Saturday, August 30, 2008

Out and In

Since Kaia's arrival late Thursday night, we've been just relaxing and trying to navigate the holiday weekend as well as the heat infiltrating it. On top of some errands and grabbing food and other comestibles, we did some errands including getting her a new Canon digicam, as well as seeing some apartments on the Upper East Side.

Other'n that, we're just kicking back and enjoying the weekend, air conditioning and not having anything major on the agenda 'cept for more apartments, mebbe going to check out a kitten adoption event nearby and contemplating dinner.

Right now we're listening to the three-disc version of Billy Joel's The Stranger. It's called The Legacy Edition and in addition to the original album, it's got two live sets: the first from Carnegie Hall on 6/3/77 and the second from (I think) Nassau Coliseum from the same year. I'd dig out the materials that accompanied the discs but they were already ripped into iTunes and put away (and the paperwork that came with the bonus CD is wedged in there tighter than CENSORED BY EDITOR*). Needless to say, that's pretty damn tight ;-)

I'm sure we'll be in and out so check back as frequently as your holiday weekend schedule permits...


* Sometimes things are better imagined than envisioned.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's a Boy! No, it's a Girl! No, it's a Cabbage Patch Human!

This is really wonderful news. Jenna Jameson and Tito Ortiz are going to have a baby (well, she is, he's just going to watch). I certainly hope their offspring is healthy and happy and without any problems whatsoever, but between them they barely have a brain, so I don't give their little one much of a shot -- the kid's got a dunce and a ho for parents.

Although, to be honest, with everything that's been filmed going into Jenna Jameson below the waist, it's about time something was filmed coming out.

Oh well.

Another Two, Not For The Road

With a few really solid films floating around theaters these days, and Kaia's visit approaching faster than Michael Phelps on 'roids, I opted to avoid seeing anything in theaters until Kaia actually arrived so we could pick n' choose. Since I was stuck in repairing the closet and getting everything back together, the alternative to heading out with friends, etc., was to manage a couple films between cleaning, organizing and all that other stuff that I usually leave to other people :-D

So after the fiasco that was Harsh Times, I opted for a double-feature this weekend, in between bouts of cleaning and closet organization (and avoidance of Facebook's inevitable virus infection that nailed a dozen or so friends, each of which apparently have hidden video of me in a compromising position (like that's the first time I've heard that).

So...the double-feature. First, and foremost, a film that most people heard about is "Dan in Real Life," a drama starring Steve Carell, along with a talented ensemble, including Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, John Mahoney, Dianne Wiest and Emily Blunt. It's another in the vein of "The Family Stone" -- which is to say it's got humor, sadness, awkwardness and angst -- mixed with tension, embarrassment, conflict and resolution all rolled into one Hallmark-friendly package.

It's a nice, solid movie; but inasmuch as most of us have crazy families -- at least in part -- do we really want to be allowed into someone else's crazy family weekend? Whether it's a love story or a story about how life -- whether as a married couple or as a widower/single parent -- it's very difficult to watch this film from start to finish without wondering why you're peeking in on someone else's occasional misfortune. It's sort of like having to walk a mile in someone else's shoes and realizing after two steps you shouldn't have bothered. I can't bemoan having watched this film but I couldn't help but wonder why they bothered getting Steve Carell, who is comedy gold, to do a morose, sort of depressing story about life when his gift is comedy which makes you laugh until your sides hurt.

The other film I saw is 2003's "Oldboy," a Korean film that won Palmes D'or that year, awarded by a panel headed by Quentin Tarantino. This film is presented in Korean with subtitles and, at two hours long, is a bit difficult to follow but well worth the effort.

The main character, Dae-su Oh, is a drunken idiot who takes much of his life -- and his wife and young daughter -- for granted. Suddenly, he finds himself imprisoned in something more like a hotel room than a cell, and he begins to try and figure out who has done this to him, and why. He spends fifteen years in this makeshift prison, and he plots his escape and revenge.

This film is gritty, visceral and -- at times -- downright repulsive -- but it's the kind of thing you sit through and experience like an early AC/DC album. Not every moment is easily absorbed but you'll be riveted nonetheless. And the tenets of revenge and redemption intertwine in a very clever, disconcerting manner against the oddly juxtaposed dichotomy involving and between hunter and hunted. This was a heavy duty almost modern-day re-telling of The Count of Monte Cristo, with a lot more in-your-face violence and a lot more power. It felt a bit longer than its two hour running time, and it was difficult keeping track of the actors (there's the passage of time and the language problem to consider, like in many Japanese horror/thrillers). However, it was worth watching and it should be available through many Sundance On-Demand channels. I won't ruin any more of the story or the surprise, but I do recommend seeing the film, from start to finish, making sure it's available for repeat viewings if/where applicable.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Second Annual HoB Dumb-Ass Award goes to...

...Heidi Dalibor, of Grafton, Wisconsin.

