Friday, July 31, 2009

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXIII: Pieces Of Shit Threaten To Return To NFL, Plus Kate Hudson And Comets

Once again, he’s become attention-starved
Another media niche has he carved
But of course, niche rhymes with bitch
He threw another team in the ditch
Now another word for a fucking joke is a Favre

On the front steps, there were all kinds of shats
Looked like post-Mexican dinner for rats
So armed with a water hose, uncurled
And the shriek of a 6-year-old girl
I chased out a whole family of goddam bats

The underrated Viper knew how to defend
But a carjacking by thugs spelled his end
Vernon Forrest boxed and punched with precision
Though slowed by injury and split decisions
Now boxing has lost a role model and friend

She was the sweetheart of film for a while
Cute as a button with a memorable smile
Then Kate Hudson started getting passed around
From singers to actors to athletes she would bound
Now it’s A-Rod’s turn on the Kate Hudson drunk dial

Jupiter got crushed by a comet
Now fear’s causing some Earthlings to vomit
“What if one hits us?” they ask in a hurry
To them all I can say is, “Don’t worry”
Like “Armageddon” showed, we can just bomb it

The return of that piece of shit Vick
No NFL team will touch him with a stick
He lied to the Feds and he skated
Returns to the sport where he was overrated
Hope he snaps his femur in camp, that would be a kick

Last time

Thursday, July 30, 2009

“Dark Knight” Was All, Like … Long

Enh. I didn’t dig “Dark Knight.” That’s OK, right?

I had heard about how tremendous this flick was from almost every quarter, so maybe I came in expecting too much. It was entertaining and action-packed, but I thought it was about as good as most of the “Batman” movies and not as good as “Batman Begins.”

I didn’t really buy Maggie Gyllenhaal as the love interest (she’s more quirky hot) and thought Morgan Freeman was underutilized in what amounted to a throwaway role. Heath Ledger was good as the Joker, but not as transcendant as some had ascribed him to be, in my estimation. Playing the Joker gives you license to act freaky, creepy and outlandish, and he nailed that, but it just came as off as a bit overdone (Jack Nicholson nailed it, just as Jim Carrey owned the Riddler, and all others will fall short).

It was really, really long (to make up for it, I’ve made this rather short). Beyond that, I found it be a little trite at times (the situation of the dueling cruise ships, one full of elitists and the other full of convicts, was horribly forced) and Batman’s motivation to “give up” wasn’t explored enough to warrant its inclusion. Don’t get me wrong; the fight scenes were pretty cool and a lot of stuff certainly done got exploded. But I found it to be a step back from “Batman Begins” (and this version), even though I realize Ledger died and all that. I get it.

Wake me up when a new version comes out with Catwoman involved, played by Scarlett Johansson.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Jersey I Don't Want For Navidad

It sure seemed like Miami's tremendous turnaround from the basement to the penthouse in 2008 was almost too good to be true. Going from a one-win laughingstock to AFC East champions in the course of a season was truly amazing … but now we're finally finding out what the catch is. It appears the 'Fins have sold their souls to the devil—or, to be more exact, to "el diablo" in this case.

Since the offseason ended, we've learned that the Dolphins' stadium is going to be renamed Land Shark Stadium, celebrating Jimmy Buffett's beer. And it's not bad enough that a team named the Dolphins is going to play at a venue with the word "Shark" in its fucking name, but there are also going to be Margaritaville "themes" to "enhance the game-day experience for Dolphans." And as the icing on the proverbial shit cake, Jimmy Buffett wrote a new song for the team called "Fins."

On top of that, it was then announced that Gloria "The Bus Dodger" Estefan and her husband Emilio (holy shit; how far have you fallen when you're the son of Martin Sheen and you're not even the most famous person named Emilio E.?) are now minority owners of the team. And with that kidney shot not even fully registered, last week it was revealed that the "Puerto Rican Bobblehead," Marc Anthony, was joining the crew as a limited partner of the team. With "J-Lo" in tow, apparently Vernon Carey no longer has the largest arse on the team. Great. Can she play right guard?

I know Miami is referred to as "Little Havana," but this is rather ridiculous. Are we going to start calling plays in Spanish? Start letting Ricky Williams smoke guacamole on the sidelines? Begin putting Port-A-Pottys on the sidelines?

Haven't we dealt with enough over the past 15 years, with Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstache, Nick Satan and Cam Cameron? I knew this shit was too good to be true.

Dios mio.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Despite Holes, "The Tin Roof Blowdown" Bravely Treads Difficult, Emotional Ground

“Every writer, every artist who visited New Orleans fell in love with it … New Orleans was a song that went under the waves. Sometimes in my dreams I see a city beneath the sea.”

I was unfamiliar with James Lee Burke until I read that his novel "The Tin Roof Blowdown" was considered the definitive work of fiction surrounding Hurricane Katrina. Looking at his catalog of work, I quickly found out that he's a tremendously prolific author (with two of his pieces having been transformed to the big screen) who focuses on the "Big Easy" and centers most of his novels around Dave Robicheaux, a recovering alcoholic and police executive in New Iberia, Louisiana.

In this one, Burke uses first-person narrative to show us the devastation of Katrina on New Orleans -- physically, psychologically and socially -- through Robicheaux's eyes. The beginning of the book offers a harrowing, emotionally charged, gut-wrenching and exhausting account of life in the region in the hours after Hurricane Katrina. Burke's prose is stripped to the bone, offering a brutally honest assessment of all the violence, chaos, upheaval, ignorance and governmental aversion to all things New Orleans. Somewhat unavoidably, his writing is tinged with the pain and frustration that natives feel toward the government in Katrina's aftermath; he's able to use Robicheaux's voice to express his outrage and sadness at the plight of the Big Easy.

