Friday, May 27, 2016

The Benefits of Balding

In recent years, my forehead has rapidly advanced in the battle of the receding hairline, so much so it's surprising I don't wake each morning to a pillow covered in fallen folicles. I'm not particularly bothered by the idea of balding, with the possible exception of not being very fond of the shape of my head. Modeling and movie stardom might never have been in the cards for me, but it would be nice if my dome didn't resemble a semi-deflated ball of room-temperature mozerella.

Alternatives to balding are available, toupees and hair transplants being the most obvious options. Unfortunately, I've never wanted to look like my hair was installed by the Home Depot carpet department or planted neatly in symmetrical rows by some subcutaneous farmer. And there's something about all those chemical scalp treatments that scares me. The hair is surrendering willingly. Who am I to keep it from making a graceful exit?

This all got me to thinking recently about the many reasons to celebrate going bald and I came up with the following items. Feel free to add more in the comments.

  1. Hair cuts are much, much quicker. Gone are the days of trimming here, blending there, feathering the crown into the back and sides and wondering if bangs are manly. Grab the trimmer and buzz me like a farmer shears a sheep. So long as I leave with two ears and most of my blood, it's a job well done!
  2. No more hair product. I have no need of mousse, gel, spray, conditioner -- hell, I barely need shampoo at this point.
  3. No longer needing any of those products makes packing for trips a much simpler task, and there's one less bottle of liquid that needs to be checked with my baggage or inspected during the security screening. I was lucky I didn't get pulled for a cavity search the last few times I traveled with a can of mousse. You could see the incredulity on the faces of the TSA workers as their eyes darted suspiciously between the shiny metal canister and my shiny head.
  4. Temperature control is a breeze. It was easy to overheat and difficult to cool down when a bushy head of hair was the norm. Without that extra layer of insulation, all I have to do is find a shady spot and let the wind do its job. And if your head gets cold, just grab a hat.
  5. Speaking of which, baldness allows you to build a kick-ass hat collection. I prefer baseball caps, but you can use your sun-exposed cranium to justify everything from a fedora, to a gatsby, to a pith helmet -- whatever makes you feel good about yourself and helps you avoid a melanoma or two.
  6. Bed head is less of a problem, and eventually not a problem at all. Back when I had a full mop on top, I woke each morning to the most horrendously interesting nocturnal stylings. My favorite was the one where the hair on the left side of my head was smushed tightly against the scalp, while the hair on the right side of my head stuck straight out. I used to call that one "Exit Wound."

© 2016 Mark Feggeler

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Dreaded Birthday Chicken

My father and I went to Dugan's Pub the other day so I could get my annual celebratory Buffalo chicken sandwich in honor of my upcoming birthday. This isn't a long-standing tradition. I discovered the sandwich somewhere in the last decade and, knowing that eating it on a regular basis would shorten my lifespan, have assigned it formal designation as a birthday treat.

The sandwich is a model of perfection. A full breast of chicken, butterflied, deep fried and Buffalo-ized in an amazing spicy, yet flavorful, red-orange sauce, covered with melted Swiss and served on a bun butch enough to hold up under pressure. Since I was already throwing caution (and several major arteries) to the wind, I went ahead and ordered the beer-battered fries as my side and didn't forget the bleu cheese dressing. It's Buffalo chicken, after all. Any other condiment (with the possible exception of ranch) is un-American.

The end result of eating the Dugan's Pub Buffalo chicken sandwich should come as no surprise. Sensations of burning, bloat and discomfort are immediately visited upon you, and again several hours later when the alien vacates its host body. Sweating, congestion, tears of shame and joy -- all the things you hope for when over-indulging in your favorite flavors and seeking a satisfyingly trough-like experience, leaving you emotionally drained from overwhelming satisfaction and self-loathing.

This year, all the effects were magnified exponentially.

Not only am I growing older, finding myself slightly less capable of tolerating such unbridled over-eating with the passing of each year, My Lovely Wife and I have also been making an effort since the start of 2016 to eat less like hormone-charged teenagers and more like responsible adults interested in meeting our grandchildren. Since January, I've lost close to twenty pounds and dropped two inches from my waistline. Shirts have gone from extra-large to large and I'm as close to not having a pot belly as I've been since graduating high school. While we have cut back on certain foods (I'm looking at you, breads and starches!) and reintroduced ourselves to daily portions of fruits of vegetables, the biggest factor for me has been portion control.

