Thursday, July 29, 2010

Off to Maine...

Tomorrow I fly to Maine for the wedding of my friends Jake and Allie, who met at a surprise party given in my honor a few years back so in a sense you could say that had it not been for me, they would have had to meet at some drunken evening at one of Portland's Irish-style bars a few months later. In the middle of celebrating their big day, I'll also be checking on the town to see how it's been doing in my absence--did they add a Trader Joes? Did they change the times that bars can stay open until? Did the peninsula finally seal off from the mainland and become an island? I'll find out this and much more!

The other thing is that it should be 70s and sunny there all weekend, which is pretty neat because I haven't seen 70 degree weather in months. That and the sea air should do much for my delicate constitution!

What is on my weekend bucket list?

1) Eat some lobster.

2) Drink some local microbrewed beer.

3) Be attacked by a cat.

4) Look at but don't buy a bucket.

5) Have an exotic milkshake at Sillys.

6) Throw a pebble into Casco Bay.

7) Apologize for the guy on the kayak who gets hit with the pebble.

On to Vacationland!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tackiness? From the Clintons? The Hell You Say!

So, Chelsea Clinton is getting married to some dude who looks like a complete tool. Seriously guy, if that's the best you can do with facial hair, you need to go clean shaven! Of course this will be an expensive and extravagant affair, which is estimated to cost upwards of $20 million dollars. What else could be purchased for $20 million?

1) 100 microbrewery startups;

2) A year of college for 1,000 students;

3) Enough beer for six of my friends for a week;

4) 200 better looking brides, or 400 better looking grooms through a Russian mail-order catalogue (no offense! I'm sure they're wonderful kids. But seriously, and in a nonpartisan way, they're just plain unattractive);

5) Legal fees to cover 20,000 hours of representation in Bill Clinton's next sex harassment suit; or

6) Four payouts to Bill Clinton's groping victims.

Now, it has been pointed out to me by dense people that "hey, it's their (families') money, they have every right to spend it any way they want!" That is a pointless strawman argument, since I never questioned their right to spend their money the way they want to. They can also spend that money on 10 million copies of "Nightline" transcripts and burn them all--no one is questioning that right. I'm simply pointing out that that is a ridiculous sum of money for a one-day party and says a lot about the people--by which I mean both sets of parents, because I doubt Chelsea and Whatshisname insisted on something so extravagant--who choose to spend it this way. (And I get that famous dignitaries and celebrities will be attending, but again, there is no requirement to turn a celebration of marriage into a snooty world-class fete) Of course, this is coming from someone who is trying to keep his own upcoming wedding down to a budget where I won't have to finance it, so make of that what you will.

Sharks? Try Crocodiles!

All this shark talk still doesn't get past the original, cliched reaction of "hey just stay away from the water and you're golden". It's true--just don't go swimming, sailing, flying overseas, or even hanging out at waterfront restaurants with rickety support beams. Sure, it means having to move to the "Red States" but look at the bright side--you can own all the guns you want and pay lower taxes and never need to know what "patchouli" is. And no shark attacks!

Of course this doesn't address a far more mindless and fearsome predator--the crocodile. Those damn things can waddle around on a dusty plain, and for short distances go as fast as a car. They're mindless killing machines, and they don't appreciate having their skins turned into apparel. And, while the idea of a shark slithering down the hallway at work is utterly preposterous, I really can't say that about a crocodile (we have strange hiring processes here).

The worst part of this potential crocodile menace is that I'd be utterly helpless, since our employee handbook does not allow harpoons or spears (I helped write the damn thing--oh cruel irony!). Fortunately, we are on the fourth floor and only the smallest crocodiles can fit on the elevator (and even then would need to convince someone else to press the buttons for it). So while there's a 0% chance of a shark attack at the office, the 0.001% chance of a crocodile attack is close enough to 0% that it'd be a waste of time to draw up a Crocodile Attack Contingency Plan.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Shark! Shark! Shark! Wait, That's a Log

I have recently learned that the novel "Jaws" was already made into a movie! Apparently it was directed by Steven Spielberg and was quite a big deal at the time. There were a few departures between how the novel progresses and how the movie goes, so SPOILERS AHEAD!

