Friday, May 27, 2011

Lousy Parenting

Among the many reasons I don't watch films in the theaters anymore (besides annoying schedules, high ticket and concession prices, uncomfortable seats, the fact that the picture won't pause while I go to the bathroom, and the fact that I can't drink Scotch during the picture unless I use that water bottle that just isn't the same) is the fact that you often hear a screaming toddler in the audience. What's that, you ask? Do I spend my time at G-rated pictures about cartoon bunnies and cowboys eating pudding? Nope, I'm talking about evening shows of violent and sexually explicit movies, ones with any combination of the following words in their titles: "Death", "Blow", "Deathblow", "Blowdeath", and of course, "Deathblow Below".

So what the hell is wrong with these people who'd bring their small kids to this sort of film? Are they just that poor, that they can afford high movie prices but an extra twenty for a babysitter is too much to ask? (And before anyone says "a babysitter for $20? You can't even get an ex-con for that", I say there's any number of high school kids who'll do it if you don't get too picky about keeping them from your liquor cabinet).

The problem is clearly people so self absorbed that they cannot leave their kids at home or god forbid stay at home with them--instead, they have to make everyone else suffer for their awful, awful failings as parents. The only consolation is that while we normals only have to tolerate the screaming and disruption for brief periods in public, these ghoulish "parents" can't escape the pain for at least 18 years.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


When kids today aren't constantly on my damn lawn or building robots that steal my medicine in my sleep, they're coming up with new zany fads that make no sense to an old war-horse like myself. This latest thing is called "planking" and involves laying stiff as a board in various public places and getting a photo taken of yourself. Yes, that's about it.

I have to say though, considering I'm normally reading about kids getting injured egging houses or beating up innocent patrons in fast food joints and displaying their johnsons at drive thrus, it's nice to see a new fad that is completely harmless. If anything, "planking" seems a bit retro, like kids stuffing themselves in phone booths in the 1950s or sitting atop flagpoles in the 1920s. But is there ever a truly inappropriate time to plank?

Perhaps at a funeral--the guests might not like to see you lay stiff as a board next to the deceased. Or if you're an emergency room doctor or nurse--imagine the poor surgeon, not knowing which stiff to operate on!

Or let's say you're laying flat in the road--what should I, a humble driver, do about this? Assume it's a fancy speed bump? Assume this is some sort of relgious penance, drive slowly across your body? Confusion would abound.

But if this keeps the kids out of trouble for a while, so be it. Just don't go planking on my damn lawn.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Idiot Kids

Everyone knows that teenage kids are dumbasses. It's one reason we keep them locked in cages, letting them swing their tin cups against the bars every time they want more stale water for drinking. I recall my own teenage days as being one long flight of dumbassery punctuated every now and then with sleep.

However, one thing I don't remember ever doing was standing in the bed of a pickup truck tossing eggs at houses at 1 AM and falling out of said truck when my moron friends drove off to escape getting caught and then getting run over by another friend's car. Somehow, the "nihilistic vandalism followed by botched getaway" plan never got under way for me and my idiot friends. Next to the gang of kids in the article, my friends and I were a brain trust.

First, let's start with the "harmless prank" that this activity was being justified as. I've never had to clean rotting egg from my car or house, but I imagine it's an unpleasant activity. And while paintball paint may wash off a house easily, let's keep in mind that a homeowner awoken by the ruckus could easily have had an eye put out by a paintball (I don't know about you but I've never slept with goggles on). And at 1 AM I figure a number of armed homeowners might have panicked and fired real buckshot at the cars of these geniuses.

Then there's the "hey stand in the back of the truck and toss the eggs and I'll drive real quick" plan, which worked about how you'd expect. I wasn't the safest teenager way back when--I'm sure a number of my passengers didn't put on their seatbelts despite my ordering them to, and as a passenger I have on many occasions hung out the car windows and sunroofs. But then, if I were ripped apart when the car got too close to a tree branch, I would have had no one to blame but my own idiocy.

No news yet as to whether this unfortunate girl's parents are going to sue the drivers of either the truck or the other getaway car. Perhaps it's good that this happened, and taught these hooligans a lesson that they may all walk away from, and spend their days cleaning bedpans at nursing homes instead of graduating to dumber and dumber crimes. But I have a hard time gathering sympathy for people behaving badly and stupidly.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Another Great Fast Food Customer

Something about fast food restaurants gives patrons this idea that they can act like absolute animals. I have written before about thugs attacking other patrons, and now I hear that at a Bojangles chicken joint in North Carolina a passenger in a minivan at the drive-thru exposed his manhood to the drive thru attendant when he learned that the restaurant was out of chicken wings. I imagine the scene went like this:

Patron: "Pardon me, madam, would you happen to be able to avail some wings of poultry?"

Attendant: "Alas and alack, our supply of poultry wing is no more. Might I offer some other sustenance for you weary travellers?"

Patron: "Pish posh, vile strumpet! I now show you a cock of mine own!"

The problem is this--working at a fast food joint is just plain sucky, as I recall from my own experiences in high school. The pay is lousy, you don't get tips, and the work is mind-numbingly repetitive. Plus, you don't get any Springsteen songs written about you the way farmers and miners and truckers and factory workers do. The one thing customers should be expected to do is be nice and show dignity to the people that have to deal with them all day.

