Marvel does it better

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Against all my better judgement I went and saw Suicide Squad over the weekend. It’s not that I hated it, I didn’t really. I didn’t love it though, and I knew that this was most likely going to be the case despite the high hopes I had for it. I really wanted to love it, but when one of my friends asked me (knowing my extensive knowledge and love for comic books) to predict how I was going to come out of the theater feeling, I responded: I want to like it so much and have high hopes, but pretty sure it’s going to be like every other DC film. I’m going to come out of it not hating it necessarily, but will more than likely be disappointed at the narrative and missed opportunities for rich character development.

So, here’s your obligatory warning. I’m about to go into details from the movie, so if you are looking to avoid any spoilers for Suicide Squad, you should stop reading now.

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Overall Impression: It wasn’t completely awful and for the most part, the movie was enjoyable for what it is. A friend of mine sitting next to me told me there were several moments I let out an audible disappointed sigh, and he’s not wrong. While it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve seen, there were definitely moments that didn’t live up to what I was expecting.

Deadshot and Harley Quinn definitely stole the show for this one and their characters were definitely the most intriguing and did the most justice as far as representing their comic book counterparts.

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Deadshot, one of the most notable anti-heroes of the DC Universe. An assassin with a troubling family past, but also motivated to take action whether for the heroes or villains to do good by his children. This was portrayed well in the movie by showcasing the relationship with him and his daughter. Will Smith did not disappoint in his portrayal of the surefire yet often conflicted assassin. Deadshot surfaced as one of the leaders of the group and motivated other team members to contribute to get the job done, while still remaining morally grey throughout the movie. One of the highlights is when he goads a reluctant El Diable who fears losing control to help fight the fight and light things up with the squad.

Deadshot: Whatcha gonna do?
El Diablo: You wanna see something? YOU WANNA SEE SOMETHING!?
Deadshot: YEAH!
(After El Diablo goes berserk and gets lit fam)
Deadshot: Yo…I was trying to get you there. No hard feelings, right? We good?

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The breakaway performance definitely has to go to Margot Robbie though as Harley Quinn. She definitely stole the show in my opinion. The focus of the movie was on her and showcased her relationship with the Joker. Her backstory and presence seemed to be the focus out of all the squad members. The movie seemed to take a lot of inspiration from The New 52 version of Harley as she was shown to be exposed to the same checmicals Joker was exposed to in the film as part of her backstory. Her leaving the squad for Joker and later rejoining when the plan fell through was also remiscent of a New 52 plot. I thoroughly enjoyed Margot Robbie’s performance of Harley and she had a lot of great moments. Her motives and loyalty walked a fine line with zany madness throughout the film, but one thing was certain: underestimating her was most certainly a mistake. The only moment I might have groaned (here comes some whine) was when she played a critical role in saving the day as she blurts out, Stop hurting my fwiends! (and there’s the cheese).

It will be interesting to see what happens with the character as it was revealed in her bio that she was an accomplice and either helped or was the one to kill Jason Todd. This revelation might help to explain why she reacted so strongly when she sternly states, “Own that shit” to El Diablo’s reveal about killing his kids. It may be her reaction to her own killing of an adolescent Jason Todd. Another possibility for this reaction could be that she was responsible for the death of her own kids. Whaaaaat!? BOOM! BLAM! KAZAM!

For those of you that missed it, the movie hinted that Harley might have been pregnant with Joker’s kids at some point and this could be a gamechanger that could be incredibly intriguing or a plot twist that ends up being a miserable disaster.

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So, when it comes to Deadshot and Harley Quinn, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Unfortunately for me, it just goes downhill from there with the rest of the characters.

Amanda Waller: Overall, the movie did a good job illustrating how cut throat and ruthless this character really is, but I wanted the movie to reveal and explore her deeper connection with metahumans and the major players of the DC universe. I get that this isn’t possible in the cinematic universe as metas are only beginning to surface and be known in this world. But still.