His writing is peppered with commentary about how New Orleans has changed and continues to change -- such as "Louisiana's wetlands continue to disappear at a rate of 47 square miles a year" -- and allows himself the departure of offering his very personal thoughts on those changes.

“New Orleans was systematically destroyed and that destruction began in the early 1980s with the deliberate reduction by half of the federal funding to the city and the simultaneous introduction of crack cocaine into the welfare projects. The failure to repair the levees before Katrina and the abandonment of tens of thousands of people to their fate in the aftermath have causes that I’ll let others sort out. But in my view the irrevocable fact remains that we saw an American city turned into Baghdad on the southern rim of the United States. If we have a precedent in our history for what happened in New Orleans, it’s lost on me.”

As to the story itself, it's an occasionally difficult-to-follow plot, with a lot of details to keep track of. At times, one wonders whether even Burke himself loses track of certain pieces of information. Not to give too much away, but there is a situation where a character named Bertrand stole some gas from Otis's garage, a detail that came up only later as an accepted fact, but one that neither Otis nor anyone else had discussed earlier. Some stuff isn't touched upon and is left unexplained, which perhaps contributes the rather sudden feel to the ending.

The story itself had a few too many holes and a few too many convenient coincidences for my liking (and, if we're being super-honest, a few too many stereotypes), and I'm not a fan of wrapping up loose ends rather sloppily, but it was an intriguing tale nonetheless. For me, "The Tin Roof Blowdown" was better for its brave subject matter and the insights it offered into the emotions of its author. At one point, you can hear Burke's voice through Robicheaux, as he waxes poetic about the Crescent City's distinctive and unique feel.

“Perhaps I carried too many memories of the way the city used to be … New Orleans had been a song, not a city. Like San Francisco, it didn’t belong to a state; it belonged to a people.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

“Slumdog Millionaire” Doesn’t Duck Controversy On Way to Classic Status

“So, are you ready for the final questions for 20 million rupees?”
“No … But maybe it is written, no?”

I was more than a little bit late to the game on “Slumdog Millionaire,” as it was hard not to miss the critical acclaim it received and the boatload of awards it took home along the way -- eight Oscars, including biggies like Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. So I was eagerly anticipating finally getting a chance to check it out recently, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed or underwhelmed.

After viewing this flick, let’s just say you won’t want to go on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” -- unless you enjoy being tortured by Regis every morning anyway (*rim shot*). However, this was a brilliant technique, to unveil the plot and unfold the story through Jamal’s answers on a quiz show. From having their souls stolen for the price of a Coke, to an amazing, Dickensian journey to the depths of darkness, to found love, Jamal and his older brother, Salam, unknowingly are chasing the same dream -- the unattainable, misunderstood, untouchable girl, Latika -- until it costs one of them everything.

This film certainly covered a lot of ground and tackled a lot of taboo subjects, making it a very brave and fearless work of art. Director Danny Boyle didn’t pull any punches in his depiction of Mumbai, the horrors of the slums, child slavery, forced mutilation, and the region’s sometimes-subhuman approach to violence and corruption. An adaptation of a novel titled “Q & A” by Vikas Swarup (that’s a cool name), the movie was controversial for how it portrayed Mumbai’s slums, but to be honest, that usually means it was pretty (and almost too) accurate. The use of British English (it’s a bloody British film, after all) and the welfare of the child actors were other controversies that arose in the swell of this movie’s sudden and unexpected rise in popularity. Also, “Slumdog Millionaire” was considered by a vocal minority in the blogosphere to be a ripoff of “City of God,” but I haven’t seen that one, so I really can’t comment. But “Seinfeld” star Salman Rushdie also reportedly panned it, so maybe the flick eventually suffered from becoming too popular, a fate suffered often in the music industry.

When you push the controversies aside and place performances in the forefront, Dev Patel was tremendous as (older) Jamal. The final scene where Jamal and Latika finally find each other is extremely emotional, with the flashbacks interspliced among the frenzy to locate each other in a crowded station. Then, there was a slightly odd dance number at the end (there were any number of interesting musical choices throughout the film), but I have it on high authority that every movie should end with a group dance scene, preferably in a subway.

I’m not sure “Slumdog Millionaire” was a great film, but it was a combination of so different and so good that it was pretty darn close. Perhaps Boyle was a tad too ambitious in the sheer number of social ills that his movie seeks to bring to light, but if that’s the worst thing you can say about a flick, it can’t be all bad, eh? Maybe this one was a tremendous tale moreso than a tremendous movie, but that may also be just splitting hairs. In the end, “Slumdog” resonates somewhere deeper than most superficial movies are able to reach -- and sometimes that’s all it takes.

Sometimes that’s enough to make just a bit of magic.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXI: Tebow's Gay Or That Chick's Unsatisfied, Plus A Rough Week At Casa Del Scooter

He's the Hansbrough of football, a media whore
As far as Christians go, he's pretty hardcore
Last summer he was a circumcision surgeon
Now he admits that he's just like a virgin
But that just makes Chris Fowler want him more

It's no longer the national pastime
Baseball's been relegated to the sideline
Steroids have damaged the game
Lockouts have made it quite lame
But Buehrle's perfect game was sublime

Spent hours scraping popcorn off the ceiling
In my nightmares, I saw paint slowly peeling
Then I got roughed up by a goddam tree
The sewer line flooded with poop and pee
My car busted, then Tuesday was spent shitty feeling

Ol' Tom Watson gave golf a lift
Guess sands of time don't always shift
ESPN bashing Tiger gives me hope
It's like Mother Teresa bashing the Pope
Watching the British Open felt like a gift

A dog got nabbed by a gator near a tree
But his owner resisted all urges to flee
He pried open the jaws and took the gator's dinners
Now his middle digit is missing it's next-door fingers
If it was G'Lo, you coulda called my ass Croc Dundee

Last time

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stephen King And Bar Rafaeli: The Unlikeliest Of Pairs?