Then some doof in a minivan--seriously, a minivan! This person already is an affront to civilization--decides that because the place is out of wings he has to air out his lil' buddy. I guess we should at least be thankful he didn't physically attack anyone, but if that's our new standard for behavior then our society is doomed.

I hope when the Chinese become our overlords they keep the chicken joints open.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Great TV Years

Often, key moments in our lives are only recognized as such in reflection. This is no different when we're talking about great television. My own TV-viewing years only began in the '80s (and were interrupted by a couple years overseas, where television basically sucks, USA, USA, USA!!) but with access to old shows and old TV-schedules I can judge what would have been ideal seasons for prime time lineups. Here are my top candidates:

1) 1972--shows like "All in the Family", "MASH", "Odd Couple" and "Mary Tyler Moore" were all at their peak. These were the years of the classic sitcom, multi-camera, laugh track, setup-joke-repeat, all the key elements that lasted well into the '90s (and still exist on some shows today). Mid-Nixon era was a golden age for television.

2) 1977--this was a turning point year, the "jiggle year" for television, where "Charlies Angels" and "Threes Company" got their start, and blond, big breasted women were all the rage and network standards were challenged. Of course, the actual shows were low-quality at the time. "Threes Company" (which I admit to LOVING as a kid when it was in syndication) was one long gag of someone eavesdropping and misunderstanding what they hear. "All in the Family" was rapidly going downhill and taking the funny with it. "Mary Tyler Moore" finished up, and "Good Times" was one long "Dy-no-mite!" joke. It would be another year to wait for "Taxi", and while "Welcome Back Kotter" was on the air, it was distinctly lacking Vinnie Barbarino because Travolta was a movie star by then.

3) 1989--this was another turning point year. The new "Fox" network was in its third season, and by this time had a lot more shows (as it was broadcasting original content on more nights). Fox was great--as the number four network, they could take more risks, and "Married With Children"--one of those risks--was hitting its stride. An adult cartoon show called "The Simpsons" premeired that season, and is still on the air today. "21 Jump Street" was at its high point, and featured a then-unknown Johnny Depp. "Cheers" was showing signs of decline, though, and "Mr. Belvedere" and "Growing Pains" proved that ABC had a crappy lineup, though "Roseanne" was still good at this time. The '80s basically sucked for television (unless you like awful soaps), but the end of the decade showed promise for the next one.

4) 1993--this was a solid year. "Simpsons" was hitting its stride, "Conan O'Brien" debuted as the funniest thing on late night, "Seinfeld" was having one of its best seasons, and "Frasier" started out, keeping up the quality of the best years of Cheers. You could also still sometimes see music videos on MTV, which I'd watch at friends' houses since my folks wouldn't get cable.

5) 1995--the '90s were a new golden age of sitcoms! "Seinfeld" was still strong, in fact, strong enough to anchor whatever NBC wanted to put on before or after it on "Must See TV" Thursdays. (Forgettable shows helped by Seinfeld--"The Single Guy", "Union Square", "Fired Up", "Caroline in the City", "Veronica's Closet", that thing Brooke Shields was in). Also, "Drew Carey Show", "Friends" (which had its moments), "Spin City", "Everyone Loves Raymond", "King of the Hill" and "NewsRadio" were all on the air at this time. The "Simpsons" were firmly entrenched on Fox (I'd been afraid it'd be cancelled for low ratings in its early seasons) as well. 1995 was shaped up to be a lot like 1972--a golden year for the classic sitcom. Notice also that a large number of sitcoms were given to standup comedians--Drew Carey, Roseanne Barr, Brett Butler, Jerry Seinfeld, etc. If you had a standup act, ABC had a slot for you!

6) 1998--by the end of the '90s, cable channels were putting out a lot of their own original content. HBO (which should show movies, but basically is to movies what MTV is to music videos) had "Larry Sanders" and now was debuting "Sopranos", the great mafia drama, and Comedy Central was showing "South Park", the great poorly animated cartoon. While some argue that "Simpsons" was declining, they still had some great episodes at this time, as did fellow Fox cartoons "Family Guy" and "King of the Hill". "Frasier" was still strong, though "Seinfeld" went off the air, as did "NewsRadio". "Drew Carey" was getting experimental by this point, "Married With Children" was allowed to die its slow death, as did "Roseanne" which I wasn't watching by this point because it got too weird. TV was still strong then, but the traditional sitcoms were giving way to single camera fare with no laugh tracks, and cartoon shows were gradually taking over Fox's Sunday lineup.

7) It's hard to pick a single year for the last decade--great shows did come and go ("Arrested Development", "Freaks and Geeks", "LOST") but it's hard to pick a single year that stood out from the rest. While TV arguably got very awesome--and I think this is simply due to the massive competition unheard of in the old days of only three channels--there were also some awful trends that are still with us (mainly I'm thinking of reality television). Nowadays, a laugh track multi-camera sitcom seems quaint (even on top rated shows like "Two and a Half Men"), and great experimental fare of teh semi-mockumentary sort ("Modern Family", "The Office") and quick cuts made popular in "Scrubs" are standard (see, "30 Rock"). But most important is the fact that you can see just about anything online or via DVD, so you aren't stuck with network timetables. This also means you can see every episode of a show, not missing a single one.

