Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best and Worst of 2010

As the year ends, it is time to award the 2010 prizes in our "best of" segment:

1) Best political campaign of the year: this has to go to Christine "I'm Not a Witch" O'Donnell. Many candidates can lose big in longshot races, but she managed to become a lightning rod of media attention by repeatedly saying and doing inexplicably stupid things. But maybe she's smarter than we think--she's going to be a high paid media personality before we know it. Proof of the pudding--name the loser in the Colorado, Florida or West Virginia Senate races from this year--each of which did better than O'Donnell in the final vote tally.

2) Dumbest political battle of the year: Sarah Palin supporters trying to stack the votes to keep her daughter on "Dancing With the Stars". This is really about as dumb as Obama supporters trying to stack to vote to help out Mike "the Situation" Sorrentino on that same show.

3) Worst idea for a remake that shouldn't be done: the Red Dawn remake. Apparently the Chinese are going to invade, probably as a result of our bonds defaulting and them coming to repossess everything. Of course, this wouldn't be done with tanks and troops, but with lawyers (many of them American lawyers!) and papers indicating a security interest in our government's assets. Pass!

4) Best idea for a remake that was surprisingly not made: Road House. I mean, if you're going to do a Swayze film, make it Road House, not Red Dawn! If you hate the Chinese so damn much then make it so the Double Douce is owned by China or something.

5) Worst stories regarding the economy: anything by the New York Times about rich people complaining about how hard it is to live rich when their several millions were reduced to only a few millions. That family in Michigan eating ketchup off of cardboard really feels for you.

6) Best TV show discovery: "Party Down". Sadly, it never picked up an audience.

7) Worst State to Drive Through: move over, Delaware--New Jersey takes back the perch.

8) Dumbest trend: Justin Beiber. Looks like 2010 has an answer to Leif Garrett! If you don't know who that is then good for you.

9) Best Party Held at Shanadu: it's a six-way tie: Mardi Gras; Superbowl, Kentucky Derby; 4th of July; Labor Day; Shannon's Birthday.

10) Best things to be happy about as 2010 draws to a close--good friends, fambly, loved ones, health, employment, and pizza.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Xmas Wrap Up

Xmas with the fambly was, as always, a fun treat with a bit of nostalgia mixed with modernism. We drove up early on Xmas Eve, and had the Five Fishes (we still haven't been able to make it to the mighty seven fishes, but there's always next year...) followed by presents, roaring fire, and fine beaujolais wine. The Five Fishes this year were smelts, homemade crab cakes, scrimps and scallops over linguini, and salmon dip made by Shan who is becoming quite the honorary Italian. The following day it was scotch (or "scottish" as we call it in the streets. The streets of SW DC, I mean, specifically G Street), and homemade ravioli and treats. Then came the news.

The East Coast was once again going to be smacked by a blizzard. Oh, joy! Blizzards of course are God's way of saying "the hell with you, my most shameful creation! I should have stopped after inventing monkeys". Because this was going to screw travel plans big time.

Sunday, during the blizzard we stuck with homemade pizza and beer, and hey, why not more scottish, and some bloody marys to round it out. The snow just kept falling.

So on Monday, we decide to brave it--the roads were mostly clear, and traffic should be light. What we didn't count on was New Jersey deciding against keeping their on-ramps free of big rocks.

So this bit of destiny--a rock about the size of a baseball--was hidden among sorockme unplo, wed bit of snow on the on-ramp where the Garden State Parkway meets the Turnpike. "Turnpike" comes from the Iroquois word for "up yours, Jersey!" and sure enough, I blow my tire when I hit the rock. I limp the car past the toll booth and off to the side to change it.

Ever change a tire in cold wind on messy pavement? It's not as fun as it sounds! The whole ordeal might have taken about a half hour, during which no fewer than six drivers (Shannon counted!) pulled over near us, to wipe snow off their roofs and drive off without asking if we needed help. Yes, Jerseyites are all basically Hitler. Screw them and their fat cheapass governor, who can't clear rocks off of his main roads and certainly can't get help for stranded motorists. Say what you will about Southerners, but they will at least stop and help stranded motorists without a second thought. New Jerseyites on the other hand are scum and this is probably a result of the decades of raw sewage dumped in their state by New Yorkers. May they rot in hell.

