Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What February 28th Means To Me: Looking Back At The 1990s

Recently, this post detailing the 48 pictures that perfectly captures the 1990's has zoomed around the internet and, yes, it's definitely good for some lulz, but it got me thinking about what really defines the 1990's.  For a while, I thought the 1990's were either 1) undefinable or 2) was a decade whose identity was not quite formed, but would be defined over time. 

But the more I think about it, the more the 90's appears to be a launching pad for the foreseeable future.  I'm not a pop culture expert, and am willing to fully admit that all previous decades had similar influence to the subsequent ones and, on many levels, I'm sure they did.  But, to me, the 1990's featured three important, seismic changes in culture that propelled society into overdrive, and changed (or exacerbated) our collective wants and needs at their base level. 

*69, *66, *67 - I honestly can't remember the differences between these phone aids, but as far as I can recall, they were the last improvements to the land line before the world went mobile.  I was a child of the 80's, and will never forget the competition for long distance phone services.  It seemed that every commercial break involved either ATT or MCI (or both) vying for our attention and the right to gauge us for cash with every long distance call.  But towards the end of the 1990's, the affordable cell phone was released, the long distance charge died, and we, as a society, instantly changed.  The long distance commercials slowly dissapated, pay phones suddenly seemed superfluous, and we all became constantly reachable.  Remember the days when if you were out of the house, you were off the grid?  How did business function?  How did anything function?  And, sadly, it wasn't that long ago, and the changes seemingly happened seamlessly and without much warning.  With the improvement of mobile technology, social expectations and customs completely morphed, and with it, our understanding of patience.  No longer do we have the luxury of calling people (or returning a text) on our own time, and no longer do we have to do things like synchronize watches to make plans.  The positives and negatives of such a shift can be debated, but the altered state started here. 

Titanic - Movie historians will probably tell me I'm wrong (and I probably am), but in the late 90's, movie studios seemed to shift towards big budget "tentpole" movies to buoy their studios, and none were bigger than Titanic.  The following is certainly a chicken/egg argument, but the shift in movie making mirrored the American shift in thinking "bigger is better," along with our need for instant results/gratification.   It seems the idea of letting something build is lost, and we want results now now now. 

You've Got Mail - Let's face it, millions obviously knew about the internet, and had ideas on how much it would change our lives, but for the vast majority of the world's citizens, the advent of the world wide web snuck up on us and ingratiated itself into our collective conscience faster than a communicable disease.  We were not teased for years about the wonderful thing called the internet, and that's probably why it remains as a "wild west frontier" that is loosely regulated and infinitely possible.  Every governing body, from actual national governments to parents, scrambled for ways to control it, but because of its accessibility, Pandora's box has been opened, and its effects have been widely spread.  The internet has produced infinite amounts of opportunity as it has shrunk the world, and has also allowed all of us a voice that was previously reserved for the mainstream media.  With social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc, the playing field has been somewhat leveled, and we have been provided a launching pad for our thoughts that can, potentially, be heard by millions. Since we all want positive attention and a strong identity, we keep feeding the world with our personal information in an effort to be noticed.  This has changed everything, and has created a society of the entitled, and an entire generation of inflated self-worth.  Again, the benefits and pitfalls are debatable, but when pop culture historians look back at shifts in society, I assume they will point directly to the 1990's as the launching point for when everything changed. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

What February 25th-27th Means To Me: Walking Dead and Sunday Night TV Thoughts

I have to admit I didn't even finish last night's episode, but that's more a reflection of yesterday's antsy mood, and not necessarily the quality of the show. Anyway, as much as it pains me to say it, I want to give credit where credit is due.  The Walking Dead actually caused me to think about something other than how I want Lori and Carl to die (though I'm still more than all for this). 

From day one, we've been reminded several times by all the characters that the world has "changed" (no shit), and that the "old rules" no longer apply in a society that's main goal is not growth, but mere survival.  This, of course, is a theme worthy of exploration, but it's too often conjured through boring, hackneyed dialogue, and rarely by the character's actual actions.  There's only so many times I can stand to listen to Dale's judgmental ramblings while staring at his furrowed brow. 

But last night's episode actually featured one moment that captured the "new world" beautifully, and it didn't even involve dialogue.  While driving 18 miles out of town, Shane, through the passenger window, stared at a solitary walker harmlessly ambling his way through an open field towards nothing in particular, much like a child would while watching passing scenery nine hours into a twenty-four hour car trip.  Shane's solemn face spoke volumes, as the sight of the walker registered no surprise or emotion, and was handled much in the same way you or I would had we seen a deer on the side of the road, which is to say we wouldn't react at all.  The moment was a well-placed metaphor for the entire show, and it achieved more in three seconds than all the previous, exhaustive dialogue did in two seasons.

Similarly, while Shane's character is an over-the-top proponent of safety through force, Rick comes the closest to displaying ambivilance, as he struggles with the push and pull of his "old world values" and "new world reality."  His years of protecting and serving in law enforcement runs in direct conflict with the Shane-inspired "shoot em if it moves" philosophy of taking zero chances when it comes to even remote possibilities of endangering their already tenuous lifestyle.  Rick's insistance that they save an unknown (and possibly dangerous) teenager's life, only to leave him for dead a few days later without any provocation, perfectly displays his inner struggle between figuring out his moral obligations to society and his family.  I'd say this is effective character development, but I don't really feel it's intended because 1) it's subtle, 2) The Walking Dead is never subtle.  If Rick were actually conflicted by his new emotions and instincts, I'm SURE this would be vocalized to Lori, who would then make it, once again, about Carl.