So, I don’t usually read “Esquire,” or at least, I never have before. That was until I saw that Stephen King had written a short story exclusively for the magazine. Or maybe I realized that only after I saw model Bar Rafaeli on the cover, wearing only phrases of King’s writings on her body. So I thought it would be worth reading. Hell, truth be told, I’d read the Communist Manifesto in Sanskrit if it was written on Bar Rafaeli’s body

Anyway, King’s story, “Morality,” is short even as his short stories go. But as always, he finds a way to make the telling truly his own, only a tale that he could weave. After all, only Stephen King can take a tale about woman punching a random 4-year-old kid on camera for money and turn it into something that reaches beyond a morality tale and actually has depth and multiple perspectives.

As much of his later work has become, “Morality” is semi-autobiographical, featuring a struggling writer and part-time teacher and his part-time nurse wife having money trouble. The nurse looks after a dying reverend, who offers a seemingly simple solution to their problems by promising her a financial way out in exchange for the ability to sin vicariously through her. Of course, after she performs the sin, she then becomes tainted and depraved by it, which leads to other lapses in morality. The husband finally leaves the wife he no longer recognizes, though he has lost something as well. King puts one of his classic twists on the eternal question of, “How much are you willing to give up in exchange for money?”

Later in the magazine, I found a cool little blurb called “Arrivals at the Airport,” by Chris Jones. I think we’re all guilty of Jones’s growing view of airports as hubs of hassle and centers of cynicism, but after reading his short piece, I will do my best to look at airports more like this guy.

Post-9/11 security measures have sapped a lot of the fun and emotion from meeting someone at the gate. Now it's become less a heartfelt welcome than a Kentucky Derby-style race to jockey for position at yellow-marked curbs just outside baggage and to time it exactly right so you don't have to make another lap around the airport while fending off the Mogodishan cabbie in the dented-up Cardinal. Jones somehow found a way through that race to remember the human interaction that once brought up the occasional good vibe from a visit to the airport. Kudos to Jones for a really, really good, very short story.

So who knew that “Esquire” contained such hidden journalistic gems? I, for one, was glad to find them. And if it wasn’t for Bar Rafaeli and her curves words, I might never have known …

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In “Shooter,” Marky Mark Rocks The Government With Explosions And Good Vibrations

If Ahnold Schwarzenegger and Steven Seagal and “Vantage Point” and a whole lot of suck got together and had a movie together, it would probably be “Shooter.”

Mark Wahlberg stars as Bob Lee Swagger (no, seriously, that’s his name in the movie … are you f’ing kidding me? Does he spit testosterone? The writers couldn’t come up with anything less, you know, obvious?), a retired, exiled former sniper (probably like, only the best in the world). Now, he’s a one-man (and one dog) militia compound up in the mountains, rocking a ponytail like Seagal and sent into reclusion after being betrayed by his own.damn.government. Shady government flunkies track him down with word of a presidential assassination threat, and they play to his patriotic roots to get him to help them figure out just how the bastard is going to take down POTUS.

The embittered Swagger has to think about it, though. So we pan to an “Marky Mark” in the mountains, pensive, brooding, torn, a deep internal struggle occurring as orchestral music plays in the background. He scans the snowy peaks for the answer to this dilemma, trusty dog at his side. It’s an Oscar-worthy moment—if by “Oscar” you mean “That time in the movie when the former boy-band dancer guy like Vanilla Ice stares around in a circle and counts to 15.” After the guilt trip surrounding how his conscience would handle the President dying when he had a chance to stop it, Swagger somewhat predictably elects to help out.

But nothing is as it seems! Pretty soon, Swagger is getting chased all over the Eastern Seaboard like Dr. Richard Kimble, getting shot and letting the beautiful widow of his ex-partner operate on him after he does a series of Whip-Its to pass out (seriously). After the shadowy conglomerate shoots his dog, well, let’s just say that the shit is going to be on.

Pretty soon, armed with information provided by a good-but-creepy old Tennessee gunsmith, Swagger is mounting a two-man assault (at some point, he picked up a rogue FBI agent, a Hispanic guy with a redneck accent; I wasn’t asking questions at this point) on the mercenary crew led by corrupt Senator (played by Ned By-God Beatty) and his right-hand man, played by a gravelly voiced Danny Glover. Not only is Marky Mark hard to take seriously in this role, but his constant mumbling makes it so almost none of the dialogue is understood—which is probably a good thing.

The next thing you know, what started out as mildly intriguing has degenerated into a late-‘80s-style Schwarzenegger flick, replete with random violence, flying bodies, burning people, headshots, explosions, rough justice. By now, the plot has basically become “Lots of shit is going to get blown up.” Broad, grandiose political statements are inserted at the end (“It’s a confused soul that thinks that one man can make a difference. And you have to kill him to convince him otherwise. That’s the hassle with democracy.”) and allusions to vast government conspiracies are shared, but they only leave you more confused rather than enlightened.

Finally, Swagger goes above the law and commits mass murder, much to the merriment of his newly found girlfriend, who is happy to drive him randomly toward the mountains as Otis Taylor’s “Nasty Letter” plays.

And scene.

