Sunday, September 26, 2010

Smarkass Comments: Impact/Smackdown Similarity

Don't have much to say about this week's Smackdown besides liking it in general, while you can read my thoughts on Impact over at 411mania. But, I did have a quick thought about the two shows this week and a similar structure with their beginning and end segments.

Smackdown used current World Heavyweight Champion Kane in both the opening and closing segments of the show. The show began with a match between him and Chris Masters, closing with a promo segment involving the Undertaker and the return of Paul Bearer.

Impact used Abyss in both the opening and closing segments of the show. The show began with a match between him and Rob Terry, closing with a promo segment involving Rob Van Dam and an unconscious/beaten up Jeff Hardy.

Kane is giant, dominating monster often involved in ludicrous and inane stories, including his current feud with the Undertaker depending on who you ask (I really like it myself).

Abyss is a fairly big, dominating guy nicknamed the Monster often involved in ludicrous and inane stories, including his current feud with Rob Van Dam, his brandishing of a two-by-four with nails in it that he calls Janice, and his obsession with a mysterious 'They' that are telling him way to do... and pretty much everyone seems to hate that one.

Chris Masters is a musclebound wrestler hired more his look than abilities, which are sorely lacking compared to the rest of the roster.

Rob Terry is a musclebound wrestler hired more his look than abilities, which are sorely lacking compared to the rest of the roster.

Kane has shown dominance over a top-tiered wrestler, the Undertaker, by attacking him backstage to weaken him and keep him out of competition for a couple of months... but the Undertaker seems prepared to bring the fight to Kane at the next PPV even though he doesn't seem 100% yet.

Abyss has shown dominance over a top-tiered wrestler, Rob Van Dam, by attacking him backstage to weaken him and keep him out of competition for nearly a couple of months... but RVD seems prepared to bring the fight to Abyss at the next PPV even though he doesn't seem 100% yet.

The Undertaker being taken out of action was the result of an injury to his orbital bone and this story was crafted around creating an explanation for his absence. In the process, the Undertaker lost a shot to win the World Heavyweight Champion. His replacement, Rey Mysterio, won the belt and, then, lost it to Kane.

Rob Van Dam being taken out of action was the result of his contract status with TNA that limits his number of appearances. In the process, he vacated the TNA World Heavyweight Championship and the new champion is being determined through a tournament that will end at the next PPV... where RVD will also return to simply fight Abyss.

The Kane/Chris Masters match was surprisingly decent.

The Abyss/Rob Terry match was pretty fucking bad.

The promo segment to close Smackdown advanced the story well and reintroduced a person from previous feuds between the Undertaker and Kane.

The promo segment to close Impact... um, had people doing stuff that added nothing to the story.

I found the similarities in broad concepts interesting and the executions even more so, because there really was a disparity. (On another note, after rewriting Raw as if it were booked by TNA, I wanted to rewrite Impact as if it were booked by the WWE, but, honestly, couldn't think of a way to do it. I guess this little comparison shows some of what I would have changed with Impact to make it more like the WWE...)

Hell's Kitchen Season 8.01 & 8.02

Okay, this shit has gone around the bend.

There aren't too many reality TV shows I watch. That number has increased in my time with Michelle, mostly by adding the odd food-related show into the mix. Hell's Kitchen is a show I've always found entertaining/interesting because it's, presumably, people trying to win their dream job and fucking up a lot. The struggle is engaging -- and it's somewhat nice to see people being given a shot where they'll live or die based on how good they are. It's basically "You want this fantastic chef position? Fucking prove it." I can get behind that sort of thing. The competition aspect is based around preparing food and, if you do it well, you'll keep on going; you fuck up, you may be done. Every cool job should have a show like this.

Except every year, more and more of the early episodes are based around competitors that aren't going to win and are there simply because they will make things interesting and make you want to keep watching. This season, after two episodes (aired back-to-back), it's just shameless.

