Wednesday, June 30

That's My Jam: Ya'll Want This Party Started Right?

His name is Daler Mehndi. The song is called Tunak Tunak Tun. I don't know much more about it than that -- but really, do you need to?
No lie, this is the jam right here.

        -- The intro drags out a little, but stick around -- it's worth it.
I mean sure there's sort of an initial comedic value to it all (especially if you don't get much of a chance to see or hear this sort of thing on the regular) -- but don't act all surprised when you start getting pulled into the beat by the second time that chorus comes back around.
Btw -- The Jersey Shore fist pump? Old and Busted.
New Hotness? Whatever you want to call the jazz hands dude's running with here.

[Listening to:  Eminem - "Not Afraid" ]


Tuesday, June 29

Delia You Are a Flake

Having one of those days but just can't find the right words?
Help has arrived.

                                  - Language deliciously NSFW. Enjoy!

[Listening to:  Telefon Tel Aviv - "My Week Beats Your Year" ]


Monday, June 28

Wishmaster

Even if it takes you a few moments to put it together, it's worth it.


[Listening to:  Prince - "Adore" ]


Friday, June 25

The Friday Hot Sheet

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it seems like you charge into the first few days full of momentum, and then somewhere in the middle of things your toe catches an edge on the floor or someone tosses a banana peel on the floor in front of you or whatever, and the next thing you know you're just sort of banging your head against some sort wall over and over again.
Why do I keep doing that?
External factors like work and weather and all the little hassles that seem to rise up day to day play a big part, but I'm always sort of surprised when all those small things can get in the way, especially when you start off the first few days at such a full charge.

I suppose a big part of it is your individual perception of how much those slings and arrows cut into you when they hit. I mean when you get right down to it, some things truly are inconsequential -- and get crushed easily under the rolling thunder of your own awesomeness as you come across them. But there's always that one knife you don't see coming towards the middle of your back (literally).

All that being said, it wasn't the worst week I've ever had -- but something about the way it more or less ended definitely didn't match the way it got going, and there's something sort of disappointing about that, you know?

Still, the cool thing about our self-imposed seven day cycles is that they eventually come to an end and you get to start all over on the next one. And even the most lack-luster of weeks at the job can be easily washed away by a couple of days at the beach or sitting by the pool.
So before we close the book on this latest adventure from hell -- here are this week’s risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here:
The
World
Cup
The US team pretty much had to get a win. But I suspect that even folks in this country who are rabid soccer fans quietly worried that once again they wouldn't be able to get one. It's the kind of tension that would usually make a sporting event a magnet for anticipation and coverage -- but would that same feeling hold true for a sport most of the country doesn't care about?

It's sort of weird, because in a strange way it's almost as if the national annoyance over soccer in general somehow shifted into sort of a secret curiosity, perhaps spurred by vuvuzela hate and the way social sites like twitter tend to create buzz around events even if it's just for the snark factor -- people started tuning in. You'd catch it on the TV's in the breakroom at work, kind of on in the background with people absently looking on.

It's still a deathly slow and boring sport to watch on television. But in an odd way, I think it's slow-as-molasses pacing actually helped things (at least on the east coast where I was), as the action in the game didn't really take off until almost lunchtime, where people sitting down in the office cafe or hanging out at local restaurants had a chance to see Landon Donovan snag that rebound and do what previous games featuring the American team had not been able to do -- create legitimate excitement.

Does this win mean that the sport will finally get it's due in this country? No. Let's be honest here -- the Americans could make history and win this whole thing and the sport would still be forgotten and pushed aside once the NFL gets going again, but as far as a step in a good direction (or perhaps better said a step away from a death knell)? Not too shabby.


Grown Ups Ugh. The sooner this movie goes away the better -- but it's probably a safe bet we'll be dealing with it for a few more weeks despite all the crappy reviews. The big question is whether or not it will be able to knock off the success of Toy Story 3, which to no one's surprise has been going like crazy with kids and adults alike who've grown up with the franchise (I saw it with my son last week -- it's a sweet little film).

At the same time -- I think that's part of what really bothers me about this obvious cash grab featuring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Chris Rock.

With all these big names, you'd think they would be talented enough to put together a truly original funny movie that could take on a kids movie like Toy Story and put up a legitimate battle for a box office weekend -- but instead they held it back a week, where the returns will be a little easier to snipe at -- which to me clearly indicates that even the studio knows it's just another helping of the same crap we've grown used to seeing lately (I find it particularly telling that most of the scenes featured in the trailers and advertisements show the cast sitting down).

As such, don't be surprised to see commercials next week proclaiming Grown Ups as "The Number 1 Comedy Movie in America" or some such kissing-your-sister type of tagline that attempts to drum up extra hype for the thing while sort of not admitting that Pixar still beat them out in it's second weekend.

