Friday, June 22, 2012

On the Bus, No One Can Hear You Scream

The latest bit of news that really fries my fishsticks is this story about some adolescents in upstate New York cruelly antagonizing their elderly bus driver.  The taunts went way beyond teasing--at one point one of the little bastards made a comment that the woman's kid should kill himself (and her son actually had committed suicide, it turns out), and another commented that he'd stab her but her lard would be like cutting through butter. 

The video went viral, and through some Internet fundraising sympathetic people have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for this woman to take a vacation, and that's all well and good.  The problem I think I have with this is that no one has raised any money to hire a violent ex-con to get on board that bus and whip the everloving crap out of these little sh*tstains until they learn some manners.

I remember as a kid being on a relatively rowdy (for our school) bus route--one driver actually stopped the bus to tell us we were "the worst behaved route" and that "all the other drivers had to draw straws to see who would have to take this route."  At that point, we said something like "we want Randy back!" (Randy was the cool driver who didn't seem to mind our hijinks and pratfalls, such as letting off stink bombs and tossing things out windows and the running battle royale that took place in the back)  She responded: "Let me tell you something about Randy.  He's an irresponsible drug addict!"  We didn't really know what to say about that--our Randy?  The bearded, mulleted dude who always seemed cool as a cucumber?  It never occurred to us that he could have sold us pot.

But despite our misbehavior, I don't recall any outright cruelty towards a driver.  These kids on the other hand crossed the line, and their parents have the absolute sacred duty to smack the piss out of them.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Have Seen the Future, and in it, There's Another Transformers Movie

I've tried to avoid the hype surrounding this year's hit film, "The Hunger Games", but much like a festering blister it was something I simply could not ignore.  From what the articles and reviews stated, the film seems to be some sort of modern ripoff on "The Running Man" as well as pretty much every film about a dystopian future.  In short, evil corporations run everything, and the poor and young are forced to hunt one another for sport and the amusement of rich, evil plutocrats.  Enjoy your popcorn!

This seems to be the one recurring theme in any pop-culture vision of the "future"--somehow, evil corporations will run everything and do evil things that must be stopped.  You name it--"Terminator", "Back to the Future Part II", etc.--in fact the only exception I can think of is the Star Trek universe.  Why is it that Hollywood writers seem intent on warning us about how evil and powerful corporations are?

Then it hits me--think for a minute about the only actual corporate entities that screenwriters have to deal with on a regular basis.  The movie studios!  The same group of snivelling, money-grubbing tyrants that steal ideas, doctor original works to cheapen them (and sell a few more tickets), and destroy hopes and dreams.  The group of thugs that wouldn't know film as an "art" any more than Dow Chemical would appreciate the finer points of opera. 

Take Harvey "I Stopped Eating Babies Only Because My Doctor Said They Were Fattening" Weinstein.  The year that "Saving Private Ryan" had every reason to pull off the Oscar for Best Picture, ole Harvey decides to bribe the hell out of the Academy so that they could decide "Shakespeare in Love" needed to win.  This man is a soul-destroyer, like ten Michael Boltons.

These are the corporations that decide to re-make "The Stepford Wives", not because anyone in the 2000s said "hey, I wish someone would re-make that 1975 film that almost no one saw!" but just because.  These corporations greenlight Michael Bay every chance they get, even though the man's grand contribution to cinema was a couple of racially-insensitive cars talking to one another.  These corporations destroy lives, destroy art, and destroy happiness.

So maybe the films about horrible futures where corporations act this same way are nothing more than cries for help from screenwriters who are far too scared to come out and explicitly tell the world what horrible, horrible things they are forced to do behind closed doors with the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Louis Mayer, or Steve Paramount. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Death of "Bro"

Well, it finally happened--the term "bro", long considered overused and uncool, has reached the depths of squaresville--Senator Harry Reid, a guy who is to coolness what a railroad spike in the foot is to comfort, used "bro" in answering a question.  I, for one, am happy about this because "bro" is a term that should only be used if you're addressing your actual sibling or a monk.  Or mocking the various dudebros crowding your favorite bar.