First up, we have Antonia, a line cook, who, in the first competition where the task was prepare your signature dish, produced a gumbo so awful that it made Ramsay (apparently) vomit, at which point he passed it around and everyone who tasted it reacted in a similar fashion. Later, during preparation for service, Antonia suffered a migraine that involved her shaking, clutching her head, and basically looking like she was a reject from a Cronenberg movie. She was then sent to the hospital, never to be heard from again. Michelle and I were puzzled, wondering if that was real, because it looked so absurd and staged. Person makes apparently shitty food, suffers from a medical condition that looks acted, and is gone... all on the first episode?

Then, there's Raj, the personal chef that has more cooking experience than anyone on the show (including Ramsay) and doesn't seem to understand anything. He gets drunk and starts doing karate moves. He bumbles around and can't cook anything. In the second episode, Ramsay confronts him about a ticket just called and Raj sort of shuffles around before admitting he didn't "quite catch it." He was up for elimination in both episodes and passed over despite obviously being among the worst (if not the worst out of the bunch). In the preview for the third episode, he seemingly attacks another chef with a knife. Yes. SEEMINGLY ATTACKS ANOTHER CHEF WITH A KNIFE.

Sabrina, a prep chef, had an attitude problem throughout, fights constantly with everyone on her team, brought food up to the pass way ahead because she couldn't coordinate anything, and, then, wanted someone else kicked off when she was brought up for elimination because that person snores. She's not as bad as Raj, but her near-tearful cries of "But I wanted you to see the food I made for you!" to Ramsay make me think her elimination will be coupled with an awkward moment where she lunges at him and tries to fuck him right there in the restaurant.

The eliminated chefs were a woman who cooked a little too slowly and a guy who couldn't get sushi rolls right. Both weren't going to win, but, come on, are you telling me the bumbling buffoon and crazy stalker lady have a shot in hell? It's almost not worth watching this shit until there's five episodes left, the crazies have all gone home, and you're left with the people you didn't know were on the show for the first few weeks, because they are actual human beings. Tucker had the right idea.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Smarkass Comments: NXT 09.21.10

Watching the third episode of NXT Season 3, Michelle and I both wondered what the point of this is. The quality has devolved to the point where the people watching it on TV shit on what's happening, the critics shit on what's happening, the live audience shits on what's happening, the announcers shit on what's happening, and even the performers shit on what's happening. The message is loud and clear: this show is rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreally fucking bad and the WWE knows it. So, why is it continuing on this path instead of switching to become something better? Why not try to improve things? Some have speculated that since NXT is on its way out, losing its TV deal when Smackdown switches to SyFy (the current home of NXT) next week, that the WWE is going to bury it on its way out. It didn't fail because the WWE couldn't sell it, it failed because it just didn't work no matter what they tried. I don't quite grasp the logic either, but it's hard to know what's going in Vince McMahon's head.

Personally, I don't buy that argument anyway. Why bury your show? Then again, I can't really think of a better reason for why the show is so goddamn bad. It's like they took the worst parts of the previous two NXT seasons (lame competitions/segments, unpolished/bad wrestlers) and lost the good parts (experienced/quality wrestlers, good use of the pros at times). It's baffling. While the truth behind what's going on at TNA right now would be a fascinating story, I would honestly be more interested in finding out the thinking behind NXT at this point. At least TNA tries to sell Impact as quality -- the WWE has given up on making NXT seem good. It's just a giant turd that they're stuck with for now and they've accepted that. Hell, they've embraced that and decided to let everyone know that they know.

A few random thoughts:

* CM Punk had a few good lines, but was pretty restrained.

* Um, if Aksana has been in the US since 2001, shouldn't she qualify for citizenship?

* When Michael Cole came out, I expected him to be carrying a half-empty bottle of whiskey and ranting...

* Naomi got the biggest pop of the night for calling the 'Talk the Talk' segment bullshit. And then they kept going.

* AJ dominated the night with two competition wins plus a victory in the ring. Considering she's the one with talent, best to just back her now.

* The musical chairs bit was pretty bad, especially since, yesterday, we happened to get to the point on disc three of The Best of Raw 15th Anniversary DVD where Eugene forced a bunch of people to play musical chairs to earn a title shot. That version at least had some storytelling with no one except Stacey Keibler and Jerry Lawler (wanting to follow Stacey and stare at her ass) participating at first... until the music stopped and everyone stood there for beat before making a mad dash for the chairs. Then, there was the green mist in Coach's face, Lawler sitting on Stacey's lap, Ric Flair shoving Stacey out of the way and then strutting only to miss a chance to sit in a chair. It also finished well with Chris Jericho grabbing the chair when Tomko tried to sit in it, hitting him with the chair, and then sitting in it himself to win. Yeah, it was kind of lame, but they at least tried to make it entertaining. Not so much this time.