Diablo: I am on the fence with Diablo. On one hand, I really enjoyed his brooding character and his internal conflict of using his powers fearful of losing complete control of them. He was most certainly a force to be reckoned with. He has a really tragic backstory, but one that is a deviation from the comics. In the comicverse, he unleashed his fury on a rival ganghouse only to discover there were innocents; women and children that also fell victim to his flames. As a result, he let the authorities take him to Belle Reve due to his overwheliming feeling of guilt for taking the lives of innocents. The movie decided to up the ante and change his backstory to losing control and taking the life of his wife and children instead. Why they decided to make his backstory that much more tragic, but completely ignore the tragedy of Katana’s backstory (see below)  was what perplexed me. The only thing I can think of is to allow the reaction of Harley Quinn, which will more than likely play out in future movies. If this isn’t the case, then to make that choice with Diablo while completely ignoring Katana’s tragedy makes absolutely no sense.

Joker: It was cool to see a completely different interpretation of the Joker, but it got old real fast, especially his laugh. When I first heard the laugh in a trailer, I thought it was interesting and definitely had a chill factor to it. I also assumed this was a specific laugh in a specific scene to invoke that specific feeling. Nope, that laugh was pretty much the same every time something happen to tickle his fancy. It never changed. And come on, no one believed the Joker was actually dead when Harley watched in horror as his helicopter crashed in a burst of flames, so she could rejoin the squad with tear filled-eyes and those oh so pouty lips.

Slipknot: Who the hell was he again? Unless you’re an avid reader of comics you still have no clue who he is other than to serve the sole purpose of being the obligatory red shirt in the movie. If you’re going to kill someone off, at least provide some semblance of a back-story to make us feel something for his death other than, whelp guess his only purpose was to die.

Boomerang: He didn’t contribute much other than to be the skeezy cat-calling sterotype to womanize the bad ass that is Katana, which again, was barely touched upon. He bailed the first chance he got only to return to the squad moments later with absolutely no motivation to do so.

Katana: Like I said, Katana is a badass, but you don’t really understand this in the movie other than to know she knows how to use her weapon. A missed opportunity to explore a pretty epic backstory of her husband being killed by his own brother who held an unrequetted love for Katana. This was referenced, but watered down by revealing “someone” killed her husband with the souleater sword that ended up in her posessession. The scene explaining that she talks to her husband would have been so much more tragic had they offered more details of this backstory of not only her husband’s death, but the tragic death of their twin children in the same incident. The movie also doesn’t take any time to explain how Katana came to be involved with Rick Flag or the suicicide squad, but she merely just shows up as his body guard with absolutely no explanation of their connection.

Killer Croc: Well, this was probably one of the most disappointing portrayals. Killer Croc is a beast in the comics, A BEAST!  The movie, sadly, turned him into a deformed thug that kind of looked like a crocodile.  The movie took the fact that Killer Croc’s alter ego is Waylon Jennings who happens to be black. They basically ran with this and made this the focus of his character, completely ignoring the raw primal power of the croc and watered him down with cheap humor. His only request is to get a flat screen TV, so he can do nothing but watch big booty dancing on BET. Come on…They completely bastardized the beast that is Killer Croc.

Enchantress: I’ll admit that I don’t know a whole lot about the Enchantress in the comic book world and that made me continue to wonder throughout the whole movie, why she was so hell-bent on taking over the world. I get that she was pissed, because she was essentially just a tool to be used, but why not just go straight for Amanda Waller? I also found it troubling that the squad’s first mission was against this seemingly all powerful herky jerky magic-wielding belly dancer. The stakes were suddenly so monumentally high in a matter of seconds with no room to explore how the squad evolves from completely conflicted individuals to a cohesive unit.

Rick Flagg: I expected more, so much more of this character. What I got was a whiny emo lovesick puppy dog who was apparently maneuvered into a relationship that makes absolutely no sense just so he can be forced to babysit the villanis that Waller recruits. Flagg actually lead a World War II team called the suicide squadron, which serves as an inspiration for putting together the meta human suicide squad, but again, this was a completely missed opportunity to better explain his connection and motivation for leading the suicide squad.

Na na na na na na na na (That’s supposed to make you think of the Batman theme music to serve as a transition into the conclusion).

