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-