Really, though, a bad show. And I don't know why it has to be that way.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TNA Raw: What if WWE Raw was TNA Impact?

Last night, while watching Raw, Michelle and I played a game where we took the segments and rewrote them as if this were Impact and TNA was booking these segments.

Show Opening featuring WWE Champion Randy Orton and former Champion Sheamus
General Manager Bret Hart comes out and talks about how Night of Champions was a giant success and proved, once again, that the WWE is where everyone wants to be and why the WWE is the most dominant promotion in sports entertainment. And one of the reasons why the WWE is reigning at the top? The NEW WWE Champion... Randy Orton! Orton comes out and Hart keeps going on about how Orton is the exact type of champion the company needs, how he's going to raise the bar, is the best in the world, etc. Eventually, after a couple of minutes of Hart praising Orton, Sheamus comes out and demands a rematch... which Hart agrees to. In fact, he wants nothing more than to see Randy Orton and Sheamus fight at Hell in a Cell for the WWE Championship and continue to raise the bar for everyone in the WWE and all across sports entertainment, proving again why WWE is the place where everyone wants to be. But, then, Vince McMahon comes out, talks about how great Orton and Sheamus both are, how their match at Night of Champions with Edge, Chris Jericho, John Cena, and Wade Barrett was the best match he's ever seen and how it makes him so proud to be the Chairman of the WWE... but, he doesn't think that fans deserve to have to wait until Hell in a Cell, because they're going to have a non-title steel cage match tonight live on Raw. (Said match would start with five minutes left in the show and end with both men either pinning one another or both escaping at the exact same time...)

"Dashing" Cody Rhodes & Drew McIntyre vs. Santino & Kozlov
With the Hart Dynasty out on commentary, they interfere in the match immediately, attacking Rhodes and McIntyre, and the match ends in a countout for some reason instead of a disqualification. Security tries to break up the brawl, but the four men keep finding new ways to escape and fight.

Chris Jericho vs. John Morrison
The match lasts a single segment instead of the two it took. Morrison still wins, but in a fluke victory that has Jericho pissed off and he attacks Morrison after the match.

Edge vs. Daniel Bryan
First off, Edge's backstage segment would have involved him talking to a documentary-style camera in the men's room, talking very quietly and seriously about how the GM is holding him back and screwing up his career -- his being booked to face Daniel Bryan being proof of this. The match itself would play out mostly how it did until the ending where Alex Riley and the Miz interfered (the Miz never cutting his promo -- he does that backstage to a documentary-style camera later in the show while he and Riley are texting on their phones) would have resulted in Edge beign disqualified, but the three men just beat the shit out of Bryan anyway, leaving him a bloody mess.

Layla vs. Melina
Everything happens exactly the same, but the match is five minutes longer. And there are more botches.

R-Truth & Eve vs. Ted DiBiase & Maryse
Nothing changes.

John Cena vs. Wade Barrett
Instead of Barrett changing it to a gauntlet match, Nexus simply tries to attack Cena, but Cena grabs the chair Barrett brought into the ring and begins to lay them all out but the show ends mid-brawl. The match that was announced at the end of Raw is actually announced online after the show is over. (I know this doesn't make sense with my change to Orton/Sheamus, but that was on purpose.)

Also, throw in some more backstage documentary-style interviews, some people walking around ranting about things that have nothing to do with the events of this episode, and something involving Goldust eating a hot dog, while looking very intensely at William Regal.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Smarkass Comments: Smackdown 09.17.10

So, no podcasting with Tim tonight, because he's sick means that I get to watch Smackdown when it airs. Michelle is also busy, working on a new gym routine that all of the instructors are learning/practicing tomorrow, so I figured I'd write about Smackdown as it airs rather than after.