And you might be asking yourself -- "What's the big deal, why do you even care?" And the answer is simple -- after the success of Couples Retreat last year and the moderate returns of Gary Marshall's Valentines Day, the groundwork has been laid for more of these lazy ensemble-cast movies to come out. Sometimes you group talented people together and get good results, like Anchorman or The Hangover -- but most times a film like this is about creating a name product that people recognize and aren't afraid to see. In other words, Grown Ups only needs to be familiar enough for people to want to show up to see it to make money.
When you think about it, a movie like this doesn't really have to be any good to be a success.
Personally I would like to see more movies where Chris Rock gets to be more than a bit player. But if all he has to do every summer is wait for Sandler to call him up to be in the sequel to this and collect another $20 million for doing nothing, then where does that get us?


True
Blood
The HBO hillbilly vampire hit True Blood is back for it's third season -- and as much as I enjoy it's trashy humor, gratuitous nudity, and non-sparkly vampire violence goodness -- am I the only one who tuned into this season expecting to see more equal opportunity bawdiness only to notice that the veneer has finally been pulled away to reveal the fact that what I thought was a sassy little HBO show with blood and boobs is actually a show about hot guys talking to and/or killing other hot guys?

It's always good to have a show you can share with people, especially when it's an HBO show that doesn't skew too hard one way or the other (like Sex in the City or Entourage tend to do) and for a while True Blood seemed to be that show. But at least for me the first two episodes of this new season have been leaning hard on scenes featuring dudes bare asses and Vampires named Bill enchanting guys named Hoyt to take a showers with them.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
It's still a fun show, but what I always perceived as a sexy balance to the storylines has at least in these early season episodes been sorta thrown away in favor of what seems to be an effort to try and lure away Twihards on the eve of their new movie hitting the screens.


PodcastsI'm not really sure what sparked my curiosity this week as opposed to others -- but I went on a podcast listening kick the last couple of days (although to be honest, now I kinda wish I hadn't). There have been a few podcasts I've heard in the past to varying returns, but not to the point where I was really addicted or disgusted in any sort of way. For example -- being a big fan of Adam Carolla's old radio show on KLSX, it was only natural to check out podcasts of previous episodes or show's that I'd missed for whatever reason (which translated into following his still-running podcast show to this day) And being a big movie nerd I tended to check out the Onion AV Club's regular Friday discussions whenever I wanted to hear about new movies coming out.
But I never really got much deeper into that particular world, you know?
I think a big part of the reason was that I don't really enjoy audio blogging. I'm a reader, I like seeing the written word. I like the thought process it invokes. The selected podcasts I did partake in were more like talk radio shows (another medium I like -- albeit in moderation). But this week during a particularly slow stretch at work where I guess the music choices on my iPod weren't doing much to inspire me I decided to check out a few podcasts I hadn't heard before -- including a sports discussion hosted on one of my favorite pro football sites, and a movie round table that's started up over at Filmdrunk.
Both were horrid.
Maybe it's because both podcasts seem relatively new (I could be wrong about that) and they haven't found their stride yet, or that there wasn't much interesting to talk about film-wise or sports-wise (even though I opened the sports podcast specifically because of a discussion they were having regarding the hometown Jacksonville Jaguars) -- but the results I found were more akin to a bunch of kids on headsets bantering about while playing Call of Duty rather than anything approaching a talk show or a guerrilla radio broadcast.

The Jaguars discussion (a topic I'm planning on writing more about soon) was particularly awful -- as an assembled group of "professional sports bloggers" (ugh) interviewed a blogger dedicated to covering just one team (double ugh) in an effort to discuss the struggles of the team in recent years to sell tickets in a small market. Essentially it was three guys trying to make jokes from a national perspective while one local honk (who was breathing so heavily you could literally feel his fatness through your headphones) insisted that they didn't understand the uniqueness of the Jacksonville market and then tried (between bites of his ham sandwich, apparently) to explain every banal detail of the teams existence in this city over the last ten years.

In a flash I realized just how fortunate I have been to come across the bloggers and radio hosts that I read and listen to on a regular basis -- because apparently there is a whole other side of things out there that just stinks out loud.


YouTube Musicians   Speaking of would be stars taking up space on the Internet -- following the runaway success of Justin Bieber and ..that other kid, Brett over at the always awesome Viral Video Film School took some time to show us some of the other undiscovered musical talents on the web (especially the guitar guy at the top of the stairs in the warehouse working as hard as he possibly can to get those three lame pentatonic riffs to come out of his fingers and the karaoke mom) leading to the creation of this little compilation video, which makes me giggle every time I see it.
Or at least it does until that last guy shows up with a carload of what!?

Like this video? Good, because it autoplays the next episode unless you tell it to stop.

[Listening to: Lil Mama Vs. Marnie Stern - "Absorb the Lipgloss" ]


Thursday, June 24

Desktop Disco

Ok friends, I need your help again.
Based off your nearly unanimous votes last time around, the desktop background on my work computer currently looks like this:
For those who might not immediately recognize it as something other than a cool picture -- it's a still photo from Spinal Tap illustrating guitarist Nigel Tufnel's point about how his guitar amps "go to 11".
Loved having this up there on my computer -- but it's been there for a while, and I'm starting to wear out on it a little bit.
So it's time for a new desktop picture. Just like last time, I've got a couple of pics stored on my hard drive that I can't decide between -- and I figured, "What the hell, lets try this again."
But before we do -- a quick note:
This is a work computer. Or perhaps better said -- this isn't my computer. So even though it's clear the IT department and the managers above don't have a problem with employees like me personalizing the screen they let me use, it also is a pretty safe bet that they would probably start having an issue if I were to start using racy or nsfw images on there.

