Why Toy Story 3 and Life are Basically the Same Thing

There are some movie/book/TV series that I would love to see become a reality. If I got the letter accepting me to Hogwarts, I would go there in a heartbeat. I would take any job offer to the office from Parks and Recreation so I could hang around those crazy government workers. There is even a sadistic side of me that would participate in The Hunger Games… though maybe instead of killing each other we could turn it into an elaborate game of tag?

One series that I would never want to see come true? Toy Story.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Toy Story! But can you imagine if the whole series ended up being a documentary? How frightening would that be? Imagine how you would feel if you were sitting in your room, doing homework or something like that, and all of a sudden your toys started singing and dancing! Wouldn’t your first reaction be to destroy them all?

So, before I continue, let me just say that I honestly hope the Toy Story movies never become a reality. For anyone. Ever. In fact, if any of you have experienced toys coming to life, I urge you to seek counseling and/or a priest to perform exorcism in your house!!!

But ignoring the somewhat jarring and even traumatizing idea behind Toy Story, many life lessons can be learned from the series–especially the third movie, which is what I will be focusing on today.

(SPOILER ALERT!!! But honestly, if you haven’t watched Toy Story 3 yet, it’s your own fault. I have no sympathy for you. For crying out loud, people, it came out three years ago! I was literally on the other side of the world when it was released and I still managed to watch it, even if it wasn’t until a year later!)

Woody or Buzz?

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In one scene, Andy decides which of his toys he wants to take with him to college: Woody or Buzz.

Decisions, decisions. Every day is full of decisions, some bigger than others. Woody or Buzz? Chocolate or vanilla? Responsibility or fun? College or the circus? These are all decisions that I, like many others, have had to face in the past. Luckily, I can say with confidence that I always made the correct decision in four out of five of those cases. Buzz is clearly cooler than Woody because Buzz is from space. Also, cowboys are the worst. Chocolate is of course better than vanilla, except for when it comes to pudding. Fun always beats responsibility, which is why I’m writing this ridiculous blog post instead of thinking about my future and stuff.

Unfortunately, sometimes we make the wrong decisions. I will always regret going to college instead of joining the circus… but I made my decision, and now I must face the consequences–the consequences in this case being a college education and an actual career. Bummer!

Andy tried to throw us away!

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Remember how Andy’s mom accidentally puts Andy’s toys out to be taken by the garbage truck, causing the toys to think their owner tried to throw them away? Then it takes the toys a good part of the movie to figure out that it was all a misunderstanding!

Sometimes we feel that people just throw us away like toys. They use us, abuse us, rip our arms off (metaphorically speaking, I hope), and then get rid of us when we’ve served our purpose in their lives. People suck sometimes, but I highly doubt that most of us intend to “throw other people away.” There is something called “moving on,” which in some cases can leave people feeling abandoned. However, I feel like true “moving on” involves bringing in new aspects to your life while still staying connected to your past. Unless your past is horrible and you really want to forget about it, in which case throw that crap in the trash!

So people, stop throwing your loved ones away. It’s not nice!

The Incinerator

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Did anyone else find this scene incredibly unsettling? I know most people I talked to thought, for a split second, that Disney was going to end the beloved children’s series by burning all the toys to ashes! That would have been a really finalizing but extreme way to end the series.

I, for one, am glad they decided not to incinerate all the toys! Can you imagine? A huge pile of ashes… sad music playing as all that can be found is a single arm that once belonged to Jesse, clinging onto the severed hand of Buzz. How disturbing! Disney would have paid for a lot of tears and therapy if they had chosen to go down that route!

Luckily, the toys were spared. Sometimes in life we face our own personal “incinerators,” times of tribulation (i.e. facing the “fire” in our lives) that we think will destroy us. But everything always works out, and those moments of fear, uncertainty, and pain will always pass.

Saying Goodbye

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Who doesn’t get a little choked up at the part when Andy leaves his toys behind and heads off to college? Even I, the guy people have deemed “The Heartless One” (OK, nobody has ever called me that… but I kind of like it, so I’m going with it), had to hold back a tear or two. My dad, who was semi-watching this movie with me, said this part of this movie is so sad because we can all relate to it.