Fun/shitty note: this week's episode was taped in Detroit. Michelle and I didn't go for various reasons. But, one good thing about living in Windsor is that, between Detroit and Toronto/the rest of Southwestern Ontario, there are many, many chances to see live wrestling throughout the year. Hell, WWE just had this year's Over the Limit PPV in Detroit! They usually hit the Motor City two or three times a year. So, no worries.

Segment #1: Christian's Peep Show with Albert del Rio as a guest
I've been digging Alberto del Rio. He's good on the mic, has obvious charisma, and is decent in the ring. Pairing him with Christian for his first extended feud is a smart decision since it increases interest in Christian and gives del Rio a great, solid veteran to work with as he gets his footing in the WWE. I also love the nickname 'Juan Bradshaw Layfield.' A good way to start the show and del Rio not agreeing to a match until he's ready is a good heel move.

Segment #2: The Hart Dynasty vs. "Dashing" Cody Rhodes & Drew McIntyre
A solid match. I've been loving "Dashing" Cody Rhodes since he took on this gimmick. It's really given him a strong focus for his character, which was fairly generic before. That added bit has made him better in the ring. Pairing him with Drew McIntyre seems a waste except to put McIntyre in a position where he can improve. This was a solid match that sets up a match between the two duos on Sunday at Night of Champions. That this newly formed tag team is getting a title shot shows how weak the tag team division is in the WWE. [**]

Segment #3: Kofi Kingston cuts a promo before his match
A fairly solid promo by Kingston setting up his Intercontinental Championship shot against Dolph Ziggler at Night of Champions. Nothing special, but Kingston on the mic is rare. He's got some basic skill and just needs more mic time to improve.

Segment #4: Kofi Kingston vs. Jack Swagger
HA! Duelling chants of "Lets go, Swagger!"/"Lets go, Kofi!" towards the end... this match was basically Jack Swagger kicking the shit out of Kofi Kingston for 10-15 minutes until some good back-and-forth with Swagger still maintain an advantage. Once they hit that point, it became very engaging to watch. I don't quite buy Kingston's victory entirely, but he needed it going into Night of Champions. Swagger was just a little too dominant for it to work entirely. It reminds me a little of Rey Mysterio's title defence against JBL at Judgment Day 2006. They should have cut some of the middle out to make it a little less one-sided. Still, once it hit the back-and-forth of the end, it was really, really good. [***1/4]

Segment #5: Trying to teach Hornswoggle to talk
oh god no fuck me this shit is godawful

Segment #6: Kelly Kelly & Rosa Mendes vs. LayCool
Michelle McCool and Layla breathers because of 'Smelly Kelly' was kind of funny. The match was typical Diva shit. LayCool wins before Night of Champions and the unification match. [1/2*]

Segment #7: LayCool picks who will face Melina at Night of Champions
Kaval still hanging out with LayCool? Awesome. I really like LayCool. They have their act down and it's amusing. McCool rigging the choice seems like a fake-out on the duo's part. I still think that, after Night of Champions, we'll have Layla carrying the Womens Championship, while McCool has the Divas belt... until they eventually break up and feud against one another to determine the real Unified Womens Champion.

Segment #8: CM Punk vs. Christian
Going into this, I expected interference from Alberto del Rio based on the show's beginning and his being on commentary ringside and I was... right. del Rio distracted Christian near the end by getting the on mic, allowing Punk to get the win. The match itself wasn't amazing, but solid work by both men, two of the better performers in the WWE. The aftermath with del Rio and the Big Show was decent. Set up the Punk/Big Show match and continued the del Rio/Christian feud. [**1/2]

Segment #9: Kane answers the Undertaker
Kane has been on fire on the mic during this feud. He's really shown how great he can be -- articulate, passionate, and just plain interesting to watch. The Undertaker's entrance was great for when the lights came on and Kane was behind the Undertaker. 'Taker made a face you don't often see: the 'oh fuck me!' face of regret/annoyance. Then, Kane just destroying the Undertaker? Very well done. Definitely the way to end the show leading into Night of Champions.

