Friday, June 29, 2012

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXII: Gallo On Our Mind, Plus Only The Coast Makes Sense

Four years can pass so fast
But the fondness, how it lasts
Just know how much you’re missed
Gallo memories, full of wist
And the smiles surround our shared past

Flashbacks of scrambling crews
And my days in TV news
A scintillating opening epi
The dialogue witty and peppy
“The Network” cure for summertime blues

Even a GOP SCOTUS rather dense
Passed Obamacare in a vote tense
Despite Tea Party bashin’
A win for compassion
And a victory for common sense

Posses and entourages and graft
As college hoops gets the shaft
European names you can’t pronounce
Teenagers who can’t hardly counts
Welcome to the NBA Draft

For some, logic outta reach
Accountability you can’t teach
A frustrating week at an end
Won’t type “FU” and send
Instead I’ll just go to the beach

Monday, June 25, 2012

“The Switch” Managed To Be A Little More Than You Were Expecting

“Did you just use my name as a verb?” –Wally Mars

Ceding control of movie choice yet again, I ended up faced with a viewing of “The Switch.” I need a better system.

Anyway, as far as “The Switch” goes, Jason Bateman (as the awesomely named Wally Mars) was initially difficult to accept as a lead guy, since he’s usually cast as the sidekick. And in watching the film, it wasn’t always easy to decide whether the intent is to view him as pitiful or hilarious. Personally, I find Bateman hysterical, but I could see where his brand of humor could be lost on certain crowds. At least here, he’s playing the complete opposite role of the one he had in “Juno.”

From a casting standpoint, I was also fascinated to see Jeff Goldblum for the first time in like 20 years, naturally leading me to wonder just where they dug him up from. The kid, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), steals pretty much every scene he’s in, while it was hard to ignore the gigantic forehead played by Patrick Wilson as Jennifer Aniston’s slightly douche-ish fiance. And unfortunately, this film also served notice of how old Aniston is getting, which is more than a little depressing.

Among the plot holes was a seven-year period where Bateman’s character moved away and moved back, which was completely glossed over. And I certainly could have done without the lingering scenes of a dude playing with another dude’s sperm.

But beyond that, “The Switch” had a good soundtrack and an underrated emotional streak. Taking into account the predictability and how easily some issues were resolved, I actually found this movie kind of cute, and I really (really) don’t use that word very often in describing a film. And at the very least, it was better than expected after losing the coin flip to pick the movie to watch.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXI: Another Summer, Another UNC Scandal, Plus Raleigh Boy Done Golf Good

More hits for UNC-Defeat
On scandal, they keep hitting repeat
“Fraud” is Swahili for “passes”
The Carolina Way just means to cheat

Criticism they finally couldn’t ignore
The FBS to have a final four
Will it be fair to all?
Will it make sense for football?
A step in the right direction, no more

That hour that Twitter crashed
So many lunch plans were dashed
Thought evil Sandusky got away clean
Or maybe Kate Middleton became queen
But luckily, ‘twas only temporarily trashed

His fastball had a trail of fire
But when his trial got pretty dire
Not guilty for Roger Clemens
When life gives you steroids and lemons
Just never stop being a liar

“Tigger’s back!” said giddy ESPN
Ready to crown him Friday morning
But in the runner-up race
An odd thing took place
Webb Simpson won the damn thing

Last time

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Deep Thoughts By No-Look McFadden: Episode 57

A beer-swilling, ammo-toting, Polish-joke spouting bear by the name of Voytek. Badass of the Week? Nay. Badass of the Forever.

So the hysterical “Veep” (starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a role closer to 20-years-later Elaine from “Seinfeld” than anything else she’s ever done) is like “Spin City” on crack. And that’s a good thing.

Three teams in the land won a bowl game, went to the Sweet 16 and advanced to the baseball super regionals. NC State was one of them. Good year for Pack athletics.

The zombie apocalypse won’t look like you think it will look.

