Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let's Twist Again!

I've always appreciated a good twist ending, as it can enhance later reflection on the film. A good example is in the "Usual Suspects" when SPOILERS! near the end, the cop says the Gabriel Byrne character was really Kaiser Permanente, and I was all "Oh my god, what an awesome twist, I can leave the theater now!" and as I got up to beat the crowd it then turns out that the Kevin Spacey character was in fact Kaiser Permanente, a double twist! My mind was officially blown, right there in the aisle, and other movie patrons had to step over my comatose form when the credits rolled. I was officially snookered by that film.

On the other hand, when "The Sixth Sense" came out, I remember seeing the commercials where the kid is saying to Die Hard that he "sees dead people, and they don't even know they're dead!" I thought, "hmm, does that mean that Die Hard is a ghost in this movie? That would be a twist, since he's married to Demi Moore who starred in the movie 'Ghost' with Dalton from Road House, what a clever meta twist!" But then my friends told me that "Sixth Sense" had a great twist that'd blow your mind, so I saw it and was a bit disappointed that the twist was one that I'd anticipated. Good film otherwise, though.

Now, how many films could have been improved with a great twist?

1) Batman--turns out, he's really Spiderman.

2) Platoon--they were really in Ohio the whole time. It was a hunting trip, and the Viet Congs were really Asian American park rangers.

3) Planet of the Apes--it was Earth all along, but only a small part of it. When Charlton Heston continues further down the beach, he finds out he's in 1960s Malibu and walks onto the set of a Frankie Avalon beach movie.

4) The Godfather--Vito Corleone turns out to be really senile, and his crime fambly is actually a dentistry school. The students all call him "Godfather" because it's the only way to get an A in class.

5) E.T.--the E.T. wasn't an extra terrestrial after all, but a very, very dirty kid with a speech problem.

6) Red Dawn--the whole thing really took place in Russia, and the guys we thought were the Russians were the Americans and vice versa.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This Film Needs More Joe Pesci, But Then, All Films Do

Last night's film was "21", the screen adaptation of the book "Bringing Down the House"--they apparently couldn't use the book's title for the movie or audiences would confuse it with this. (By the way, it's sort of sad that so many youngsters today--can I say "youngsters"? Does anyone say that anymore?--will have grown up never knowing that Steve Martin was once absolutely hilarious) The book--which was about a bunch of MIT students and a professor who used a card counting system to game the blackjack tables at various casinos and make a fortune--was a well written piece that explains how the system worked in a way that a decidedly non-MIT student like myself could understand. The movie however just sort of said "we have a system" and figured the viewers wouldn't be interested in how this system worked.

The movie also changed the main characters of the book--and the real life story the book was based on--from Asian to white, because it's a well known fact that ever since Bruce Lee died white people don't like to see Asians as leads in films. Take heart, my Asian friends! Hollywood is still overcoming their racism towards blacks, Indians, Arabs, and Belgians--eventually they'll overcome their anti-Asian prejudice! You just need to find an Asian Jesse Jackson.

Another problem with the movie is that it didn't explain why--once the heat was on and casino investigators were after them in Vegas--the players didn't just take their game to Atlantic City, or Mississippi riverboats, or cruise ships. (The book had them doing this for a while) Also, it's pointed out early in the movie--as it was in the book--that counting cards isn't actually illegal, so it makes little sense as to why a casino cop could force a player into a back room and beat the tar out of him--why not go to the police about this assault? The book made more sense here--counting cards isn't illegal, but the casino cops--if they catch you--can force you to leave and have you arrested for trespassing if you come back. In the book, it was eventually being banned from most casinos as well as new blackjack techniques (such as using extra decks at the tables to make card counting less effective) that finally brought the MIT gang to call it quits.

I've never been much for gambling--I seem to always lose early, and often, and decide screw it, I'd rather just flush my cash down the toilet so I can say I literally flushed my cash down the toilet. But I'd love to run a casino. Maybe if they legalize gambling in Fairfax.

Monday, September 28, 2009

This Will Be the Next "Cleopatra" But With More Death

You know what was really huge about twenty years ago? Vietnam War films--it seemed every studio wanted to put out something about "Nam" and what it was like "in the shit". Well, all things come around again, first as tragedy and then as farce, so what would be more of a tragic farce than a prequel to Road House that features the hero, Dalton, fighting his way through the Tet Offensive? This could cash in on two late '80s themes--the Vietnam War and Road House.

Of course, any good Vietnam film has to have the familiar cliches:

1) The young farm boy who's nice to everyone and can't wait to marry his girl back home, and you just know he's going to be shot up like Swiss cheese by the end of the film.

2) Soldiers referring to the enemy as "Charlie" or "the Cong" or the more racially questionable "Hawaiian Dicklords".

3) At least one scene with a black guy being more cool than the white guys. Actually, that's in every film ever made.

4) Have you noticed how there were no black people in West Side Story? Isn't that weird?

5) A gun battle with some Motown tunes as the backdrop--preferably some Smokey Robinson.