So as much as I would truly love to use it, this particular image won't be among the candidates in the running this week:
Although if there was ever an image that better describes the corporate experience, I'd like to see it.
Anyways, here are this week's choices. Feel free post a comment below to let me know which one you like better.
This One?
Or This One?
Sort of a movie theme, dude.

Anyways, this is where you guys come in. Just post a comment to let me know which one you'll like better, and I'll make it my new desktop background for the next couple of weeks.
What Say You?

[Listening to:  Me'Shell NdegĂ©Ocello - "Relief: A Stripper Classic" ]


Wednesday, June 23

Tuesday, June 22

Sploosh

Man it's hot outside lately. All this summer heat lately feels like a blanket fresh from a hot dryer thrown on top of your shoulders while you're sitting in the middle of an oven. And every day it seems like it just rains down on you.

But you know what could fix it? You know what would make all this better? Ice cream.
No, wait.
..I've got a better idea.

[Listening to:  Jace Everett - "Bad Things" ]


Monday, June 21

Amaranthine

I write too much.
Not so much that I update more often than I need to, but that when I get going on a topic I frequently have trouble getting myself to stop. It's an issue I've been aware of for a long time. Pretty much as long as I've been writing stuff for the web. But especially now as my work is starting to find it's way to other outlets. Especially as the web continues to lean towards becoming something people look at on a screen on their phone.

I mean, on this blog I have the freedom to do what I want. Write pages of ideas and ramble through whatever topic I'm focused on at the time. But lately I've been sending stuff around for review and publication -- and all it ever seems I do anymore is edit things down. Slash and burn.
I'm frequently wordy. Expository. Loquacious. Garrulous. Voluble.
I don't know -- I like the way I write. I enjoy the process. I actually take pride (especially in my more topical pieces) in the way my pieces work through ideas and try to set things up. But more and more when I see the same words against a background other than this blue blogspot color scheme, the more I realize that the posts I write are simply too long for the web. Perhaps too much for magazine or newspaper standards as well.

I love that people check in on this site and read my stuff. Consider what I put down on the page. Comment and discuss.
But would my overall readership be wider if my entries were shorter?
The weird thing is, the stuff I post on here is edited down. The originals are usually a lot more scattered and loose. My former writing professor, mentor, and good friend Rick Straub was always a big proponent of what he would sometimes called the "splatter theory." We'd talk about writing and he'd always be like, "Just spill the paint all over the canvas. Go Jackson Pollock with your ideas on the first pass. But then when you're done take a good hard look at what's there and edit, edit, edit. Never ever hesitate to take a chainsaw to your own work."
"Good writers are great editors," he would always say.
I haven't thought about it in a while -- but back in the day Rick would get on me quite a bit for writing too much. He was always easygoing about it, but he'd go back to the point again and again.

Anyone who ever had Rick Straub as a teacher knows all too well what it was like to twist and turn your pages sideways to read the hand-written comments he would scrawl in the margins. Cryptic underlines, circles, and exclamation points.

And if you were really lucky, there would be a note at the end sort of summarizing his impressions of the piece.

It's weird, because in a lot of ways I'm a totally different writer than I was then. It was college. My ideas and themes were similar, but whenever I look back at pieces from those days I notice how much more unfocused and aggressive the pacing of my pieces would be. I still like a lot of the stuff I did in those days (I was a regular contributor to a locally published magazine as well), but it sometimes feels like I'm reading someone else's imitation of the writer I am now.

I remember Rick once telling me, "Part of the problem is that you're too attached to your jokes. And I hate saying that, because you're a funny guy. I laugh reading your stuff. But sometimes you waste energy and words setting them up. Everything you put on the page should add to your point. Anything that doesn't needs to get cut. It's your ideas that make your stuff worth reading. Focus on that."
I wonder what he'd think of my writing now, if he were still around to see it.
So many of my favorite authors are concise in their approach. Their work is filled with open spaces. Pauses in the music. There's room to think and consider the things they are talking about. In some ways I try to emulate that -- but it's almost like even when I'm hitting the right groove, I'm still playing much more than the song calls for.
Reminds me of my favorite Miles Davis story:
I don't really have any way to verify if this is true or not (although I believe that it is) -- but the story goes that one day Miles Davis was talking with John Coltrane, and he asked him why he tended to play so many notes on his saxophone whenever he played a solo. And after thinking about it for a moment, Coltrane answered,
"Whenever my solo comes up, I'm thinking about the mood of the song. The feel of the changes. And so when I start playing notes, I'm trying to explain what I'm feeling through the music. And as I'm building that idea I'll start getting other ideas, so I'll play those too -- and the next thing you know I've got all these musical ideas cascading down on top of each other. It's like a stream of consciousness that sometimes I don't really have any idea how to stop."
And after hearing all of this, Miles Davis looked back at Coltrane
and says,
"Have you ever tried taking the horn out of your mouth?"
I don't know -- what do you guys think?