What really amazes me about Ms. Dalibor's incredible achievement, ie being crowned the Second Annual HoB Dumb-Ass, is that she did so by reading. Most people achieve this type notoriety by doing something really, really dumb, like using the rear hitch on their pickup to rip the front of an ATM from its hinges, only to find instead the bumper is ripped from the pickup and, as they drive off in fear, they forget to collect the bumper, or, more importantly, their license plate/tag attached to the bumper.


Ms. Dalibor's achievement, however -- as incredible, ridiculous and downright pathetic -- is the result of being arrested for refusing to return two library books.

I'm not sure what bothered me more about this story -- first, that in her booking photo (here's a link), she's smiling as if she just won a check from Publisher's Clearing House, or second, that she decided, after all this bullshit (including threats and a scheduled court date which she skipped) -- and actually admitted for the record -- "I still have the books and I don’t plan to return them because they’re paid for now."

If I got arrested for something this stupid and had even the slightest suspicion I might be singled out for stupidity across the nation -- if not the world -- I wouldn't be all shits n' giggles n' smiles. I'd be hanging my head as if I just got drunk and shit on the mayor's lawn. If it was something not so bad -- ie being caught cavorting after midnight with the Swedish Bikini Team sorority on Naked Pillowfight Night, I'd be smiling the biggest grin this side o' Pecos County. This shitbird -- Heidi Dalibor -- should be really embarrassed. The fact that she isn't, and that she's keeping the books after everything that's happened, has earned her a year of being referred to properly, by her new title:


Friday, August 22, 2008

Harsh Times Indeed

About a year ago -- maybe more -- I watched a movie directed by Brad Anderson called "The Machinist" starring Christian Bale. Released in 2004, I'm not sure on what movie channel it was being shown but I came across it and recorded it and fired it up without any real info other than Christian Bale was its star.

It was a bit intense, but like everything else in Christian Bale's body of work, it was jarring and memorable. It's the story of Trevor Reznik, a guy who is obsessed with some recent and not-so-recent events in his past. As such, he's an insomniac and has trouble handling day-to-day life. For the role, Bale -- in the vein of Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro -- lost a third to half his body weight to depict the troubled, almost quasi-human character. It's uncomfortable seeing his bones just below the skin, but as was the case with DeNiro in Taxi Driver -- or even The Untouchables -- it's a level of commitment that's rarely seen in the age of CGI and blue-screen backgrounds.

So...the other night I'm navigating the 12,000 channels currently fed into my world via an HD DVR box, and I came across "Harsh Times," another Christian Bale movie of which I'd heard nothing about. The brief info attached to the upcoming movie described it as a story about an Iraq war vet with some psychological problems starting shit all over LA. Also in the film were Eva Longoria-Parker-Whatever and Terry Crews (one of the bad-guy brothers in Norbit). Done...set to record.

Anyway, I watched it -- in pieces -- and although the beginning was really solid, the movie wound down pretty quickly. Christian Bale's character, apparently, is some former street-scumbag from East LA, so half the movie involves lines tinged with "ese," "homie" or "bro." This is all well and good -- much like the film "Training Day," there's nothing wrong with showing the gritty, repulsive side of East LA (is there any other?). It just kinda falls flat when you know Christian Bale isn't even remotely close to being that sorta dude. Picture Kenneth Branagh playing a pimp in the South Bronx -- that's about the same incongruity.

The movie does, however, depict an interesting dichotomy; it shows how some of the most capable military troops -- Rangers, Green Berets, et al -- aren't all farm boys from Kansas and Nebraska. Some of them are from urban, low-end parts of the countries from backgrounds -- not religious or ethnic, but cultural -- that would make many of their superiors blush. Otherwise, however, it was a waste of two hours and a lot of talent (at least in the case of Christian Bale).

To sum it up, if the powers that be took "Dude, Where's My Car" and made it a crime drama, and removed essentially all entertainment value therefrom, it would be "Harsh Times."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Blurring Line Between PC and Man

Before I begin, let's keep in mind that "PC" refers to computers -- ie desktop, notebook and ultra-portable computers -- as opposed to those devices that run Microsoft Windows-based operating systems. In other words, I'm not excluding the few among us who use Apple/Mac machines. And frankly, if I were to apply the "PC" label to machines that ran Microsoft Windows, that label would -- these days, anyway -- apply to Macs as well. So pfffft.

The blurring line to which I'm referring is the obvious, impending merger between machine and man that Rush once observed back in 1980 (Red Barcheta, if you must know).

But the merger between machine and man described a young boy's lust for a vintage Ferrari, not an overclocked quad-core Intel chip that could, virtually speaking, roast that Ferrari and any Ferrari put to the road since then.

Thing is, as much as we may decry or resist -- and I don't count myself among those who do -- it is fairly certain that the world has become one with the Internet. Aside from medical procedures and food and there's nothing out there that isn't readily and safely available online. Name something that can be purchased with a credit card and I can find a site where it's available and can be provided to you either electronically or via some sort of shipping service. Yes, that includes one-legged Filipino hookers. But jeez -- how cliche!