I wasn't even IN this episode, Brett.  FU

Additionally, and speaking of unintentional themes, I question the motivation behind Lori and Andrea's conversation about contributing to Herschel's farm.  The issue of gender roles has seeped to the forefront of The Walking Dead, most notably the place for women within this new primal society where it's implied that only the strong survive.  Lori personally retards the women's movement when she claims that Andrea should be helping with the cooking and laundry, and that the men can handle any of the safety issues regarding the infestation of walkers.  Naturally, Andrea is angered by the statements and, instead of targeting the issue head on, takes soap opera-esque shots at Lori's "infidelity."  Are the creators making a statement with the regression of gender roles in this new patriarchal/anarchistic society?  I'm not sure yet, but I suppose time will tell if this ground will be truly covered.  My guess is it will not, and the show will, once again, devolve into bullshit about the best ways to keep Carl safe.

God damnit, Brett
I look forward to Shane proclaiming, with shotgun raised high above his head, that all the men must impregnate the women in an effort to build society again.  And then, of course, Lori's subsequent, bug-eyed pleas to her husband to shoot Shane in the face because he's setting poor examples for Carl...who licks his chops while staring at Herschel's suidical daughter who finally got a few lines of dialogue this past episode. 


As always, the show rocks, but who was the short, fat, Argentine fellow standing next to Phil at the pitstop?  That wasn't Diego Maradona, was it?  One of the contestants mentioned that the gentleman was a "soccer legend," but...who was that?


I didn't watch them.  Though my downstairs neighbor had some sort of viewing party that often screamed with either delight or exasperation at the decisions that really make zero difference in anyone's lives.  OK, no more bitterness!

Friday, February 24, 2012

What February 24th Means To Me: Nothing To Say

It's weird how empty I've felt this week in regards to commentary.  I think I've spent more time staring at my blank screen than actually writing anything worthwhile.   It's certainly not "writer's block," because I'm not  constructing any sort of meaningful narrative. My inert state is probably due to a lack of anything noteworthy happening, combined with general stress that is temporariliy inhibiting my normal wandering thoughts.  It seems that my creativity thrives when my senses are overwhelmed by new experiences.  That's probably true for everyone. 

Lately, I've been frustrated.  But not in the "woe is me, please help me" kind of way.  I suppose it's hard to break old habits and "dreams," but I'm starting to come around to the idea.  When I first moved to Los Angeles back in 2003, I had a concrete set of dreams, goals, and priorities.  I felt I was a decent writer and, with some hard work, I could acheive screenwriting goals and see my movies made.  And, early in my career, I actually had some success that lead me to believe that, by the time I was my age now, I would be well on my way to having everything I thought I'd have.  When I was in my 20's, my 30's were this nebulous mix of, I don't know, maturity and cocktail parties.  I saw my 30's as this period of adulthood where I'd do "adult things."  I'd have a worthy job and an apartment or house filled with furniture and knick knacks that would stick around a while.  Probably some sort of wife, too. I'd only take part in intellectual conversation. I'd wear nice clothes.  But none of those things actually happened, so I'm left poking at my dinner while attempting to figure out both why it hasn't, and also why it shouldn't matter. 

When I first moved here, I recall wondering why entertainment industry veterans of 15+ years dropped "their dreams," to go back to law school, or move to Georgia to sell real estate.  I couldn't wrap my head around their decision because it seemed like it proved their past fifteen years had been some kind of waste.  But now I feel like I'm becoming one of them.  I notice my interests have broadened, and as I've changed as a person, I've discovered that I'm tying my self worth less to my career and more to life experience.  Eight years ago, going to Europe to pursue a masters degree in who gives a shit was a laughable idea, but now it seems oddly romantic, even though my age suggests that window of opportunity might be closed.  Like being the really old guy all the young kids snicker at in the club.  I'm not sure why I always look to age as some sort of barrier, but I've longed considered 40 as this age that's a point of no return.  Like if things don't happen by then, they never will. Or even if they did happen then, so what?  I'd be too old to fulfill any of those romantic ideals I once had, or have now.  I don't know why I think that, and I know it's also probably not true, but if I don't catch myself, I fall back into that line of thought.  I know people older than me roll their eyes if I call myself old, but I think it's hard for many people to TRULY grasp that they cannot reverse the aging process.  Seeing your mortality in the mirror is difficult when it's impossible to comprehend what the future actually holds. 

Hoepfully, one day soon, I'll figure out what my next move will be.  Actually, I'll put it differently: Hopefully, one day soon, I'll get the courage to go do something else that will give me further life experience, even if it doesn't make a ton of "financial sense," or whatever else we are taught equals success. 


But, hey, at least Game Of Thrones is back soon!

I will take what is mine...with fire and blood!
Have a good weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What February 23rd Means To Me: Two Fun Links!

Today, I break from the normal BS to bring real life knowledge!

First: Test Tube Hamburgers?   Yes!  Enjoy the cow without the cow!  Haven't people been accusing McDonalds of this for years? Apparently this "in vitro meat" might be available to the market by the fall.  Let's be clear, it's not "fake."  Made from cow stems cells, muscle, and blood, scientists have figured out a way to create cow meat without actually creating the cow.  Animal farming has long been an expensive, land consuming, environmentally dangerous practice, and the "test tube meat" provides an interesting alternative.  Would vegetarians support this meat by the way of eating it?  Does it taste like a real cow?  Could this be a huge answer to our animal farming problems?  Time will tell, though it does sound like something straight out of some dystopian future movie. 

Second:  How much does our language affect the way we budget money?   A new study suggests that people who speak languages that present a clear difference between present and future tenses (Greek, English, French) save less money than people who speak languages that don't (German).  I tend to agree with the skeptics because, even with my uneducated mind, I just assume there are many more factors that go into the suggested behavior than just verb tense, but the study is an interesting read either way.

Enjoy!  Or Don't!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What February 18th-22nd Means To Me: Random Thoughts

Just some random thoughts from the last few days:

Tetanus Shots Fucking Hurt:  I had the pleasure of stepping on a nail during a run this past weekend, total fail.  Went right through my shoe and everything.  I actually didn't think it was a big deal because it only barely broke my skin, and I stopped just short of putting the nail under a microscope to inspect it for possible rust that my untrained eye couldn't detect anyway.  But co-workers scared me into, at least, calling the "nurses hotline" to get a professional opinion, and the professional opinion was "you don't want to DIE, do you?"