My first reaction to my dad’s claim was that he was probably going a bit senile in his ever-increasing old age. How can I relate to being sad about leaving behind toys when I hardly even remember most of my toys? I do remember having some beanie babies, but I usually just used them to create my own version of Survivor or the summer/winter/spring/fall Olympics (yes, I know there are no spring/fall Olympics, but I was that stupid). I also remember having a stuffed Barney (you know, that highly perverted purple dinosaur?) when I was really little, but my older brother brutally murdered it in a crime of ill-repressed rage against me. I don’t even remember what I did to make him so mad, but I do remember there being lots of… stuffing. Everywhere. It was quite gruesome.

When I told my dad that I didn’t even remember half of my toys, let alone feel any sense of sadness about getting rid of them, he simply shook his head and said, “You are really stupid. The toys represent family! Idiot.” OK, so maybe he didn’t really call me stupid or an idiot, but it was implied! Anyway, he had a point. We all can relate to saying goodbye to friends, family, and other loved ones… leaving them behind to start a new chapter of our lives. Which is always hard, but change is just a part of life.

So there you have it. Those are just a few of the reasons why Toy Story 3 and life are basically the same thing. Let’s just hope all our toys never come to life.

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The World We Live In

2011

In light of the recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon, I can’t help but take some time to reflect on the state of our world.

One of my major goals in blogging is to uplift (hence the blog’s theme of turning life’s lemons into delicious, thirst-quenching lemonade), but while I come off as generally optimistic in most of my posts, there is something I must admit: I am a closet pessimist.

used to be optimistic… when I was little. But then I was introduced to something called the world. Unfortunately, it was as soon as I went out and saw the world that I started losing faith in it. The church mission I served in the Philippines was a great learning experience, not to mention a character-builder, but unfortunately it opened my eyes to the frightening state of this world we call home.

While looking through some of the emails I sent home while on my mission, I came across a letter I had sent during what was undoubtedly the most difficult time of my mission. Something I wrote stuck out to me:

“Working in this area has really opened my eyes to the state of the world right now, which in some ways is hard to accept. Even in the lives of [those I love], I’m seeing this harsh reality. A woman… showed up to church late yesterday saying that she was late because her husband had attacked her…. But the harshest reality hits us when we’re out and about trying to [help people]. The other day, we [met] a… family whose father was stoned to death two years ago by twelve men who were drunk…”

And therein lies the answer to my pessimism.

Later on in my mission, I remember getting wind one night of a man who had held several tourists hostage on a bus. The man ended up killing many of the tourists before the police were able to stop him and rescue the survivors. As I walked home with my mission companion (side note: a mission companion is comparable to a business partner, though neither of us got paid), he was uncharacteristically quiet. Eventually he said to me, “Nakakatakot ang Pilipinas, ano?” Which is to say, “The Philippines is a scary place, isn’t it?” My response to him was this: “Nakakatakot ang mundo“–meaning, simply, “The world is a scary place.”

Who can forget September 11th? I was only 11 at the time, but I will never forget. It seems like the world has taken a drastic downturn since then, and in light of the Boston Marathon, the shootings in Connecticut and Colorado, and other terrible events, it doesn’t seem like the world is looking to improve anytime soon.

It seems that I am not the only one who realizes the tragic state of things. The entertainment industry–which admittedly can be the cause of the world’s problems at times–also seems to be calling for a solution. Here are a few quotes (some more inspirational than others) that have come to my mind over these past few days:

“Sometimes everything is just the worst.”–Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

I decided to start with the least inspirational quote of all. This quote is not exactly what you’d call uplifting, but it certainly is true at times. Luckily, the key word in this quote is sometimes. Not always. So that’s definitely something.

“How we deal with tragedy defines who we are.”–Chris Traeger, Parks and Recreation

Though the world as a whole may be taking a turn for the worst, we as individuals are not defined by the world we live in. We can rise above all the negativity that surrounds us… Admittedly, I’m still working on that myself. Any advice on how to go about doing that?

“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”–Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This post would not have been complete without a few words from our favorite vampire slayer. The girl died twice, for crying out loud! If anyone knows how to overcome the odds, she does. Granted, she’s a fictitious character (but is she, really? There’s a little bit of Buffy in all of us), but the lesson remains the same: it might not be easy to live in this world, but it’s definitely possible.