And that’s 124 minutes I’ll never get back. Thanks, Marky Mark.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tom Terrific Turns Back Time At Turnberry—And Helps Heal Sports Along The Way

There he sat, weary, emotionally devastated, gut-punched, the wrinkles standing out on every aspect of his face. There he sat, in front of a bank of microphones, facing what was sure to be an onslaught of questions about why he suddenly became too old, about why he could never make the crucial five-footer. There he sat, defeated, a Cinderella story gone wrong, the toad who turned into a prince and then back again, the golden-slipper-turned-pumpkin, the guy who came up just short of history. No one would have blamed him for wanting to duck out early, to sneak back into his life out of the spotlight, to hug his wife and wink at the Scottish coast and not have to answer all the inevitably stupid questions that were certain to come his way, that were waiting for him behind every pad and pen.

Except what he did was look around at the silent and morose reporters gathered in front of him, put a grin on his face and say, "This ain't a funeral, you know."

Tom. Freaking. Watson.

At some point, the story became bigger than the moment and the matter of whether he won or lost the Open Championship in Turnberry, Scotland, became moot. Here was a man two months shy of 60 years old, eight months removed from hip replacement, playing at a spot where he won one of the sport's most memorable championships 32 years prior, competing in a major where he was seen to be a polite nod to history, where his presence was accepted as a necessary recognition of trophies long past, where brash and cocky lads a third of his age nodded in his direction and then snickered behind his back. Except then he kept making 60-footers. He kept punching the ball under the wind. He kept rolling it along the bumps, nooks and crannies he knew so well. He kept making out-of-this world pitches.

And every time it appeared that the neat story was finally going to end, that the feel-good moment was going to pass, that he was going to shuffle off Scotland's mortal coil and yield the stage to those of more proper age, he would pull a rabbit out of his golf bag. He would chip in from off the edge of the green. He would slice a three-iron off a fairway hump and roll it 40 yards onto the green, pin-high. He would roll in a putt from somewhere just across the Irish Sea and into the bottom of the cup.

Along the way, for the open-minded, he gave us a gift. For some, he restored our faith in sports. For some, he helped cleanse our minds of hockey lockouts, baseball steroids, college basketball corruption, NFL prima donnas and the excessive fawning over Tiger. He helped us forget the double standards, the hypocrisy, the scandals, the cheats, the allegations. Sports needed this. Because here was a guy who was one of us, who lived the moment, who appreciated the fans, who actually talked to and had respect for his playing partners, who gave a wry grin to unlucky breaks and who exhibited a deep love for this wonderful course. He gave a four-day, 71-hole clinic on how to play golf the way it was meant to be played—and one hole and five feet shouldn't stand in the way of what this man did, accomplished and is.

Because we're fickle, aren't we? As a society, we abhor a loser. Within moments of his missed putt, we quickly dredge up a top-10 list of the worst chokes ever, we cue up endless videotape of similar missed short putts, we shut down when the favorite falls, we put a camera roughly one-eighth of an inch away from his tear duct to see if he'll cry. Yet, again, Watson was one of us; he was flawed, but erstwhile. He yoked a short putt every now and again, even on Sunday at a major. He had a bit of bad luck and he was overly tentative with his putter over and over again, but he would never blame anyone else. He didn't stare down his caddie over a bad line, he didn't fire his club into the ground in disgust, he didn't curse and whine and have photographers assaulted, he didn't refuse interviews after missed cuts, he didn't offer up trite clichés as part of a smartass persona sponsored by Nike. He was the anti-Tiger … and he was a revelation. He was an inspiration.

At the end, I was nervous to the point of nausea. I kept listening to Paul Azinger write off and poor-mouth Watson out of some form of jealousy or over-exuberant love of criticism or vindictiveness -- hell, I heard a sardonic, head-shaking Azinger hand the trophy to Lee Westwood after seven holes. When he was up by one stroke. We had watched a lineup of players make amazing runs at the lead, only to falter when they reached it. Westwood. Ross Fisher. Chris Wood (who looks just like the bully, Scut Farkus, from "Christmas Story"; click on the links to see for yourself). Matthew Goggin. And eventually, an incredibly deserving Stewart Cink, who offered up tremendous emotion, from a great guy who has been dogged by a perception that he hasn't lived up to expectations.

It was tremendous theater. It was unquestionable drama. It was real emotion. It was real, vivid proof that golf exists outside of Tiger Woods. Yes, it was difficult to watch at the end; the crushing, half-hit putt on 18 (after Andy North jinxed his friend by predicting he'd make it) and the ruined, gassed way he skittered through the playoff were simply hard to look at. Tom Watson had history poised on the blade of his putter, and even though it slipped away like so many grains of sand washed out toward the Ailsa Craig, somehow, he still won. To me. Because it was one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen in sports—and well worth getting up early four mornings in a row to see an old man teach a living lesson in how to wield a golf club at the sport's birthplace.

So if you were one of those who loves Tiger because Nike tells you to and turned off the tournament after he missed the cut, you don't understand golf—and you missed one hell of a tournament. Because Tom Watson IS golf. "There was something out there … helping me along," he said in the aftermath. There was something all right. The spirit of the game, maybe. A reminder of what a true sportsman is, probably.

But a funeral? No. A birth and reaffirmation of a deep and abiding love for golf … in at least one humble man who watched.