[Listening to:  The Cure - "Other Voices" ]


Sunday, June 20

Sunday Shred: A Birthday Surprise

A while back my dear friend Beth hit me up on Formspring (during the week that I had it) and asked if I would come up with a song on guitar to play for her upcoming birthday. Seemed a simple enough request, one that I was happy to take on -- but then the challenge was to figure out what the best thing to come up with would be. Eventually though I came up with something I'm hoping she'll really like.

Apologies for the less than ideal sound quality, the guitar face, this video not being on YouTube (not much I could do about that, Prince Warner/BMG is a pain about people posting clips with their material in them) and especially for my little Rex Harrison-ish act there in the beginning. I'm not much of a singer, and I can't sing and play at the same time to save my life -- so I've largely saved everyone the pain of having to hear my crooning, but being that this was a special request I felt like I had to do a something, you know?
Enjoy!

[Listening to:  The Time - "Cool" ]


Saturday, June 19

Lillian Cannot Use the Phone

A little somethin' somethin' for all the dads out there on this Father's Day.
Stick around for the ending, dads. Trust.

[Listening to:  Deftones - "Needles and Pins" ]


Friday, June 18

The Friday Hot Sheet

The world is a big place. The story used to be that in ancient times every four years the entire world would shut down to participate in the Olympic games. All conflicts, wars, or disputes of any kind would be suspended in deference to the games, so that the same warriors and statesmen who fought so passionately for their freedoms and ways of life would be able to go and compete for their nation's honor in in friendly competition against the rest of the world.

Of course when you dig a little deeper what you realize is that "the whole world" was actually just the seven city states and surrounding kingdoms around the capital city of Athens, Greece -- largely considered to be the heart of civilization and culture at the time.

So the fact that the World Cup soccer tournament is reported to have the attention of so much of the world's media (even if American popular interest is minimal at best) despite the oil spill in the gulf, growing tensions between Israel and Iran, and the national horror that is the Spaghetti-o's recall actually seems a lot more in line with how the world's sorta always been when you think about it.

The bad week you had -- the work stress, the ennui, the rising bills and the shrinking free time, in a lot of ways it's an island in a bigger storm. And yet, it's your island. We experience things first-hand, even though we're aware of events all around us.
Maybe that's why the world gets so tense sometimes.
Because in a lot of ways we are fully capable of creating our own problems and solutions, and yet we're still always being affected by things outside of ourselves, by the actions of other people -- whether they be selfless or manipulative.

I would love it if a soccer tournament or an Olympic festival or the NBA finals could snap everyone out of their collective fogs and bring us all together for a little while, but the simple truth is that as much as we might like those things to be unifying, the world is simply too large for that kind of unity to be forced through some sporting event.

Fortunately, we have the Internet. Sure it's loaded with porn, spam, and reactionary a-holes, but is there anyone anywhere in this whole big world who wasn't shocked, appalled, and yet strangely compelled to learn more about the baby who smokes cigarettes?
Seriously, what the hell?
That is why I'm suggesting that every four years we get a think tank of teenagers whacked out on energy drinks and prescription drugs to release a stupid meme every year that the entire world will stop and check out for a few minutes. Nations will come together to huddle around the computer screen of that one guy who never does any real work and forget their troubles for a few minutes. Wars will pause. Oil will stop flowing. Hatred will be forgotten and forgiven as well all take a second to remember our shared humanity on this tiny planet in a remote corner of the galaxy --
As we all come together and enjoy the brilliance that is Cat Rave.
So before a bunch of pussies with glow sticks bring world peace -- here are this week’s risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here:
Hate
Mail
  
How do you know if you've really made it as a writer? Is it when you get things published, or when an editor calls you back to do more work for them based off the interest in your previous work? As many of you might know, a rant I originally published on this blog about what I saw as a trend of hypocrisy in the vegan community was recently published in Folio Weekly magazine here in Jacksonville. I had to edit the story down quite a bit to fit their requirements, and the editors themselves made a few changes to the text (as editors will always do) -- but the spirit of the thing stayed largely intact. I got a handful of compliments and well wishes from friends and family (which was awesome), but it wasn't until this week that I truly got a sense for how many people actually read my story and were affected by it.

Because this week, there were not one -- but two angry letters to the editor of Folio Weekly deriding my story. That's right friends, Jacksonville vegans were pissed -- and they took to their emails to call me out on it. They called me uninformed, said my writing was rambling and pointless, and one guy even went as far as to say that my article was "A total waste of a Backpage."
It. Was. Awesome.
I've had work published in Folio before, and even had one or two complimentary letters to the editor show up in following issues -- but in all my years of getting stuff published (which is admittedly not as much as I would like to have) I've never garnered printed evidence that I actually pissed off the people I was attacking. I mean sure, I've had plenty of derisive commentary and heated discussions flare up in the comment sections of this blog (discussions and arguments that I thoroughly enjoy being a part of, btw) -- but there's something really cool about seeing unsolicited venom from strangers directed back at me -- especially when it's in the letters to the editor section, which Folio usually reserves for letting dissenting opinions ramble on in order to point out just how reactionary and easily agitated many people actually are, no matter how much they try to convince you that they're not.