So how do we stay sane in a crazy world? There’s no sure-fire answer, unfortunately, but peace can be found amidst all the chaos. I personally find peace through writing, listening to music, communicating with God, and being with those I love. Other people may have different ways of coping, and that’s completely fine–the important thing is that we cope somehow.

While the world falls apart around us, we have to ask ourselves: Are we simply surviving in this harsh world, or are we actually living? It’s all terribly cliche, yes, but it’s true. And while I may have lost my faith in mankind as a whole, I still have just a smidgen of faith in the individual.

I’m sorry, did you want some macaroni with all that cheese? Sorry if this post was too cheesy. It’s just something that came to my mind when I was about to go to sleep, and I knew I had to write about it right away. I probably should have slept instead, seeing as I’m starting to work full-time tomorrow and have a number of finals coming up, but I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead. And on that depressing note, I’ll end this depressing post.

Television: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

old-televisionWhile I was serving my two-year mission in the Philippines, I was not allowed to watch TV. After I finished my mission, it took me a while to accept TV back into my life. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that I still thought of it as being that “devil box” until just recently, when I realized I could watch Netflix at work (I have a simple and tedious desk job that allows me to do this).

After watching hours upon hours of TV on Netflix, my love for TV has officially been reignited. I still don’t watch much network TV, but internet TV has become a saving grace as far as keeping me entertained at work.

In watching so much TV online, I have come to rediscover that not all TV is bad… however, some of it still is. And some things about TV are just downright wrong. So this post is dedicated to the good, the bad, and the ugly of television.

The Good

When I see aspects of my life reflected in a show, it enhances my TV-viewing experience and makes me enjoy the show more. Call me vain if you must, but I like shows that mirror my life.

In rare cases, a show takes a mundane part of life and enhances it. Parks and Recreation achieved this recently with its recent wedding episode, where Ben and Leslie tied the knot. I’m pretty sure I got much more excited about that wedding than I ever have for an actual wedding (no offense to anyone whose wedding I attended), which is more a reflection on how pathetic my life is than anything else… but come on, what isn’t to like about a good TV wedding? You get to witness a memorable (albeit fake) moment without actually having to be in the couple’s presence. And let’s be honest, couples are the worst, so it is best to stay as far away from them as possible (just kidding to all my friends who are part of a couple, which is most of them!) The only downside is that you don’t get any wedding food.

The Bad

As much as I love online TV, I am concerned that the internet is actually killing the television industry. Shows don’t get nearly as high ratings these days because so many people (including me) just watch TV shows online the day after they air. As a result, certain shows suffer. I have noticed that some of the greatest shows out there get the short end of the stick because they are aired at such awkward times that the majority of people have no choice but to watch online. Either that, or the cursed networks keep changing the airing schedule so often that viewers cannot possibly keep track.

Some shows, like Community and Happy Endings, are hilarious, but they have been in danger of cancellation. How can such good shows struggle on network television? How have funny moments like these gone virtually unnoticed to the general public?

I just don’t understand how such good shows can struggle while other lackluster shows do so well. I won’t mention any specific shows because I do not wish to offend, but there are just some shows that I feel do not deserve to do as well as they’re doing, and then there are shows like Community and Happy Endings, which struggle despite their undeniable brilliance. Luckily, these shows are still on for now, but the injustice of past shows that were canceled too early (Freaks and Geeks, a show that only lasted one season, comes to mind) still causes rage in my small, black heart… or maybe it’s possible that I’m getting a tad too over-dramatic.  And speaking of over-dramatic, that segues perfectly into the next section…

The Ugly

Maybe it’s best for some shows to get canceled in their prime, because it beats one alternative: a show going on so long that it becomes stale. Some shows just don’t know when to end. I’m sorry, The Simpsons, but you really do need to quit before you get too much further behind. And as for Scrubs, did you really need that ninth season? The eighth season finale was the perfect series finale!