And for that, I thank you, Mr. Watson. Good on you. And well-played, sir.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXX: Boxing Loses A Thunderous Warrior, Plus More Bad News For State

He was a throwback to the days of very old
Took punch after punch but would never fold
Of his demise, I couldn't be any sorrier
Goodbye to the ultimate blood and guts warrior
Boxing will make sure Arturo Gatti's stories get told

Controversy at every level of the administration
Nate Irving and Lo Brown now on long vacation
When you're a Pack fan, there is no buffer
We all go to NC State -- and then suffer
It's been a rough summer for Wolfpack Nation

The New York Times remembers the Big Easy
A good story, but maybe a little cheesy
I appreciate the rosy outlook
And wish that was all that it took
But to fix New Orleans, we have to get a little greasy

Outspoken Gary Williams, god bless
Called out Calipari in the press
Booze has given him a red nose
And allows him to talk shit about foes
But about cheaters, the NCAA could care less

Everyone thought Tiger was a lock
But Tom Watson's playing solid as a rock
Beauty all around at Turnberry
Great weather made everybody merry
Hope the old guys keep turning back the clock

Last time

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The “Shutter Island” Trailer Is Freaking Intense -- Is It October Yet?

Shockingly, many people don’t know that “Shutter Island” was the winner of a prestigious “Scootie” as Scooter & Hum’s #1 book of the year back in 2007. Well, Martin Scorsese knows, and he acted on that knowledge by electing to turn this phenomenal book into a movie.

OK, I’m not positive that the Scootie is the reason why Scorsese is involved, but the reality is that this flick has been in the works for quite a while now—and the trailer looks f’ing awesome. Let’s just say that, judging by movies like “Basketball Diaries,” “Blood Diamond” and “Gangs of New York,” Leonardo DiCaprio has major issues with using accents in flicks. However, if you can get past that (some can’t), he’s a good fit for this film. Mark Ruffalo would appear to be ideal for his role, while Ben Kingsley is always tremendous in whatever role he’s in. Throw in rumpled-hot Michelle Williams and Kelly Leak from “Bad News Bears” (Jackie Earle Haley, who only takes on jobs where he’s tormented and disturbed now) and the cast is certainly in place, especially with Scorsese to move the pieces.

Trailers can be misleading, but my first impression was that, while the book had more of a long, drawn-out building of suspense and intensity, the movie would appear to feature both from jumpstreet. “Shutter Island” was already my favorite Lehane book, but whether it can live up to the cinematic adaptation of “Mystic River” is the biggest question here. No Sean Penn puts you behind the eight-ball pretty quick, but if anybody can do it, it’s Scorsese. Let’s just say I’m than ready to decide for myself in October.

Anyway, check out the trailer … Giddyup.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harley T-Shirts, Reverse Mullets And Bluetooth: Find Your Match Today

I’ve been resistant to comment on the whole Jon-and-Kate thing, because, basically, they disgust me and I think they may represent the low-tide moment of our society. But I’m also pretty sure Kate is going to show up on the “Bachelorette” and Jon is going to land the role of “Short Round” in the upcoming remake of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” so … they ain’t going anywhere, folks.

Anyway, this was pretty funny. To check out Kate’s emotional profile, click here.

Enjoy Two-Fer Hump Day, courtesy of Funny or Die …

All The News That Fits To ... Techno!

I'm a bit on the fence as to the overall humor of this approach, but ... well ... enough of it is funny to run it up the flagpole.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Here Comes My Girl ...

So there I stood, on a ladder, covered in flecks of white paint that had turned to paste, scraping popcorn in a drenched shirt in the sweltering heat. My feet hurt from standing on rungs, my shoulders ached from frenzied scraping, my neck hurt from craning upward, my eyes stung as sweat tears ran through them and my glasses fogged up. Then, Tom Petty shuffled across my iPod, singing "Here Comes My Girl."

And everything made sense again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lehane Brings Gritty And Cynical To Another Level In “Darkness, Take My Hand”

"No matter how therapeutic, there's something pitiless about wrapping up the past and tying a ribbon to it."

Not that any of Dennis Lehane’s books ever offer a puffy-clouds and pretty-dandelions feel to them, but “Darkness, Take My Hand” is arguably the darkest and grittiest of his tomes to date. The violence is a bit over the top, while the level of cynicism borders on the disturbing and existential musings ("'But we all dream of other lives, I suppose. We all want to live a thousand different existences during our time here. But we can't, can we?'") permeate the prose. There’s a depressing feel to it, with a negative outlook of community-level government ("Politics was the last great tree house, and if you got in with the best kids in the block, you could roll the ladder up on the fools below.") and all else couched amidst the brutal violence that assaults the eyes as you read.

Written in 1996, this was just Lehane’s second novel, coming on the heels of his breakthrough “A Drink Before the War.” It also represents the second in the Patrick Kenzie-Angie Genarro series, following the duo as they investigate (pro bono) murders in the old ‘hood. The deeper they dig into a pattern of violence against children that goes back decades, the more they don’t want to find the answer that is eventually revealed.

In the middle of all that, Lehane manages to drop a few insightful comments about bartending ("He had our drinks in front of us before Oscar finished his nod, and he was back at the other end of the bar before we even realized he'd been by. The definition of a good bartender.") and the confusing nature of relationships ("'But we can love more than one thing simultaneously. We're human, so we're messy.'"). Yet he veers off course at the end, with a pseudo-happy ending involving Patrick and Angie that has the feel of something he didn’t necessarily intend and will have to (and did) correct in later books in this series.