Time for the cool down. Thanks to those who bared with me on my rants and ramblings on the latest installment of the DC Cinematic Universe. Alright look, I realize that the comic book buff in me tends to make me a little if not obnoxiously overcritical of the movies. These are merely my own personal qualms with the DCCU, and I completely understand that. I get why a lot of people really love these movies, but I for one will always look to Marvel as an example of how to bring the expansive comic book universe to film and do the characters and plotlines justice. I didn’t hate Suicide Squad, but I didn’t love it either.

 

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I just work here…

One of the worst parts of my job are the endless meetings I have to go to. Sometimes, we even have a meeting to plan a meeting. Those are the worst. I really hate meetings, and I’ll do just about anything to get out of them.

calendarLuckily, I have a boss that truly understands my disdain for meetings and really allows me to express myself in that area. Finally, I feel like I have a boss that gets me.

Me: Do we really need to have a whole meeting about the handbook? I gave you an update on that a couple weeks ago before I went on vacation.

Boss: We need to get that handbook done ASAP, where are you on that.

Me: Like I said, I’m done with it except one part, the Student Conduct policy. Once I get that, I can just pop it in and it’s done.

Boss: So, why isn’t it done yet?

Me: Because I wasn’t the one writing it, I don’t know, I just work here…

Boss: (short pause, silence, then a gasp) Shit! I’m the one who was writing that huh?

Me: Is there really any way I can answer that question without pissing you the fuck off?

Boss: Oh shut up! God damn you can be a smart ass, but your’e timing is impeccable.

Me: You know, I really enjoy our banter and working relationship. It reminds me of home.

Boss: I’ll have the policy to you by the end of the week.

Another meeting averted!
excellent-mr-burns

 

Summer is ending

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This Summer has been chalk-full of travel complete with discoveries and observations. Some pithy and others not so much, but notable none the less.

Portland, OR
♦  I have awesome friends. I just wish they lived closer, and I could seem them way more often than I do.

♦  Don’t ever take mushrooms and then walk down a busy street. Get to your location where you plane to settle for your trip and then take them. Tripping balls in a busy public space; no matter how inconspicuous you think you’re being, I guarantee that you’re not. Chain smoking cigarettes while bug-eyed continuously exclaiming: I just need to get to the forest while laughing uncontrollably, and going into “ninja mode” when an ambulance throws on their siren as they speed by is a sure giveaway that something is amiss.

♦  The hiking opportunities in the Portland area, and I’m sure the whole state of Oregon, are beyond awesome.

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New Orleans, LA
♦  The live music is amazing.

♦  Frenchman Street is a way more happening hangout than Bourbon Street.

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♦  Sometimes, a hug is just a hug, and giving one to someone who needs it is a great way to brighten your and someone else’s day.

♦  The shot girls on Bourbon Street are grabby and taking a Christian married man to a bar with said shot girls is not the best idea.

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♦  Plan on getting wasted. No matter how much I told myself I was going to remain sober or turn in early, the fact remains that I was out until 3 in the morning and drunk every night while I was there. Every. Single. Night.

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Clarkston, WA (Family Reunion)
♦  Road trips that last longer than 12 hours are never a good thing. NEVER.

♦  Sometimes, the best companions at family reunions is the doge. I spent most of my time out with the doge playing fetch and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hemmy

♦  Nothing, and I mean nothing is more awkward than getting hit on and groped by your cousin. There was full-on junk grabbing involved; kind of takes the crying game to a whole new level. To be fair, she was the drunkest girl at the party. She’s always the drunkest girl at the party.

♦  Handle flirting cousins with care. If you reject them too harshly, they may announce to your whole family they know a secret about you and force you to come out.

♦  Being outted to your family, while awkward as fuck, may not necessarily be a bad thing. Some family members definitely have issues with it, but on the other hand, it has brought me closer than ever with others. Those that I grew up with, but have lost touch with over the years.

♦  Clarkston/Lewiston, while a beautiful little pocket of Hells Canyon, is hot as fuck in July. There were several fires in the area and running through the smoky haze was probably not the best idea I’ve had.