6) The seargeant being a real jerk to everyone, but that's only because he doesn't want his men to get killed. They repay this kindness by pushing him onto a landmine later.

7) A part where the Mexican guy goes running into the woods with just a bayonet, and comes back with several Viet Cong helmets. When the guys ask if he killed all those Viet Cong, he says "nope, just found all these cool helmets!"

8) A scene where the chopper won't pick up the men because one of them forgot to shave. This is supposed to demonstrate the hell that is war.

9) The guy from New York will have a thick Brooklyn accent, and be in love with the Yankees or Mets, and Coney Island hot dogs and pizza, because that's what New Yorkers do. There is no chance that the New Yorker will be intelligent or well spoken.

10) The southern guy will make some ironic comment about how the jungle reminds him of the Georgia swamp he grew up in. The other soldiers will be remined that the southern guy is a douche.

Now, in my film, this will have Dalton--the hero of Road House--serving in Nam, which teaches him a lot that he can later use in his bar bouncing. For instance, one of his comrades will get shot, and will shrug it off by saying "pain don't hurt". Dalton will say "that's crazy talk" but we all know that that becomes one of his catch phrases. Of course added hilarity will happen when his commanding officer, upon meeting Dalton, says "I thought you'd be taller" since that also gets said a lot to Dalton. Of course, I haven't figured out how to work the line "you're too stupid to have a good time!" into the film, but that's what script doctors are for.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Frank Lloyd Wright? More like Frank Lloyd Wrong!

This article got me thinking about how great America is. Not because someone is going to have an opportunity to stay at a Frank Lloyd Wright house, because while that is totally super awesome, the real issue is greater than that. I got to thinking, if Frank Lloyd Wright was the same exact person with the same exact accomplishments in architecture, but he was Belgian, say, then the Belgians would be going all batshit Kool-Aid over Mr. Wright. Every street in every town in Belgium would be named Rue de Frank Lloyd Wright, and their airport would be called Frank Lloyd Wright International Airport. He'd literally be the most famous Belgian to ever live. That's because there are no famous Belgians, except maybe King Leopold but even I don't know who he is and I'm the one who brought it up.

(Granted, Belgium is famous for inventing French Fries, though even this name was stolen by the French because that's what the French do, they steal, and pick fights with Germans and then collaborate with them when they get their asses kicked; the Belgians are also known for being the seat of NATO, and inventing some terrific beer--but can you name even one famous Belgian? Hell, I used to read Tintin and Asterix as a kid and can't remember who wrote those)

So my point is that Frank Lloyd Wright, an accomplished American architect, is just not that famous here in the U.S. because he's being crowded out by more famous Americans like Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, and Paris Hilton, and what was my point again?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What is Hollywood Saying About Us???

After reading about New York's summer of 1977, I figured I'd see Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam" to see that filmmaker's take on that particular time and place. "Summer of Sam" focused on a group of Italian Americans in the Bronx during the time of the manhunt for New York's best known serial killer, David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz. (Who proved that serial killin' ain't just for the gentiles any more! Though I should note that Berkowitz is a born-again Christian; better luck next time Jews!). Berkowitz had gone on a string of shootings from 1976 through 1977, all taking place in New York's outer borroughs. He targeted mostly young women with long brown hair (as well as any men who happened to be with them) which resulted in a lot of women dying their hair blonde during the scare, and the fact that this always happened out on the streets made a lot of people stay home at night. Berkowitz nearly ended the disco craze on his own--the discoteques were hurting pretty bad as a result of this, and wouldn't have a revival until the movie "Saturday Night Fever" came out in late '77 (after Berkowitz was caught).

Spike Lee's film featured its main characters in a pretty negative light--stupid, violent, bigoted and cheesy, and it got me thinking that taken in with his portrayal of Italian Americans in his breakthrough hit "Do the Right Thing"--which also featured Italians being stupid, violent, bigoted and cheesy, though quite skilled with pizzas--maybe Spike Lee doesnt' like Italians! Maybe something happened to him as a kid, getting picked on or something.

But then I had to think--did I ever see ANY film or TV show that doesn't portray Italians as stupid, violent, bigoted and/or cheesy? Let's take a look:

1) Sopranos (full disclosure--I loved the show): yep. Stupid, violent, bigoted and cheesy.
2) Friends--the Joey character wasn't violent, or bigoted, but was stupid and cheesy!
3) Taxi--Louie DeParma was violent, bigoted, and stupid, while Tony Banta was stupid and cheesy. And he was a boxer, so probably violent too.
4) Happy Days--Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli--he was stupid and cheesy!
5) The Godfather and anything by Martin Scorcese--violent and bigoted, yep!
6) Any blaxsploitation film (Coffy, Shaft, etc.)--stupid, violent and bigoted at least.
7) Moonstruck--stupid and cheesy.

Those are off the top of my head. Can anyone come up with any exceptions?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Airplane Etiquette

A friend of mine recently took a cross-country plane flight, and had a run-in with a dreaded hipster. As you know, hipsters are a blight on the urban landscape, much like poorly spelled graffiti and chicken bones. (I live in a very illiterate area where people love chicken and hate using garbage cans) This particular hipster was sitting in the seat in front of her, and decided to lower his seat to a point where his head and her lap became one, with just a thin seatback to prevent them from consummating their relationship. He was listening on his earphones to some band I'm sure we've never heard of.

