Specific Genres

I’ve always had fairly eclectic tastes in entertainment.  When picking a new book to start I have to take into consideration the genres of the last three I read so I don’t ignore one in favor of others.  Ask me what my favorite show of all time is and I’ll ask you to specify if we’re talking comedy or drama or overall and you’ll walk away before hearing me give my top five in each category.    

I can find something to like in any of the major genres, but what I really love are the obscure genres that no one talks about, the ones that can’t be summed up as just crime procedural or drama or workplace comedy.  These always take place within the more general genres we’re all used to, but once you know the cues you’ll see them everywhere.  Here are my five favorites.

1)Spectrum of Guilt

Examples: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, many episodes of Law and Order: Something Something, I’m guessing John Grisham novels, probably

These are stories that revolve around a crime (almost always a murder), but instead of asking “Whodunit?” the central question is “Whyhedunit?”  The murderer is usually revealed in the first act or is never concealed at all, with the rest of the time devoted to the trial and trying to determine if it was self-defense, pre-meditated, who shot first, etc.  There’s no question of if they’re guilty, only how guilty.

The reason this genre is enjoyable is because it is much more true to life, with most real-world trials boiling down to motivation and state of mind and pre-existing conditions.  It isn’t about proving they’re guilty but determining whether they get the death penalty or life in a mental hospital.  The irony, for me anyway, is that I can’t stand to watch the real trials.  Like most people, I take a much more black and white view when it comes to murderers and hate seeing courtroom coverage of major trials.  What was exciting and engaging with fictional characters becomes infuriating and hard to look at with real people.  Good thing I’m starting off on such an upbeat note.

2)Cat and Equally Dangerous Mouse, like maybe he has a gun or something

Examples: Breaking BadThe Wire

Like the previous entry, these are typically crime dramas and procedurals but with some sort of twist that complicates things.  Sometimes that means they know who the criminals are and where they are but they can’t make a move without a strong enough case or permission from higher ups, as in The Wire.  The cops and gang members interact in broad daylight frequently on the show, but the cops can’t do anything without a warrant or more evidence.

I’ve never wanted to be a criminal as bad as when I saw that scene for the first time.  Idris Elba’s character is the #2 of a massive drug empire and he’s sitting in a courtroom we can assume is full of cops, across the aisle from the detective who has sworn to put him behind bars, and he just does not care.  This would be like Darth Vader eating watermelon at the Rebel Alliance Annual Family Fun Day or Jaws doing laps in your pool.  Right in the middle of the lion’s den, daring someone to do something about it.  It’s so much more complicated and interesting than “Search for the guy, arrest/kill him when you find him.”

Another twist is where the rivals know each other but one or both don’t realize it.  In Breaking Bad, main character/meth cooker/cancer haverer Walter White’s brother-in-law is also the DEA agent hot on his trail.  This creates all sorts of awesome moments where Hank, the in-law, talks about the case with Walt, giving him details that help him get the upper hand.  A similar things occurs in the first Spider-Man, where the main villain is also Peter Parker’s best friend’s dad and eventually figures out the hero’s identity.

3)Lazy Genius

Examples: Skinny Pete on Breaking Bad, Nick on Freaks and Geeks

This isn’t so much a genre as it is a character type, and I think this scenes sums it up perfectly:

That guy is your classic multitasker, being both a meth junkie and dealer, and nothing about the character before that scene hinted at any kind of hidden talent.  In fact, that comes from the fifth season and before that Skinny Pete was just comic relief, an idiot who tried to act hard and play pretend gangster.

The basic description of the character type is “person who is really lazy and ambitionless but is secretly a prodigy.”  Nick on Freaks and Geeks was a burn-out who couldn’t go a day without lighting up but was a star basketball player before discovering his new hobby.  It’s always used for comedic effect and seems to draw its inspiration from the famous Einstein quote “Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.  Also, don’t smoke meth.”  I’m not quite sure why this character type appeals to me so much, but I can guess.

Picture unrelated.  Hey did you guys know I took six years to graduate?  Also unrelated.

That thirsty fish flopped around college for six years, covered in splinters

4)Mundane

Examples: King of the Hill, Parks and Rec, Friday Night Lights

Most sitcoms and dramas claim to take place in the real world, but it’s one full of beautiful people who have dream jobs they never have to go to.  Their days are exciting and interesting and kind of exhausting if you had to actually live it.  King of the Hill might be animated, but it’s probably the most realistic show ever.  Whole episodes center around a trip to the hardware store or job troubles, not as a cupcake baker or travel writer, but as a substitute teacher.  Friday Night Lights was so good at being normal that the one season that tried to be exciting is easily the worst.  Parks makes bureaucratic government work seem fun.