8) You'll notice I left out the '50s and '60s--not a knock on those decades, only I haven't seen many of those old shows so it's hard to judge. The '80s generally sucked for television, though we didn't know it at the time so we laughed at "Silver Spoons" and "Diff'rent Strokes" because we didn't know better.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lack of Shriver Sympathy

With the latest news of Arnold Schwartzenegger's love child--and conclusive proof of his marital infidelity--I can't help but wonder why I don't feel sorry for his wife, Maria Shriver. Each reason I can come up with doesn't seem to satisfy:

1) Being a total rabid fan of Arnold. Can't say this is the case. His movies all sucked--ugh, "Commando", ugh ugh--and while he has a likable screen presence we all know that doesn't translate to personal life (see Sheen, Charlie). His politics do little for me as well--moderate Republican governor? Yawn! I like my Republicans the way I like my bartenders--extra crazy.

2) His wife was complicit in keeping the secret from the media, and supported his career, so screw her. Well, I still felt bad for Elizabeth Edwards, regardless of the cancer she was suffering from, so why pick on Shriver?

3) She's a member of that rotten filthy Kennedy clan of jerks. True, but let's keep in mind that she never started the Vietnam War, aided and abetted Joe McCarthy, got in bed with the mob, or drowned a campaign staffer after a night of drunk driving. By Kennedy standards, that makes her sort of a saint. She could strangle a kitten and still be the most likable of that brood.

4) His wife should have known he'd do something like this when she married him. After all, she couldn't have been unaware of the rumors of his groping ways at the time, not to mention his being a Hollywood star pretty much means he's going to have endless opportunities to cheat and the steroids will affect his judgment. But we still feel bad for the guy who walks down a dangerous alleyway and gets mugged, even if they knew it'd have a good chance of happening.

I guess at this point the fact that when it is all said and done, she's going to walk away with millions of dollars--not that she was impoverished to begin with--while most two-timed spouses at best get their half of the six pack in the fridge, well, it's hard to gin up the tears over this one. Or is there something else I'm missing?

Nobody Puts Good Taste in a Corner!

Finally saw the entirety of "Dirty Dancing" the other day, nearly completing the Patrick Swayze oevre, and let's just say the only thing "dirty" about this movie is how you feel to witness something so cliched and awful. Swayze clearly needed to go star in something thoughtful and deep after this film, which explains his choice to do "Road House" next.

The plot, for those of you fortunate enough to have missed it when it came out over two decades ago, is that the Houseman family is taking a trip for the summer to a resort in the Catskills in 1963. The youngest daughter--Jennifer Grey--is called "Baby" which is great because at the end of the film it wouldn't have flowed so well to hear Swayze say "nobody puts Hortense in a corner!"

The resort basically makes be glad to not have been upper middle class in the early '60s. It's basically old people sitting around watching professional ballroom dancers, listening to painfully bad comedy, and living in cabins. Maybe that was a great relief for Brooklynites back then, but I can't help but think they could have enjoyed themselves more at home by sitting in their back yard and throwing rocks at each other.

Enter Johnny Castle. This is Swayze at his Swayziest, mullet and all (in the early '60s this would be called a "duck-ass pompadour"). He is one of the resort's professional dancers, and he's from the wrong side of the tracks. How can you tell? Oh, because he FREAKING says it every third line. "I'm all working class" and "I don't have your daddy's money" and a bunch of other pseudo-populist crap. Fortunately we don't see him reading from Marx and Engels, but that may have been in the director's cut. Anyway, Johnny's dance partner who he was NOT sleeping with gets knocked up by one of the other resort staffers (surprise, it's the Jewish med student! He even reads Ayn Rand just so you know he's a turd). This means (a) the dance partner needs an abortion, illegal in 1963, and (b) Johnny needs a new dance partner!

So there are a couple of rational things that can be done here. Johnny could have his dance partner fake an ankle sprain, and the resort could get one of their backup dancers to fill in for her. Or, how about a long montage of him teaching Baby to dance so she can fill in? If she fails miserably, no big deal for her, it's only Johnny's job on the line! Let's guess which path they took.

And as for the abortion, I realize that these were illegal in NY in 1963. However, Baby's father is a doctor, and from the looks of things a reasonable and thoughtful man who indulges his daughter in ways that I never could because of my concrete heart. She's able to wheedle $300 from him to pay for the abortion (without telling him what it's for), and mind you in 1963 $300 is something like $20,000 today. And this parade of Mensa candidates decides to use an unlicensed quack to perform the abortion, with unsurprising results--the dance partner suffers complications from the abortion, and Baby has to get her father to come help in the middle of the night anyway. Would it not have made more sense to have told her father the truth to begin with, so he could perform the procedure discretely and safely? I mean, I would understand it if they painted the man as a leader in the pro-life movement, or showed him smacking around his wife and daughter a few times. But the duplicity and risk-taking seemed senseless here.

Of course, Dr. Houseman makes the understandable assumption that Johnny had impregnated the dance partner, because NO ONE including his daughter tried telling him the truth. Johnny just does the working class hero bit about "yeah that's what you'd expect of me, eh?" Hey, Upton Sinclair! That's what he'd expect because YOU NEVER told him otherwise. Moron!