All in all, a pretty good 'go home' show with almost every segment focusing on leading into a Night of Champions match in some way. Really pushing the PPV. Unlike Raw, you can tell where the focus of this episode was.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Smarkass Comments: NXT 09.07.10

A few days late, but that's fine with me. Season three of NXT kicked off this week under somewhat strange cirumstances. Brief history lesson: NXT, which airs in the US on SyFy, is the replacement for ECW, the former 'third brand' of the WWE, which shrank in ratings as it went on, because no one gave a fuck. NXT is similar to ECW in that the point is to give younger talents a chance to perform on TV and improve their skills, against one another and veterans. ECW did this by acting like a regular wrestling show; NXT does it by being a competition. Start with eight rookies, pair them each up with a 'pro' and let them go, doing inane challenges, working in short matches, getting voted off one-by-one until one rookie is left as the winner, complete with a move to either Raw or Smackdown and a title shot on a PPV. The results have been mixed and the ratings not the improvement that SyFy wanted. So, SyFy will beginning airing Smackdown in October as the WWE flees the dying MyNetworkTV -- and doesn't want NXT anymore. Season two ended last week and that leaves a gap of five weeks, so the WWE did the smart, logical thing: they paired down the number of contestants to six and made it a show featuring women rookies. Yes, they appear to be trying to kill it off.

Now, the idea of NXT being women-only appealed to me quite a bit. I thought, prior to ECW ending but when its demise was heavily rumoured, that changing ECW to an all-Divas (as women wrestlers are called in the WWE) show would be interesting. Divas are, by and large, not good wrestlers. Their matches are thought of as a chance to go get some food, use the bathroom, whatever so long as it doesn't involve watching them wrestle. Part of this is the result of hiring women for their looks rather than their skills, but another part is that none of them are ever given a good chance to improve or get over with the audience. Each weekly TV show usually has one Diva segment at most, while numerous PPVs will go by with no Divas matches. That's not an environment where someone will improve and get over with the audience. But, an hour-long weekly show devoted exclusively to the Divas where they could all have stories and feuds, and get a chance to wrestle more? That sounded good to me. Probably a horrible business decision, but definitely interesting.

So, NXT season three being Divas only? Yeah, I'd give that a try. The results were... pretty fucking terrible. Former play-by-play man and current ruler Joey Styles said that it was definitely more 'E' than 'W' (entertainment than wrestling, both parts of 'WWE') and I can see where he'd take that approach, except for one thing: it wasn't entertaining. It was kind of brutal to watch these six women, only a couple of which showed any skills that would suggest putting them on TV as women wrestlers. Their promo abilities? Shit. Stuck in a dance competition? The fuck? The longest match had the two rookies wrestle some more after it was over and try to go for a pin! The other match was thankfully short -- blink and you missed it.

Not sure if I'll tune in next week, but... then again, if it's only on TV for the next few weeks, it may be worth watching while I can. Though, what happens after its run ends on SyFy is still not certain. It may become a web-exclusive show or be incorporated into Raw and/or Smackdown. We'll see. The first episode, though, was really bad. When Michelle is scoffing and joining in my mockery, you know it's shit, because she's more inclined to either not care if it doesn't interest her or, well, just be a nicer person than I am. When she joins in, you're in trouble.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Climbing Up the Walls: Six Feet Under 4.05 "That's My Dog"

For the past while, Michelle and I have been making our way through Six Feet Under. My mom watched the show religiously when it was on, so I got her the complete series a few years back when I was flush with fat grad school money and borrowed it the last time I was visiting (well, exchanged her complete series set of The Sopranos for it...). I can't remember when we started watching it. Sometime in July, I assume, but the seasons are pretty short (13 episodes each for the first three seasons, 12 for the last two), so who knows. It's a fine show. It took a little bit to win both of us over, but we're in a good groove now, watching the first six episodes of the fourth season today (for example). Like with most shows you just plough through on DVD, watching it in such quick succession hides some of the flaws (or makes them easier to ignore), but also heightens the attachment to characters. At least for me. You're spending so much time with them that it's hard not to feel more engaged with their little worlds. Tune in an hour every week with the odd break week and it's easy to maintain a casual distance, but a few hours every couple of days? You're in deep.