After changing the tire, I needed to add air to it, and hobbled to the nearest rest stop to do that. Ah, a rest stop--the very name "rest" implying some relaxation. Not in Jersey, friends! This one was crowded and inadequately plowed, with a line for gas resembling the Jimmy Carter years and making me wonder why there was no disco music in the background. After a ridiculously long time--made worse by the cheap hipster ahead of me who was chagrined that they only sold "super" that day--hey, dumbass! Just pay the extra and go back to penny pinching tomorrow. We gotta get gas, twerp!--I finally gas up, add air to the tire, and finish the drive. New Jersey, I shall now do everything possible to never drive in your worthless state again.

And today, after doing some work remotely, I attempt to put up a shelf and drop the goddam thing on my bare toe. What a way to end 2010.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Invite Etiquette

I've been a longtime reader of the Dan Savage advice columns--the readers write in with questions about sexual issues, relationship problems, and in some cases political issues related to sex and relationships. What I've liked about Savage is his gruff and blunt approach to readers problems and a willingness to tell you what you don't want to hear.

I have to say, though, this week's advice to a gay man whose boyfriend isn't invited to his sister's wedding misses the mark (it's the second item in the column). Apparently, the writer's family hasn't accepted his homosexuality and doesn't approve of his boyfriend (it isn't clear how long they've been dating, though Savage's answer suggests 2 years, which info might have been edited out of the writer's question in print). The invite to the sister's wedding was to the brother only, without a "guest" or "plus one" on the invite. Savage's response focused on the assumption that it was the family's homophobia that was behind this, and he advised telling the sister that he (the brother) plans on bringing the boyfriend to the wedding, or otherwise won't attend.

Now, I'm all in favor of a confrontation over the family's homophobia, if that is in fact the issue here. Clearing the air sooner rather than later would be if nothing else cathartic. But it's not entirely clear that the lack of "plus one" on the invite wasn't due to other factors--maybe this is a very small wedding and guests (even long term boyfriends) are discouraged, or maybe this boyfriend is an offensive brute and the sister would prefer him not being at the wedding.

But there's also the issue of basic wedding etiquette. Weddings are expensive, and space is often limited, and each additional "plus one" makes an impact. Letting an invitee bring a guest often means not being able to invite an old friend or relative. Sure, it's tacky to invite a person and not their spouse, but on the other extreme is the single dude (or dudette) who simply wants to bring along company to the event and invites someone they just started seeing or is just casual friends with. Anyone wanting to do that should approach it with the host(ess) tactfully and be willing to take "no" for an answer.

Dan Savage in this case seems to have hooked onto a family's need to accept their son's sexual orientation but has overlooked the difficulties of managing a wedding guest list and the need to handle it reasonably.

Of course, if the sister is just bowing to the family's homophobia, then screw that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

500th Post

Well, this is my 500th post. What has been accomplished over the course of this blog? A quick survey of my previous posts indicates that this blog consists of:

1) Reviews of films, both brilliant and downright horrible.

2) Complaints about stupid idiots that piss me off.

3) Politics, which is basically the same as (2) but with more anger.

4) Longing for food.

5) Cultural criticism.

What will I cover in the next 500 posts? Will they include creative writing? Poetry? Intricate discussions of controversial economic models? Only time will tell! Bear with me for the next 500.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Xmas Tree Time

Ah, the Yuletide season, when we sit by the Yule Log, we sing Yule Songs, and we watch Yul Brynner films. What could be better than the twinkling of strung lights and the cooking of seven fishes and the inevitable Xmas hangover?