It's been several years since "Don't tase me, bro!!!" made us uncomfortable--uncomfortable in that although that dudebro was in severe pain, we couldn't help but think the use of the word "bro" somehow made it justified.  (It was also sort of hilarious that John Kerry, a man with the human emotions of a tree, continued droning on in his speech during the entire altercation) 

But I can see the problem for "bro"-using douchebags around the country--what to do, now that famous nerd Harry Reid just made your key term of affection completely uncool?  I would suggest replacing "bro" with some other great nicknames for your friends and well-wishers:

1) "Sport."  Sort of retro!  As in, "park this for me, will you, sport?" and "I wonder if this malt shop has fine dames, sport?"  Difficulty--because the term has an old fashioned vibe, the hipsters may wish to steal it.  They did it to Pabst Blue Ribbon, they can do it to "sport."

2) "Comrade."  Has a sort of "man of he people" ring to it!  After all, who wouldn't want to be a comrade?  Here's how it sounds: "Comrade, are you also waiting on line for toilet paper rations?" "Watch what you say about the Politburo, comrade!"  "Don't tase me, comrade!"  Difficulty--don't try this in the South, or they might think you're a communist and murder you.

3) "Cracka".  Sort of takes the racial animus out of "cracker."  As in, "give me some more mayo for my Wonder Bread, cracka."  "Hey cracka, you sure dance terribly!"  Difficulty--only white people are allowed to use this term!  And don't accidentally say "cracker" instead of "cracka".

4) "Unc."  Short for "uncle", which may sound weird but then keep in mind that the people you called "bro" weren't your brothers, either.  Examples: "Unc, are you going to the Nickleback concert?"  "That Nickleback concert really sucked, unc!" 

5) "Sir."  This is a great habit to get into, because then people will think you're being really respectful, when it's pretty much what you call everyone.  And you can use it sarcastically, as in "get your feet off my coffee table, SIR!" and "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to get the next round!"  Difficulty--if you're in the Army, and your commanding officer hears you call everyone else "sir" you could end up in serious trouble!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Syria, Now With More Crazy

With all the mess going on in Syria these days, it brings me comfort to know the Russians are deploying marines into the area.  Generally, a situation never really reaches its true bottom until you can say "now the Russians are involved."

Remember the last time there was a major international incident and then the Russians stepped in and improved everything?  You don't?  Well, that might be because Russia is sort of like the international affairs equivalent of a rattlesnake that grew wings and belches fire--any way you cut it, the damn thing is just going to make a bad situation worse.

Russia is like that guy who sees you giving someone CPR and decides to kick you in the neck, just because.  Russia is like that assistant fry cook who decides to dump tequila all over the grills because shut up, that's why.  The country exports crazy, imports sadness, and causes havoc everywhere it butts its head. 

And now Syria, a country already in a civil war, is about to get a full on dose of pure, uncut trouble.

Trip to the Great Smokies

This past weekend was a whirlwind trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina, and while I do enjoy sightseeing this trip was mainly so we could spend some quality time with my father-in-law who got a weekend pass from the hospital (either that, or we inadvertently busted him out!).  He's staying in his hometown of Cherokee, which is right on the reservation and if I know my urban legends that means no laws at all.  As it happens, I forgot to bring my counterfeiting plates and spotted owls filled with cocaine, so instead we kept things pretty PG-13.  A few observations about Cherokee:

1) Very friendly people, even by Southern standards.  Everyone's happy to give you directions, and unlike the horrible wastes-of-life that we get on Northern Virginia's highways, people down there will actually let you merge in and change lanes without acting as though you just murdered their family.

2) Want to eat healthy?  No chance, bub!  Everything is fried, and delicious, because they don't even try to make the stuff they fry it in healthy.  But you can also feast on catfish and frogs legs for about half what you pay in D.C.