Which brings me to the fifth episode of season four, "That's My Dog." It's not the best episode of television I've ever seen, but it's one of the most disturbing. In fact, it's probably one of the most disturbing pieces of entertainment/art I've come across ever, mostly because it was created within the context of a television show. The episode seems like a regular episode of show with various subplots working, including one where David, the uptight-but-kind gay funeral director, stops to help a guy who says he's out of gas and just needs a ride to the nearest gas station. Something isn't right, obviously, but what happens is completely unexpected. You expect a robbery, you expect maybe some violence, but you get the entire episode hijacked along with David as the guy terrorises him, alternately being friendly and threatening to kill David. We're talking near escape gone wrong, forced drug use, lies, manipulation, a nasty beating, having a gun stuck in his mouth, gasoline poured on him with the threat of being burned alive... and with no explanation. At one time, David just asks why, how could someone do this to another person, how could they be so oblivious to their pain and suffering... and gets no answer. Mostly because what answer works? (The show revolves around pain and suffering without any answers, but this one seems worse, because the cause is sitting right there. Usually, it's the vague concept of how god could let someone die, but this... shit.)

I kept waiting for it all to be a dream since the show uses dreams/fantasies/hallucinations often, but it wasn't. It was a character that I'd grown quite attached to being put through hell while I watched. Part of me wanted to turn it off, part of me wanted to just cry, and part of me demanded I keep watching because I had to know what happens -- I had to see David somehow survive, for something good to happen.

I've seen stuff like this before in movies or comics or books... shorter versions, ones that didn't affect me as much, but this... this just left me sad and freaked out a little. I mean, this is your worst nightmare isn't it: you trying to help another human being who does everything they can to hurt and humiliate and tear you down like you're nothing? How do you watch something like that and not walk away slightly freaked out?

But, this was happening to someone I cared about -- even if he was just a fictional character. And that's something that television can do better than film, I think, because of its longform serialised nature: it makes you care more. Part of what makes this episode so powerful is that David Fisher is someone we've known for 43 episodes prior to this one. That's around 36 hours of television (which he wasn't on screen for all of, obviously, but still). Thirty-six hours of watching him struggle with his homosexuality, his relationship with Keith, his family, his business, everything... and then we have to watch him get punched and robbed and kidnapped and bullied and degraded and FUCK! It's just so damn cruel and effective.

The formula is also a tool here, because, like I said, the entire show is hijacked along with David. Once he's punched by his attacker, there are no other subplots. It's just those two guys and us as we watch. We can't escape, because David can't escape. It's not until the end, when he's walking down the street in a shitty neighbourhood, beaten, clothes torn and dirty, covered in gasoline, and a cop car stops -- he's found, not rescued -- that we get to leave as the episode fades to white.

We had to watch the next episode if only so that wasn't our last experience with the show of the day. Because, fuck, he didn't deserve that and, honestly, neither did we. But, hey, that's life and that's some damn good television... not necessarily enjoyable or entertaining, but well-crafted, well-executed, and a great use of the medium.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Culture: American Shopping & Food

Not exactly popculture, but wanted to do some random, quick thoughts on the short shopping trip Michelle and I took to Detroit (well, Troy) today.

* Michelle wanted to go to a mall she'd heard about from people called, oddly, the Somerset Collection. It's in Troy, Michigan, which is... part of Detroit, kind of... like a related town/city that falls into the General Detroit Area, I guess? I could be wrong. Anyway, this mall, I was told, has two parts: one side for regular shoppers and one side for wealthy shoppers. The two parts are divided by a street, joined by a skywalk. Sounded strange to me, but whatever.

* I hate crossing the border. American border guards just unnerve me with their rudeness and stupid, inane questions. My favourite is still from just under three years ago when I was going to a Neil Young concert in Detroit. I took the tunnel bus across and was asked how long I'd be in Detroit and said until the concert is over. A reasonable answer. Not for the border guard who demanded to know how long that would be... because I tell Neil Young how long to play for... Never had a good experience with border guards. And, trust me, if you look at me and think you're dealing with someone you should be worried about, you're too paranoid.

* The mall was a mall. Except for a lack of a single bookstore or music/DVD store. What the fuck?

