Monday, November 30, 2009

Black Friday, Bah Humbug!

The Thanksgiving hangover has hardly subsided before millions of extremely cheap and undignified people descended on the nation's retailers at 4 in the morning Friday to get good deals on electronics and appliances. These items would be often hoarded and resold at a markup, or given as holiday presents, or in some cases actually used by the buyers. But one thing is for certain--the bottom-feeders who camp out for these amazing deals are completely classless!

My vitriol for the Black Fridayers stems mostly from last year's incident where the hordes of cheap retards crushed a worker to death and the paramedics couldn't get to him because the people in the crowd didn't want to risk losing their spot in line and not getting the wonderful deals on flat screen TVs or whatever other nonsense they were trying to buy. While I can be influenced by a sale on an item I want just as much as the next guy, I'd like to think that even saving hundreds on an appliance isn't worth waiting outside a store for hours to get the item, let alone endanger another person over it.

While a "Black Fridayer" probably thinks that they're getting one over on the world by getting a Wii for half price, I can mathematically prove that they are not taking into account the true cost of what they're doing. Consider:

Cost of Item Sold on Black Friday = Discounted Price + Time + Human Dignity + Eternal Soul + Cost of Getting Lunch at Olive Garden Near Mall

As you can see, when you add up everything in this formula, that brings you way higher than the full original price of the item. Sorry, Black Fridayers--you'd be better off spending your day off eating leftovers and playing with the strange cat that wandered onto your property.

Another Birthday!

Ah, birthdays--they just aren't as special after you've passed the "big ones". Like, when you hit 13, you can call yourself a teenager; when you hit 16, you can drive; when you hit 18, you can vote and be tried as an adult (not as much to celebrate there!); when you hit 21 you can drink. Then it starts to go downhill until you're able to collect Social Security (and tell the young bastards who won't stay off your lawn that you plan to milk the system until they're taxed to oblivion).

Today I turn 35--the only thing special about that number is I can serve as President of the United States now. Weak! How about something more to look forward to? Like, legalize pot for everyone over 32, so you can look forward to that birthday. Legalize gambling for everyone over 35, so that birthday becomes a milestone. Pay no taxes for the year you're 37, so you can celebrate that. One free murder when you hit 40.

Of course, those other milestone birthdays are arbitrary anyway--what about being 16 makes you more able to drive than a 15 or 14 year old? (In some states the driving age is lower, and in other places like New Jersey it's actually 17, but this is because Jersey drivers are already awful). Why is a 21 year old able to drink responsibly but not a 19 year old? (Especially since we decided that 19 year old can vote, marry, go to grown-up prison, and fight in our wars. I guess downing a beer is a much more serious thing than starting a family, dodging Taliban bullets or helping decide the future of our country).

Still, I see 35 as a triumph--halfway to 70 when I can finally be a crazy old man!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


As I steel myself for a drive up the East Coast for Thanksgiving, I should take this time to think of all the things I'm thankful for this year:

1) I'm thankful to have a good income at a time when more than one in ten people can't find work (and a larger number have given up trying).

2) I'm thankful to have good friends and fambly who tolerate my constant airing of the grievances.

3) I'm thankful to be healthy despite a constant potato chip and beer diet. Oh, sweet sweet carbs why do you abuse me when it's so clear how devoted I am???

4) I'm thankful that Sarah Palin will always amuse us but never be in a real position to cause any harm.

5) I'm thankful that we live in a time of great television, where I can look forward to new episodes of It's Always Sunny and get great new ideas like filling a soda can with wine so it doesn't spill when I make violent hand gestures.

6) I'm thankful that I enjoy the simple things in life, like writing, painting, and filling Faberge eggs with gold flakes and tossing them from a yacht.

7) I'm thankful that New Jersey is not a longer state than it is. And that Delaware is even shorter. Horrible, horrible Delaware.

8) I'm thankful that the Redskins still suck and stupid Dan Snyder can cry in his little girly arms like the big doofus baby he is. Up yours, Snyder!

9) I'm thankful that women of today are much better looking than they were thirty years ago (what with their high waisted poofy pants and oversized fake eyelashes and ironed hair), though I'm sure men of thirty years from now will say the same thing about our women. Watch it, you young whippersnappers! Get off my lawn!

10) I'm thankful for Coke and McDonalds. Yes, I admitted it! Coke is like crack for me. By which I mean I buy it in secret on street corners and drink it in solitary shame.

11) I'm thankful for my thankfulness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Keep the Tip, Said the Leper to the Hooker

Tipping is a sore subject for a lot of people who worked in restaurants, since anyone who had to depend on the voluntary tippage from a customer has at least once been stiffed, and then of course we see the other extreme where the service was nonexistent but a mandatory service charge was added to the bill, like in this case. Comments on such stories often get heated, with the two camps forming:

1) The "I wait tables for a living and if you don't pay at least 20% for your food you're scum and you'll get extra saliva in your drinks!" camp.

2) The "I'm tired of crappy service, you should consider yourself lucky if I leave change for a buck on the table when I'm done! And if you don't like it, get a new skill set!" camp.