Seriously.  She then slowly explained how my body would deteriorate, organ by organ, if I didn't get a tetanus shot ASAP.  I suddenly had this vision of myself collapsing in the hallway, losing control of my bowels, and shaking uncontrollably on the gross carpet.  I figured my co-workers wouldn't appreciate that, and since dying wasn't exactly on the agenda, I now have a severely sore arm from the shot...even though the foot injury stopped bothering me hours after it occurred.  Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

The Voice:  I watched the NBC singing competition for the first time this weekend, and I have just one question. Does that Dude (who is not Adam, Cee-Lo, or Christina) always stare down the contestants, like a lion would its prey, after he presses the approval button? 

I Have This Annoying Habit:  As a song is ending on the radio, I reflexively change the channel.  I have no idea why, it's not as if the station is going off the air, and there might actually be a song I would like to hear coming on next.  On a similar note, how satisfying is it, even in the age of the iPod, when a song you really want to hear comes on the radio, and you get to hear it in its entirety? It's a small victory. And how much does it suck when you are flipping stations and catch just the last 20 seconds of that song? Total suckage. I think these feelings are the last vestiges from the days where the only way to get a recorded version of a song was to drive to Tower and buy the entire album, or wait for it to come on the radio, drop everything, and press record on your waiting blank tape.  Remember this?

Sorry, but Wild Wild West by Escape Club just came on the radio! MUST RECORD!!!!!!!!!!
And then we'd wear it out on our huge walkmen with graphic equalizers or whatever. How did we ever live without iPhones?

Did You Know Von's Has Sommeliers?:  Me either.  Till this weekend when the one near my house absolutely pwned my friend when he criticized her wine choices.  Twas awesome. 

Life's Too Short:  So far, I'm into Ricky Gervais's new sitcom/mockumentary about Warwick Davis (the small star from Willow), who plays a fictional version of himself.  Funny stuff.

How Fucking Awful Does "Project X" Look?:  When I originally heard about this movie, I thought it was actually a remake of that 80's Matthew Broderick flick about the flying chimpanzees in a secret army program (an odd choice for a remake, but they've made stranger).  Then I saw the commercial and realized it was just a piece of shit meant to be held directly under the noses of the lowest common denominator.  Seriously, it looks like a less charming, dumber, raunchier version of Superbad, and they hit all the beats in the commercial:  big party, hot girls in little clothing, a car in a pool, binge drinking, and of course, a midget in a stove.  Because when in a need of a joke, always go to a midget in a stove.  Mouthbreathers love to laugh at midgets...in stoves.  I look forward to their set piece involving retarded children line dancing to Kanye.  I haven't seen it, but fuck this movie.

I Just Got A Text Informing Me "Hunger Games" Tix Are On Sale:  Yeah, that's right.  I'm actually not even sure I ever signed up for such a notice, but I'm glad I got it.  I'm gonna have to write a post about The Hunger Games kind of soon, hmmm.

Footage Of Me Watching The Season Premiere Of The Amazing Race On Sunday:

How I missed you.

That's it. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

What February 17th Means To Me: Why Can't All Movies End With "Jai Ho"

I'm admittedly a fan of unpredictability within my entertainment, and often love when storytellers take chances to blow audiences away with absurdity.  It's generally why my mind veers into strange places when I'm bored in a movie theater, figuring ways to improve the movie within unrealistic parameters.  I ask myself, "hmmm, what would make this movie better?"  And often the answer is..."More Jai Ho."

If Jai Ho sounds familiar to you, but you can't place it, it was the song the cast of Slumdog Millionaire danced to at the end of that movie.  And yes, movie snobs, I understand it's a Bollywood tradition, and it's not unique to Slumdog, so please don't trip over your "but but buts."  Anyway, I've longed believed that bad (even slightly good) dramas could be saved with the absurdity of a dance number.  Which is all I could think about while watching Liam Neeson's new movie, The Grey

Dance With Me
The Grey is, essentially, a typical "bro" movie about a group of oil workers (I think?) whose plane crashes in the desolate, frigid, Alaskan wild.  While in the middle of nowhere, the survivors have to brave the horrible temperature, the lack of food, their clashing personalities...and a clan of very persistent and dangerous wolves (that are, apparently, afraid of trees, even though they lived in, well, the woods.)  The entire movie basically involves this small group of men wandering aimlessly, trying to avoid these hungry wolves.

For the lulz
Though the movie featured some pretty scenery, and an always engaging Liam Neeson, I got pretty bored watching him evade wolves for 2 hours, while his buddies were picked off one by one by these furry beasts.  I just wanted it to end.  Happily.  And absurdly.  After all, given the following choices...what would make for the best ending?

1) Liam kills the wolves
2) The wolves kill Liam
3) They come together for a beer and a dance?

Exactly.  Instead of some epic ManVBeast battle, the movie would have been much better served if the angry, hungry wolves surrounded Liam, only for the "alpha wolf" to approach him, kneel (maybe Tebow?), and tell him, "We've chased you for days. You're a worthy adversary.  Come live with us."

Let us share a story and a laugh.

Cut to group dance number with Liam and 25 wolves.  Movie over. Everyone's happy.

If you're not into dance numbers, my old college roommate and I used to discuss how much cooler dramas would be if they all used Journey's "Anyway You Want It" as the end credits song.  Picture"Titanic."  Rose dies, imagines herself back on the Titanic, near the clock.  She sees Leo for the first time after all those years.  They kiss, the crowd cheers, the camera pans up and bleaches the screen to white....ANYWAY YOU WANT IT, THAT'S THE WAY YOU NEED IT, ANYWAY YOU WANT IT.  Better, right?  No? OK, well try a different movie. 