3) The scenery is absolutely amazing.  It reminded me a lot of Maine, except the mountains are higher and steeper.  It would be a terrific place to own a country home.

4) It helps to have a rental car with Florida plates, because everyone automatically assumes you don't know the area and being a Floridian are more likely insane and not to be messed with.

5) We got to see a nice outdoor play depicting the plight of the Eastern Cherokees (nutshell--Trail of Tears?  No thanks, we'll just stay here, we're not fans of long walks!  Oh and Andrew Jackson sucks!), to get some culture and see some of my wife's roots on display.  Now, to even things up, I'll have to have her watch The Godfather.

6) Seeing that my father-in-law's housing situation is coming together and spending time with him on Father's Day made the trip a success, though it meant missing Father's Day with my own father.  However, I hear he got served surf-n'-turf at my sister's new place in Brooklyn, so I don't think he was complaining!

All in all, we hope to get down to those parts again soon for a longer visit.  And back to a rainy Monday!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Thoughts

1) I want to see a reality show called "Making Friends" where the contestants are judged at how well they can make friends with others.  Then when they interview the "sassy" contestant who says "hey, I'm not here to make friends!" the producer can point out that that's exactly what they're here to do.

2) If you watch enough comedies without laugh tracks, you start to find comedies with laugh tracks creepy.  Particularly when you realize that the laughter on the track was taken from recordings from the 1950s and much of that laughter comes from dead people.

3) It used to be impressive for someone to say they have seen every single episode of a particular TV series.  Now it just means they have a Netflix account and had a very rainy Sunday.

4) Every time there's been a scandal, the media adds "-gate" after the relevant word to compare it to Watergate ("Travelgate", "Irangate", "Whitewatergate").  Why don't they do this with other media narratives?  Any war that is starting to look like Vietnam could have "-nam" added after it.  I'm afraid Afghansitan-nam could be trouble for the president!

5) Whenever liberals or conservatives complain that "all the stupid people are voting for" the other party, it seems they're just jealous that they weren't able to trick the stupid people as well as the other side was.  Better luck next time, jerks!  Try to fit your philosophy more on a bumper sticker.

6) Yesterday I saw an "Obama '08" bumper sticker on a guy's car.  Hey buddy, they have new stickers out, you know!  Quit living in the past!

Apocalypse When

Viewing the extended version of "Apocalypse Now" has made one thing very clear--sometimes a director really needs arbitrary studio suits to force them to edit down a lot of their unnecessary scenes!  Well, that and I don't remember so much synthesizer music last time I saw the film.  It gives it the feel of a cheap '80s action film.

"Apocalypse" is certainly a great film, easily Francis Ford Coppola's third best, and one of the best films made about the Vietnam War (after "Full Metal Jacket").  It follows the story of Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), sent deep into the jungle via riverboat to find and "terminate the command" of a brilliant but insane Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando).  Along the way, they (Willard and the boat crew) encounter all sorts of horrors, from a wild tiger to a ferocious helicopter assault (led by Air Cavalry Colonel Kilgore, played by Robert Duvall in a scene stealing role) on an enemy-held village (which happens to also be a great place for surfing after the battle).  The journey culiminates in the loss of the whole crew, meeting Kurtz in his jungle empire (where the natives consider him a god) and ultimately the assassination. 

There were many notable bits of trivia about the film, including:

1) A small cameo with Harrison Ford, as the filming was done in 1976 but the movie was released in 1979, after he became famous as Han Solo;

2) The opening scene of Willard's drunken stumblings were actually ad libbed, as Sheen was quite drunk at the time and Coppola just filmed it;

3) The crew used extras and helicopters from the Phillippine government for filming, but that country was undergoing a war against its own rebels at the time and frequently had to take back some of the helicopters on loan;

4) One of the soldiers on Willard's boat is played by a 14 year old Laurence Fishburne.