3) The "I'm European and we don't tip in Europe so I'm not going to tip in the U.S., even though we Europeans like to mock Americans for not learning other people's cultures when we visit. By the way, so what if you saved us from the Nazis? What have you done for us lately?" camp.

4) The "Maybe tipping shouldn't be voluntary, but fixed into the prices and give servers higher salaries" camp.

5) The "What is this tipping you speak of? Should I have been leaving extra money on the table?" camp.

6) The "You're all idiots, you can get great food right out of the dumpsters." camp.

Regardless of the merits of dumpster cheese, it's good to run over the basic rules--tipping about 20% is normal, more for good service, less for poor service, and if the service is so bad you don't want to tip at all (say, if the server basically bites your arm) then you'll want to talk with management about it. 20% isn't hard to figure out--a buck for every $5, two for every $10--and when you're paying ask yourself whether you'd be happy receiving that amount of money for providing the amount of service provided (extra refills on drinks, adequate attention, carrying heavy steaming plates). After all, if it bothers you that the tip makes a $10 burger come out to $12 and tax, then there's always fast food. It ain't rocket surgery!


Last Friday, a few of us got together for a Guy's Night (yes, I know one of the first rules of Guy's Night is to not speak of Guy's Night but as we know rules were made to be broken). A couple of the guys there were single so of course that meant the rest of us were more than willing to dole out advice on how to pick up women because of course who knows better than the guys who don't pick up women anymore? It's sort of like asking a Quaker how to kick someone's ass or asking a Muslim what to do with the crate of beer-soaked bacon that someone left at your house. Your house in Tel Aviv, that is.

Of course, most of my own advice had to do with "dropping that sensitive guy crap" and "never, ever wear knee socks" and especially "never ever listen to the advice of your female friends". I have had a number of female friends for a number of years, and never once heard any bit of advice regarding women that wasn't completely the opposite of correct, with the exception of something my friend Jen said once and I'm pretty sure she said it by accident. And that got me thinking.

Why is it that women will tell you stuff that if you actually did it you'd find yourself completely undate-able? Surely because these women are our friends, one would assume they have our best interests in mind! But then think of this--if we DID listen to their counterproductive advice (ranging from "share your feelings" and "be yourself" to "pink is a good color for you" and "there's nothing wrong with being a vegan even if you're a guy")--if we DID take it to heart, we'd end up growing old alone and have to move in with these female friends' families and living in the small apartment above their garages so we can babysit for their kids and help their husbands (who you better believe never shared their feelings, wore pink, or ate tofu!) fix the family sedan.

I'm on to you, ladies!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Holiday Tips

As I like to give back to the community after taking so, so very much, I figured it's time for some more holiday tips--what with Thanksgiving coming up in a few days! After all, what should normally be a day of mirth and togetherness often devolves into a fit of screeching, screeching and more screeching. But some of it can be avoided by following some basic rules:

1) Avoid driving during peak hours. Yes, even during a recession you'll find yourself in a traffic jam saying "I figured the recession would make everyone stay home". Remember when gas was $4 a gallon a few years ago? There were still bad jams! And you marvel at the fact that so many people chose to drive at a time when they knew the roads would be crowded, until you remembered that you're one of those people.

2) Have an aunt who's convinced that the president is a secret Muslim, or an uncle who is still ranting about George Bush? Avoid political arguments with a sure fire all-purpose response: "You have interesting opinions and I'm sure they'll make it into some academic journal before long. But if I hear one more word about something you heard on Glenn Beck/Rachel Maddow, I will do something with this turkey leg that you never thought physically possible."

3) If you're one of those kind families that invites a lonely homeless war veteran to your home for the Thanksgiving dinner, make sure you give him a full psychiatric evaluation before you let him near any carving knives. A flashback from the Battle of Khe San could turn a pleasant meal into a test to see if the male relatives are capable of restraining a knife-wielding berzerker.

4) If asked to say "grace" try and leave out any references to our Dark Lord and whether there are any virgins at the table.

5) Do not show up with a bunch of tupperware and say "can't stay long, but you can put my share in these".

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twilight? More like Twi-wrong!

I've been pretty much insulated from the "Twilight" movie and book craze, largely because I'm a guy and I'm not 14 years old. So I can't criticize the films/books (or ideas behind the films/books) from any experience, but from the buzz around it it seems the idea is that vampires are brooding emo goth hipsters with moused hair and sparkly skin who fall in love against their will.

In other words, vampires are totally lame.

This is a terrible trend--the best vampires were the ghoulish, Nosferatu style tall white freakish blood suckers that glide through the dark and haunt our dreams. The sort of things that you'd lose your shit over if you saw them in your closet or basement. Why turn them all lame and mopey?

Some theories exist that the vampire legend is based on observing people reacting to having rabies--the legends apparently spread in the same times and places as major rabies outbreaks. Rabies symptoms--aversion to water and light, insatiable thirst, aversion to pungent smells (like garlic?), crazy behavior and a need to attack and bite people--are not unlike the symptoms attributed to vampires, and rabies, like vampirism, is spread through the blood. What does rabies NOT do to you? Turn you into a sullen teenager who wears black and has moussed hair and doesn't want to fall in love!