She asked him--and this required him to remove his earphones, which is a great affront in hipster culture--if he would mind raising his seatback somewhat so her knees wouldn't be squashed. The hipster informed her that he did in fact mind, and put his earphones back in. A clever riposte, Mr. Hipster! Though at this point in hearing the story I asked whether perhaps the gentleman was being ironic, and maybe the whole thing could have been resolved over a can of PBR.

How to behave on airplanes is an issue that has vexed many of us, from those with screaming babies to those of us who have to listen to screaming babies, to those of us who made the mistake of not locking up our scorpion collection properly and force the plane to divert to Cleveland. I usually am that guy who asks for both and orange juice and a Coke (one for Vitamin C, the other for caffeine, yes if they made Coke with Vitamin C I'd only need one of the two) and so if my neighbor is sleeping during drink service and wakes up to see me with two beverages I have to say "Oh, I ordered both of these, I didn't pretend to order one for you and then steal it. I would've woken you but I don't really know you, sorry!" And my father has often suggested having a shoelace dangling from your mouth as it's a good way to ensure that no one sits next to you on the flight.

Meantime, our hipster friend will surely be facing some bad cosmic justice.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hole Buddies

Recently a friend of mine and I decided to become "hole buddies". (Get your mind out of the gutter!) By this I mean that if at some strange hour of the night, one of us calls the other to say he needs help digging a hole, for any reason at all (or for no reason at all), the buddy will come and help, no questions asked. The idea being that "hole buddies" trust each other's judgment enough to know that what they're doing either isn't illegal, or if it is, it's still justified under some moral code of the universe. And that he'll be given some beer afterwards.

I'd realized that all these years I'd never had someone I could really call a "hole buddy"--yeah, we all have great friends who come through for us when we need them, but how many really fit the definition of "hole buddy"? How many would just say "you know, it's 3 AM, and he needs me to help him dig a hole in the middle of the woods, but somehow I'm sure he knows what he's doing. Hopefully there are a couple of Sam Adams' in it for me"? A very rare thing indeed.

Would be nice if we all had a hole buddy of our own. So next time you open up a cold one, take a time to think of who you might count as a hole buddy. Because one day you may need help planting ferns in the middle of an abandoned lot after midnight because that's the only time you have free.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bump the Rump!

I just recently finished reading the book "The Bronx is Burning" which was lent to me by my very literate friend Andy (he likes to go by the nickname "Books McGee") and was intrigued by the lookback to what it was like in New York of the 1970s--dangerous, gritty, yet charming. Though the read we're reminded that this was the age of disco music.

Disco music. Yes, the music form that uses string sections, horn sections, a throbbing beat, and constant repetition. The music form that proved that if you can come up with three words, you too can qualify as a songwriter. The only music form to date that produced a backlash so powerful that it actually resulted in a riot.

Clearly, I could have been a disco song writer! Forget my lack of talent, let's just start from the premise that all you need is a catchy beat, such as: bum bum bum da cha da bum bum bum (and picture that repeated for about five minutes). Then we throw in the lyrics:

"Baby baby bump that rump, bump bump bump oh yeah".

And repeat that about a hundred times, every third time in falsetto.

Now, we'd get "Bump the Rump" on regular airplay by sharing the track with DJ's who are doing bar mitzvahs and weddings, so we can get some footage of people enjoying it, and share that with some record producers. Casey Kasem would come out of retirement so he could introduce the song on his Top 40 show, maybe with a "long distance dedication" from a Marine in Kandahar, Afghanistan who wants to "Bump the Rump once he gets back to his wife Clarice, on home leave. Clarice knows what he means by this." Then, the only question is what do I do with all the money from royalties.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Party Like It's 5770

Sundown today begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, which my Semitic Sources tell me brings on the year 5770. That means for Jews, it's the '70s all over again! I need to warn them about polyester, disco, and inflation!

Of course, that decade did have some good things, like the introduction of Bruce Springsteen and the great sitcom "All in the Fambly". But it's also the decade that AIDS surfaced, and high waisted pants came into vogue. And waiting on gas lines? What sort of crap is that?

To be fair, our current decade hasn't been a picnic either--terrorist attacks, grinding down our armed forces in Iraq for some reason, financial collapse, and the band Nickelback--so in about forty years I'll warn my Jewish friends about that too.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Friend Having a Kid

We recently discovered that one of my longtime local DC pals--let's call him "Rick Figliaccio" to protect his identity--has knocked up a girl. Of course, it turns out that this girl is his wife of two years, and they're both gainfully employed and in their thirties, so this isn't really the stuff of scandal sheets! We're still proud of our pal anyway, and will be celebrating this weekend by getting him drunk and arrested.