In the novel, Chief Brody finds himself resentful of the shark-expert Matt Hooper, who is more of an effete, educated prettyboy. Hooper eventually has an affair with Brody's wife--apparently, Spielberg decided to leave that out of the film, since no one could swallow a woman having an affair with Richard Dreyfus. ("Where's your opus now, Mr. Holland?") Also interesting that Spielberg moved the setting for the town of Amity from Long Island to New England--clearly he's trying to do a shout-out to his Nantucket-dwelling chardonnay sipping buddies! Though I'm surprised he didn't move the setting to Cuba, since he's such a shill for Fidel Castro. (Steven Spielberg is very anti-gun, but apparently doesn't mind if the guns are in the hands of a ruthless dictator.)

There is this whole class-warfare dynamic in the book, between the "townies" (of which Chief Brody is one) and the "summer folks" (of which his wife originally was one, before she married him) that the townies are dependent on for tourist dollars. It isn't clear whether the shark qualifies as a townie or a summer folk, since it isn't clear how long he's been in the waters off of Amity. But what is clear to me is that the town is missing an opportunity to turn the shark into a major tourist attraction. Imagine the billboards--"Come for the Shark, Stay for Our Fried Clam Festival, June 23-28"; "The Water's Safe! We're Serious This Time! And Please Sign Our Waiver"; "Six Days Without A Shark Attack!".

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jaws--A Story of a Man and His Shark

I'm starting to read the 1974 novel "Jaws", about hijinks ensuing at a Long Island beach town when a shark does its sharky thing all over the tourists. (Incidentally, they really should make a movie based on this book--it's very gripping so far!) Basically, the town's police chief, Martin Brody, is torn between trying to protect the townfolk from becoming sharkfood, and preventing a panic that could prove economically devastating to a town dependent on summer tourism.

What I don't understand is why the town didn't go for the simplest solution to their shark problem. Invite some Japanese fishermen over! Those guys love killing sharks and making soup out of it. Extra bonus if you can get Greenpeace swampy-tree-huggers to try and protect the shark, even blocking the Japanese harpoons with their scrawny, vegan-diet ridden bodies. This book could quickly go from a shark-fear suspense novel to a political thriller.

Of course, there are other, less conventional solutions to shark problems. One is to allow BP to drill off the beach, since the oil spill would drive away the shark. Another solution? Fill the water with salt water crocodiles, who could scare off the shark. Too many crocodiles eating tourists, you ask? Not a problem! Fill the water with giant jellyfish that can scare away the crocodiles. The jellyfish then could be driven off by a massive colony of stingrays. And as we all know, the stingrays would migrate away during winter.

Seriously, Hollywood--buy the rights to this thrilling book right away!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Post Where I Write "Rape" Eleven Times

You know what boils my potatoes? Crap like this. Picture it--Israel, the country that receives more foreign aid from us than any other country (and no, the tanks and bombs that we send to Iraq don't count as "foreign aid") and which super-genius Sarah Palin argues is worth getting into a nuclear war to defend. An Arab Muslim meets a Jewish woman, leads her to believe he's Jewish, and they have a consensual sexual relationship. After that, she discovers he's an Arab, freaks out, and now the man is being charged with rape by deception.

Sounds fair, right? I'm sure any defender of Israel would also find it just peachy if a black man were charged with rape because the blind white woman that he had sex with was led to believe he was white beforehand. Also, any right thinking person should agree that if a man meets a woman in a bar, tells her he's a millionaire, and it turns out he's not, then he should be tossed in jail for rape. Right?

What's sort of galling on top of the fact that this Israeli woman is just a garden-variety racist scumbag is the fact that this is a horrible mockery of rape laws. "Rape" by any intelligent person's definition should mean nonconsensual sex. Physically forcing yourself on someone--that's rape. Having sex with them when they're not capable of consent--when they're drugged, asleep, in a coma, underage (though the arbitrariness and inconsistency of statutory rape laws are another matter for discussion), etc.--that's also rape. But this "rape by deception" concept ignores the fact that consent was actually given. Just because a woman thought a man was of a certain race, religion, monetary means, marital status, etc.--that should not negate her consent. Otherwise, any man--or woman!--could be guilty of "rape" for any sort of lie before they slept together. Is a woman wearing a wig when she met the guy in a bar? Is the man actually unemployed though he dressed nice and led the woman to believe he had a good job? Did one of them borrow a friend's much nicer car before they went on the date?