The point I'm trying to make is not that I am Captain Obvious, but rather that as the Internet and technology run rampant over and throughout our daily lives, we suddenly can see even more intrusion. For example, we procured a Blackberry Curve for my mom this afternoon. She now has four different e-mail addresses. She doesn't necessarily know all four of them -- but she's got them handy in her purse whenever she wants to send or check e-mail.

Over the past several weeks I got about a dozen or so Facebook friend requests from people all over the place. Finally I relented and logged in for the second time since I joined Facebook in the first place. And like AIM, chatrooms and live-action forums before it, it's like a Mall of Friendship and Relaxation. I know -- in theory -- that it's a site dedicated to people networking and interweaving relationships, but -- let's be honest -- if you want cheap, quick, tawdry sex, you go to AdultFriendFinder. If you want to hang out with some friends but you're in the back end of a 36-hour road trip through Wyoming and you have internet access in your Motel 6 mini-suite, it's Facebook or Channel 6.

More and more frequently, I find the TV plays less and less significance in my life, and the PC has more significance in my day-to-day activities. Not only do I rely on it for work in the office and writing at night and on the weekends, I'm consistently amazed how I do in-store research with the Blackberry before buying something of semi-importance (ie anything that involves more committment than a box of cereal or some similarly insignificant food product). I'm actually guilty of being outside a theater with friends and using the Blackberry while on the movie line to see what times movies were playing at the theater we were at.

I haven't -- not yet, anyway -- used the Blackberry's browser to order food online on the way home so it gets to my house sooner. But I'm sure that's down the road -- no pun intended.

The point is, as our world becomes more and more digital -- pictures, music, movies, communication -- the computer (and the network which permits us to communicate using same) has become not crucial but more than that. The main question I have people ask themselves is this: if you arrived home to find both your internet and your television were not working, and if you could snap your fingers and magically have one function but the other not for 24 hours, which would you pick?

Invariably, ten years ago, the answer would universally be the television. These days, I've found it's the opposite. Feel free to sound off if you'd like, but I know that my experience has me leaving the Harmony (my remote) in the charging cradle and I've landed in front of the PC to write, contact friends, update guest lists and do some research. If the TV is on, it's in the background and -- invariably -- I'm unaware it's on (unless it's the Yankees, in which case -- thanks to their awful season -- I only wish I was unaware it was on).

In either case, the thing that really blows my mind is that the evolution of digital communication continues, and I'm not referring to the purchase of a Blackberry. I refer to Facebook.

Last night I punched in about 30 people into my "network" and then, today, as I made my way from one point to another in the City, I happened to download the Facebook client for my Blackberry. My PC knew I had done that and reported it right there on the screen. So now my PC is keeping track of me. And every time I changed my status -- from sleeping to working to nodding off to cleaning up the closet missing a back wall -- the machine let people know my every move.

It's like C3P0, except it's not sporting an English accent and it's certainly not looking after me.

I think the days of the home PC being an "optional" thing are far, far behind us, as are the people who deem them optional.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Beat Goes On

Living in an apartment has its ups and downs. The nice things are that you have access to Manhattan, what I consider to be one of -- if not the -- best cities in the world (San Francisco and London are on that very short list). And while living in a $20 million townhouse bests apartment living, it's not always an option for those of us without the means to achieve our just desserts ;-)

So...with an up comes a "down." That down, apparently, is some sort of mythic, mysterious water leak happening in my building. I was told a couple weeks ago that there was some sort of leak, but since I didn't see, hear or sniff anything remotely resembling water damage, all was fine...until Friday.

Apparently, the leak is happening somewhere in my line, so either it's coming from an apartment above mine or mine itself. And since nothing seems to be happening in mine, they're still not sure from where it's originating. However, that not withstanding, two plumber-dudes came by this AM. In preparation, I emptied my entire closet over the weekend, neatly (yeah, right) scattering hanging clothes all over the place, and cleaning out everything in the main closet area (not just the hanging stuff, but shoes, bags, boxes, etc.).

It was quite a pain in the ass, but alas, it was worthwhile as well.

So I'm stuck at home, doing some basic work online but nothing major as they started banging and breaking through the wall in the closet about an hour ago, and they pretty much haven't stopped since except for now, which is the first five minutes of quietude I've had this AM. It's not really loud -- not the kind of loud that drives people to jump from the rooftops of the city, anyway -- but it's BANG BANG bang BANG BANG regular and the rhythm is pretty much in tune with the headache I developed sometime over the weekend.


So it should be a rather interesting day of banging, knocking and survival.

Of course, the BANG BANG bang bang other interesting aspect is whether they'll be able to reassemble all the closet hardware (ie the wire/cable shelving, etc.) that was pre-built. You didn't think I just had a big pole, now didya? ;-)

So if the next update here bang bang bang seems a bit stuttery or out of bang bang bang BANG BANG sorts for me, my BANG BANG OH SHIT you dropped it apologies on behalf of Bill the Plumber, Leo his Assistant Plumber and the entire staff here at the BANG BANG BANG HoB.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Just a Minor Observation

Is it me, or does Michael Phelps resemble an older, geekier McLovin'?