Of course, as he broke the news to me, we got to discussing what he'd name the kid--since I know Rick is Sicilian, I didn't want him bogarting all the cool Italian names! I'm not even married yet, so he could end up taking all the cool names before I even got to take one! So we worked out a deal:

1) Rick could take Carmine, Nunzio, and Dominic.

2) I get Salvatore, Donatello, and Luigi.

Of course, if either of us have girls, we agreed that no one takes "Meadow Soprano" since that's just derivative.

I'd often wondered why Rick still drives an '88 Ford Festiva (if you haven't seen one, picture a lawnmower but smaller). Then it occurred to me--if he still has that car in 16 years, and gives it to his teenager, there's basically no chance whatsoever that the kid could get preggers (or make someone else preggers) in that thing. Unless he has a midget son or daughter.

So here's hoping--for the sake of Rick's nervous system--that he doesn't have a midget for a kid!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kanye Still Douching It Up

This bit o' news was overshadowed by Patrick Swayze's death (which itself could only be overshadowed by the death of Chuck Norris), but it seems rapper Kanye West has made a horse's ass of himself again. At MTV's Video Music Awards, country/pop/bubblegum singer Taylor Swift was being given an award for one of her videos, and in middle of her acceptance speech Mr. West decided it was a good idea to storm up on stage, grab her microphone and basically announce that it was total bullshit that she got the award instead of his preferred candidate, Beyonce Knowles.

Now, anyone who's followed this overrated retread over the years isn't really surprised by this stunt, since his insecurity issues stemming from growing up the only black kid in an upper middle class white neighborhood and being short and geeky and (I can only assume) sexually confused has left Kanye with a constant need for attention and such outbursts have become common. This was notable for a few reasons:

1) Instead of just making a general douche of himself, Kanye had to rain on another person's parade. Taylor Swift, to my knowledge, never did anything to deserve such an intrusion.

2) Kanye, who is basically a wimp (going back to his years of extreme nerd-dom) needed to assert his street cred, so he picked the one target he knew wouldn't lodge a shoe in his ass--a 19 year old female country-bubblegum singer. Had he tried to interrupt Snoop Dogg or Travis Tritt, we'd be seeing little bits of Kanye spread all over the Los Angeles area.

3) Kanye went on Jay Leno's new show to apologize for his behavior. Ms. Swift accepted the apology afterward.

Know what I think? This whole thing was staged by MTV. They don't actually show videos on that channel anymore (the clips at the awards show are the only time any part of any video makes it on that sorry channel) and the VMA's are a bigger Who-Gives-A-Damn than the Grammys. So they arrange with Kanye, Swift, and Beyonce--and secret agent Jay Leno!--to have the turd go up and interrupt a speech, get clips and writeups to make it online the next day, and everyone's a winner. Think about it, people are talking about Kanye (feeding his fragile, dandyesque ego), Taylor Swift gets sympathy and more press, Beyonce comes across as having some video worthy of the interruption, and Jay Leno gets the apology scoop on TV the next night. Meantime, people are talking about the VMAs which are otherwise forgettable.

People, we've been played like sheep by the MTV/Leno/Kanye conglomerate. Open your eyes!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

RIP Patrick Swayze

Actor Patrick Swayze succumbed to cancer yesterday after a long illness. Despite the fact that most of his movies were terrible (seriously, Red Dawn? Oh noes, the Nicaraguans are going to take over Colorado! If only some plucky high school kids could form a resistance...), he was always a likable presence in his movies and he's responsible for the most iconic film character ever put to the screen.

I'm talking about Dalton, the hero of the 1989 classic, "Road House".

Dalton wore a mullet and made his name as a bar bouncer, but viewers soon realized that he was not just some ordinary bouncer. Dalton was "the best". There was a legend afoot that he'd torn a man's throat out in a fight "back in Memphis" but you wouldn't know it to meet him. In fact, upon meeting him most people say "I thought you'd be taller". He seemed subdued, quiet, even peaceful--in fact, as we'd soon learn, he had a degree in philosophy from NYU. This philosophy degree is what enables Dalton to deal with the contradictions he faces in life as a bouncer who wants peace--his two twin mantras are "pain don't hurt" and "nobody ever wins a fight." (Of course, for a guy who doesn't believe anyone wins a fight, Dalton sure does an excellent job of "not winning" his foot up the asses of many fight opponents!)

Dalton is more than a bouncer--he's a "cooler" which means he's the head bouncer, in charge of keeping a situation from becoming a brawl in the bar (and smashing all the nice furniture). As he describes his "cooling" strategy to his lesser bouncers, he tells them "be nice...until it's no longer time to be nice." When asked when it is time to no longer be nice, Dalton says "when I tell you". Much like Clovis, the legendary king of the Franks, Dalton has established his absolute authority over the bar. Of course, one of his mulleted minions asks: "well, what if someone calls my momma a whore?" Viewers at this point are thinking, "yeah, Dalton--he makes a good point! Surely he'd have to punch the insulting bastard now!" Dalton deftly handles this question in the Socratic method--he says "is she?" This settles the matter.