Of course, a key part of this all is the tree. Now, Xmas trees have changed a lot over the years, from the natural trees brought inside and decorated with real (and quite dangerous!) candles, to the aluminum silver colored trees of the Eisenhower era, to new fangled contraptions like "upside down" trees that hang from the ceiling (bonus for these--less floor space taken up, decorations easier to see, and more room for presents!). My own fambly used to always use natural trees, and over the years the number of homemade ornaments increased until the damn thing looked like a garbage can was emptied on it. Then, one year my dad thought he'd be clever and buy a realistic-looking fake tree, to save us from the trek up to Dutchess County and having to pick out and cut and haul a tree back home with the inevitable cries of "can't we stop at that diner to eat?" He even went and bought fancy ornaments to class the tree up--only white lights, and everything silver. The sort of tree you might see in a corporation's lobby.

Of course, a few snide remarks from the kids and ole dad had to go and pick out a real tree as well, so each year we became a fambly of two trees--one fake but nice looking one, and one real tree covered with our homemade tacky ornaments. The number of presents though, did not increase.

In our current apartment we have a red aluminum tree, which I insisted on keeping up after the holidays last year and as a result it has remained up the whole year. This meant not having to go through the trouble of taking it down and putting it back up again, so in a way you could say I beat the system.

When I have kids, though, my plan is to draw a big picture of a tree and put it up on the wall in the den. I can even draw in little presents below the tree, and tell the kids that if they're not good then I can easily erase the presents.

Yes, I do plan on saving up for my own retirement home....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Undercover Boss!

I've been recently catching up on this show "Undercover Boss" and have to say a more brilliant piece of public relations I have yet to see! The idea behind this reality show is that each week, a large company will send its CEO undercover (with disguises, fake names, etc.) to work each day at an entry level job at some part of the company to get an idea of what the bottom level employees go through and what's on their minds. The excuse for the camera crews following them around is that there's a documentary being filmed about entry level jobs, so the hope is that the CEO then gets a better sense of the challenges facing their workers and can improve the company with this new perspective. Brilliant, eh?

It seems to follow a very set formula--the boss fails miserably at each entry-level task, looking foolish on the camera and demonstrating just how much better the day-to-day employees really are. (I think the bosses sort of intentionally screw up--the show would go very badly if the boss was excellent at working a lathe, for instance, and then comments "hey, this is easier than they make it look! Why am I paying my people so much???") The boss (in the guise of a "new guy") also chats with the employees, finds out what makes them tick (one may have financial difficulties, a bad back, or overcome some other disability), and we get to see the boss feeling bad about what their people have to go through. In the end, he (so far, it's always a "he") reveals himself to the employees, talks about what he's learned, and explains how he's going to improve, and usually does something nice for the individual employees he worked with (a vacation, a promotion, etc.). (In some cases, a boss will catch an employee being rude to customers and staff, and have to chew them out in the end, but this is rare).

The brilliant PR part of it? An hour episode of free advertising for the company, making the boss and the employees look like good people doing good work (the cameras never catch anyone doing a half-assed job or stealing, obviously). I'd say it'd be nuts for any company NOT to go on this show.

Of course, the formula will get old quick, so I can see some ways to spice it up:

1) Undercover Crime Boss. See what happens when the Godfather of the Gambino Fambly decides to see just how hard his hired goons have to work, muscling in on local retailers.

2) Undercover President. See Obama pretend to be an entry level staffer at the Department of Energy, and find out the waste and corruption that needs to be fixed.

3) Undercover Bad Boss. See the boss find out how much life sucks for his employee with too many mouths to feed--and then decide to fix it by kidnapping the extra kids.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow....Damn Snow

So, they're predicting snow today. Lovely. I get to spend my evening sitting on the highway behind severe traffic backups because some mouth-breather in their SUV decided to speed on the ice and create a wreck, shutting down a lane. This, my friends, is the suck.

I have come to dread snow as an adult, because snow doesn't mean not having to go to school, or making snow forts, or sledding. Besides kids, the only people who can possibly enjoy snow are:

1) Ski bums. Yeah, they just love their cumbersome hobby that requires serious equipment maintenance and access to chair lifts. This is probably because they haven't discovered drinking by a fire. They'll learn!

