Mar 302014

If you’re following my Twitter account or see my blog entries appear on your Facebook News Feed, you’re about to receive an onslaught of posts in the next day or two. My apologies, but there’s a good reason for it.

It started when I found out that Television Without Pity will be shutting down on April 4th. It’ll be keeping the old forums online until May 31st, but after that, no more TWoP. It’s kind of a bummer because the website earned a special place in my heart many, many years ago. And by “many years ago”, I mean “the summer of 2005 when Beauty and the Geek was on the air.”

My older brother Brent told me about the site since he’d created an account, started following what was going on and occasionally posted little tidbits of information about me. (There was never any concern about spoilers because I never told him anything before it appeared on the TV screen, so he found out how thoroughly I tanked the outdoor challenge at the same time as all of the other home viewers.) But when he told me about some of what people were writing, I was intrigued and started lurking on the forum.

Brent eventually revealed that we were brothers and people occasionally tried to milk him for information and/or insight. Not a big deal—he could write more than I felt comfortable doing because I didn’t want to breach my contract with the WB. However, that let to a really awkward exchange for one person on the forum.

First, I’d like to declare that it’s a major ego boost to read that someone had a sex dream about you and “it was nice.” Second, I’d like to declare that it’s probably really, really embarrassing to find out that the object of said sex dream read what you wrote. I can’t say for sure, but after someone pointed out that Brent was my brother and I was probably lurking, her next post was “oh fuck.”

But reading about how people saw and interpreted the show (versus what actually happened) was usually pretty interesting. There were some pretty insightful and intelligent people there, many of whom had my back when things were going in the toilet with gathering phone numbers and Scarlet chewing me out for a majority of our final episode on the show.

When I read that TWoP was going to be shutting its proverbial doors soon, I decided to go read through what people wrote oh so many years ago. Ah, nostalgia… And ah, sex dreams… I spent way too many hours last night reading the first fifty or so pages of the forum (that’s when they started writing about later seasons and who cares about those?).

Brent had referred them to my blog at various times, particularly after the 4th and 5th episode when I was ranting about what happened, what appeared on the screen, what didn’t appear on the screen, etc. Since people were discussing that, I decided to pile up some more nostalgia by going to the blog and reading those entries as well.

There was just one problem: they weren’t there.

I thought I transferred all of the posts that I’d saved on my hard drive. As I wrote them in the past, I’d copy and save them in a Word file, then add the date and title to a “Blog entry dates” file to keep everything in order. When I compared that list to what was on the website, there were two dozen missing.

If it was just a long string of entries, I’d understand. I was reposting everything on the new blog, got sloppy and missed a big chunk. In this case, though, there were maybe five scattered here and there within a span of about two months. I’m not sure what happened, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’m going to fix the problem. I’m going to post everything that’s currently missing, change the publishing dates to their original dates and everything will be back to the way it should be. Order will be restored!

Thus, I’m going to be busy for a day or two and you may end up reading a whole lot of outdated stuff, but who knows? Maybe some of you will get the same sense of nostalgia. But you probably won’t have the same sex dreams.

Mar 252014

I decided today that I spend too much time sitting and lying around. Whether it’s sitting/lying in bed, sitting at my desk, sitting at the dinner table… too much sitting. My butt is getting bigger and flatter. Well, I’m assuming that’s what’s happening—it’s hard for me to get a good look and asking someone to look for me would just be weird.

After searching through the house a little bit, I found a solution: a place where I can use my laptop while standing. There’s a room with a five-level dresser that’s almost chest height. I’ve got my laptop sitting on top of it, I can put my hands on the keyboard without having to hold up my elbows or keep my wrists at an awkward angle… it works really well. Given how infrequently I’m on my feet during the day, though, it’s only a matter of time before my leg muscles get tired, can’t support me anymore and I collapse like a giant heap of Jell-O. But at least I’ll be a giant heap of Jell-O with a sense of accomplishment. And probably still a big butt.

Mar 232014

Someone once asked me in a job interview that question: “What are you most proud of?” It was surprisingly one of the most difficult questions anyone’s ever asked me. Not because I don’t have things in my life to be proud of, but because of how few I actually remember.

I imagine it’s somehow related to my having epilepsy. The most likely cause—my own theory and what I usually tell other people—is that I did a lot of medication-hopping during the early 2000′s. My body was becoming acclimated to dilantin, which I started taking in 1991, and I’d been having minor seizures for a few years that escalated to blackouts that would last a couple minutes.