They all still have elements that are slightly ridiculous or too convenient but much less than other shows.  I actually have a weird kind of belief that these shows are good for people, that watching something that highlights the little joys and victories in everyday life is probably healthier than unobtainable wish-fulfillment.  I might be wrong, but I know I would much rather be hardworking, honorable father of two Coach Taylor living in a one story house than some rich genius crime solver whose apartment is granite and marble everything from that one show.  I don’t even have to name it, because it’s all of them.

5)Important Things Happen Off-Screen

Examples: The League, Game of Thrones, Friday Night Lights, The Road

Sometimes this applies to shows about a close-knit group of friends, like in The League.  The important thing here would be the guys meeting and becoming friends, as well as the origins of their inside jokes.  A lot of sitcoms introduce the characters in the pilot, whether because one of them moves next door or they start working together or whatever.  I prefer jumping in with a group that is already well-established and doesn’t slow down for me.  Many of the jokes the guys use on The League are never given any kind of context or explanation, they’re just used and everyone understands it, just like in a real group of friends.  Friendships are just more interesting to examine when there’s a shared history and plenty of established back story to draw upon.  My best friend and I have our back and forth down to a science and enough stories to tell for three days straight before repeating anything.  I promise you’ll be entertained if you hang out with us.  However, we’ve known each other our entire lives, setting up the most boring origin story ever.

It begins....

It begins….

Sometimes the important event is the most important thing to the story but better left to the imagination.  The Road is a post-apocalyptic novel/movie that takes place years after the apocalypse that’s never identified.  Battles in Game of Thrones are mostly talked about after the fact by characters who weren’t there and rarely experienced from a character’s first hand perspective.  Friday Night Lights is, on the surface, about high school football, yet after the first season most games were given as little screen time as possible and some were only talked about afterwards.  With the last two especially the focus away from the action serves the greater narrative, as FNL only uses football as a vehicle to explore characters and deeper themes and GoT is more about behind the scenes scheming and string pulling than swords and knights.

The first person to spot an example of one of these I didn’t note and leave a comment about it wins my diploma or something of equal or lesser value (my minor).

Food paradoxes

I just graduated college, ergo I don’t have to think anymore, Argo no segue.  Here are six of my eating habits that make no sense.

1)Zaxby’s can do nothing to lose my business 

My first job was at Zaxby’s, and despite working 20+ hours a week for two years, I still can’t get enough of their food.  Even the smell of fingerz and friez being permanently stuck in my hair was not enough to turn me off from their food.

To be fair, a lot of stuff got permanently stuck in my hair those days

To be fair, a lot of stuff got permanently stuck in my hair those days

I always hear people say things like “After three years at Domino’s I’ll never look at pizza again!” or “Twenty years as a teacher was enough to make me swear off books for good!”  It makes me wonder if something is wrong with me, because I would work a five hour shift and still order a #Z to take home for my dinner.  I once got reprimanded by my manager because I tried to exceed the maximum amount of food my employee discount could go towards.  I got half off, and apparently you couldn’t spend more than $10.  If you’re quick at math, you’ll realize I was trying to buy over $20 worth of zhicken.

Worst of all is the fact that I know what goes on behind the scenes.  I won’t go into any details, but my intimate knowledge of “cleaning” techniques and the kinds of games the employees play when the cool manager is working should have been enough to make me never touch another fried muzhroom.  I realize this is a very common trend with fast food, but at least with other restaurants I have the gift of ignorance.

This came out when I worked there.  I'm not saying anything else.

This came out when I worked there. I’m not saying anything else.

2)Love bananas, anything banana flavored makes me gag

This paradox does make some sense, as I hated bananas when I was young.  They always made me dry-heave and I could never finish one, despite my mom’s insistence that she LOVED them while pregnant with me and how I used to eat them and how I was breaking her heart or something.  My ears hum when she talks.

Through sheer will power I forced myself to learn to like them, the process of which would make the most pathetic movie montage ever filmed.

montage

Despite my triumph, I still occasionally gag half-way through a banana, having to repeat to myself “You’re better than this!  You can do it!”  There is no combination of words, however, that could get me through, say, a banana popsicle or banana pudding.  I can only put up with the taste of the fruit because I know it’s good for me.  Distill that flavor from the vitamins and tell me it’s desert and I’ll throw it in your face.  Piggybacking off another fruit won’t fool me either, as I zero in on the banana half of any tropical splosion banana mango whatever.