2) Russians defending themselves from the Nazis. However, while Jack Frost did help save Russia in WWII, the Russians were still stuck with a problem. They lived in a frozen hell that only a nut like Hitler would want.

3) Midwestern serial killers. These guys love hiding bodies in the snow, which can hide evidence for long enough to flee the country. But I have no plans to move to the midwest. Or, er, become a serial killer.

Sadly, leaving Maine I must have brought the winters with me. At least the Mainers can rejoice in milder days!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Office Dress Code Nuttiness

The creation of an office dress code can be a tricky beast, as you want to straddle the line between letting your workers be comfortable and maintaining an appropriate businesslike appearance--all while avoiding any rules that could lead to discrimination claims. But it seems like someone in Human Resources at Swiss bank UBS has taken this full retard. They now have a 43 page manual outlining their dress code, with items such as "don't eat onions" and "cut your hair once every four weeks".

Now, part of me thinks a lot of these rules are probably borne of necessity--some guy wears loafers with no socks, then you gotta make a rule, some woman has her thong poke up over her dress pants, gotta make a rule--but 43 pages? I don't think I could come up with 43 pages worth of dress code discussion even if I listed every type of inappropriate style of footwear (open toed sandals, clown shoes, platform shoes with fish tank bottoms). This is clearly a level of micromanagement that makes you wonder why UBS didn't finally just decide to issue uniforms to all employees and shave them all bald each morning before they marched in unison to the work plant for soulless banter followed by rote work.

What's the right mix, in my view?

1) Get rid of neckties as a requirement. They're literally nooses, and send the wrong message. Plus they get in your food way too often.

2) If you can't tell they're sneakers from a distance, they'll count as work shoes.

3) I don't understand pantyhose requirements. If you're looking close enough to tell whether a woman at the office has bare legs, you're doing something wrong anyway.

4) It's sad that anyone should have to point out that clothes must be clean, but there we are.

5) Pajamas are ok if you've been having one hell of a week. Don't judge.

Clockwork Orange

I'd seen the movie "A Clockwork Orange" years ago, but only just now finished reading the book it was based on. For those who haven't read or seen it, the plot is this (SPOILERS AHEAD): Alex, a rotten youngster, gets into all sorts of hijinks with his thug friends, attacking and robbing innocent people and other thugs alike, and when Alex's friends betray him he ends up in prison as a result of one of their attacks. In prison, the government decides to "reform" him by conditioning his mind and body so that he would become violently ill at the thought of violence or sex (a side effect was that during the conditioning--which involved forcing him to watch violence and sex on film while injected drugs were making him ill--they were playing the films to the sound of classical music, which made him also react horribly to the music he once loved). Once "reformed" back into society, Alex becomes easy prey for his traitorous former friends, who attack him while he is unable to defend himself due to his fear of violence. Badly beaten, Alex staggers to a nearby home, which turns out to be a house in which he and his friends had previously committed a vicious attack. The owner of the house takes Alex in and nourishes him, before discovering that Alex was one of the attackers from years ago. To get revenge, the owner locks Alex in a bedroom and blasts classical music, forcing him to jump from the window to take his own life. The suicide attempt fails, Alex ends up in the hospital, and the government decides the "reform" was an embarrassment to them and they de-program him while he's convalescing. The film ends with Alex realizing that he "was cured, all right..."