Of course, Dalton ends up facing a gang of thugs that are ruining the town, and has to replace his Gandhi-esque "nonviolence" strategy with a more Chuck Norris-like "violence" strategy, showing us that sometimes the only answer is to rip out another person's throat. The story is a character study, and Patrick Swayze pulled it off with all earnestness in a way that recalls the method acting styles of the Stella Adler school.

RIP Swayze, you will be missed!

Monday, September 14, 2009

What did Delaware? Not much!

Here's what sucks about Delaware. Everything! They charge you a high toll for passing along a federally funded Interstate highway for what's about fifteen miles. (Somehow, Florida is able to maintain a 300 mile stretch of that same highway without charging a toll on it.) And their license plates proudly list Delaware as "the First State". Well, whoopty freaking doo, jackasses! For being a state longer than anyone else, you really have nothing to show for it! Let's look at the other original states:

1) New York. Produced the Roosevelts, Alexander Hamilton, the Big Apple.

2) New Hampshire. Live Free or Die! Cheap booze too.

3) Massachusetts. John Adams, Boston, clam chowder, Cape Cod.

4) New Jersey. The Sopranos, everything from Kevin Smith, Atlantic City. Also, per capita the wealthiest state in the country today.

5) Rhode Island. The littlest state! And Family Guy, and the Farrelly Brothers.

6) Connecticut. Yale, wealthy blue bloods, William F. Buckley, Martha Stewart, and if you pronounce the state's name wrong it sounds dirty.

7) Pennsylvania. Ben Franklin, the nation's first capital, lots of great football players (Namath, Montana, Unitas), those Amish, and the Cheesesteak.

8) Maryland. Crabs, Edgar Allan Poe, that Blair Witch.

9) Virginia. Civil War sites, Robert E. Lee, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.

10) The Carolinas. Top notch college basketball, pork-based barbecue, tobacco, hilariously awful segregationists.

11) Georgia. Gone With the Wind, Coke, Otis Redding, Martin Luther King.

12) Delaware. Hmmm. Joe Biden?

Up yours, Delaware. Consider your statehood revoked.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Guide to Watching Football

Football season is almost upon us! You know what this means--unhealthy food and drink, spending entire afternoons sitting on the couch, cursing at our friends as well as people we don't even know--in other words, typical Sundays. How to explain this tradition to the non-fan?

1) Think of it as a bonding moment. No one I know ever requires total silence during the game, in fact it's possible to enjoy it with the sound off. (The play by play is only useful if you're in another room getting a beer and want to hear what just happened. The color commentator is invariably an idiot with nothing worthwhile to say) Use it as an excuse to gather with friends and sit around talking, only you're all facing the set and you'll every now and again have to hear some cheers or groans that are unrelated to your conversation.

2) The love of the game is due to the American desire for territory (see, Manifest Destiny, The) so goodness is measured in yardage. Accept this as a cultural thing. And stop hating America so much, commie!

3) Understand also that it's a thinking man's game. Although a game will take place over a three hour period, only a third of that has the clock running, and during the one hour game clock there is only an average of fifteen minutes of actual playing (the rest is time used while the clock is running between plays). That means suspense is key!

4) Those cheerleaders on the sidelines? Once, they wore knee-length skirts and sweaters, and these days it is more common to see them wearing halter tops, booty shorts and go-go boots (at least in the NFL). Don't comment about this to the other fans you're watching the game with. They've heard it before. Yes, it's objectifying, yes, you wouldn't want to see your daughter out there dressed like that. Write your letter to the commissioner.

5) You may also have noticed that each season a lot of the players on your favorite team have left to play for other teams, and you may wonder why you should be more loyal to the team as a fan than any of the players. If you were to ask one of these players, they'd probably ask you when the last time was that someone offered you more money to root for a different team. Then he'd tell you to shut the hell up.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gandhi Review

So last night I saw the film "Gandhi", the 1982 Oscar-winning epic starring Ben Kingsley. This film had Academy Award Formula down! After all it was (a) over 3 hours long; (b) featured British accents; (c) was a biopic; (d) about a revered historical figure; and (e) not a single dick or fart joke in the entire picture. That equals Academy gold, people!

Needless to say, it was a pretty quality film, covering Gandhi as a young man in South Africa, skipping over the part where he was rooting for Hitler (sadly true) and ending with his murder at the hands of a Hindu extremist. The film well covered Gandhi's celebrated "nonviolence" plan, which somehow was enough to curry world opinion to force the British to their knees. He also argued that it would have worked on the Nazis, though it would have taken a lot longer. You know what? I'm glad we didn't have to find out! Taking beatings from billyclubs and bamboo canes may be pretty effective, but I think nothing really beats a whole mess of tanks and bombers for good Nazi-stopping power.

Might Want to Call Child Services Now

Following up on my earlier post regarding parents with children who make a scene in public, I decided I had to link to this Onion piece. It raises the question--how do you keep your kid quiet in public so you don't risk getting smacked by a bothered passer-by? My standard response--kids aren't allowed in pubic! Besides, it's not appropriate to take kids to bars, and when I have kids I'm sure I'm going to spend every moment outside of the house in the warm comforting wood-paneled coziness of the neighborhood bar.