The NBA Finals People ask me from time to time why I still bother with Twitter. What's the appeal? And while I don't deny that there are times when the micro-blogging social network can be a distraction, there are other times when it's the most fun you can have when you're supposed to be doing something else. They haven't come up with the right buzzword for it yet (thank god) but every now and then Twitter will sort of collectively get swept up in something and just become this nearly real-time snark fest of people sharing in an event -- enjoying it, making fun of it, breaking off into tangential side conversations about it -- all without the complication of their voices getting in the way of the actual event.

You know what it's really like -- Being at a presentation at work or a boring class at school and passing notes or cutting up with your friends in the back of the class. Expect instead of a classroom it's a worldwide stage, and instead of your buddies it's scores of people all around the world. Or like making jokes during a movie.

Maybe not everybody enjoys that sort of snark, but what I'm finding more and more is that I do -- and it makes a lot of things (especially television) ten times more fun than their supposed hype or the actual way that these events turn out to be.

Take Game 7 of this year's NBA finals -- which was a sloppy mess of a game filled with bad shooting, silly turnovers, and stupid fouls -- all of which probably wouldn't have held my attention much at all except for the last 15 minutes or so where Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant basically outran the much older and seemingly less focused Boston Celtics on their way to the championship. The game itself was a snoozer, especially for those of us who didn't really have a dog in the fight -- but Twitter was alive with cracks on the players, the ref's, and anything else that caught people's eyes and made then laugh.

It's kinda like being at a sports bar or a private viewing party with just your friends, cutting up and having a good time with it. I know it might sound weird, but it sort of makes the whole experience more personal, and at least for me -- a lot more fun.

Drawn Together  You know what I really love, when you can tell people are really passionate about something and get to see them do it. That's why I love bands and artists that you can tell are totally pushing hard to make it.

This is also why I always get so annoyed at Hollywood studios, directors, and star actors that seemingly have no problem putting out the same half-assed tripe time and time again just because that's what people are used to them doing and having it somehow maintain their level of stardom or fame.

I mean seriously, just about the time you're starting to worry that it's just about time for another insipid family comedy full of bad cliche's and rehashed pop music soundtracks to come out from either Adam Sandler, Kevin James, or David Spade -- you come to find out that just they've all just thrown in the towel and teamed up for a film that enables them to basically collectively wank off together at some secluded location shoot with half a scripts worth of ideas for six weeks and then walk away with huge paychecks that will last them until they decide to do the sequel in a year so they can make room for Steve Carell and Tina Fey to get in on the money train.

So when you find something out there that actually gleams with the shine of love and fun from the people involved, it's hard not to get swept up into it.

I know a lot of people got their fill of Drawn Together when it was a poorly matched lead in for South Park during it's early glory days on Comedy Central. Let's be honest here -- compared to the fearless social commentary and gross-out power that Trey Parker and Matt Stone churned out week after week the sitcom-styled parody that was a reality show filled with stereotypical iconic cartoon characters stuck in a house together never really had a chance. It was like a little kid arm-wrestling Kimbo Slice.

But I loved it anyways, largely for the way it took shots at Hanna Barbera-era cartoon cliche's and contrived reality show dramas -- but also after a while because you started to realize that so many of the voice actors involved were the ones who were usually stuck doing much more tame and sterile kids characters having the chance to essentially cut loose to be as crass and rude as they could possibly be, and clearly having a blast doing it.

Then again, I'm fascinated by cartoon voice actors in general. Truth be told, it's a job I secretly would love to do. From what I can tell it's really all about who you know and sorta being in the right place at the right time (Tom Kenny -- the voice of Spongebob [and countless other characters] basically came to LA with his highschool buddy Bobcat Golthwait to see if they could make a name for themselves, and during the lean years took on cartoon voicework as a way to pay the bills. He's now one of the most sought-after voices in the industry).

So when you start to realize the collected cartoon character credits of Drawn Together regulars like eternal crush objects Cree Summer (oh Cree Summer -- the things I would do to you, and that's not even counting when I used to crush on you back when you were Freddie on A Different World) and Tara Strong (plus Adam Carolla, Jess Harnell, and James Arnold Taylor) -- who's names you might not recognize but if you've watched any amount of cartoons in the last 15 years you've heard more times than you probably even know -- make up half the cutesy kids and superheros and non-threatening Disney channel villains you or your kids grew up with -- the fact that they get to take on such subjects as racism, homophobia, deviant sexual appetites, and Christian cartoons starring computer-generated vegetables without having to be cute or kid-friendly about it starts to sound like a hell of a lot of fun.

Even though the original series was canceled years ago, a cult audience remains -- leading to the recent release of a Straight-to-DVD fan service sort of movie that I watched earlier this week. Was it the best thing ever? Nah, it was kinda silly and rude just for the sake of being silly and rude, just like all Drawn Together episodes tended to be -- but could you sorta see behind the animation and feel everyone having a great time playing around with the characters and being a part of a writing/directing/talent crew that clearly enjoys working together? Hell to the Yes.

