Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness

Ron Swanson, on Parks & Recreation, is truly one of my all-time favorite television characters. Do I agree with everything he says? Not even close. Do I admire his stalwart dedication to his own principles, and his general attitude of “I do what I want, and I get away with it, because I am Ron Effing Swanson?” Absolutely. He is also a decent person underneath it all. If I could get a beer with anyone on the planet, he would be at the top of my list. I loved the “Pyramid of Greatness” episode, and I decided there are probably some Swansonites out there who would appreciate seeing it all listed out, so here it is. Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness.

Honor
If you need it defined, you don’t have it.

America
The only country that matters. If you want to experience other “cultures,” use an atlas or a ham radio.

Buffets
Whenever available. Choose quantity over quality.

Weapons

Woodworking

Welfare Avoidance

Teamwork
Work together as if your life depended on it…IT DOES!

Selfishness
Take what’s yours.

Haircuts
3 acceptable styles: high and tight, crew cut, and buzz cut.

Greatness Itself
The best revenge.

Discipline
The ability to repeat a boring thing over and over again.

Attire
Shorts over 6″ are capri pants. Shorts under 6″ are European.

Self-reliance
Trust yourself.

Suspicion
Do not trust anyone else.

Skim Milk
That’s right, it’s on here twice. Avoid it.

Cow Protein

Pig Protein

Chicken Protein

Romantic Love

Deer Protein

Fish
SPORT ONLY!!!

Intensity
Give 100%. 110% is impossible. Only idiots recommend that.

Torso
Should be thick and impenetrable.

Old Wooden Sailing Ships
They’re beautiful.

B.O.
Cultivating a manly musk puts your opponents on notice.

Stillness
Don’t waste energy moving unless necessary.

Skim Milk
Avoid it.

Cursing
There’s only one bad word: Taxes. If any other word is good enough for sailors, it’s good enough for you.

Friends
One to three is sufficient.

Property Rights
They exist. Do not let them be taken away from you.

Masonry
Building walls makes you strong. Defending them makes you even stronger.

Cabins
A place to rest that is made of logs.

Perspiration
Only sweat during physical activity or love making. No emotional sweating.

You
You are your biggest ally.

Crying
Acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.

Physical Fitness

Frankness
Cut the B.S.

Capitalism
God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.

Facial Hair
Full, thick, and square. Nothing sculpted. If you have to sculpt it, that probably means you can’t grow it.

Living in the Woods
Live off the land.

Rage
One rage every three months is permitted. Try not to hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.

Security
Secure the land.

Poise
Sting like a bee. Do not float like a butterfly. That’s ridiculous.

Handshakes
Firm, dry, solid. 3 seconds.

Body Grooming
Only women shave beneath the neck.

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Mastering the Art of the Surprise

Unlike a lot of people I know, I really love surprises. But I hardly ever get them. I’m usually too good at figuring stuff out ahead of time, and I think a lot of people don’t do surprises because they aren’t sure how you’ll feel about it. My mom, for example, hates surprises and will have a conniption over a surprise party thrown in her honor. Mainly because she wants her house to be perfect if anyone sets foot in it, and if she doesn’t have time to clean and  prepare, she feels terrible.

The best surprises are acts of kindness, I think. Gifts are okay, but it’s the little things with a lot of thought and heart behind them that make the biggest impact to me. An ex-boyfriend used to pick flowers for me randomly and surprise me with little vases of daffodils or poppies around the house. A former co-worker once left a check on my desk when I was having car troubles with “Random Act of Kindness” in the subject line. That was pretty amazing. Another former co-worker always saved me the magazines I liked from the lobby when changing out the issues. A former neighbor used to leave little bags of the extra basil from her garden on my front porch for me to make pesto. Things like that mean more to me than anything you could buy in a store.

This past weekend, my friend gave me the best surprise ever. He drove seven hours and showed up on my doorstep to spend 3 days with me, hanging out, taking care of me, being my partner in crime for vegging out and being lazy and relaxing, which was something I really needed after six weeks of unemployment and feeling run down because I have mono.