It's prolly just me.

Oh well.

The News About GeorGia

Jorge Terceiro and Renato Gomes.

These two names could, quite simply, be overlooked as just two more Olympic athletes competing in Beijing this summer. Judging by the immense amount of media speeding at us over international, interoceanic fiber-optic cable, it would be easy to skip over these two names. However, that would be a mistake -- whether you're a proponent or a critic of the Games.

Jorge and Renato, two Brazilians, put their indelible stamp on these Games on several levels. After losing their first two contests in Men's Beach Volleyball, Jorge and Renato faced a much more capable, far more experienced Netherlands team in Reinder Nummerdor and Richard Schuil. The two Dutch players were expected to run over the 0-2 pairing of Jorge and Renato, but miraculously, even after a premature celebration at the end of the first game, they beat their Dutch opponents 2-0. The upset was so exciting and so unexpected that Renato ran into the stands and climbed to the top of the seating area and raised his arms in triumph basking under his country's flag. His country's flag, of course, was that of the Republic of Georgia.

Jorge Terceiro and Renato Gomes are both Brazilian-born volleyball players. They tried competing for the Olympics and the World Cup and various other international competitions on behalf of their native country but due to the fact that Brazil has so many talented men volleyball players, they were shot down and weren't able to compete. Enter Georgia.

Apparently, Georgia's representatives approached the teammates and asked them to represent Georgia. For a fee -- part of which was contingent on their success at the games in Beijing -- they agreed to represent Georgia. Their first step was to gain dual citizenship in Brazil and Georgia, which they accomplished. Their second, and perhaps more painful step, was to sit out of international competition for two years, as their nationality was not immediately recognized. Their third step was to train and prepare for the games. Somewhere along the line, these two were nicknamed Geor (for Jorge) and Gia (for Renato), thus making them "Geor-Gia." That, of course, was as much connection to Georgia as they will ever have -- except, of course, the financial one.

Now that they've defeated the Dutch team, it's not clear how they'll fare in the semi- and, perhaps, Final rounds of the competition. However, as much as it was exciting seeing Renato running to the top of the volleyball arena to the Georgian flag, it was a bit different watching the spectacle and knowing his patriotism was, perhaps instead, a great showing of capitalistic pride.

I may be jaded; in fact, after years of reading more news about which athletes have been disqualified from international competition due to illegal doping, or simply hearing stories about athletes cheating or similarly trying to gain unfair advantage, I don't have the same naive, patriotic love for the Games as I did back when the US men's hockey team pulled off the Mirace on Ice in Lake Placid. Then, the Russians were regarded, not simply in men's hockey, as a monolithic entity destined to crush anything and anyone in their path. Under the tutelage of the late Herb Brooks, the team -- led by Mike Eruzione and a bunch of salty, young players too inexperienced to be scared -- was able to stand up to their Russian counterparts and win.

Now, when we hear about Michael Phelps or Dara Torres, the continued, incredible success leaves us wondering whether their achievements are the result of incredible, almost superhuman talent, or from external supplements that make them cheaters instead of the best of the best.

It's not the fault of these athletes, or the Olympics itself, that makes me feel this way. In fact, I feel badly I don't have the kind of almost hypnotic, gravitational pull towards the Games that many do, including my other half. I'm thoroughly patriotic, as I pull for my fellow Americans no matter what. However, when America is not competing in an event I'm watching, it's as disinteresting to me as a pre-season baseball game between the Kansas City Royals and the Washington Nationals. More often than not, I'm sleeping before the contest is a third of the way completed.

I've watched some sports with which I am familiar and, relatively speaking, I enjoy, like basketball and boxing. The former, especially those games featuring the USA, and the latter, are not quite the same as their professional counterparts. Olympic basketball is a bit cleaner and features a lot less show-boating and much less trash-talking, although I suspect the reason behind the latter is invariably teams that speak different languages have a tough time insulting their opponents' maternal parents effectively. And the boxing is a complete waste of time. The reason why people watch professional boxing, as they do NASCAR or other dangerous sports, is they're waiting for the crash that ends a career. They want to see one guy get knocked clear out of the ring like from the Rocky films, and knowing these guys wear protective headgear and, effectively, are sparring rather than competing leaves a lot to be desired. Knowing when a boxer gets "hurt" in the Olympics and when he gets "hurt" in the real world are completely different things make me, as a casual -- if at all -- boxing fan wish Mike Tyson was in there against some French guy who seems to apologize every time he hits his opponent.

The Olympics are an exciting time, but perhaps what leaves me jaded more than anything else is the crass, intense commercialization of the entire process. Knowing NBC stands to pocket somewhere around a billion -- not a million, a Billion -- dollars in the wake of this competition is staggering, and yet it's not as surprising as it is a mere fact. There has been a lot of excitement and drama -- from the Swedish wrestler who threw his medal away in protest of losing a match, to the US womens gymnasts poignantly striving and failing under Alicia Sacramone. It's just that the negatives seem to grow each four years, and I wonder -- and I hope -- that one day these games can recapture my excitement and complete interest like a World Series Game 7 or a Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 featuring, respectively, the Yankees or the Rangers.

