Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Classic Victor: J'accuse!: The Ending of "The Scout"

Things are a little slow at the office so I figured it was a good time to introduce the new "Classic Victor" segment here on the blog. Basically every once in a while I will be featuring (rerunning) a vintage article from my primary blog "Victor Sells Out" with a similar "Outrage" bent for all you current readers to enjoy.

Since we are coming up on the one year anniversary of former Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga's infamous near perfect game, I chose today's inaugural edition of "Classic Victor" from June 3, 2010 which concerns my brief thoughts on that game and my objections to the even more imperfect ending of a certain mediocre Albert Brooks comedy (but really aren't they all?):

Purely obligatory (and frankly unnecessary) "spoiler alert": For all those people who have "watch the 1994 Albert Brooks/Brendan Fraser baseball comedy 'The Scout'" on their bucket lists, perhaps you should sit this post out (and seriously question why you have this on your bucket list). For everyone else on the fence, I just want to note that it's a pretty shitty ending anyway (hence the blog post) so you're really not missing out on much by having it "spoiled".

Obviously the biggest story in baseball right now is unfortunate Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga losing his historic perfect game bid yesterday due to an unambiguously blown call by the first base umpire (boy did Griffey really pick the wrong night to retire). This would have been the 21st perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball, the 3rd in the last 25 days, and the 2nd in 4 days. Try as I might at this time I still cannot muster the proper perspective yet to truly appreciate the fantastic odds of having two (almost three) perfect games, a confluence of circumstances so rare that in the hundreds of thousands of games of baseball played in the past 130 plus years it has only happened 20 times, in such a brief span of time.

This ludicrous rash of recent perfect games also reminded reminded me of the above pictured mediocre mid-90s baseball movie: "The Scout". As a kid, I actually liked "The Scout", it didn't reach the upper tier heights of 90's kid baseball fantasies like "Rookie of the Year" or "Angels in the Outfield" but I found it most definitely watchable. Brenden Fraser's usual affable mimbo charm, Albert Brooks playing the same self-obsessed, neurotic, poor-man's Woody Allen character he's played for the last 30 years, the multiple Oscar winning talents of the inexplicably present Diane Wiest, the ass load of baseball player cameos; all these combined to at least create something one wouldn't mind watching for an hour and a half. I'd say it's somewhere below "Mr. Baseball" and above watching 3 half hour episodes of "Arli$$" which sort of follows this formula (replacing Brooks for the even lower quality Robert Wuhl, but upgrading Wiest with the foxy Sandra Oh).

The thing about "The Scout" however is that the more one follows and learns about real-life baseball, the more insultingly ridiculous the movie becomes. Obviously sports movies are given some degree of artistic license and the classic kids baseball movie get a free pass because they're obviously for kids (although "Little Big League" comes off looking like Ken Burns' "Baseball" when compared to "The Scout"), but often a movie like "The Scout" stretches the bounds of plausibly to the point where you wonder why they even went through the trouble of incorporating real sports teams and players and setting it in our universe. I could probably write an even longer, more detailed "J'accuse" about the entire movie but it's really the ending which provides a brilliantly ridiculous climax built upon a mountain of flimsiness.

Unfortunately no clips outside of the trailer exist for the film, a testiment to either it's forgettable mediocrity or Twentieth Century Fox's skills at downplaying their film mistakes. We'll have to rely on my descriptions based on my memories built over many a repeat watchings of it on Comedy Central. To quickly summarize the film, Albert Brooks plays the titular baseball scout for the Yankees who after his latest can't miss prospect spectacularly washes out in his debut, is fired and ends up in some far off amateur baseball league in Mexico. It is there that he find Brendan Fraser, who is essentially an invisible baseball dominating robot who literally strikes everybody out with his consistent 100+ mph pitches and also homers in every at bat (I mean he's obviously supposed to be really good, but he borders on the absurdly superhuman). Of course there's a slight catch, apparently Brendan Fraser's character has some deep mental issues, I think some childhood abuse trauma (they really do a poor job of explaining it) that psychologist Dianne Wiest is hired to help with but really does nothing throughout the film aside from looking concerned.

In the movie's second most ridiculous sequence, Albert Brooks bring Fraser to America where he (as an unemployed, failed scout) manages to set up an individual tryout for Fraser in Yankee Stadium with with every MLB GM showing up to evaluate and eventually bid on this nobody from Mexico with absolutely no known past. In addition, he gets Keith Hernandez and Brett Saberhagen for him to strike out and hit towering homers against respectively. Somehow striking out a 41-year old Keith Hernandez who had been retired for 4 years at the time and hitting dingers off Brett Saberhagen, coming off his infamous "spraying bleach at reporters" season with the 103 loss Mets (in an even year no less!), impresses the GMs so much that they erupt in a huge bidding war. The Yankees end up winning by giving Fraser the biggest contract in baseball history (by far the most accurate part of the film) with the crazy stipulation that he will start the first game of the World Series if the Yankee make it.

Against all odds, the pre-dynasty era Yankees make it to the Fall Classic (mildly unbelievable at the time) against the Cardinals and Fraser is called in to pitch (which I'm sure to the resentment and disdain of no one on the team). Fraser's ambiguous mental demons initially prevent him from starting but eventually after a heart-to-heart with Brooks he makes his debut and pitches THE MOST RIDICULOUS BASEBALL GAME EVER!

Now there have been perfect games (even one in the World Series), there have been 20 strike out games, and pitchers occasionally hit home runs. Given all the scenes of Frasor's dominant baseball skills and the events that transpired in the film already I would not have found it too unbelievable that he does all those things in the game; which he does. What really breaks the camels back, obliterates the camels back, grinds the remains of the camel into a fine mist of bone and tissue, is the manner in which he does it. In addition to providing the only 2 runs of the game on a home run, he throws a perfect game by striking out all 27 batter on 81 consecutive strikes. So he never threw a ball and no one even managed to make contact with a pitch. He essentially obsoletes the game of baseball. In addition why didn't the writers just made him pitch to himself? Or have him strike out three people in succession with one slow pitch as well? Or catch a home run by following it to the top of the Empire State Building and throwing his glove in the air? All these options are just as cartoonish and impossible as this perfect perfect game he just threw.

As if the whole thing wasn't already enough of a farce, the film manages to somehow outdo itself once again by dementedly trying to instill suspense and tension in the last at-bat against the dangerous...Ozzie Smith ("Go crazy, folks!"). The same Ozzie Smith who was elected to the Hall of Fame overwhelmingly on the strength of his defense. The same Ozzie Smith who had 28 career home runs. The same Ozzie Smith with a career .262 batting average. The same Ozzie Smith who was 39 at the time and in the twilight of his career. He was a bigger threat to break up the perfect game with a bunt single than with anything else. I understand that the mid-90s Cardinals weren't exactly stacked with mashers but the producers really couldn't have gotten a slightly more plausible hitting threat ("Hard Hittin'" Mark Whiten? Ray Lankford? Todd Zeile?)?

You would think that director Michael Ritchie who also directed the "The Bad News Bears", a classic baseball movie with a notably unconventional ending, would have objected to such a ridiculously contrived conclusion. Maybe the ending was intentional, like some high-concept, absurdist, take on the typical Hollywood happy endings of sports movies that subversively mocked the concept by taking it to its grotesque extreme. Or maybe Jason Donald really did beat the throw. For a completely implausible sports movie ending that somehow manages to outdo an already implausible sports movie, all I can say is: "J'accuse!"

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Revolution Will Be Live

As Dan noted in the previous post, last Friday saw they passing of one of music's greatest voices, the legendary Gil Scott-Heron. For anyone following his later career, his death wasn't entirely unexpected, but was nevertheless tragic, particularly given the quality of his recent work. As with the death of any great artist, it at least offers the world an excuse to go back and enjoy their body of work yet again, and gives some that might be unfamiliar with that work an chance to discover it for the first time. Though going through the countless articles that have been written since Friday, it's been driving me nuts how consistently misrepresented the man and his work continues to be. There have been, to be sure, many thoughtful and well-written articles, but without fail, almost all of them fall back on this idea that he's "the godfather rap" or that his greatest significance was his influence on the development of hip-hop, a fact which is largely untrue, and which, more importantly, undermines what actually made the man great.