I admit, it was not a complete surprise. I had a tiny inkling because he’d asked me a couple questions last week about my plans for the weekend — questions meant to make sure I didn’t have plans and was going to be at home. He also straight up told me he had a surprise planned for me. My rich imagination immediately lept to the fantastic idea that he was planning a  visit. But my practical side dismissed it as improbable because it’s such a long drive, and his work schedule is so crazy, and things that awesome just don’t really happen to me.

On Friday I was having a great day of productive unemployment. I cleaned the whole house, did all the laundry, groomed Birdy, washed her bedding, took a long hot bath, lit all my candles, and settled in to watch a couple episodes of the new BBC Sherlock Holmes on PBS Masterpiece Mystery. I was feeling good about getting a lot done around the house and trying not to feel guilty about settling in to veg on TV.

TV almost always makes me feel guilty. I think it’s because in all the years when I chose not to have it, before you could watch everything online anyway, I read a lot and studied a lot and really came to realize how much time I had wasted over previous years watching TV when I could have been doing other things that were better for my brain and my intellect. But one thing I do like about being able to watch things now is that I feel a little better able to keep up with pop culture. Actually, my friend made the comment that socialization nowadays is mainly based on liking or disliking the same media content, and people don’t have “real” conversations too much anymore. That doesn’t stop me from trying to initiate them, though. But now I can kinda do both a little better, and I don’t seem like such an out of touch weirdo.

So while I was vegging out with Sherlock and Watson, snuggled under a blanket on the couch with Birdy keeping my feet warm, I kept getting text messages from my friend about how he was working on my surprise, and how I should check my email around 2 am to find out what it was. That information made me think I was completely off-base about a possible visit. He kept making me guess things, which of course were all wrong, because I was thinking in terms of information in an email. I kept nodding off, and he kept texting me, asking me if I was still awake, and telling me to stay up so I could check my email for the surprise.

At 2 am he texted me and said, “Okay, you can check your email now!” The email was a text from his phone that said, “Wait 4 it.” I texted him back, like, “What the hell?” I was slightly annoyed that I had been staying up and that was all I got. His next text said, “Look outside.”

I can’t see outside without going outside because of the type of glass in my front door, so I opened the door and stepped out onto my stoop just in time to see him pulling into my driveway! I said, “Oh my God, are you seriously here right now??” He said, “SURPRISE! I had a few days off, so I thought I’d come up here.”

In the back seat was Ellie, his baby. Ellie is a beautiful Australian shepherd-collie mix. She’s quite a bit bigger than Birdy, and most people think Birdy is pretty big. I met her last time I went down there to visit, and she loved me and snuggled with me pretty instantly.

Ellie and Birdy did not hit it off right away. It was very surprising, because Birdy is very submissive to other dogs, even on her own territory. She is the type of dog who just doesn’t like for there to be any problems. She’ll do anything to keep the peace. Her attitude is, “Oh, you like my bone? You can have it. Just don’t try to fight me for it.” “Oh, you want to check out my house? Sure, go ahead. You like my bed? Go ahead and lie on it. I have others. You want to eat some of my food? Okay, no problem, I will get more soon.”

 

Ellie went after Birdy a few times for getting too close to her food bowl, or even our plates of food, and she wasn’t very happy about my friend giving Birdy too much attention. She never tried to hurt Bird, but she nipped at her and barked at her, just warning her really. But Birdy is so sensitive to anything like that, she would barely come into the same room afterwards and spent a lot of time hanging out as far away as possible, in her crate and in the laundry room, where she never goes. My friend punished Ellie by making her lay down with her head on the floor until he gave the okay, which she was not happy about, but she did it. Again, like a little kid, she was missing having his direction and having the boundaries she was used to. I think it was a good thing that he brought her on a road trip with just him to get her used to that again.