The long version--which I'm only 2/3 of the way through by now--runs for over 3 hours, and I can understand why the studio insisted on cutting it down.  Among the scenes that could have been left out:

1) Kilgore flying over the boat, asking for his surfboard back.  In the edited version, it leaves Kilgore the way it found him, as a larger than life figure.  The added comedy of him trying to get his surfboard back should have been left on the floor.

2) A scene where the crew meets some French holdouts at a decayed plantation in the jungle, where they bury their dead.  It doesn't really add anything and breaks the flow of the film.

3) A scene where the crew finds a largely abandoned river base where the Playboy bunnies they saw earlier are staying, and the bunnies are pimped out to them in exchange for some fuel.  It seems odd that the no-nonsense Willard (who is so mission oriented he kills off a wounded peasant so it wouldnt' slow him down to get her to help) would trade necessary fuel so the crew could get some quickie sex.  It just seemed unnecessarily unpleasant.

Of course, there's still another hour to go in this film, so there may be more new scenes that might or might not be a benefit to the film as a whole.  But the extra length itself--as well as that the extra scenes dont' do much to flesh out the characters or story--already makes me prefer the shorter, theatrical release.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The N Word Returns, In New, Horrible Forms!

Another day, another writer agonizing over whether it's okay for white people to use the "n" word or some sanitized corruption of the "n" word.  The latest imbroglio has to do with a certain wormhole of suck, also known to the world as Gwyneth Paltrow ("GP", because I don't like writing "Gwyneth" more than I have to) came onstage at a Jay-Z concert in Paris, and alluded to a rap song by tweeting "ni**as in paris for real".  A few points, to save us all some time:

1) If Jay-Z had any street cred left after naming his daughter "Blue Ivy", he lost it all by letting the whitest person this side of Donny Osmond dancing to Pat Boone get on stage with him.  If Jay-Z isn't relegated to ridicule for this, then the world owes Nelly an apology for his duet with Tim McGraw.

2) Much as I think GP is the embodiment of everything that's wrong about pretentious, entitled and absolutely horrible people who harm the world with every day they continue to breathe, I really doubt she's a conscious racist.  If GP truly hates and despises black people, I'm sure she has enough brains to keep it quiet.  (Though not enough brains to turn down the script for "Country Strong", so who knows).

3) Rappers--if you don't want white people using the "n" word, here's a genius idea for you--stop using the "n" word.  It's well known that the majority of your fans are white people trying to get street cred!  They obviously will emulate you to try and get some of that sweet, sweet cred, and this means if you keep using the "n" word, they will too. 

4) Of course, if it's not the word itself that bothers you, and you care only about the context, then carry on.  I doubt white wannabes are shouting the "n" word at rap concerts in the hope of starting a race war in which they'll be the very first casualties.

5) Seriously, I still can't get over Jay-Z bringing Paltrow up on the stage.  What, was the rapping granny from "Wedding Singer" not available?

First, They Came for the Homebrewers....

You know what really knits my yarn?  Homebrew festivals that aren't allowed to actually serve home brewed beer.  As far as I can tell this would be the equivalent of a music festival where the musicians aren't allowed to actually play music.  While this would undoubtedly be an improvement for festivals like Lilith Fair, I would be pretty pissed if I paid good money to attend a fair based around a single purpose and then was denied that very purpose. 

And what in hell does anyone want with a homebrew festival where you can't even try the beer?  How much of a beer nerd do you have to be to stand around, talk to home brewers, look at photos of the beer they make and sniff some hops samples, all to just go home completely sober?

The issue here of course is that the state (in this case, Missouri, also known as the Busch State) will not allow unlicensed brewers to provide the beer at a festival that people pay to get into.  Why, that would be a loophole in the draconian scheme of alchohol licensing!  Egads! 