TV's The Office

I'm as big a fan of the TV show "The Office" as anyone--both the British and the American versions--and have found that the various characters seem to get better and better as the season runs on. The Jim and Pam romance has actually been touching and amusing, while normally on shows such a pairing would be a sign of sure shark-jumping crapulence (see, Friends). The Dwight character has become multi-layered, as he has proven gullible, evil, insane and deviously charming all at once. The addition of Andy "The Nard-dog" Bernard has been nothing short of excellent--from his insecure name-dropping of his alma mater ("Cornell--ever heard of it?") to his absolute hangdoggedness around women and his sad attempts to get the nickname "Tuna" to catch on. His battles with Dwight are a regular highlight of the show. The side characters--Stanley, Kevin, Oscar, Toby and Meredith in particular--have provided great comedic support. And Creed? That old rascal is one of the best on there. That's not to leave out Kelly, Ryan, Daryl or Phillys either--there's just so much comedic gold there.

However, I've been getting to a point where the main character--Michael Scott, the boss--has crossed the line from funny to cartoonishly stupid and rotten. It has gotten to the point where I'd like to strangle him, from when he tried to deny Jim a deserved promotion (and ended up also denying himself a promotion--instead they both had to share a "co-manager" position) to when he dated Pam's mom and dumped her on her birthday in front of her daughter. (Simply because she was "too old" as though he was some real catch). For example:

1) The time his GPS told him to turn right and he saw there was no road and just a lake ahead, and he drives into the lake anyway because the GPS told him to. Really?

2) When he tries his "magic ticket" promotion, and it fails at first, he snivellingly tells his boss that it was Dwight's idea. When his boss tells him it turned out to be a success, and praises Dwight, Michael turns around and says it was his own idea all along--as though the boss would give him credit after seeing him disown the idea and try to pass blame onto a flunky? Really?

3) When he's in a deposition, and the attorney says something that could be taken as an innuendo, he can't stop himself from saying "that's what she said!"--like some dude with Tourette's Syndrome--and even sticks by his childishly stupid comment when it is read back to him. In a legal proceeding. Really?

4) Company picnic when during his stupid skit he mentions that the Buffalo branch is going to be closed down--which was information his boss told him in confidence. This is of course revealed right in front of the employees of the Buffalo branch, who naturally cause an uproar. Really?

5) Last night's episode--the shareholders meeting--when despite Michael's history of saying stupid things and being a wild card, the management invites him up on the dais, giving him the chance to speak out of turn and promise the shareholders something that the management couldn't deliver (that they'd have a plan to save the company in the next hour). Really?

The problem isn't just that the show makes Steve Carrell--the great comic actor playing Michael--overplay his part as a stupid and insensitive "boss from hell". Making him a bit less obvious would help, of course. But at a certain point it makes little sense that management would tolerate the things he does--after he betrayed his boss's confidence about closing the Buffalo branch, why would he trust him to be on the stand at the shareholder meeting? We're made to understand that Michael is actually a good salesman, and this may explain why his branch (Scranton) has been profitable. But clearly he can't manage--anyone watching even one episode would see that--and it'd make more sense to bump him down to salesman and let him rake in the commissions.

Am I overthinking a TV show? Yep. Favorite moment though? The awkward dinner party Michael and Jan hosted. The meter stick by which all dinner parties should be judged!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Morning Thoughts

1) Why is it that when someone says "no offense, but..." they're about to offend you?

2) Why is "dyslexic" not spelled the same frontwords and backwords? (Or the word "palindrome" for that matter?)

3) Why is "abbreviate" such a long word?

4) Why does Rush Limbaugh say that Sarah Palin's new book is the "best policy book" he's ever read? Has he read no other books before?

5) Why do people say "what goes around, comes around"? That's only really true for things that travel in circles. If I toss a rock into a field it's not like I'm going to find that rock on my pillow the next day. Or will I...?

6) Why did they call it "twitter" when a better word for it is "e-stalker"?

7) And on that note, is it really stalking if the "victim" wants to be stalked? By twittering?

8) How did all sitcoms go from having laugh tracks to having the actors just awkwardly pause where the laughter used to be?

9) How did laugh tracks come about in the first place? Did someone say "maybe people will now know it's okay to laugh here"? They don't use them for movies, just television. Should someone have invented a "cheering track" for musical studio recordings?

10) How come once we get used to an Internet browser or word processing application they have to upgrade and change it to something we have to re-learn? Did anyone actually complain to Microsoft that the current versions were too easy to figure out?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You and Your Rules!

You know what really boils my potatoes? Stupid expressions. Like "rules were made to be broken". Er, no they weren't! They were made to be followed. Just try using that argument in court: "Your honor, I know it's against the law to do an eight ball of cocaine off the naked back of a dead hooker, but you know what they say--rules are made to be broken!"

Now, let's explore the context behind the saying "rules were made to be broken." Whenever someone says it, what they're really trying to point out is that it's okay to break a rule every now and again. This of course I agree with--perhaps the rule itself is stupid, like 18 year olds being allowed to go fight for their country, be tried as adults, marry and have kids, pay taxes--but not have a beer legally. A terribly stupid rule, as well as grossly offensive to anyone with the ability to fire off a few neurons in their brain (and of course this wouldn't include Congress because they have the collective brainpower of primordial ooze).