I have other child-rearing plans geared towards making sure my kids turn out cool:

1) Name my first born son "Mason". When he brings friends home from school, and they refer to him as "Mason" I'll say "why are you calling him that? His name is John." I figure this will keep him down to earth. Besides, kids actually named "Mason" are guaranteed to grow up to be serial killers.

2) When my kids' goldfish dies, I'll tell them that this is why they're not allowed to have a dog.

3) When my kids ask if they can go to a baseball game, I'll say "sure" but only take them to the stadium on days that the home team is playing in another city. When we get to the empty stadium I'll say "oh, that's too bad, I was going to get you hot dogs and sodas too! Maybe we'll have better luck next time". It'll give them a great story for their therapists!

4) I'm going to convince my kids that they were adopted, so they'll have some hope of not inheriting my family's history of drunkenness, poor motor skills, and schizophrenia. I'll save them the bad news for when they stumble and trip on the way out of their first AA meeting, wondering where the voices are coming from.

5) When my kids are 16 and ask for a car, I'll remind them about killing the goldfish.

6) Every dinner will be Chinese food, and when they ask why they can't have anything but Chinese food I'll point out that the Chinese kids in my other family haven't been complaining.

7) When my kids ask to go to Disneyland I'll point out that Disney was an anti-Semite, and every dollar they put in Mickey's white-gloved hands might as well be another brick in a monument to Goebbels himself. Is that what you want, Hitler???

8) When my kids complain that all their friends have cable TV, toys, and central heating, I'll point out that their friends are just making that stuff up to make them jealous.

9) When my daughters try to go out with a gentleman caller, I'll require the young man to meet me first and he can only date them if he can answer my riddles. I'll have NASA come up with the riddles.

10) When my kids complain about my unique parenting style, I'll just say "keep it up and you'll end up just like Marvin and Tammy." When they ask why they never heard of Marvin and Tammy, I'll say "Exactly."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Robot Nixon, Back in Action

I saw "Frost/Nixon" over the weekend--SPOILER ALERT! Nixon never gets re-elected President after the interview with David Frost!--and found it very engaging, as I have with most Ron Howard films. Some of the facts of the film were reportedly embellished for the sake of the storytelling, but what I saw was a remarkably balanced view of Nixon as a flawed but very human man left hollow after being driven out of office for his misdeeds. Got me thinking though:

1) Why on earth was a guy who had no people skills and no real comfort around people drawn to politics?

2) Even more amazing--he was quite successful at politics. That'd be like George W. Bush being successful as a college professor, or Bill Clinton being successful at being a priest.

3) If I was president, and being on trial for impeachment, I'd eat an apple during the whole proceeding. Nothing says "calm and collected" like eating an apple.

4) Just once, I'd like to say "if obstructing justice in the name of love is a crime, then I don't want to be right!" And when it's pointed out that that is indeed a crime, I'd change the subject.

5) Nixon probably could have lasted the remaining two years of his term if he'd suddenly pretended to only speak Spanish when the Watergate questions got ugly. By the time they got the articles of impeachment translated, he'd be out of office. So long, suckers!

Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow

Ever have one of those nights where you keep waking up from nightmares? Nightmares so vivid that even when awake, you're still thinking you might be in them? To the extent that you are a bit worried about getting in your car the next morning, because even though you can check the back seat for monsters (as I do every morning, of course) you know very well that some monsters can start out invisible, and then appear when you're driving and force you off the road but it doesn't matter because your brain will explode from seeing the monster in the rear view mirror?

Yeah, it was one of those nights. And let's just say that the thought of someone with their ears facing backwards is still pretty freaky.

It's going to be a long day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

You've Got a Fiend...

We're not expected to always have everything in common with our friends, unless of course our "friends" are consisting of cloned versions of ourselves. Sometimes we find very little common ground among our friends, to the extent that with two of my close friends from New York there is only one thing that all three of us agree on together--that the song "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake is a completely and totally awesome song. Other than that, we can't agree on ANYTHING.

Why do I bring this up? I have an urge to unload off of my chest some things to my friends that have been eating me up inside. It's okay for us to disagree!

1) I quite simply cannot see the appeal of Jimmy Buffet. His music just seems bland and pointless, sort of like a potato stuffed with cauliflower.

2) The original Star Wars trilogy--to say nothing of the more recent abominations that followup up the trilogy--just wasn't my cup of tea. Weak acting, terrible writing, and a story line that had only one interesting twist. Not a terrible movie--the special effects were terrific, and it was imaginative--but always seemed overrated.

3) PBR is really terrible beer. I can only drink it if there's really no other choice. And then I know a headache is coming.

4) Flip Cup is the lowest form of drinking game. Forget the fact that it's unhygienic--which it is--but it's also about as interesting as trying to see if you can get a plastic cup to flip onto it's top. Watching flies fornicate would be more interesting. (Actually, that would be more interesting than a lot of things! I imagine they say something like "you make me feel so REAL!" at high pitch).