Of course, as always, Lehane manages to weave a highly readable and intense tale … making it a perfect choice for lazy late mornings on the northern coast of Jamaica, with a Red Stripe on one side, a White Russian on the other, the warm sea straight ahead and a gentle breeze at your back.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXIX: Quitters Can See Russia, Plus Strange Times In Sports

Rough news for Republicans and Sarah Palin
Exposed as a fraud, so now she's bailin'
Her only qualification, it seems
Was being the subject of McCain's wet dreams
More proof that right-wingers are desperate and failin'

An epic match between he and Roddick, Andy
Roger Federer is quite the tennis dandy
His predicted downfall led to many wagers
But now he's got 15 majors
He picks up trophies like Kirstie Alley eats candy

She worked over at the Dave & Buster's
Their eyes met when she passed him the mustards
Love blossomed like angel's wings
Over a Leaning Tower of Onion Rings
In death, his reputation lost some of its lusters

Some classic interview quotes
Lead to "yay" or "nay" hire votes
Some things should not be said
No matter what you've seen or read
Like Will mentioning he liked sex with goats

Paddy Harrington makes Tiger look darker
But he's having trouble from the tee box marker
Turned Sergio into a Spanish panhandler
Now he's got the swing of Adam Sandler
I'm hoping he delivers an uppercut to Bob Barker

Last time

Thursday, July 09, 2009 "Mom" Sorta Rhymes With "Napalm," I Speak Swahili In Macedonian, And Eco-Dog Loves His Own Grumpies

The latest round of tempting, can't-miss projects to funnel through the ol' In-Box …

Title: Humor for Mothers Day
Category: Writing / Editing / Translation
Description: I'd like 5 humorous Mother's Day poems. Intended length should be at least 3 4-line verses, although based on quality of writing and humor, this is negotiable. Payment upon approval. Please provide writing samples, preferably of some humor.

I'm not sure why I found this one so disturbing, but I did. Anyway …

A poem that makes use of humor
One line funnier than another
The pay is merely a rumor
It's worth a laughing mother

Negotiable based on writing
And the quality of just how funny
The humor had better be biting
Or your outlook won't be sunny

So while your approval is pending
I'll be in the basement scratching my nut
Just don't quite start your spending
Until my Mom is busting a gut

Title: translation: German - Swahili
Category: Writing / Editing / Translation
Description: i need it in not more than 3500 pages of translation from German to Swahili of a psychological textbook and i would want it done in a matter of 7 days

I don't know what a "psychological textbook" is. But I do know that it would be difficult to COUNT 3,500 pages in a week, much less fucking translate it. Much less fucking translate from German. Much less fucking translate it from German to goddam Swahili. How do you translate, "Give me a christing break, you Nazi tribesman" from English to German to Swahili?

Title: restore my cummunity
Category: Writing / Editing / Translation
Description: this grant will restore 5 homes that need repair and fix roads so that they will be saft that has been damage do to the weather this grant will also provide funs to remove trees that is too close to the homes and remove those trees that have blown down do to the storms this will also provide ramps for the handy cap this will also provid transpation for those who are not able to for places the need to go with no restriction if someone need to go to the doctor or emergancy room we will be there

I'm going to tread lightly here because this sounds like a worthy cause … although I'm not sure you can simply write a grant and get money (or even "funs"). There are so many misspellings here that it actually becomes sad, so poking fun would feel a bit too much like throwing rocks at the kid in the wheelchair.

Title: Translating...
Category: Writing / Editing / Translation
Description: Translating movies, books, documents from english to macedonian to english!
P.m me

Is this a ransom note? What the F is Macedonian? Is that some Trekkie language bullshit? And why do you want to convert English to Macedonian and then back again? Can I just take your English copy, pretend I translated it to Macedonian and give it back to you in English and still get paid? "P.m me" (not sure I want to know what that means), I think we can help each other out.

Title: Eco Dog Theme Song
Category: Writing / Editing / Translation
Description: We have a character called Eco Dog that we will need a ghost writer to write and compose the theme song for an animated children's cartoon. It is about a green dog that helps the planet by recycling, saving energy, eating organic, etc. He is the planet's watch dog. Some of the keywords we use for him is leave a smaller footprint, follow eco dog, keeping it green. Things like that. It would be a minute or so long. We would want to own all rights to it. I attached some images of him from our t-shirts so you can see him as a reference.

OK, so are you asking a freelance writer to make a cartoon? Design T-shirts? Compose a song? Create a Google campaign around the keyword "leave a smaller footprint"? Aren't dogs inherently enviro-conscious? I mean, don't they eat their own shit? What's more organic than that? I mean, it's cool that the dog's green and all—I get that. But there's a lot of competition out there in the cute-animated-dog area.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Embracing The Groundswell Could Put You In Charge Of Social Media—And Cost A Few Lilliputian Lives

“Your brand is whatever your customers say it is. And in the groundswell where they communicate with each other, they decide.”

With little choice and less forewarning, I've been put in charge of social media for my company. Being that said company is based in the UK, and therefore terrified of marketing and frightened of public relations, I figure I'll be OK taking a slow and easy approach to social media, lest they react like so many Lilliputians and tie me up like Gulliver in a Swiftian world. Sometimes their approach makes me think of Phil Hartman playing Cirroc in the classic SNL skit, "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer." "Your world frightens and confuses me!"

But I digress. Having some experience working in the interactive world, I'm up to speed on a number of online marketing techniques, but gaining some more knowledge on social media was a must. I was recommended to "Groundswell: "Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies," one of the definitive books on the subject. Written by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, the book uses case studies, well-thought-out lists and practical recommendations to help you navigate the harrowing and ever-changing social media path.

Despite the fact that the authors are considered two of the top researchers at Forrester Research, the book was surprisingly readable. They manage to make the transition from the expected tech speak defined by references to metrics, analytics and measurements of all kinds to a conversational, informative, more casual read.