OK, done with the rambles!  Enjoy the weekend. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What February 15th-16th Means To Me: More Linsanity and Race Discussion

I know I already wrote about Jeremy Lin's hype, and how it connects to his race here (in before the national media!), but I wanted to touch upon it a bit more now that it's become a larger part of the national conversation.

Boxer Floyd Mayweather's contreversial tweet on "Linsanity" is getting quite a bit of play in the media, and has inspired a good deal of both conversation and direct response.

He said:

“Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”

While I don't agree with Mayweather's comment fully, because it implies that Lin's basketball accomplishments are less impressive than they are (he has been AWESOME), his tweet is not baseless.  Because Lin's race is hardly represented in the basketball community (unless you're really tall, like Yao Ming), prejeduce has probably affected him for his entire career.  Lin was a very successful high school player, but couldn't get a scholarship, and a very successful college player who never got too much of a sniff at the pro game until these past couple of weeks.  And now that we are all watching him on display, we, of course, wonder how the hell no one saw this before.  Every part of his game (save for defense) seems polished.  If Jeremy was black or white, would he have been slighted earlier in his career?  Hard to say, but it's certainly worth the conversation.

I mentioned in my earlier post that his hype was certainly partially due to his race, and I'll stand by that.  He has not only energized the Asian American community (and Canadian), but he also has inspired viewing parties in Taipei.  It appears the Asian community has put a lot of hope and stock in Lin, and rightfully so, he's putting the community back on stage and providing a basketball role model for millions of Asian children both here and abroad.  To ignore this fact would be dishonest.

Put it this way.

If Jeremy Lin were white or black, his ascent would easily be the biggest story of the 2012 NBA season.

Because of his Asian background, his story is one of the biggest in the world. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Februrary 14th Means To Me: Valentine's Day

I don't have any strong thoughts for or against Valentines Day, but the gym is always empty save for the sad sacks that don't have a date.  And its strangely absent of women...I wonder why.

So I'd figured I'd share this story.

Over the weekend, a few friends and I were walking back to my buddy's house when this methhead approached us asking for a cigarette.  My buddy obliged, and watched her tear the filter off to enjoy her smoke more fully.  She then asked: "so you guys headed to a party?"

It was 11 in the morning.  Thanks for another comedic moment, meth!

For the record, my friend Adam responded "Yeah!!"

Monday, February 13, 2012

What February 11-13th Means To Me: Walking Dead Is Back...And It Still Sucks

***If you don't watch The Walking Dead, or haven't seen last night's episode, feel free to stop here***

My favorite show to hate is back for the second half of its second season, and we picked up right where we left off....

Seriously.  This show should be called "The Walking Cliche."  Or maybe "The Walking Archetypes."  How about ... "Humanity Is On The Brink of Extinction, And We're Caught Watching The Ten Most Uninteresting People Left Alive" ? 

When we last yawned, Shane released all of Herschel's pets (walkers) from the barn, only to gun them down in a blaze of glory.  The second half of the second season picked up seconds after this moment, and quickly lead to an argument about whether it was right or wrong to kill Herschel's little side project in the name of "safety."  The Walking Dead has a habit of creating drama out of pointless logic, which is strange considering that the setting is a world of endless drama possibilities that, I guess, they figure don't need to be tapped into. Or they are saving it for a rainy day or something.  In this case, half of the group sided with Shane citing safety concerns.  However, the "walkers" in the barn really posed little threat. We saw them in there, they just wandered around harmlessly waiting for their next dead chicken, like a bunch of hungry lobotomized mental patients. Plus, the barn was locked up. Yet somehow we are made to believe this is some kind of ticking timebomb.  Also, of course, Lori makes this about Carl...because just when things can't get any more annoying..enter Carl!

Please die. You contribute nothing.
Seriously, he is the go-to for annoying.  And his little new subplot about wanting to kill zombies will only lead to a predictable ending.  I just hope the bloodthirsty Carl shoots Lori because that would kill two birds with one stone: 1) creating interesting drama and 2) killing Lori so we don't have to deal with her any more. 

But speaking of...

Lori got into a car accident!  But similar to the barn/walker/safety argument, the writers carelessly created "drama" out of something completely illogical.  Early in the episode, some character I don't ever remember seeing (which is strange considering the location of this season has been stationary) faints, and the group NEEDS to find the absent Herschel so she can suck his old teat and nurse back to health.  But, of course, Herschel is so distraught from Shane's gung ho display, that he escapes into town to drink at the local bar.  Of course, the characters figure out his whereabouts immediately (a leap I'm willing to let go for now), so Rick and Glenn rush into town to bring Herschel back so he can save the day.  But the writers needed for Lori to somehow get hurt.  Since they probably aren't willing to use my idea of having Carl shoot her right between the eyes, they figure a car accident will suffice.  But, hmmm, considering Lori never leaves the farm, how do you get her in the car? Let's go with...hmmm...a really dumb reason!  With this in mind, Lori suddenly panics and gets the overwhelming urge to rush into town to tell Rick and Glenn to...bring Herschel back faster?  Yeah, really, THATS WHAT THEY CAME UP WITH!!!!!!!! She's going to risk her life to tell her husband what he was planning to do anyway.  Would any Walking Dead fan like to defend this one?  Please, do it.  PLEASE I WANT TO HEAR IT. 

On to more bullshit!:

Glenn and Maggie Should Have a Spin-off Sitcom called "The Worst Show On TV"

Is there a couple with worse on-screen chemistry than these two?  I don't buy their relationship for half a second, which caused Glenn and Rick's car conversation about love to be extra painful for me.  Glenn doesn't believe Maggie is in love with him (I wonder why), and Jeremy Lincoln (the actor that plays Rick) can't even do the scene with a straight face. If you're going to spend this much time creating a relationship, at least give them a few things in common other than, I dunno, simply being alive and around the same age. Speaking of unlikely couples...
Would Shane and Dale Just Fuck Already?