We needed to find a replacement since the older stuff wasn’t working well enough anymore, so we tried a variety of different drugs and different combinations. At one point, the doctor increased the dosage of one medication (I think it was Trileptal) to toxic levels, but thought it would be okay since I was “a big guy.” Nothing worked. I was still having seizures every two months or so.

After having a bunch of wires glued to my head for a week and a half in the epilepsy ward at United Hospital in St. Paul, the doctors found the area in my brain that was the source of the overactivity (flare-ups of overactivity that spread to other areas of the brain is what was causing the seizures) and found a pair of medications at dosages that have kept me seizure-free for almost 12 years.

But the point of this story isn’t “Yay, no more seizures!” It’s “I don’t remember a lot of stuff before medication-hopping!”

I was chatting with someone online about this once and she had no idea how frustrating it gets. I tried to explain that I don’t remember a lot from high school and college. People will tell me stories about things we did together and I’d have to smile and nod because it’s a complete blank. I kept a journal for a while when I was younger and reading it is like reading someone else’s autobiography.

She insisted that a lot of people forget things from when they were younger, but it’s not the same. Most people would remember standing on top of a mountain and looking off into the distance when you’ve been hiking in New Mexico for ten days. Three times. (I vaguely remember part of the second trek because there were dark clouds passing below us and one adult in our group was talking on his cell phone.)

I’ve been scuba diving in the Florida Keys for a week or so and remember that our guide gave me the nickname “Indy” (I was standing next to a kid wearing an Indiana Jones t-shirt) and he had one of those safari-style hats with a strap under his chin so he could wear it while we were underwater. That’s pretty much it. My dad was my diving buddy and has plenty of stories to share about what we did. I smile and nod. That’s all I can do.

When the interviewer asked me what I’m most proud of, I told her it was earning my Eagle award in Boy Scouts. It’s an easy default answer, but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember my high school graduation or getting my degree from Kenyon. I vaguely remember the graduation ceremony from law school, but that could be in part because the featured speaker was putting people to sleep. Literally. People were falling asleep while he was talking about “justice” and “rule of law”. That’s all I remember, but that’s one thing I don’t blame my brain for—a majority of the audience was completely zoned out.

There are plenty of things I can recall since then, but I’m not sure whether they fill me up with a sense of pride. That’s not to say they haven’t been significant:

  • Being on TV.
  • Throwing up on TV.
  • Various encounters with people who recognized me from TV.
  • Auditioning at the local community theater for the first time and getting the lead role.
  • Celebrating after scoring my first goal in an adult soccer league. I played defense, so it took me two years. (I don’t remember the goal itself, just celebrating.)
  • Screwing a video camera down onto a tripod, finding out it wouldn’t sit flat and I didn’t have time to adjust it, so I filmed my older brother’s wedding at a slight angle.
  • My graduation ceremony from Augsburg, even though I wasn’t actually done for another few months. (My final MBA course ended in December, but graduation ceremonies were only in the summer.)

So the question remains: What am I most proud of? Or rather, what can I remember that I should be most proud of? Unfortunately, my answer is still that I’m just not sure. But who knows? Maybe someone will read this, think of a good story about my past, tell me about it and I can start using that as my default answer instead.

Mar 202014

This is an issue that came up on Facebook yesterday and my friend Marie is justifiably pissed.

The Young Turks has a page that shares a multitude of links to articles on their website, I don’t want to misrepresent the organization, so I’m copying and pasting the “About” section directly from their page:

Plot Outline
Young Turk (n), 1. Young progressive or insurgent member of an institution, movement, or political party. 2. Young person who rebels against authority or societal expectations. (American Heritage Dictionary)

The Young Turks is The Largest Online News Show in the World.

The Young Turks (Winner – Best Political Podcast & Best Political News Site of 2009) were the first original talk show on Sirius satellite radio and the first live, daily webcast on the internet. But that is not the revolution.

We are a rare show that combines all of the news that people care about in one place. We are not afraid to talk about politics and entertainment and sports and pop culture. But that is not the revolution either.

The real revolution is in daring to be honest with people. We dont patronize our viewers or lie to them. We have real conversations and deliver the news honestly.

In reading that description, the problem isn’t that they’re lying so much as misrepresenting something they used for one of their posts. It’s got a header with three swimsuit models and has a link that sends you to an article called “Canada Wants More Canadian Porn”.