The way Roy Williams has “handled” queries into UNC basketball’s role in the pervasive academic scandal and cheating running rampant in Chapel Hill only feeds a widespread perception that local media kowtows to entities like UNC hoops. Until the local media learns that legitimate questions can’t be adequately answered with a lot of grab-ass, aw-shucks non sequiturs punctuated by a lot of “fricking” and “crap,” regional sportswriting will always be viewed as a joke from a national perspective. Maybe when someone gets around to writing the book “Poisoning the ‘Ol Well,” it’ll dispel the image of “press conferences” filled with guffawing, back-slapping and painfully forced laughter.

Just in case you were curious about what a day in the life of the Most Interesting Man in the World looked like ...

The HBO documentary “Breaking the Huddle” offered a no-holds-barred look at the slow integration of football in the South, complete with surprising revelations about Lee Corso’s role, how Hayden Fry led the way and why Michigan State was deemed the “Underground Railroad” of college football More stellar documentary work from the best production company in the business—HBO.

Virginia catcher Nate Irving shares the same name as the former Wolfpack linebacker, but doesn’t possess the epic dreadlocks or bone-crushing intensity or awesome nickname of the latter.

No one covering the NBA will admit it, but officiating has arguably been the deciding factor halfway through the NBA Finals between the Heat and Thunder. If Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got half the calls that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade do, the Thunder would have closed this thing out already.

That sound you just heard is Shell’s PR guy getting shit-canned.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“From The Sky Down” Details A Band Finding Its Voice—Even While They’re Already On Top

“You must reject one expression of the band before you get to next expression. And in between, there's nothing.” ~Bono

Perhaps no wildly excellent band has successfully redefined their sound as many times as U2—just one of the reasons for my immense respect for this group. The starkly transparent documentary “From the Sky Down” took a look at the fragility of the band and the emotions involved in the making of “Achtung Baby” 20 years later.

At the time, U2 was licking its wounds from a difficult first U.S. tour and the bombastic criticism that came about after the release of the ill-executed “Rattle & Hum.” The disaster around these events allowed doubt to creep in, as they slowly lost their identity and confidence and became seen as the enemy in some quarters. “As an artist, your biggest enemy is your own history,” Bono said at one point.

Some of the inspirations that drove “Achtung Baby” were the new decade, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of machine-age music, and the exploration of the clash of rock and club cultures. The realization was that they needed to risk it all to find a new direction, to reinvent themselves and how they may be perceived.

Bono, who appears to be slowly morphing into Robin Williams as he ages, seemed to be apologizing in his own way for the transformation he was going through as an artist during that time. Bono speaks of the band as a clan, with the music as sacrament, lending context to the behind-the-scenes footage of the band collaborating. The Edge refers to Bono as “one big idea,” leading the way into the discussion of how Bono finds the hook first, then writes the lyrics later, almost abstractly.

This process formed the heart of the most compelling part of this documentary. It was fascinating to hear how combined bridges resulted in a magic moment—the creation of “One”—that they all realized at the time. In some ways, the band felt that the genesis of “One” saved the band, and it was truly emotional to hear the first-person narratives about how that experience played out to each of them personally.

Almost as a defense mechanism against the dissenting voices, “The Fly” became Bono’s parody of a rock star, fueled by Zoo TV. (At one point, he said, “Let's use the force of what's attacking us to defend ourselves.”) In this area and others, the documentary was humorous, showing a self-deprecating collection of gifted musicians capable of looking back on a trying time from a safe place of justified, success-driven confidence.

The story became more about the band and how they needed hard love to find the appreciation of distinct and true personalities that would power them through the doubts and the criticisms. And in the end, “From the Sky Down” exists as, ironically, kind of the reverse version of “Rattle & Hum,” which in some ways is at the heart of this documentary. If their argument is that naivete came across as ego on “Rattle & Hum,” then brutal honesty is the antidote with “From the Sky Down.”

The result is a depiction of what happens when masters in their field deal with doubt for the first time, yielding an intimate portrayal of perhaps the defining band of their generation—warts and all.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX: Ocho Or “Oh No!,” Plus A “Mad Men” Finale Deserving Of Three Poems

Realizing “Hard Knocks” fears
Sign “stars” with fading careers
#85 to South Beach
More than a little reach
Too late by about cinco years

Another epic boxing fail
The welterweight belt for sale
One more champion jobbed
Manny Pacquio was robbed
So how come Mayweather’s in jail?