So of course Baby's romance with Johnny is a forbidden one, making it all the sweeter. Hey wait, isn't she a teenager and Johnny's an adult? Whoops! Holy statutory, Batman! Gets even more fun when Baby fesses up to their romance to provide Johnny an alibi for an accusation of petty theft later in the movie. I hope New York State in '63 frowned less on statutory rape cases than they did on stealing wallets!

Anyway, you can guess how it ends--Baby and Johnny wow everyone with their dancing, the father reconciles with his lying moron of a daughter, the resort guests sort of wonder why they're paying good money to watch all this, and the movie audience wonders the same thing.

The Lack of Trump

With Donald Trump dropping out of the presidential race, late-night comedians are losing a major source of material. I'd predicted that Trump was only in this thing as a publicity stunt, so his dropping out comes as no surprise, but let's pause to reflect on what we missed out on:

1) A presidential debate where the opponent is repeatedly referred to as a "loser" and told to "get real".

2) A wholesale invasion of the Middle East oilfields, because this is such a workable plan and why didn't any previous president think to do this?

3) The U.S. declaring bankruptcy, and so not having to pay its loans to any creditors, foreign or domestic. Again, why didn't any previous president think of this?

4) The first U.S. President to go through four First Ladies in one term, setting a record that can only be surpassed by Newt Gingrich.

5) The entire Cabinet being chosen by pitting candidates against one another in weekly competitions, televised for the drooling masses--oh no, is that Omarossa they just brought in for Secretary of Defense??? But she's so awful!

6) Somehow losing six northern states to Canada in a deal gone bad.

7) Greater relations than ever with "the Blacks".

8) All major presidential addresses leaving the cliffhanger finale--will we or won't we bomb North Korea?--for next week, at prime time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rapture Plans

Some religious folks are predicting a rapture this Saturday--this would be where the good Christians get "raptured" up to heaven, presumably, while the rest of us sinners are left behind for fire and brimstone and a lifetime of Emilio Estevez movies. Sadly, I don't know personally any of these "rapture" predictors, otherwise I would be happy to accept their worldly possessions which they won't be needed in the netherworld. But it also gets me to think, what would I do if I knew I only had a few days left on earth before getting swallowed up into a pit of hell?

1) I'd have to get some top notch pizza in NYC--coincidentally, I already have that planned for this Saturday. I'm hoping that some sinful pizza chefs (who make sinfully delicious pizza) will be left behind too, since it'd be a waste to have them in heaven where they just eat hummus and watercress and crap like that anyway.

2) I definitely would not try and visit Detroit, since I'll be getting plenty of the pit of hell scene after the rapture. I sort of picture that post-rapture Earth will be a lot like Detroit.

3) Run naked across the field at a major league ball game. Of course, if the point is to be seen by a lot of people, I wouldn't try that at a Nationals game.

4) See if I can get my car up to 180 MPH on a straightaway in one of those western states with long flat highways. Though if a tumbleweed or hippie hitchhiker wander into the road I'd be done for.

5) Hang glide off the Empire State Building. Though, if I'm going to land in the river, I'd have to make a quick judgment call--which is more gross, the Hudson or the East River?

6) Create one of my signature chocolate-banana-peanutbutter-marshmallow-coconut milkshakes. Actually I should really do that anyway, no reason to wait for a rapture.

7) Get a ouija board--I may need to summon all sorts of demons to my side when the fit hits the shan. The rapture will be sort of like the NFL draft, and I need first round picks.

8) Get that machine gun I've had my eye on. Nowhere in the bible does it say that machine guns can kill demons, but then, it was written before they invented machine guns.

9) Hope that unkillable demons can be bought off with chocolate-banana-peanutbutter-marshmallow-coconut milkshakes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ah, Fake Feminists....

Well, Carolyn Hax's advice seekers do it again--fly me into a rage! This time, the letter writer claims to be a "feminist" and yet displays deep resentment over her mate's significantly lower earning potential, because this means she'd have to pick up most of the burden of paying for a home, serious drop in income if she were to decide to stay home with kids, etc. My question is when exactly did feminism get defined as hyper-materialistic hypocrisy trash???

This woman needs to be shot, but perhaps I'm being too hasty going all Trotsky on her. Hax of course turns the tables--should this woman feel uneasy if her husband made significantly more than her? If not, why not?

Call me a simple idealist, but I thought one of the benefits of feminism was that men should no longer be stigmatized for not being the principal breadwinner. I hope the guy in question read that column, and has enough brains to RUN as fast as he can out of that looney bin of a relationship!

Blue Valentine Review

A recent film I watched was "Blue Valentine" which was very good, but extremely depressing for a film that didn't feature prison or Detroit. In this film, Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a married couple with a small kid who are in a failing marriage. They take an overnight stay in a cheesy "sex hotel" to try and rekindle their romance, and it fails miserably, culminating in their having a fight at her job which gets her fired, and subsequently they split up. Throughout this, there are flashbacks of how they met, fell in love, got her knocked up and married--the flashbacks provide contrast to their depressing present.

What made this depressing is that there really wasn't any solid reason for their marriage breaking apart--no one cheated on the other, there was no abuse, and frankly neither character really changed much since the time of their flashbacks. Dean is still a working-class Joe, who Cindy feels isn't taking full advantage of his potential (he prefers to work as a house painter since he can drink beer at 8AM in the morning, which I'll admit is pretty sweet so lay off the guy!). Cindy is working as a nurse, rather than having become an MD as she'd wanted to (in the flashbacks), likely as a result of raising a family.

