Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Sophie's Choice of Orthodontics

Well, we've been here before. I take what in my mind will be a "short break" from this thing and next thing I know I'm clearing out the mice and other vermin that have collected in it due to lack of use. This time, an attempt at the NaNoWriMo was my undoing. NaNoWriMo, other than being gibberish, is short for National Novel Writing Month, a campaign to get people to write a 175-page novel in one month with more emphasis on quantity than quality. Well, I gave it the old college try, but about 40 pages in I managed to burn myself out to the point of making me not want to write, I guess it's been just about two months now.

So now that I've let enough time elapse to actually want to use a keyboard again, I need to make mention of a commercial that I watched recently that disturbed me on a deeply emotional level. It's a seemingly innocent spot for Invisalign brand invisible braces. But there's something very cruel going on that I think needs to be addressed. Take a look and see what I mean.

Is anyone else wondering why the hell this mother decided to give one twin regular braces and the other twin Invisaligns? I've been beating my brains out trying to think of a rational explanation for why any parent would do that to their children, but I just can't think of one. The only thing that comes close to a legitimate excuse is that the family's dental insurance wouldn't cover Invisalign for both girls. But if that's the case, would any mother really screw one kid over for the sake of another? I can't help but think that the rational decision here would be to find an option that was a little more modest than the Invisiligns that both sisters could use.

But this mother obviously wasn't interested in treating both of her daughters with human decency. Not only did she sacrifice one daughter's dental and emotional health for the other's, but she obviously took steps to provide her favorite twin with ample opportunity to rub Braceface's nose in the situation. I can only assume that mommie dearest made the popcorn that only one of the girls could eat, and then put it in the lap of the very girl who couldn't eat any of it. And I don't think the Invisalign twin owned that camcorder that she was parading around the bathroom to get some great action shots of that torture device her sister had strapped to her head.

Finally, we have the final shot of the happy, metal-free twin flashing a sign that says "Thanks Mom" while Railroad Mouth forces a smile that I can only assumed shredded the inside of her cheeks and lips. Am I the only one who thinks that Mom was standing behind the camera threatening to kill a baby seal if she didn't smile?

I'd be very interested to talk to the person from Invisalign's advertising department behind this ad to find out what mental space they were in when they came up with this slice of hell. Call me sexist, but this had to have been made by a woman; one who grew up in a V.C. Andrews-type household where the matriarch regularly physically and emotionally abused her children. This 30-second scene may be the only outlet that this woman had to vent the grief and rage that she had pent up for years.

On the other hand, it could have just been a poorly-written premise made by some dude still hungover from yesterday's twenty-four martini lunch. Either way, it's kind of a shitty commercial.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Defending Post-Black Album Metallica (but not Lou Reed)

Honestly, I'm kind of pissed off at Metallica that I even have to write this post. Their upcoming collaboration with Lou Reed, Lulu, is shaping up to be quite a turd. Never have I seen such a universally panned album, and the son of a bitch hasn't even been released yet.

And make no mistake, the criticism is warranted. I heard 30 seconds of the first single, and I can't imagine how anyone thought it was a good idea to have Lou Reed ramble senselessly over what sounds like some B-material riffs that Metallica had lying around.

What I don't think is fair, however, is the claim that everything Metallica's made after "The Black Album" hasn't been any good. This seems to have been a general theme for the past fifteen years or so, with the most recent of such claims coming from Yahoo! blogger Rob O'Connor in his list of "Ten Worst Heavy Metal Albums." In it, he puts Load, Re-Load, and St. Anger in for a tie at the very worst of the list. Now, the fact that Mr. O'Connor has made the decision to wear a shag carpet top hat on his blog banner automatically makes me question his judgement.

Aside from our divergent taste in hatwear, however, I also disagree with O'Connor's assessment of those three albums. I want to take a look at each album and point out some examples of why these albums have some very well-done material to add to the Metallica catalog.

Load (1996)

Let's get one thing out of the way right now. The idea that Metallica sold out because they cut their hair for this album is really fucking stupid. Cutting your hair has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to make music. On top of that, having long hair past a certain age can be summed up with a recent picture of Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister.

Dee is the transvestite on the left

This picture alone is reason enough for me to make an allowance anytime a rocker cuts their hair. Beyond hair argument, however, I think a Load offers a lot of good music.

"Hero of the Day"

I'd say what got most Metallica fans' panties in a twist over Load is the fact that it's such a departure from the type of fast metal that Metallica had perfected in previous albums, with break-neck headbanging riffs and solos that add at least another 2 minutes to each song. Hero of the Day represents Metallica's experimentation with something different, however, with an attempt at something more subdued and melodic with a solo that lasts 20 seconds at most. I suppose liking this song is dependent on whether or not you can let go of the fact that this is not the same Metallica that did Ride the Lightening or Master of Puppets.

"Mama Said"

Yes, it's Metallica doing a country song. But's a good song. It actually reminds me of "Nothing Else Matters", a song that starts as a mellower, acoustic-leaning song that builds into something heavier by the end. I don't know, I may be alone here but screw you it's my blog.

ReLoad (1997)

I'm sure people who didn't like the direction the band had taken were using the sequel them that runs through this album as proof that the band had truly "jumped the shark," but doing so ignores the fact that this is another well-made album.


This brings backs some of the old-school feel of Metallica, bringing back the speed of their early days with a riff that I defy anyone not to involuntarily bob their head to at the very least. I will say, however, that this song landed in the "overplayed" category, so I do understand if it got a little old for some folks after a while.

"Low Man's Lyric"

This is a song that got absolutely no attention, which I think is a shame because it's some damn fine work. This is like nothing I've ever heard Metallica do before or since, and I love that they experimented with something that strays so far from what put them on the map. A great song that will never get the nod it deserves.

St. Anger (2003)

The general complaint about this album was that the production value sucked. Well, as a Neil Young fan, poor production value is kind of endearing.

"Some Kind of Monster"/"The Unnamed Feeling"

Usually I prefer songs with some melodic value, but these are just great songs for when you're pissed off. As a fat kid I'm usually pissed off when I work out, so they're perfect for me. Granted, neither of these songs are destined to be classics, but that doesn't mean they're worthless. And certainly not representative of one of the worst heavy metal songs of all time.

I guess the only point I can really prove with this post is that music is inherently subjective. So many variables account for whether or not a person likes a song that it's impossible to definitively validate or dismiss a musician's body of work. I suppose Rob O'Connor is well within his rights to make the opinion that Metallica has sucked for the last decade and a half. But I just can't accept that they've put out the worst heavy metal albums in a world when Limp Bizkit has multiple albums on record.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cowboys Fan Stunned At Jets Fans' Reaction To 9/11 Disrespect; Jets Fans Stunned By Cowboys Fan's Stun Gun

I mentioned today's blog topic on Twitter earlier in the week, but feel like it's something I need to revisit in more depth. If you follow me on Twitter (if not, what's wrong with you I thought we were friends) then you may remember my mentioning a story about Larry McKelvey, a Dallas Cowboys fan who was arrested a week ago for using his stun gun on some Jets fans in the stands during the pre-game 9/11 remembrance ceremony.

Witnesses claimed that the altercation stemmed from McKelvey's refusal to stand for the national anthem and his decision to talk on his cell phone while "Taps" played to commemorate those killed in the 9/11 attacks. Not surprisingly, this aggravated several fans sitting around him, and when they confronted him by not clearing a path for him to get to the rest room, things naturally got physical and McKelvey claims to have been defending himself by using the stun gun he was carrying.

Now, I'll be honest and say my first impression of this story was that McKelvey was solely at fault if for no other reason than being a Dallas Cowboys fan. Those who know me for my hatred for Philadelphia Eagles fans may not be aware that my hatred for Cowboys fans is much older. Historically, "America's Team" has been comprised of every arrogant, preening, dirty-playing jerk off that could be found in the league. And their owner, Jerry Jones, would be my pick to replace Satan in the 9th circle of hell should I ever remake Dante's Inferno. So naturally, the kind of fan who would be attracted to such a team must be at least 45-55% jackass.