Now, in spite of my overwhelming whiteness and lameness, I've been a fan of hip-hop since an early age when I would naively listen to Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube records that I barely understood, and I believe that the development of the art of rap was indeed one of the greatest artistic achievements of the last 40 years. So it certainly makes sense for a journalist to want to honor that. It also makes sense for a journalist eulogizing an artist that's largely unknown to the record-buying public to frame it in terms of music they do know and understand.

Though hip-hop had countless artists from James Brown to Kraftwerk laying the foundation, it's pretty much accepted that the form that we've come to know as rap was largely created by DJ Kool Herc and popularized in the early days by artists like Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and The Sugarhill Gang. While there's no doubt that many rappers were clearly inspired by the poetry and music of Gil Scott-Heron, it was certainly not the only area in which his work had a great influence, and it diminishes the work itself to suggest that it's greatest importance was to inspire later artists that sold a lot more albums than he did.

Furthermore, the whole "godfather of rap" label was something about which GSH himself was, at best, ambivalent, and that he mostly rejected. While he respected many in the hip-hop community and obviously had no problem with his music being sampled by scores of rappers (he even used a Kanye sample himself on his last album), he disagreed strongly with the politics (or lack thereof) in the vast majority mainstream rap lyrics. If you're wondering what "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" means, look no further than an episode of 106 & Park.

Listening to a song like "The Bottle", it obviously bares strong resemblance to Grandmaster Flash songs like "White Lines" and "The Message", but it also stands out as a great funk record, a great soul record, and a great jazz record. Conversely, Scott-Heron's spoken word material often has the rhythm and catchiness a pop song. It's not surprising that when James Murphy is rattling off his list of underappreciated record store geek icons, he reserves his loudest shout out for GSH. The guy was always pushing the boundaries of whatever medium he was in, and even while struggling with drug addiction and HIV, he continued putting out solid albums that are fresher-sounding than most of what get's made by artists 30 years his junior. It's amazing for any musician to put out decent material after this many years, but the fact that he actually put out one of his best albums the year before his death at 60-years-old is fucking incredible. Instead of putting out some lame retread of the message-heavy soul music that made him popular, he channeled his personal frustrations into the darkest, grittiest, most sinister trip hop this side of Manchester, and created a style of electro blues that's entirely his own.

Gil Scott Heron was nothing short of a genius, and it's not surprising that his work has inspired some of the most popular and talented artists that came after him. He was a man with a lot to say, and an uncanny talent for expressing it. So in honoring him, I can't think of anything more appropriate than to just let the work speak for itself.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

R.I.P. Gil Scott Heron

Gil Scott Heron, one of the many pioneers of artistic outrage - note: we strive for, and do not achieve, that kind of outrage on this site - passed away Friday night at the not-that-old age of 62. He will be missed. I'm in no position to write a full piece about the guy, but I will leave you with this, which is my favorite song of his:

Rest In Peace, Gil.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Feel the Outrage...Oh Yeah!

Sitting currently at my desk, I realize that I am in almost exactly the same time and place I was last week when I got the unfortunate news that "Macho Man" Randy Savage had suddenly passed away in a car accident. One of my immediate thoughts after the shock and sadness was what a terrible shame it was that the Macho Man never lived to be enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame. Now after a week of time and reflection my initial thoughts about Macho Man and the Hall have changed: it is a completely egregiousness, absolutely indefensible, totally outrageous, beyond terrible shame that the Macho Man never lived to be enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame!

I do understand that considering the WWE Hall of Fame as a real sports hall of fame is as inaccurate as considering professional wrestling as a real sport. Pro wrestling defines itself as "sports entertainment" and really that's what the HOF is: entertainment. The HOF has only been around since 1993, when it was created solely to recognize the recent death of André the Giant. It was suspended from 1996 until 2004 when it was brought back to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of Wrestlemania I. Since then it has essentially served as a fun little ceremony before Wrestlemanias (and some extra content to pack into the DVDs). The unknown "voting process" probably just consists of Vince McMahon writing out a list of wrestlers he likes and are available. Finally there aren't any busts or plaques or even an actual building to visit.

Given how hollow and insubstantial the WWE HOF is, it would seem excessively petty to be so indignant about the long time exclusion of the Macho Man; even more so since he has made other more legitimate wrestling HOFs (Professional Wrestling HOF, Wrestling Observer HOF). However, while the WWE HOF is indeed a total gimmick, all of pro wrestling is a gimmick. If you're going to do a scripted punch or a body slam or a double axe handle off the top rope that looks as devastating and as painful as a legitimate assault you have to sell it. If you're going to have a scripted HOF that is a sort of simulacrum of a legitimate sports HOF you have to sell that too. The fans know it's "fake", they accept it as part of the entertainment and suspend disbelief. However the fans are not going to indulge in outright fantasy. If a particularly poor wrestler fails in making any of his actions or reactions believable during a match, the fans will call them out on it. If the WWE HOF starts making selections or in this case omissions, that fail to be believable, the fans will call them out on it too.

The fact that someone with the Macho Man's impressive WWE credentials as an all time fan favorite, iconoclast, excellent wrestler (his Wrestlemania III match with Ricky Steamboat is still considered one of the greatest professional wrestling matches ever), and champion (2-time WWF Champion, 1-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, 1987 King of the Ring) has not been enshrined as soon as he retired from full time wrestling goes beyond acceptability. Supposedly there has been talk that a posthumous induction for the Macho Man is in the works for 2012, bittersweet consolation I suppose; until then though the WWE HOF can't put itself out as even a "fake" Hall of Fame if it's going to continue this ridiculous denial of a first ballot figure like the Macho Man.

Oh and seriously, what the hell is Drew Carey doing in there?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

dANieL tOsH iZ tOtEz a fAg. LoLZ.

If you were to ask any reasonably well-adjusted TV viewer what the most popular show on Comedy Central is, they'd probably tell you it's The Daily Show or South Park or at least some other show that's actually funny (assuming they care about TV or humor or any of the other reasons I get up in the morning). But they would be wrong. In fact, the network's biggest hit since Dave Chappelle went off the reservation is none other than Daniel Tosh's Soup-style send-up of internet video culture, Tosh.0.

I should first point out that The Soup (along with it's forerunner, Talk Soup) is one of my favorite shows. It shines a light on the grotesque and hilarious underbelly of American TV, and it does so with a wink and a smile (full disclosure: there's probably at least a 60 percent chance I would go gay for Joel McHale). But whereas the editors at The Soup dig through countless hours of trash TV to pick the choice moments of profound awfulness that would otherwise go unwatched by those of us who don't make it a point to DVR all 6 Real Housewives series; Tosh.0 is essentially doing something that Youtube, as well as numerous aggregator sites, already does. If you want to see countless videos of people humiliating themselves, why the hell would you turn on your TV? Moreover, if you need snarky commentary to make Antoine Dodson and the Star Wars kid funny, then what are you doing watching this stuff in the first place? And c'mon, it's not 2008 anymore folks. I am no longer amused by guerilla videos of rednecks injuring themselves - it's shamelessly overproduced teen talent videos or nothing.