But it seems the real reason their marriage was failing was that Cindy's feelings for her husband have faded and there was no bringing them back. It was heartbreaking to see Dean trying to pull out the stops to romance her--playing their "song", joining her in the shower, boozing it up--only to see that what worked years ago just won't anymore. Perhaps if there'd been a scene where he was caught in an orgy in Bangkok while high on happy pills, it'd be easier to just point at it and say "ah, that was his mistake there"--but the film showed the realism (with excellent performances by the actors) of relationships that just die on their own, without outside help.

Never take a date to see this.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Demons Galore!

The movie "Paranormal Activity 2" was entertaining for me, as a fan of demon possession (the concept in culture, not the real thing. Possessed people are awful conversationalists and even worse houseguests. No thanks!). This film follows the same "all this was captured on home security footage" theme as the original, and features the family of the sister of one of the victims from that film. This family consists of the sister, her husband, his teenage daughter from a previous marriage, and their toddler son who they unfortunately named "Hunter".

Sorry, folks, but you should never name a kid "Hunter". It's just too easy. Park rangers go around telling bullies that they're supposed to throw any victims named "Hunter" back into the wild, since it's just not sporting anymore. You'd be better off naming the kid "Nedrick".

They also have a Mexican housekeeper who of course always does the sign of the cross and believes in spirits, so maybe the demon that enters the picture just has a problem with tired stereotypes. Just ONCE I want to see a movie where an elderly Mexican lady points out that she's a Presbyterian and don't follow any of that mystical crap.

So the family comes home one day to see much of the house (though only certain rooms) trashed, yet nothing is stolen. This exmplains putting in an extensive security camera system with microphones, because there's nothing creepy about filming everything you do inside your house and recording everything said in there. Even more hilarious the daughter invites her horny toad boyfriend over when the parents are out! I expect the parents will find some missing footage...if you know what I mean. I mean illicit sex, folks! (Never mind also that only one security camera focuses on the outside of the house. Wouldn't you also want to be able to spot anyone lurking outside? But that doesn't advance the plot, so lets' digress).

Much like in the first film, the "presence" makes itself known with eerie, slight things, like misplaced pool cleaning devices and the baby crying for no reason. Understandably, the baby crying for no reason makes perfect sense, what with it being a baby and all. But why does the dog bark a lot at whatever is haunting them? Dogs have a strong sense of smell, should we assume that demons aren't good at bathing?

Sure enough, this devolves into the demon finally attacking members of the family, and the father (the skeptic!) breaking down and getting demon-fighting tips from the Mexican housekeeper. Besides my desire to see an elderly Mexican Presbyterian, I'd also like just once for an old "mystical" person to be consulted on some occult thing, and it turn out they don't know what the hell they're talking about. "Light some candles, and burn the hair of your first born...ok, I kind of make this stuff up as I go along...." Of course, the lady in this case does seem to know what she's talking about, which makes me think--if she can handle demons, why is she cleaning houses? I'd be taking that lady to Vegas once the demonectomy was done! Cha-freaking-ching, folks!

Also, if my house ever gets a demon I'm getting the damn thing to sign a sublease.

Advice Columns

I often read advice columns, mostly just to see if the advice seeker is asking a question that I wanted answered already and can save me the trouble of writing in to the advice columnist. Today's Carolyn Hax column hit upon a situation I hope never to encounter:

"I am the one who hosts holidays for my husband’s family. I also share a birthday with one of the kids.

I completely realize the gift-giving on these occasions is all about the kids. I honestly do not want a gift. The in-laws have very different tastes than mine and pitch a fit if any object they give is not prominently displayed. Nor am I longing for a card.

Nonetheless, it is always embarrassing to me and uncomfortable for other guests when the in-laws arrive with packing crates of gifts for my husband and the kids, then look at me and say, “We would have gotten you a card, but we didn’t feel like going all the way to the drugstore.”

Really, a cheerful, “Happy [whatever] to you, too!” would be all I could ask for, and no comment at all would be fine by me, but it stings to be told in front of others, over and over, that I am not worth the bother.

I have handled the problem for years by just telling them it’s fine, handing them their gift (they do not see it as just about the kids) and excusing myself to the kitchen. I have had enough though. Any suggestions?"

Well, here's my response--modern medicine is coming up with brilliant new poisons that cannot be easily detected. Make sure to give everyone a healthy dose, then take that "poison control hotline" sticker on your fridge and change one of the numbers. With luck, no one will ever suspect you!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Newt Running!

What ever happened to Newt Gingrich that made him so oblivious that he actually thinks he might be elected president? Is there some little cricket in his bedroom that keeps whispering in his sleep that he has a snowball's chance in hell of not just winning the Republican nomination, but beating the sitting president?

Somehow, he expects that his 20% approval rating will magically rise to the stratosphere, and voters will forget that this was the guy who orchestrated the disastrous government shutdown that turned things around for Bill Clinton? Does he really think anyone will forget his many flip-flops on Iraq, his marriage hypocrisy, his ethics investigations and his ultimately embarrassing impeachment sideshow of the late '90s? All of which resulted in his own GOP colleagues rejecting him and leading to his resignation from Congress?