Of course, if you're like me, the first question is, "What is the groundswell?" According to Bernoff and Li, "Simply put, the groundswell is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of other companies." Part of the book's purpose is to potentially frighten marketers and executives, with troubling language like, " … traditional PR tools [are] as useless as a broadsword against a rain of poison darts.” The authors appeal to every business person out there by noting (correctly, by the way, considering some of the reputation monitoring work I've done), "“No matter what your company does, whom it sells to, or what parts of the world you do business in, people are blogging about your product.”

I had a friend who told me once that the proliferation of blogs was troubling because of the sense of entitlement it provoked, the literary license it provided, the voice it gave to those with little to no education or experience in how to use it. "Not everyone needs a %^#@ing blog," he said. "Some people just don't have anything )^$!ing worthwhile to say." I don't disagree; he made a tremendous point. Unfortunately, such an attitude is akin to pissing in the wind. Our society's sense of entitlement is so ingrained that everyone feels like they are owed something, that they are special, and that people should be listening to them because they can find letters on a keyboard. It is this trait that is part of the root of social media, a fact mildly touched upon by the authors with this gentle thought: “Validation is a powerful driver for social networks, and it’s a huge force driving bloggers. People put themselves out there, and the community reassures them about their place in the world.”

Bernoff and Li discuss "crowdsourcing" ("asking the groundswell to provide you with ideas") and a host of other valid and intriguing techniques, backed by real-world examples. They note the keys to successful groundswell adaptation as listening, having patience, and being flexible, collaborative, humble and opportunistic. Then, and only then, goes their thought process, will the interaction and engagement that drives social media fully click into place.

“ … Remember that conversations require not just listening but responding. It’s not about the big bang; it’s about constant responsiveness, whether in a blog, a community, or a social network … Campaigns begin and end, but conversations go on forever.”

Some (OK, many) aspects of social media are annoying, and others are downright disturbing and still others are just mind-numbing. But they ain't going anywhere, to some folks' chagrin. So what to do except jump into the groundswell and try to make it work for you? No matter how big the pond I have to cross or how wary and unaccepting the limeys are on the other side, that's my task.

So what if I have to step on a few Lilliputians along the way? It's a small (pun intended) price to pay to get where I need to be. I'll Tweetcha when I get there …

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

This Happened: Tucked Independence Day Parking Lot Old Fella

Now, I try to be as patriotic as the next guy, and considering some of the struggles of our times, it seems a little easier these days. But it never occurred to me to rock a Star-Spangled Banner shirt in public.

So I salute you, Random Tucked Weird Dude With Flag Shirt In Lowe's Parking Lot. Hope you all had a happy Fourth of July ...

Monday, July 06, 2009

"Old School" + "Road Trip" + "Very Bad Things" = "The Hangover" … A Formula That Works

"I'm not supposed to be within 200 feet of a school … or a Chuck E. Cheese."

I'm not sure if it's because blockbusters like "Transformers 2" have bombed harder than Carlos Mencia at a Rotary Club meeting or because our standards of politeness in cinema have faded or because rollicking, frat-house-type flicks have always thrived in summertime, but all the talk around the proverbial film watercooler of late has centered around "The Hangover."

Director Todd Phillips has put together a movie that isn't exactly treading new ground. Flicks like "Bachelor Party Vegas" (featuring a not-of-this-world Diora Baird) and "Very Bad Things" have pretty much captured the idea of the rite-of-passage journey to Sin City for debauchery, mayhem and illegality. So from that standpoint, and Phillips's directorial background, "The Hangover" plays out pretty much how you would expect it to. After all, here's a guy who has directed "Old School," "Road Trip", "Frat House" and "School for Scoundrels." Basically, you can throw these avant-garde pieces into a blender, push mix on high and what's left over is "The Hangover."

The quintessential Joe Average, Justin Bartha, plays Doug, the groom—who appears in the movie for roughly 20 minutes. Bradley Cooper is on hand as the best man, Phil ("Jesus, he's like a gremlin. Comes with instructions and shit."), in a who-the-hell-is-this-actor sort of role, but hell … here's a guy who got to fondle Scarlett Johansson in "He's Not That Into You," so any other progress in his career at this point is pretty much gravy. Bartha and Cooper were ho-hum casting choices, but rounding out the foursome with SNL alum Ed Helms as Stu ("I look like a nerdy hillbilly!") and frighteningly quirky Zach Galifianakis as Alan ("No, it's a satchel. Indiana Jones has one.") were inspired and ideal decisions. Helms was tremendous as a bust-out-of-his-shell dentist in a disturbing relationship, while Galifianakis—an NC State alumnus, by the way—is perfect in the role of the slightly demented, hysterical, physical-humor-excelling sidekick. The inclusions of Helms and Galifianakis save the quartet, making the dynamic work with the other duo. Throw in a neutered Short Round type of actor, some ill-administered roofies, a Mike Tyson cameo, a masturbating baby, a rooster, Heather Graham (we should all be so lucky as to wake up having "accidentally" married a hooker who looks like Heather Graham) and a tiger and … well … hilarity ensues.

Parts of the story were reminiscent of my recent trip to attend a wedding on Long Island. Later, reviewing the footage on my Flip video camera—which included lingering shots of a large, bald, Mafioso-type of dude with a cane and mirrored sunglasses as well as shaky footage of old ladies doing old-lady dances—brought back some memories I wasn't quite lucid enough to recall beforehand. But that's a story for another day.

So while you can pretty much use your imagination to predict how the plot unfolds and where the shock-factor scenes will appear, it still works through the sheer will and power of great laughs. A somewhat odd and uncomfortable side note would involve the fact that the audience during our viewing contained more than a few older couples, presumably out to see what all the fuss is about and be among the "cool kids." However, the biggest result was that some of the scenes became even more uncomfortable due to the presence of the 4 P.M. Dinner Club. Just be warned, old folks—this ain't "Cocoon 4: The Metamucil Years" being shown here.