I suppose the show is a testament to the infinite laziness of the American public that they need TV to dictate their internet memes for them, but I have to assume that, given the redundancy of its premise, the primary draw of the show is actually Tosh himself. His standup special on Comedy Central posted huge ratings, and the guy is supposedly the biggest thing on college campuses since date rape. As a comedian, Tosh isn't altogether bad. He seems almost intelligent (I once saw a standup bit where he made reference to the Kite Runner). He possesses neither the toolishness of a Dane Cook, nor the relentless hackishness of a Carlos Mencia. The jokes on his show run the gamut from benignly obvious to pointlessly offensive, but what the show lacks in quality of writing it tries to make up for in sheer volume of material. Tosh delivers his jokes so fast that by the time you realize that you just chuckled at some joke that essentially amounts to "people in the South are dumb" or "women can't drive", he's already moved on to the next one.

Though my problem with Tosh is not that he's not funny (though he isn't). It's that he's just a dick. He's like an edgier version of Tucker Max. In case you can't pick up on the subtext of his humor, he's awesome and has slept with many women (and bitches need to get in the kitchen and every racial stereotype you've ever heard is true). Also, like a bratty kid, Tosh is obsessed this idea that he's being censored, and that he's always crossing the line and getting away with it. He constantly makes jokes about what Comedy Central will and will not let him get away with. He has a whole bit in his standup special about how much he loves to curse with the caveat that Comedy Central won't allow it - a joke that I assume will be included, with all f-bombs in tact, in the unedited version that Comedy Central will gladly air at 11pm on a Friday. I mean, this is the 21st fucking century. It's the age of HBO and FunnyorDie. The Simpsons is on its 22nd season and South Park is on its 15th (damn I feel old). If he wanted to push some boundaries, he should have been born a couple decades earlier.

You could argue that his schtick is not much different from Stephen Colbert or Sarah Silverman - he has an inflated ego and says politically incorrect things to elicit laughs. But half the humor of Colbert's character is his blissful lack of self-awareness that anybody would be offended by what he says, and when Sarah Silverman makes some egregiously offensive joke, she's mostly just taking a shot at her overeducated, liberal audience. When asked about this, Tosh maintains that he's not a racist, misogynist, homophobe, and that his jokes are just jokes. But the assumption of Tosh's humor is pretty much that it's funny cause it's true (I mean, the guy is riffing on Youtube videos), and while I love any humor that affronts uptight people's sense of moral decency, I have very little faith in his audience to understand the distinction.

Indeed the reason he's so popular is probably just that he's pointing out all the terrible things that his audience thinks but feels uncomfortable saying (the foundation of all great standup). But the difference between Tosh and, say, George Carlin or Louis CK, is that instead of using standup comedy as a vehicle for pointing out the hypocrisy and absurdity of society, he uses it to remind people how fucking terrible they are as human beings, because, well, he's just as shallow and spiteful as the rest of you assholes. He's the collective voice of a million 4chan trolls, locked in their basement, pissed off at society just for existing - like a schoolyard bully that just takes potshots at the kids he knows nobody is gonna stick up for - but don't worry, he doesn't actually believe any of the things he says, so it's cool.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Truly Under-Appreciated Video of the Week

The first time I heard "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" was on the way home from a Phillies game with my dad, either last summer or the one before. The song was one of many on a mix CD handed out at the funeral of one of my father's former coworkers a year or two before that was loaded with his favorite songs. The version on the CD was recorded by the Del McCoury Band, who, never having heard the song before, we assumed had also written it. After a little research when we got home, we quickly figured out that the song was written by Richard Thompson. Shortly thereafter my father sent me a link to the above version, which is my favorite, though the Del McCoury band certainly does it justice. (The song, which is a Bluegrass staple, has also been notably covered by the band Reckless Kelly.)

As I stated a couple days ago, I'm a fan of redheads, so when I heard one of the opening lines of the song, "And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems.  Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme." I was hooked. The song goes on to tell the story of two young lovers, James Adie and "Red" Molly, and the badass motorcycle that brought them together, a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.

As Molly said to James in the opening line of the song, that is a fine motorbike. I can see why James, by his own admission, robbed many a man to get it. And it's also damn fine song. Originally released on the album "Rumor and Sigh" in 1991, one would have to assume this is one of the first times Thompson tested it on a live audience. Not surprisingly, it went over pretty well.  It's a damn shame it's only been viewed 37,000+ times.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Club Soda Update

As I mentioned previously, I am experimenting with sobriety this year and in place of booze, I have taken up a moderate club soda habit. Now that I’ve listed my complaints about what appears to be a New York City wide policy on the service of this refreshing carbonated beverage I’ve decided to start tracking the bars that do the right thing when it comes to club soda service. Namely, offer it free of charge. I may be sober, but almost all of my friends are unapologetic boozehounds and because this, I go to bars just about every weekend. From now on I will keep a meticulous record of each bars club soda policy and at the end of each month, I’ll report my findings here. I’ll track the how much each bar charges for a glass, if free refills are offered, the size of the drinking vessel offered, and what sort of accoutrements are served with the beverage. I hope to have a definitive list by years end.

What is my nefarious plan to do with all this information? Obviously, I’m not just doing this for my own reference. I plan on aggressively marketing this to my two most beloved subsets of the human population; pregnant chicks and members of AA! Teetotalers of all shades probably have to go to bars once in a while in their lives, so there has to be a market of some kind for this stuff, right? I’d like nothing more than to be the hero to the unwashed pregnant and sober masses. Anyway, I just developed this idea fully this afternoon so my first report will be pretty sparse, expect a much more detailed report next month.

Bars that offer club soda FOR FREE:

Black and White’s: This East Village watering hole was my very first encounter with a bartender who filled a small glass with a shot from the soda gun free of charge. I was pleasantly surprised and he refilled it for free as well. He certainly earned his two dollar tip. Soda water was served in an 8 oz glass, no lemon or lime was offered, but I’m sure they could have been obtained if I asked.

Santos Party House: I went to an excellent death metal show here on a Sunday afternoon and after some vigorous moshing was understandably thirsty. Any place that charges $7 for a beer, will almost certainly charge for water right? DEAD WRONG! My soda water was served in a very generous 16oz plastic cup and was served with TWO lemon wedges. Opulence? Santos has it.

Overcharging Offenders:

This will certainly grow as time goes on.

Sweet Ups: Probably the best of the charging bunch. I had to pay two dollars for every time I wanted my glass filled, but the bartender always asked if I wanted lemon or lime along with my beverage. They also play Game of Thrones on Sunday nights.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Geoffrey Arend Must Be Hung Like A Moose

I am a man of simple tastes in life. I like beer. I like bacon. I like baseball. I also like redheads.  Especially this one (and yes, I know she's a natural blonde):




So when I found out a couple years ago that she was married to the dipshit that eats all the drugs in the beginning of "Super Troopers", naturally I was upset. Really? That fucking guy? The man who has appeared in such blockbusters as "The Ringer" and "Porn 'n Chicken"? You've got to be fucking kidding me. But alas, 'tis not a joke. Christina Hendricks and Geoffrey Arend were married in early 2009, and I, along with many others, struggle to comprehend the union.

One would have to assume they met well before she started doing "Mad Men". Despite appearing in two much ballyhooed episodes of "Firefly", she was a relatively unknown actress with a few modest credits to her name before she joined the cast of the best show on TV. He was more famous than she was until "Madmen" blew up, so that undoubtedly worked in his favor. And according to his IMDB bio, he's 6'3", so he's got that going for him as well. But beyond that? I just don't get it. Even before she was famous, a girl that pretty can do better.  He's TV ugly, for fuck's sake!

So we can safely rule out looks. What about personality? Maybe he's the nicest, most down to earth guy in the world. Bullshit. Countless cases of hot women dating assholes throughout human history have told us that any woman that good looking does not give a fuck about a man's personality. So that's out too. And while I don't doubt that he's made a pretty comfortable living over the years, if she were a gold digger, she could have found someone much richer than he is. Besides, she's definitely out-earning him at this point.