Or at least have a duel at 60 paces or something? My God.  By the way, the actor who plays Dale only knows one face.  He should work on a new face.

But just when I thought I was going to change the channel...

Something Exciting Might Be On The Horizon!


Don't worry, Brett, we won't be here for long

And then Rick shot them both within five minutes.  Dead.  Great.  Regardless, the scene was the saving grace of an otherwise shitastic episode and, even though we only knew our new friends for a few minutes, it foreshadowed that we may see more like them.  Smart move.  There's only so much zombie running and killing we can take.  Lets infuse the show with some deranged humans attempting to overtake Herschel's farm.  By the way, what is so special about Herschel's farm?  Earlier in the season, Herschel eluded to the fact that the area was littered with farms, any for the taking.  It's not like Herschel's farm has some medieval brick wall surrounding it.  Though, apparently, there is a never ending supply of food that is never mentioned because explaining that would probably be inconvenient.  Anyway, can we get a reason as to why Herschel's farm is so unique?  Probably not. 

Those are my thoughts. Suck on, Walking Dead!

Friday, February 10, 2012

BONUS! Cute Animals With Old People Names

Ronald, Herman, and Millicent

Peter...in a box

Cecil and Bruce


What February 10th Means To Me: Jeremy Lin And The Question Of Race

This is not a blog about racism.

Or even the true meaning of racism.

It is rather a post about how society still views its citizens through a racial prism that is so ingrained that, often times, we don't even know that we are making subtle decisions regarding taste, or otherwise, based on our perception of race.  Obviously, the question of race's role in both America's history and present is a subject worthy of hundreds of books (so the following won't exactly be groundbreaking or in depth), but though society has made major strides in the acceptance of other races and cultures, the issue of race is still deep seeded in the American subconscious.  And there is no greater example of this than in professional sports. 

The New York Knicks, one of the most popular basketball teams in the world, stink.  Or at least they did.  Despite having two of the top twenty players in the game (Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony), they've sputtered out of the gate this season, laboring through another despicable run that Knicks fans have grown accustom to over the past thirteen years.  But when all hope seemed lost, Coach Mike D'Antoni looked to the far reaches of his bench and inserted a young, hardly tested point guard named Jeremy, and decided to give him a chance.  Thankfully for Coach Mike, Jeremy responded with three incredible games, giving the Knicks three straight wins, while providing the Garden crowd something to cheer about  I mean, really cheer about.  They chant his name, they chant MVP (sort of mockingly?), and suddenly Knicks basketball is the talk of the town again, and all because of this player.

Jeremy's last name is Lin.  And he also happens to be the first American-born Asian to play in the NBA in the modern era.

Jeremy Lin, by all measures, seems to be a talented basketball player.  He is of adequate size for his position (6'3"), he possesses good speed, ball skills, court vision, and basketball IQ.  He has a decent jump shot.  There's nothing all that abnormal about his game.  It's not like he's 5'2, blind in one eye, and is having success despite physical limitations.  There are other interesting aspects toJeremy's story that certainly feed into his popularity.  First off, he hasn't played many minutes in the league (giving him underdog status), secondly, he played his college ball at Harvard, a basketball program hardly known for cultivating NBA talent.  But even though the above is true, that all pales in comparison to the other thing that makes Jeremy Lin an interesting "other":  his race.

Back when I first became a Knick fan in the late 1980's (a golden age for Knicks basketball), the team featured a 12th man (at the time, the worst player on the team) named Greg Butler.  Not only did Butler never play, but he was also the only white guy on the team.  And the crowd loved this guy.  When games were clearly in the Knicks hands deep in the 4th quarter, the "We-want-But-ler" chants would start.  Once inserted into the game, they'd continue, and each time he touched the ball, the crowd would explode.  By any measure, Greg Butler was a good basketball player (obviously, he was in the NBA!), but the crowd treated him with this mocking, yet genuine admiration simply because of his race.  It wasn't like he was a special Olympian, he just didn't look like his other teammates. 

And, in many ways, Jeremy Lin is receiving a similar kind of treatment.  Though Lin has been the best player on the floor the past three nights, the effusive praise the crowds have given him, the chants usually worthy of the NBA's top talent, have been thrust upon him in a mocking way because the crowd sees him as an underdog.  I haven't looked, but I bet there is a huge demand for "Lin 17" jerseys, even though he's only played three games.  I know people have been trying to think of nicknames for him, and they often include his background (similar to how Shaq once called Yao Ming, "Shaqi Chan."). But considering Jeremy's skill set is NBA caliber, the only thing novelistic about him is his race.  And whether that is being celebrated or demeaned isn't particularly relevant in this case, but the fact that it is being recognized is noteworthy.  He's still defined by it.  As we still all are.

It's not "racist" to recognize someone is a different race than you are, and if we collectively decided to close off all conversation about race in fear of being "racist," then we will never progress to that desired post-racial society. 

But regardless...Go Jeremy!  Thanks for bringing excitement back to the Garden once again!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What February 8th Means To Me: In Defense Of Gisele

In some ways, I can't believe I'm writing this.  But here goes:

In case you live under a rock, the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots last Sunday in the Super Bowl.  After the game, Tom Brady's supermodel wife (it's hard being Tom!) made some strange comments, to eager reporters, where she not so subtly suggested the reason the Patriots lost the game was because Tom's normally reliable receivers couldn't catch his wonderful passes.  Essentially, she called out the entire Patriot receiving corp in the media, despite the fact that some of those passes Tom threw weren't exactly his finest (which I'm sure he'd admit to, if he hasn't already)

Hey, its tough being rich and famous!
To which I say...context, ladies and gentlemen.