Note that if you click the link above, it goes to their Facebook post and not the article itself. That’s because 1) I don’t want to drive any more traffic to their website, and 2) they don’t use Marie’s picture on their own site, just on Facebook.

Theoretically, those three pictures could have come from anywhere on the Internet. Hell, they could have come from the swimsuit issue of “Sports Illustrated”. (Actually, it’s been a while since I read the swimsuit issue, but the Canadian models might be covering up too much for SI’s standards.) But the pictures didn’t come from just anywhere on the Internet. The middle picture in the header came from Marie’s website.

For those of you who want objective proof, I’ve got two pictures. The first is the post from The Young Turks page with the header on it. The second is from the Queen of Spandex website. I was tempted to take a big screen shot that showed a lot of women and men in swimsuits (rawr…), but decided that I should stick with the picture that they (shouldn’t have) used—it’s on the left side of the page about halfway down.

Take a look at the three women in the header...

Take a look at the three women in the header…

Yes, this is swimming weather in Canada.

This looks like a non-cropped version of the middle picture, doesn’t it?

This could have been a non-issue. Marie Porter does not want herself nor her swimsuit model to be associated with pornography, Canadian or otherwise. If The Young Turks took the post down or changed the header, problem solved. It would be the right thing, it would be the decent thing, it would be the smart thing, but they’ve done nothing. It’s still there and she’s still pissed.

Then again, one of the definitions of “Young Turk” is “young person who rebels against authority or societal expectations.” Marie may want to start searching for a lawyer now.

Mar 122014

As I sifted through the mail this afternoon, I found a plain white envelope with my name on it. The return address didn’t have a name above it, the printer used a very small font that looked vaguely like handwriting, but the font got larger at the bottom where it said, “Your Invitation Enclosed”. Could it be junk mail? I think it could be junk mail.

The paper used to make that plain white envelope was thin enough that I could see some of the writing on the letter inside. In the upper left hand corner (behind the return address), it was really easy to see the word NHance. In other words, Boner Medicine!

When I flipped the envelope over, though, I could see snippets of sentences through the back as well that didn’t make sense:

Join us for a Franchise Opportunity…

2 persons per party, 18+ and older…

Aside from the fact that “18+ and older” is redundant, I’d never heard of a franchise that specialized in medications to treat erectile dysfunction. And how would you franchise something like that? Did the people who sent this expect me to use their name and logo to help sell stuff out of my house, then have me send them a percentage of the proceeds?

When I was done looking through the rest of the mail, I quickly grabbed my letter opener, slid it across the top of the envelope, pulled out the letter and saw the subheading to the NHance logo:

Revolutionary Wood Renewal.

Boner Medicine!

Feb 252014

Well, mostly just bruised.

This all started when I got a new chiropractor. I’m still going to the same clinic, but the previous owner, Dr. Nelson, sold it “so I can be a kid again”. According to his theory, the point of working is to eventually be a kid again: have lots of money and time and play however you want. I’m a tad skeptical, but whatever. It’s not like I was going to do anything to try to keep him from retiring.

During my appointment and for about a month overall, he was bringing around the new doc so she could meet the clientele, get to know them a little, find out why they were coming to the chiropractor, etc. After getting my adjustment, I asked Dr. Halbe if her technique was the same as Dr. Nelson’s. Even though they went to different schools, she confirmed that they were pretty much the same. She lied.

My next visit to Dakota County Clinic wasn’t to Dakota County Clinic: I walked through the doors into Exuberance Chiropractic and Wellness Center. They have new appointment reminder cards with pretty colors and designs on them and everything.

They brought me to my little room, Dr. Halbe walked in a couple minutes later, we exchanged pleasantries, then I laid down on the table so she could check my back. I think it’s the L4 and L5 vertebrae that are slightly out of alignment—I know it’s right above the pelvis—so that’s where she was going to do the adjustment. That in itself wasn’t a surprise.

The surprise was because she’s significantly shorter than Dr. Nelson. Where he was able to stand above me, then use his body weight when thrusting down to adjust the spot, Dr. Halbe couldn’t do that. I used to roll onto my left side, wrap my arms up in kind of a self-hug, then rotate my hips a little to get the proper angle. This time, I had to roll on my left side, then she had me stick my leg out so she could leverage that to get the twisting or pressing or whatever motion she needed to make the adjustment. It felt like it worked, but it was waaaaaay different than what Dr. Nelson did.