5) Your political opinions may be well thought out, and I may agree with some of them. But when you start talking like anyone who disagrees is an idiot, I immediately dismiss anything else you have to say. Unless you're talking to actual Nazis or Communists, there's no reason to demonize.

6) We all love our sports teams. But if you take it so seriously that you get upset when your team loses, that's pretty sad. Consider that the team is made up of a bunch of players and coaches who are only on that team until another one offers them more money. Then ask yourself what you're so loyal to. The uniform design? Okay, maybe I "don't get it" but that doesn't make me less of a sports fan simply because I can enjoy the game without rending garments over a loss. (Unless I had money on the game!)

Again, we have our disagreements--but among friends it's our differences that make things interesting. Feel free to add in the comments areas where you disagree with my own opinions.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Attention Wal-Mart Child Beaters

Picture it--you're in a Wal-Mart. Screaming 2-year old, apparently won't shut up and the mother of the kid is unable or unwilling to do anything to stop it. (This article recounts the incident). A 61-year old stranger then proceeds to slap the kid silly, and apparently this worked because (according to the police report) the grown man claimed "I told you I'd shut her up". The man was of course arrested, and the Internets are full of comments which range from (a) aghast parents who boast how they would have beaten the man to death if he had laid a finger on their wonderful little snowflakes to (b) cheering childless commenters who say the old man was a hero and his only mistake was not beating up the mother of the crying child.

Now, let's get a few points out of the way:

1) You can't go around hitting other people's kids, unless the kid hit you, and even then your response should be proportionate to their attack and their size. Even then, you need to give the parent a chance to discipline the kid themselves. But you can't hit them just for being annoying.

2) As a parent, you have a duty to others to keep your kids behaved. Obviously, a two year old is going to cry and scream when you bring them in public, which is a good reason to avoid bringing them in public until they're old enough to behave. When you do have to bring them in public, and you can't keep them from crying, you have to take them outside when possible. (Obviously, can't do this on airplanes! Frankly, don't take small kids on airplanes. Kids should either be moved by car or stay put until they're old enough to understand simple commands like SHUT THE HELL UP YOU LITTLE MONSTERS!!!). Restaurants? Limit it to Chuck E Cheese or some other kid restaurant, not fancy places (if you can afford to drop $100 on dinner, you can afford a baby sitter). And don't even get me started on movie theaters showing grown up films.

3) That said, I'm generally sympathetic to parents with crying babies because I know it is no picnic for them and while my discomfort will be over once they leave my sight, the parent has to deal with the kid for years. One thing I find works well at getting other people's kids to stop crying is to start crying yourself! The kid is understandably confused, and their own empathy kicks in, and they stop crying. Bingo! Of course then I run the risk of being slapped by a 61-year old stranger.

4) It was Wal-Mart. The old guy should have been glad the kid wasn't pooping in the aisle. And the mother should have been glad the old man didn't eat the kid.

World War Two Reflection

Tuesday marked the 70th anniversary of the Second World War, as on that day in 1939 the Germans invaded Poland and we all know how that turned out. Now, registered lunatic and historical revisionist Pat Buchanan has suggested that maybe Hitler's intentions were misunderstood--he never wanted to conquer Europe, and genuinely desired peace with Britain and France and the United States. Had Britain and Poland been more reasonable, the six year war that took 50 million lives might have been avoided.

Well, it was bound to happen--Buchanan has finally gone completely nuts. Hitlers intentions had been quite clear, from the actions he took in seizing Czechoslovakia to his invasion of Poland on a weak pretense, and he had long written and spoken of Germany's need for extra "living space" by expanding its borders--by war if not by negotiation. And his actions lived up to these goals--while France and Britain had declared war on Germany, Hitlers invasions of Scandanavia, Russia, and the Balkans were unprovoked. Buchanan asks why Hitler didn't build large bombers and a massive surface fleet if he had any designs on Britain? The answer is obvious--limited resources. Hitler called off plans to invade Britain because he lacked these things, not the other way around. And remember that he declared war on the United States first, immediately after Pearl Harbor.

Reflection about the War is all fine and good--there are things that need to be re-thought, such as whether the strategy of landing in Italy before going directly for Occupied France was the right one, or acknowleging that the Allies committed some egregious war crimes, or suggesting that more could have been done to prevent the Soviets from dominating half of Europe after the war. Some could even suggest that Japan could have been better handled in the leadup to the war, perhaps preventing the eruption of the conflict in the Far East in the first place. But to make Hitler out as harmless and misunderstood is ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Picking Up Women, Part Three

So now it's been determined, you have no natural gifts, the various clever techniques for meeting women--which range from flashing fancy jewelry to using veiled insults--are not for you, and you've had very little if any luck with setups, mail order brides, online dating or being thrown drunkenly into a room with a member of the fairer sex. What now?

Now you are ready for Truly Brilliant Super Strategy. TBSS can be summed up as follows:

1) Prove you're a man in charge.

2) There is no Rule #2.