Rick Scott the latest GOP groan
Credibility sunk like a stone
If suffrage is your best idea
Maybe just work at IKEA
And leave governance alone

The pompous bitch David Stern
Attacked Rome way out of turn
Worst commish out there
No accountability so he doesn’t care
He and the NBA will never learn

Joan rues a missed ‘ho chance
Lane missed, but Peggy’s back in pants
Beth shocked into no memory
Trippy Roger bangs Marie
As the newly rich agency expands

Ghosts from the Dick Whitman past
Catch up to faithful Don at last
A rotten tooth in need of extraction
Will he succumb to female distraction?
A cliffhanger, an eyebrow, a look vast

He’s “Mad Men’s” own Glass Joe
One punch and down he’ll go
Cheating Pete gets apartment in city
As sad Megan earns Don’s pity
Fade to black on one amazing show

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ain't Nuttin' But Da Dad Life ...

One of these videos seems to come out every year or so. And I laugh a little and cry a little each time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

This Semana On "As De La Hoth Turns"

Everything is funnier in Spanish.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Everyday People And the Illicit Secrets That Haunt Them Power William Trevor’s Startling “Selected Stories”

“Nothing of love had been destroyed today: they took that with them as they drew apart and walked away from one another, unaware that the future was less bleak than it now seemed, that in it there still would be the delicacy of their reticence, and they themselves as love had made them for a while.”

“Dark nourishes light’s triumphant blaze, but who should want to know?”

“‘You’re looking lovely,’ he said, and she heard but pretended not to so that he’d say it again.”

Few authors in the history of the world have possessed the ability to sketch compelling characters and engrossing plots in the span of 10 pages. The esteemed William Trevor is one of those—as he proved 48 times over in his remarkable “Selected Stories.”

This collection of short stories excel in depicting scenes from everyday life, yet drawing a story out of the minutiae and slowly unveiling the secrets that lie just beyond the monotonous. Dealing in the stark and ordinary, Trevor excels at depicting lives of Thoreau’s “quiet desperation,” unraveling the guilts, grudges, sufferings and mysteries even the most banal of us. He deals in the deviance that lurks just under the surface of seemingly commonplace folks living seemingly nondescript lives.

The stories often end abruptly, with little to no stated resolution, but usually punctuated by a momentous turn of prose. And no topic is out of bounds: faith, pedophilia, random violence, infidelity, murder, unrequired love, religion, deception ... they all fall under Trevor’s sights at one point or another. Many of the stories deal with religion and doubt, often having a parable feel to them. The humor is sparse, but present; irony and symbolism abound. The titles feature no pretense; they are stated matter of factly and without guile.

He casts many of his stories in terms of struggles, whether between tradition and modernity, Catholicism vs. Protestantism or old Ireland vs. the new United Kingdom. He populates his stories with lonely drifters, lost orphans, jaded hustlers and divided spouses, featuring only a single story that shifts to first-person perspective.

Leading off the collection was “The Piano Teacher’s Wives,” a beautiful story of a blind widower who marries in old age the woman he had given up for another before his first marriage. The second wife, Belle, struggles mightily to shrug off the ghost of the first wife, Violet (hard to miss the symbolism in the names of the wives), who painted the entire world for Owen.

“He understood, he did his best to comfort her; his affection was in everything he did. But Violet would have told him which leaves were on the turn. Violet would have reported that the tide was going out or coming in. Too late Belle realized that. Violet had been his blind man’s vision. Violet had left her no room to breathe.”

“After the Rain” offered a melancholy look at past connections and present failings for a woman experiencing another bittersweet end to another love affair, before culminating in a breathtaking final paragraph.

“He backed away, as others have, when she asked too much of love, when she tried to change the circumstances that are the past by imposing a brighter present, and constancy in the future above all else.”