And what has he done, exactly, since 1998 that would rehabilitate his image? I might be missing something because I avoid cable news, but I don't even know what this guy's been up to outside the bookwriting and speechmaking circuit. Gingrich is still the opposition researcher's fantasy target, a man who still represents every weak point for conservative Republicans and a constant reminder to voters of what they reject about such politicians.

Considering that Gingrich is a bright guy, I imagine there's another purpose to his candidacy--selling more books. I can see the title now--"How to Live Out Your Delusions".

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bully Prevention Plan!

Bullying is one of those things that any prospective parent gets concerned about--namely, not wanting your own kid to be a victim or a bully themselves. I'm a believer in nature and nurture, in that a kid is going to come out a certain way in part due to their environment and influences, and in part just by luck. So you can be the most awesome great Chuck Norris style father, and your kid can grow up to become Woody Allen. And not in that "successful filmmaker who somehow has sex with famous starlets" sort of way, either. Because for every Woody Allen that became Woody Allen, there are millions of hopeless neurotic nerds who get a swirly on the way to gym class.

I'm not really worried about any kid of mine becoming a bully, since my wife and I are both shorter than average and while being short is awesome if you're mining coal for a living, it sucks if you want to shake down some dude for his lunch money. Yes, Joe Pesci helped advance the idea that short dudes can be tough, and Mike Tyson wasn't exactly a giant, but the odds are the odds. Which means, if I have a kid, I have to train them to not be bullied. Here's my plan:

1) Cool nickname. Sure, "Ettore" and "Galiazo" are great nicknames if the kid wants to become a great chef or hairdresser, but it doesn't play on the schoolyard. "Spike" used to be a great tough guy name until Spike Lee ruined it, so I'm going to have to go with "Thor". No one pushes around a Thor.

2) No glasses. Glasses are these days considered cooler than when I was an unfortunate bespectacled lad, but they still don't scream "toughness". If my kid is nearsighted, it's goggles for him!

3) Mohawk. This is in part because it's just much easier to cut, and frankly I don't want him wasteing time in the bathroom when I need to go in there.

4) All meat served raw. You know who didn't get picked on much? Genghis Khan.

5) Genghis Khan would also be a great first and middle name. Now that I think about it, the Mongols were pretty good at getting their way. "Disobeying the Mongols" wasn't one of those things that really took off back in those days.

6) Uh oh, lil' Genghis Khan Brando is taking over and pillaging the entire back yard! And right before my boss comes over for a BBQ to celebrate me landing that big account! Eek!

7) Yep, now my insurance broker is forcing me to take out an option for looting. Lovely.

Well, you get the idea--at the end of the day you just have to play the odds. Maybe I'd be better off with a daughter, girls don't seem to ever get bullied.

Or so I'll assume.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Evolutionarily Challenged

Smack dab in the middle of allergy season, I start to wonder--how would I cope if not for the drugs and being in the office (or the car) during the day? I figure my allergy-suffering ancestors basically spent their springs wheezing and runny-nosed, probably lagging in the back when the gang was hunting mastadons and being stuck with the hindquarters of the quarry. And before some nerd points out that mastadon hunts always took place in the fall, you get my drift--I suffer an evolutionary problem that can only be solved with modern conveniences!

Which raises the question--is technology the solution to evolution? Have we found a way to defy Darwin by letting the weak survive (by having grocery stores rather than bear hunts)? Or are we slowly breaking down to the point where we'll weaken until aliens can invade and take our sweet, weak flesh for their own nefarious purposes?

And yet, just try explaining this next time the police stop you from spear-hunting at Rock Creek Park.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Two Antiwar Films

The two recent war films watched were "Beach Red" and "The Battle of El Alamein". "Beach Red" was an excellent film about a Marine attack on a Japanese-held island during the Pacific campaign, featuring a young Rip Torn. The opening landing rivalled the frenetic opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan" and the only real problem with the many battle scenes was that it used that bright red fake blood from that era, making it look like more of a paintball war than a gruesome action scene. But what really made the film stand out was its extensive humanizing of the enemy soldiers, with flashbacks for the combatants on both sides, and genuine sorrow displayed by soldiers of each side when one of their comrades gets killed. I'm hard pressed to think of any war films that did such a good job showing war as a tragic situation where groups of young men are wasted killing one another simply because the older generations deem it necessary. (Though I won't get into a long discussion of when wars are necessary, etc.--just wanted to note that the anti-war message of the film was certainly more powerful than any of Oliver Stone's pretentious crap.)

"El Alamein" was an Italian production, focusing largely on the doomed Italian troops in that battle. A lot of history students likely arent' aware that Italians made up a majority of the troops under Rommel's command in North Africa, and while these soldiers were often poorly trained, poorly equipped and unmotivated, there were units (such as Ariete and Folgore) that performed heroically (and unfortunately, for the side that Hitler was on). The film also showed the British opponents, well supplied and well-led by Montgomery (and the actor playing Monty was a dead ringer for the real General himself), while Rommel displays misgivings about his strategic situation and a contempt both for his Italian allies and Hitler himself. The Italians in this film are given the hopeless task of trying to hold back British armor with inferior weapons

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Many Drivers Who Bring Me Rage

Yesterday's commute was one of my all time worst, taking an hour and a half to get from Fairfax to DC. There was no bad weather, no accidents, major construction, or anything that might explain the delay--but plenty of jerkwads on the road, each of whom deserves to be infinitely poked with a stick in hell:

1) The jerk in the minivan who didn't want to let me in front of him at the merge on I-66. Hey, I realize you drive a minivan so your life is basically over. Please do the honorable thing (the Japanese call it "seppuku") and don't take your walking dead jerkiness out on me. The traffic was at an unexplained standstill anyway, you would only have saved yourself about ten feet.

