Bob Ross Thursday (Netflix Edition)

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Yes, friends, I’ve heard the good news. I’ve gotten the texts and tweets and notifications. June 2016 will go down as a milestone month, because the Happy Painter himself, the greatest man to ever grace our television screens, Bob Ross, is finally on Netflix.

This is a tremendous advancement for the cause, and is one more step toward our ultimate goal of having Bob Ross in every American household all the time. And Netflix’s twitter account is pretty hilarious right now—they keep quote tweeting random stuff and adding Bob quotes to it. Kudos, Netflix.

It’s a small step, though, as my sources indicate it’s just twenty-some episodes that are currently available, a paltry fraction of the full Joy of Painting collection. And, of course, us hardcore fans have known where to get our Bob fix all along—since YouTube lifted its restriction a few years ago, nearly the whole series (all 30+ seasons) is readily available there. I’ve been drifting off into quiet wonder on my iPad before bedtime for many moons, as I’m sure you have as well. No matter; the Netflix expansion is a way to reach the masses, and I can’t argue with that. Happy painting, friends.

 

Things That Do Not Impress Me

761. Criticizing Fox News and/or Nickelback.

I understand the negatives. I am aware. We all are. But these two are the lowest of low hanging fruit when it comes to criticism. They are also both filthy damn rich, which means they’re doing something to please someone, somewhere in the world. Let that be, and let’s move on to hunt the next witch.

Yes, one is a sad excuse for a news network, and the other has completely degenerated into the worst of thoughtless radio butt-rock. Pointing this out does not make you a deft observer, as is the subtext of so many Fox News and Nickelback criticisms. You’re not pulling back the curtain on some great evil. We are all right there with you.

2. Which celebrities are doing what.

I’ve decided this is one of the most useless interests a human being can have. Not to keep up with individuals you admire—a musician, a particular actor, perhaps—but to devote time to watching, reading, and observing what THE CELEBS! as a whole are up to. A hobby of keeping track of what other people are doing. Might as well pick up some binoculars and go sit in a bush.

Heading North

grandpa-webThere’s something about a solo road trip that’s always been vaguely adventurous to me. Even if you know the route—even if you’ve already done it dozens of times before—each time you hit the road, it seems like you’re exploring it all over again. Just you and the car and the highway, and some coffee and a big bag of beef jerky. A destination; a goal. A reliance on no one else to get there. Just yourself. An isolation from the outside world, for twelve or sixteen or twenty hours inside that car. Something out of the ordinary.

I’ve always liked road trips. I do one at least once a year, from Colorado to Minnesota, always getting up early, hours before sunrise, to hit the road and watch the first light break across the Nebraska plains. Thirteen hours through farm country—Nebraska (lengthwise), Iowa, southern Minnesota—doesn’t sound appealing, but I love it. It’s the heartland, the calloused palm of our country, and it’s where I’m from. It’s the places you’ll never see if you don’t go past them, because you’ll never travel there intentionally. It’s windmills and rolling green hills and hog farms. It’s America. The real America.

Last Thursday morning I got the call I’d been expecting. Grandpa died, it’s time to come home.

Hello Lodge, My Old Friend

Yesterday, I visited this here website for a reason I can’t remember, and was greeted by this scene:

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No, that isn’t my attempt at writing a shipping drama in olde english…that’s the default setting of the website theme. I have no idea how it reverted back, and no idea how long it’s been there, because honestly, I haven’t been coming here much lately. This is a point that brings me great shame, and one I was chastised for by a good friend over chicken carbonara last weekend.

“January 28,” he said.

“What?”

“That was your last post on the Otter Lodge.”

Damn. Has it really been that long?

He went on to express his disappointment in my lack of commitment to the Lodge, and then voiced his frustration that I have too many email addresses. Not sure about the last part, but he does have one point: I need to either do this regularly, or not do it at all. I’m not yet sure which one it’ll be. But it’ll be one of them.

I used to blog just for the hell of it—just for fun, over on an old WP.com domain called “Top Drawer.” I threw up my rambling thoughts and rants on a regular basis, and generally enjoyed myself. That was fun. Through the years, I’ve been developing and curating a number of different projects (namely, writing books and going self-employed), and have tried to morph the blog to become more consistent with those projects, which, quite honestly, has been less fun. I’ve found myself worrying about whether or not a potential post would be “on message” (which, barf), or if anyone will even give damn about what I have to say. Needless to say, the blog didn’t get much attention. But last Saturday, my chicken carbonara conversation suggested I care less about those things, and just go back to blogging about whatever I want, which sounds like a much better time. So we’ll see.

For now, a book update:

Mercifully, I just finished the fifth (yep, fifth) draft of my latest novel, tentatively titled “The Bracket,” about a conspiracy to fix the NCAA basketball tournament. Currently, I feel good about it. Not sure what’s going to happen with it—might just sit on it for a while, might release it next basketball season, might do something else—but there’s no rush. I’ve spoken briefly with an agent about the book, so I’ll probably explore that and see if it makes sense. Currently, the manuscript is in the hands of the queen of the Lodge, and it’ll be showing up in the inboxes of some other valued beta readers before long. You know who you are.

Until next time, do your thing, and as my good friend Karl would say, stay the course.

Free Shit

Friends,

I’m just ducking in here quick to mention I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway for 2 signed copies of The Call of the Mountain. These are actual, real, paper, books. What a concept! It runs for 10 days or so and is free to enter. You can do so here:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Call of the Mountain by Sam Neumann

The Call of the Mountain

by Sam Neumann

Giveaway ends February 08, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

I’ll have more updates coming in a week or two. Until then, hug an otter and stay the course.

-Sam

Why Do I Do This?