Now, I'm sure some defender of strict booze licensing regimes would say something about "controlling inebriation" and "protecting the interests of established brewers" and "learning to have fun without getting trashed."  But somehow their words all sound like "dictatorship of the proletariat" and "control the means of production" and "we must trade our freedoms for greater security" and "this Five Year Plan will be a Great Leap Forward" and other commie pinko junk.  Sorry pal, even the Russians prefer their current kleptocracy over Leninism, and the Chinese only use the word "Communist" ironically these days. 

There's nothing wrong with some alchohol regulation--obviously, we should have a drinking age (I think 10 years of age is appropriate) and the inebriated should be prohibited from driving, operating surgical equipment, and hunting unless they really, really will never get that close to an elk again.  And producers of alchohol should be inspected regularly to make sure they're not producing poison or Pabst Blue Ribbon.  But the current state of affairs is a little too Nanny-State for my taste, and it makes no sense for a state like Missouri that is one of the biggest beer producers in the world to not grant a provisional license to home brewers to serve beer at their own festival.

Monday, June 11, 2012

There's Just Not Enough Snake Movies Out There

I wasn't allowed to watch "The A-Team" as a child because my father was afraid we'd catch second-hand stupid, although we may have been exposed to plenty of stupid as we watched "Diff'rent Strokes" every Saturday night.  Had we been watching "The A-Team", we would have been exposed to the acting talents of one Dirk Benedict.

Which brings me to last night's feature--the 1973 film starring a young Dirk Benedict, about a man being turned into a snake, called "S-s-s-s-s."  (I may have left out a couple "ses".  Also, I now see that there's no good way to write "s" in plural).  It also featured Strother Martin, famous for his "Cool Hand Luke" heavy who says "what we have here is a failure to communicate!"  By the time of "S-s-s-s" came out, Martin was in the sad "please pay me something, I have a family to support" phase of his career.  Dirk Benedict was still in his "someday I hope to be upstaged by Mr. T" phase of his career.

What the film lacked in sensible plot developments, it made up for in using many real (and venemous!) snakes.  Warning, don't watch this film if you can't stand a King Cobra in its full glory!  The cobra basically says "yeah I'm a cobra, go make me a sandwich" and I have to say, he's so compelling I was reaching for the rye and corned beef before I had to tell myself it's just a movie.  Apparently the only fake snake used in the movie was for a cut where Martin's character (the hilariously named "Dr. Stoner") grabs the King Cobra by the head.  Good use for the fake snake--otherwise, the actor might have died and never gone on to play Tommy Chong's father in "Up in Smoke".

The film also featured--death by boa constrictor, death by cobra bite, death by mamba bite, and a great cobra vs. mongoose battle which makes me think "mongoose" is just way too cool a name for what looks like a weasel.  There is also a completely gratuitous skinny dipping scene, which apparently the censors (to avoid the R rating) had to edit by adding some hilariously out-of-place superimposed plant leaves over the actors' naughty bits when it would have made more sense to cut the scene entirely.

What was the overall lesson of the film?  It's this--next time you're in a crazy snake-doctor's lab, and he tells you he's going to inject you with serums to make you safe from snakebites, and you find yourself gradually turning into a snake yourself, fire your agent.

Friday, June 8, 2012

More on (Moron?) Celebrity Endorsements

Conservatives decrying President Obama for hosting lavish Hollywood celebrity fundraisers isn't something new, nor is it surprising that they seem unbothered when their guy parades around with Ted Nugent or Donald Trump.  What still puzzles me is why any campaign would think having Sarah Jessica Parker endorse you would be a net positive.  (And I'm not just saying this because Parker has a face that looks like someone was trying to put out a grease fire with a hammer.  Charlize Theron's endorsement should mean just as little). 

I get the star power of a fundraising event--at least when the celebrity is going to do some sort of performance (some comedy, or a song).  A lot of people want to see Elton John sing, or (for some reason) Robin Williams tell jokes.  And a performance like that makes an expensive ticket easier to justify, so it's not all "I just blew $10K in order to eat overcooked chicken and hear Obama say the same thing he just said on CNN."  Actors or other famous people?  Doesn't really make much sense!

