Monday, February 22, 2010

I bet you think this joke is about you

A back injury has relegated me to the horizontal plane for the past week, and I haven't felt like blogging much. But thanks to Allah and Vicodin (mostly Vicodin), I can resume. I'm sorry to my thousands of devoted fans for the hiatus. One particular story from this past week struck a chord with me. If you haven't heard/seen, a recent Family Guy episode featured a character with Down syndrome, the voice of which was done by an actress who actually has Down syndrome. In the episode, it's insinuated that this character's mother is Sarah Palin, whose son, Trig, has Down syndrome. (When asked what her parents do, the character, Ellen, responds, "my mom is the former governor of Alaska.)

Uh oh. Palin has a history of taking jokes about her a bit personally. When David Letterman joked a little while back that Palin had come to New York for the purpose of going to Bloomingdale's to update her "slutty flight-attendant look," she wasn't laughing. Her response was that Letterman had missed the real point of her trip, which was to attend an autism conference. On top of this, she also let fly some barely incoherent, sanctimonious babble—the kind of dialogue that we’ve come to expect, and that I’ve grown quite fond of—, this time something about the degradation of women. Sarah's right, Letterman did miss the point, and I'm guessing he missed it on purpose, because autism conferences don't make for good jokes. Like a true, gross politician, she made a pretty harmless jab into a self-important advertisement for herself about the good deeds she was doing.

But jokes about her family are what get her truly riled-up. In June, Letterman said this: "Sarah Palin went to a Yankee game yesterday. There was one awkward moment during the seventh-inning stretch: her daughter was knocked up Alex Rodriguez." Palin's response was to lash out at Letterman, calling him “sexually perverted” for making sordid references about what she believed to be her then 14-year old daughter, Willow. In his own response, Todd Palin, the husband, threw in the totally harmless words "rape" and "despicable," just for good measure. It should be clear to anyone with even a decent sense of humor that Letterman's joke wasn't that funny, as is the case with most of his stuff. But I also thought it should be clear that Letterman was not talking about the 14 year-old Willow, but the 18 year-old, uber-pregnant Bristol. I guess I assumed this because it seemed to me that a joke about one of the Palin kids being pregnant would, most likely, be directed at the kid who was pregnant—not the un-pregnant 14 year-old. Sarah, darling, sometimes you are such a retard.

Okay, that brings me to the next point. Gear-up the DeLorean and fast-forward to last week. ("We're going the future?")

After the Family Guy episode, Palin asked, "when is enough enough?" (I'd ask Palin the same question, as her seemingly unquenchable thirst for media attention has led her to bring daughter Bristol into the spotlight. Bristol has recently worked as the spokesperson for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, as well as for the Candie's Foundation. You could look at her as the perfect person to speak for abstinence, or as a humongous-ly hilarious parody of herself.) In response to the episode Bristol said, "When you're the son or daughter of a public figure, you have to develop thick skin. My siblings and I all have that, but insults directed at our youngest brother hurt too much for us to remain silent." "If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon thought they were being clever for mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed," she said. "All they proved is that they're heartless jerks."

They are definitely heartless jerks. Seth Macfarlane and the other creators of Family Guy have made it clear over the years that there is no one they will not offend, and they seem to have a jolly good time doing it. But let's get some things straight. If you actually watched the episode it would painfully obvious--yes, even to Sarah Palin--that it was breaking down stereotypes and empowering an oft-degraded character, and that it was not, as the Palins suggest, picking on an easy target with cheap humor because it could. In any case, the Palins' responses to the show's portrayal of someone with Down syndrome bring up some interesting questions with answers that are not so concrete. In the interest of publishing in a timely manner (and also to save your eyes from staring at a computer screen--seriously, go for a run or something), I'm going to do this piece in segments. Here's the first question I pose:

1. Are some things off limits to joke about?
Boy, this is a toughie. After some soul searching I admit I am torn on this question. As a person who stutters, I am perhaps more qualified to answer this question than other, more genetically perfect people. Whether or not this is true doesn't really matter because I got your attention now. My opinion on this is that making certain topics off-limits, like Down syndrome, takes the power out of the hands of the person who's afflicted with the thing; they instantaneously become a victim--even if they don't want to be. It's the same concept as someone stopping a schoolyard fight because she thinks the bully is going to kick the crap out of her friend. Well, yeah, maybe, but that's the way it has to go: it's a nice gesture, but the friend must be given the chance to fight his own battles.