Now I've heard some people say that a girl like her marrying a guy like him is inspirational, and that it should give hope to us all. FUCK. THAT. I had plans for her and I. Big plans. Plans that involved lots of nudity, maple syrup, and disappointment on her part. But she had to go ruin everything by getting hitched to that jackass, which can mean only one thing: dude is hung like a moose. Lucky bastard. I hope he gets hit by a truck.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Celebrity deaths are always a hard one. Besides being incredibly sad, we’re often forced to deal with the aftermath of an intangible relationship. It’s not like we lunched with Liz Taylor, or used to be in a band with Jay Reatard (well, maybe you were). Instead, we admired from afar, projecting our hopes and dreams onto them.

Such is the case with Pauly Fuemana. This mild-mannered New Zealander from humble beginnings absolutely MADE my summer in 1997. For two blissful weeks, the sweet, care free chimes of his band OMC’s hit “How Bizarre” found itself emanating from every car radio, pool party, and cool mom in the land. The song has everything. That spanish-y guitar riff, sexy ladies singing the chorus, goofy, absurd lyrics. The video is great too, with his silly outfit, making it rain in the limo, and chilled out Asian (Brother Pele?) in the back of his Chevy ‘69. Basically, it painted a picture of how I thought my adult life was going to turn out - sexy, wealthy, and party filled. I was so swept up in OMC mania, I even went so far to (secretly) buy a copy of the album (note, the song was never released as a retail single in the U.S.). I know that I quickly lost interest in the group, and it eventually found its way into my box of musical shame, lodged somewhere between my Wallflowers “Bringing Down the Horse” and Matchbox 20’s “Yourself Or Someone Like You” (it should be mentioned that this was the last summer before I discovered good music). I never rid myself of these discs until about age 17 or so, because, frankly, sometimes you just wanted to hear “Real World”. It became a song that shared the same status as an illegitimate offspring, or an ex who you can’t help sexting after a long night of drinking.

Considering the complex relationship I had with this world-wide hit, you can understand my dismay to find out the Fuemana passed away in 2010 at the age of 40 of a rare immune disorder. Even more shocking, it took over a year for me to find out. I guess what I find really jarring is the complete incompatibility of his death with my perception of his life, unlike the recent and unsurprising heart attack death of Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Based on my 7th grade understanding of Pauly’s existence, I could only imagine him dying in some circus accident or fiery limousine crash, money and panties strewn everywhere. Instead, he died of an obscure disease, bankrupt, and, ironically without owning the rights to the song that made him famous.

Of course, I write this sitting in an office building, 20 pounds overweight, and wondering how I’m going to spice up the cat food I will be having for dinner over the next week. My disappointment in Pauly is merely a reflection of my own failures in the game of life. Indeed, it’s making me crazy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

You Can Stand Under My Umbrella, but I Can't Stand Under Yours, You Stupid Short Prick!

April showers bring May flowers? Not in NYC! (Probably because homeless people use the flower beds as urinals). In case you don’t live here, it’s been raining. A lot. I don’t usually like to bitch about the weather because, hey, I can’t do nothing about it. But I make an exception when it rains for days on end in New York City. Why? Because I am tall and New Yorkers are assholes.

Let me elaborate a bit. First of all, yes we are assholes. There is no denying this. New Yorkers walk down the street quickly, staring straight ahead and stopping for nothing. We walk with determination, with purpose, with no regard for anything but our destination. We do our best to ignore homeless people, red lights, and stupid fat mid-western tourists who ask for directions. There are also a lot of us. Literally millions walking down the street ignoring everything but our smart phones. Put an open umbrella in each New Yorkers hand while they march down the street during rush hour and you have a recipe for losing eyeballs.

“Now wait a minute, Emerson,” you might say. “I’ve been living in NYC for years and never had any issue with umbrellas or the people who use them.” No you probably haven’t, but you are also almost certainly short. The next time it rains (tomorrow) take a look at the umbrella clutching masses. Midgets all! Put an umbrella over their head and its metal spokes are level with my face. See the problem yet? I fucking hate umbrellas!

There are of course exceptions to the rule. Parasols are quite inoffensive, because, let’s be serious, who the fuck uses a parasol? That’s right no one. Really tall people who use umbrellas are also totally acceptable. Shaq can use an umbrella with no risk of injuring anyone, AND everyone who walks by him will enjoy a temporary respite from the rain. Everyone wins. It’s SCIENCE. That song by Rihanna, while kinda annoying, is also largely harmless. Except maybe if you are Chris Brown.

So let’s review. Umbrella’s suck. If you use one, you are a midget. If you are a midget, you should be making porno flicks, not walking around outside. If you are inside making pornography, I don’t have to worry about getting my eyes gouged out for the rest of the week. Unless you are Shaq. If you are Shaq, you are not a midget. If you are not a midget, then you can use umbrella’s risk free.

Make It Rain

Given all the dreary, wet weather we've been experiencing out here all week, I felt it was fitting to shine the Music Video of The Week spotlight on the video for Oran "Juice' Jones' 1986 top ten hit "The Rain".

My overall feelings about the song and video are analogous to my feelings about another seemingly unrelated piece of media, the 2009 "Watchmen" movie. While the general reception of "Watchmen" was pretty mixed, I'm inclined to say it was a qualified success. Considering the intimidating and hallowed reputation the source material had developed over the years and the sheer technical difficulty of adapting the complex and sprawling plot, I think the film with all its warts and flaws was just about the best they could have done given the circumstances. It was faithful to the material, the production was high quality, they didn't try to shoe horn it under 2 hours, and they cut out all that "Black Freighter" pirate stuff that I always brought the graphic novel to a screeching halt.

This is basically how I feel about "The Rain". You have to kind of separate the song from the video. The song itself is just plain amazing. For the first half it just starts off as an above average, straight ahead, synth-infused 80s R&B track about love and infidelity. You have the Juice laying out how he saw his woman walking with another man in a lovelorn, sympathetic, high falsetto; but the deep, almost menacing, change of tone when he says "and him" ominously hints at a bubbling rage underneath the Juice's smooth, slicked suited, exterior. The final two minutes of the song is what makes "The Rain" immortal. In possibly the greatest 2 minute stretch in pop music history, the Juice moves away from the chorus, confronts his cheating lady, and drops the hammer down on her with a spoken word monologue that exposes her deceptions, threatens her with violence, thoroughly lays out his revenge, and reestablishes his reputation as "The Juice" with enough jive and style to impress Iceberg Slim.

Now, considering the quality of the source material, it would have been near impossible for the music video to perfectly encapsulate all that. The music video was still a relatively new medium by 1986 and the Juice didn't have the resources or the clout to put together a Michael Jackson style epic. However for a thrifty little video clearly made on the cheap, "The Rain" does as a good a job as possible. I think a lot of it comes from Oran "Juice" Jones himself. I had heard the song long before I ever saw the video and when I finally got around to seeing it I was glad that the Juice was similar to what I pictured him to be:a tough guy in a flashy suit (like a Phillip Michael Thomas type), he could just as easily ended up looking like El Debarge or had been a surprise white guy like Rick Astley (truly that would have been a Rick Roll). The video stays quite faithful to the plot by laying out all the literal actions taken by the Juice to cut off his girl (cutting up credit cards, taking back all the jewelry, packing up all the clothes). I do question whether the scenes of him doing all those actions should have been inter cut so early in the video, but really nothing can really give away the Juice's speech at the end.

As for the Juice's final undressing of his lady, the Juice comes through big. He pulls off the subtle, angry but still cool and collected emotional state of the speech (although he seems to be excessively preoccupied with adjusting the sleeves of his shirt) and I like how he manages to be in his black satin robe by the end when he gives his final dismissal to the girl and turns his back to her. I think the girl could have reacted to everything little better, it all seemed a little flat and emotionless. I would assume getting a cold blooded dose of reality like that from the Juice would drive a woman to at least a few tears. Perhaps the shock of losing the Juice was just too great for her initially and she became just plain numb.