This whole thing is absurd and just waters down the meaning of the term "rape". Enough with these stupid laws.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'd Like to Teach the World To Eat in Perfect Harmony

The other day, after reading my blood test results that indicated a level of cholesterol that made the nurse say "wow....just wow...", I decided to console myself on this bad news by taking a trip to McDonalds. While eating my delicious meal, I got to thinking, "this burger isn't bad, but I'm betting a burger at Wendys would be tastier". This is true--as far as East Coast chains go, Wendys makes the best burger. (In and Out Burger, which makes a truly excellent burger, is unfortunately confined to the West. And while Five Guys makes a great burger, I am only counting chains that have reached a critical mass of locations, and Five Guys just isn't there yet)

The problem is, places like Wendys (or Five Guys, for that matter) just don't have the fries of the quality of McDonalds. I would put McDonalds fries up against even the finest pomme frites at the finest French or Belgian restaurants, and if McDs was thoughtful enough to provide mayo or other fine dipping sauces instead of proletarian catsup, they'd have full "Fry Domination" (or "Frymination", a state of affairs I would love to see). Lets' face it, as far as fast food goes, McDs has the fry market.

And then for chicken, let's face it, McDs falls painfully short. The McNuggets only really hint at having a chicken-related background. Burger King is a bit better, as well as Wendys, but truly fine chicken has to go to the specialists--KFC, Popeyes, and Chick-Fi-La (the last having the best true chicken breast sandwich). Of course, those places fall short on fries and serve no burgers at all.

For milkshakes, the whole bunch will disappoint. For whatever reason that I hope I'll never know, McDs and Burger King serve shakes that sting my throat. And Wendys isn't so much a shake as a solid block of iced cream I'm trying to get down with a straw. Steak n' Shake has good shakes, but again, that's not so much a fast food place as a diner-like environment. But shakes should be easy to do--milk, iced cream, ice and blender! This can be remedied, people.

So what would I like to see created? How about a joint venture, that serves McDonalds fries, Chick-Fi-La chicken sandwiches, KFC chicken legs, Wendys (or Five Guys) burgers, and fresh milk shakes? If we could find a way to do that the world would be a better place. We'd still have wars though.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Mosque? Oh Noes! Eek!

Ah, Sarah Palin. Just when I thought that no more stupidity can be taken from the well, here she comes with another bucket. Apparently, there's a flap going on about a group of Muslims trying to have a mosque built in the same neighborhood where the Twin Towers used to stand in lower Manhattan. Of course, the Thrilla From Wasilla has used Twitter--formerly the medium for intellectual heavyweights like Ashton Kutcher and the brain trust from "Jersey Shore"--to lash out and criticize the building of this mosque should be "refuted" (or "refutiated") because it "stabs the heart". The reasoning goes like this--a group of Muslim fanatics hijacked planes that caused about 3,000 deaths at that spot on 9/11, therefore the building of a Muslim place of worship nearby would be "too painful" for New Yorkers. In one of her "tweets" she even appeals to "peace loving Muslims" to refute the building of the mosque out of sensitivity and to promote healing. People, this is a woman who actually thought she should be in line for the presidency.

First, let me just say I like this new word "refutiate" since I've always liked the creation of new words (I also liked Bush's use of "misunderestimate"). So she earned a point there.

However, WHAT THE FLUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS PEA BRAINED WOMAN??? News flash--a mosque is sort of like a church or synagogue. It is a place for worship, and from my understanding this particular mosque is being built by and for mainstream Muslims, not some whacked out Al Quaeda-promoting sect. If anything, a mosque in that area would promote healing and demonstrate that New Yorkers are not some wilting flowers that can't tolerate an entire religion because some nuts went all crashy back in 2001. Are we now supposed to hate all Muslims? Is that it, Sarah, you know-nothing?

And who does this lady speak for anyway? Shouldn't conservatives--a rich political tradition spanning from Edmund Burke to William F Buckley--be embarrassed by this cliche-spouting failure of a politician? One would think after she bailed out on the Alaska governorship halfway through her one term, after ensuring that the Republicans could in no way retain the White House in 2008, that she'd be quietly swept under the rug as the Democrats smartly did with John Edwards. Who is giving this lady a platform? Is this really what the right wants as the face of their movement?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why is it that in movies....

1) Everyone in the ancient world--who presumably spoke Greek, Latin, or Vikingish--seems to have British accents?

2) Just about every car crash or bullet to the gas tank causes a massive firestorm? If cars are really that explosive, should we even be allowed to drive them? With our CHILDREN???