After a breaking in period, they did a lot better. We left them out in the back yard together for long periods of time, and I think they bonded over tag-team barking at the neighbors. We made a point of making Ellie stay on her bed and then coaxing Birdy into the room to get on her bed, which was successful. Eventually they made friends, which was really great news. They have to obey the same process for going out — they have to sit before the door is opened, and then they have to wait for the safe word before they can actually go out the door after it has been opened. I think knowing the same commands and having to obey them together was helpful. I also gave them treats at the same time, and they both know they have to do a trick to get a treat, so that was reinforcement as well. By last night, Ellie was spooning with me in bed, and this morning, she was playfully encouraging Birdy to play with her in the house before they both went outside together to play for a while. A huge improvement over trying to attack her. Interestingly, Ellie did not attempt to attack me for getting too close to my friend like she did with Birdy, and when I commented on this fact, Nick said, “She does not fuck with humans. She’s not stupid.” Actually, she did growl at me a couple times in the beginning when I was allowing Birdy to be closer to us than her, but she responded well to my calm-assertive posture when I stood over her and backed her up. I’m telling you — Caesar Milan is a freaking genius. The shit works.

My friend and I are both big fans of “The Office,” and he had never seen “Parks and Recreation,” which is a show I love that is similar to “The Office” in its humor and they way it is produced. So I introduced him to that and we ended up vegging a lot and watching the entire first two seasons of it. I had actually only seen a few episodes of it, and now that I’ve seen them all, it’s like one of my new favorites. So many great characters and great acting. It’s about a small town in Indiana, and the staff of the Parks and Rec department of their local government. My favorite character is Ron Swanson, the director of the Parks Department. He is up there with Jack Donaghy on my list of TV show heroes.

Lately I’ve been on a Karate Kid kick, which happens every few years or so. I saw the first two in the theater as a kid, and they’ve just always stuck with me, even before they evolved into the cult classics they are now. My friend is also a huge Karate Kid fan and has been wanting to see the new version that just came out for a little while, so we rented that. Not surprisingly: VERY disappointing!

It was not all bad — Jaden Smith’s acting could have been slightly worse, and the tournament part at the end was pretty awesome. But I have to say I think the negatives outweighed the positives. First of all, it’s not a movie I feel should have been remade in the first place, because HOW THE HELL do you think you can improve upon one of the greatest movies of all time? It’s like remaking Schindler’s List. No. Just….no.

Instead of moving to California, they move to China. Instead of learning Karate, he learns Kung Fu. Instead of a Zen master like Mr. Miyagi, who has an inner strength and calm about him despite personal circumstances, Jackie Chan plays a sad and broken man who has a lot to learn himself, and who does end up improving his attitude, but only slightly. Instead of a gentlemanly, good, emotionally intelligent person like Daniel La Russo, Dre is a punk of a kid who can’t even show own his mother an ounce of respect. Instead of the characters being high school age, they’re like 12, which makes the whole inclusion of a romantic subplot really unbelievable, PARTICULARLY when the 12-year-old main character actually looks like he’s about five. I’d recommend watching the last half hour of the movie only. Everything leading up to the tournament is pointless and ridiculous. And extremely repetitive. They reiterate the fact that Dre can’t speak Chinese about a billion times. I was like, “We’ve established that! He’s a punk ass American kid! Move on!” Terrible writing.

I guess I’m just too biased to be open minded about it. I am a huge movie buff, and I have a short list of favorites, which The Karate Kid I and II are definitely on. There are some things that need to be left alone. Seriously. As a marketing person, I can understand the desire/need to market old favorites to a new audience, but in my opinion, that could have been done much more successfully than with this poor excuse for a movie. It was not even worth the dollar I gave Red Box to rent it.

Worst part of all? After the mean Chinese opponent screwed up his leg in the final round of the tournament, Jaden was obviously trying to remember which leg to limp on. AND! In the original, Daniel-san took his beatings from the mean kids with poise and determination, not to be defeated. Jaden was just a whiny little bitch who laid around crying. Ralph Macchio will not be topped. Part of the Karate Kid is about a boy becoming a man. That did not happen in this version. I saw a boy do something semi-cool and remain a boy. A boy with a trophy who maybe learned a little bit of a lesson. Not the emotional strength and wisdom that only Mr. Miyagi could impart.

Otherwise, it was the best long weekend ever. And meanwhile, thank God for unlimited cell phone minutes and unlimited texting.

“Don’t let the spiked hair fool you — like I’m not a bitch.”