In a perfect world "The Rain" should have gotten the sort of high quality treatment of the thematically similar "What Goes Around...Comes Around" by Justin Timberlake (although dying in a fiery car crash is a far harsher punishment for infidelity than being financially cut off): lavish production values, Hollywood director, glamorous female co-star, and extended dialog scenes leading to a 9 minute plus running time. For what it was, though, I can't complain about "The Rain".

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Neverending Story

It's that time of the year again. The time when children grow giddy in anticipation of the three long months of forgetting whatever useful knowledge they've gained in the last nine, and the time when the primetime television season winds down to make way for whatever awful stunt game shows and gimmicky cop dramas the networks have in store for the summer.

Among the shows finishing out their 24-episode runs, last night marked the largely unremarkable conclusion to the sixth season of CBS's hit (?) sitcom How I Met Your Mother, in which the show's main character yet again does not meet the titular mother and I grow increasingly bored and impatient with the show's tedious premise.

I should probably point out that last night's episode actually wasn't bad. It was certainly one of the best they've done in the last two or three seasons. But all that did was prove to me how weak the show has actually become. It's settled into a comfortable mediocrity, and has become so convoluted that it renders the overarching idea of the show, that there's some sort of fate or destiny driving the entire thing, absolutely moot.

At one point HIMYM was one of the funniest shows on TV. It was a traditional three-camera sitcom that was fun and charming at a time when the only good sitcoms on TV were relentlessly misanthropic and dark. And it managed to be smart and creative in spite of being on a network that's pretty much made it's billions by betting against the intelligence and good taste of the American public. Also I really can't understate the importance of the talents of Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris to the success of the show. The characters the show created for the both of them now are nothing short of legen. . . . . . well, you know. They were so good in fact that they completely made up for the fact that Josh Radnor's character (the show's ostensible lead) is one of the most annoying and least likable personalities on TV.

Now most shows seem to have a built-in life expectancy. For family sitcoms it's generally when the kids start going off to college. A workplace show can theoretically go on forever, but usually once the two primary love interests of the show get together, it's pretty much downhill from there. More often it's simply a matter of how long you can maintain the conceit of the show without making it seem completely preposterous. I mean, how many seasons of Bosom Buddies would it have taken before Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari would just have to admit to being transvestites, and how many adrenaline-fueled days of intensity could Jack Bauer have before they have to write a plot about his heart bursting in his chest? For that matter, when is the documentary film crew for The Office actually gonna do something with the footage? I don't think even Michael Apted is that patient.

However, in the case of HIMYM the expiration date is implicit in the premise of the show. As soon as the present-day Ted Moseby meets the future mother of his children, that's it. The show's done. So the longer the show goes on, the more preposterous the show's framing device of a guy dictating his entire romantic history to his children becomes. If this were The Princess Bride, Fred Savage would be graduating college by now and be in intensive therapy. Moreover, by the time the show finally answers its overarching question, it's going to be so disappointing and anticlimactic that they might as well just reveal that McClaren's is actually purgatory and they were dead all along.

The essential problem with television as a medium is that any decently popular show will just keep going until it becomes obvious even to the die-hard fans that it sucks. Like a high-functioning drug addict, nobody's gonna intervene until you pretty much stop showing up for work. So almost any great show in gonna go on for at least a full season even after it jumps the proverbial shark, and invariably the last season is always the worst.

So it's clear to me that How I Met Your Mother is a lost cause. It's suposedly been renewed for two seasons, after which point I pray they just give it the Ol Yeller treatment to save the show's actors further embarassment. But I think there's still hope for some other shows that seem dangerously close to running out of good ideas. Instead of petitioning networks to restore or continue struggling showa, I think fans of television need to start doing the opposite. We should all hope that our favorite shows get cancelled or at least the creators get bored and give it a dignified rock star death.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Pat's or Geno's?" "GO FUCK YOURSELF."

Ah, "Pat's or Geno's?", the question that every Philadelphian has been asked at one point in his or her life by someone who is not from Philadelphia.  The question is as old as the Liberty Bell, and equally useless.  You see, both Pat's and Geno's, the two most famous cheesesteak places in Philly, are also the two worst.  They are overpriced (9 fucking bucks!) tourist traps coasting on reputation alone, and no true Philadelphian would ever patronize either one unless it was after midnight and/or he or she were drunk (they're both open 24 hours).

Now I know what you're thinking.  "But Dan, I've eaten there, it was pretty good."  Of course it's "good".  It's hot beef and cheese on an excellent roll (every sandwich in Philly comes on good bread).  Since when does hot beef and cheese not taste good?  That isn't my point.  My point is that you can do better, and for considerably less money.  Dalessandro's is the best cheesesteak in the world (and now open Sundays!  Score!).  Barry's is maybe 3% worse.  As far as the well known, touristy places go, Jim's on South St. is pretty damn good.  But Pat's and Geno's?  Eating at one is like going to the wrong Joe's or Ray's Pizza in NYC.  If you don't know any better, you'll enjoy it.  But if you DO know better, it's enormously disappointing.

...or equally shitty.  Take your pick.

I will, however, say this: the spectacle is worth the trip.  Two giant neon facades, facing each other, forever on the cusp of a rude, poorly spoken, not-so-covertly racist war.  They are indeed accurate representations of South Philly, at least to a degree.  Just don't eat at either one.  Now stop fucking asking me about them.

RELATED TANGENT ALERT: People also like to ask me what cheese I prefer on my cheesesteak.  My answer, which is, as far as I'm concerned, the only correct one, is american cheese.  Some people swear by provolone, and that's fine, but it just doesn't melt as well, and it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi that american has.  A cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz, on the other hand, is NOT A REAL CHEESESTEAK.  I'm not gonna sit here and act like Cheez Whiz doesn't taste good.  It's amazing on fries and hot dogs.  Ironically enough, I used to work at a cheesesteak place in Manhattan, and a hypothesis I confirmed many times is waffle fries + Whiz = fat guy heaven.  But yellow goo does not belong on a cheesesteak.  Ever.  Dalessandro's didn't even offer Whiz until new owners took over a couple years ago, and they opened in '63.

Oh, and if you even THINK about putting mayo on your cheesesteak, you should be clubbed to death on the spot.  Mayo on a cheesesteak is the cardinalest of sins.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nerd Outrage Group Draft: Desert Island Simpsons Episodes (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of our group draft, aka rounds 6-10.  For Part 1, click here.  Time's a wastin', so lets dive right in.

26. Victor (Rd. 6) - "Lisa's Wedding"

Victor: "This makes me feel old because it happened a year ago."
Yes, their vision of 2010 is not too accurate, as Fox has yet turn into a hardcore porn channel.  Now Starz, on the other hand...

27. Dan - "A Fish Called Selma"

We all agree this is Troy McClure's finest work.  Even finer than "Makeout King of Montana" and "Electric Gigolo".
 28. Emerson - "The Homer They Fall"
Victor: "He's a hungry young fighter.  In fact, he's fighting for a sandwich."

29. Jimmy -  "Bart of Darkness"
This pick predictably prompted a round of "Kippers for breakfast?  Is it St. Swithin's Day already?" from all of us. 

30. Nick - "Bart Gets Famous"
Rounds 7-10 after the jump.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Nerd Outrage Group Draft: Desert Island Simpsons Episodes (Part 1)

Welcome to the first in what will be our newest recurring feature: group drafts!  The concept is simple, and hardly original.  We come up with a subject, randomize a draft order amongst ourselves, and pick away.  Since we're all pretty big nerds when it comes to The Simpsons, we figured it would be most appropriate for us to start by drafting our favorite episodes.  We went ten rounds, and really, we could have gone 15, but it was starting to get late.  The truly amazing thing is that we selected 50 episodes, which is only about 10% of the entire catalog (though we only chose two episodes after season 8).  Yes, the season finale of the current season (22), which will air on May 22nd, is episode 486.  That's absurd.  But I digress.  This will be a two part post, with part two covering rounds 6-10.  Let's get to it, shall we?  Here is the draft order (which reverses every round):

1. Nick
2. Jimmy
3. Emerson
4. Dan (me)
5. Victor

*Note: Finding clips of The Simpsons online is harder than one might think.  I did my best to represent every episode, but quality varies.*

And, with the first pick in the inaugural Nerd Outrage Group Draft, Nick has selected:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Just Terrible

*Note: If you thought you were having some sort of delusional Kafkaesque nightmare because you thought you saw this article last week and then couldn't find it again when you went back, rest easy reader. There was indeed a big Blogger blackout (or "Nerd Outage" is you will) last week and some articles got lost. Fortunately, I still had a saved draft of the original post, so join me in the way back machine as we travel back to the carefree days of last week.