Or, the rule isn't stupid, but the application of it to a particular case is unjust or useless. It's against the rules to run a red light, because of the obvious dangers of collisions (which is something I wish my fellow drivers on my morning commute could understand, but of course this is Fairfax). However, in some situations--late at night on an empty road and you're trying to drive your wife to a hospital, and you can see clearly that there is no other driver or pedestrian at the intersection--there's nothing wrong with going through the light while it's red. Sure, a cop spotting that might pull you over, but on learning the situation would more likely give you an escort to the hospital and let you off. (Unless the cop is a jerkface).

So yes, there are situations in which it should be okay to violate a rule. Perhaps it would make more sense to say "rules can be broken when unjust or unreasonable in certain circumstances" but I guess that's not as catchy as "rules are made to be broken".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Agree to Disagree

My new thing now is backing up any outrageous opinion I have by simply saying "let's agree to disagree". It really works anywhere! Watch:

1) "Brando, I really don't think they can kick New Jersey out of the union just because you find it to be an embarrassment to the country." "Well, let's agree to disagree."

2) "Brando, you took my last Coke from the fridge! I was saving that!" "We can discuss all day who took whose Coke, but let's just agree to disagree."

3) "You borrowed my car and returned it without a windshield or wheels. You bastard!" "Look, whether or not the car had wheels and a windshield to begin with is a question for the ages. We'll just have to agree to disagree."

4) "I ordered a ham sandwich and you clearly brought me a bowl of soup instead. This is not a ham sandwich." "Maybe it's a ham sandwich, maybe you're hallucinating, maybe they make ham sandwiches in this restaurant which look a lot like soup. I'm not here to argue, let's just agree to disagree."

5) "I trust you to mow my lawn and now I walk in and see you sleeping with my wife. You are a terrible friend!" "Maybe this is your wife, maybe this is her clone that you never met before and your wife lent us your bedroom for the day. I'm not a scientist. Let's agree to disagree!"

6) "You said in your email that you're a trim 132 pounds and yet you're six feet tall and at least that wide. You're a liar!" "You see a morbidly obese man, and maybe you have a vision problem. We'll have to agree to disagree."

Look Who Made it Into the Times

Well, it finally happened--fellow blogger Disaffected Scanner Jockey made it into the NY Times Style Section, apparently because the writer of the article had Googled the words "etiquette vigilante" and voila! All I can say is look out Miss Manners, you've got some competition! Of course the DSJ's rules of proper etiquette are well known in these parts, and the constant faux pas of the many people in our gang are always giving her new material. It was only a matter of time before the national media would pick up on it.

DSJ of course has pointed out that some of her quotes were out of context, as the article tends to make her seem less conciliatory and tactful in cases where dealing with someone's breach of etiquette. As someone who regularly uses the wrong fork when stabbing a fellow rider on Metro, I can't relate. But I can say that it's nice to have a celebrity in the gang!

We're all eagerly awaiting the coffee table book on etiquette, DSJ...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Things Learned Over the Weekend

1) Bubblegum vodka tastes like Debbie Gibson's vomit. So if you had a really weird fetish in the late '80s, look no further!

2) Grasshopper tacos are the answer to all of your questions, so long as your only questions involve how to get more delicious grasshopper into your diet.

3) Sweet tea vodka is the perfect thing for that Southern Dandy who has everything. Everything but a liver problem and a sweet dose of diabetes.

4) Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington puts together a pretty mean burger, though I'd still have to give the edge to a homemade burger with soup mix in the patty. Parking in North Arlington? Still sucks.

5) You know you're no longer in Maine when you can get blunch on November 15th and request an outside seat so you can enjoy the 73 degree weather.

6) Drinking wine from a decanter won't make you any less drunk.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday LadyBrett

This weekend marks the birthday of fellow blogger, part time business manager and all around gal-about-town, LadyBrett. If you are out on the streets and you hear that there's a run on sweet tea vodka, there's a good chance LadyBrett was there before you. If you see a kitten wearing mittens, it's a good chance that you are following in the path of LadyBrett's destruction.

LadyBrett is part of a dedicated group of party VIPs, who show up early and stay until the bacon is fried the next day. She'll put together a daiquiri concoction that is more rum than ice or strawberry, and she'll make a "French Boilermaker"--Chardonnay with a shot of vodka as a chaser--without thinking twice. LadyBrett has made it into the annals of party legend.

LadyBrett is also a fellow Westchesterite, backing up my stories of Fudgie the Whale and good bagels when they were questioned by DC locals. She is also our group's authority on all things Jewish, which is very useful when I'm misquoting the Talmud as I often do when several sheets ot the wind.

Here's to a happy birthday for LadyBrett, and many more!

Man's Best Friend

It's no secret that I like dogs. Well, maybe it is a secret--I don't go around owning a dog or petting dogs or going to restaurants that serve dog--but whenever people ask I say "yep, dogs rule". And I'm not alone in that thinking--consider this: you see an action movie and the hero goes running through the enemy's headquarters machine-gunning everything and everyone in sight. In this process he kills several men--men who likely have wives and children, or at least a mother who loves them very much because they send nice cards on holidays. Men who have hopes and dreams, a favorite food, perhaps even an art project they were working on. Men whose only mistake was working for the head bad guy, probably because of a good health plan.