Yes, she did utter the following (taken from the linked ESPN article):

"My husband can not f------ throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times," the supermodel and wife of the famed quarterback said in a video captured by theinsider.com, a gossip website.  (I bolded the last bit)

It's not as if these comments were quoted from a Monday press conference that Gisele held to attack Tom's teammates.  That statement was uttered immediately after the game when she was pestered by the media for a reaction.  Clearly, she was upset, probably wanted to be left alone, and while we can argue over the importance of her "misery," that is irrelevant.  She knew this meant the world to her husband, and thus to her, and it didn't work out for them.  Obviously her comments make her sound like a baby, but clearly her reactions were visceral and weren't thought out because...she didn't have time to think them through, and probably felt annoyed by the people demanding a reaction. You can make the argument that her comments are the reaction of someone spoiled, but we've all said things we regret when we are upset. 
Yes, she's a public figure, yes, she should know better, and yes, she needs to know that these sorts of comments will be under scrutiny, especially when her and Tom's relationship is already under the Boston microscope (perhaps this is unfair, but it's true).  After all, I know many Boston fans that unfairly think Brady is "non-Boston," because he has houses in LA and NY and, therefore, isn't relatable to the Boston blue collar.  But I'll say this...I hope to God that one day I find a woman who cares that much about my life to be upset over my failures (and lets face it, THERE WILL BE MANY!:)  In some ways, even though her comments are callous, it made their relationship seem more genuine, which I see as a nice thing. 

Sure, there will be some needed damage control, but lets chalk this stupid story up to the 24/7 media's need to create something out of nothing.  She said something dumb out of emotion, and probably should follow it up with some kind of apology.  If she genuinely believes it and won't back off her comments, then I take back everything I said. :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What February 7th Means To Me: Microcosms

For the first time in what seems like eons, I ran pain free yesterday.  Something, somewhere in my left foot has been giving me issues lately, making my runs more of a test of mental/physical endurance rather than something I used to consider fun and/or relaxing. I honestly can never pinpoint in the injury, and when someone inquires, I usually just point to my foot in a circular motion, shrug, and suggest that something is wrong.  Sometimes I mention a part of the foot, like the arch, as if I have a clue of what I'm talking about.  But I've been on this Earth long enough to know what pain feels like, so I know it hurts.  But even though my foot was bothering me in the morning, the pain subsided for the run, and I was gliding baby!  Hell, I was like Rocky on his pre-fight run, smiling and waving to anyone who cared.  (Well, not really, but I would have!)

And then, of course, I stepped on a pretty sharp rock.

Now, my foot is a lil bruised up.  Well, that was fun while it lasted!  

But as my buddy Mike says, "at least we have chicken and tits on the internet." 

I've just been looking for an excuse to post this.
But speaking of wieners (what a segue!), during the pain free portion of my run, I came across an opened condom wrapper in the middle of the Von's parking lot.  Anytime I see these, I'm left to wonder what the circumstances were that led to it being discarded in such an odd, public location.  Generally, when a condom wrapper is opened, the sex is had a few moments later, right? I mean, what other use does it have?  Well, I don't think the sex was being had in the Von's parking lot because, even if you wanted to have sex in your car, why the hell would you pick the heavily populated Von's parking lot?  Perhaps some kids were making water balloons?  Perhaps some guy cheated on his wife and this was his way of ridding evidence?  Either way, there's probably not some amazing story behind it, I just clearly have nothing to talk about today.

Monday, February 6, 2012

What February 4th-6th Means To Me: Post Super Bowl Thoughts

Good game yesterday! Here's some thoughts:

Letting Them Score - Patriots coach Bill Belichick made the right move by allowing Giants running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, to score with about 58 seconds left, but he should have done it earlier.  In fact, I would have let New York score as soon as the Giants crossed the 20.  Had they done that, the Patriots would have had about 2 minutes and 2 timeouts to score a game winning touchdown, which is a virtually eternity at the end of the game.  I know that sounds strange, but Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes is pretty accurate, and though I don't have statistics in front of me, he doesn't miss field goals under 40 yards often (for those who don't know, if the ball is at the 20, the field goal attempt is from 37 yards).  In those types of situations, I'd always rather have the ball, so I can dictate my results instead of placing hope that someone else will screw up.  Especially when the quarterback engineering the possible game winning drive is Tom Brady.  (also, some people at the party I went to thought Bradshaw was "showboating" during that final touchdown because he paused at the one inch line before falling in.  He wasn't.  He briefly considered kneeling the ball at the one inch line to burn more clock and set up a chip shot field goal (which would have been very smart), but at the last moment he decided to go for the sure thing (which I can't really blame him for either, I suppose).  In fact, Bill Barnwell over at Grantland posited that had Bradshaw kneeled the ball at the 1 inch line, the Giants win probability was at 96 percent.  Because he scored, it decreased to 89 percent.  Barnwell didnt put up the percentages for what I was suggesting, but hey, that's what I would have done (and said so at the time).  Also, some might say "well the pressure of the super bowl might make all those stats null and void," and you may have a point, but that really is impossible to measure. 

Gronkowski Must Have Been Really Hurt:  We all know about his high ankle sprain and kudos to him for playing through the pain.  But a healthy Gronkowski does not let Chase Blackburn outduel him for a ball on a long pass when he's healthy.  Also, Blackburn must have set a Superbowl record for being the player wearing the highest number for an interception that far down field.  Guys who wear the number 93 generally aren't making interception 40+ yards downfield. 

The Patriots Desperately Need A Deep Threat:  When your idea of a deep threat is a hobbled tight end running up the seams, you do not have a deep threat.  The Pats successfully worked their short game (they wore that out route out to Hernandez), but their offense lacks the weapons to go downfield.  I have a feeling you'll see one or two speedsters in Patriots uniforms next season.  And their failure at getting the ball downfield had more to do with lack of talent than the Giants vaunted pass rush (which was good, but the Pats did leave in extra blockers often to handle it and give Brady time.  Since the Pats often play with 2 TE sets, they are generally better prepared to have heavier protection...as opposed to them spreading the field with receivers, leaving them vulnerable to blitzes and such.  Which is what happened in their last match-up a few years ago.) 