Think people with Down syndrome can't fight their own battles? This is what Fay Friedman, the actress with Down syndrome who played the character on the episode, said in response to the Palins' comments: "I thought the line...was very funny. I think the word is ‘sarcasm.’ In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way the former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes."

Boo. yah.

Also, outlawing certain topics from being used for humor, or making certain topics taboo gives power and importance to those who use them in a real malicious way. Where before these people would just be a-holes, they now become social criminals, rising from anonymous idiots to infamous jerks.

I said I was torn though, and I am. There are definitely downsides to being laissez-faire about this kind of thing. Language is a huge part of what instructs us on how to treat other people. Every time we use "retard" or "fag" as a derogative word--even if we're just joking--it subconsciously trains us to think of people we assign those labels to in a derogatory way. Maybe once won't do much harm, but hundreds of those over time add up to some serious brain rewiring. Think, "the cow goes mooooo".

To be continued.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Olympics vs. NBA All-Star Game

Sunday night gave us two tasty TV treats: the winter olympics on NBC and the NBA all-star game on TNT. As an NBA fan, I was initially more excited about the all-star game and I assumed I'd spend the majority of the time watching that on channel 3. Nope. For some reason I keep forgetting, year after year, how worthless the NBA all-star game is. And it wasn't even that they weren't playing that hard. For an all-star game, I thought they put it in a decent effort on both ends of the court. So let's examine why the olympics is so much more fun.

1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder
We get an all-star game every year. The olympics comes only every four. Watching the olympics is like spending time with a long-distance girlfriend who's leaving in a week: you don't take the time with her for granted, and even the boring parts like brushing your teeth together, or the biathlon, are precious.

As I was searching for the teeth-brushing scene from "Bring it On" to put in here, I came across this:

2. All or (almost) nothing
It's not a question of talent. The guys in the all-star game are most definitely the best in the world at their sport, just the same as the olympians. But the contrast between these events gets at the very essence of sport: the exciting part of competition is the risk of tremendous failure, as well as the potential reward of being a champion. It's not just the showcasing of talent; if it was, we'd go watch Tiger take practice swings at the driving range, or watch Roger Federer return serves from a machine, or watch Tiger practicing bagging mediocre-looking girls that aren't his wife. Mediocre compared to his wife, anyway.

No, it's only fun when everything is on the line, all the hours and months and years of early morning practices coming down to that one moment. With the all-star game, not much is on the line. Even if you lose, it still goes on your stat history that you were an all-star that year, and players are remembered for how many all-star appearances they made, not their winning percentage in the games.

Also, the length of the all-or-nothing moment is key. And here, the olympics is the opposite of sex: the quicker the event, the more exciting it is. A lot of these things are quite short (that's what she said), which means there's no room for error. In other words, every second counts. Yikes, when I typed that something clicked in my brain and I had the urge to watch 24...advertising is scary.

3. Dancing on ice is cool
Who knew figure skating was so much fun to watch? Seriously, guys who've boycotted this in the past, trust me, it is a lot of fun. I know it's hard for us men to hold on to our manliness with what is already a tenuous, slippery grip, but suck it up and--oh god, see how quickly that happened? Slippery and suck in the same sentence...I feel dirty. I'm gonna' go wash off the gay with this great new loofah I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Now that I'm all clean and exfoliated, I can tell you how it is really incredible what these figure skating pairs do. Clearly, all of the sports in the winter olympics require hours of practice that we mere mortals cannot come close to understanding--except maybe in number of hours spent on it's often hard to see this. With downhill skiing for example, it looks like they're just going really fast without that much control. With figure skating though, you see it. When the guy partner throws, yes throws, the girl high in the air, and she lands flawlessly, after spinning close to 1000 degrees, you kind of have to assume there were at least a couple early morning practices to make that possible. Go to 1:12 of this clip below and you'll see what I mean.