3) During battle scenes, we never even once see even one soldier scream "eek!" and go running away from the battle like a little girl?

4) It seems like Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had British accents, yet less than a hundred years later Virginians like Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson had southern accents? The same southern accent that we hear today, a hundred and fifty years after Lee and Jackson's time?

5) Speaking of which, since "Jack" is another word for "John" then would someone with the last name "Jackson" be related to someone with the last name "Johnson"? And should we refer to going to the toilet as "going to the Jack"?

6) Also speaking of which, how come if Abe Lincoln was born and raised in rural Kentucky, he is never portrayed with a southern accent in films?

7) Why is it that Mexicans are portrayed speaking entirely in English, only to throw in a word or two in Spanish, such as "Welcome back, amigo" or "Gracias, my American friend, for all you have done"? Do Americans ever speak completely in Spanish, only to toss in a word or two of English? Like "Necessito un abogado tambien, my friend" or "Quiero una bierra, please".

8) Also, why when ordering a beer at a bar, do people in movies simply say "I'll have a beer" without specifying which brand? Have you ever tried in real life to ask a bartender for "a beer", rather than a "Bud" or "Guinness"?

9) And why is it that when ordering a beer in the movies, the customer never takes their change? Have they never had to break a twenty, or do they always leave very large tips?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Poolside Lounging

Summer is that lazy time that I count myself lucky if I'm able to do lots of bbq-ing (this weekend--delicious scrimps and beef kabobs, then the next morning bacon and chicken marinated in red wine, all on the new grill!) and getting to splash about in two different pools. The pool at Shannon's apartment is generally rather empty (especially considering it's for a large building), but the pool at my place was packed to the gills when I got there yesterday afternoon. Due to the packed-in atmosphere, I could not help but overhear the conversation that the girl next to me was having with her mother on her cell phone. In a nutshell:

Girl: Mom, I met a new guy, I've been seeing him for about a month, his name is [Spanish name that sounds like a bullfighter or revolutionary]. . . no Mom, he's only half black! Mom, stop being so judgmental! I'm going to hang up on you! Yes, he's looking for work . . . he was in NYC this weekend to clear his head with some friends, but was texting me the whole time . . . Mom don't be like this! Okay, yeah he has a daughter . . . the mother has custody, but she's in his life. Mom, stop that! Okay, gotta go, love you too . . . [click]

I didn't regret not bringing a book to the pool with me.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Things I Can't Stand

1) Pants.

Okay, pants is the only thing I'm thinking of that I can't stand. Here it is, dead of summer, where the temperature will not dip below 80, and my legs are completely covered. Madness!

The invention of pants dates back to 1724, when Horatio J. Pantaloon was sitting on his couch watching the wall (they didn't have TV back then) and his wife complained about his hairy legs being on the table. So to keep the nagging to a minimum, he invented the leg coverings we have today. Now, I'm sure my co-workers are glad that I wear pants, as I'm sure they have no interest in seeing some hairy drumsticks puttering about, but somehow even if I shaved them I don't think it'd fly. And wearing a man-kilt wouldn't work, since adding "man-" before anything automatically implies a defensiveness about a girly quality. And I don't want to have to fake a Scottish brogue all day long.

Women of course have the option of the dress, an option that I usually approve (but don't approve vocally, because that's sexual harassment!) and unless it's winter I don't see why they'd wear pants when they have this option. But men? We have not yet embraced this new century, so I guess it's living under the tyranny of pants.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Birth of a Nation, Part II

Okay, having seen the second half of "Birth of a Nation" I can understand where all the controversy comes from! Basically, it's a recruiting ad for the KKK. If you were a viewer who didn't have any understanding of history, you'd see these hooded vigilantes as pursuers of justice and law and order who provide some relief and ultimately national unity at a time when cruel, corrupt conquerors--most of whom happen to be black!--are letting loose their depradations on a beaten people.

Through the film, the focus is on the friendship of two sets of sons and daughters. The Stonehams are the progeny of a powerful Northern abolitionist Congressman based on Thaddeus Stevens, and the Camerons are the sons and daughters of a doctor and plantation owner in South Carolina. The respective sons are good chums, and are also romancing their friends' sisters--a truly intertwined relationship. (Question--is it incestuous to date someone if their sibling marries yours? Or just "incestuous-in-law"?) The war tears the families apart, though the two sets of sons do meet on the battlefield and treat one another with honor--the younger sons dying together and embracing in death, the older sons surviving while fighting in the final clash. The older sons and their sisters wind up back in South Carolina during Reconstruction (the Stoneham father has moved his family there to improve his health in the warmer weather, and also to more clearly manage Reconstruction) and in the meantime an evil mullato henchman (named "Lynch", ironically enough) of the Stoneham father is seizing power by using the newly freed blacks and carpetbaggers. Ultimately, Lynch has designs on the Stoneham daughter (who is engaged to the Cameron son) and Cameron and his Klansman buddies ride into town to save the day.