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have finally jumped on the Jersey Shore bandwagon. When the show first came out, I was (like most people, I think) mortified that someone would actually watch that and concerned about what it meant about our collective intelligence level. I am also not a fan of reality shows in general, for many reasons. The people are just fake fame-whores. There is not much reality in them at all. I read enough to keep up with popular culture, even if I am not immersed in it myself, so I knew all about GTL and Guidos and Snooki and all that crap. And I still had no desire to see it. Then, a couple weeks ago, my friend and I had the following conversation:

Friend: “We have to watch the season premiere of Jersey Shore Season Two tonight!”
Me: “Whaaaaaat? Nooooo.”
Friend: “Yeah! It’s so funny! You have to experience it!”
Me: “I don’t care about watching a bunch of stupid idiots get drunk.”
Friend: “That’s because you haven’t watched it with me. There is so much more to it than that. Just watch one episode, and then if you don’t want to see any more, you don’t have to.”
Me, thinking this sounds like a good compromise: “Okay. I guess one hour won’t kill me.”

We started with the first episode of Season Two. Two days later, I’d seen every episode that ever aired.

I typically abhor drama, particularly in my own life. Although some friends of mine may disagree with that, because I often have drama going on in my life (but not usually of my own making). I also can’t stand catty girls. But it is SO much more fun to laugh at other people’s dumb drama and cattiness. It makes you appreciate the sheer lack of it in your own life by comparison.

On Jersey Shore, someone is always getting punched in the face — and ALWAYS with good reason. They will punch people being punks at the club (“She called Snookers fat and that like triggered me, umm, so I threw my drink in her face. I was gonna try to uppercut her, but at that point I had too many bouncers wrapped around me.“), haters on the boardwalk (“Damn, the kid’s sleeping right now. That’s what you get for talking shit.”), people who are bullying others (“GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE, BRO! THAT’S ONE SHOT! THAT’S ONE SHOT, KID!“) and even each other for being assholes (“Mike, he’s a creep, I mean at this point you’re lucky I don’t crack you in your face right now.”) I mean, I won’t lie and say I’ve never wanted to punch any of my friends in the face, and they’re all great people. But sometimes people are shits, you know?

I love how these random people got thrown together and became friends, and then became like family. All these kids are decent people at heart. They have their flaws, but who doesn’t? Most of their Italian culture reminds me of ours here in the South — the whole “don’t mess with my people or I will fuck you up” attitude. We hang together. We stand up for our own. (“How do you watch a girl get punched in her face and do nothing?“) Family is everything, and we treat our true friends like family members. (“I think what happened to Snookers brought us a lot closer to her, definitely. I mean, we get on her and stuff like that, but we still care for her.”) In fact, there are a lot of similarities between Italian and Southern culture:

The family is the center of the social structure and provides a stabilizing influence for its members. In the north, generally only the nuclear family lives together; while in the south, the extended family often resides together in one house. The family provides both emotional and financial support to its members. Prefer to do business with people they know and trust. In the north, people are direct, see time as money, and get down to business after only a brief period of social talk. In the south, people take a more leisurely approach to life and want to get to know the people with whom they do business. Generally highly satisfied with social relations and family, health care, daily life and friendship relations; however, find economic status and job opportunities generally less satisfying, especially with the fact that Southern states still suffer from relatively high unemployment. Those from the Southern region generally perceived to be less intelligent by the rest of the country. Place great importance on religion and family. Originally an agricultural society. Reverential about food. Proud of contributions to history. Serious about preserving honor. Not afraid to call people on their bullshit. Accustomed to living with false stereotyping. Love car racing. Jersey Shore = Myrtle Beach (or Panama City Beach).

My advice to those haters out there who think they’re above this type of entertainment: stop being such a snobby asshole. This is the first reality show I’ve ever seen in which the people act like real people who have real ups and downs and real shining moments, as well as real low points. (“Down here at the Shore, one minute you got three girls in the jacuzzi. Next minute, somebody’s in jail and you have to bail them out.”) And the girls will only put up with the cock-blocking and drama-starting for so long before they have to take action. (“I’m putting Vaseline on my face, I’m taking my earrings out, I’m putting my hair up, and I’m beating the crap out of her.”)

Also? Get over the fact that none of them are from New Jersey. It’s called Jersey Shore because it’s located on the Jersey shore. What is so hard to grasp about that? As Pauly D would say, “Don’t spill the haterade.”