But let’s focus on what used to be (in my opinion) one of the best sitcoms of all time: The Office. It hasn’t been so great as of the past couple seasons. They really should have ended the show when Michael left. Again, that would have made the perfect series finale. But they just had to drag it on, and now the show is more like a soap opera (Dwight is in love with Angela, who has a baby with a gay senator who’s having an affair with Oscar? What is this, Days of Our Lives?) than the comedy it once was. Honestly, it’s like watching a train wreck–I want to look away, but I just can’t. But the worst part is what they’re doing to Jim and Pam. For anyone who hasn’t seen the show lately (and I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped watching long ag0), they’re starting to set it up like Jim and Pam are going to end up getting a divorce or something horrible like that. Jim just up and decides to take a job in Philadelphia without consulting Pam, and then he yells at Pam for messing up the recording of their daughter’s recital? That is so out-of-character for him. And now one of the cameramen is supposedly in love with Pam, causing an even stronger gap in the Jim-and-Pam relationship, since the cameraman is there for Pam more than Jim is now. And then you realize that this is all a waste of time because you just know that they wouldn’t break Jim and Pam up after everything they’ve gone through.

And yet… as ugly as the whole thing is, I have to admit it’s not all that far-fetched. People change; often they regress instead of progress. Honestly, people are the worst. I’m just kidding, but it’s not uncommon for someone to act completely different from the person you thought them to be. So I guess the creators of The Office can’t be completely discredited for choosing to take their characters in this direction, but that doesn’t make the whole thing any less ugly. After all, comedies are supposed to be an escape from real life, not a reminder of just how depressing real life can be.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

In the past, my unspoken philosophy on entertainment has been pretty simple: keep it light, keep it clean, and stay away from anything depressing.  Recently I discovered a piece of literature that breaks all those rules.

And I love it.

perks of being a wallflower movieFor some reason, in the past few weeks I have found myself wanting to read The Perks of Being a Wildflower.  I honestly can’t explain why.  It is a book I have definitely known about for a while, yet for some reason it was only recently that I felt any desire to read it.  And I don’t think I could have read it at a better time.  Seriously, it was almost like I needed to read this book at this specific point in my life.  That might sound cheesy and clichéd, but oh well.

At a slick 213 pages, Perks held my interest from start to finish.  The book is written as a series of letters from the perspective of the main character Charlie.  From the first page, I found myself connecting to this fictitious character as if he were an actual person.

Early in his first letter, Charlie writes:

“So, this is my life.  And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

What follows these poignant words is an emotional roller coaster that has completely changed my perspective on literature, life, and myself.

I can’t say I relate to Charlie’s specific experiences.  I have never (to my knowledge) eaten a “special” brownie, nor have I had a close friend commit suicide.  But his way of dealing with life and the people around him, his capacity to love despite all the hurt he has experienced, as well as his feeling that there’s “something wrong with him”–that’s something I can relate to.  Maybe all of us can, to a certain extent.

And it’s not just Charlie who makes this book so easy to relate to.  All of these characters are vividly, painfully real.  High school is a time of self-discovery, and these kids are struggling to find their way in a difficult world.  And isn’t that what all of us are doing?  I think that’s probably why so many people can relate to this book.

So the first few days of this week involved me reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower whenever I could find time in my hectic schedule.  Then the day after I finished reading, I went to Red Box and rented the movie.  And the movie was one of the best book-to-film adaptations I have ever seen, which I guess isn’t all too surprising since the author of the book (Stephen Chbosky) wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

The movie did a perfect job capturing the emotions of the book.  If you never get around to reading the book, I would definitely recommend watching the movie–if only for the opportunity to see Hermione Granger speaking with an American accent (sorry, I couldn’t resist).  But if you can, read the book too.  There are some explicit passages and foul language that I could have done without, but the underlying message of the novel is a message of hope, as stated in the final pages:

“We are who we are for a lot of reasons.  And maybe we’ll never know most of them.  But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.”

Some of us have come from troubled families; others have come from troubled circumstances.  Everyone has made mistakes.  We can’t go back and change the past, and we can’t always control everything that will happen in the future.  But no matter what, we never have to let our past determine our future.  It is up to us to choose what path we take in life.  Nobody can ever take that away from us, no matter what happens.  And in the darkest of times, we can still find ways to be happy and “feel infinite,” just like the characters in this story.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower may not meet my usual requirements of keeping it light and staying away from anything depressing.  But it gave me the chance to sympathize with the characters, to feel their pain, and to (almost) cry with them.  In doing this, the book brought me a sense of comfort.  It was like therapy.  Sometimes it’s good to face reality, even in fiction.  Reading (or watching) a story that deals with real-life problems can add a sense of normality to the difficulties we face, which can help us feel not so… alone.