GamerOn the recommendation of a dear friend, I gave this film a look recently. You probably remember the commercials -- Gerard Butler in a movie where his action hero character is being controlled by a cocky teenager playing some sort of video game? The bad guy was Dexter's Michael C. Hall? The advertising made it seem sort of cliche and lame, like just another shoot-em-up with sort of a "the future is scary" plot twist. But it's actually a lot more than that -- or at least it wants to be.

Directed by Neveldine/Taylor, Hollywood's latest wunderkind pair that gave us the cult favorite Crank Series starring Jason Statham and wrote the script for the recently released Jonah Hex (which looks awful) -- Gamer is actually about a lot more than just a video game using live human soldiers. It's one of those movies that the studio clearly didn't know how to market, and they just went with the easiest angle they could think of -- "Hey look -- It's the guy from 300, but this time he's got a machine gun! Pew! Pew Pew!!

In actuality, Gamer goes for a very interesting statement about the direction many people are heading in where immersible video games like World of Warcraft, The Sims, and even lesser online shared gaming experiences like XBox Live or the Playstation Network could create a world where many people would welcome outside control of their lives if it meant they could be who they were online instead of who they actually are. Certainly not a new idea -- but an interesting take on it (although it's arguable if they actually succeeded in pulling the whole thing off when all's said and done).

I'm not saying that this is a change your life kind of film (the eventual way the action story takes over the allegory to me sort of steals the thunder from the overall effect, and a lot of the characters are too cartoon-y for the audience to sympathize with) -- but I love the energy of it all, and the suggestive environments and ideas that appear throughout (if you're willing to go a level deeper than just the surface story) offer an interesting take on our online culture. It's almost like I found the backstory a hundred times more interesting than the actual plot (save for all the jokes about the kind of people who play games like The Sims, a ton of incidental nudity, a great gag involving a bottle of vodka and a car's gas tank, and the appearance of the always fun to see Terry Crews) -- even if it's only for the implications of it all and the conversations that it eventually sparked.

Much like the Crank movies (which were fun, but too scattered when everything was said and done to be considered really great) Gamer kinda tries to do too much too early, and then has to sort of choose one path to finish up with. But if you go into it with an open mind and don't mind all the friggin' jump cuts and camera tricks, there's a fascinating world in there to look at -- especially if you happen to be a bit of a videogame fan already.

Toy
Story 3
On the one hand -- I didn't really need someone to make a third Toy Story movie. I was happy to be done with that world when they finished the second one. I like the characters fine enough, and at the time the animation was astounding -- but when you first heard about them going back to the well one more time it seemed a little unnecessary.

Part of this is that the films in the Toy Story franchise were essentially were my son's first overload films. Oh my god did he watch the hell out of those movies. Over and over we'd watch it. We'd act out scenes from it. We'd buy him toys from it. At first it seemed harmless and fun, and like a lot of young parents -- we made the mistake of letting his enjoyment of it, which translated into sort of a mental rest time for each of us (or an ideal time to fold laundry, do dishes, etc.) -- become sort of a drug that we all abused. And yet, even after seeing it what seems like a billion times in a row, I've still got a lot of love for the whole Toy Story universe.

So chances are my son and I (it's our weekend together) will go out to see this at some point in the next few days. It's gotten almost nothing but positive reviews, and as he gets older and starts to see things with a more critical eye I find that I really do enjoy catching the occasional flick with the boy in the theaters (even if it does cost an arm and a leg).

At the same time, enough is enough Pixar. Let this one go. There used to be a time back in the day when people looked forward to Shrek movies coming out. Lets not poison this particular well with that same sort of thinking, ok?
Besides, Andy's gone off to college now and left his toys behind -- it's not like
you have a lot of storyline options available at this point anyways, ..right?

[Listening to: N*E*R*D - "Everyone Nose (All the Girls Standing in the Line for the Bathroom)" ]


Thursday, June 17

The Final Countdown

If you spend any time around my Twitter or Facebook, then you've probably noticed the messages counting down the days -- all leading to the celebration of my dear friend Beth's birfday.
Well the day is finally upon us, and apparently I'm the present.
Feel free to head on over to OHN to join in the fun and offer your own well wishes.
Be warned though, they've apparently got me signed up for some pretty crazy stuff, lol.
Lordy, Lordy -- look who's ..wait, what's this ish with the bows!?

[Listening to:  Children of Bodom - "If You Want Peace, Prepare For War" ]


Wednesday, June 16

Lose the Zero, Get With the Hero

It's a tough world out there. People are always looking for ways to judge one another. Pick at one another. Step up on someone else just to try to make themselves feel better. Everyone tells you to be happy with who you are -- to appreciate the things that make you unique and special, but isn't it strange how it seems like those same people are never around when the sideways looks and the hushed whispers start?
No ones around to stop the jokes from being told.
Yo mama's so fat her car is made of spandex.
Yo mama's so fat she gets runs in her jeans.
Yo mama so fat she fell in love and broke it.
Yo mama so fat when she gets on the scale it says, "To be continued.."
Maybe you saw the story that was making the rounds last week. Maybe someone forwarded you the video. Some folks thought it was funny. A lot of people got mad about it, enraged at the implications or just the way the whole thing was being presented -- as if one unique and possibly misguided case was like an open door to take free shots at any and everyone who didn't walk around looking like Francine Dee.