The bottom line is that "The Hangover" wasn’t quite as funny as I would expecting, didn't cover any new ground and was more than slightly predictable in spots. Yet that being said, it worked, over and over and over again. Maybe people just want an escape in the middle of trying economic times. Perhaps stellar comedy will simply always be in style. Whatever the reason, "The Hangover" is more than worth your hard-earned beans.

Just don't bring Grandma. And stay away from Chuck E. Cheese beforehand.

The Hangover - Restricted Trailer - The best video clips are right here

Friday, July 03, 2009

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXVIII: Best Wishes to the Predator, Plus The Dream Job Begins

Bad news swept Wolfpack Nation quickly
Nate Irving fell asleep and ran into a tree
The Predator could be sidelined for the season
State seems to be cursed for no reason
Though some think it's because of Jimmy V

Dennis Green never could coach a lick
Now he's saying Miami is the destination for Vick
You shake your head and say what the heck
He's got a pack of hot dogs on the back of his neck
But they aren't what you thought they were, you prick

"But Obama never woos us or asks us!
Never reads our illegible e-mails or faxes!"
More Republic bitching and moaning
After eight years of straining and groaning
Payback's a bitch, now shut up and pay your taxes

The "Miracle Girl" could swim only barely
She spent 13 hours clinging at sea
As 150 died in the Indian Ocean
Amidst a scene of sadness and emotion
Her rescue was a reason for glee

Blogging and exploring the Great Barrier Reef
"The Best Job in the World" indeed, good grief
Better than working at Mifflin-Dunder
I've always wanted to visit Down Under
This lucky bastard stole my dream job, that limey thief

Last time

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cameron Village Has MILFs -- And ALFs

"Sixty years of serious style," my arse.

That's the slogan of Raleigh's Cameron Village. Yet this video of "sewer monsters" raced around the Intertubes this morning, potentially destroying a tagline while documenting an alleged alien life form feeding on yuppie leftovers just below this swanky (now stanky?) shopping area. The terrifying footage reveals what can only be described as something hideous, disturbing and utterly not of Wake County. Hell, I think I saw this particular creature on an episode of "Fringe" at one point.

Apparently, the animal anomaly has now been safely identified as tubifex worms … yet, somehow, that doesn’t make me feel any better or make it any easier to retrieve my breakfast off of my laptop keyboard. Besides, tubifex worms aren't nearly as cool as learning what ET might look like nowadays after years of chain-smoking crack and snorting Reese's Pieces in a meth lab on Jupiter's version of Detroit.

So … remind me never to have an omelet at Café Carolina & Bakery in the Village ever again.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

"Music Rising" Documents the Struggle to Help the New Orleans Music Scene Dust Itself Off and Ascend from the Ashes

Lately, much of my reading, writing and listening has revolved around the "Big Easy," touching on various aspects of New Orleans. Along these lines, "Music Rising" is a phenomenal documentary about the effort to bring vital musicians back to New Orleans in the -- literal -- wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Music Rising itself is a charity organized by producer Bob Ezrin and the CEO of Gibson, Henry Juszkiewicz. The organization works to purchase new instruments for displaced musicians, using a variety of ways of raising money, ranging from auctioning off beautiful guitars to holding charity concerts in Louisiana.

Produced by Frantic Films of Winnipeg, "Music Rising" was Canada's highest-rated documentary in 2006, leading me to wonder: why the hell did it take Canadians to make this film? Director Don Young included such notable and disparate stars as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Dr. John, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, Arlo Guthrie, Wolfman Washington and Breeze Cayolle. Much of the flick follows Breeze as he leaves his shattered home and life in New Orleans for Nashville. Six months later, after he returns to find his already-destroyed home broken into and learns that absolutely nothing has been done in his area in all that time, he vows never to return.

Breeze is held up as a symbol of the emotional loss of the musical influence that provides the very foundation of New Orleans. He's among the underground local artists who have helped define and create the musical scene of the Crescent City, putting his heart and soul into his craft while living paycheck to paycheck. His departure robs just a little bit of the essence of the soul of the Big Easy, and the void created by musicians of his ilk in New Orleans is one of the reasons that Music Rising felt the need to step in and stem the tide.

U2's The Edge is featured prominently as one of the pillars of the Music Rising movement, and he was moved as all were in attendance when the legendary Preservation Hall opened back up after Katrina, despite an uncertain future. Unfortunately, a controversy arose surrounding U2 and the film, with U2 Inc. forcing Young to remove scenes that involved the Edge visiting some of the hardest-hit parts of the city and jamming with local musicians. After the marketing division of U2 Inc. mandated some changes, Young quit the project for a while, then returned at the end. However, some emotional, exclusive scenes involving U2 have never been aired, further casting into question whether Bono, The Edge and crew have truly become philanthropists or simply developed into a country of their own.

Either way, at least there is a good end result of U2's involvement. U2 and Green Day collaborated on the song "The Saints Are Coming" to benefit Music Rising in September 2006, culminating in an inspired and memorable performance at halftime of the reopening of the Superdome (see below).

"Music Rising" was more an emotional, soulful experience than a true documentary, though its excellence in that medium earned it two Television Academy Accolade Awards. So even though it took a bunch of Canadians to bring it to the screen and even though New Orleans has slid somewhat into the background -- if it was ever in the foreground -- viewing "Music Rising" will touch the part of you where compassion breathes … and music lives.