Whether it is robbing Hall of Fame athletes of their dignity (why would a baseball commentator and a basketball commentator be covering a fake football game?) or introducing the world to the absolute creepiest pair of kid daughters ever (where did they get that box of hair dye?) marketers of Just For Men hair dye are no strangers to perplexingly awful advertising. Their latest, ubiquitous, television ad is carrying on that long tradition.

For an ad that is designed to give such a simple and clear message, our fast acting, effective product will get you sex with age appropriate women, it manages to fit so many bewildering questions into its short run time.

Initially, when the man first gets a request for milk to borrow, he checks his fridge to find that there is nothing there, like seriously nothing. The entire contents of his fridge are one bottle of beer and a Chinese food container with possibly a bottle of mustard on the door. What kind of psycho lives with a fridge like that? Since he has an apartment and disposable income for random hair dye purchases it would seem he has money for food. Is he just a crazy person? Should this woman be worried? Can this easily turn into some kind of stranger danger PSA? Additionally, if there was so little food in his fridge, why did he even bother checking it?

Secondly, I am willing to suspend disbelief that the protagonist can jump from his seemingly three story building window and onto a moving truck and all the other stunts required to sneak out of his apartment and get some dye and milk. However, I am not willing to believe that a local supermarket would have what appears to be an entire aisle, stocked top to bottom exclusively with Just for Men dyes. Is this why the man has so little food in his home?

Another issue that I didn’t pick up on until multiple viewing later was: how did the man get back into his apartment from the store? He certainly couldn’t have gone in the front since the woman was there and there was no indication of a ladder or fire escape in the beginning. I guess we are to assume that if he has the ridiculous parkour abilities to escape his apartment through the window, he has similar methods of getting back in as well. Once again I think the woman should be quite concerned here.

Of course the biggest question throughout the whole commercial is: why did the woman wait there for so long? Her first question after he finally gets to the door really should have been “what the hell took you so long, old man?” No matter how quick and easy Just for Men claims its product is, the amount of time that she is waiting for the man to check his fridge, escape his home, run to the store, purchase the milk and dye, dye his hair in the shower, dry his hair, and then come to the door, even conservatively, would be at least 15 minutes. Is she not concerned that it’s taking the man 15 minutes to supposedly run to his kitchen and get a container of milk? Do all the running noises and sound of him jumping out of his window (it’s like the old bit on the “Simpsons” where Homer would go upstairs to fetch Marge’s “gift” and the audience would just hear all the obvious sounds of him leaving the house and driving away) not raise suspicion?

Given all this, maybe our female lead shouldn't be in such a hurry to invite our silver maned protagonist over for some "pancakes".

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Indignant Video of the Week

I decided that in keeping with title of this blog, I'd post the video of one of the strangest and most unlikely pop hits of the last 20 years from a guy with some apparent axes to grind.

In "Funk Dat" (or "Fuk Dat" if you manage to find a non-radio edit version of it) Baltimore rapper Sagat airs what amount to fairly petty grievances over an organ loop that sounds like it was lifted from Right Said Fred. The video is similarly bizarre. In between some b-roll shots of New York that look something like the interstitials from Taxicab Confessions, we see Sagat training a young protege in the fine art of angrily kicking stuff over while wearing an unnecessary eyepatch. I remember in the episode of Beavis and Butthead where they watch this video, they aptly compare him to "that Mickey Rooney dude from 16 minutes", since he basically just sounds like a curmudgeonly old man. A similar comparison might be to a Jerry Seinfeld standup routine where he asks a bunch of rhetorical questions about mundane things that seem frustrating to him, but which, to a smarter or saner person, are actually pretty reasonable. So I've decided to go through Sagat's supposed gripes and see whether or not I feel they're justified.

1) Why is it that every time / I'm walking down the street, / Somebody wants to stop me / Just to give me a flyer?

As a New York City pedestrian, this is one I can certainly relate to. Aside from the obvious environmental problems of hundreds of disinterested people throwing away flyers for discount menswear, this seems like an obvious violation of the unspoken social code of the city - I will gladly share my space with an uncomfortably large group of people, provided we all politely ignore one another.

2) Why is it that every time / I'm walking to the bank, / The tellers look at me / Like I'm the one that robbed them last week?

This appears to be the running theme of the song, which is that Sagat is angry for being treated like a derelict hoodlum in spite of the fact that he dresses like a homeless man whose only plausible means of income would be as a criminal. Are these bank tellers maybe a little racist? Probably. But you really can't say they're being unreasonable.

3) Why is it that every time / I turn on the radio, / I hear the same five songs / fifteen times a day for three months?

This is another one that I think I can relate to, and certainly a complaint that people have been having since the birth of top 40 radio. Though getting upset at pop radio's wash-rinse-repeat method of DJing seems a bit like getting pissed off that there's traffic in the Holland Tunnel. As much as we've all dreamt about punching Casey Kasem in the face, it's just the way the system works. Moreover, how did Sagat feel when his song actually became a top 40 hit?

4) Why is it that bums ask me for money, / When I ain't got none? / What is it an "in" thing or something, / "Let me remind this dude he ain't got no money. Huh?"

Nobody likes to be solicited by panhandlers, though I find Sagat's rationale a bit strange. His main complaint seems to be that the it reminds him how poor he is. Following this same logic, would Sagat enjoy being asked for change if he did have money on him, since it would presumably remind him how rich he is?

5) Every time I see my neighboor, / She tells me to stay out of trouble, / The other one looks at me like / I'm the one that got her daughter strung out on crack.

This is the second instance of Sagat getting upset at people for judging him based on his appearance. Again, this seems a bit unreasonable considering how hard he works to cultivate the appearance of a deviant. Though having nosey neighbors is pretty universally annoying, especially if they have drug-addicts in the family.

6) Seems like every time it never fails, / It never fails... /I'm just chillin' in my crib, / Minding my own business, / And somebody calls me just to talk about nothing...

This actually seems like a sort of outdated complaint to be having, but I suppose it might still be relevant, even in the days of text messaging and caller ID. I generally only want to use my phone to make plans and exchange essential information. If I want to have a longer conversation, I'd rather do it in person. So I think this one holds up.

7) Why is it that when I go out to a night club, / Only the ugly chicks wanna step to me, / I mean like I'm ugly or something, huh? / What do you mean, huh?

This is probably most unreasonable complaint in this song, but also the most universal. If the people you're attracted to aren't attracted to you, it's clearly because they're stuck up bitches or assholes. It's never because your standards are too high, or that that you're a scary looking dude in an eypatch that does nothing but complain about stuff all the time.

C'mon maaaan. FUNK DAT!

Addendum: Nightmare On My Street

Well, at least someone has been reading this blog. Earlier in the week I discussed a recent encounter with a notable person who failed to live up to my expectation of celebrity excess. Thankfully, the vacuum left in my existence was filled today by none other than top-grossing megastar Will "Welcome to Earth" Smith.

It seems the actor has been filming the third installment of the Men In Black series in Soho, and has parked a gargantuan 30 ton trailer smack dab in the middle of the fashionable neighborhood, much to the chagrin of local residents.

Now, this is what I’m freakin’ talking about! This is the kind of inconsiderate, unapologetic behavior I demand from my celebrities. There are couple of details of this story I find especially tantalizing.