2) The people who waited to merge onto the beltway until the last possible second, so they had to cut in front of a half-mile worth of traffic that was patiently waiting their turn in the exit lane. Yes, you all deserve to be fed alive to ants. You can see a long line of us backed up to use the exit, but you still shoot ahead to merge, calculating that someone will let you in, and knowing that you're too damn important to wait on a line. You are also creating a hazard for the regular lanes on 66, because now other drivers have to swerve around you as you wait to merge late into our lane. Seriously, your gene pool is a septic tank and unfortunately evolution hasn't finished off your putrid lineage. Die quickly for the sake of mankind.

3) The prison bus that cut me off on Maine Avenue, causing me to miss my green light. I don't normally wish on anyone to be brutally murdered by their passengers, but let's just say in the event of a prison bus riot I won't be dialing 911. I'll be dialing 9-1-FUN. Which doesn't make any sense, but I am hopping mad.

4) The lovely lady on G street who pulled out in front of me to do a K-turn, forcing me to nearly t-bone her and of course miss my green light. May all your wart problems be permanent. (I can't actually wish cancer on anyone, so that'll have to do). Or may the next driver you encounter have a weaker brake system and slower reflexes.

5) To the jerk in front of me in an SUV with Obama stickers. I sort of hope Obama raises gas taxes just so you can cry in your irony. (Yes, it's not really irony, but this driver was a tool). You weren't really worse than the other drivers, but your erratic stops and starts made the traffic jam extra challenging. May all your dreams go unfulfilled.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Patrick, Parte Dos!

It being Cinco de Mayo, millions of Americans will don the traditiional garb (popped collars, rope necklaces, white caps, flip flops) and pile into the nearest quasi-Mexican joint. This is of course one of the most solemn "dudebro" occasions, where margaritas and Coronas are to be swilled mightily, tequila and tacos will be the appetizers, and many a drunken reveller will fall prey to the mighty gutter.

However, where to go for the partiers who prefer their vomit in toilets and not their ponchos? Where to go for the cameraderie of good friends and not aggressive strangers? Where to go where the pawing of the body will be only mild and inoffensive?

Fortunately, my wife and the gang are planning the second part of Cinco de Patrick (first part is always March 17th) where the faux Mexican side of the celebration will take place in an Irish bar (as the March 17th half takes place in a Mexican place). Murphys and Guinness will be drank, corned beef and chips will be eaten, and some Jamesons will find their way into their gaping maws of death. But mainly, these bars won't be packed to the gills, the waits for drinks won't be as long, and they're more likely to get molested by someone they know, the way it should be.

Happy Cinco de Patrick! Feliz go bragh!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Majesty's Secret Service Review

Last night I finished watching the film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", the sixth film of the James Bond franchise and the first to feature a James Bond who wasn't Sean Connery. While the film has its detractors--mostly Connery purists and Bond fans who dont' like the sad ending or the fact that Bond got married--I actually rate this as one of my favorites of the series. George Lazenby--an Australian who filled in for Connery likely due to a contract dispute--did what I considered an admirable job, and of course it's difficult to fill the shoes of the most popular of the Bond actors. Connery fans will also be disappointed to see there isn't nearly enough woman-slapping (though there certainly was some--being the '60s and all).

Here's why the film appeals to me:

1) Great ski chase scenes. Eventually, ski chases were done to death in Bond films, but in 1969 they still seemed fresh.

2) Diana Rigg as the Bond girl. First, this was Emma Peel! And not the terrible Avengers movie Emma Peel! She brought grace and the hots to the role, unlike embarrassing later turns from Denise Richards or Halle Berry. Bond girls have to be British or at least not American. The American accent just seems wrong, sort of like Bond wearing a cowboy hat.

3) Telly Savalas as Blofeld. He does a good followup to Donald Pleasance's version, bringing a sort of tough pre-Kojak thug to the role. A worthy foe for Bond!

4) Set piece attack on Blofeld's lair at the climax. Set piece attacks are crucial to a good Bond film, as we need plenty of un-named henchmen to get killed in a variety of ways.

5) Outlandish villain's plot. A rich evil guy with a vast network of agents and access to all sorts of scientists, and rather than just build a nuke and plant it in the middle of a major city, he decides to brainwash a bunch of hot women who will go around the world unleashing biological agents that will destroy the world's food supply on his signal. Never mind that this would be extreme overkill when all he wants is a pardon for his crimes and recognition of his title (Blofeld wants to be recognized as a Count). Clearly Blofeld should be aware that you can buy titles of royalty these days. Or just start calling yourself a Duke or Earl or something, it's how the original royals started anyway. It's not like God gives you those titles.