And the "endorsement" itself--the "I am [insert vapid celebrity moron with no expertise in any matter other than looking decent for a camera or being foisted on the world as part of some evil plot like Sarah Jessica Parker], and I think [insert awful political figure who may or may not be less awful than their awful opponent] is doing a super job!  I will vote for him [or her, but let's face it, it'll usually be him] this November!"  How on earth does that sway a single voter?

Trying to think about celebrities I genuinely appreciate for their talents--the Rolling Stones, Robert De Niro, the guys behind South Park--there are certain things I would actually be interested in knowing their opinions about.  Mick Jagger's opinion about early blues music, or the actor(s) that most inspired De Niro, or what comedies Matt and Trey enjoy most when they're not making their own--that's where they have something more to contribute than the average jerk on the street.  But I can't imagine giving any weight to their thoughts on the issues of the day, or whether Hoped and Changed should be elected over Wash, Rinse and Repeat.

Friday Thoughts

1) When you call a customer help line and the automated voice points out that you can find helpful information on their website.  Really?  I never thought of checking the website for my info first!  Even though I got the damn phone number from the website in the first place.

2) Whenever someone comes out as gay it's a big moment in their life.  Family and friends (if they're nice) can be supportive and affirming.  I think it'd be neat if people came out with their political affiliation, so we'd have a chance to say "I always had you pegged for a Republican" or "we still love you even though you're a Democrat.  It's something we'll learn to live with."

3) Archaeologists thousands of years from now will unearth the lyrics to Elton John's "Levon" and they will assume that the reason the song makes no sense to them is due to a translation error or a lot of missing words.  Little will they know the song made no sense in the '70s either.

4) If you pick up a hitchhiker and you don't plan to murder them, is it a good idea to state that explicitly?  The benefit is then they can rest easy, knowing you won't be killing them.  But the downside is they might think you're trying to lull them into a false sense of security.

5) If I were the publisher of "Guns and Ammo" magazine, I'd start dedicating a page or two to printing poems by aspiring poets who'll be happy to see their work published somewhere.  This way when they make it big and publish a book of their works, it'll be worth it just to see "first published in Guns and Ammo, 2012" in the table of contents.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

D-Day Plus One

With yesterday being the 68th anniversary of the D-Day landings, today marks the 68th anniversary of the moment when Hitler said "well, I'm screwed--might as well live in a bunker, get married, and kill myself".  But no D-Day commemoriation would be complete without the usual armchair historian argument about whether the Allied landings were a key turning point in the war, or whether the Soviets were basically winning it anyway and we just delivered the coup de grace.

Let's solve this now, history nerds!  First, it's true that the Germans had most of their efforts and casualties focused on the eastern front, and we benefitted greatly from the Soviet sacrifices.  However, the Soviets benefitted a great deal from Allied efforts, including (1) the strategic bombing campaign over Germany that diverted Luftwaffe forces to home defense and stemmed German war production, (2) direct aid shipped to Russia for their own war effort, and (3) the North African, Italian, and ultimately French fronts that diverted millions of German forces away from the East.  Had it not been for the Allied aid, the USSR might not have survived, or at the very least the victory would have been delayed long enough for the Germans to perfect rockets, jet aircraft, superior tanks (the Tiger and Panther), and who knows what else.  The anti-Nazi coalition needed every one of its parts.

(While the Russian people certainly sacrificed and deserve credit for stopping the Germans, Stalin deserves not one shred of anything but putrid dog leavings.  He's the sneaky bastard that cut a secret deal with Hitler carving up Poland in the first place, giving the Nazis the chance to overrun the rest of Europe.  Historical lesson--if you're a paranoid nut, and you decide maybe it's time to start trusting people, don't make the very first person you trust in your life be Hitler.)