The book goes on to have Alex out of the hospital and a little older, still a bit of a ruffian, and discovering that he was aging and would need to make the conscious choice to change his life. This more upbeat ending (for the book, compared to the film) does fit more with the book's theme that depriving a person of the choice to choose good will make them less human (hence taking a living thing, like an orange, and making it "clockwork", that is, machine-like). But that's not the only significant difference between the book and the film. In the film, Alex appears to be in his 20s or late teens, and at one point seduces a couple young women close to his age. The book makes Alex start at 15, and the women he "seduces" are actually 10 or 11. The book also has chapters taking place in prison, where Alex kills another prisoner, and the chaplain objects to the "reform" procedure. But Stanley Kubrick (the director) managed to tighten the story a bit, not only with the darker ending (which sends the message that one can't reform the bad, the bad shall remain bad) but with other clever tricks. During his attack on the house owner and his wife, Alex is singing "Singing in the Rain", a creepy version that must have haunted Gene Kelly more than the film "Xanadu" ever could. When Alex is being cared for by that same house owner later in the film, he sings the same tune while resting in the bath--the fatal slip that lets the house owner know Alex was one of the thugs from before. And of course, while the movie did use a bit of the "nadsat" (teenage slang) such as "in-out" and "ultra-violence" and "welly welly welly well", it doesn't go nearly so heavy on it as the book does. (At times, the book requires the reader to make a lot of guesses as to the meaning of the slang words that Alex, the narrator, uses)

On the whole, this is one of those rare instances where the book and the movie are both excellent, and one can't really judge that one is superior to the other.

But it also got me thinking--was the real problem that they were trying to reform Alex, or was it teh nature of how they did it? By making him averse to any violence, they made him defenseless. Perhaps the "conditioning" could have been done in such a way that he would have reacted aversely to offensive violence rather than self-defense. If such a thing were possible, you'd still have the issue of taking away his moral choices, but would that have been such a bad thing--especially when it was clear that as a youngster Alex had been making all the wrong moral choices?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Hibernation Plan

Sure, if you were to ask me when I'm wide awake and at work or home, I'd probably say that I can function just well in the winter, but during those first few moments of getting up in the morning a strong case can be made for hibernation. The bears are onto something--just pre-pay your rent and utilities for a few months, bundle up and shut down completely. It's not like you're going to miss much:

1) Xmas--yes, colored lights and food and drink, the sound of carols on the radio for a bit before they get annoying--okay, maybe hibernation can wait until after December 25.

2) New Years--the taste of bubbly, a fine meal put together, and ringing in another year with loved ones. Surely another week before hibernation can work.

3) Super bowl. Ok, good things are being done with nachos these days, and you want to see the best commercials the ad industry can put together. Plus, there's some football. That's about another month delay for the hibernation.

4) Presidents Day. Who doesn't rock out on Presidents Day? And, before you know it, we're into spring again.

Maybe they can invent some sort of hibernation where you wake up a bit every now and then.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New NFL Team Names

Despite the onset of cold weather and usual holiday stress, there is something to be happy about--the Redskins' losing ways! My disgust with the team has more to do with their awful owner, Dan Snyder, than anything personal against the players and coaches (of which there have been many since Snyder first meddled his way into ownership). Of course, there's also the taint of their racially insensitive name. I've suggested that they could even keep the name and avoid the controversy by simply changing their helmet design to put a redskin potato on the side instead of the Indian chief. I mean, how cool would that be--the only team in the league named after food (except for the Dolphins, but the only people eating dolphin are in Japan).

Other NFL teams could replace controversial names with ones that are very appropriate:

1) The New York Jets got their name because they used to play in Shea Stadium, which was near the Queens airports. Now that they play in a shared stadium in Jersey, they should really change their name to the "Tollbooths". Or, if they're playing really badly, the "Rest Stops".

2) The Buffalo Bills have an incredibly stupid name, because a "bill" is, in reality, an invoice you have to pay. Who the hell would name their team after an invoice? How about "Buffalo Buffaloes" or even better, the "Buffalo Wings"? They could then stay with the food theme.

3) The Houston Texans get an award for complete lack of imagination. Plus, what if they moved and became the Chicago Texans? Weak! Though it's better than their second choice name, the Houston Houstonians.

4) The Detroit Lions have a particularly offensive name. They should change it to the Michigan Lions.

5) The San Diego Chargers probably have a colorful story behind how they came up with their name. But no one really cares.

6) The Cincinnati Bengals are the only team in the NFL to be named after another nationality, particularly since the nation of Seahawkia was dissolved after the fall of communism. If the people of Bangladesh complain, I'd point out that they have much bigger fish to fry.