Not that there's anything wrong with Francine Dee that a bottle of chocolate sauce and a weekend at my place wouldn't fix -- but that who she happens to be isn't really who everyone else is, or in a lot of cases would even want to be if they had a chance in the first place.
But when you consider the alternative..
Her name is Donna Simpson. She's a 42 year-old mother of two living in Old Bridge, New Jersey. And she has a dream:
In case you didn't catch all that, Donna Simpson currently weighs 600 pounds. But her ultimate goal is to get to 1,000. Yes, you read that right. This woman is trying to get her body to weigh one thousand pounds, which would truly now and possibly forever make her the fattest woman in the world. -- And after carefully considering her story, I have just three words to say:
You selfish bitch.
Only a 1000 pounds? Really? You already hold the Guinness book record as the world's heaviest woman ever to give birth to a child, but you're gonna just up and stop at only half a ton? What the hell, woman? This ain't no game. Either you go in for the full monty or you go on a friggin' diet and stop playing.

British television (and in turn the Learning and Discovery channels) has like half a dozen shows with big people on them. Half-ton men. Victims of Gigantism. This is to say nothing of our nation's own morbid curiosity with television shows about families that give birth to and raise entire litters of screaming kids (The Duggars, Octomon, John and Kate Gosselin, etc.) -- shows that people love to watch. Shows that frequently turn their stars into pseudo-celebrities who live on forever in supermarket tabloid headlines and Jay Leno monologue joke punch lines.
Shows that make big money.
Money that apparently Donna Simpson wants in on. When asked by the Reuters reporter why she would want to gain all that weight and risk her health, one of the reasons Simpson gives between bites of cake (of course they filmed her eating) was that she would like to do a reality show that followed her quest to achieve this goal.
Clearly being in the Guinness Book of World Records don't pay shit.
But what's really behind all this? Where is all of this really coming from? I mean sure -- there's the money (there's always the money), and the possibility of some sort of infamy and celebrity -- but this isn't really like going on some show and pretending you're attracted to Flavor Flav for six weeks.
This is something else entirely.
Don't get me wrong here -- this isn't about bashing fat girls. Ain't nothing wrong with a big girl who's happy with herself and knows how to work it. Give me a thick sexy pear-shape any day of the week and I'm gonna be happy.

But once you get into this sort of realm, where your whole world is the seeking of something else, where nothing is really good enough despite what you already have -- you're really not talking about exercising freedom of choice or expressing yourself as an individual anymore.
Lets put this all out on the table and look at it for what it really is:
This is a fat girl who looks in the mirror and believes she isn't fat enough.
Hard to comprehend? Infuriating in it's overall sense of gluttony, selfishness, or just the unfortunate but all to frequent reaction to overweight people that's somewhere between shame, disgust, and pity? Does it leave you at a loss for words, or worse yet -- nothing but an odd sort of misdirected anger that you can't quite pin down where it's coming from, even though there's no mistaking how sorta pissed off reading and hearing this woman's story makes you feel?
How about this -- Flip it. Reverse it.
See a healthy, naturally curvy woman looking in a mirror in absolute disgust. Envision a girl who's starting to get a little too skinny for her own good feeling the same way. Skipping meals. Purging food. Losing grip on who she really is in favor of who she thinks she's supposed to be.

Eating disorders are serious problems that affect scores of people all over the world. Even when the degrees of body dysmorphia are more akin to some personal dissatisfaction with the way you look or the inability to see yourself without wanting to continually tweak and fix every little thing so you can better match some arbitrary standard of comparison in your mind is a problem that affects us all. Clothing manufactures sell to it. Advertisers rely on it. The media won't shut up about it.
And at first glance, it appears that 600-lb
Donna Simpson is basically spitting on it.
Donna's not trying to convince us that she needs to get to 1000 pounds or else she won't feel good about herself. She doesn't give the appearance of someone who's perspective on her own image is somehow messed up to the point where she doesn't even realize what she's saying. This isn't some reverse anorexic who needs multiple rounds of therapy to try to get her head back on straight.
This is a fat girl who somehow can't get picked on for being fat.
Watch the video. Look at the pictures. Kinda weird how 600 pounds doesn't seem like all that much on her, doesn't it? I know we're all keyed to think of standardized beauty as a flat belly and hourglass shapes when it comes to women -- but if I hadn't read that she was six bills in, I would have assumed she was like 300 - 350, tops.
I don't really know how to say this without it sounding weird -- but 600 looks kinda OK on you, girl.
Certainly she's not got an ideal body shape, and I don't really think Drake's blowing up her phone to get her in his next video -- but Donna Simpson's still walking around. She's raising a couple of kids. When she talks it doesn't sound like Jabba the Hutt demanding to see Han Solo and the Wookie. Sure her health is probably a disaster (various reports say she already has Type 2 Diabetes), and she's not gonna be winning any 50-yard dashes anytime soon -- but could her desire to get to such an exorbitant number like 1,000 pounds be rooted in the fact that for someone who wants to be a reality TV star, a voluntary sideshow attraction for money -- she doesn't look all that much bigger than some of the big women I've seen waddling into Wal Mart to grocery shop?
Either way, there's something kinda weird about all this.
Maybe it's because of all those Discovery channel shows. Maybe it's because Phil Donahue and Oprah every now and then felt compelled to trot out an interview with the guy who was so fat he couldn't get out of his house without the aid of a forklift and a team of engineers. Maybe it's because I live in the deep south, or spend inordinate amounts of time on the web.
But 600 or no -- Donna doesn't really look all that ridiculously big to me.
Sure she's no Kate Moss, I'll give you that. But a pre-lap band Carnie Wilson or Star Jones? Think about it for a second -- Visually is Donna Simpson, the Guiness Book certified "Heaviest Woman in the World" really that much more arresting or disturbing of an image than the character Gabourey Sidibe played in her Oscar-nominated performance in the movie Precious?
Not really, no.
It's almost as if this poor deluded woman is stuck up against some sort of bizzaro glass ceiling where even though she has the stats, the smarts, and the savvy to be a bona-fide reality show trainwreck, some producer is looking her over and shaking his head no because she somehow doesn't look the part.