Through the second part of the film, Reconstruction is painted as a great wrong, and the blacks who are part of it are portrayed as thugs while the white southerners are shown as civilized and oppressed. Now, Reconstruction certainly had its faults and abuses--as any system of military rule and disenfranchising of a significant portion of the citizenry will cause--but this overlooks that this effort was intended to protect the freed slaves and secure their rights as citizens, as well as rebuild the shattered South. The one-sided and exaggerated portrayals in the film are certainly offensive, even for the year it was released (1915). A black-dominated legislature eating chicken and taking off their shoes during their session? Well I'd still bet that even the unsophisticated rabble represented in the film would do better than the morons who passed that health care mess earlier this year.

Further, the portrayal of the Klan makes them look like heroes, glossing over the fact that the real Klan engaged in collective intimidation of the freed slaves, committing murders and assaults to spread fear. This was not just a "fight the occupying army" resistance group--it also sought to enforce racial dominance. The film, rather, shows the KKK fighting pitched battles with armed troops, and the one "offender" they murdered was actually given a "trial". While it's fine for a film to explore why the Klan sprang up and enjoyed so much support in the South at the time, this heroic portrayal does a disservice to history.

Overall, the film was artistically brilliant and a huge advance in moviemaking--but unfortunately its historic portrayal is both an insult to blacks as a race and history itself.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Birth of a Nation, Part I

As an amateur film buff--seeing as I don't get paid for my film buffing--I figured it was about time I reviewed one of the earliest feature length films ever made--D.W. Griffiths' "Birth of a Nation." This film has been roundly criticized for its glorification of the Ku Kux Klan and negative portrayals of blacks, but it has also been praised for its artisticness. As I've only so far seen half the film (it clocks in at a total of 3 hours and seven minutes!) I'll only comment on the first half here.

The film was made in 1915, before the U.S. even entered the First World War, so of course it was a silent film. As such, you can really notice a difference in the acting (besides the lack of sound) in that the actors have to be more expressive and more has to be portrayed visually. In doing this--framing scenes, developing plot, etc.--Griffiths has done an excellent job and pulls you into the story.

The story begins on the eve of the Civil War, portraying a family of antislavery radicals and a family of southern plantation owners, bonded by the friendship of their respective sons. As war breaks out, Griffiths does a fine job portraying the futility of war, with friends recognizing one another on the battlefield and rows of soldiers being mowed down senselessly. Likely this was the first antiwar film, and interesting in that it was also the first film screened at the White House--it was highly praised by Woodrow Wilson (who, having grown up in Virginia during the Civil War, was very sympathetic to the Confederacy) who at the time of the film was trying to get the U.S. involved in the First World War.

The beginning of the film doesn't appear particularly controversial, except that the slaves were depicted as generally happy in their position and many were in fact portrayed by white actors in blackface. As the second half is going to cover the Reconstruction Era, the controversial section awaits...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Campaign to Get Maker of "The Room" to Host SNL

Some time ago, fans of octagenarian comedic actress Betty White--who is the last surviving Golden Girl, incidentally--started a campaign on Facebook to get her to host Saturday Night Live, and the buzz this created went viral. Sure enough, this past season she did host, proving that a grass roots effort can even get through the cold, black heart of Lorne Michaels (a boss so fearsome he inspired Mike Meyers' character Dr. Evil. From the Austin Powers movies. Austin Powers was a spy spoof film franchise that started out pretty fresh and funny and then devolved into stale sequels. Mike Meyers now does voice overs for cartoons. Yes, it's sad).

The idea got some friends and I to thinking--what if a similar effort could be done to get arguably the best possible host for an episode of SNL? And what better host could there be than Tommy Wisseau, the auteur who created the film "The Room"? A film that will go down in infamy as perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious failure of a grand scale?