“Gilbert’s Mother” eerily described the horror of a mother fearing—nay knowing—that her son is a murderer. Out of fear, she has put her life on pause, being subordinated to her disturbed son. The intensity and morbidity of the story underscored the fact that the son derived the strength needed to commit his crimes from his mother’s palpable terror.

“Her fear made him a person, enriching him with power.”

Rampant symbolism and serenity enriched “The Potato Dealer,” the tale of a woman holding a bastard at the hands of a priest, and the sad deal struck to protect her—and her family’s reputation. Staying with religion, “Lost Ground” was a stunningly well-written and melancholy tale of a Protestant boy who receives a holy kiss from the ghost of a Catholic saint.

Arguably the highlight of the book, the story includes the supernatural, alcoholism, religious persecution and puberty before ending in a kind of beautiful violence

“The family would not ever talk about the day, but through their pain they would tell themselves that Milton’s death was the way things were, the way things had to be: that was their single consolation. Lost ground had been regained.”

Infidelity and alcoholism permeate the two-ships-passing-in-the-night feel of the somber “A Day,” with the specter of barrenness overhanging a sad but tender end-of-day ritual.

“The morning that has passed seems far away as the afternoon advances, as the afternoon connects with the afternoon of yesterday and of the day before, a repetition that must have a beginning somewhere but now is lost.”

Continuing the string of heavy stories marking the middle of the collection, “The Mourning” details the recruitment and enlistment of an Irish mafia bomber, who eventually can’t ignore a dawning realization.

“Nor that he cried when he walked away, that tears ran down his cheeks and on to his clothes, that he cried for the bomber who might have been himself.”

“Le Visiteur” describes a fateful encounter between two souls from the viewpoint of a young man who misreads the mirroring of his own instant love in a beautiful young woman who seeks only to evoke jealousy. The entire life and future he had envisioned is dashed as he finally understands her intentions, yet we are unable to see the totality of his reaction to this crushing loss of fleeting “love.”

“It could happen like this that you fell in love, that there was some moment you didn’t notice at the time and afterwards couldn’t find when you thought back. It didn’t matter because you knew it was there, because you knew that this had happened.”

“For all this—for what had happened, for what was happening still, she had returned a stranger’s gaze. Destruction was present in the room; Guy was aware of that.”

Trevor employs the first person in the haunting “Solitude,” featuring a girl witnessing her mother’s infidelity, confiding in imaginary friends and eventually taking an unthinkable course of action to quiet the voices.

“I wonder when I gaze for a moment longer if what I see is the illusion imposed by my imagination upon the shadow a child became, if somehow I do not entirely exist.”

“Big Bucks” covers the relationship of a young Irish couple, together since childhood, united in their love of and yearning for America—only to discover just before their wedding that this comprised their only real connection. The foreboding, drifting-apart feel to this tale was inescapably sad.

“They would walk again on the strand, neither of them mentioning the fragility of love, or the disaster that had been averted when they were young.”

Extremely moving was “A Bit on the Side,” a sad, poignant telling of the delicate ending of a love affair. Loss dominated the sublime “Cheating at Canasta,” featuring a widower upholding his dead wife’s wish for him to visit their special restaurant alone. He eavesdrops on a conversation between a quarreling couple and subtly suggests that they treasure each other and the times they have. This pretty, quiet and extremely short tale manages to be charming in a scant amount of words.

“At Olivehill” was the melancholy tale of the death of a patriarch, followed by his sons’ efforts to turn the family farm into a golf course. His widow is tormented by hiding her sons’ plans from him in life, until she is recedes more and more within herself in the dark as progress overtakes her.

A woman suddenly leaves a seemingly happy relationship with an older man in “A Perfect Relationship,” overcoming him with jealousy and confusion. The wistful and sad story ends with her attempted return to him, rebuffed by his acknowledgment that they are in need of different things from their relationship.

“Friendship had drawn them together. Giving and taking, they had discovered one another at a time when they were less than they became.”