That said, D-Day was one of the key turning points in the European war (along with the Battle for Moscow, Stalingrad, and the Battle of Britain).  Had the Allies failed--if the Germans had put enough forces in Normandy to drive them off the beaches--this would likely have delayed a landing in Western Europe for another year, with severe long term consequences (Soviets taking all of Europe?  Germany making better superweapons?  A separate peace?).  And for all the meticulous planning of the generals, it came down to the bravery and toil of the thousands of ground troops that rushed the beaches in the face of gunfire.  Even if Hitler was "almost finished" by 1944, it doesn't make a difference to a guy dodging bullets and wading through surf.  Their sacrifices ultimately made the world a better place.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I Recall Another Recall

With the news that yesterday's recall election in Wisconsin resulted in a total failure to remove Governor Scott Walker from office, there has been much beating of chests and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.  I didn't follow the recall campaign too closely, but as far as I could tell the basis for the recall was (a) Governor tries to defy the all-powerful unions, and (b) UNIONS SMASH! 

Basically, my bias is usually against the monstrosity that modern organized labor has become, but that's an issue for another day--the real problem with this recall as I see it is that the Governor hasn't been accused of anything more than passing policies that are extremely unpopular among the folks that want him out.  In that sense, it is no different from the ridiculous (yet successful) California recall of Governor Gray Davis in 2003.  In other words, political opponents simply wanting a mulligan for an election that didn't go their way a few years earlier. 

To the extent that a state should have a way to "recall" their elected officials, it really should only be limited to cases where the official has committed some crime or abuse of power or other act so egregious that it would offend justice and harm the state to keep them in office.  (Or if they're in a coma or something, and the state constitution doesn't otherwise allow their replacement)  Otherwise, what sort of precedent does this set?  Every time you can get enough petition signatures, force another recall election to shorten a Governor's term?

So fortunately the message Wisconsin's voters sent to the recallers was this--thanks for wasting everyone's time, but next time save the recall for something major.  You'll get your next crack at Walker in two years.  That's how elections work.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Celebrity Endorsement Fever

Because I'm a complete idiot, I always vote for a political candidate based on which famous celebrity supports that candidate.  How else to explain why Barack Obama courts the support of Lady Gaga or Mitt Romney cherishes the approval of Patricia Heaton? 

I do sort of get the point of having the celebrity headline your fundraisers and rallies--lots of shallow empty people would be more likely to go hear a candidate speak (and pay $1000 for a cheap chicken dinner) if it means also hearing Bruce Springsteen perform or Louis CK tell some jokes.  But the public endorsement itself--that's the gold standard of politics!  If the Dixie Chicks think my candidate is terrific, then how can I differ with that?

Of course, where it gets complicated is when you like two different celebrities, and yet they're each endorsing different candidates.  Whom to choose?  I can't do all this opinionating by myself!  Guide me, George Clooney!  Use your powerful sense of smug to show the way through the fog!

Generally speaking, the famous professional athletes seem to endorse the Republicans, and musicians (except for country musicians and Ted Nugent) tend to go Democrat.  (Though I think Democrats secretly wish Kanye West were a Republican)  Actors generally tend Democrat, except for Stallone, Schwartzenegger and Bruce Willis, as do comedians, except for Drew Carey (a former Marine).  This tells me that if celebrities teamed up by political affiliation in a Battle Royale, the Republicans would win easy.  Toby Keith (a Democrat) would likely hold his own, but with Margaret Cho and Robin Williams having his back, it would only be a matter of time before Republican Don King gunned them all down.  (King does actually have a record)

Still, I can't make up my mind until I hear which way Liam Neeson is going on this one.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Scooby-Do It!

As I child, I really enjoyed one thing in particular--apple juice.  What's that all about?  I can't even drink the stuff these days without wincing, it is such tasteless crap--and this from a guy who enjoys apple cider, apple pie, and on occasion apples. 