I suppose all is not lost; I still retain the hope towards the rekindling of this excitement one day in the future, and despite not knowing the up-to-the-minute medal count, I can honestly and unabashedly root for Team USA no matter if the sport is Water Polo, Trampoline or Fencing. It may not be the Color War I experienced as a tyke in Camp, and it might not be October, 1996, when the Yankees won the first of four world series in that decade; but knowing that the majority of these athletes -- no matter what country they shoot, run, swim or compete for -- are legitimately the best in the world and watching them should be an honor. I'm appreciative of their efforts, and I aspire to really enjoying and following what's happening half a world away.

Every time I find myself detaching, I remember back to 1980 and it all comes back. So I'm not too, too worried.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Food TV: Free for Millions

Despite the fact that this mini-post is more a weak-kneed excuse to link to Forbes' ranking of celebrity chefs than my typical (perhaps anal-retentive) over-analysis, the list and the in-depth look at who these people are (in its incomplete splendor) are worth a click or two.

And, in related, somewhat disconcerting news, Rachel Ray topped the likes of Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain and Tom Colicchio in earnings.

And, in sad news, Aaron McCargo, Jr., did not make the list. However, he did receive an honorary "Coke The Van" lapel pin manufactured by The Franklin Mint.

Okay, that's not true. But it would have been sweet if he did.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Epitome of Laziness, Part 37

At some point over the last few days I was multi-tasking my way around The Casa de Boogie when I got a phone call from a friend. I dialed it down for a few minutes to focus on the conversation and happened to notice the Food Network was on. The particular show was "Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee" and it, generally speaking, features a host (Sandra Lee) who gives tips on how to cut prep time for semi-homemade fare (hence the title). Personally, I'm not a fan of this show because Ms. Lee is not a chef nor is she a cook; she essentially takes ingredients like frozen orange juice concentrate, pre-cooked rice, pre-packaged mixes and instant mixes (jello, pudding, etc.) and incorporates her own spin to create a "semi-homemade" dish or three.

Personally, I think the show's a joke; what makes it even moreso is that it's on the Food Network and not on something akin to Fine Living or, even more appropriately, the Home Shopping Network.

But neither here nor there. The point of the tale is that as I watched I saw her pour pre-bought lemon juice out of a bottle -- in her own "studio" kitchen -- rather than cut a lemon in half and squeeze that bad boy into her Frankenstein-esque concoction.

I don't purport to be Thomas Keller or Danielle Bouloud, so if I appear to be a food snob, that's not quite accurate. I like and appreciate high-end cuisine, but it's not just about foie gras and "Coke The Van" (thank you Aaron McCargo, Jr.). Plain, simple fare is more than adequate, and there have been plenty of times Kaia and I have kicked back with roast chicken and some steamed veggies and baked potatoes and it's better than some meals we've had in quasi-pricey restaurants.

The point is: if your gig is cooking on TV and you're trying to impart some measure of "home-y-ness" to your creations, using lemon juice out of a plastic lemon is not the way to go. In fact, as soon as I saw her do that I actually thought to myself "Why am I watching this dimwit?" There are some things one can do to speed up or help with home cooking; but some of the biggest no-no's are using garlic from a jar as opposed to fresh (if the garlic smell on your hands is your excuse, get a stainless steel fork or spoon after cutting the garlic and rub it all over your hands while under lukewarm water -- the smell will disappear) and squeezing a plastic bottle to get lemon juice rather than cutting a fresh lemon. If your lemon excuse is to avoid getting seeds in your mixture, then fer chrissakes use two hands and squeeze with one and let the juice drip into the other. The seeds will fall into your free hand and the juice will find its way into your dish.

I'll admit there are very few friends of mine whose refrigerators don't have a jar of garlic or a lemon bottle. The reality is that life -- phone calls, appointments, working out, etc. -- get in the way and it's not always easy to get to the store and get every single item necessary to whip up a five-star managerie from a decently-stocked pantry. So I can forgive John Doe and Jane Doe for going the quick'n'easy route. However, a TV "host" whose sole job it is to be prepared and set the bar for his/her viewers should know better. Even Rachel Ray, whose mouth is constantly moving as much as her dishes are speeding along in the 30 Minute Meals thing, always uses fresh ingredients, and I've actually seen her whip up a Thanksgiving dinner (albeit with some 'adjustments') in an hour. So the whole "shortcut" thing doesn't mean you need to buy, prepare and/or ingest crap out of a bottle or a wrapper.

In actuality, part -- if not all -- of the reason we, as viewers, watch the Food Network in the first place is because we're interested and care about what we consume. Seems to me that cutting corners in such blatant, basic ways contradicts the point of the network in the first place.