First, the location. Soho is certainly no section 8 territory. While it’s always amusing to see famous people slumming it in, say, the south Bronx, it’s really hilarious when the kinda rich go up against the super rich. “Oh, what? Your 900 sq. ft loft goes for $1.5 million? I got a yacht with wheels that retails for 2!”

Second, the (in?)convenience. His residence is less than a mile away. For 25K a month, he is renting an apartment he doesn't even need. It think it’s great that he wanted a pool for 75K more, but I understand we’re coming out of a recession. I hope he still doesn’t have to take the elevator with normal people.

Third, the compliance. It’s a true sign of fame when you can be a nuisance to hundreds and have politicians, police authority, and major corporations getting your back. No average Joe could park his mobile phallic symbol in a neighborhood like this without getting in trouble. Even with the proper permits, you know he would eventually be asked to take it elsewhere if his checking had only $500 in it. However, for Mr. Smith, the NYPD, the Mayor’s Office, and Sony all acquiesce to his will. They've even issued the standard, vaguely remorseful "we respect the residents" statement.

Bottom line, Carlton can go fuck himself .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Club $oda

I am not allowed to drink. The how and why of that fact is not something worth exploring in this post, but the fact remains. I am not allowed to imbibe. My temporary time as a teetotaler has revealed some interesting things to me. For example, our good friend Dan, whilst drunk, likes to repeat himself. My other gay friend, likes to block ugly dudes on GRINDR, even when he’s wasted. One thing I’ve learned that is not interesting and is in fact totally inexcusable, is a practice that seems to have pervaded every single bar in New York City. That is the insane practice of charging patrons for soda water.

That’s right. Money. For water. And if that’s not offensive enough, after ordering, the bartender will look at you like you are insane, ask you to repeat yourself four or five times so that everyone around you can hear what a sober loser you are, and then not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give you a reach around limes.

I’m not talking about fancy pants fizzy water from a bottle, but rather the kind that is dispensed with a gun and is nothing more than tap water hooked up to a CO2 tank. Somehow, bars find it acceptable to charge $3 or MORE for what should be, and is everywhere else, free. Well, Emerson, you say, why don’t you just drink plain old tap water? First of all, fuck you! I can drink tap water at home! When I go out, I want my beverages like I want my women; ice cold, full of gas, and basically free. I’m celebrating and I need carbonation. A glass of club soda is virtually indistinguishable from a real life cocktail! If you’ve ever had to explain to drunk people why you don’t drink then you will immediately understand the vital importance of this fact.

I’ve been to every other important American city (San Francisco, Chicago, and Las Vegas) and none of these towns have the gall to charge for glorified tap water. What gives New York? Who the fuck do you think you are? Last week I was at a bar with some friends. Never mind that this bar was packed to the gills with shitty hipsters, look past the fact that is was in the Lower East Side, try and forgive the toilet bowl that overflowing with shitty hipster diarrhea. This place had cans of PBR for $2. A very fair price. Especially compared to the $3 I had to pay for fucking soda water!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Danson In The Streets

Celebrity encounters are not that rare in NYC. In fact, it’s downright uncommon to be here more than a month and not see someone famous, especially in Manhattan. The other day I stopped into the bodega by my work for a breakfast sandwich. Realizing I had no money, I first headed to the ATM to get out some cash. At the ATM was a tall, silver-haired gentleman, who after about 10 seconds I realized was record-setting television earner Ted Danson. Besides being known for his accomplished work in film and television, he is also a well known environmental activist and occasional minstrel performer.

As I said, it’s never a rare occurrence to see someone famous in NYC. After 9 years here, I’ve actually started to be perturbed whenever I see one. Yes, I know they’re people too and they (well, most) just want to be treated as a “normie”, but outside of the vaccum, that is never the case. Generally, a celebrity encounter is a three part event:

1) The celebrity walks into a movie theater, restaurant, etc. and without anyone saying anything, an extreme sense of tension will permeate the room. Part of this is the “Is it them?” moment, followed by a “YES IT IS THEM” moment.

2) Everyone in the room remembers “Hey, this is NY. I’m too cool for this. Also, acting cool around a celebrity will make me seem like I am accustomed to being around celebrities, which exponentially increases my coolness. Furthermore, it increases the likelihood they will sit next to me, increasing the likelihood that they will give me a high five and invite me to be in their entourage”. This is usually followed by fidgety sitting and attempts at looking at the celebrity for a moment, while ostensibly trying to accomplish something else with their eyes, i.e. “I’m not looking at you Edward Norton. I am looking at the projection booth. I want the movie to start, and if I turn and look at the projection booth enough times, this will be accomplished”.

3) This next part is not always guaranteed, but it is the moment I loathe more than anything. Inevitably, someone, usually a college freshman or non-local will approach the celebrity and try to converse with them. Either the celebrity will greet them with some warmth or mild humilty, chat briefly with this plebeian and send them on their way with or without some tangible evidence of their encounter - a cell phone pic, autograph, etc. Occasionally you will be treated to a celebrity outburst, where they become outraged at being approached and treated like anything else but a regular Joe or Jane. In the event of this, the facade of nonchalance established in part #2 is allowed to completely evaporate, leaving you free to lock eyes on the famous person until the lights go down, your check comes, and so on.

Overall, this sequence of events is incredibly annoying. I usually am wanting to extricate myself from the situation, or just sitting there wishing to god this person would just leave and get back into my TV where they belong. Such was the case with Ted Danson.

Well, Ted took his sweet time drawing out money. So long in fact that I just went ahead and ordered my sandwich while I waited. From the sandwich counter I would occasionally.poke my head up to see if the ATM was free. Danson seemed to take offense to this, as he would give me something of a stink eye before returning his gaze to the screen.

Finally, to my relief he left. When I approached the ATM, I noticed a receipt sticking out of it. Could it be, I wondered, that Ted Danson had left me his receipt? A kind of not-so-subtle “fuck you” to a gawker that had made his venture into the real world both uncomfortable and unnecessarily time consuming? Well, my curiousity had gotten the best of me. I grabbed the receipt and took a look, and what I saw shocked me. $7000 in checking, $100 withdrawl. As a member of the celebrity consuming public, this was truly a disappointment. Really? That’s it? This is a man who became the first person to make $1 million an episode, and all he has is $7K in the bank? I mean, I am sure he’s got some of it invested in stocks or 2012 apocalypse arks, but it does not live up to the kind of Hollywood extravagance and decadent lifestyle I or the public imagine, nay, expect from someone of his stature. How is one supposed to purchase a jewel encrusted Steinway grand or the Elephant Man’s bones without proper liquidity? What is that $100 going to get you? Appetizers at Le Cirque? A bath of Perrier (NOT Cristal)? Certainly not enough to satisfy my concept of proper celebrity status. He should have cleaned out that freakin’ ATM on the spot. I threw the receipt away in disgust.

Bottom line, Ted Danson is just another high-earning nobody.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Smoke

While walking to my softball game in Central Park on Monday, I happened upon the above sign.  My immediate reaction was, "Well that's just fucking ridiculous."  Let me preface this by saying that I am not a smoker.  I never have been, I never will be.  My grandmother smoked like a chimney, and after every visit, my mother sent me right to the tub.  This caused a lasting negative association in my young, impressionable mind: cigarettes = baths; baths = terrible; therefore, cigarettes = terrible.  While I do not feel that adamantly about the negative aspects of cigarettes (or bathing, for that matter) anymore, I'm still not a fan.  But banning cigarettes in outdoor places?  That's going too far.