I’m sitting here writing this five hours after the Vikings astonishing, embarrassing, and all-too-Vikings playoff loss to the Seahawks, and try as I might, I really cannot get the visual of a 27-yard field goal going wide left out of my head. Just make the kick, Blair. You’ve been crushing the ball all day in temperatures that are wholly unreasonable for a kicker to do his job. You drilled a 47-yarder with the laces squarely pointed toward you. You’re responsible for the team’s only points. This one’s for the win. It’s a chip shot. Just make the damn kick.

But he didn’t, and as I watched that kick sail wide, I’m thinking “unbelievable” and “of course” at the same time. Unbelievable because, shit, that’s a 99% kick right there, and this is one of the (statistically) best kickers in the NFL. Of course, because this is the Vikings we’re talking about, and that’s what they do. They don’t just lose. They lose spectacularly. They crush your soul.

My brother and I were texting each other an hour ago, long enough after the game to soak it all in, and we both mentioned how we wouldn’t mind being Browns fans at times like these. We even fantasize about it, as he put it. Because with a team like the Browns, you know what you’re getting. They’re bad, and that’s it. They lose. They give it to you straight. With the Vikings, it’s different; you know they deal (that they always blow it, so why wouldn’t they blow it again?), but they get you right to that edge where you think they might actually pull it off. They win 11 games. They take the division. They play one hell of a game against the hottest team in the NFL, and then in the fourth quarter, a few screwy plays happen and a sure game-winner sails wide left.

After games like these, I always find myself asking, “why do I do this?” Why do I get so emotionally invested in a game over which I have no control, and a team with which I have absolutely no affiliation? Why do I care so much if they win or lose? I could’ve done something else with my Sunday. I could’ve gone for a hike or gone snowboarding or just taken a really nice long walk with my dog, enjoying a beautiful winter day and breathing fresh air and feeling the sun on my face and appreciating an activity in which no one loses. I could have felt good today. I could have chosen that.

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But instead I watched the game, because that was the only real option, wasn’t it? I’m a fan. Rational or not, it’s what we do. We wake up with a glint in our eyes and get all giddy at breakfast and sit in front of the TV a half hour before kickoff because we just can’t wait for the game. And then we watch it, we yell at players who can’t hear us and don’t know we exist, and we yell and jump around when they do something good, and bury our faces in our hands or slam the rest of the Coors when they do something bad. We watch. We cheer. It’s “us” against “them,” and it’s what we’re programmed to do. And we cheer for the wins, and they win just enough to make us think they’ll keep winning, and then, at the worst time, they stop.

The Vikings win just enough to make you think they have a shot. They win until the stage gets big. And then the NFC Championship against the Falcons happens. 41-donut happens, the Favre interception happens, Nate Poole happens. Today happens. And then we remember, oh yeah, this is what they do. They rip our hearts out.

So why, then? Why do we keep coming back? Why do invest our time and emotions into these games when history has told us it’s just going to end this way? That it always ends this way? I don’t know. But I think it’s hope. No matter what – no matter how many of these garbage ass gut punch endings there are – there’s always hope that sometime, someday, once, just once, they’re gonna get it right. They’re not gonna choke. 4 Super Bowls, 4 Super Bowl losses. Too many sensational playoff failures to count. But still – but still – there’s that hope. That one day we’ll be on the other end of it. One day we’ll get to watch them pull it off instead of screw it up.

A year ago, a friend of mine, who is a casual sports fan, asked me about changing teams. He’s a Raiders fan. His squad hasn’t been good in more than a decade. We live in Denver, and are in the midst of an influential five-year run by the Broncos. The team is good, the town loves them, and the people are abuzz after wins. This year, they were the best team in the AFC. Should he just become a Broncos fan, he asked? Wouldn’t it just be easier to switch teams?

“No,” I said. “God no.”

Why not?

Because you stick with your squad. In winning season and in decade-long drought, you stick with your squad. You stand proud as a fan, no matter how bad things get. Because once we start hopping on and off bandwagons based on who’s good and what’s more convenient, none of it means anything anymore. Because when you stick with that squad through all the losses, through the playoff heartbreaks and Super Bowl blunders and missed 27-yarders, then, if and when they finally get it right, you get to enjoy it, because you earned it. Because you didn’t bail.

I don’t know if the Vikings will ever figure it out. I don’t know if they’ll ever put it together and win a Super Bowl, of it will just be a lifetime of borderline comical big spot failures. But, Vikings fans, we don’t get to jump ship. This is what we were born into, what we were indoctrinated into, and they’re all we got. They may just keep disappointing us. They may just keep doing what they do. But I’d rather cheer for a loser, my loser, than hop aboard some bandwagon. I’d rather feel like shit on a day like today than start picking “second teams.” I’ll take the heartbreaking losses, because the only reason they feel that way is because they mean something. We give a shit. That means something.

They might just keep imploding on us. They might. But, someday, they might finally win the big one, too. And on that day, all of this shit will be worth it. All of the built up frustration and anger from spectacular loss after spectacular loss will make it so much better when they finally figure it out.

Some fans are spoiled. The Patriots win a Super Bowl every two or three months. The Packers have, what, 6 championships now? Their fans – at least their fans under 35 – don’t know what  3-13 feels like. We do. We know what all kinds of football failure feels like. We don’t get things easily, at least not when it comes to sports. We’re from Minnesota. We root for a team in purple. It’s not the greatest hand to be dealt. But it’s our hand. It’s our team.

It’s our team. And that’s why I’ll be back again next fall, full of hope and excitement, face painted purple and NORV shirt flying proud, like an idiot. Because maybe, just maybe, that’ll be the year. One of these years, they’ll figure it out, and when they do, I want to be there for it. One of these years, they’ll flip the script. One of these years.

It’s got to be one of these years.