As we were talking afterward, I told her about a problem I had a while ago that was starting to come back a little bit: I’d occasionally feel some random pain on the outside of my lower left leg. Very infrequent, but noticeable. A physical therapist gave me an exercise that made the pain stop coming back, but naturally, I stopped doing it after a while. Dr. Halbe listened to the story, then took a look at my leg and said… I don’t remember the terminology she used, but she basically said that my foot was turned to the outside.

I already knew that. I’ve known that for years. It came from playing soccer when I was younger. There was one time in high school—I think it might have been during a debate tournament—when some girl asked out of the blue if I played soccer. I said yes and asked how she knew. It’s because my feet were pointed outward. Rotating your feet out to trap the ball and kick it with the arch of your foot… “Keep making that face and it’ll stay that way!” Apparently, that theory works with feet, too.

So the doc thought that straightening my foot might help the pain go away. According to my totally unprofessional theory, my feet pointed the way they were wasn’t a problem for a really long time. However, because I haven’t been playing soccer for a while (and haven’t been up on my feet much, for that matter), I don’t have the musculature to support the awkward angle of my feet and I’m starting to feel how it’s putting pressure where it doesn’t belong.

Whether that’s the case or not, she had me sit down, then twisted and tugged my lower leg around so that when I stood up, my left foot was pointed at a different angle than my right. That was weird. It felt fine, but definitely looked weird. And did I mention that Dr. Nelson never looked at anything besides my back? Yeah, Dr. Halbe totally lied.

She made my next appointment a couple days later to check to see if my leg stayed adjusted properly. She had advised me that whenever I turn, I should be sure to lift my feet instead of keeping them planted and turning my leg. I apparently rotate at the hips instead of the legs because there were a handful of times when I thought, “Shit, I forgot to lift my foot when I moved like that!” When the doctor checked my leg, though, she said it had stayed in its adjusted position.

My next request? Straighten the other foot. I’d prefer to have them at the same angle in comparison to the rest of my body. I don’t want to stand upright, look down and see one foot pointed at noon and the other at 2:00, you know?

I think what she did next was so my pelvis would be aligned properly. I was laying on my stomach and she would hold my leg below the calf, then thrust it forward up towards my head. I asked her if she was trying to make me shorter, but she said it was to make sure my legs were the same length. That’s what she said, but I wonder…

That all popped into my head this afternoon when I was getting some exercise at the Y. I was wearing shorts during my workout, so when I sat down on the floor to stretch afterward, I saw a handful of small bruises on my lower legs. Again, this is my totally unprofessional theory: when Dr. Halbe squeezed her hands at the bottom of my calf and then thrust my leg forward, it sometimes burst tiny blood vessels and voila! A bunch of small bruises that are all below the knee!

The next time I go in for an appointment, I’ll probably have to tease her about it: I can pull up the legs of my jeans, show her the results of her handiwork, then say, “It looks like I’m in an abusive relationship with a dwarf!”

Feb 242014

On Thursdays, I go to the Green Mill in Lakeville for Trivia Night because some of my fellow cast members from Mind Over Matt were part of the team “Just For Fun” (which is kind of a misnomer since some of them are ultra-competitive) and they invited me to join them after Thursday night rehearsals. But most of the team came together because they’re members of the same church. They’re not Bible-thumpers by any means, but sometimes religion will come up in conversation.

There was one time I mentioned something about how some person or people were perfect—I don’t think I was referring to myself because I’m way too humble to say that out loud—and one of them commented that no one is perfect, that God created us all as flawed human beings. Something along those lines, anyway. I can dig that: we’re all sinners, Christ died for our sins, God loves us anyway, etc. (I don’t mean to belittle religion, but I don’t want to do any research to find biblical quotes for the lead-in to this blog entry.)

My question is this: even though God created us as imperfect beings, aren’t we still perfect in some sense?

The universe was created. *BOOM!* And then there was light and oceans and Elvis and a bunch of other stuff. From that point, everything that has ever happened was based on a cause-and-effect relationship. What happened only a second ago led to this moment in time, exactly the way it should have. Cause and effect.

Couldn’t that be considered perfection? We’re all in our current state of existence because of all of the events that occurred prior to this moment. I snore, I sometimes drool in my sleep, I probably don’t shower often enough… I’m a flawed human being, but everything that’s happened before now has led up to my snoring and drooling and lack of showering.