Clarkston

 New York City, New York
♦  Times Square is a hot sticky mess.

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♦  Wear proper clothing in the Summer, especially for the Subway tunnels. Otherwise, YOU’LL end up a hot sticky mess…

Sticky

♦  Everyone always says not to wander off on your own in the city, but exploring the city on my own during safe daylight hours is both rewarding and whimsical.

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♦  The Ground Zero memorial is incredibly sobering and moving. Be prepared to feel the feels just by visiting the site.

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♦  Idina Menzel is absolutely delightful. James Snyder is dreamy.

Idina      Dreamy

♦  People will flirt with you and call you sexy to get what they want. It’s so very flattering at first, but ultimately crushing to the ego when you realize they are using blandishment as a means to an end.

♦  Always, ALWAYS double check that you have set the alarm clock for the right time on your cell phone. Especially if you have an important presentation to give.

I took a small nap after lunch and almost missed my afternoon panel presentation. I was perplexed, because I could have sworn I had set my alarm to wake me up at 1:45. I woke up at 1:55 and barely made it.

At 2:45, amidst the presentation, I startlingly realized why my alarm did not wake me up. My alarm is set to play the song “Fancy”. There were many chuckles in the room, and my face was redder than it’s ever been. I may have done a little dance to try and play it off. There was a slow clap involved.

♦  When traveling to Ellis Island by ferry, they truly are trying to create the immigration experience. We never made it; the person I was traveling with got dehydrated, sick, and came to the brink of passing out. We had to be escorted out of the line after an hour wait.

♦  Although, obsolete, phone booths are still very prevalent in New York. They don’t work, but come in handy for those getting their marijuana edible treats organized to sell on the streets.

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So, it’s been a pretty amazing Summer with its ups and downs, but one that I am sad to see come to an end. School starts in a couple of weeks, and I’m not nearly as prepared for it as I should be. However, one thing the start of the school year is sure to be a sign of; the end of my life and free time for a few months. As bitter as I sound, I do enjoy my job and am looking forward to the return of the students.

My Life is Very Different Now…

One thing many don’t realize about me is that my life is very different from the life I lived years back. After high school, I tried College; it wasn’t for me, and I wasn’t ready for it yet. So, I gathered my savings, got in my car and just drove. I traveled from city to city working odd jobs here and there to keep me afloat and get me to my next destination. The life I live is very different from that life, and honestly I don’t think I could do it again. I have grown to love my worldly possessions, and don’t know that I could live a life without my toys. What I do miss is the simplicity of it all though. Literally living life one day at a time and only worrying about that day. A life with no roots and no permanence meant I could take people or leave em. I didn’t have to worry about bureaucracies or playing nice. If someone was disingenuous or just a douche-nozzle, I would simply move on and discontinue interaction with said douch-nozzle; easy enough. This also made it easier to strike up conversations with perfect strangers knowing I had the option of pushing them out of my reality if it turned out we didn’t mesh. It allowed me to truly get to know someone for better or worst before I passed judgement, knowing that I could just as easily purge someone from my life as it was to let them in. This is what life without roots and permanence allowed, and I met some of the most interesting people and characters during my travels. I miss this. While permanence has given me friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime (for which I am ever so grateful), I find myself going through the motions and playing the bureaucracy game, but more importantly a senstion that I am forced to adapt to those around me. I have this gnawing feeling I am slowly being assimilated (resistance is futile) into a drone, and I don’t like it. So, I want to strive to not lose myself in the assimilation process. Make it a point to not engage in petty self-serving stroking of egos. Make it a point to seek first to understand. Be mindful to not purge others and make them feel like Others simply because they are new or foreign to the social circle I showed up with. Engage in conversations with perfect strangers even if they may seem a little out there without being judgy. Not engage with others, including my own friends, when they encroach into the judgy zone or maybe just call them out on it. So, my life is very different now than it was then. But I can still strive to be that go-lucky quirky guy I became living on the road. I miss that guy. I miss the amazing stories you would hear from those that were seemingly ordinary or seemed so out there that the natural inclination was to not engage or stay away. You know, kind of like a dude who randomly shows up around town and goes bar hopping…in a panda suit.