7) The Minnesota Vikings serve as a reminder that the people of Scandanavia were once mighty warriors, not the Volvo driving IKEA Lego meatball socialized medicine folk we know today. What happened, Scandanavia? Was it the rise of ABBA?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tacky Taxes

The big hubbub in Washington right now is this new deal worked out by Barack Obama and the GOP--namely, keeping the current income tax rates for two more years (the Bush tax cuts for all income levels were set to expire January 1st) and cutting the payroll tax (that Ponzi scheme we call Social Security, instituted by Crook-in-Chief FDR) by 2%, plus extending unemployment insurance by 13 more months (currently it taps out at 99 weeks--meaning the unemployed would be eligible for about three years of unemployment). The whole thing is supposed to cost about $900 billion, even more than the last stimulus. A few thoughts:

1) Smart move from Obama's perspective. This is bipartisan, so if it works, and juices the economy, he gets credit. If it just increases the deficit and helps nothing, the GOP has partial ownership of it so they can't bludgeon him with it. Add to the fact that every American taxpayer, rather than seeing their taxes go up (which would happen if there was no deal at all), will actually see more in their paycheck due to the payroll tax cut. And--the chronically unemployed get another few months breathing room while waiting for jobs to materialize. This is better news for him than the GOP, which wanted to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, and instead are just getting a two year extension.

2) The House Democrats who are rejecting this bill are retards. The bill gives them absolutely everything else they wanted--unemployment extension, payroll tax cut, extension of cuts for middle class and poorer Americans--and they're fighting to scuttle this thing simply because rich people get to keep their tax cut too??? Try explaining that to the millions of Americans making under $250K--"sorry your taxes had to shoot up during this recession, but we'd rather everyone pay more than allow rich people to get a tax cut." Frankly, their as dogmatic on this issue as the GOP is with keeping those cuts. Obama would be wise to ignore the hell out of those morons from here on out if he wants to be a lock for 2012. Bill Clinton learned that same lesson.

3) That said, this whole thing is a mess for the deficit, and proves that neither Obama nor the GOP are serious about that issue. Spending and entitlements need to be cut, well before we reduce our revenues further. Granted, it's hard to make that argument when unemployment creeps back up towards 10%, but this hole we're in is only getting worse and itself will wreck the economy further when interest rates start getting affected. I'd have some respect for House Democrats if they were arguing against ALL of these goodies, rather than basing everything on a hatred for wealth.

4) Maybe if the hole gets deep enough, that'll make politicians get serious? Already some plans are being floated to cut the deficit by cutting entitlements and simplifying the tax code, and maybe we need a bigger crisis to make that happen. But the reason I'm skeptical is that deficits don't vote--no politician was rewarded at the ballot box for cutting the deficit, and no politician was punished at the ballot box simply for increasing it. And as I've noted before, our country is run by idiots.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Over The Top!

Sylvester Stallone has hardly shied away from starring in truly crappy films. So maybe it's inevitable that during his '80s heyday, he would star in that one movie that answered the question nobody asked--namely, "why hasn't there been a film about a truck driver who competes in arm wrestling competitions?"

Well, to arm wrestlers everywhere, this film was a glowing tribute. But it was also about so much more! Stallone's character--named Lincoln Hawk, because of course--has to bond with his son after his estranged wife succumbs to cancer. (Tragically, the hospital makes a mistake and has her removed from the cancer, rather than the other way around. This is why we need health reform, people!) He picks up the young boy at military school so they can drive from Colorado to Los Angeles to visit the mother before she expires. Despite the kid's reasonable question of why the two of them had to drive halfway across the country when there were airplanes available in 1986, Stallone decides they needed the bonding time. Of course, this results in them showing up too late and finding out the mother was dead when they got to the hospital. But hey, father and son couldn't wait to do their bonding after visiting her! They have to live in the moment.