But judging a person at all without ever meeting them is already kind of a dick move (I'm still going to do it, mind you) but to do it solely on the basis of what football team he follows is a bit much, even for me. So I did a search on a few of the articles written about the incident, and as I've found more and more lately, my opinion lands in the gray area where everyone has some of the guilt.

By way of explanation for why he didn't stand up for the national anthem, McKelvey claims to be a Jehovah's Witness and that standing for the national anthem is against his religion, which seems to jive with the religion's views against "worshiping" anything other than their God, which includes allegiances to one's country.

However, I find it difficult to believe that talking one one's cell phone during the remembrance of the death of several thousand people is an argument of religious belief. And even if it was, hows about stepping out to the bathroom before the opening of 9/11 ceremonies. Did McKelvey really not think the powers that be would have something planned for the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history? I don't give a shit if you were living under a rock for the last 3 weeks. You'd still have to know that tensions would be running a little high that day, especially in New York.

That being said, I'm sure that there is some guilt to be passed around to the Jets fans who got into it with McKelvey. I have nothing against them voicing their displeasure at McKelvey, but physically intimidating McKelvey crosses a line that really shouldn't be crossed unless McKelvey himself was already seriously threatening physical harm. Even if McKelvey stood up and told everyone in his section that everyone who died in the 9/11 attacks deserved to die, he'd be a complete piece of shit but he wouldn't have given legal cause for physical provocation.

And then there's the stun gun. Since the charges against McKelvey include illegal possession of a stun gun, I can only imagine that he should have never been allowed through the gate with it. So how the hell did he get it through on a day when security was likely at least a teensy bit tighter than usual. If we have to stand in line and be felt up any time we want to go watch a football game, I'd at least like to know that the procedure actually serves the purpose of keeping dangerous shit out of the stadium. But I guess that's too much to ask. Now, if McKelvey just whipped the thing out and started zapping people just because he didn't like the looks on their faces, then I'd wonder where his standing as a Jehovah's Witness would hold up. But again, I have no idea if he used the thing in self-defense or because he's a douche bag.

At this point, if you're not sure where I stand on this whole thing, it's because I really don't, either. It seems as though the authorities and public opinion have sided against McKelvey, but even though I'm inclined to agree I can't be sure since I wasn't there. The only thing I do know is that it's yet another instance of a group of people getting together and showing the rest of the world just how fucking ridiculous we can be as a species.

There were so many points in the day where this whole thing could have been avoided. McKelvey could have left the stun gun at home, or stepped out before the start of the ceremonies rather than make a show of his beliefs, which he knew would rile people up even ona normal day. Security could have actually been competent enough to find the illegal weapon that McKelvey must have had bulging out of the side of his pocket. Hell, the crowd around McKelvey could have just grumbled a few words to themselves about how he was being an asshole and let it drop at that. Instead, we wind up with the news clip above that once again makes me a little more embarrassed to be a human being.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Brief Stupid Interlude

OK, let me just say that although I haven't posted in about a week, this isn't the start of another 3 month stretch of silence. I've just been pretty busy the last couple of days, as my job is one that gets a lot busier when really big hurricanes are pointed at my fair city. So in all likelihood I won't have the time or energy to post anything through the weekend.

Therefore, I want to post what may be my favorite in a series of commercials from All State starring Dean Winters (you might know him as Dennis from 30 Rock, dummy). I'm well aware that these are really stupid commercials. But much like the Geico cavemen, I can't help but laugh every damn time I see them. This one in particular is my favorite, so I'll probably watch it for a chuckle while my house blows away in a couple of days.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Welcome To The Bahamas As Imagined By Ebenezer Scrooge

I think that the thing that most pisses me off about rich people is their inability to comprehend the reality that 99% of us live in. Only a rich man, for example, could have possibly come up with those "Recession 101" billboards that have littered the Philly landscape lately. One in particular states that "Bill Gates started Microsoft during a recession." Oh, well isn't that grand. I guess all I need to do is be lucky enough to create (or should I say steal) a once-in-a-lifetime idea and all my troubles will be over! Goodbye, financial turmoil!

This distorted world view can be the only explanation for the Seasteading Institute, an organization heavily backed by billionaire Peter Thiel that seeks to "build sovereign nations on oil rig-like platforms to occupy waters beyond the reach of law-of-the-sea treaties." These islands will implement libertarian ideals, which Details magazine describes as including principles such as "no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few weapons restrictions." So yeah, essentially these guys want to build miniature Bankocks in international waters so that they can squander their money the way they see fit and not blow it on complete wastes of time like the public good.

And Peter Thiel, one of the program's main backers? You may remember him as the guy who recently told kids not to go to college. OK, so maybe those were not his exact words. But he's funding a program to give entrepreneurs fellowship grants in the six-figure range to keep them out of college, claiming that colleges are a classic "bubble" and are not worth the money. This is a man who made his money in the computer industry, and he has the balls to call anything a bubble? And to top it off, this is what he looks like.

LinkI'm gonna go ahead and let the picture speak for itself here

Now, I'm not naive enough to think that college isn't insanely overpriced, especially compared to what it used to cost. But to take the stand that college isn't worth bothering with anymore means you're willing to ignore the fact that college grads stand to make, on average, almost a million dollars more in their lifetime than people who only have a high school diploma. And those with master's degrees or doctorates increase their lifetime income even further.

So investing money in an expensive college is a risk, considering the job market is growing smaller and more depressing by the day. But we can't all be entrepreneurs. I don't know about you, but I don't have a billion-dollar idea just sitting in my back pocket, waiting for some bored billionaire to invest in it. And let's not pretend that being an entrepreneur is risk-free either. I can't help but imagine how many guys put their life-savings into an idea that could truly help the world, only to fail miserably while the guy who invented the Billy Bass laughs his hillbilly ass off in his log mansion.

Order now and I'll personally come over to your house and hit you in the face for being so stupid

So the fact that smug assholes like Peter Thiel got lucky and pulled Pay Pal out of their asses does not mean they understand how the world works. It means they just so happened to come up with the right idea at the right time and got an obscene amount of money from it. They should not be the people from whom we're taking our cues on society.

These libertarian "utopias" are a perfect example. I'm actually looking forward to watching this experiment fail miserably. Think about it. These guys are looking to build and maintain structures in the middle of the ocean while ignoring concepts like "building structures to code" and "paying fair salaries to the workers."

I'm guessing nothing will happen right away because these guys will be really careful to dot their "i"s and cross their "t" first. Then, they're going to start letting small things go in the name of saving a few bucks. Maybe they won't put on that new coat of paint or install new carpeting. Next it'll be a lighting system that can surely go another few months without inspection or maintenance. Eventually something will need to be repaired, but it will be much more cost-effective to use a metal cheaper than steel to reinforce some of that rigging that holds up the island. And finally, one day, while I'm online trying to pay my cruelly expensive student loan payment, I'll get a chuckle reading about how a couple hundred libertarians sank to the bottom of the ocean while clutching their remaining sacks of money. It'll be great.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Yeeeehaw! I'm Gonna Be President, Sumbitches!

Ah, Rick Perry. His brand of crazy shitkicker is exactly what we need in this field of weak ass Republican presidential candidates. Screw the Tea Party and their posturing, neo-Conservative bullshit. Michelle Bacchman and Sarah Palin are in a dead heat for this year's Upper Class Twit of the Year competition. And Mitt Romney, I almost can't even get the words out...Mitt Romney is a Mormon!

