my radar much longer than he’s likely been on many of yours.  Despite my affinity for NASA and manned space exploration, I knew nothing of him until shortly before he took command of the ISS for the 34 35 Expedition in 2012.  Since then I’ve counted the man first as admirable, then an inspiration, and final as a personal hero, though perhaps not for the obvious reasons.  Reading his book has only served to reinforce that.
AAGTLOE is laid out in three sections (before liftoff, during (and encompassing the 34 35 Expedition, and return to Earth).  It’s subsequently further broken into chapters on a theme.  Each chapter talks about some aspect of character that he privileges for making him happy, successful, and fulfilling in a job that had zero prospects for a young Canadian in the 1970s.
Over the course of the book, Col. Hadfield throws familiar aphorisms away entirely or else flips them on their heads to suggest that, contrary to popular belief, there is a lot of be gains from having an attitude, sweating the small stuff, aiming to be a zero, and always keeping in mind what will kill you next.  At first glance, these lessons seems to make more sense to an astronaut than an accountant or an IT professional, but only so if you’ve stopped reading Hadfield’s accessible and inspirational prose.  He is by no means a preeminent wordsmith, but the book is well written and consistently moving and motivating.
What shocked me most is how often I found myself in complete agreement with the author, sometimes despite coming at a problem from a completely different direction.  One might expect that in reading a work of non-fiction by a personal hero, the fear that in becoming human, he or she might cease to be this special entity you’ve made of them.  Instead, seeing all of the typical foibles and doubts and attitude and determination in Col. Hadfield only made him all the more impressive.
There is great merit in viewing every day as progress, rather than the slough you have to put yourself through in the possible pursuit of your dream.  And likewise, in hinging your happiness not on attaining some exceedingly difficult goal but rather on your diligent pursuit of the same.  When he suggest you should sweat the small stuff, the implications are overwhelming, until you realize that sweating these things means you never have to dread them.  When the worst arises, you’ve been long prepared.  Aiming to be a zero might seem pessimistic, but not once you see that aiming to be a top dog (what he calls a valuing adding plus one) is liable to make you seem an attention grabbing nothing (a value sucking minus one in Hadfield’s terms).  Suddenly, aiming to do no harm (being an observant zero) seems a lot better and the first step towards beings a real plus one.  In more common terms, shoot for the stars …
There was a moment around the halfway point when Col Hadfield once again managed to wrap into a single paragraph the import of preparedness in space flight, press tours, filial relation ships, marriage, and camaraderie that I was taken aback and comments—aloud but to myself—that this book was basically a whole guide to life.  The idiocy of that revelation, given the books title, hit me momentarily and hard, yet I felt more amused than embarrassed with myself.
In the epilogue, Hadfield refers to a time years earlier when he and a neighbor worked together to rip down the vestiges of two old docks linking their land to make one shared platform over the lake.  The job might have taken no more than two weeks for a professional, but the two spent the summer together—to their wives chagrin—tearing down the old and building up the newer, better dock.  It is among his proudest achievements for the teamwork, the planning, the execution, and above all else the utter gumption of claiming the problem for themselves and healing divided lands through friendship and determination.  If that one story cannot serve to illustration our own effects over how we view our lives, our success, and the world writ large, I don’t know what can.

Colorado Trip

I love mountains. Adore them. Among my dreams for the future is building and living in a cabin at the base of or up in the mountains, preferably in the Pacific Northwest.  I have never really been to the Pacific Northwest.

Until last week, I had never climbed a mountain.

On Sunday, March 9th, my friend and I set off on a roadtrip to Colorado.  Neither of us had ever been.  When I started planning the trip, I didn’t realize that my friend had never been on a multi-state roadtrip with friends, so from the get go the whole thing was an adventure.

So I stopped planning.  I asked not+entirely for some highlights and they were really helpful once we got there, but besides a couple of vague ideas and a hotel for night one, I didn’t plan anything.  We didn’t even know when we were coming back.

This is completely atypical for me and it could not have gone better.