There is also essentially no chemistry between father and son--in fact, one scene feeatures a "montage" of them chatting silently while the theme music plays! I mean, I've seen training scenes, travelling scenes, even romantic romp scenes being reduced to a montage before, but I've never seen CONVERSATIONS reduced to montage. This, my friends, is the sign of a director who says "screw it, my audience are douches, time to give them the cinematic equivalent of a swirly".

Of course, arm wrestling, truck driving and father-son bonding--involving even a scene where Stallone/Hawk decides to risk lives and his trucker license by letting his ten year old son drive the truck for a bit--are not all this film has to offer. No, that would be letting you off easy! The film needed Robert Loggia at his hammiest, as the kid's rich, evil grandfather who will stop at nothing to keep the kid away from Stallone/Hawk.

Ok, let's see--a rich man raises his daughter with all the finest things, only for her to marry a truck driving arm wrestler with the fine diction and charm of a Stallone character. This prize of a son-in-law abandons your daughter and their son, and when the time comes to visit her when she's dying of cancer, they decide to make a road trip instead of taking a same-day flight. Gee, I wonder why Loggia/rich-guy didn't bond with him right away? Of course, it does get stupider--Stallone drives his truck over Loggia's front gate and smashes up the estate before getting arrested, because Loggia had been keeping the kid there--yep, no chance people including the boy would get seriously injured with that stunt.

Do I even need to explain how this ends? Certainly the father and son grow close, Loggia and his goons get foiled, Stallone wins an arm wrestling championship, and the audience of this farce lose two hours of their lives. In a way, they got StallOWNED.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hamburger Hill Review

Last night's film was the Vietnam War classic, "Hamburger Hill". This was the true story of the 101st Airborne's assault on an NVA held position in 1969, and the action scenes were pretty solid--plenty of carnage, shooting at targets that were nearly impossible to see, for reasons that weren't clearly defined. In that sense, it was pretty enjoyable.

Less enjoyable were the cliches--the not-so-subtle references to lousy war protesters back home, the racial divide among the black and white soldiers, the whole "I may be a tough bastard leader but I'm going to save your lives you greenhorns!", and of course the wise-ass Italian guy who is really into cars. The one cliche they didn't go for was a bit of a surprise--the guy who "had the girl back home he was going to marry" wasn't torn up in a hail of gunfire. (If I were ever in the military, and we were on patrol, and the guy next to me talks about his girl back home, I'm getting as far from him as possible because he's going to be turned into Swiss cheese pronto!).

Another thing that sort of bugged me was the hairstyles of the soldiers that reminded you that this film was made in 1987. Really, people, you're actors! Would it kill you to get the haircuts authentic? I mean, you're not wearing digital watches or looking at pin-up shots of Carmen Elektra, so why not go the whole hog and have your hair cut military style?

One final historical note--in the battle that "Hamburger Hill" was based on, the U.S. military abandoned the hill shortly after taking it from the NVA. The movie didn't mention this, perhaps because the message was more one of appreciating the soldiers that fought rather than criticizing the brass who put them through what they went through. I don't think that omission was necessary--it seems generally accepted that the guys who fought in Vietnam deserved admiration even while the war aims were muddy and controversial. (Except if you ask Jane Fonda and the Chicago Seven, but they suck anyway and no one cares what they have to say).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Laws That Should Be On the Books

1) Any customer service number has to go to a human being directly. Yes, they can put you on hold until one is available, but any business that has that "automatic options" crap with the "enter your number" crap, immediately gets shut down by the police and its Board of Directors gets beaten in the streets to make an example.

2) It is still illegal to key someone's car, unless they are taking up two parking spaces or double parked. Then it's fair game.

3) Everything charged in every store or restaurant has to come to an even dollar amount when sales tax is included. We have the technology. We can make small change a thing of the past.

4) There needs to be a fourth color for traffic signals. There should be go, stop, slow down, and seriously, slow down because it's about to go red like right now.

5) Shaving cream should really come out in different colors. Maybe this shouldn't be a law, but it'd be pretty cool. Especially since the color could be different for when you're really close to the bottom and need a new can.