My first encounter with the Panda brought glee in what was turning out to be a really shitty night. Some found a dancing panda showing up at the bar totally awesome.  Others rolled their eyes, assumed the dude behind the fuzzy suit was “weird”, a “freak”, or just “not right”. I thought it was delightful, but didn’t really engage in conversation beyond getting a quick photo snapped with him, after all, it was still a dude in a panda suit.  So, the second time I ran into Mr. Panda I had to ask about the back-story behind the suit. Turns out, he found out he was dying. So, naturally, he decides to buy a panda suit. Why? So, he can bring a smile to the faces of those he crosses paths with. So, he can just be goofy in a time of uncertainty and what could be full of morose  Yet, he chooses goofiness, so he can make others smile. One comment from his Facebook profile reads, “I’m a dying man just trying to make people happy before I go…I love making people smile. That’s all I want to do.” Now, maybe his story was just complete bullshit as many have pointed out to me, but I choose to believe in the good intentions behind it regardless of how accurate his story may or may not be. So, meeting a panda at the local dive bar = FTW! Taking the time to talk the Panda up and Hearing his back-story and what he’s gone through = BONUS! It really helped snap me back into focus. The realization that one doesn’t have to live a vagabond lifestyle to experience amazing encounters like this; one just has to be open to them.

Concert in a Living Room

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to experience one of my favorite musicians in one of the most unique and intimate concert settings—the living room show.

About 5 years ago, I came across this track through one of my Paste samplers. The track featured a raspy yet soothing voice singing about how he remembers. I began researching and searching for more from this feller and instantly fell in love with his melodic incantations. David Bazan had quickly climbed his way to the top of my favorite musicians list.

A fellow bazan fan (a connoisseur of music whose musicality tastes I found impressive and who was equally impressed by my playlists) overheard him playing on my IPod one day and told me he was doing a living room show and that he would be in Denver. I went to purchase a ticket and there was only one left!!! I filled out all my information, billing information, and clicked purchase only to have a message pop up telling me there were no tickets left. Someone else had beaten me to it—CURSES!

I was understandably distraught that I was going to be so close yet missing the opportunity to see Bazan in action and in such an intimate setting. The connoisseur would later let me know that he had applied to host a living room show and was accepted for a concert in June and was gracious enough to offer me a ticket to the show. So, I would be missing him in Denver, but I found comfort knowing that I would get my chance in June.

A couple days before the scheduled Denver performance, I was approached by a fellow Bazan listener who had a ticket to the show, but was unable to attend due to another commitment. Rumor had it, I was a fan, and he offered his spot to me rather than letting it go to waste. The stars had aligned, and I was going to get to see him in Denver and still have another performance in June to look forward to—YUSSSSSS!

O.K., so going to see an indie musician in some stranger’s living room is a bit hipster-ish of me and faithful blog readers are fully aware of my conflictions when it comes to hipsters. But, all my conflictions were instantly wiped away as soon as David struck that first chord and let out that first gruff note; he was standing only feet away in someone’s living room who I had never even met, full of other strangers with one commonality tying us all together. This shit was sexy!

This was truly one of the best concert experiences I have ever had. One of my favorite things about living room shows is how low key they are. Bazan took time to take questions between songs, and engage with the audience; he took the time to chat with us. The lyrics in his music were very much reflected in his dialogue, which at times were inspiring and highly insightful. One of my favorite moments of the evening was when he stated:

If you’re neighbor’s hungry and you think it isn’t you’re problem, you’re wrong. It is you’re fucking problem, man. And you can say its not, but you still have three locks on your door, and you bought a gun. It’s your problem, and it won’t get fixed until you start loving people and caring about the welfare of strangers.

Needless to say, I was all but giddy from the experience and even more giddy that I get to do it all over again in June. If you haven’t heard any of his music, I highly recommend checking David Bazan out. Or better yet, see if there’s a living room show coming to a town near you and experience it for yourself. 