But I can't just leave the all-star game to rot like that. It's Valentine's Day after all, and I should do something nice for my sweetie, so I'll stick up for it best I can.

The all-star game does highlight what we love about the NBA: the high-flying, acrobatic dunks, and general top-notch athleticism. As I was writing this, Lebron James blessed bored TV watchers everywhere with this gem:
This is why I love the NBA and why I forgive it for all it's done wrong to me. And yet...what does it say about the all-star game if even with moments like that, I'd still rather watch dancing on ice?

Another positive from the all-star game was Shakira's performance during halftime. This was most definitely the highlight of the whole thing. Shakira's performance was very cool. Did I say very cool? I meant very like porn. Maybe I had the wrong impression, but I thought she did it more classy-like than Britney or Ciara--actually, I really have no idea what Ciara's performances are like and this is really stretching my knowledge of pop stars. However, I did know of course about Shakira's belly-dancing, which has its own over-the-top eroticism to be sure. But this was really erotic. Actually, using the word "erotic" to describe her performance doesn't work because it implies a kind of artiness, and there wasn't much Alvin Ailey in this one, unless that company has a number where they stand with their backs to the audience and do twenty-five squats dressed in nothing but leather covering the torso. Shakira fans: is she normally like that, or was this different? Alicia Keys was cool too. And how boss is her new song?

Postscript: Dwayne Wade said he would tell his grandkids about this "historical" event. Maybe he did mean historical, but probably not. If this slip-up tickles you, and you're sitting there smirking--stop it, you're embarrassing racist. Na, just kidding, but I bet you've mixed up historic and historical too. And even if you haven't, Wade has to do it on live TV, you don't. And you should wipe that smirk off your face anyway, you look like a douche.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book of Eli

I saw the new Denzel Washington movie, "Book of Eli" last night. Directed by the Hughes Brothers, it's an end of days story--one of the better that I've seen--that focuses on Eli (played by Denzel). Eli has become a kind of nomad since a mysterious war, resulting in near-Armageddon, which happened about thirty years before. We soon find out that Eli's wanderings are part of a mission, a "path." He doesn't explain this, but simply says he must "go West." The movie answers this particular question and a few others by the end, but most of the larger ones go unanswered. We never know, for example, why the war that caused the Armageddon started. But leaving these biggies as question-marks actually strengthens the story by keeping a tight focus on the characters and their own struggles. And it has the added effect of maintaining a surreal tone throughout.

The cinematography is super cool. The scorched, greenish-yellow landscape comes off very deliberate, but it doesn't matter because of how good it looks. Much of it reminded me of a cross between "The Matrix" and "There Will Be Blood," both of which killed it in the cinematography department, so that's a compliment. The sometimes ethereal and sometimes spooky soundtrack, which sounded like it could have been composed by a team of Sigur Ros and UNKLE (what a team right?), fit like a glove with the rest of the movie. I was delighted, but not surprised, to find out that Atticus Ross, who scored the film, has worked with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails on quite a few recent albums.

The Hughes Bros. did a solid job--but not a perfect one--with the story concept. In the movie's post-civilization setting, where bandits murder and rape innocents capriciously, and the definition of survival has shifted from graduating Phi Beta Kappa, to having enough water to last the night, the question becomes: what is there to live for? Why continue to survive?