However, inasmuch as I am taking Sandra Lee to task here, she's more about cocktails and tablecloths than she is good food. I get it -- her standards are lower than many of her viewers. What bothers me is the shitbirds behind the cameras deeming these low-end shortcuts to be acceptable. There's nothing wrong with finding ways to speed up your food prep time, but if you're okay with chemicals and other crap out of bottles rather than the actual foods themselves, why not just call for a pizza and put out linen napkins instead of paper ones?

As I've mentioned before in these pages, Anthony Bourdain once described the Food Network as "striving for mediocrity."

Absolutely god-damn right.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Uncanny Genius of "All In"

If you've seen the 2006 movie "All In," no doubt you will likely confirm my observations as listed below.

First, the cast is impressive: it includes Dominique Swain (as Ace -- LOL), Michael Madsen and Louis Gossett Jr. (in a rare non-Iron Eagle-sequel role).

Second, the movie, released in 2006, managed to seize on the notoriety of the poker craze that seems to occupy the nation these days. Turn on one of the fifty ESPN channels or FoxSports -- or even NBC -- late at night (after 1AM) and there is poker on TV.

Third, the movie incorporates the "Gen X" demographic much more efficiently than did other similar movies like "21," "Rounders" or "Lucky You."

And finally, the movie was atrociously awful.

There should be some sort of device attached to cable boxes that will spit out a $20 each time a shitty movie is broadcast and watched for its entirety. Or, if this wasn't feasible, perhaps cable companies broadcasting this type of dreck could simply tag these types of shitty movies with a "Ball-Kick" logo during the opening credits. Then, you as the viewer could simply press a button on your remote, and a representative from the cable company -- likely a large guy wearing steel-toed boots -- would come by your house or apartment and kick you in the balls, thus saving you 1:45 or so without your losing the same sensation as if you sat through the entire film.

Or, conversely, you could just check these pages prior to watching a movie you suspect will be shitty. However, unfortunately, when reading the members of this film's cast -- like Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the 1991 film "Class Action" -- it's not always easy to determine the well-cast yet nonetheless incredibly awful films from the run-of-the-mill time-wasting films like Lindsey Lohan's "I Know Who Killed Me."

So the next time you opt to pick up the remote and fire up your home theater, remember: caveat emptor.

And look for that "Ball-Kick" logo coming to a cable company near you.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

RIP Bernie Mac 1957-2008

While I don't typically embrace the purpose of these pages for celebrity obituaries, the news that Bernie Mac has died bothers me a lot.

If you head on over to his IMDB page, you can get a listing of his work. Most people reading this will likely remember his involvement in the "Oceans 11" franchise, and many will have some sort of familiarity with The Bernie Mac Show. However, I became most familiar with and impressed by his work in the Billy Bob Thornton film "Bad Santa." For those who haven't seen it but may consider doing so, it's a dark comedy surrounding the commercialization of Christmas (not to mention the pathos of small-time crooks and parents too busy to pay attention to their kids).

The reason why I mention Bad Santa, despite the fact that it's among the lesser-known of his projects, was because I found Bad Santa to be one of the best dark comedies I've ever seen -- not in small part due to a great performance by the late John Ritter. If you haven't seen the film, get/rent a copy on DVD and be ready to laugh.

Aside from the fact that he was only 50, his death from complications from pneumonia comes as a bit of a shock. As of this past Thursday, I'd read something where the pneumonia was receding and he was relatively stable. Part of the problem was that he suffered from a lung disease called sarcoidosis, so when I came across a report indicating he was doing better I didn't expect I'd be reading or writing about his passing, but, alas, nothing ever goes as planned.

Rest in peace, Bernie.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Four Horseman Are Nigh...

Anyone who disputes the statement that we Americans are an ingenious bunch need look no further than this story for clarification that we, indeed, are clever and intelligent people.

If, for some reason, you missed the above link or simply cannot bear the thought of focusing on a site other than this one, the link refers to the arrest of one Daniel Allen Everett, a Michigan man who, apparently, arranged to meet who he thought was a 14-year-old girl. Apparently, instead, the authorities set up the meeting with him and arrested this asshole. He later plead guilty to child sexual abuse and using the Internet to attempt child sexual abuse.

The capper -- the thing that makes this story even more unique than the hundreds and thousands of similar stories that are reported annually -- is that this creative shitbird was arrested, at the time and place of the theoretical meeting with the 14-year-old, wearing a "World's Greatest Dad" t-shirt.

The authorities have not yet determined whether this shitbird has children.

How creative.

I'm hoping his cellmate(s) are equally, if not more, creative, and have sexually-transmitted diseases that have yet to be identified or cured.

I also hope he lasts long enough in prison to pray for death.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Story That Won't Die, and the Network That Might

Now that The Next Food Network Star Finale is almost two weeks old, you'd think that people have, largely speaking, forgotten about the network's ridiculous decision to bounce the top two candidates in favor of the "winner," Aaron McCargo Jr.

If that's what you'd think, then you'd be wrong.