What we need is a man's man. A guy who's willing to blow the back of a coyote's head clean off should it so much as look at his dog the wrong way. A guy personally responsible for winning the war against Mexican drug cartels. We need a man who is "authentic, a truth-teller, and a job creating machine." Therefore, God must favor us mortals as the New York Times announced that Governor Perry will be making a definitive act to run for the presidency.

But Governor Perry's balls are far too large to just say "I'm running for president." And it goes without saying that taking part in the Iowa Straw Polls are for women and San Franciscans. That's why Governor Perry's definitive act of running for president will apparently be waving his dick at his opponents from South Carolina and New Hampshire this weekend. South Carolina is obviously going to be on Team Perry from the get go, but I wouldn't be surprised if New Hampshire buckled under his manliness and voted him in as well.

I, for one, cannot wait for his campaign. Ever since Donald Trump proudly stepped out of the race after single-handedly forcing President Obama to release his birth certificate (which was obviously forged) we've been left without a voice of justice for the real America. We've found that voice, and now the country is back on track to return to its former glory.

Or, if nothing else, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will have plenty of material for the next few months.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wow, They Really Let This Place Go

Yeah. I really followed up on that promise to just get back to writing for writing's sake, didn't I? I have little in the way of an excuse other than I've recently had some pretty big changes at work, it's been hot as hell lately, and, well....I really just haven't felt like it. I was having a hard time for a while finding the motivation to write, so I figured I'd just step away for a while. Then, after a couple of posts from the Mrs. made me realize I really was neglecting this old girl, my new problem was that I didn't really have a whole lot to say. But, we're in luck today because after about a month of taking the train into Philly for my new job, I'm ready to bitch about other people again.

First, let me start off that saying the new job is great. I still work for the same image-conscious organization so I still can't get into specifics, but let's just say the days seem to be going much faster now. And since I take the train through the more congested parts of Philly I don't have to with it's mouth-breathing drivers, which is another big plus. But I wouldn't be me if I didn't complain about random minutiae, so let's concentrate just concentrate on the mouth-breathers that I share the train with, shall we?

While the train ride itself is a lot better than driving all they way to work, I'm still looking at about an hour and fifteen minute one-way commute when you account for the drive to the station and the ride itself. That would be fine if nobody went out of their way to annoy the piss out of me along the way. But then, what are people put on this earth for if not to annoy the piss out of me?

My fellow passengers are the most frequent culprits. The most inexplicable such passenger is the old lady who sees me as a harmless young white man who is safe enough to cram in next to on a tiny seat. This has happened more than once, and I just don't get it. I try to make myself an unpleasant person to sit next to on the train. I sit on the side of the train with the narrow benches to make the space next to me as small as possible. This morning I even sat on a seat that was so loose that it sagged under my sizable ass and seemed ready to collapse if anyone else dared try to use it. I was even reading a book about the horror movie revolution of the 60s and 70s, and I'm told that the look I make when I'm reading looks similar to someone getting ready to commit sexual assault. I figured anyone, especially an old lady, would want to avoid someone who could be imagined to look like this:

I'm done with my newspaper if you'd like to read it.

But no, they plop right down next to me with a smile that indicates that it's my privilege for them to feel comfortable enough to ride next to me. One lady even tried to give me a religious pamphlet. I took it from her, rubbed it on my crotch, and shoved it in her face while screaming obscenities. OK, I didn't do that. I politely refused it. But that's actually showing more spine than usual, as normally I'd take the pamphlet and pretend to read it while she sat next to me.

As annoying as old ladies tend to get, they at least don't cause the physical discomfort that comes when a guy who has not applied deodorant in 6 years pops a squat next to me. Why? Why can't you you spend $3 a month and 20 seconds a day to keep me from spending the next half hour gagging into my shirt. And I know that other cultures frown on the use of deodorant and that ranting about it probably makes me seem like a classless schmuck. But dammit, so does vomiting on a train full of people.

To be fair, there are more than just annoying passengers on the train. There are also annoying employees, the most annoying of which is the disembodied voice that blares out over the P.A. system during the trip. It would be sufficient to tell me that our next stop will be in Morton. You don't have to yell that the next stop is MORTON! The microphone is really a fascinating technology. If you talk into it normally, it sends a signal to an amplifier that will project your voice at the appropriate level. Which is especially important when you're telling people that the first car is the QUIET CAR!

Another employee that I never see but would like to hurt is whatever back-office twit decides to keep trains in service that should have been sold for scrap when Menudo was still popular. Remember that sagging bench I was telling you about from this morning? That really should not be an issue, should it? With public transportation prices on a constant rise in Philadelphia, you'd think they could afford to stop using the train cars with broken seats covered in cheap faux-leather and broken air conditioning. Especially considering it's been a balmy 95 degrees for the last three fucking weeks.

Well it appears all that complaining has made me tired. It's obvious that I need to start flexing the writing muscles again, so hopefully (I'm not making any promises) I'll start popping up back here again on a more regular basis. Fortunately, I'll have plenty of time on the train to think about some more pointless shit to talk about. It beats trying to make old women explode with my thoughts.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's a paradigum!

I'm fairly certain that everyone has at least one word that they unknowingly and heinously mispronounced for an extended period of time. Mine was adrenaline, which I pronounced "all-der-line". I know, not even close. Since this started in a middle school health class, I was saying it that way for some time before someone finally said something, i.e. made fun of me until I went and looked it up.

Inspired by a comment on the last post, I thought I would share two of my favorite examples of insane mispronunciation. This first link is to a Gawker.TV post talking about a How I Met Your Mother episode in which Ted discovers he's been mispronouncing the word chameleon his entire life. (The clip on the left after the title of the article.)

The second is a trailer for a schlocky Gwenyth Paltrow number called A View From the Top, in which poor, beat down, trailer trash Gwennie changes her life by aspiring to be a first class flight attendant. So you don't have to subject yourselves to the headache inducing lines in the trailer, just skip ahead to about the 1:33 mark where Mike Myers corrects the mispronunciation of Christina Applegate's trainee flight attendant.

I do like to see others stepping in some verbal dog crap. Please share any favorites you might have!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Anyone want a blog? Only slightly used and very lonely.

I think this blog has finally become so neglected it's at the take-it-out-back-and-shoot-it stage. Or, for those of you raised in a more suburban environment, take-it-to-a-nice-blog-farm-far-away-and-let-it-run-free-with-the-other-blogs stage. Maybe I can try and nurse it back to health, Dr. Quinn style.

Evil Taylor Hicks is currently attempting to finish Devil in a White City so it can be turned over to me. I'm currently trying to avoid reading Embassytown since I'm only about 30 pages in and I'm already debating about finishing it. So while I'm trying not to acknowledge my attempt to branch out from my reading wheelhouse, I decided I'd sneak on here and post something just to see if the Evil One would notice. The following are a variety of things I've been enjoying lately:

Bangable Dudes in History

Whoa, what a start! That's right, a blog about hot historical dudes complete with pie charts and pictures. To be fair, the blogger does post pictures of chicks occasionally but mostly sticks with the black and white male sexiness. I now feel much less creepy about my unclean thoughts during history class.

When Parents Text

I love, love, love this site. Basic and absolutely hysterical. It also makes me slightly nostalgic for the days that my mom first started texting. Only slightly though.

Go Fug Yourself

Fashion and snarkiness all rolled up in one blog. I cannot recommend this site enough if you have even the slightest interest in clothes and/or laughing. I think I may have fallen in love with this site when one of the bloggers was able to work in a Blazing Saddles reference (an OBSCURE reference mind you not any of the more famous ones) into a fashion post.

Okay, okay, I have to get one complaint in concerning the new Toyota Venza commercials. Obviously, you need to watch them before reading the rest.