6) The pathos at the end. SPOILER ALERT--Bond marries at the end, and his wife gets gunned down. The sad ending gives you the one time to see Bond display sorrow, and while we like our Bond good and cold-blooded, it is a refreshing break to see his human side.

One further note--with the switching of actors playing Bond over the years (current count--six actors) one fan theory goes like this--James Bond isn't actually one person, but rather an alias given to Britain's top agent at the time, so this explains why Bond doesn't age over the years, and is featured by a different person each time. I sort of like this theory, since it both makes sense and allows for the Bonds to have different personalities.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day After Thoughts

There's been a bit of hand-wringing over a few issues involved with the killing of Osama bin Laden, and I think each should be addressed in turn:

1) Should President Obama get credit for this? Sure he should--he okayed the operation, and just as Commanders in Chief have to take the blame when our military operations go foul (cough, cough Jimmy Carter) they deserve some credit when they go right. I may not care much for Obama but he deserves his due for this.

2) Is it wrong to exult in OBL's death? I'll admit that generally I don't take any pleasure in the death of another person, even where that death was necessary to prevent greater evil (say, Stalin's death). And, if we'd captured the guy alive, I would have had a problem with executing him, because there's a difference between taking someone out when they're at large versus killing them when they're harmless and at your mercy (as happened with Saddam Hussein, another evil man who deserved death but for whom execution is unseemly). Yes, I adhere to a moral code created in classic westerns. But I think in the case of OBL, cheering this news is entirely appropriate, as it is not just the "justice" of this evil man getting his due, courtesy of the Red White and Blue, but this is also celebrating the fact that this particular master terrorist will never kill again. That alone is worth cheering.

3) What effect will this have on our War on Terror? Well, I'm hoping this gives us the excuse to start pulling out of Afghanistan, since our Nobel Peace Prizewinner president should really get on that. But I doubt it will change the airport security theater that has turned flying into the undignified mess that it is now. Surely a lot of jihadists will be spurred by revenge to strike at us in whatever way they can, and maybe someone will take OBL's place. But we've been decimating Al Quaeda over the years by taking out their top leadership repeatedly, and the second and third stringers aren't likely to be able to pick up the slack. Add their lack of state apparatus and funding cutoffs, and this group becomes less lethal by the day. They can probably do some damage though, so I doubt much is really going to change after this.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden's Corpse

I know our president is concerned about how gloating over the killing of Osama bin Laden would affect the Arab "street", but if I know my Arab street--and I think I do--it would have respected us more if we went a bit Iliad over the whole victory.

Our SEAL team that killed OBL probably had to kill him the way they did--gunshots to the head--because they just didn't have time to round up crocodiles and blowtorches to make the whole thing a more deserving spectacle. But once we had the body, why bury it at sea? Sure, that may be a Muslim custom, but since when did we consider OBL a good Muslim anyway?

First, the president should--nay, MUST--tie our enemy by the ankles and drag his corpse behind his war chariot (and yes, every president should have a war chariot) and race up and down the streets of Kabul. At first, the Afghanis would be all "hey, not cool!" but then it'd quickly change to "gotta respect that."

Second, decapitate the corpse, and put the head on a pike, stand on top of the nearest minaret (tip--this works best in a town that has minarets) and proclaim at the top of your lungs: "I am now your new god! Bow down before me!"

If Obama had done that, I predict he'd get the following responses:

1) Liberals would still vote for him, because really, they're just never going to vote GOP.

2) Tea Partiers would question why he didn't eat the corpse.

3) Sarah Palin would say something stupid.

4) Independents would vote for the president's re-election, because they'd be afraid of him. At least when Carter lost re-election he just went around smooching with Kim Jong Il and Hugo Chavez.

But I guess I'm strictly in the minority of Americans who wants to replace our leaders with Viking warlords. I'll be voting for Ragnar the Fierce in '12! For a better longboat building policy and increased access to our fjords.

Dead bin Laden

I got the news that Osama bin Laden was killed when I grabbed the paper from the hallway on my way out the door this morning. Ten years long was this manhunt, and at many points most of us figured he was already dead--the guy did have a kidney problem and we had dropped a lot of bombs on Afghanistan (where we thought he was hiding). It's nice to hear though that he was finally taken down in a fight with American troops. Somehow, hearing of his death by kidney infection or by one of his rivals within Al Quaeda or getting bitten by a goat just wouldn't have that final sense of justice.

Apparently, a few of his buddies were killed along with him, as they tried to resist the Navy SEALS that burst into their hideout. News flash--next time the SEALS bust in, drop your guns and beg for mercy. You're just not going to get the drop on thsoe guys. A woman was also apparently killed when one of the terrorists tried to use her as a human shield. Class acts until the end, these guys! I wonder how the Al Quaeda monthly newsletter will spin that one. "Heroic martyr woman steps in front of infidel bullet" I suppose.

Still, this doesn't have the sense of finality to it that the death of Hitler or the fall of Communism must have--the terrorist networks we're fighting against are decentralized, and presumably the death (or "martyrdom" as they'll see it) of their number one will not destroy their organizations. But it does send a message that we can hunt down and take out whomever we must, as long as it takes. Maybe the next crazed Saudi millionaire will just work out his issues on a yacht with naked chicks rather than trying to attack the U.S. again.