In this scenario, the hero may also kill some women--but of course because the movie industry automatically assumes that women working in a bad guy headquarters would be administrative staff or otherwise innocent of wrongdoing, the only women to be killed would have to be ones who've proven themselves evil already (like Famke Jansen's character in Goldeneye, or Katherine Heigl's character in every romantic comedy she's been in). (Yes, I realize it's paternalistic and sexist for the movie industry to assume that the viewer can't imagine that anonymous women could be random "bad guys" but dont' complain to me, write to Paramount).

But one thing you'll never see is the hero killing a dog--even if it's the head bad guy's dog. Even if the dog is attacking the hero! Because you and I know that the minute we see him pump some lead into a pooch, we'll be like "whoa, that was uncalled for!" See, we assume that dogs are all good on the inside and that even if they've gone bad, it's because of something we humans did to it.

It is my admiration of dogs that I have in mind when I read this story--a dog that was missing in Afghanistan being returned. A dog that has been helping our troops (or our allies' troops, to be accurate) sniff out bombs that were placed there by nutjobs. So not only do they bring us companionship and loyalty, here they are saving lives and helping us fight the nutjobs.

Try getting a parakeet to do that!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beer Stronger than Whiskey? Sign this guy up!

There's something to be said for having a "can do" attitude about everything. That, I think, is the main reason we don't live in caves and forage for berries all day unless of course we're hippies who are into that. Is that how you get your kicks, hippie? Berries and caves? Well, at some point in history someone must have said "why not" and invented all the great things there were to invent.

One example is beer. When you consider how it's actually made, it makes you wonder how anyone could have even come up with that. Someone must have boiled grain, added sugar, and let it all sit for a while and then figured "hell, might as well taste it" and then suddenly noticed that the hairy cavewoman sitting next to him looked a lot like Sienna Miller and he was like "okay, I shall call my new friend--'beer'" and the rest was history.

Likewise, my friend Don Marco is a noted home brewer, and is always looking for new directions to take this personal problem that is disguised as a hobby. We were reading about how in some states they're allowing higher alchohol content beer to be sold, as of course once you pass a certain mark you're getting into gangster territory. It was then that we decided "why not produce a home brew that is as powerful as whiskey?" Imagine what this would mean--you could nurse one beer all night and that would be enough for you. We could charge the same for one bottle as we would a six pack or ordinary beer--and it'd still be a good deal for the consumer. But we'd save tons on storage and shipping costs, which is essential since this would be made at his rustic country estate in New Gloucester, Maine (by real Mainers!).

We may be going through the looking glass here, people.

Veterans Day Remembered

Yesterday was Veterans Day, which was a day off for most of us (except those who work for America-hating companies that would prefer to force people to toil away rather than celebrate our Veterans, though keep doing that, foul companies! Just wait and see if Stalin gives you any days off when he invades because we don't have any veterans around to stop him because they're too busy working for you to make you a few measly extra bucks! Rot in hell, money grubbing haters of America!).

For me it was also a reminder that there are still guys and ladies much younger than me--people born in the '90s, even!--who are out there in the mountains and deserts shooting and getting shot at by vile nutjobs, and for very little pay. It's more than I can say I've done at that age--when I was 18 I was muddling through college in preparation for what I do now. That was during the Clinton years, when we didn't think much about the dangers faced by our troops, since there hadn't been a protracted armed struggle since Vietnam. And of course our leaders all learned the lessons of Vietnam, right?

Here's a thanks to all those who served and still serve, and hopes they make it back in once piece.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Road Warrirors

There are some morning commute issues that have forced me to invent a new word--"dilsh". (Dildo + douche) As you may know, my drive is short in terms of distance--about two or three miles--but still offers many opportunities for absolutely horrible drivers to test just how awake I am.

1) When you decide to pull in front of someone, at least speed up so they don't have to drastically reduce their own speed.

2) Your car has working signals for a reason. You're not trying to outwit me here--you're trying to warn me so I don't ram you.

3) You drive a bus full of people. It would be a good idea for you to not shoot across three lanes of oncoming traffic just assuming we're all doing less than 15 mph.

4) You, the guy driving the truck packed with sand and gardening equipment. Since you didn't think to put shock absorbers in your vehicle, it would be nice it you'd tie down a tarp over your load so anyone unlucky enough to be stuck behind you doesn't get bits of gravel and mulch tossed on them every time you hit a pothole.

I miss the days when I didn't have a car.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Xanadu Review

Terrible films come out all the time--just look at anything with Sandra Bullock or Katherine Heigl in it, and you can find groan-inducing tedia that makes you feel sorry for anyone who got stuck seeing it in the theater and never getting their $8 back. But then some movies cross the line of awfulness, and unintentionally create what we call "so bad it's good". For this, see anything made by Russ Meyer, Roger Corman or Al Adamson--or come into the modern era with Road House or Flash Gordon (okay, maybe not so modern era). And one of my personal favorites, Barbarian Queen starring none other than Lana Clarkson, who would later be the murder victim of creative genius but certified psychopath Phil Spector. These films are cheaply made, but done in all earnestness by the tortured souls who wrote, directed or acted in them. These films cross the line to glorious awfulness.