Done? Great. First, the majority of the parent actors and their "kids" look to be about the same age. (I put "kids" in quotes because all of these actors look like they are in their 30s.) Second, I'm not on Facebook and neither is Evil Twin to Taylor Hicks. However, we get harangued on a pretty consistent basis by our MUCH OLDER RELATIVES because of our absence on that stupid site. Toyota, the oldies LOVE them some Facebook AND are actually quite quick to adapt to new technologies and run them into the ground. So, you're trying to sell cars based on how inactive and condescending today's "kids" are and how older people are able to balance their lives and technology in a better way through...your cars? Douchebags. Next time, take two seconds to sit down with your 20-something marketing interns and run the adverts by them. We're not all as insipid as we look.

A few more bitch-free things:

You guys, when in the hell did NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM GET SMOKING HOT??? I've avoided the last couple of movies just because I was so Pottered out (I'd gone a bit....potty?Snort.) which I now regret utterly and completely. Also, if you are a Potter fan (of the books or the movies) you really need to read the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly since they went all out. Apparently, if you were British and an actor, then you had some kind of role in these movies. And if you weren't, then the cast was laughing at you behind your back.

Voyager is on Netflix! This will most likely be the last post from me for awhile since I will be deeply engrossed by Cap'n Janeway's Gibson Girl and B'Elanna's bitchiness for the next couple of weeks. I also think it's hilarious that Deep Space Nine is the only Star Trek TV product that is not on Watch Instantly. Probably because it sucks.

If this inspired you to take a look at your queue, then also be sure to add the Masterpiece Mystery version of Sherlock (which I am obsessed with as Evils Hicks can attest) and Downton Abbey. Hicks keeps calling this Downtown Abbey, which sounds like a kicky 90s sitcom about a 20 something who's come to the big city to find herself and has a weird roommate that does yoga naked. This is not that, it's much more dramatic and British.

Time wasted. You're welcome!

-Not Looks Like Taylor Hicks

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pulling My Head Out Of My Ass While Trump Pushes His Head Farther Up His

OK, I think I found the problem with why I've been spinning my wheels with this blog lately. I think I've actually viewing it as some kind of obligation. I've been trying to think of posts that would make as many people as possible want to read them, and I've started worrying over the fact that if I don't make regular posts then I'll lose all of my followers. That's right. All 10 of my followers. Honestly, have I become so deluded that I think I'm one clever post away from getting an avalanche of readers who cannot wait to hear the inane ramblings of a twenty-something asshole from Philadelphia?

So I've come to the realization that I just need to go back to the original mindset of this blog....using it as an outlet to vent things that piss me off and share the things that make me happy. And, yes, I realize that I've pretty much been doing that anyway. But in my head I had this grand scheme of making weekly segments that would earn me the admiration of the entire blog community. Because I'm a schmuck like that.

But as of today I'm going to relax a bit with the dumbass gimmick crap. I just want anyone who gives a shit to enjoy this Colbert Report clip:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Journalistic Grintegrity
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

I don't know about you, but I picture both the writing staff for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report getting together before the start of each day, holding hands, and praying to God, Jesus, and Allah that Donald Trump stays in presidential contention for as long as possible. When Trump first started in with his raving lunacy, it really pissed me off. I couldn't believe anyone would give this guy a platform to say anything other than "You're fired." But then I realized that the only reason he's being given this platform is because no one wants to miss the opportunity to watch the train wreck over and over and over again.

It's not like we really have to worry about Trump winning the election. If that happens, I've already died and gone to hell anyway so I'll have bigger problems at that point. So now I get that the thing to do is sit back and enjoy the parade of asinine claims made by the "golden helmeted noise warrior." And I'm not gonna lie, I'd totally buy a bumper sticker that read "You're not gonna raise that fuckin' price, you understand me?"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

6 Things I Learned About The Philadelphia Court System

Hey, what do you know. A post having nothing to do with Hugh Laurie or Leslie Nielsen. I'm just as shocked as you are. I really don't know why I've been so damn lazy on here lately. Just haven't felt the urge to force my poorly formed thoughts on the world for a while. But I really think I'm turning a corner here. I'm ready to get back on the horse.

You may remember that delightful fellow who tested his airbags by demolishing my wife's parked car while were sleeping. Well, after two months we were called into court to testify about the damage. After around 5 hours as we exited the courthouse, our jaws were dragging on the floor in awe of the epic sideshow that is the Philadelphia court system. I learned some very enlightening things about how justice is disbursed in the City of Brotherly Love, and I would like to present them to you in no particular order...mainly due to the fact that there certainly wasn't any in court that day (zing!)
  • The crier is allowed to treat everyone, including the judge, like an absolute prick. I'm fairly certain that my wife and I were the only two people that the court crier (a.k.a. the guy who announces the next case) didn't grumble to, shout over, or yell at. And that includes the judge. This guy was absolutely stunning in his utter lack of professionalism. And I say this as a man who has more than once knowingly gone to work with a noticeable hole in the crotch of his pants. Now, I get that with 50 plus cases to juggle each day, even the most even-keeled person would get frazzled from time to time. But if you're to the point where every word out of your mouth is dripping with contempt for your fellow man, perhaps it's time for an extended vacation.
  • It's perfectly reasonable for a judge to throw a temper tantrum in the middle of a case. First of all, it needs to be said that our judge could have easily played Bilbo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He looked to barely be able to see over the bench in a standing position and he's definitely indulged in a "second breakfast" or an "elevensies" in his lifetime. The similarities are purely physical, however, because if my memory serves me correctly Bilbo Baggins wasn't a raging asshole. At one point, after we had been out in the hall reviewing some paperwork, my wife and I returned to the courtroom to find the judge literally out of his chair yelling at an assistant DA. In all fairness, I don't know what happened that lead to this exchange. But unless the assistant DA just admitted to coercing a confession from the defendant by showing him pictures of the judge's naked wife, then I think a little restraint is in order.
  • The judge is allowed to jerk around an expert witness as he sees fit. Part two of Judge Bilbo's screaming fit came when the assistant DA called up an expert witness as part of her case. At this point the judge was still seething and he only seemed to become further enraged that the assistant DA would call an expert witness. So within a few seconds of taking the bench, the judge threw up his hands and told the witness that he didn't want to allow him to testify. So the witness left the stand and sat back down in his original seat. The witness' ass had barely touched the seat when the judge changed his mind again and told him to take the stand. I'm sure the narcotics officer being used as an expert witness that day had nothing better to do than play musical chairs with an elected official.
  • Lawyers have no problem using pop culture references as "precedence." I want you to picture every shady-looking TV lawyer you've ever seen. Then combine them into one bubbling mass of shyster. Then you'll have a picture of the lawyer I saw doing his thing. Basically, I think his style can be summed up by the fact that he utilized the following logic: his client was not intending to sell the drugs that he had on him because, after all, Charlie Sheen had claimed to do more drugs in one sitting than his client had on him when he was pulled over. I'm not kidding. I'm still not sure if this was the best or worst line of reasoning I've ever heard.
  • Public defenders are even more tired and beaten-down looking than you might think. While a minority of the defendants had their own representation, I'd say at least 3/4 of the cases were being defended by one guy who looked like he slept in the suit he was wearing. I felt so bad for this guy. I don't care if this is the life he chose. No man should be forced to go through his day looking that down-trodden. Actually, if anyone remembers Ted from Scrubs, just add a head of a hair and make him a few years younger and you'll have this public defender.

So my day in court was a lot of things, but boring was definitely not one of them. I think I learned a lot about the law even in the short amount of time that I saw it in action. If I had to pick the most important thing I've learned from the day I'd say it's this: if you are going to break the law and you want it to be resolved quickly, make sure you break the law outside of southeastern Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This Week In Non-Naked Gun Leslie Nielsen: Kung Fu

So, uh...yeah. That plan of pulling my head out of my ass didn't really pan out. What can I say? Life has been busy and I just haven't had the motivation to do my thing on here. But the good news is that I've got some good story-time material so I'm definitely ready to get back in the groove.