The anti-smoking movement started long ago, and for good reason.  But NYC didn't start taking real action until 2002, when smoking was banned in public indoor places, like bars and restaurants.  As a non smoker I'm fine with this.  You absolutely should not be allowed to smoke where people are eating indoors, especially when you consider how closely linked taste and smell are.  As for bars, I could go either way.  I do like not smelling like an ashtray when I come home, but it's annoying when I'm out with four other people, all of whom are smokers, and I find myself sitting alone every 40 minutes or so for up to five minutes at a time (or up to 26 minutes if they're smoking American Spirits).  Also, as someone who used to tend bar, I can greatly appreciate the ban.  A ten hour bartending shift is taxing enough without the room being filled with cigarette smoke the entire time.

But parks?  Beaches?  Anywhere outdoors?  That's straight up fascist.  And I probably am someone who uses the word "fascist" too loosely - I have to wear pants to the movies? Fascists. - but the point remains.  It's bad enough cigarettes are already $13 a pack in New York.  At this rate, by 2015, they'll be $20 a pack and smoking will be illegal anywhere in public.  So listen up, Bloomberg.  As a resident of New York that isn't registered to vote here and isn't even on the lease for his apartment, I demand you respect my opinion when I say, "Back the fuck off.If it's legal, and it doesn't involve genitals, the expulsion of bodily waste or both, you should be allowed to do it anywhere outside.  And yes, that includes drinking.  This is America, dammit.  If we ban smoking outdoors, the terrorists have already won.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

No Matter Who Wins We Lose

Over the past month I have occasionally run across the above Philips Norelco electric shaver commercial starring Boston Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon and New York Yankees Outfielder Nick Swisher on TV (while watching Mets games no less). Every time I see it I'm completely and utterly mesmerized by its awfulness. The whole premise involves this great dispute between Swisher and Papelbon, putting on an absolute master class on terrible, awkward acting, over whether their Philips Norelco shaver works better wet or dry (although they both will concede that the shaver itself is of the highest quality). The commercial then ends with the tempting offer of seeing a more thorough debate at its "Great Shave Debate" website.

After viewing the extended final debate, it's pretty obvious that the only real debate here is who puts on an uglier, more incompetent acting performance. While both are inept, they are inept in their own unique ways. On one side you have Swisher's smarmy, smiling, excessive overselling. His constant mugging and exaggerated actions rob him of any genuineness while he engages in some extremely mild taunting with Papelbon. As for Papelbon, he gives a more subdued performance but in the polar opposite, with the unsettling calm of a serial killer. He just has this weird vacant look in his eyes halfway between asleep and perversely aroused, kind of like a really poor man's Robert Mitchum in "Cape Fear" (freeze the debate video at any part of his performance, he'll always have an odd expression).

So who played it worse, the smirking tool or the dead eyed killer? The debate rages on. To be fair, I think both actors' problems stem from the fact that have to both deliver lines and constantly be fake shaving. That razor just keeps wandering all over the place, I thought someone might lose an eyebrow. Additionally they are two pretty douchey individuals to begin with.

Also doesn't Swisher just outright win the debate at the end when he splashes Papelbon with a bucket of water (where is that laugh track coming from?) and he considers the merits of a wet shave? Debate resolved. At least when Shaq and Hakeem feuded in the mid 90's over whether hard or soft tacos were superior it lead to a historic compromise that resulted in the creation of the double-decker taco (seriously Taco Bell, that 1995 Nobel Peace Prize should have been yours).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Badass Video of the Week

Did anyone see the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie? I did, but I wouldn't really recommend it. That is, except for the opening sequence. Which should really be played before every other movie ever.

Never mind that this may be the greatest Mastodon track of all time. I had no idea that indecent exposure was a class two felony! Thanks guys, for saving me from some serious jail time!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

To All the Haters: Avatar

Last week Dan put forth a fairly compelling argument for why James Cameron's 3D mega-blockbuster Avatar is an irredeemably lame and obnoxious pile of cinematic crap. Now, to paraphrase Voltaire, I may not agree with what you say, but I will write a dickish blog post about how totally and pathetically wrong you are. 

Let me first point out that I saw this film with the lowest possible expectations. Despite good reviews and some positive recommendations from people I knew, I remained extremely skeptical. Based on the trailers and I'd read, the premise sounded both hackneyed and needlessly complicated, and the visuals looked like a cheap airbrushed landscape poster they would have sold at Specer's Gifts in the mid-nineties. I mean, the whole thing wreaked of epic failure. But when I actually saw the movie, about a month after it came out, I'll be damned if the thing didn't win me over.

As Dan has pointed out, the effects and 3D make this a highly entertaining film, even if you think the story, acting, and dialogue are complete shit. Though I would actually take that a step further and say the that the eye candy in this film are actually what make the schmaltzy story and melodramatic dialogue work. It's like some kick-ass metal song, whose lyrics seem like total crap if you read them off the page, but sound like Shakespeare when you throw some double bass drum and a screaming guitar behind them. Even if you go back to James Cameron's last big budget effects spectacle, TItanic, it's pretty much the same thing. The script is totally cheesy and over-the-top, but it actually comes off as a really great film even to cynical assholes like me because, well, James Cameron is a fucking great filmmaker. The man just knows how to tell a story with a camera. And while there's something undeniably cool about mecha-robot suits fighting giant bird-dragons, what sets Avatar apart from some Zach Snyder CG wankfest is that Cameron understands that the CG fireworks are just another tool to create drama and make you give a shit about people on a screen pretending to be some other people that don't exist. I mean, the man is manipulative as fuck, but I have to tip my hat to him for being able to tug on the heart strings enough to make me feel something for 10-foot-tall blue cat men.

 Though even I have to admit, some of the tree-hugger sentimentality in the film was difficult to stomach no matter how well it was shot. But I think comparing the film to Fern Gully or Dances With Wolves sort of misses the point. At first glance the film might seem like some Joni Mitchell song about how nature is fragile and destroying it makes the baby Jesus cry. But I think a better analogy might be a something like a John Krakauer novel. Ultimately I think it's really about how nature is a cruel bitch that will fuck you up if you don't play be her rules. There are no cute, fuzzy creatures improbably defeating the evil empire. The film ultimately comes down to a fight between a team of greedy space mercenaries with tanks and high explosives facing off against a tribe of giants that have the agility of Spiderman and could bench press a Buick. So while I could do without the hippie meditation circles, they're at least praying to a planet that could kick our planet's ass.

Similarly I think it's easy to dismiss the fact that Cameron would name the MacGuffin in this film something as dumb-sounding as "Unobtainium", but you really have to give the man a little more credit than that. The problem is actually not that Cameron under-thought the name, but that he over-thought it. For those that are unaware, the word "Unobtanium" is actually a sort of nerd inside joke (like the Wilhelm Scream) that scientists and sci-fi writers have been using since at least the fifties to describe some impossible substance like Mithril or Adamant. Certainly Cameron has a terrible sense of humor, but I gotta respect the reference. And even out of any historical context, it's a totally plausible name to be used in the story. It's certainly no lamer-sounding than any of the monikers that prescription drug companies slap on their products, and if I'm working in the marketing department at some evil space corporation, this seems like exactly the name I want to give to a 20-million-a-kilo product for which my company is trying jack up the price.

As for the cast of the film, I'll grant you that Michelle Rodriguez is a worthless human being that should never act in a film ever again, and Sam Worthington is certainly no Michael Biehn. But generally the acting is solid. Zoe Saldana manages to sell even some of the campiest lines in the film and looks kinda hot even as a creepy-looking blue alien. Stephen Lang is so good he almost makes me glad R. Lee Ermey wasn't age appropriate for the role. And Giovanni Ribisi gives a performance so douchey that I think even Kanye West probably had to step back and say, "man, that guy is a huge douchebag".

Now, full disclosure, I've only ever seen this film once in the theater in 3D, and I don't really have any intention of ever seeing it again outside of that context. I think I'd probably still enjoy it. But maybe I wouldn't. Who cares. All I know is that my man JC is coming out with sequel that he's shooting at double the frame rate, and you better believe that thing is gonna break box office records and I'm gonna be there opening day looking like this.