6) The qualifications to be president should remain the same--35 years old, natural born citizen, lived in the U.S. for 14 years--but they should add a corrollary that if you quit halfway in the middle of your one term as governor of Alaska, AND you use Twitter as your primary means of communication, you're disqualified.

7) Any city or state that won't let you carry a handgun has to at least let you carry a cool trident or broadsword.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Greatest American City, Final Round!

The final round of the Greatest American City tournament comes amid a great deal of controversy. San Francisco was unable to make it to the tournament, because the refs got lost in the fog and ended up in Oakland, and Oakland will never win anything. And don't bring up the 1980 Raiders, because that's crap. Oakland loses, sorry Oakland! Unfortunately they took down the Golden Gate City with them.

Denver didn't make the finals, because they're too far away from any other strong cities to bask in any glory. Plus, they're nowhere near a water source. How do you drink, Denver? While you think of that, let's also skip over St. Louis and Dallas for obvious reasons. And of course, Toronto was disqualified once it was discovered they're not an American city at all, despite their dirty trick of having a Major League Baseball team--in the American League, no less! (As for those of you commies who think "America" means more than just the U.S., get with the times, man! When's the last time you saw an Argentine with a "proud to be an American" t-shirt? Either they have no pride, or they gave up the name to the U.S.)

In the end, it came down to two cities--New York, and D.C. We always knew it would come to them.

New York, with its homegrown charm, starting from a small river outpost by the Atlantic, a first stop for immigrants, a center of finance and culture, a city so big that it encompasses five full-sized counties (while most cities fit inside one county). It is a city with a population larger than most states. It is a city that has had mayors of African, Jewish, and Italian descent. The best pizza in the world, as well as the second, third and fourth best pizza, all call New York their home. It is big enough to have two NFL franchises, two NBA franchises, two MLB franchises, and three NHL franchises all in its metropolitan area. New York is collossal.

DC, on the other hand, is the seat of the world's most powerful government, where history has been raging from its early burning by the British during the War of 1812, to Civil War battles in its backyard, to various political histories ever since. It was set up artificially, under a plan to use unwanted swamp in what was then the geographic center of the country. It's home to historic neighborhoods, new ethnicities and the country's most thriving black population. It cannot match New York in size, but it packs a good punch with numerous ethnic groups, charming and historic neighborhoods, and arguably more sightseeing opportunities than any other American city. And unlike NYC, you don't have to pay any tolls to enter, and the museums are free. Also unlike NYC, the buildings are never so tall you can't see the sun at noon, and you can afford to live there on a modest salary.

It is a hard call as to which city wins this one.

1) NYC's most infamous recent mayor has been Rudy "Crazy Train" Guiliani. DC's most infamous recent mayor was Marion "Bitch Set Me Up" Barry.

2) NYC's host to the country's best Italian cuisine. DC's host to the country's best Ethiopian cuisine.

3) NYC is home to the douchebag who works in finance, screaming into his bluetooth. DC is home to the douchebag lawyer/lobbyist/congresstaffer, screaming into his blackberry.

4) NYC has the East Village. DC has Adams Morgan.

5) NYC has the West Village. DC has Dupont.

6) NYC has Central Park. DC has the Mall.

So what'll it be? I'll accept voting in the comments!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Long Island Keeping it Classy

Every now and again emerges a civil liberties hero. And every now and again, there's this guy. A volunteer fire chief in Long Island was suspended for having put up fake testicles on his truck. Initially, the offending orbs were hung below the back of the truck, as though they were the trucks own male organs, and then when the mayor asked him to take them down, the chief decided to hang them inside the truck instead.

Now, I'm not bothered by parts of the human anatomy being represented on vehicles, though I can see why for a public official it would be considered unprofessional and unbecoming to hang such things from one's truck. But what really gets me is that at some point this public servant was told by his boss to remove the balls, and he said to himself "these balls are so important to my truck, I refuse to castrate my truck!" and risked his job over this.

I just think the proper response would have been to wrap them in a Speedo.