But rarely are any of these films so awful that they cause actual destruction. (Sure, "Heaven's Gate" bankrupted United Artists and killed both the career of Kris Kristofferson who until that time had been riding high, and director Michael Cimino, who'd come off the Oscar sweeping Deer Hunter--but that film was actually good if overlong) During the dark days of the late Carter Administration--I'm talking 1980 to be exact--this country was suffering malaise, energy shortages, gas lines, polyester, terrible disco music, and shag carpeting. And a film called Xanadu.

Now, Xanadu has the distinction of killing everything it touched. It destroyed the careers of Olivia Newton John and Michael Beck, it killed Gene Kelly, it marked the end of the great '70s band The Electric Light Orchestra, it killed disco and it killed the roller derby craze. It was said that the '60s ended on that day in 1970 when the students were shot at Kent State. But the '70s surely ended with the release of Xanadu.

The plot--if you could call it that--was that Olivia Newton John (ONJ) is a "muse", a magical being from hated Greek Mythology who falls in love with a feather-haired artist (played by Beck) who has a job painting album covers onto murals for marketing purposes. (This is because in the Hollywood that is imagined in this film, no one thought to simply enlarge the album cover photos to wall poster size. If you find this lack of logic unbearable you might want to never go near this film. In fact, if you see a DVD copy of Xanadu you might want to kill it with fire). I should also point out that Beck's character--Sonny Malone--is considered quite the hunk, despite the feathered hair and vests he wears. Girls flirt with him on the street, and let him "borrow" their motorcycles when he needs a quick jaunt across the park and off of a fishing pier. But he only has eyes for ONJ! He has spotted her in the park and becomes obsessed with tracking her down. While this is technically stalking, it doesn't count as stalking if you have hunky feathered hair and a vest. Stalkers, take note!

Now, in his search he also runs into Gene Kelly, who is a clarinet playing old man who is apparently quite rich from his days in big bands but chooses to sit at the beach with his instrument. (I"m referring to the clarinet! Get your mind out of the gutter). Kelly prattles on about what a "good eye" Malone has, even though he has seen no evidence to demonstrate that Malone is anything other than a weirdo who steals motorcycles and drops them into the ocean while trying to stalk a blonde Australian on roller skates. (Now is the time to mention that way too much of this movie involves people rollerskating all over the place) If anything, Malone seems a bit irresponsible! But no matter--the two become fast friends. Malone has in the meantime followed ONJ to a dilipidated building that looks like it had better days back when Coolidge was president, and sees her roller skating around in a dark room that's cluttered with storage boxes. This would be creepy to anyone with sense, but not Sonny Malone! His feathered hair will protect him. His lack of foresight pays off though, as ONJ disappears without stealing his soul.

Malone and Gene Kelly are now BFFs, for some reason (maybe because Malone shared some popcorn with him earlier?). Kelly, believing that things like references, credentials or basic motor skills are just superfluous frills when picking a business partner, decides to open up a club on the run down site where Malone spotted ONJ skating around in the dark. They have a bit of a disagreement as to whether the club should play "rock and roll" or stick to a big band format, and I have to agree with Feathered Hair on this one--if you open a big band club in 1980 the only people showing up will be geriatrics who undertip and smell all mediciney. Not to mention causing a commotion because the club isn't racially segregated like in the old days! The weird part was during their argument, we get a visualization of what "rock and roll" and "big band" would be like, as the two imagined bands duke it out and dancers go flying everywhere. It's not really clear what they agreed on, but since later in the movie it's basically ONJ singing disco-fied music in campy and skimpy outfits, it seems that there was a loser in the argument, and that loser was "good taste".

Of course, the movie had other things going for it--an overlong shopping montage with mannequins come to life, and a cartoon sequence where ONJ and Malone turn into fish and birds, and Malone having an argument with Zeus about how he was in love with ONJ the muse. (If only they could have gotten the voice of John Travolta as Zeus, the film might have been saved!) Zeus does agree to let his muse have "one night" with Sonny Malone, and though I can think of many things I would have done with Olivia Newton John back in her prime, as it turns out her one night is spent singing and dancing at the opening of the club (which is called Xanadu, hence the title!). While the song and dance finale is an affront to humanity, it also seems that there were no real bona fide customers at the club (everyone present seemed to be part of her song and dance troupe). Is this a deeper lesson? That sometimes poorly thought out business ideas between irresponsible painters and geriatric clarinet players can actually fail?

Ache. Oh, the Ache.

After a night of daiquiris, beer and a delicious concoction called "bourbon slush" there was of course the inevitable hangover--the sort that has you waking saying "this isn't good" and "I can't imagine how it'll feel when I try and raise my head up". So I stagger slowly into the kitchen, with enough presence of mind to make sure I'm wearing a shirt and shorts since the guests passed out in the living room might be stirring and unwilling to see that much Brando at this hour.