Who Is Better, Peyton or Eli:  I mentioned last week that if Eli Manning won the super bowl (giving him 2 wins in the big game), many would start to say he's better than his older brother Peyton (who only won 1).  I said it was a dumb argument then, and it is now.  They are both great and it should be left at that.  Football is a game with a gazillion things that factor into its outcome, and if Super Bowl wins were the only metric we consider when discussing great QBs, then Trent Dilfer, Mark Rypien, and Brad Johnson are all better than Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, and Fran Tarkenton.  And I think any football fan would agree that's absurd.

Well Played Game, Not Many Memorable Plays:  Outside of the Manningham catch on the final drive (awesome throw, Eli!) there weren't many memorable plays in this game.  It was well played by both sides, very well coached by both sides, and it was virtually turn over free (aside from the Blackburn pick), even though the Giants put the ball on the carpet 3 times, though they recovered two and the third was negated by a penalty. 

Halftime Show:  Who cares.  Though remember that prop bet I mentioned about Madonna's hair?  Blond vs the field?  I assume that color is considered blond, right?  Did it have some brown in it?

Commercials:  I didn't really pay attention.  Though I noticed those polar bears were back.

Crazy Bets:  Some crazy asshole won 50,000 dollars because he bet a thousand dollars that the first score of the game would be a safety.  He must be incredibly rich, or he spoke to Miss Cleo before the game, because putting a thousand dollars on the off chance that there's a safety to start the game? Unreal.  Hell, I wouldn't have even bet 5 bucks that the game would feature a safety period.  Nice job, crazy asshole!

Good Super Bowl, congrats to the Giants, and for all the Giants fans...yes, I hate you, but enjoy it.  Now, lets bring on Free Agency and The Draft!

Friday, February 3, 2012

What February 3rd Means To Me: Helping Friends Cause Trouble

The unemployment rate is down to 8.3 percent!  Which, all things considered, is decent news for many, but unfortunately, not for all. 

My friend recently discovered that he will be laid off in the coming months, and feels a bit slighted by his co-workers.  Because he's angry and wants some sort of payback, he was trying to devise ways to be oddly annoying without committing a fireable offense because, of course, he doesn't want to lose what he hopes will be a decent severance package.  Fair enough!  And just the type of thing I love. 

So, with the help of my friends Aram and Godofredo,  here are the top ten ways to be odd and creepy at the office, without giving human resources a credible reason to fire you. 

1) Wear A Yarmulke!  It really doesn't matter if you're Jewish or not, just remember to wear it everyday.  When someone questions your new accessory, politely wave off the query and claim it's a "personal choice."  A week later, send the entire office an e-mail explaining you are organizing a drive to plant trees in Israel, and for just ten dollars, they could plant their own tree in the Holy land.  At the bottom of the email, provide a link for them to do so...but make sure the link doesn't work.  When someone informs you of the broken link, pull the "silly me!" routine, and tell them you will e-mail them the correct link. But never do. Each following week, e-mail the entire office again with an enthusiastic, non-ironic, exclamation point filled update on both the success of the program, and how many new trees the office is responsible for.  Except make sure that total is always zero.

 2) Everyone Loves An Office Pet!  No, not a cat or a dog, that would be inappropriate.  Bring in a Venus Fly Trap, name it Terrance, and put the word out to your coworkers that if anyone finds any bugs, Terrance would appreciate it. If anyone does point out any bugs, send thank you notes from Terrance.  

All my love, Terrance

In addition, set up a Facebook page for Terrance and "friend request" the entire office.

3) Fan of Canadian Football?  No?  Doesn't matter, you are now.  Buy yourself a bunch of Toronto Argonauts sweaters and wear a different one for each day of the week.  When a co-worker approaches you with a work question, provide them with a cheery, helpful, accurate answer, but don't forget to include a small factoid about the Canadian Football League.  When someone walks by your desk with no intentions of speaking to you, sigh loudly and look towards your computer screen as if you're completely annoyed.  When the person inquires about the source of your bother, simply point to the screen and say, "Can you believe the Argos won't sign Willie Pieperzacker?  He's only like the best slot back in the entire CFL, GEEZ. Can you believe it?!??1??"  Then glumly place your head in your hand and stare hopelessly at your monitor.

4) Honor your dead grandfather.  Did your grandfather die already?  Doesn't matter, no one will know or remember that fact.  So, come in to work, and when someone refers to you by your name, politely tell them that your grandfather died the night before and that, in his honor, you would now like to be called by his name...Octavio.  

RIP Octavio

And if they continue to call you by your own, ignore them until they refer to you by your new name.

5) Be A Player.   Print out an 11x17 Excel spread sheet with the following info, and make sure to just carelessly leave it on your desk.  Down the vertical column is a list of every single dating site you can think of. From Match.com to Christian Mingles to whatever. Across the horizontal column on top will be a list of days and dates.  Finally, fill in the middle with a bunch of girls (or guys) names.  And don't forget a section for comments!  Every couple of days, cross off a few names, and fill in the comments section with random numbers and letters, as if it's a code that only means something to you.

6) The Smuggle!  Bring in a backpack to work, but never open it.  In fact, never ever carry it around UNLESS you are headed towards the rest room, and once there, make sure someone is there.  You need an audience.  The key here is to pack the backpack with something that buzzes, like an electric razor or toothbrush.  Once safely in the stall, turn on the electric device and let it rattle in the bag for a few minutes.  Then leave just as you came in, except this time do it while whistling. 

7) The Bathroom Entrance.  Each time you enter the bathroom as someone is leaving, yell SURPRISE! ... and continue into the bathroom. 

8) The Finger Gun.  You know what I'm talking about.  Someone crosses you in the hallway and you shoot them a quick finger gun either ironically or non-ironically, pending on how awkward you are. Do exactly that, except pretend you are unloading a 12-shooter.  Once done with your 20 second display, enthusiastically shout "you said it!"... and walk away with a happy chuckle.  Repeat.