Sunday was 15 hours of nonstop driving.  We got on the road around 7 and drove straight through with one two stops.  I’ve done this plenty, my buddy had not.  The first half of the drive, because I live in the middle of the second largest state, was monotonous but in the panhandle, we finally hit the upstate windfarms and had some pretties to look at.  Then a few more in New Mexico, and a whole lot more around the CO border.  It was a gorgeous drive.

When we got to Denver, we were pooped and in dire need of some rest.

Day 1:

First thing in any new city, I have to find the good coffee and boy did I.  Purple Door Coffee was awesome and the staff could not have been more friendly. 

image

image

For that matter, no one we interacted with in the whole damn state could have been more friendly.  The baristas gave us more ideas for the day than we could have possibly covered.  After a durn fine cup of joe, we headed to an old factory that has since been retrofitted into an indoor market.  I give you, The Source:

image

And inside:

image

A taqueria, coffeeshop, grocery, liquor store, bank, bar, produce stand, butcher, baker, and firehouse pizza place (that that order, left to right).  Comida, the taqueria, had the best green sauce I’ve ever had and we had the sous prepare a quart to take home.  I wonder if there is any left in the fridge… Highly recommend.

But let’s speed this up.  Day one was euphoric, the start of vacation, and we got a little smashed and lost our car in downtown Denver.  The 16th St. Mall is a big pass—all corporate—but we had plenty of time to sober before we found our wheels again.  There are a lot of ends and ours in there, but I’ll stop there.

Day two, we made a plan.  We have a buddy who moved to Fort Collins, CO a while back and we wanted to catch up, so on

Day 2

We got up, got ready, and headed north.

I cannot express how much I loved Fort Collins.  It is a perfect Little Bit City.  The corporate and local veins have their own special sides of town, so for folks so inclined, you can avoid the corporate trappings all together.  We did.

In Old Town (the locals side), they have art student painted pianos at regular intervals, kept in working order.

image

image

We went to innumerable shops and and breweries, so again it is hard to say all we did.

Stuft - good burgers

Equinox Brewing - good beer

Ditto Coopersmith’s Bar and Brewery and O’Dells, though by the third, my mind gets hazy.  No worries, we had safe drivers.

With quite a few strapped on, we followed some strangers home after the brewery closed to hang out with locals.  PSA: Kids, don’t do this.  Adults probably shouldn’t either, but I’m no fan of living in fear.

A bit later, we stopped by our friend’s restaurants for some grub and then headed out to the mountains around midnight to star gaze.

My goodness it takes a long time to rundown Tuesday, but it was a fantastic day.  After all that, though, we needed to decompress.

On Wednesday morning, we had a very late breakfast at Silver Grill Cafe and bummed around Old Town shops.  I can’t even recall the names of most of the shops we stopped in, but all of Old Town deserves a nod.  True to my nature, I stopped in Old Firehouse Books and picked up Col. Hadfield’s book.

With a nice morning under the belt, out local friend was thoroughly convinced he should blow off work for another day and we should climb Horsetooth Mountain.  It was my first and damn was it wonderful.

We embark:

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

The Peak:

image

The View:

image

Alright, that’s enough of that.  I just thought the pictures would do it some justice I would not.  Plus this post is growing long winded …On Wednesday, we got a late start for Estes Park, CO (thanks, not+entirely) to see, among other things, the Stanley Hotel, inspiration for King’s The Shining.

With no where to be, we were so taken with Estes Park that I booked a room for the evening and we spent the day on barbeque, local shops, the public library, and then off into Rocky Mountain National Park.

After a good night’s rest, and with the frugal goals of the trip in mind, vacation came to an end on Friday morning and we started the 17 hour trip home.

There is so much more I could say about the trip, but I’ll leave it with this:

1) I’m going back as soon as I can with my lady.

2) It was exactly what I needed.

A Final Note: No, I didn’t proof this post.  I’ve been scrambling for time to write it between catching up on work and my personal life.  I sorta apologize for any errors found herein.

##The Day We Fight Back code ##/The Day We Fight Back code