People are still tweaked over this fiasco, and the shit keeps hitting the fan. The noise has been brung in the comments of a variety of blogs, including SideDish and several others. The problem, as per usual, is that race is, apparently, a factor. For me, I think Aaron was the least qualified of the three finalists, but there are plenty of people -- on both sides of the fence -- who claim race either is directly responsible for the network's choice or that it has nothing to do with it, which means it has everything to do with it. Put another way, people who claim that race is a major factor why Aaron won are being taken to task for being racist by people who think that race has nothing whatsoever to do with Aaron having been chosen.

Me -- I think it's partially responsible. Despite "racial profiling" being a no-no on clipboards belonging to state troopers, marketing departments regularly go after ethnic markets, whether they are latino, african-american or even eastern european. Judging by the direction the Food Network has been going, it wouldn't shock me if Aaron was chosen in part to cull African-American viewers. And frankly, anyone who doesn't admit to seeing this trend in part is either blind or willfully ignoring the obvious.

But I digress.

The newest news -- at least newest to me, anyway -- is that after the furious uproar over Aaron's "victory," it was leaked that Adam apparently will be getting his own show on the network after all. Apparently his show will be called "Will Work for Food" and he'll be put in all sorts of food industry-related positions, in theory playing off his quasi-pathetic admission during The Next Food Network Star competition that since he and his brother lost their restaurant, the shot at Food Network stardom was basically it for him.

Of course, while this upcoming show -- about which I was advised by my other half, Kaia -- is a step in the right direction (ie righting the monumental screw-up perpetrated by NFNS two Sundays ago) -- what bothers me is this show looks, sounds and smells a lot like another Food Network show called Glutton for Punishment with Bob Blumer. What really is interesting, of course, is that link brings you to a page showing Bobby B. prepping an Adam Gertler specialty: beer can chicken.


While we're on the topic of the Food Network cannibalizing itself, I've concurred with a number of observations suggesting their new show "Ask Aida" seems very similar to the concept Adam offered up in his NFNS demo. The former is a show asking people to send mail, e-mail, text messages or faxes to "Aida" asking for help cooking a recipe or perfecting a technique, whereas Adam's concept was to have a viewer connected via webcam to Adam in his kitchen during his broadcasts. To me, the concepts are pretty much mirror images of one another. The chicken, the egg...doesn't really matter which came first, it just seems like Adam authored the idea and the Food Network -- clearly coming up short in the creativity department -- jumped on it.

Speaking of Food Network cannibalism, I've heard from a number of people both herein and elsewhere that Ted Allen (formerly of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and current Iron Chef America Judge Emeritus) starring in a new show called Food Detectives on, you guessed it, the Food Network, is a thorough rip-off of Alton Brown's Good Eats.

Let me just put this out there: whether or not you like cooking and care about what you're putting in your body, if you don't enjoy watching Good Eats then there's something wrong with you. Mr. Brown combines funny, facts and cooking -- in an unabashed, self-deprecating, geek hipster dufus style -- in a tight, always-entertaining 30-minute package. Not only is his show one of the best on the Food Network, it's by far one of the best shows on TV.

So why would the Food Network tamper with it by copying it with "Food Detectives" or anything else?

Well, the concept is that if something works, you go with it; therefore, rather than try and come up with something new -- clearly something which the Food Network has consistently failed in their attempts thereat -- but they figure that Ted Allen, who is very knowledgeable about food and also very personable, might be a good second to Alton Brown, who has been stretched thin with his appearances on other shows and Food Network-related appearances on and off TV.

The problem is, by doing this -- basically ripping off shows (whether said shows being ripped off are successful or not) is a shitty way to run a network. Granted, it's worked for Law and Order and CSI -- those franchises are running so frequently on so many different networks it's hard to keep track of which ones are current and which ones are repeats. However, I'm not alone in believing the rip-offs are a sign that the creative minds at the Food Network are in decline -- if they are still employed at the Network at all -- and by copying their own shows with different names and sets, it's a bit insulting to the viewer. No offense to Ted Allen -- but Alton Brown is one of the greatest people on television these days. Why would anyone want to watch a show that seemingly rips off his show?

The answer is: no one wants to watch that show.

It amazes me that the powers that be at the Food Network seem to be the only ones who simply and absolutely fail to get it.

They fucked up The Next Food Network Star -- on several levels (not just in choosing the least-qualified candidate but by -- oopsy -- announcing the winner online three DAYS before the finale aired);

They are copying their own shows with little or no creative tweaking, resulting in carbon-copies which split, confuse and/or irritate viewers rather than bringing in more;

And finally, they are dismissing and/or losing quality people: Mario Batali is following Emeril out the door (and of course, their ability to alienate a food-related superstar in Anthony Bourdain is amazing in its stupidity). I have nothing against Bobby Flay; he seems like a decent guy. It's just that of the 12 or so people on the network, Bobby Flay is one of the few people who is actually cooking -- and teaching viewers how to do so -- on his shows.

Um...speaking of which, Bobby Flay comprises more than half the network's broadcast (this past Saturday night, Bobby Flay shows were broadcast from 8PM to 4AM). WTF?