9) The Kitchen Fridge.  For anyone who works in the office, you know this area can be a battleground.  So dig your trench.  Bring in three packages of uncooked hotdogs, open all three of the packages, but make sure to label them with the following "DEAN'S HOTDOGS!  PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH."  And heed your own advice.  

10) The Mistaken Email.  We've all sent weird, out of context emails to unintended people with sometimes embarrassing results.  Take advantage of this perceived mistake by emailing your co-workers suggestive, cryptic e-mails that can be taken a number of ways, but also offers plausible deniability.  Such as: "OMG, is it weird that I looked at the picture 10 times already?" or "Man, I just can't wait to get home, do everything I mentioned, and not tell a soul."  

 Honorable mentions!
a) Each time you enter the bathroom, make sure you're holding a large telephoto lens, but never the camera.
b) Wear a chain wallet that hangs to your knee and makes an annoying sound when you walk.
c) Four words:  Neti Pot, Communal Area
d) You know how it's illegal not to post the labor laws sign in a visible place?  Well, make sure that place is your desk.  
e) Make sure to do 100 jumping jacks at your desk each day.  Kindly explain that you "need to get the blood flowin'"
f) Instead of a desk picture of your child, bring in a LARGE framed, autographed photo of a Cricket player (just autograph it yourself, who cares).  When someone asks you about it, just point your thumb in its direction, shake your head and say "that guy" complete with a laugh that suggests a long story, and then turn your attention back to your computer and pretend no one is there.

Are you sure the answer is not "B?" Ricky Ponting?

Hope that provided some inspiration for your weekend.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

What February 2nd Means To Me: Super Bowl's Comin'

Today is actually Groundhog's day, right?  Who cares, I live in Los Angeles, every day is more or less the same. 

Anyway, because Eli Manning is in the Super Bowl and his brother, Peyton's, future is in question due to a complicated neck injury, ESPN has brought back one of my favorite commercials featuring the two:

I know people have Manning hate, but I am not one of em.  They seem like good dudes.  Plus, lets not forget Peyton also brought us this SNL gem. 

I have no real, football related pre-game thoughts worth speaking about, so I won't bore you with them.  However, I do hope that my trip to and from my Super Bowl party remains car accident free this year.  Last year, some "gentleman" wasn't paying attention and rear ended me on the highway when he failed to notice that traffic had slowed.  Then, in his infinite wisdom, claimed to his insurance company that he was pushed into me by a car that sideswiped him.  So, yes, for a brief moment in time, he suggested the laws of physics were suspended and that an independent side collision forced him FORWARD into my car with such force that I was propelled into the car in front of me.  Ahhh, it was good times on the side of the road that night, but lets hope there's no reunion. 

Here are some random Super Bowl thoughts:

If you ever wondered what a "High Ankle Sprain" is, tune into the Super Bowl because you'll be an expert once it's done.  - Patriot tight end (and best receiving weapon) Rob Gronkowski has one, it's a very limiting injury, and I think the over/under on how many times it'll be mentioned is about 75. (Vegas have a number on this? It should).

You will be disappointed by the Super Bowl commercials.  - Mostly because people suck and create unrealistic expectations.  They just want to be BLOWN AWAY by an advertisement, but since they are expecting to, they won't be. By the way, I believe that Matthew Broderick/Ferris commercial for Honda will air and, yes, it's funny and clever, though many will think its not because they are nostalgia sucking whores.  And that's putting it lightly.  Also, be prepared to hear "I don't care about the game, I just care about the commercials tee hee" 65,000 times from your peers.   It's my fav Superbowl Cliche.

Do People Really Care About The Super Bowl Halftime Show - Madonna is this year's act, and the answer is probably yes.  Though I'm not sure why, it always seems to be a shitshow.  However, some offshore betting hub posted a prop bet about the color of Madonna's hair.  You can either bet Blond or the Field (don't recall the odds).  I'll go with blond. 

If The Giants Win...Be Prepared For The Retarded "Who is better: Peyton or Eli Argument."
As if football is played in an even vacuum and outside forces don't affect performance.  But, yes, I understand humans like order and there will be an attempt to create some.  But let me save you all the trouble and tell you now that there will be no consensus. 

How many diet cokes will I drink?  Probably a lot.  Lets put the over under at 4.  Cancer here we come.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Februrary 1st Means To Me: More Birfday fun/Mike Tunflick

My brother is officially one year older today.  The good thing about life is no matter what either of us do, he'll always remain older than me.  Which wasn't so nice back when he was 14 and I was 11, but it's just fine now that we're adults. 

Anyway, yesterday he texted me with one simple term:  Mike Tunflick.  Who is Mike Tunflick, you ask?

That guy

Not this guy...

But this guy...

Not this guy...

But this guy...

It's hard to remember that before Mike Tyson became a weird, troubled footnote in American history, he was the most feared boxer in the world.  But before America got a taste of the darker Tyson, and before Tyson got a taste of Evander Holyfield's ear, he was just the cat quick, tenacious boxer from Brooklyn with a penchant for knocking fighters out in seconds.  And, because of this, he earned what every celebrity dreamed of at the time: A guest spot on Webster.


Seriously, what says fame more than co-starring with Webster?  Not much.  Now, in that episode, Mike signs a pair of gloves, which Webster then ruins by accidentally pouring juice all over them.  Afterwards, the ruined autograph appears to say "Mike Tunflick"

Or so both of us remember.

It could have been "Mike Tunafish," "Mike Tazmanian Devil," or "Mike Ramalamadingdong" for all I know because the epsiode aired well over 20 years ago, neither of us have seen it since, and the only record the internet (YES THE INTERNET) seems to have of it is confirmation that an episode featuring Iron Mike existed (so, at least we didn't hallucinate that).  I'd love to know if the smudged sig actually looked like Mike Tunflick, or if we're remembering it wrong.  Anyone know?