My Fictional Alter-Egos

Fiction is a wonderful thing.  Whether it be in the form of a book, movie, or TV show, fiction has the ability to take us to places and situations we could never experience in reality.

Yet there is something to be said about relating to a story.  I personally am a sucker for any sort of fiction that I can relate to my own life.  For example, even though there were times when I hated school with a fiery passion (mostly in middle school), I always like TV episodes where the characters were at school, because I could relate to it.  Perhaps that’s why I love watching Boy Meets World so much whenever I’m living at home.

Call me vain if you must, but if I can’t relate to fiction, I eventually lose interest.  I can maybe enjoy it for a little while, but it will not have the same lasting impact for me as other more relatable fiction.  24, for example, is a show I really got into in the past; however, since I have not recently faked my own death or saved my daughter from a rogue cougar, I cannot really relate to that show on a long-term basis.  No offense, Kiefer Sutherland.  (Please don’t kill me.)

The point is that when I find fiction that makes it easy to relate to the characters and their experiences, it’s almost like I’ve made new friends in those characters… which is a depressing glimpse into how few real-life friends I have, but I digress.

If I’m being honest, the characters with whom I relate the most are those in half-hour sitcoms.  And every once in a while, I find myself relating to a character so much that one of two things happen:

  1. I genuinely see myself in that character, or
  2. I’m filled with admiration and wish that I could see myself in that character.

And now, after what has possibly been the longest introduction ever written… like, ever

… I will get to the main point of this post.  Below I will list some fictional characters, exclusively from half-hour TV sitcoms, who I have deemed to be my “fictional alter-egos.”  Some of them might be wishful thinking, but I think I’ve done pretty well in picking characters who I feel genuinely embody one or more of my main characteristics.

Chandler Bing–Friends

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This one is a no-brainer for me.  Sarcasm?  Check.  Fear of commitment?  Check.  Seemingly eternal bachelor status?  Double check.  Luckily, Chandler eventually left bachelorhood and found himself a wife.  I can only hope that someday soon I’ll find my own Monica… though hopefully she won’t be as neurotic and controlling.

Ben Wyatt–Parks and Recreation

CIN8aHmm, let’s just quickly break down the qualities that Ben and I share:

  • He is extremely awkward in certain social situations.  Sound familiar?  Don’t answer that.
  • Again, there’s the sarcasm.  Lots of people are sarcastic, but only Ben’s constant sarcasm can come close to matching mine.
  • His nerdy obsession led to him writing a Star Trek fan-fiction.  My nerdy obsession led me to write a Harry Potter fan-fiction (or seven).  This was back in high school, but the nerd wounds still sting.
  • There’s a scene in one episode where Leslie touches his shoulder from behind, and he jumps so much that he hits his head against the wall.  Anyone who has caught me off-guard will know that I have similar reactions when people even lay a finger on me unexpectedly.

Jim Halpert–The Office

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I’m almost afraid to include a character who is so universally loved, but I can genuinely relate to him.  It’s hard to say how because I haven’t watched the show for so long, but if I remember correctly, he is the token nice guy with a knack for jokes, often at the expense of others.  I love telling jokes at the expense of others!  Nothing brings me greater joy.  Plus he has priceless facial expressions… just like me!  Actually, I wouldn’t know that, since I never see my own facial expressions, but the way I imagine them is hilarious.  But I, like Jim, would be upset if any of my jokes went too far and actually offended another person.

George Michael–Arrested Development2x02_The_One_Where_They_Build_a_House_(017)

As much as I’d hate to admit it, yes… I see myself in George Michael.  A lot.  And more people have compared me to him (or even Michael Cera in general) than to any of the above characters.  He’s extremely awkward but good-natured, much like yours truly.  And though I have never been in love with a cousin, I can’t help but relate to George in many other ways, especially in the scene where he watches his father’s company gets robbed and barely reacts to it.  My lack of emotions and slow response time would probably cause me to react the same way in such a situation.

So there you have it.  Those are just some of my fictional alter-egos.  There are many more, I’m sure–not only from TV shows, but movies and books as well.  What fictional characters do you relate to?