Left to my own devices, I'd eat and nibble and pick and peck and nosh and munch and crunch all day long on all the things I know I shouldn't be eating. Then, I'd sit down to a table three times a day and stuff myself. Even during past diets, I'd replace pretzels and chips with apples and carrots, yet I'd still cram those healthy items down my pie hole like a starved hyena gulping down a baby gazelle. This time around, I'm taking it seriously. Meal portions are reasonable, snacking is down to a bare minimum, water consumption could flood a small Texas town, exercise is more strategic, and foods and sundry ingredients are chosen with greater care.

Which is exactly why Dugan's Buffalo chicken sandwich and beer-battered fries were such a delicious, spice-coated, deep-fried offense to the senses. I've always known fries weren't good for me, but this was the first time in 48 years I could recall ever wishing I had ordered the broccoli florets or fruit cup instead. Not that the fries weren't awesome -- they were, and I ate every last one. Not that the chicken sandwich didn't meet my expectations -- it did, and I smiled and snorted all the way through it and went home with a red-orange tint around my mouth and finger tips. It's just that I was uncomfortably full for several hours.

You might be wondering what lesson I learned from this experience. As I'm fairly dim, with a memory that can be measured in nanoseconds, the answer is: probably none. Next May, I'll go to Dugan's Pub and order another Buffalo chicken sandwich. I might think about a healthy side, but that insanity will pass before the waitress arrives to take my order.

© 2016 Mark Feggeler

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Indiana Jones and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Movie

Not too long ago, in a movie theatre just down the road, I wasted two hours of my birthday watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Perhaps the best assessment of the film I ever came across was a simple statement from a kindred spirit in an online review: "George Lucas pooped on my childhood again."

To be fair, you can't lay blame for the horrendous awfulness that was Kingdom of the Crystal Skull solely at the feet of George Lucas. After all, Steven Speilberg directed it, Harrison Ford agreed to star in it, Cate Blanchett should have been jailed (or at least assigned several hundred hours of community service) for her over-acting, and poor Shia LaBeouf was left a broken shell of his former self by oppressive guilt over his participation in the violent wrenching of an iconic film franchise from the hearts of lifelong fans.

I won't waste your time reviewing the myriad things wrong with the movie. Well, okay, maybe just a bit of your time, but I'll be quick about it:
  • Ridiculously bad script;
  • Over-abundance of CGI-enhanced gimickry;
  • Lackluster performances;
  • Under-developed subplots;
  • Overwrought action sequences.
It's as though Lucas and Speilberg thought all we wanted was a clever MacGuffin, as Hitchcock called it, and to see stuff blowing up; that we were interested only in the spectacle (which is important) and not at all interested in the slow, character-development moments (which are equally important). They haplessly flung a few meager scraps of actual storyline at us like lazy waiters tossing around undercooked food. 

The two have often spoken about how Indiana Jones was always intended to be a riff on the fun adventure serials of early Hollywood, and I can appreciate that as an inspiration, but it isn't a defense for low-quality story telling. Story and character development, along with a heaping helping of spectacle, are exactly what made Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade so much better than either Temple of Doom or Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The two superior installments in the franchise allow us to glimpse the emotional motivators driving the characters and leave us feeling connected in some way, unlike the other two installments that come across like bloated video games.

Recently, it was confirmed that a fifth Indiana Jones movie will soon crest the horizon and the news has filled me with dread. I'm not talking about a the-Hobbit-wasn't-nearly-as-good-as-the-Lord-of-the-Rings-because-it-strayed-too-far-from-the-source-material kind of dread, but rather a sincere, heartfelt and oppressive dread brought on by the possibility of witnessing yet another nail being driven into Indiana Jones's celuloid legacy.

Perhaps I, as a fan of the series since elementary school, can offer several suggestions to all at LucasFilm:
  1. Build all the sets you can afford and skip as much of the CGI as possible. The audience really can tell when an actor is standing alone in front of a green screen reacting to a scale-wage handyman waving around a mop instead of a sword-wielding bad guy.
  2. Put the characters in the correct year. Raiders of the Lost Ark took place in 1936 and was released in 1981. Thirty-five years later, Indie should be taking part in moon landings, the Vietnam War, or the opening of Walt Disney World.
  3. Apologize to Karen Allen (and John Hurt, while you're at it) for completely wasting her time in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Bring her back and give her more to do. I still say the MacGuffin of the movie should have been Marion's son and his true identity -- not aliens.
  4. Forget the fourth movie ever happened. None of it. Not a stitch. Write it off as a delusional head trip brought on after Indie experimented with acid at a Steppenwolf concert in 1968.
If you can accomplish any one of those things, then you might succeed in getting me to the theater to see the next Indiana Jones movie. Otherwise, it might be time to hang up the fedora.