The worst part about my not posting for the last two weeks is hardly that anyone's been deprived of my stupid bullshit. No, the worst part is that I've deprived everyone of what might be the greatest scene ever committed to film. Leslie Nielsen has become known for physical comedy over the years. But I swear to God, I don't think I've seen him in anything as funny as this clip as he guest stars on the 70's martial arts/horrible acting extravaganza Kung Fu.

Be warned that I have no idea what the scenario is here. As far as I can tell Leslie Nielsen is fighting with someone who used to be his friend but now has to "bring him in." Series star David Carradine is no where to be found; he was likely tied up (ba-dum ching!). So that leaves Nielsen and Random Dude to put on the worst display of fighting in the history of television.

So let's forget the fact that neither person in this scene has any right taking part in a pillow fight, much less a martial arts duel. And let's even look past Leslie Nielsen's face as he puts his pal in the worst rear-naked choke ever applied. I'll even overlook the fact the comically overdrawn series of 7 goddamn stomach punches that Nielsen seems to receive in slow motion.

What I absolutely cannot let pass, however, is that Leslie Nielsen takes an upward palm thrust to the nose, seemingly resulting in his nose being shoved into his brain. But rather than die immediately, as pretty much anyone with catastrophic brain damage would logically do, he remains consciousness long enough to coherently warn his friend of his inevitable doom. No, writers of Kung Fu, that is not how this works. I'm not a doctor, but I'd be willing to bet that someone receiving a blow to the head hard enough to kill them is going to do little other than shit their pants before they die.

But it might very well be this clip's complete disregard for reality that makes it one of my new favorite YouTube clips. Every once in a while there comes a clip that I compulsively need to watch at least once a day. This is one such clip. In fact, if nothing else I hope that this post will urge people to spread the joy. You don't even need to give me credit. I just want to know that this clip won't get lost in YouTube obscurity. It must live on! Ok, so it's not that important. But it's pretty funny.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

This Week In Non-Naked Gun Leslie Nielsen: The New Breed

So after about a week and a half I guess it's time to pull my head out of my ass and start writing on this thing a little bit more. Apologies to anyone who's been sorely missing me. Work/family/laziness have prevented me from putting much effort into the blog over the last few days.

But today I'm excited to officially introduce the first installment of "This Week in Non-Naked Gun Leslie Nielsen." Nielsen won the poll over competition Keanu Reeves and Gillian Anderson (although they both got some love too so maybe they'll work their way into future segments). I'd give kudos to the guy/girl who suggested him, but they chose to remain anonymous. Either that or the person's name is Anonymous, in which case they probably have a pretty tough time getting through the airport.

Anyway, folks who know Leslie Nielsen know him for two things: The Naked Gun's Frank Drebin and Airplane!'s Dr. Rumack. What most people don't recognize, however, is the 150+ movie and television roles he churned out in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. This guy liked to keep busy. Not only that, in his early career he actually played the leading-man type. Keep in mind that playing the leading man in early film and television didn't seem to require much more than memorizing your lines.

With that in mind, I bring you a gem that I found on YouTube from a cop show called The New Breed. In it, Nielsen plays Lt. Price Adams, a detective for the LAPD Metro Squad. From what I can gather, it's a poor man's Dragnet. Enjoy.

Can I first point out that YouTube really is the best place to find the most gloriously pointless clips. Who the hell even has The New Breed on film, much less the time and inclination to upload it on their computer and post it for the world to see? I'm not going to rule out the possibility that it was Leslie Nielsen himself.

Setting that aside, am I the only one who thinks 1950s television is priceless? This was a time when viewers had a narrator read the opening credits to them, and a slap from a woman was invariably an implicit invitation to a mind-numbing kiss. It was a time when it was perfectly acceptable for a 12-year-old suburbanite to wander the LA hills armed with a bow and arrow, and police interrogations were held with zen-like calm inside what can only be described as a large cardboard box with a door.

Clips like this are exactly what I hope to find when I start looking through a person's lesser-known back catalog. And I think next week's going to prove to be even better. Apparently, Nielsen had a guest spot in the original Kung Fu series. That's right, gang. Leslie Nielsen is going to be performing martial arts. And not as a joke. I can't wait.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Even My Good Neighbors Never Did This Kind Of Shit For Me

Do me a favor. Watch this State Farm commercial. I'll have a question for you afterward.

Here's my question: Have I been getting ripped off by my insurance company? When my wife's parked car was totaled by some drunken twat about a month ago, our company mailed us a check for the current blue book value of the car, minus a deductible. Seemed fairly reasonable to me.

As it turns out, however, the guy in the preceding commercial has a much better deal with State Farm. Despite being the town asshole who is so despised that people throw bricks through his window, he's got a plan that really seems to go above and beyond. I'm willing to look past the fantastical gimmick of having objects appear instantaneously as a gimmick for the commercial. What concerns me is that State Farm made up for a broken window by supplying these jokers with a sandwich, installing a hot tub in their apartment, and kidnapping one of their neighbors. And let's not forget the fact that two of these guys aren't even State Farm customers.

So have I completely misunderstood the point of buying insurance? I'd always assumed it was meant to replace the material possessions that you lose due to unforeseen disasters. Apparently, it's a way of granting the wishes of stupid douche bags throughout the country. Either that or State Farm is advocating insurance fraud. I mean, come on, they didn't even fix the fucking window.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Choose Who Is Next For "This Week In Non..."

Ok, guys. I'm super excited. For the very first time I get to utilize the Blogger Poll Gadget. You see I got a few good suggestions for my next "This Week in Non..." subject, and I want to hear which one you'd like to hear about. Here are the suggestions that I got.

Anonymous wants me to do a round with Leslie Nielsen. He/she pointed to Frank Drebin as his most well-known character, so I'd be looking at some of his other work, both serious and funny. Pros: having just passed away, this would be a chance to do a brief retrospective of his work. Plus, any time I get an excuse to watch clips from Airplane! Cons: everyone and their mother has done a Leslie Nielsen tribute since he recently died.

Tom suggested Keanu Reeves, pointing out that no matter what role he plays, he is portraying Keanu Reeves. Pros: this is an interesting choice, because I contend that I can come up with at least one role where Reeves is completely unrecognizable. Cons: it will be difficult for me to look at any role and not have someone else contend that he's still just playing Keanu Reeves.

And lastly, J_Fellenbaum suggested that I "Do a chick that is hot. Like Gillian Anderson hot." So I'm going to take that as he wants me to do a segment on the woman who plays Dana Scully on the X-Files. Pros: I really don't know much about Gillian Anderson's career, so I might find a hidden gem that no one knows about. Cons: I find it hard to believe that anyone else in the world would use the phrase "Gillian Anderson" as the top of their hot scale. But know Mr. Fellenbaum like I do, I can't say it's too surprising, and I love him for it.

So there are your choices. Click which one you'd most like to see on the poll to your right. I'll let people choose through next Monday, giving me a week to get started before the first Monday in April. The idea will be that I'll do a new person each month, so keep your ideas coming in the comments section as well. And just know that if no one participates in the poll, I am very sensitive and my feelings will be badly hurt indeed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

GQ Names Philadelphia Fans As Nations Worst...Hell, I Could've Told You That

Living as a New York Giants fan is not an easy thing. I've never really had a problem with Philly teams themselves (Michael Vick not withstanding), but the fan base in this city seems to be composed of the biggest assholes ever to walk the face of the Earth. So I'm forced to root against most Philly teams lest the fans here get to enjoy any sort of happiness.

Well, as it turns out I'm far from the only person who feels this way. Recently, the writers at GQ Magazine published a list of the "15 Worst Sports Fans in America". And guess what? Philadelphia grabbed positions 1 and 2 on the list. Since GQ went by team and not by city, they were able to give Phillies fans and Eagles fans the top two spots. And I can safely say that Philly truly earned this one.