What really bothers me is that I'm not some sort of investigative genius, uncorking some conspiracy like Woodward and Bernstein. A huge number of people are seeing the same inconsistencies I'm seeing, and they're asking the same questions.

What's worse? Knowing that all these significant mistakes are pervasive and obvious, or knowing that as they build exponentially, the network could, in theory, disappear?

There's one question whose answer still evades me.

Monday, August 04, 2008

I Care So Little I'm Gonna Write A Shitload About It

Being that I'm a purveyor of useless, irritating opinion and/or information -- and not just through these pages -- I can't help but advise the reader that the "Brett Favre" saga appears to have taken a major shift.

I apologize to those of you who neither know nor care who Brett Favre is -- even if the name does seem distantly familiar (if you saw "There's Something About Mary" you may recall Mr. Favre's name). However, while I was tempted to title this post something akin to "Who Gives A Flying Shit?" I did not miss the hypocrisy of writing about something that is so meaningless. Yet, that is exactly the point that brought me to address it herein.

The essence of the situation, as it stands, is Mr. Favre, who after this season reluctantly and emotionally retired from football after 16 seasons playing for the Green Bay Packers, opted to return to football less than six months after he called it a career. However, the Packers, who had already planned on being without Mr. Favre, had anointed his backup, Aaron Rodgers, as the starter. When Mr. Favre indicated his intent to return to football, and to the Packers, with whom his contract was still in effect through 2010, the Packers balked and advised him to stay retired and that they had already decided to move forward with Mr. Rodgers (I know, it's funny) at the helm. Thus a stalemate was born.

Mr. Favre persevered, and instead of taking their advice, he privately and publicly went on the offensive; to the former, he contacted the Packers front office -- specifically, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy, general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy. To the latter, he had his friend, Greta Van Sustern, interview him on CNN in connection with the stalemate.

So instead of this situation being handled with the appropriate dignity and insignificance befitting a dispute between a football player and a football franchise -- in the middle of Wisconsin, natch -- this has become national news. Today, after some involvement from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Mr. Favre will be returning to the Green Bay Packers training camp and will be given -- ostensibly, anyway -- the chance to compete for the starting QB role.


Now that the entire situation has been summed up, it's fairly clear that this entire mess is a complete joke.

Essentially, after a lot of posturing, bullshit, whining, finger-pointing and very (unnecessary) politicking, everything looks like it will, likely, fall back into the place in Green Bay, Wisconsin.


The same bullshit, round-robin crapfest that defined the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez during this past off-season and Mr. Favre's campaign trail compassion-seeking mission happens all over the sports map. To wit, Pete Rose has spent the last 15 years trying to get someone -- anyone -- to listen to why this ex-baseball great and current dirtbag should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The thing is, inasmuch as there are people who really care about Brett Favre, Alex Rodriguez or Pete Rose -- or all of them -- do we need daily doses -- sometimes multiple doses per day -- of said athlete's current situation? Did we need an ESPN-sponsored press conference telling us all of what was pretty clear for even the casual observer? More importantly, do we need Greta Van Sustern's involvement in a matter that was so over-reported that many of us who cared -- at all -- were nauseated by the third day of the constant 24-hour watch.


I understand that ESPN tries to take itself seriously. And as much as I enjoy ESPN, with every "Boo-Yah!" the network reminds us that, like network news, all the horseshit that spews forth between commercials is about entertainment. If you want information, hit the internet. If you want to debate whether Katie Couric or Dan Rather or Walter Cronkie or Tom Brokaw or Brian Williams is the best newscaster, let me know so I can leave the room. It's the medium that's the problem; is there such a dearth of actual news that CNN felt it appropriate to broadcast an interview with a waffling, aging veteran who can't make up his mind and appears, instead, to be a petulant, selfish baby?

Well, after all these words and the last two weeks of "news," I'd like to formally advise Mr. Favre, ESPN, CNN and the entire fan base of the Green Bay Packers that most, if not all, people don't give a shit. They have a growing distaste for masturbatory, overly anal news that is neither interesting nor newsworthy. They are weary of the medium -- whether it is a news broadcast, a newspaper, or a website -- filling itself with fluff, stupidity and artificially-inseminated opinion.

Granted, this site is typically guilty of much, if not all, of the things listed above.

But I digress.

The point of this extended diatribe is -- in all seriousness -- perhaps as guilty of over-indulgence as the target thereof. Therein lies the rub. How can one effectively -- without hypocritical irony -- demonstrate that wasting our time on news we care nothing about is an irritation that should be discontinued? Being silent in response to this practice seems less than effective.

So, instead of an extended yawn-fest like this, perhaps I should just include an open letter:

Dear Mr. Favre:

Get a life, you dumb-ass hick. Quit jerking off an entire football organization, quit putting yourself before the team for which you claim to have so much respect, and get started farming rudebagas, rhubarb and whatever else they grow in Mississippi. And stay out of the news already.


Thank you.

Your friend, Boogie P. Booginacious, III