Two competing narratives aim to answer this question. Eli, a quiet and thoughtful man, has found meaning and purpose through a steadfast faith in God, and the belief that he is part of a mission larger than himself. And then there's Carnegie (played by Gary Oldman), a Machiavellian leader of a rather successful town. Carnegie believes that the text of the Bible will help him manipulate people to further consolidate his power and expand his town, and so he is consumed with searching for one of a few copies that was not burned during the war. It's a classic good vs. evil tale: one uses the scripture for a noble cause, the other uses it for his own selfish gain. This stripped-down simplicity though, was absolutely the right approach. In fact, Eli's faith in the post-civilization context is so convincing that I, a rabid cynic, sort of bought it as a legitimate defense of faith.

As an aside: for any "Fifth Element" fans out there, there's a moment near the end of the movie where, without giving anything away, Carnegie (Oldman) experiences a horrendous shock that is so uncannily like the scene where he realizes the stones aren't in the case. Had to be either a tribute or an outright hijacking.

I definitely recommend this movie. In closing, one very cool aspect that I didn't mention is there are some killer fight scenes. Denzel is, as always, one bad dude. He even carries a sawed-off shotgun--you know he's surgical with that.

Monday, February 8, 2010

If you read the newspaper, watch tv, or really if you're alive at all, you know about MTV's "The Jersey Shore." And if you're more aware than a vegetable, which many Manhattan drivers are not (see most recent post), then you also know about some Italian groups expressing disappointment about how the "The Jersey Shore" guidos and guidettes portray themselves because it makes "real" Italians look bad. I sympathize with these "real" Italians, trust me I do. I wouldn't like it either if misogynistic grease-balls on tv tainted my people's previous reputation as...misogynistic grease-balls. Yeah, hate to break it you, the Italians, but people already thought you were like that. I mean, come on, your president almost got, check that--did get in a fist-fight on the street. So, the president of Italy is Ronnie. Cool. Oh man, you really can't make this stuff up.

And if you don't want Americans to make fun of your culture, your first mistake was immigrating here, because we love love love to make fun of immigrants. Seriously it's what we do, mostly because we're wildly insecure and need to reinforce our superiority against people who are different. Which is really too bad, because the one real Italian I'm friends with is one of the sweetest, most hair gel-free, non-douchey guys I know. What up, Francesco.

But because the Italians' reputation is a lost, greasy cause, attention must be paid to how "The Jersey Shore" makes the Jersey Shore, as in the geographic area, look bad. That's the real crime here. Contrary to what Ronnie or Vinny tells you, the Jersey Shore is actually a lot bigger than the boardwalk in Seaside Heights. And believe it or not, it contains more establishments than the Karma club and that t-shirt store where the cast (does not) work. Where are the activists standing up for this wrongly-maligned stretch of coastline? If none come to its support, the area's reputation may become like that of Long Island, which similarly has a lot more to it than just--wait, nevermind...Long Island is wack. All of it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Crazy taxi, and other insane vehicles

New Yorkers know that Manhattan traffic can be hairy. I mean really hairy, like Robin Williams' arms, or Selma Hayek's unibrow when she used to have one. The roads are often a mad, Darwinian scene out of Mad Max, which, I must say, is really, truly, a fine piece of cinema. It's almost enough to forgive Mel Gibson's ludicrous anti-semitic rampaging, and general alcohol-induced insanity. Almost.

We accept the meanness of New York's mean streets as part of the city's culture, its history. However, this state is still part of America, albeit barely and grudgingly so. And in Amurricah, we rose above the savages--well, "rose above" is not exactly what I'm looking for, more like "moved through" the savages, by killing them, with giant machine guns. Kind of like this:

And speaking of fine pieces of cinema, gol-ly, Hot Shots is a doozie. But historic cinema and systematic genocide aside, New York, it is generally believed, being one of forty-nine states of the Union (Texas doesn't count), follows such American fundamentals as, say, the rule of law. Wrong. It's utter chaos out there. Sometimes I feel like I'm in downtown Jakarta. Not that I've been to Jakarta, but I've heard the traffic laws are quite loose there.