I mean, where do you start? GQ mentioned the stupid jerk off who sprinted on the field during a Phillies game only to be tased by an overly zealous security guard. And of course there's the infamous pelting of Santa Claus with snowballs, and the recent incident where one of New Jersey's finest citizens intentionally vomited on an 11-year-old girl (Here's a link to the post I did on this delightful fellow just in case you don't believe me).

But all of these things could potentially be written off as the actions of a few rotten apples rather than an overarching problem with the fan base as a whole. However, to do so would ignore the ignorant shit that Philly fans do en masse, such as the incident GQ mentions where an entire stadium of Phillies fans booed "the recipient of America's very first hand transplant, whose crime was dribbling in a ceremonial first pitch—thrown with his freshly transplanted hand." Wow. Really? Hey Philly, fans I've seen your general physical condition and I'm not so certain you could do any better.

GQ also mentions the cheers they gave when Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys suffered a career-ending neck injury at The Vet. to be honest, I can overlook this one because Michael Irvin was one of the biggest pricks ever to play in the league and I find it hard to feel too sorry for a drug-abusing alleged rapist.

But I think the best example I can give you of what makes Philly fans such a waste of air is this YouTube clip that shows an example of the jovial, spirited celebration by Phillies fans the night that they won the World Series back in 2008.

Way to even take a moment of celebration and turn it ugly, Philly fans. And yes, I'm quite aware that other cities are guilty of sports rioting. GQ mentions one or two in their list. But for me there is something extra mean-spirited about seeing some goofy schmuck dangling on a traffic light and thinking "That guy needs a head injury."

So congrats to those ignorant douche bags who give this city such a horrible reputation. I'm sure they are the same guys who will hit the comments section, either here or at GQ, to rail everyone else for not understanding what it's like to be really passionate about sports. Because of course you don't enjoy sports if you aren't willing to boo a 10 year old because he's wearing a Mets cap. And to those Philly fans who actually do have a sense of decency in their fandom (believe it or not I've met a few) you can thank the people mentioned above for making the rest of the country hate you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

This Week In Non-House Hugh Laurie: I Need Your Help To Stop Talking About Hugh Laurie

Today's post marks the 21st installment of "This Week in Non-House Hugh Laurie," and I think it's officially run it's course. I've been getting tired of talking about the guy and, as it turns out, I think you are as well. But I do like the idea of exploring the other work of people who are primarily known for one role.

So I'm going to ask for your help to find out who to talk about next. Basically, we're looking for someone who almost everybody associates with one character (i.e. Kiefer Sutherland is now Jack Bauer) but who also has a potentially extensive collection of other work that nobody seems to talk about anymore. If you know of anyone that fits in that category shoot me a line in the comments section. I will look to cut down each person's coverage to eight weeks or less so the more I get the better. I'll be looking to start as early as next Monday if I get a good idea for someone to use.

As for Mr. Laurie, I know it's time to move on but I would be remiss if I didn't at least acknowledge what is probably my favorite movie that he appears in, Monsters vs. Aliens. Honestly, I think I like it more for Seth Rogen's B.O.B. than anything, else but Laurie's Dr. Cockroach, Ph. D. definitely has his moments. So I leave you with 11 seconds of Hugh Laurie as a cockroach.

...and here's a montage of B.O.B. Because he is awesome.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fuck you, week of 3/5/11-3/12/11

God this week sucked. I don't know if I've ever been this close to wanting to chew my own face off. Now, I've heard a lot of bloggers talk about writing as being therapeutic. I've never really approached it from that angle. I just thought it was a fun way to act like an ass and maybe get a few people to listen to my inane ramblings. But I think for this post I'm going to try see if blogging about my crotch stain of a week holds any therapeutic value.

Let's rewind to a few weeks ago, when the seed was planted for this week's giant tree of misery. My wife and I had just gotten a sweet little return for our 2010 taxes, and I must say, if you're looking for some nice tax breaks go out and find yourself a spouse. Ah, not so fast there gay people. Only straight folks are entitled to tax rebates.

Anyway, we were pretty happy about our financial situation until later that week when the wife went out to her car...only to find it getting brutally buttfucked by the Jeep that had been parked behind it. I mean this thing was balls deep in her trunk. But in all fairness the Jeep wasn't to blame. Apparently the night before some drunken idiot plowed into said Jeep and rammed it into my wife's car. Shockingly, this guy didn't have car insurance, so the burden was dumped on us and our insurance.

Of course her car was totaled, so we were going to have use the mountain of money that a 97 Subaru Legacy's bluebook value gets you to try and find something else. After some searching online, our journey started in earnest last Saturday when we went to take a look at another Subaru up in northern New Jersey. So, we take a 2 hour drive to the lot to see the Subaru, and from what we could see it would have been perfect. I say "would have been" because those cocksuckers sold the fucking thing that morning and didn't bother giving us a phone call even though they knew it was a 2 hour drive for us. Thanks for nothing, assholes.

Take two in our car search came in the form of a used Toyota. This time we only had to drive an hour into New Jersey. Unfortunately, that didn't make it any less irritating when we found out that once again the car was sold. You've got to be kidding me. Are there any car dealers out there willing to give you a head's up if the sole reason for your visit is no longer there? And if anyone posts a comment that includes the phrase "Fool me once..." I may just have to napalm your house.
Except this. Because it's hilarious.

On top of the need for a new car, the wife and I are also searching for a new place to live. So on Wednesday, we split up so that I could take a look at an apartment in Wilmington, DE and she would look at a car in Newark, DE. In all fairness, I will say that my portion of the search went off pretty much without a hitch. The place was decent and the drive there and home was tolerable enough. My wife, however, spent her evening on an odyssey that would take her through 3 states, one tollbooth fine, and two potential red light camera fines. Let's just say she was less than chipper when she got home.

The good news is that she finally found a car that she wanted to buy. She put down the deposit (which was more than all of what we got from the goddamn insurance company) and we drove down Thursday to pick it up. The only thing was that we had to drive down route 95 during the monsoon that ripped through the northeast yesterday. I mean, I don't know how many of you know what it's like to have a wind gust blow you into an entirely different lane, but it's less exhilarating than it sounds. But it's not terribly surprising in a week when nothing seems to be simple and easy.

Which brings me to today, when I get phone call from our mechanic. We dropped it off with him last night so that he could do a thorough check of the car and make sure we weren't getting screwed before we finalized the deal. As it turns out, he was worried about some oil leaking from the engine, which meant I got to have a lovely back and forth with the dealer until finally just saying fuck it and deciding to buy the car and deal with any problems the car has. It's a used car after all, and I guess some problems come with the territory.

So basically this week was a series of repeated kicks to the nuts. That tax return is just a briefly-lived fond memory. My wife and I have driven more miles in vain than we thought was possible in the period of a week, and I must say that a compact car is not the ideal location for two people who have grown increasingly on edge. Oh, and of course we still have an apartment to find.

But you know what? I'm actually feeling a bit better after writing about all of this. If nothing else, putting my shitty week down on record makes it seem less like the worst week of my life and more like me being a whiny asshole. But hey, sometimes you have to vent. And if you bothered staying with me until this point I commend you for trudging through long past when I would've stopped paying any attention.

Monday, March 7, 2011

This Week In Non-House Hugh Laurie: Friends

Alright, at first I was going to say a few words about how Friends is one of those shows that my hate-all-things-popular nature wants desperately to despise but can't help liking. But once again this train of thought was derailed by the fact that every clip featuring Hugh Laurie's guest spot on Friends has had its embedding disabled on YouTube.