I'm just trying to picture the SNL cast attempting to work with Wisseau, with each scene devolving into directions they were never intended, with the comedy coming from every unexpected and unintended place. Story lines dropped, absurd twists that have nothing to do with the plot, and Wisseau's almost lovable earnestness about the whole thing. He couldn't even introduce the musical guest without making it hilarious.

I highly suggest everyone who has not seen this film to do so immediately, and to join this campaign to get SNL to bring Wisseau to their show. Come on, could it be worse than when Steven Segal hosted???

Friday, July 9, 2010

Heat Wave Tips

This heat wave has been lasting for weeks now, with very little end in sight. Fortunately we live in a world of modern conveniences, though to be sure in the olden days most of us probably would be splashing around in a pond and putting off any work or other business until it cooled off a bit. How people in the olden days--who wore a lot of heavy clothing and tricorner hats--decided to actually settle here is beyond me. If you had to go by pure comfort in those days, it would only make sense to settle no farther south than Maine.

When beating the heat down here in DC, there's only a few rules you need to learn:

1) AC--while it's merely optional during times when the humidity is low and heat stays below 80, it becomes a strict necessity when the mercury rises above 90. Fans and open windows won't do the trick here. Give in to modern technology.

2) Pools--get one, or get a friend with one. You dont' want to stay indoors all the time, and this way you can feel like you're doing something even if the something you're doing is just lazing about and splashing in the shallow end.

3) Booze--every time I have a beer during the winter, some nerd points out that alcohol lowers your body temperature. While I'm pummelling away at these people, I consider that if they're right then it stands to reason I should drink more in the summer. Stick with the lighter beers, and any drink with rum or vodak.

4) Dress down--forget anything fancy, you're going to have to look like crap during the heat wave. Shorts, loose shirts, sandals--yes it looks like crap but sweating like a pig looks even worse. Fortunately everyone else looks like crap too.

5) Forget anything truly athletic. The only exercise you should think about now is sticking your head out of your window while you're driving.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Holland vs. Spain

The World Cup final is now to be played by the check-splitting Dutch against the flu-causing Spaniards. If only Phillip II was around to see this, the culmination of his Habsburg glory! Holy harelip, Batman!

Now before you go bullfighting in wooden shoes, remember that these two countries haven't faced each other in quite some time. In fact, both countries were neutral in both World Wars (okay, the Dutch technically were Allied, but their fighting lasted a shorter period than most soccer games so they might as well have been neutral). Their respective empires faded away long ago, with the only remnants being words like "Manhattan" and "Florida". These days they're just united in their hatred of the French and Germans.

So how best to celebrate this glorious rivalry that isn't really much of a rivalry? Paella with Heineken? Sangria under a windmill? Doing a poor job of hiding Anne Frank or defending San Juan Hill? The tournament has truly given us a challenge.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mean Streets

Last night's film was "Mean Streets", one of Martin Scorcese's earliest works, featuring a pre-Godfather 2 Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel. The story arc follows Keitel's Charlie, a nephew of a Little Italy mobster, coping with his own set of religious morals while trying to function in his amoral environment. He's torn between trying to straighten out his friend Johnny Boy (De Niro), a bum who owes money to an ineffective loan shark (Michael), and reconcile his interest in Johnny's cousin Theresa whose epilepsy is a source of scandal in their community.

The film shoots most of its scenes in New York's Little Italy, and features a great '50s and '60s soundtrack (though the film was released in 1973--apparently, Scorcese used songs from his personal record collection).

Key scenes include:

1) Where David Carradine ("Kung Fu", "Kill Bill") is gunned down by his brother Robert ("Revenge of the Nerds");

2) Cameos with Scorcese and his mother;

3) The fistfight in the pool hall, to the sound of the Marvellettes' "Please Mr. Postman";

4) The loan shark and bar owner ripping off some teenagers for fireworks money;

5) The returning Vietnam vet losing it at the bar and needing to be held down. I recall watching that once with a friend who said "in thirty seconds Scorcese was able to say more about the Vietnam war than Oliver Stone could say in three films."

Overall, it has a low budget feel but is certainly worth watching for any fans of Scorcese's work, as you'll see a lot of his familiar themes at their inception

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July

What better way to celebrate this terrific country than to blow up a small piece of it? That is the essence of the fireworks display, and I'm pretty certain the Mall was packed with onlookers. Not this guy, though--manning the grill and the drinks, I stayed put on the balcony with the other party stragglers and limited my firework experience to the thunderous sounds.