Now, when you're driving in Manhattan, it's bad enough but at least you have a wall of metal to protect you, that is unless you're driving a Toyota in which case you are not protected by that wall of metal but, on the contrary, trapped inside its fault-ridden jaws of death. If you're walking, your chances of survival start to plummet. Crossing the street at a busy intersection can sometimes be like an X Games event, and no, not the snow mobile race that Sarah Palin's husband competes in, I'm talking about the death-defying dirt bike events where they do triple backflips in the air. No joke, people die, yes die, from simply trying crossing the street. Holy f$#, right?

For cyclists, it's even worse. Not only are we as vulnerable as pedestrians--maybe even more so because we're traveling at speed--we also have the added danger of having to defend ourselves against the psychotic, Neanderthal-like vendetta some drivers have against cyclists. For reasons that escape me--and, I'm sure, escape those drivers that engage in this behavior because their brains are not human, but are inherited from the wooly mammoth, and thus cannot exercise reason--some drivers, excuse me, big-horned mastadons, take pleasure in trying to run cyclists off the road. I know this because I've witnessed it. Just the other day for example, riding south on Riverside Dr., an off-white, rather puke-colored, miniature pickup truck type thing that reminded me of a Toys-R-Us plastic car drove alongside me for half a block, coming dangerously close to ramming me into the parked cars on my right. And when I looked up, dazed, and electrified with adrenaline, at this maniac who quite seriously almost murdered me in broad daylight, I caught him looking back in the rearview mirror, not with remorse or fear, but with a grin so wide, and so dripping with self-satisfaction, that you would've thought he had tricked Kim Kardashian into performing felatio on him while he drove and that she was finishing up at that very moment. Oh, and he also gave me the finger as he drove off. What a swell guy.

So, just a word to drivers like that one: murder, even if it's a cyclist, is still murder. You pickin' up what I'm throwin' down?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Michelle Obamygodweloveyou

It's no secret that President Obama's approval ratings are in the proverbial toilet. Although a quick Google search shows that Obama's 57% is, gasp!, the same number that Ronald Reagan held after his first year. Like Reagan, who made unpopular decisions like raising taxes, Obama has had to make some tough, and yes, unpopular choices. Though Fox News somehow spins this number to wreck the Reagan-Obama comparison, often by shoving loony propaganda at its rabid, blood-thirsty viewers, for example that Obama was spawned from Chairman Mao's turd in a real toilet. I'm pretty sure Glenn Beck said that once. I don't know, it could've been a dream because Beck haunts mine frequently. For fun banter on this subject--the subject of Fox News' Korea-like propaganda, not my dreams--check out Jon Stewart on The O'Reilly Factor last night.

Ok, I don't want to go on a rant here, but I'm all worked up now. It's a good thing the geniuses at Fox News think they're, in whatever small way, doing god's work. Otherwise I think it be would extremely difficult, with the crap they shovel out day after day, to look at their bald, pasty selves in the mirror. Ok, that's not fair, rational people are sometimes bald too, and most people on the planet, both rational and irrational, black and white, are pastier than the borderline-blackfaced John Boehner. You know it's time to cut down on the self-tanner when you would fit in perfectly as The Situation's body double on the Jersey Shore. A picture is necessary here.

What was this post about again? Right...Michelle, here we go: despite Barack's abominably low 57%, also known as slightly less than average 57%, especially for a president presiding over two unpopular wars, Michelle is still riding high at a cool 70% approval rating. America loves her, why is that? Well, Americans love celebrities, that's part of it. No I take that back, Americans are freakishly, terrifyingly obsessed with celebrities, and that is the whole of it. The gaga popularity of Michelle reinforces this because, well, she's really not that interesting. She doesn't let her junk hang out and be photographed; she doesn't go to rehab; she didn't shoot anybody; and she's a black person not named Beyonce. So it's weird that she's such a celebrity. Then again, it's not that weird because we love people in the spotlight, and there's not much about Michelle to disapprove of--except that she didn't pose in a bikini for her 100-Hottest Women spread in Maxim. And if she wants to stoke the celebrity flames even more, she should distance herself from El Presidente, whose ice-cold, B-list approval numbers threaten to cramp Michelle's Taylor Swift-like dominance on the pop-charts of Americans' hearts. Sorry for the cheesiness, I get like that when I'm smitten.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lost and...still lost