3)My favorite part of Fall is pumpkin flavored food.  Least favorite?  Pumpkins

This is the inverse of the previous entry.  Fall is my favorite time of year, and one of the reasons for that is all the seasonal pumpkin coffee, cake, beers, etc.  I buy them all every chance I get, stocking up on the beer so it’ll last me into the winter when it gets pulled off shelves.  I would burn pumpkin candles year round if the rest of society didn’t find the idea of a pumpkin candle in spring so psychotic.  Instead, I have to suffer through “Linen” and “Clouds”, two things I smell for free everyday.

Oh hey, great, now my room will smell like air.

Oh hey, great, now my room will smell like air.

The thing is, I absolutely hate real pumpkins.  I think pumpkin guts are the grossest thing on the planet and I can’t stand the smell in non-candle form.  When I was a kid and my family carved pumpkins, I would not only refuse to participate but would actually hide upstairs until they were done.  I’m sure this also broke my mother’s heart.

It’s like when you’re in love with the idea of someone but have never talked to them.  Everything on paper is great, and you create a perfect image of them in your mind, but the real thing can never live up to it.  I like the idea of pumpkins, and I like what food scientists have decided they taste like, but the real thing can never live up to the one in my head, smelling like a pumpkin spice latte and filled with Sam Adams Oktoberfest.

4)Cereal can only get soggy on my terms

I’m a big fan of cereal, especially those that claim to taste like things that aren’t for breakfast.  What I hate, however, is soggy cereal.  I know a lot of people love this part of eating cereal with milk, but I feel like I’m in the sane minority on this one.  If I’m eating something with crunch in the title, I want it to stay that way, so I eat my cereal dry.  I can’t tell you how many dirty looks I’ve gotten from people who have seen me do this.  I have no idea when the conference was that decided that everyone had to put milk in their cereal, but I missed it so I’m exempt.

Still, some of my favorite cereal can wreak havoc on the ol’ gums.  Peanut Butter Crunch is particularly brutal, especially when you eat multiple bowls at a time like I do.  My solution?  Eating my dry cereal with a glass of milk, taking a sip with each bite.  It helps with digestion AND doesn’t create the cereal bog at the end of the meal!  I’m aware it’s completely psychotic.

5)Love all hot teas, hate cold tea.  Except peach tea for some reason.  And Arnold Palmers.

This wouldn’t be such a paradox if I hadn’t grown up in Georgia and gone to school in Alabama.  The dirty looks I get for eating dry cereal are nothing compared to those I get when I tell people I don’t like sweet tea.  I grew up surrounded by tea but somehow never acquired the taste.  My dad grew up in Ohio and even he learned to like tea, although technically he’s lived in the South longer than I have.  People who moved to the South from other states will accuse me of not being a real southerner just because I’d rather have water.

The thing is, add some peach flavoring or lemonade and I’m on board.  I have no idea why.  I also drink green tea, black tea, chamomile tea, etc.  It’s as if I only like the taste of tea if it’s hot.  As soon as it’s cold it gets disgusting.  Except I drink cold green tea, so I’m really at a loss for this one.

6)Variety only matters for dinner

Everyone at my last job used to tease me for having the same thing for lunch everyday: a green apple, a can of tuna, and green tea.  They also gave me a lot of warnings about mercury poisoning, but we’re on Earth, idiots.  I’m just as boring at breakfast, having a hard-boiled egg and black coffee everyday, only occasionally treating myself to the cereals noted above.  I mostly do this because it’s cheap and easy, but I also enjoy the routine.  I never really feel the desire to mix things up, giving up variety for convince.

Ask me to eat the same thing for dinner two nights in a row, I’ll throw it in your face.  You want chicken tonight?  I had chicken five weeks ago, try again.  You want to try that new Mexican place?  I had Taco Bell last weekend, and I don’t care if “that’s not the same.”  They’re both spicy and cheesy, too similar.

For some reason I would never dream of being as consistent with my dinner as I am with the other meals.  I’ve tried it before, grilling a bunch of chicken breasts on Sunday and eating them the rest of the week with a salad and some vegetables, and it’s pathetic how depressed this made me.  I was having such a pity party come Wednesday, feeling like my human rights were under attack by the chicken flavored rubber on my plate.

You lied to me George Foreman!

You lied to me George Foreman!