The 235th year of this nation's life (measured from the day we told Britain we really needed our own place, our own space, and it's not you it's me) was ushered in with extreme heat (today it's supposed to hit 100--eek!) and hangovers. We celebrated with representatives of the next generation--Lil' Caroline and Baby JAM--hope you kids remember to pay your Social Security!--and the inauguration of my anniversary present, a standup George Foreman grill (great for balconies where propane and charcoal grilling is not allowed!). When you can cook up some meaty goodness and hear the sound of firecrackers in the distance, life is good.

Other countries may be pretty terrific, but ours still wins hands down.

Friday, July 2, 2010

America Turning 234

With Independence Day approaching--234 years since we told the British it was real, it was fun, but not real fun, and time for us to move out of its basement and get our own place--Americans everywhere are gearing up for our many traditions. Namely, blowing crap up with fireworks, grilling some serious meat, and getting good and properly tanked up. The fireworks symbolize the explosiveness of our independent ways, the meat symbolizes the abundance of bison we found in this country--sorry, bison! You should have invented guns first--and the heavy drinking symbolizes our willingness to get plum blotto.

Let's look at the report card:

1) This country has been a land of opportunity for millions of people over the years. Are we perfect? Nope, but we're always improving and still far better than the native countries our immigrants come from. Sucks about how the natives were treated, though.

2) Our wars have been a mixed bag. Some were tragic disasters--the Civil War, Vietnam--and some were necessary to turn the Germans from warmongering testosterone freaks to the lovable chocolate makers that they are today. One thing is for certain--we make better movies about those wars than our opponents did. Would you really want to see a Mexican version of the battle of the Alamo?

3) We've had some really, really lousy presidents over the years. Every time someone gets pissed at Bush or Obama I try to remind them that we had guys like James Buchanan who did nothing to stop the country from tearing apart during his term, or guys like Andrew Jackson who basically slaughtered Indians when he wasn't getting into duels with guys who questioned his wife's highly questionable honor. (Jackson would have been a lousy next door neighbor) And even the overrated FDR has the distinction of imprisoning thousands of American citizens without trial whose only crime was being of Japanese descent. But we should also remember Calvin Coolidge, who never slaughtered people, or Gerald Ford, who never invaded any major countries. They need credit for the atrocities they didn't commit!

4) It's sort of blasphemous to say this, but our flag really could use some cool symbols. Mozambique has a freaking assualt rifle on their flag, for crying out loud! Can't we put a Ford Mustang or hula dancer on it?

5) The eagle is a pretty cool symbol, but an alligator would go further towards that whole "don't screw with me" look. I mean, if I'm knee deep in a swamp and saw an eagle, I'd be all "hey, look, eagle" but if I saw a gator I'd be more like "hey, look, I wet myself".

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wonder Woman--Now All Catsuited?

As a kid, I always remember Wonder Woman being totally hot, especially helped by Lynda Carter's portrayal of the superheroine (and Carter has held up well over the years, too). Now, word on the street (the Washington Post) indicates that the comic book character is changing her outfit from the sexy patriotic swimsuit and boots to a plain black catsuit and jacket. All I can say is, WEAK!

First, last time they did a major change to the costume as a nod to current mod hip fashion, it looked like this. Notice anything? If you think that looks unusually trendy and dated, then the comic book creators agreed with you after a few years and went back to the original look. (I realize that the "original" look also changed over the years, moving from a skirt to panty-like bottoms, and moving from sandals to red boots, but the colors and general scheme were otherwise the same with the exception of the late '60s "mod" phase) What trend are they going with now with catsuits? WW is going to end up looking like any of a gazillion female comic book characters. Fans will no longer be able to say "wow, she has desecrated the American flag but in such a hot way!"

The article suggests that some might argue that the new "less revealing" outfit is some blow for feminism, and this is hogwash. A skintight outfit reveals every bit of shape and curve that a skin-revealing outfit does, and frankly every major superhero has these body-hugging outfits to show off their muscles and such. (Apparently, this intimidates or titillates opponents) And when did "revealing" mean "unfeminist"? It always seemed to me that the Victorian age of completely covered women wasn't exactly a golden age of female advancement. On a larger level, is a sexy outfit bad for women simply because men like it? Is this some zero-sum game?

But on another level, there's something to be said for consistency. Whether it's the uniforms of sports teams, or classic car designs, there's something comforting about an image that can stay the same as other things change over the years. Count me not a fan of this one.