Of course, the kitchen looks like Dresden after the firebombing, or a typical hotel after Guns n' Roses showed up--dishes, glasses and slop piled everywhere. Unbowed, I begin the bacon frying and egg-scramblin', and the making of milkshakes. For some reason I refuse Aspirin, figuring my kidneys are busy enough fighting off the bourbon.

The gang stirs, and informs me of things said and done of which I have no recollection--yes there was Karaoke, but I recall my silken voice crooning out tunes to much cheers and awe rather than the stumbling performance they're describing now. After some food and rest, and a hearty walk around town in the 70-degree weather, I return for more sleep and a viewing of perhaps the best-worst film I've seen since Barbarian Queen--Xanadu. Yes, the film that destroyed more careers and trends than any other. I shall review it in due time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Baseball Wrapup

The other night the New York Yankees won the World Series, giving that team a grand total of 27 world championships. While my New York friends are elated, the majority of my friends back in Maine--Red Sock fans, every one--are bummed because the only thing they like better than seeing their own team win is seeing the Yankees lose. (Never mind that as New England "yankees" they are rooting against the team of that name. This rivalry goes back a long time)

Though a sports fan, I never really got into the raw emotions behind rooting for a team. I'd pick a team I liked--usually based on liking some players or coaches--and clap when they won, and if they lost, no big deal. I was never one of those people who could let it affect my mood in any real way. Some friends of mine suggested this was because I wasn't really a fan, or didn't "get" football/baseball (I don't count basketball since it's an annoying game to watch with the constant fouling and faking falling down and shoes squeaking. Hockey I like but find it hard to watch on TV. Soccer's fun but I don't get foreign sports channels). This is hogwash, of course--I find football and baseball quite enjoyable, both to play and to watch. But I'll agree that I don't have the emotional investment in a given team--part of this is due to the constant trading of players and coaches, and part of this is a detachment from those teams.

But I do understand those who get really into it--often it has more to do with a feeling of community with other fans--whether they're locals (Pirates fans, say, tend to have their Pittsburgh connections binding them) or there's a more personality-related reason (many non-New Englander Red Sock fans simply like the underdog, and that team had a notorious 86 year drought from World Series wins and some crushing near-wins). One friend of mine picked the teams he roots for based on his dad's favorite teams, and finds a connection with his father through this fandom. None of this really happened to me, as I wasn't raised in a sports-loving household, and upon leaving New York moved to DC where the teams suck so regularly that it's hard to develop an affinity to the players or rotten owners like Dan Snyder who totally sucks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Disaffected Scanner Jockey

Today is the birthday of the Disaffected Scanner Jockey, whose blog has been rolling for years and has inspired us all towards heroic acts. Well, not so much heroic as EPIC BEYOND ALL PROPORTION. By way of an example:

1) Before reading that blog, I used to think that the Internet was a giant net that spanned across international waters to catch speedboats.

2) Before reading that blog, I used to sit around staring at my browser's home page, not realizing that you can get other pages to come up by clicking on bits of text or icons that lit up when your mouse went over them. It greatly enhanced my electronic experiences.

3) Before reading that blog, I used to get actual work done while at work.

Here's hoping for a happy birthday for the DSJ, and some glorious weekend celebrations!

It is also my friend Allie's birthday, and she coincidentally just got engaged to my friend Jake--congratulations to you both!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Political Recap

The voting results are in from this year's off-year election--for VA Governor, NJ Governor, NYC Mayor and a special election in NY's 23rd Congressional District. The Republicans won in VA and NJ, looks like the Democrat won in NY-23, and Mayor Bloomberg seems to be ahead in NYC. While both parties' various hacks will try and spin the results in their own idiotic way, you come here for some reasonable analysis that you can only get at Not Enough Tequila in the World.

1) VA Governor--Republican Bob McDonnell pulled a big-margin victory here, in the Old Dominion, a state that generally trends Republican but did elect Democrats for Governor in the last two cycles, and went for Barack Obama in the 2008 election--the first time it went to the Democrats for the presidency since LBJ. McDonnell had run as a moderate, stressing his Northern VA roots and transportation plans and bipartisanship. His opponent, Creigh Deeds, made some big errors--namely, his ad campaign almost solely focused on painting McDonnell as socially extremist, which at a time when voters are more concerned about quality of life and pocketbook issues, doesn't resonate much (and besides, voters who would be turned off by such concerns? They'd be pulling all levers for the "D"s anyway.). Moderates broke heavily for McDonnell here.

2) NJ Governor--Republican Chris Christie beat incumbent governor Jon Corzine by about five points, in a state that has been solidly Democratic for quite a while--the last time a Republican won the governorship was 1994, and the GOP hadn't claimed it in a presidential election since 1988 when the first Bush was running. It didn't help that Corzine is a major douchebag. He put out ads making fun of Christie's weight (seriously, are we in third grade?), and I never liked the guy because after making his fortune at Goldman Sachs (the Freemasons of our era who control everything) he spent over 60 million bucks of his own personal fortune to run for NJ Senate (prior to running for Governor). Seriously, if a man thinks a job paying about $150K is worth blowing $60 million of his own money on, then he is either (a) a moron or (b) so corrupt and power hungry that he has no business being in power. Christie, a former prosecutor, had run as a moderate--beating a more conservative opponent in the GOP primary.