So now I'm going to ask a simple question: Why do you assholes keep doing that?? I understand that TV and film studios often demand that clips be taken down due to copyright violations, but why is it that we can leave a clip up but make it so that you can't embed it? I'm honestly asking here because I can't count how many time's I've had a clip that I wanted to share and took the time to come up with some terribly witty things to say about it, only to have my plans obliterated because I couldn't embed the damn thing. And if anyone tells me that maybe I should check to see if I can use the clip before I start coming up with something to say about it, I say screw you, buddy, I shouldn't have to put extra effort or forethought into anything. Ever!

Now I'm going to have to be extra clever and come up with a way around my inability to embed a clip. Therefore, if you still give enough of a crap about the dumbass Friends clip to want to watch it, click on Hugh Laurie's ever-put-upon face to link over to YouTube.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Grumpy Book Review: Daniel Woodrell Triple-Feature

Anyone who was rooting for Winter's Bone at the Academy Awards probably knows that it's based on a book by Daniel Woodrell. What they may not know is that Woodrell himself is a product of the Ozark Mountain region of Missouri, and that his work is heavily influenced by his life in the area. Woodrell refers to his work as "country noir." Born and raised in the Ozark region of Missouri, Woodrell likes to tell a hard-boiled mystery, but instead of setting it in the dark alleys of a city he sets it in the dark dirt roads of the back woods.

As a person with family who comes from some people call "Pennsyltucky", I was intrigued to see how Woodrell would approach the lives of the rural poor in our country. He utilizes various techniques to cut through the stereotypes we have about them and take a more realistic look at their lives. Here are some thoughts on three of his novels, and the techniques he uses in each to make an honest statement about those folks we refer to as "hillbillies."

Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone is a story that twists setting and character types. The protagonist, Ree Dolly, is a 16-year-old taking care of her two younger brothers. On one hand, she lives a very harsh existence. She is dirt poor, her meth-cooking father went missing after putting up their home as bail collateral, and her mom has gone completely off the deep end. So she has to keep everything together while desperately trying to find her dad, all in a geographical area that seems utterly devoid of opportunity for growth. On the other hand, Ree finds comfort in that very same geography as she isolates herself in the woods and listens to the whale sounds and other calming cassette tapes that were originally meant as therapy for her mother. For lack of a better term, she seems to have a love-hate relationship with a land that she desperately wants to escape but also uses for solace.

The characters in Winter's Bone represent a contradiction of conventional wisdom about how people should act according to their role in life. As a pretty, young girl, Ree should be the distressed damsel in this detective story. Instead, she's Sam Spade, putting herself in any number of dangerous positions to solve the mystery of her father's whereabouts. Her Uncle Teardrop, who is so named because of the teardrop tattoo he earned for some unmentionable act committed in prison, should be the villain rather than what he becomes, which is Ree's only protector. By confusing the reader's expectations about characters and their relationship with their home, Woodrell forces the reader to pay closer attention.

Give Us a Kiss

Woodrell takes a much more playful approach here than he does in Winter's Bone. Doyle, an author living in California, steals his newly ex wife's car and heads back to his birth town in the Ozarks at the behest of his parents to work out his brother, Smoke's, legal problems. The book's tone is best summed up by Doyle's recounting of the origin of his brother's nickname, which he got when he pulled a freshly cooked pan of bacon of a kitchen counter and spilled boiling hot grease on himself. It's an example of people who manage to inject humor in a hard situation, and even turn it into something good.

By the end of the novel, Woodrell even managed to instill this attitude in me as the reader. Fair warning about some spoilers, but by the end of the book Doyle is in prison awaiting a murder trial and his love interest has left him behind to make it in Hollywood. If I was someone reading about Doyle's situation in the newspaper, I'd probably find it a sad, white-trash story. But after following Doyle through the events that got him there, I actually count it as a happy ending.

Tomato Red

If Woodrell approaches life in the Ozarks with confounded expectations in Winter's Bone and humor in Give Us a Kiss, then tragic flaws are Woodrell's angle in Tomato Red. The main character and narrator, Sammy Barlach, is a man so obsessed with belonging that it puts him in one bad position after another. He starts the story trying to break into a mansion in the rich part of town in order to impress a nameless group of junkies, and he winds up meeting young siblings Jamalee and Jason. They want to finance their way out of town by setting up Jason as a gigolo with wealthy women in town, and they shanghai Sammy into working as their muscle. If Sammy wasn't so eager to get in with Jamalee and Jason, then he might have been able to seen the flaws in a plan that relies on Jason, who is obviously gay, having sex with large numbers of women.

As he gets closer to the siblings, as well as their prostitute mother Beverly, he gets deeper and deeper in trouble, partially due to Jamalee's tragic flaw of pushing too hard against her circumstances and Beverly's tragic flaw of buckling too easily against them. The ending of this story is bad for everyone involved, but even though I could find fault in man of the decisions that got them there, I could at least understand them.

This is what Woodrell does best. He's not trying to make the reader condone the actions of his characters. He's simply immersing the reader in their lives to give a taste of what it's like to have to make some of the decisions they have to make. Think of it as a much more sophisticated way of a trailer trash guest on Springer shouting "You don't know me!" But when you think about it, that trailer trash guest has a point. We don't know them, or the reasons for what they do, and Woodrell wants us to think about that.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Revisited Grumpy Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

I watched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World tonight again on DVD, and it was just as great as when I saw it in the theater. Therefore, I figured I'd pull some grade-A lazy out of my ass and repost my original review for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. If you're one of those folks...see this movie!

I should not have like this movie at all. The basic premise is that Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) has to fight the 7 evil ex-boyfriends of new girlfriend Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), which is a good set up. But the trailer mainly featured a bunch of eccentric kids having eccentric conversations about their eccentric lives....all to the soundtrack of eccentric music. I probably wouldn't have even bothered seeing it if not for hearing a pretty funny radio interview with stars Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman. But I didn't have my hopes set too high, lest I get stuck watching a movie bogged down with actors trying to out-quirk each other.

I actually like Michael Cera. He was awesome in Superbad, and although he plays the same semi-emo character in pretty much every movie he's in, he still manages to be funny, and Scott Pilgrim was no exception to either rule. Plus, in the aforementioned radio interview he talked about the training he had to go through to pull off the fight scenes in the movie, and I defy anyone not to laugh at the thought of combat training for what looks like the lovechild of a 70 year old woman and a frog.

Jason Schwartzman, however, is one of those indie rock dudes that I usually can't stand. For some reason, though, I can't help but like the guy. He's definitely the epitome of the hipster culture, but he's one of the few hipsters I've seen that doesn't have to kill himself trying to be the coolest guys in the room. And he wasn't afraid to completely douche it up as Gideon, the leader of the ex-boyfriends. I can appreciate over-the-top douchiness (ask pretty much anyone who knows me), and Schwartzman nails it. In fact, all of the exes were pretty much spot on, from Chris Evans' lunkhead actor to Brandon's Routh vegan-superpowered musician.

The guy who steals the show, however, would have to be Kieran "The More Talented" Culkin as Cera's gay roomate, Wallace. His basic purpose is to provide wise-ass commentary with a string of one-liners and to patiently converse with Scott about his new predicament with Ramona in bed, as Scott cannot afford one of his own. And I'll be damned if I didn't get a kick out of every second of it. My only disappointment is that Wallace becomes rather under-utilized in the second half of the movie.

I would complain more about the lack of background of most of the other characters, especially the other ex-boyfriends, except that's kind of the point of the movie's plot structure. The whole story breaks down like a video game, with the exes serving as bosses. And when you think about it, when you played video games did you ever really give a rat's ass about character development? Hell no, you just wanted badass villains that looked cool and that you could eventually beat the crap out of. And that's exactly what you get here. In fact, the movie is loaded with nods to video games fans, especially the Street Fighter-esque fighting games of the nineties.