Now, what does this mean? How can you be a "man in charge" if you work data entry? Well, even the humblest civil servant can be "in charge" in that he answers to no one else. This is why we have the stereotype of women who love a man who plays by his own rules--because it implies he never has to listen to anyone else's rules.

A man in charge will do the following:

1) Decide the nature of the conversation with a woman he meets. She wants to ask him to put out that cigarette? A man in charge will tell her he feels like getting a taco later.

2) Make his approach unexpected, and commanding. Because men in charge have their own rules, they won't use the usual "pickup lines". If a man in charge asks you what your sign is, then it's because he's genuinely interested in astrology, dammit!

3) Accordingly, he won't use "pickup lines" at all--if he wants to talk to a woman, he says "okay, I've decided to have the next few minutes of conversation with you. Go." If the woman doesn't start conversing then and there, he says "Is that the best you've got???"

4) A man in charge wears shoes, not sneakers. Unless it's 1999. These days men in charge don't wear sneakers.

5) A man in charge listens more than he talks. I guarantee you don't have anything all that interesting to say anyway--so don't try and impress women with what you don't know. You're in charge! Let them do the talking. Your responses should be concise, in one word answers! Better yet, reply with nods and head shakes.

6) A man in charge doesn't order anything specific at restaurants and bars. He says "A beer," or "an entree". When the bartender/waiter asks for specifics, the man in charge says "surprise me". Men in charge enjoy surprises.

7) A man in charge won't try to impress women by showing off. Why do that? You're in charge! Face it, you're either (a) not impressive so you'll seem fake or (b) actually impressive but seem to be trying too hard. Women like guys who seem to be a prize worth winning, not someone who seems to be making a sales pitch. You know how you'd feel if you were shopping for a car and the salesman keeps talking about how great a car is? You start to wonder what he's hiding.

8) When a man in charge answers the phone, he doesn't say "hello". That's weak! He says one of the following: (a) "Go", (b) "Begin", (c) "talk to me", (d) "now", or (e) "You got one minute, make it count".

9) A man in charge doesn't try to appear like a "nice" guy. If he's actually nice, people will discover that in time. But you don't lead with "nice". That's like a friend telling you about a girl he wants to introduce you to and saying "she has a nice personality" before anything else.

10) Mainly, a man in charge doesn't have to actually be in charge--he just has to think like he's in charge. Mind over matter, and it wins every time.

Now, you're probably thinking--"but wait! I know many guys who are follower-types, and they get girlfriends!" This does happen, but I can assure you that those guys had some "man in charge" quality that the women saw in them, and that the women in their lives are with them despite, not because of, their follower traits.

When I Am Metro Dictator

With all the news of the D.C. Metro outages, delays, and crashes, I've done some thinking as to how I would change things if I were given total control over the system for a year. (This is not a bad idea, by the way! Unlike most Metro executives, I have no track record of hilariously terrible failures to speak of. Clean slate, dude!). Of course, I would take the job on the condition of having total control of the DC Metro area as well, since the reforms for one go hand in hand with the other. So maybe I need a like-minded confederate to help me implement the clever reforms I have in mind! Please make your pitch to be co-dictator in the comment string below.

1) Replace all escalators with stairs, except for the super long ones (like Rossyln). My theory is that able bodied people should be able to walk and not be such fatasses, and besides, the Metro escalators are out of service something like 1/3 of the time anyway (and it's harder to walk up a narrow, broken escalator than up regular, wide and shallower stairs). With a fraction of the budget used to repair escalators, we could make sure the elevators are always running, so as to serve the handicapped and those carrying heavy stuff. Savings, and efficiency!

2) Pipe in music with ad breaks. This makes money, and gives people something to dance to.

3) Put in bathrooms, and keep them cleaned.

4) Light the cars with differentially-hued lighting. This way, when they pass by outside stations, it gives people something to marvel at. It'll make us distinctive!

5) Put ads on the sides of the cars.

6) Expand the system to reach more areas. This map is the current plan, and it's a good one, but I'd suggest going even farther. There should be no part of DC or Arlington that is not within a fifteen minute walk of a station. And it should reach Annapolis, Baltimore, and BWI Airport.

7) Run longer trains during peak hours, and increase the train frequency during non-peak hours. When riders have to pack into Tokyo-level trains, or wait an agonizingly long time between trains on weekends, it hardly pays to ride Metro compared to driving. And we should be encouraging more Metro and less driving.

8) Keep the system going 24/7. The extra funding for this (as well as items 6 and 7) would require more regional funding, but it'd pay for itself with extra ridership caused by making more roads toll roads and increasing the gas tax.

9) In the suburbs, encourage more development (commercial and residential) around the Metro stops. You should be able to buy a beer within fifty feet of any station.

10) Open up the big stations (Metro Center, for example) to allow some retail to set up in the pedestrian tunnels between tracks. I understand the point of not selling food in the system, since that creates more of a garbage issue. But selling non food items--and selling food and drink only on-premesis (that is, not allowing takeout)--could promote more commerce in the stations, and provide a nice service for riders. Instead of "meet me waiting at the turnstile" you could say "meet me at that burger place between stations".