As most of the world knows, the first episode of the final season of Lost aired last night. And I'm proud to be the one...billionth blogger to write about it. I have anticipated the final season fairly feverishly myself, but I was strangely out of it while I was watching. I think it's because I'm worn down at this point in my Lost career. Lost fans have been treated like abused dogs this entire time, loving our master because he provides such juicy treats, and then taking it like a sucker time and again when our master kicks us in the genitals and makes us sleep outside. High five for anyone who noticed "sucker" and "genitals" in the same sentence.

Think about it. After five seasons, through which we've salivated for any scrap they'd throw at us, they haven't revealed much that's substantial. Now to be fair, the ride's been wild, and they've unveiled major surprises. But none of that has really touched on the big questions. In fact, most of the info they've "revealed" has been new material that's expanded rather than shrunk the amount we don't know. This is of course the whole fun of the show, but I'm just sayin'...

So by now, this dog is fed-up and just wants to be adopted by a nice family who'll spoil him a little--feed him scraps from the table and answer all his questions about Jack and John Locke and the Island. So what's it gonna' be, Lost--Michael Vick or ASPCA?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

First post

Welcome! What is this blog about? Why did I start it? A few reasons. One is that my Facebook page is kind of sparse, and I want to put something under the "websites" category that people can click on to learn more about me. Especially for girls who go to my profile to do research. Oh man, Facebook... you really killed the mystery didn't you. It used to be that I could go weeks, even months before finding out a girl I liked was treasurer of her local NRA chapter, or that her favorite book was The Da Vinci Code. But who needs love anyway right?

On top of the personal stuff, I plan on reviewing books and movies and generally hating on all things that grind my gears. If you're saying to yourself that this is almost exactly like all 12 of the blogs you read, well, you should read fewer blogs because that sounds like an enormous waste of time. And I'll respond to your criticism with another criticism: duh. Ok, maybe I'm not completely sure what criticism means. The point is, I'm aware it's similar to a lot of other blogs. It's kind of the point. It's even stated cleverly and matter-of-fact-ly in the title of the blog.

So who will read this stuff? I don't know. The fruit is dangling free of charge if you want a taste. And I guess I don't care if nobody ever reads this blog. Well, a little maybe. Obviously I'm doing this and not something less public because I want it be available for people to read. The recently departed J.D. Salinger was apparently content to live his life without publishing, writing completely for himself. There is something sick about this desire to conceal yourself and your writing like that. Part of the magic of reading/writing is touching on the common human experience. Was fame so abhorrent to Salinger that he didn't want to be a part of that? And talk about irony, J.D. Your death made you almost as famous as Heidi Montag's reconstructed labia--that's super famous.

Another reason for starting the blog is I'm bored. How is that possible you ask? After all, I reside in the most interesting city in the world, the city that never sleeps--where there is literally something to do all the time. So get off the couch, bra. Right? First of all, the couch is very comfortable thank you very much. And second, it may be time to trim your obesely romanticized vision of New York. Fast money, fast living, easy girls right?. Na, it's not like that at all actually. At least not at the dive bars I go to. Ok, some of the girls are easy, but 45 years-old is (normally) too old for me. And why are 45 year-old women out trying to mix it up with young (mostly high school) kids anyway? It's sad. We know it, you know it. Everyone knows it. Dead Salinger knows it. At 22, I even feel uncomfortably old some nights when it's tween-central. You had your time to be young and cool and accepted in any situation. Stay out of Bourbon St. on 80th and Columbus, and retain some shred of your dignity, which mostly disintegrates when you hit on boys with braces.

But I digress. I'm not bored all the time, but when I am I want an outlet for that boredom. If you made it here all the way to to end, you're either a patient family member or a...nope, definitely a family member. And if you did make it, cool (thanks Mom). I'll try to make it up to you with future posts.