So needless to say, my fears about Scott Pilgrim being a hipster mess were unfounded, and I really dug this movie. I guess I should have guessed it would be good when I found out it was directed by Edgar Wright, of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame. It's a shame that the movie doesn't seem to be doing well at the box office so far, because it's a blast to watch. And it actually managed to portray the lives of low- to mid-twentysomethings with enough realism (or as much realism as one can portray in a movie that basically takes place in to resonate with me an remind me that I'm not as far removed from them as I'd like to think I am. Hopefully, word of mouth will give it a second life when it comes out on DVD because deserves to do well.

Grade: A-

Monday, February 28, 2011

This Week In Non-House Hugh Laurie: The Man In The Iron Mask

It's quite the coincidence that the Oscars were on last night, because today's clip comes from a movie that didn't even come close to winning one. The Man In The Iron Mask was quite the turd. I'm not sure if director Randall Wallace was going for anything artistically satisfying, but take a look at this montage featuring Laurie as the King's Advisor and see if you can tell what's wrong with this picture.

Can someone tell me why it is that a story based on a French novel about the French monarchy doesn't really seem to feature any French people? The obvious target here is DiCaprio, who seems about as regal as King Ralph. But it's not like anyone else is making much of an effort either, including Mr. Laurie. He can do a hell of an American accent, but I guess French was beyond his grasp.

Now I realize that MITIM isn't the only movie guilty of giving up on making everyone's accent sound authentic. I doubt that ancient Romans, for example, sounded anything like Russell Crowe. But you'll notice that the accents in Gladiator at least seemed to stay consistent within each nationality. In MITIM, however, you have what seems to be an American King of France being consulted by an Englishmen, with an American, a Brit, an Irishman, and just one Frenchman as the highlighted members of his royal guard. I hope Alexander Dumas enjoyed his swift kick to the nuts.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tales From The Outdoors Show Part III: South Carolina

Here's a big surprise. I'm late with another post. Actually I've been going back and forth in my mind about whether or not I wanted to actually talk about this last trip. It involves my first and only foray into hunting, and I'm guessing that going into detail about the time I stabbed an animal to death will be frowned upon by the average reader. My only rebuttal is that I did use the meat from said animal (a boar) and if anyone rail on me for hunting while having no problem with buying any old animal slaughtered and shipped to the supermarket from the store can kindly go to hell. And as for any vegetarians who might be reading...well, you may just want to skip this particular story.

The idea for this trip actually came from a guy my dad used to work with. As a side job he ran a kennel that raised and sold American bulldogs. If you're wondering what an American bulldog looks like, think about Chance from "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey." If you haven't seen that particular film, you obviously were not a child or a parent during the mid 90s, and you can just take a look at this fellow.

Aside from being the kind of guard dog that will make an intruder's testicles jump out of his mouth in horror, American bulldogs are also used as catch dogs in boar hunting. You see, boar hunting is nothing like more traditional deer or turkey hunting. Rather than sit in one place for 4 or 5 hours waiting for an animal to pass by, boar hunting involves using hound dogs to track a target, and then, once they have it cornered, an American bulldog is loosed on it to hold it in place while the hunter comes in and kills it with a knife.

Now, to be honest, I have conflicting emotions about the whole concept as I look back on it. I have to admit that it doesn't seem terribly sportsmanlike to have a pack of dogs do most of the work for you in tracking and cornering the boar. But at the same time, once it's time to actually kill the thing I think it takes some pretty big nerve to walk right up to a 250-pound animal with 4 inch tusks and stab it to death. Again, people who aren't really down with hunting would probably find the whole thing pretty awful, but I would hope that those folks stopped reading by this point.

Anyway, putting my current thoughts on the subject aside, I can't help but find it a bit funny that my dad, a man who had never hunted anything in his life, thought this would be a fitting debut for he and his 12-year-old son. So he made the arrangements and we made our way down to Blackstock, South Carolina, home of Dorsey's Trophy Hunters Lodge. The owner/operator, Jay Dorsey, is pretty much the epitome of good ole boy. He's the kind of guy that I picture Jack Daniels probably looked like.

The lodge was great. Jay owns a huge chunk of land, so we had what felt like an entire forest all to ourselves. Well, that's not entirely true. The lodge was also playing host to some old fart from Alabama and his equally old and farty wife. I can't remember his name, but I remember he liked it when Jay called him the Alabama Redneck. He claims to have, and I quote, killed "3 boars, 7 deer with spears, a lion, and an alligator." His knife was a machete that he had carved down into a knife. Of course, everyone pretty much hated this man.

The Alabama Redneck showed us this picture of something that he totally did just last week.

Needless to say, as we approached the time to actually take part in this hunt, I was getting more and more nervous thinking about how I'm going out into the woods with my dad and two retards from Alabama to put the trust of my well-being into an animal I'd just watched eat his own crap earlier that day. And of course I'm hearing all of the horror stories about the guys who made a wrong move and wound up getting his leg gouged open by a boar tusk. So when they asked who wanted to go first I was more than happy to let Dad take the first crack at it.

Now when you go out on a boar hunt, half the fun/terror is in actually getting to the boar. We roamed the woods in the back of truck while Jay drove, waiting to hear from the guides with the hound dogs via walkie-talkie. Suddenly, we heard screams of "We got one!" coming through the radio, and before you could say "poor traction" we were barreling through muddy roads in a truck that hasn't had brake work done on it since Elvis died.

Miraculously, we got to the boar without losing anyone off the back, and we rushed out to let Dad do his thing. Once the hunter is ready, they call for the American bulldogs to be unleashed, and these dogs do not fuck around. They grabbed the boar by the ear and there didn't seem to be much chance in hell of the boar getting loose. At this point the whole thing was academic, as Dad managed to put the boar down within 10 or 15 seconds.

So now it was my turn, and to be honest most of the next sequence of events is a blur for me. The drive was pretty much the same, except Jay miscalculated the distance it would take to come to a complete stop when we tried to pull in behind the other truck and we got into a nice fender bender. But I get the feeling these trucks have seen more fender benders than a bumper car so it was no big deal. Just like Dad's turn, the bulldogs took the boar down, and I went in for the final kill, which to be honest took me a bit longer because as you may have guessed this was the first time I ever tried to kill anything with a knife so it took a little while to get the positioning.

The next thing I knew, I was standing in a dry river bed with a dead boar at my feet. Jay had his video camera trained on me and was shouting "What you say, boy?" Basically, he was looking for a good quote to include in his advertising, but I wasn't exactly in the state of mind to be eloquent. So I just tried to ignore him, but he wasn't having it. He repeated, much louder, "What you say!?" What came out of my mouth next is something that I think my dad will probably laugh about on his deathbed. I meant to convey speechlessness with a quick grunt and a shrug of the shoulders, but the sound I made can only be described as the type of noise someone would make as they peed and crapped themselves at the same time.

But as goofy as I may have looked and sounded, I was a grizzled mountain man compared to our pal the Alabama Redneck. This was a guy using a goddamn converted machete as a knife, and he couldn't have done any more damage than a flesh wound with the amount of force he put into stabbing this boar. He actually did more damage to one of the dogs that he nicked on the nose while putting on this shameful display. He then proceeded to put the machete in his mouth and holler and scream like he just tackled the boar and broke its neck with his bare hands. Meanwhile the thing was still half alive behind him with one of the guides trying to put it out of its misery. Great white hunter, indeed.

All in all, I have to admit I'm glad I went on this trip. If nothing else, we had boar meat to last us through a better part of the next year. I haven't been on a hunting trip since then, but that may be because I really don't think I have enough money to be a hunter. Between buying the guns, the gear, and the access to good hunting land I feel like I'd need to sell my car just to have enough funds to get started. So I think I'll probably stick to fishing, something I'm a lot better at anyway. Besides, I don't want to steal the thunder from the Alabama Redneck, who is probably killing a very intimidating squirrel with an M16 even as we speak.