There’s no one else like me. No events that have occurred in the past or that will occur in the future will result in another me. (That’s probably for the best: it saves me the time and effort I’d need to hunt down and kill the other one.) I am the one and only Shawn Clarke Bakken. I’m just the way I’m supposed to be, a state of existence that includes all my flaws. I exist in a state of imperfect perfection.

And having written all of that, I wonder if God sounds anything like Billy Joel as He sits up in Heaven singing, “I love you just the way you are.”

Feb 222014

I posted this picture by itself earlier this week. No explanation, no description, just the picture. Quite frankly, I didn’t think it needed one.

A bunch of people on the Interwebs agreed. My friends on Facebook (and some of my friends in real life) thought it was awesome, too. It was good enough that Mom and Dad are probably going to include it as part of the New Year’s letter to our family and friends in 2014.

But I’m not writing this to pat myself on the back. Well, not just to pat myself on the back. I think the picture’s inception was kind of interesting and thought it might be worth sharing as well.

It all started on the afternoon of the 17th when Mom, Dad and I went to my little brother’s house to shovel his driveway and sidewalk. Justin and his family were down in Florida for a week, but he assured us that it wouldn’t snow while he was gone. That afternoon was the second time we were at his house during that week because the weather didn’t care what he told us, it was gonna do what it damn well pleased.

A little while before we left the house, Justin texted the whole family a picture of him, his wife and their daughter in a swimming pool, enjoying the sunshine and having a grand old time. Nothing like unintentionally rubbing someone’s nose in their misfortune, right? But it did eventually lead to Minnesotan Gothic, so in retrospect, it wasn’t all bad.

When we got there, six inches of snow was eagerly waiting our shoveling efforts. On most of the driveway, at least. Next to the street, the snowplow had been by earlier, so all the snow on their side of street had been piled up there as well. I have no idea how deep it was, but it was also eagerly awaiting our shoveling efforts. Lots and lots of shoveling efforts.

Thankfully, a neighbor saw us and offered to clear off the end of the driveway with his snowblower when he was done with his own driveway. On his last pass, Mom asked me to take a couple pictures of him at work. Our original plan was to send one to Justin, let him know he picked a good week to skip town.

We finished up and were heading inside for a couple minutes, at which point we decided we should take a picture of ourselves instead. Swimming pool vs. snowdrifts. Sunshine vs. gray skies. Bare arms vs. heavy winter coats. Essentially telling each other “This is what you’re missing.”

Mom used to carry a small camera in her purse and I’d used it to take pictures of all three of us before. When we were in Norway, I got a shot of us on a boat crossing a fjord. (Also in Norway, I tried taking a picture of four people and cut off the outer halves of the outer people, so apparently, my aim was really good and my arm wasn’t long enough.) However, now that she has a phone that can take pictures, the camera was redundant and would just be taking up space.

Without a lens that I could aim and a button to push to take the picture, I wasn’t going to bother trying to get all three of us in a shot. As soon as I thought about Mom and Dad in front of a big snowdrift (“See what we’re sort of, but not really enjoying that you’re missing?”), I immediately opened up my phone, did a search for “farmer painting and there it was: American Gothic. That was our picture.

I showed it to them before we went back outside and initially thought we’d have to take it next to the street. For some reason, though, Justin had been shoveling the snow from their front walk into a giant pile and it was even bigger after two snowfalls. Perfect. Mom was holding a shovel and she and Dad started smiling: “No, you have to be stoic first.” I took three or four pictures that way, giggling pretty much the whole time, then got a couple of them smiling.

Unfortunately, I was holding my phone up high to get a better angle for the picture, so that combined with the light against the phone’s screen (plus all my giggling) meant I didn’t see my finger at the edge of the picture. And that’s why God created Photoshop. Photoshop, smartphones, snowdrifts, shovels, vacations in Florida, my parents and American Gothic. But maybe not in that order.

Feb 182014

I just received a “Pre Approval Notice” for a loan in my email account’s spam folder this afternoon! But I can’t imagine why it didn’t go to my Inbox! I mean, it’s offering me a decent-sized loan at a 0% interest rate! That’s assuming that I can borrow money at fractions of a penny, of course:

$6,284.2113 Overnight. Pay back in 3 YEARS!