Monday, April 30, 2012

What April 30th Means To Me: Recapping Sunday Night TV

I punted The Killing this weekend because I had actual shit to do (kinda), but that didn't stop me from having a 4 hour television marathon! 

Mad Men - Things have gone a little too easy lately in our encapsulized 1960's moment that generally manages to even make tragedy sexy.  We've spent the entire season with the new, easy-going Don and, at least, a version of Megan that he appeared to whittle until she became a perfect reflection of himself.  Megan has been everything Betty is not.  She's young, sexy, fashionable, quick-witted and now has followed in his footsteps as an expert copywriter that not only designs great advertising campaigns from real life moments, but manages to sell them to clients like she's been doing it her entire life. A prodigy of sorts.  Not only that, she's adored by Sally, somehow won the affections of her catty co-workers, all while holding on to just enough free will to make her a subject of envy to all around her. 

But what's that old cliche about women wanting to marry their fathers? 

Megan's seemingly iron-sided battleship took its first blow at the hands of her own father, Emile, who questions her seemingly perfect lifestyle, all the while excluding her from the family by not addressing her in French.  Megan is a free spirit; anyone with a memory can recall the season premiere and this performance.   She has the ability to command a room. She's cunning; yet graceful. There's something rare about her. And this is why it pains Emile to see his daughter, the true love of his life, waste those talents on creating ad campaigns for an entire industry he finds petty and worthless. And is he wrong?  After Megan's virtuoso performance at the Heinz dinner, Peggy is surprised that Megan isn't jumping for joy the next day.  After all, securing an account like Heinz is about as good as the job gets, or so Peggy says.  But is that enough for Megan?   I tend to doubt it.  It's easy for her to get lost in her new life, but it appears something rebellious has been awakened. 

By the way, the last few moments of the episode had similar a effect to the lawnmower incident from a couple of seasons ago.  Methinks we just shifted into high gear. 

The Amazing Race - Generally, this show can do no wrong, and while I've often referred to it as dessert, I never like my viewer intelligence to be insulted.  I've watched nearly every season of the Amazing Race, and one of the coolest aspects of the transglobal insanity is the Fast Forward challenge  Sometimes these challenges are slightly life altering, for example, there was once a Fast Forward that required contestants to get a tattoo.  Last night, it involved head shaving, which, if I was a girl who had long hair, would give me pause.  Since the Fast Forward gives any team a huge leg up, it's generally assumed that the first team to have a shot at it takes it.  The last place team would never DREAM of taking the Fast Forward because it would generally be a waste of time.  But to build drama, last night's episode not only featured the last place team trying the Fast Forward (because no team ahead of them completed it), but the teams in front were legitimately scared for a deviation from the norm. I often wonder how many times teams are pointed in directions or told what to do for the sake of good television, but this one was a bit too obvious.

Game Of Thrones - One of the drawbacks of staying true to source material is the relinquishing of a good thing for the sake of the story.  And, last night, unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Renly at the expense of the ginger sorceress's black vagina creature (good to know the smoke monster from Lost continues to get work).  While the show is not short on great characters, there aren't a ton that have quick wit and are instantly likeable.  Renly had that quality, and even when the smoke monster slayed him, I wasn't convinced he was actually dead because I couldn't figure why they'd off such a solid storyline.  But then I remembered that this is Game Of Thrones and that's what they do.  Oh well, upward and onward. 

Speaking of great characters, who else thinks a Khaleesi/Deebo union would be a hell of a force to be reckon with?  If it's her true intention to regain the iron throne, the marriage proposal that would earn her vast armies and ships should be a hard one to reject, regardless of whether or not victory would be earned with the help of mercenaries, which in the eyes of her counsel, Jorah, seems less noble.  But since when is war fair?  It would behoove the Khaleesi to wait for her dragons to grow (and now the lil buggers can cook their own food) before engaging in war, and there seems to be worse places to kill time than in Qarth.  The visual oasis, filled with pretty costumes and cocktail parties, seems like the ultimate vacation destination in the seven kingdoms!  Oh well, it's not to be, but I have little doubt that her alternative, just one ship with a good captain, will somehow suffice.  Also, on a personal note, I'd just like to see Joffrey try to boss around the Khaleesi much like he does Sansa.  I'd love to see her tell him, "the next time you lay your hands on me will be the last time you have hands!"  I hope this happens, though I doubt they will even cross paths until around 3 seasons from now, and I expect Joffrey to be long dead by the time The Khaleesi and her dragons storm King's Landing. 

VEEP - Nothing to really add, but it's a good show.  Quick half hour.  If you haven't checked it out, I recommend it.