Remember -- at this point were not actually talking about how fat she's become. How utterly unhealthy, irresponsible, or expensive her condition actually is. We're talking about a 600-pound woman who somehow can't get a reality show contract -- because she doesn't really look all that fat on camera.

If that's the case, then perhaps this whole salacious "I'm on this crazy quest to become the world's fattest woman" gambit is simply the only play she has left because the world at large is so over the idea of morbidly obese people that her own story doesn't have enough pizazz to play in the sticks.

Look at the video again. Read the news story. She's got a house. Two kids. She doesn't talk like somebody off COPS. Hell, she's got a boyfriend who not only loves how she is, but is fully behind her quest to get bigger. According to the stories, they met on a dating website for men who like their women big.

So then you think -- ok, well then this guy must be some sort of freak. Maybe we've found ourselves some sort of John Gosslein/Spencer Pratt style douchebag who's mentally abusive svengali act they could build a show around.
Maybe in a twisted sort of way, her story can have a happy ending after all.
But no -- he's just a normal dude in a 3-piece suit, who isn't ashamed of his love for larger women, and although he hasn't set a date yet -- has plans to give Donna a fairytale wedding atop Mt. Haleakala in Hawaii that he describes in detail as if he's pictured it in his mind for some time now.
Wait.. what?
Hasn't set a date yet?
Dude, you said yourself that you're into big girls. This is the biggest one out there, the mother of your child, and you still haven't put a ring on it?
..What is it you're waiting on there, buddy?
I hate to go all "He's jut not that into you" here and play this card -- but all the sudden I got questions -- and I'm not talking about the "Where are you two registered?" or "Is there gonna be a cash bar at the wedding?" type.
I'm talking about the "Sister-girl, Ray Ray ain't no good" type.
Seriously, what with this 'getting the 600 gallons of milk for free when you ain't done bought the cow' shit? So what -- baby's got to land a development contract with BBC 2 before you start taking this relationship seriously?

Or perhaps you're doing the worst guy-move of all -- playing her own self-image against her. What's the game, Phillipe? Have you got her believing that you have some sumo wrestler-looking sidepiece back on that BBW website that you're keeping in your back pocket just in case Donna has a bad week and starts weighing in somewhere in the 500's?
That's cold, brother -- You know damn well her fingers are too big to go snooping through your cell phone with.
According to the news story, it took a team of three doctors to successfully complete the emergency C-Section for the birth of your daughter, and you're still running that whole "We'll get married later" game?
Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark, and I'm starting to think it's Skinny McChubbyChaser over here.
I know he's all suited up in the video clip and everything, but have we checked this guy's closet to see if everything else he owns says Ed Hardy on it?

Maybe in the end it's none of my business (although I'm not the one who decided to bring their whole life to a news service in the hopes of landing a reality show) -- but I've got my eye on you, pal. And I'll tell you something else -- Heaven help you if I even think of catching you talking to some skinny girl out there.
Tell em, Ike.

[Listening to:  Earth, Wind, and Fire - "September" ]


Tuesday, June 15

Why Must I Be Like That?

It's sort of turned into one of those weeks. Like some bad Tobe Hooper film, suddenly it's a billion degrees outside and all I can hear is country music. If that's not fun enough, somehow my workload has like doubled lately at the office. Not that it's a bad thing to be doing more work and maybe getting a step up on the ladder -- but more like the overall timing of the ramp-up (and the utter change in the casual vibe my old manager specialized in) was largely unexpected and sorta threw my rhythm off.

If only there were some way to feel like the hours I'm pouring down this well weren't ones that I could be spending doing things I actually want to do.
I mean it's not like I'm gonna live forever, you know?

[Listening to:  Mighty Mighty Bosstones - "The Rascal King" ]


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