“The Children” tells the tale of a widowed man with an 11-year-old daughter whose silent defiance and disapproval of his plans to marry another woman test the bonds of their closeness. “Old Flame” offers a lot to react to, with a wife discovering the extent of her husband’s 40-year affair of sorts with two different women who happen to live together. The depth of intensity and emotion achieved by Trevor here in merely nine pages is purely stunning.

In “Selected Stories,” Trevor has created a fascinating inventory of case studies on the issue of malevolence, and how understated evil can take root in seemingly good people. He uses sparse, but dense and powerful prose to sketch characters that simultaneous detest and empathize with. For me, the seemingly quiet pastoral life will never be looked at quite the same—a tribute to Trevor’s ability to evoke emotion with an understated mastery of sparsely impactful prose.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXIX: We’re Running Out Of Eyes To Black, Plus Lane’s World Falls Apart On “Mad Men”

Another week, more N.C. flack
Embarrassment for our state is back
A fracking bill has passed
In case you like your water gassed
New state motto: “What the frack”

“Something Wicked This Way Comes”
Had me screaming for me Mums
The brilliant Ray Bradbury, RIP
He was from Waukegan like me
Made so many writers look like bums

Wisconsin politics makes me a gawker
A near recall for Scott Walker
And Mitt Romney, what the hell
“America” he can’t even spell
I weep for every upcoming debate talker

A jilted Miss P-A
Says it’s a rigged Miss USA
Shocking, I tell ya lawd
That Trump is some kind of fraud
He and it should just go away

Lane’s new Jag a lemon, clanging
Cutthroat Don back haranguing
TMI on Sally’s “change”
Creepy Glenn still strange
Didn’t leave Lane’s storyline hanging

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Deep Thoughts By No-Look McFadden: Episode 56

I can’t contain my curiosity anymore: When did NBA players decide that it would be cool to start dressing like Urkel for postgame press conferences and who signed off on it?

As a writer, I’m not sure whether this infographic about how a book is born is supposed to make you chuckle or weep. So I did both, and now I think there’s a book in it somewhere.

A 94-year-old woman reunited with her son after 67 years. Good story. But I have to ask the obvious—if all it took was a quick Google search, what have they been doing for the last 20 years?

Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is a dead ringer for Father Jessup (played by Bruce Ed Morrow) from the epic “Seinfeld” episode “The Implant.” Maybe we can get a Costanza cameo on “Hard Knocks” this summer.

That thing where a 19-year-old kid lived on the AOL campus in California for two months without them knowing. Side note: who knew AOL was still around?

Maybe the most underrated new show out there is Fox’s “Touch,” and it gave an involuntary nod to a previous generation of comedy by casting both Mike Damone of “Fast Times at Ridgmont High” and Jean-Paul of “Seinfeld” (the marathon runner in “The Hot Tub”) in the same episode recently.

As people are forced to come up with more and more clever means of barter in a dying economic system, you have to love the idea of the Little Free Library on the corner.

Apparently, NBA analysts have decided that “volume shooter” is a more politically correct way to call someone a ballhog.

The smile of a paralyzed woman who’s able to use her mind to get a robot to give her coffee gives you optimism that sometimes technology is on the right track.

So perhaps I should just go ahead and scratch Australia off the ol’ bucket list ...

Friday, June 01, 2012

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVIII: Dolphins Seek To Fail On Cable-TV Scale, Plus “Mad Men” Makes a Ho of Joan?!

A “Hard Knocks” life for the ‘Fins
Cruel and unusual punishment for sins
Don’t need behind the scenes
To know what a trainwreck means
Maybe HBO can CGI some wins

Another state embarrassment? Jeez
For North Carolina, idiocy decrees
You can’t cover your backs
By trying to outlaw facts
Just like you can’t legislate rising seas

The Hornets won the top pick
Anthony Davis, the pogo stick
When will NBA fans learn
Not to cross David Stern
Another rigged lottery? Pretty slick

A combover atop a worthless lump
That’s fraudulent Donald Trump
He’s backing Mitt Romney
Who said rather calmly
“My magic underwear can hold another dump”

Peg says goodbye with soul
Megan fights for a play role
Say it ain’t so, Joanie
Pimped out to some jabroni
All Don’s women he can’t control