GCB Date Night-Forbidden Fruits

A dear friend of mine from way back when (who has since moved miles away) and I discovered that we both share a common guilty pleasure. Our hearts have been stolen by this little gem of a show called GCB. This show makes me so happy I’d be willing to compare its effects on me to the kind of drug that makes you euphoric for no apparent reason. The women are so vicious to each other, yet admist all the backstabbing, the cattiness, and good ole Christian shenanigans is a delightful and touching story arc between a prodigal daughter and her mama, the pillar of her hometown community, who is claiming her second chance to better express her motherly love.

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GCB, based on a book by the title of Good Christian Bitches has made quite the impression through the conservative media circuit. Many are upset that the the portrayal of Christians in this show gives the impression that Christians are hypocritical; gasp!

Fox News Upset with GCB: Damn that liberal media with their attacks using fancy generalizations!

However, I have to believe the majority of audiences are going to be independent critical thinkers who realize adhering to generalizations like all Christians are hypocritical and believing these generalizations are true for all cases is problematic. Kind of like generalizing all Muslims as terrorists. Kind of like generalizing all gays are promiscuous or pedophiles. Kind of like generalizing all women as sluts just because they are taking a stake in their own reproductive health. Oh wait, that last one wasn’t a generalization, just faulty logic. My dear friend Jon summed up the right-wing’s response to the show perfectly.

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Indecision 2012 – Endless Suffrage 2012 – MSNBC’s & Fox News’ Southern Primary Coverage
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The truth is there are some folks out there who act exactly like the women in this show. Perhaps they are a wee bit overboard (again, it’s TELEVISION!), but even those who aren’t necessarily fans of the show agree women like this exist. Author of blog, Preacher on the Plaza agrees the portrayal of Christian women on the show is off-putting. Her reasoning is the interesting part: “And while, yes I am a fan of satire and not taking one’s self too seriously (appropriate uses of humor are always good, I’m with you Alan on this one), I have to say that I was saddened by GCB because I felt so much of the show IS TRUE.”

I would argue the show isn’t seeking to portray Christian women or an attack on those with faith. There are examples in the show of overcoming the pettiness and bitchiness illustrated by remarks regarding becoming the better Christian that sheds light on the complexity of  following a faith such as Christianity. It points out that rising above and  following the intention of true Christianity is in fact difficult and commendable. When one chooses the path of smiting those in the name of religion and judging others in the name of religion, things are not only going to end badly for you, but you serve as the comedic plot line for that evening’s episode.  Remember when it was the gay character who played the fool and served as comic relief? GCB uses the device, but uses it in a far more critical and ingenious way. It is the actions of the person that make them the object of mockery, not simply what is on the surface level. In other words, the show isn’t making attacks on the religion of Christianity nor making caricatures of the women in the show simply because they are Christian; it is making attacks on those who are quick to abandon their self proclaimed principles in order to knock someone down for selfish reasons.

So, back to my dear friend, who shall go by the name Sister Kel, who shares in this new guilty pleasure of mine that is GCB. Upon our discovery of our shared love, we decided to make a date night this week and watch the episode together. We even delayed our viewing until the day after it was aired, so that we could still watch together despite the different time zones. If the fact that we were able to wait a whole day after it was aired just to watch it together doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will. Below is a list of some of the highlights and some snippets from our texts back and forth as we eagerly viewed the episode.

WARNING: The following contain spoilers for Episode 5: Forbidden Fruits

Some of my own personal takeaways from the episode:

  • Cricket’s rendition of Amazing Grace rocked my world.
  • Carleen’s brother is dreamy.
  • The sibling rivalry between Sharon’s kids looks to be an entertaining addition to the show.
  • Carleen and her scope make me so happy.
  • Using Sheryl Crow to get back at your fellow Christian brethren will turn off those of virtue. Abuse of power makes you ugly.
  • Carleen and Cricket’s face when Gigi “takes the bull by its horns” = priceless.
  • Bozeman is hot. His character is supposed to be in High School. I feel dirty and compelled to blame the liberal media.

Snippets of my conversation with SK: