Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mountain Climbers vs. Bering Sea Fishermen

as i have talked about many times before, i love the show "deadliest catch". it captures stories of men that no fiction can replicate. this season has started off with real life drama effecting the fleet: capt. phil can't go out for the season, capt. keith has health issues, capt. sig is getting older, and there is open competition for a spot on the time bandit which is causing some rifts to appear in the crew. on top of all that, last night's episode featured the story of the fishing boat katmai. the katmai sank in a storm and only 4 out of the 11 crew on board managed to survive.

the story of the survivors on the katmai was a harrowing one. the boat started taking on water in the middle of the night. recognizing the danger they were in, the captain ordered his crew into survival suits. all except one managed to get theirs on before the boat went under. soon after entering the water other troubles surfaced amidst 40ft. seas and howling winds: the crew was separated into two lifeboats, 6 in one and 4 in the other (no one from the 4 man boat survived); one crew member had a hole in the boot of his survival suit; one crew member had to remove his suit to fasten the canopy of the life raft; the raft was flipped by a wave causing the half-dressed crewman and the one with the hole on his boot to be tossed far from the raft and both perished. the remaining 4 held on for dear life and managed to survive the night and were rescued by the coast guard the next day.

survival stories like this always fascinate me (see this post on previous stories of heroism on deadliest catch). while watching last night's episode i started to think about survival stories of the fisherman and how they compared to stories of mountain climbers who find themselves caught in survival situations. the keys to survival in both require the same skills: clear thinking, quick action, reliance on teamwork, and the will to survive. both take place under the most adverse conditions on earth. the fishermen have to stay alive fighting the ocean and the weather, the climbers fight the mountain, altitude, and weather. neither situation is one i want to find myself in, but i am still fascinated by these stories because they represent the true epitome of the human spirit and pit man against his most ancient enemy: nature.

i think this is one of the reasons i like going on mountain climbing adventures. even though i have never been in extreme conditions like a lot of the climbers i have read about on mountains like K2 and everest, but there is still an element of danger and imminent death while on the mountain. you can never turn your back on the mountain, no matter how easy the hill is, because once you disrespect mother nature, that is when she gets you. it is that thrill of living on the edge that i enjoy so much, i think. this is not to say i have a death wish or anything or that the climbs i have been on were extremely life threatenting, but there is always that possibility and even at extreme altitudes, it is something you always have to be aware of. mountain climbing is as much of a mental exercise as it is a physical one. i cannot tell you how many times on my way up rainier i wanted to quit because i thought i couldn't make it...but i could and i did. i had the mental toughness to push through to the top.

that bravery and courage is what the members of the katmai exhibited, as well as the members of the rest of the fleet. these guys are tough as nails and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. they all know the risks of the profession, just like mountain climbers do when they embark on a trek. i think this is one of the reasons i like that show so much and watch it with such rapt attention.

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's Been Such a Long Time

the blog is back! there have been many events over the course of the past year and a half that made me think about blogging again: the phillies world series victory, the election of barack obama, and the return of phish, but none of them seemed to push the right buttons to get me back on the train to write until my lightning bolt of inspiration last night: that travis bickle is michael scott is leslie knope.

now, who are these people, you might ask? i'll tell you. travis bickle is the hero (anti-hero?) of martin scorsese's 1976 masterpiece "taxi driver". bickle is played by a young robert de niro and also stars cybill shepherd, albert brooks, a YOUNG jodie foster, and harvey keitel. the character of travis bickle is very complex. it's a story about a man who is completely clueless about the world around him. he can't seem to fit in with society, either because society in new york in the mid-'70s was out of control or because he has severe mental problems, most likely aspergers. in reality, its both, the decay of society in new york further alienated a man who already had trouble connecting with people. its really interesting to watch bickle as he tries over and over to understand people, human emotions, and verbal cues. he takes shepherd on a date to the movies, except they go to a porno, much to shepherd's dismay. travis' defense to his movie choice is "i don't know movies", which, understanding the character of bickle, is completely plausible. he didn't know which movie was socially appropriate to take her to, so he took her to what he knew and that was porn. bickle's further inability to connect and understand people further isolates him from a society that is spinning out of control and ultimately leads him down the dark path to the movie's finale.

michael scott, steve carell from "the office", and leslie knope, amy poehler from "parks and recreation", also suffer from this derangement that bickle does, albeit to a different extent (i couldn't see michael ever wanting to assassinate a presidential candidate!). neither of them understand how society works, pick up on verbal, physical, or emotional cues, and generally have a tough time acting like normal people. but that is not all they share with bickle...

admittedly, had taxi driver not been on TV wednesday night, i never would have made this connection, so i guess i have that horrible kate ascher project to thank for this (man, did that thing suck! i have never gotten something more wrong in my life!). one of the most curious things about bickle is his diet, which consists mostly of sugar and brandy. when he and shepherd get coffee on their first date, he orders a slice of pie with melted cheese on top (in his words, a "perfectly sensible choice). later on in the movie we see him making a breakfast consisting of sugar, milk, and brandy (had it been allen's coffee brandy that would have been perfect). pretty gross, right?

well, in addition to sharing bickle's aspergers, they also share his fondness for sugary foods. in last night's "parks & recreation", knope is seen twice eating waffles with whipped cream, and in last night's "the office", michael, in response to pam's request for some coffee, hands her a thermos and says "sugar & milk". pam accepts, thinking that its coffee with sugar and milk, but nope, its just sugar and milk! michael then goes on to say he drinks this every morning. yum.

so what am i trying to say here? that michael and leslie are going to team up and attempt to assasinate senator palantine? that they are going to go all urban commando and rescue jodie foster from the hands of harvey keitel, the pimp? well, no, but there are some eerie similarities here, both about the characters' mental faculties and their taste for sugary foods. i wonder if the producers/directors of both "the office" and "parks and recreation" were aware of this. it seems like too much of a coincidence to me for it to be random. i am also surprised that no one on these here internets has made the connection between michael and bickle (leslie knope has only been around for a month, so it will take some more time to get to know her), and as they say around these parts: FIRST!

travis bickle:michael scott: leslie knope::sugar&brandy:sugar&milk:waffles & whipped cream


as far as i can tell, i am the first person on the Internet with this idea.

had taxi driver not been on TV last night, i never would have made this connection.

ill explain more...