But the other thing I really enjoyed in my youth was the original Hanna Barbera show, "Scooby Doo Where Are You?", featuring Fred (the bland handsome guy), Daphne (the bland pretty girl), Velma (the smart girl, because she has glasses!), Shaggy (the easily frightened drug addict) and of course, Scooby (a giant, easily frightened dog that speaks in a weird half-English patois).  Watching the program again in my late 30s, I have the following observations:

1) Why is Scooby always scared of everything?  He is a GIANT DOG.  If he started going all dog-crazy, he could tear up a room full of bikers.  He's really the size of a bear.

2) The Scooby universe is actually quite depressing, in that every episode features some scene of economic ruin.  Abandoned fun parks, abandoned mansions, abandoned shipyards . . . basically, this show foresaw 2012 Detroit!

3) Here's a good idea--next time something mysterious and potentially dangerous is afoot, split into two groups--one group being the three semi-competent people, and the other group being the cowardly drug addict and the easily frightened dog.

4) The ghost (or other scary-apparition) always turns out to be the one new person that the gang meets at the beginning of the episode.  After hundreds of adventures, you'd think they'd just call the cops the minute they meet that old guy who runs the gas station, or the old lady who is the caretaker of the mansion, or the businessman who gives them directions from the highway.  It would save time!

5) In the second season, the show for some reason starts injecting musical numbers (basically, late '60s bubblegum music) during the chase scene.  And the music has nothing to do with chasing or being chased by ghosts--the lyrics are things like "all you need is to be a friend" and "love the world" and stuff like that.  It's almost Tarantino-esque.

6) Fun fact--the actual name "Scooby Doo" was added at the last minute by a TV executive, and came from the Sinatra song "Strangers in the Night"--near the end of that song, Sinatra scats "scooby doo be doo, doo doo doo doo....".

Friday, June 1, 2012

Big Studios, Big Losses

Tinseltown is a well-known cesspool of crap, and this isn't likely to change so long as the economics of moviemaking favor the peddling of trash.  After all, why bother shopping around for a good script if you'll make a lot more money putting in explosions, a famous (if expensive) star, and a really catchy trailer?  If I were a Hollywood moneyman I'd act no different.  And if you think otherwise, then I'll assume you admonish your investment advisor when they try and get you to buy stocks in profitable companies rather than companies that are riskier but do good things.

So the string of expensive bombs set off this year so far ("John Carter", "Battleship", etc.) is music to my ears.  Not so much because the studios are taking a bath on this crap--while I couldn't care less if some creep producer or Tom Cruise have to buy a slightly less expensive rocket yacht this year, I know that a failing studio means more laid off minions (best boys, gaffers, set crew).  But this is a good thing because it breaks the old blockbuster formula.  The current formula is:

1) Rely on overseas audiences.  Foreign moviegoers are great for Hollywood--they're sort of like insurance so that movies that bomb in the States can still make up the rest in countries where they just like the explosions and scantily clad ladies.  This can't work forever though because eventually foreigners will get some good taste.

2) Release on as many screens as possible right away.  This ensures that as many people as possible have seen the film before anyone can hear by word of mouth how bad the film was.  But enough people burned by dropping $20 on a ticket and popcorn only to see the cinematic equivalent of "Roller Boogie" but with explosions (which actually would have improved "Roller Boogie", but I digress) will decide to wait until a film has been out a few weeks and they've read the reviews or heard what their friends said before seeing it.

3) Mass promotions and advertising blitzes.  These are annoying of course, but they do work.  Suddenly you're asking yourself why you and no one else would be missing this film event.

4) Bankable stars.  I don't really know why this works--wouldn't a movie with a talented, attractive cast that you don't recognize be just as entertaining as a movie with a talented, attractive cast that you do recognize?  Plus, we all know enough acclaimed actors and directors who have had some serious bombs.  Trust nothing!

5) Explosions, T&A, fast vehicles, catchphrases, and special effects.  Okay, these are all pretty awesome!  But then, every single high budget film these days can put these in, easily.  Why not hold out for a film that has all these things, plus a good story?

Hopefully, the losses will be enough to make the big studios change course.  The only influence we have over them is our willingness to pay for it.