3) NYC Mayor--let's face it, Bloomberg is richer than God and is willing to--like Corzine--spend it to retain power. He is also genuinely independent of any party--a onetime Democrat, then Republican (since their nomination was easier to get), then who knows, Bloomberg has managed to hold on largely because of the force of his personality and the weakness of his opposition. The interesting thing here is that in this very liberal city that the Democrats used to have iron control over, that party has not been able to elect a mayor since 1989.

4) NY-23rd--this district has been in Republican hands since that party was called the Whigs, but last night Democrat Bill Owens won. Apparently, the original GOP nominee was considered too moderate for the likes of conservative activists around the country, including notorious idiot Sarah Palin who is really too dangerously stupid to allow anywhere near anyone who might catch her stupidity secondhand. The Palinites poured tons of out of state money and media attention on an out-of-district man named Doug Hoffman, who might be a smart man but it makes you wonder when he kisses up to Glenn Beck without realizing that Beck is actually a satire and not a real pundit. Hoffman, who had lost the GOP primary but ran on the Conservative line, was as of last week leading the GOP nominee, who dropped out over the weekend and endorsed the Democrat (which puzzled me--if she wanted Owens to win, wouldn't she stay in the race to split the GOP vote?). So it came down to Conservative Hoffman, or Democrat Owens--and Owens has won.

What to make of all of this? If there's a consistent theme, it's that the party in power in the two big states--VA and NJ--is being punished at the polls due to a bad economy and sense of despair over the direction the country is headed. The voters aren't necessarily embracing hard-right conservatism, or explicitly rejecting the left and Obama--after all, Christie and McDonnell made very little mention of Obama and ran as moderates. The NY-23 election may have had more to do with Hoffman's lack of connection to a district that is very provincial, and while the voters there are largely conservative they may have been turned off by the "teabagger" activism of Palin and Beck. (Upstate NYers do trend conservative, but they're a more subdued kind). As for NYC, let's face it--Bloomberg's money talks, and the Democratic machine in that city has been rotting for quite some time.

So what does this trend mean? Not much!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Support the 25 Hour Day

After the initial fun of end of Daylight Savings Time--basically, that extra hour of sleep--it occurs to me that I could use that extra hour of sleep every day. Why are we stuck in this 24 hour cage? Unleash us with a 25 hour day! Workaholics can put in an extra hour at work, the rest of us can get extra sleep or free time.

Now, some people will complain that adding an extra hour to each day will gradually shift it until the sun sets at noon and the sun rises when we're trying to go to sleep. I'm way ahead of you on that. We shift our work schedules by an hour each day--get in an hour later, and work an hour later, each day. It's basic math, people!

Of course, as Americans we should take the lead on this--it'll confound the Chinese as they scratch their heads and try to figure out why we're so much better rested, happier, and more productive than them. They'll soon discover--through their elaborate network of spies and CNN--that we have a 25 hour day, and of course they'll have to "keep up with the Joneses" and add an extra hour to their own day. But by that point, we'll have implemented my other idea--the 8 day week! Like the extra hour, the extra day can be used any way we want--more leisure, more work, or just sitting around reflecting on how clever we were. By the time the Chinese catch up to us and add "Saturednesday" to their week, we'll be so far ahead of them at everything they won't know what to do.

Some people might suggest we go ahead and add two extra hours to the day, but that'd just be pushing it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Weekend Wrapup

The weekend was a whirlwind of activity, none of it having anything to do with Halloween. Friday I worked from home, since I was getting over a cold and had been told UNDER NO UNCERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES BRING YOUR SWINE FLU TO WORK AND INFECT EVERYONE, TYPHOID MARY! Now, it clearly wasn't swine flu--I passed the fever quickly and using bedrest, chicken soup and tea drove it out by Friday evening--but having a day to work at my couch with the computer was somewhat relaxing. And I would need the rest, because the gang had a MOVING PARTY the next day.

Now, a moving party is like any other party, except you have a certain amount of stuff to transport in a short period. Though, I noticed that despite bringing a case of beer for the movers, no one really drank--I certainly didn't because of my getting out of the cold stage, but I figured the others would have cracked a few. This may of course be due to our being done with the move before noon. One guest did manage to find and open a bottle of Proseco, though, and then decided to try on the hostess' wedding dress, giving us a chance to snap some pictures of her drinking with the dress on so she could forward the photos to her mother. When her mother called to ask what was going on, I had to pretend to be the new husband--an immigrant carpenter named "Beppo" who mispronounced the new bride's first and last names and asked if I could call her mother "mom" as well--and my new "in-laws" were remarkably unflapped by this. Though I think now I have to visit them for Passover!

That evening was low key, with some sushi, beer and sweet tea vodka which did some damage to the drinkers of our crew, but not so much that we weren't able to make a furniture run the next day. By Sunday night, we were running on fumes, but were invited to a nice dinner at Clydes with the aid of the wedding dress girl's gift certificates. (Said gift certificates were awarded last weekend, apparently, during a near soy-allergy poisoning!)

Now, I could use a weekend of rest.