* The food court was odd, for us, since there weren't any food chains represented... at least none that we recognised. They all seemed like generic stands. I'm used to food courts with KFC, New York Fries, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell... you know, places you've heard of outside of food courts.

* Michelle was once again reminded that I'm a better shopper than she is. Just a fact. Give me a mission and I will get it done quickly, efficiently, and for a good price. Then again, I've read studies that suggest men are better shoppers, so...

* One of our goals was to hit White Castle since I love burgers and it's a chain that isn't in Canada. I've heard about it and wanted to give their (in)famous sliders a shot. Michelle found the closest one online and it happened to be located next to a 7-Eleven, which is great, because that would give me a chance to check out any Slurpee differences, different types of chips, and different types of pop. I may like to eat crap, but I revel and love that crap.

* At White Castle, we decided to play it relatively safe and try a few things. Since I'm not a cheeseburger fan (don't like cheese on my burgers), I got three sliders and a pulled pork sandwhich, while Michelle got a slider, a bacon cheeseburger, a jalapeno cheeseburger, and a pulled pork sandwich. Prior to ordering, we asked what comes on the burgers and were informed that only ketchup and mustard are standard. This was a lie as we found out later, since onions and pickles are also standard. This didn't bother me, but Michelle prefers his burgers with no toppings at all.

* Ah, the slider... it was pretty disgusting. I like greasy burgers, I do, but even I balk when the bun is so greasy, it sticks to the cardboard container it rests in. I didn't want to touch the thing. But, whatever, it could still be good... not so much. It lacked flavour... I couldn't taste the meat, so overpowering were the pickles, onions, mustard (there was ketchup?), and, well, the taste of the greasy bun itself. On such a small burger, they really needed to lay off the toppings a little. Its texture was also unpleasant. The pulled pork sandwich was tasty, though. Michelle and I both enjoyed those quite a bit. The sliders... well, I ate her regular one because of the extra toppings. I managed to eat three-and-a-half of the four I had before just not wanting to shove that shit in my mouth. Michelle also quit halfway through her last one. While White Castle was disappointing, I was glad to finally give it a try, because now I know that it's not great. No more wondering and wanting to give it a try. (Also, eight burgers for seven bucks? Not a bad deal if you like 'em.)

* 7-Eleven was fun as I learned that Americans have such a weird selection of chips. In some areas, you have many different and odd flavours -- endless variations on BBQ from Lays, for example, except for... well, BBQ. Ruffles, a favourite of mine, has few flavours. Apparently, All Dressed is a flavour only available in Canada. Weird. No Sour Cream and Bacon, either? Doritos were mostly the same with the random different flavour, or name... I think our 'Sweet Chili Heat' is called 'Spicy Sweet Chili' or something. It was a little disappointing, but I did get a small bag of Sweet & Spicy Buffalo Wing Lays (that I'm having tomorrow thanks to being full tonight on slushy and supper).

* The clerk at 7-Eleven stopped me when I went to fill up my Slurpee mug, because they don't have refillable mugs for Slurpees, just Big Gulps? After inspecting the mug and seeing that, yes, it IS a 7-Eleven Slurpee mug, he let me fill it. I went with Coke, which was more carbinated than it is here. Michelle got a small Pina Colada one. I did enjoy that there were two straw sizes.

* Also got a 2L bottle of Cherry Coke, since they stopped making that here years ago. Was disappointed to find no Vanilla Coke. Michelle got a Twix ice cream treat and liked it quite a bit.

* We stopped at Kroeger's, a grocery store, to check things out a bit more, seeing a wide variety of chips -- kettle chips Lays? I guess we just have Miss Vickie's...

* Discovered Vanilla Coke... but it was only sold in cases of twelve cans at a price that's higher than our 12-packs, which was strange. Did notice that Pepsi is available in a few different varieties like 1 calorie Pepsi (why that AND zero calorie Pepsi?) and 'Throwback' Pepsi made with REAL sugar... what the fuck?

* Michelle nearly went crazy in the ice cream aisle with a few flavours not seen here.

* It was busier getting back into Canada than the other way around... strange.

All in all, a pleasant day. Nothing really interesting except to Michelle and I. But, it was fun.