Girls - This is rapidly becoming one of my new favorites.  I'm technically not part of the generation it features, but I'm not far off, and often feel as wayward as our main characters feel.  Though the show has settled into great character interaction without making grand statements, the subtext of this new lost generation remains strong.  It's a generation that not only thinks they are special and invincible, but was told it by eager parents since birth.  Now, jobless, yet still inspired, they're navigating their lives while trying to reconcile why things aren't happening as planned.  But questions and observation occur more than whining, and aimlessness is the order of the day, as they full well know their generation's aspirations and modus operandi are different from their parents, whose lives were probably pushed into overdrive in their early 20's.  It's all uncharted waters for these characters, and it's entertaining to watch them swim.  Girls is a sexy show, and one with a lot of laughs, but it also does actually have something to say, and in a much subtler way than the pilot originally suggested.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What April 27th Means To Me: Geekin' Out

I enjoy a good geek out as much as the next person.  After all, I watch the entire NFL draft, as if I have a say in the selections (and can't wait for rounds 2-3 today), I've been to a LOST discussion panel (and friggin' loved it), and I've spent way too much time reading and considering Panem's economy, even though it's a fictional country in the distant future.  In high school, my buddy and I created a Saved By The Bell multiple choice test (using some testing software he had), which was so difficult that I don't remember anyone passing.  For example:

What was Screech's mother's religion?

A) Jewish
B) Methodist
C) Presbyterian
D) Who Gives A Shit, You Fucking Loser

(answers are B...and D).

I'd say I also did cool things in high school, but I was probably too busy creating the 90210 version of the test, which was, regrettably, significantly easier. 

But did you know 200 colleges around the country have Quidditch teams?  And, apparently, there's a Quidditch World Cup?

In case you're that one person who has either never read or watched Harry Potter, this is Quidditch:

And is this:

The fictional game of Quidditch is played airborne, with the aid of magic brooms, and, I suppose, is somewhat similar to soccer.  The game also features an interesting wrinkle which involves a highly elusive, golf ball sized "snitch" that is sought after by the "seeker" throughout the entire game.  If the seeker catches the speedy snitch, he gets points, or wins the match, or gets laid, I don't remember, but it's an important part of the game...and one that cannot be replicated in real life.  It also always seemed like an arbitrary aspect of Quidditch, but I digress...

So, what is college Quidditch?  Well, it appears to be a bunch of idiots running around with a broom between their legs....chasing some guy with a tennis ball in a sock that's attached to his running shorts (this "lucky guy" is the snitch, which doesn't seem all that fun since this person, by design, is not on any team and just runs around like a schmuck.  If you were playing a game of pick up Quidditch in the backyard with friends, you'd probably force your little brother to be the snitch.) 

I shouldn't be mean or judgemental, but once the novelty of running around with a broom between your legs for an hour is over, doesn't this seem like the type of activity left for storybooks?  Plus, isn't that uncomfortable and kind of dangerous?  People obviously enjoy it, there's a friggin' World Cup for crissakes, but ummm...yeah, I guess I am passing judgement. 

Anyway, speaking of geeking out...if anyone wants to buy me this ...

You are my Khaleesi...mother of dragons!
...for my birthday next week, I will proudly display it on the coffee table of my apartment.  What a conversation piece!

Have a good weekend, everyone. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What April 26th Means To Me: The NFL Draft

These are my general thoughts on the NFL Draft:

Mixed with a little...

Yes, that's Vladimir Putin riding a Ritz cracker.

It's easily among my favorite days of the year, and I'll admit its absolutely beyond stupid. It's essentially watching a scroll for 10+ hours on ESPN while listening to a bunch of blowhards talking completely out of their asses.  But considering the robust TV ratings for the draft every year, I'm not alone in my obsession.  For those who don't know much about it, The NFL draft is a three day period when each NFL team selects new players from the college ranks.  Each team is given one pick in seven different rounds (the order is based on last year's standings), but those picks can be traded for other picks (in both the current or future drafts) or already existing NFL players, so teams rarely come into draft day with their original seven.  The New England Patriots are masters of stockpiling picks, as they always seem to have a friggin' million.  It's annoying.

So what's so appealing about the draft?  Sounds boring, right?  Well, it is.  But...

There's a lot of mystery and misinformation surrounding the draft, which creates drama.  Over the past few years, teams have shrouded their intentions with such secrecy, and purposely provided the media with misinformation to throw off the scent over who they will select.  Also, draft prognosticating has become a cottage industry of pointlessness as countless websites offer their "mock drafts" (which never are ever close to accurate) and player evaluations, which are usually haphazardly put together by people without a true understanding of football.  The days leading up to the draft are filled with fun rumors of trades and selections, which always gives the actual draft a feeling of unpredictability because the results are always pretty different from the assumptions.

Now, do fans have even remote say over who their teams will select?  Not even a little.  Does that deter people like me from researching the hell out of the players, watching their YouTube highlights, and attempting to figure out which players will go where?  Of course not.  In fact, my buddy Aram and I start shooting each other draft related emails with thoughts and clips starting in late February.  Then we get together with our guides, mocks, and notes, and watch the 10+ hours of draft programming over the course of three days, even making a few bets with each other to raise the stakes.  And we sometimes tweet the aforementioned prognosticators when we discover they refer to a potential 6th round pick as "shifty, but not elusive."  Yes, I know what you're thinking...both of us are single. 

But I think the most appealing thing about the draft, and why football fans love it so much, is that it's the one day where you can be 100 percent optimistic about your team's chances next season.  Over the course of a few days, your favorite team adds a lot of talented players, and you are convinced each and everyone one can become all-stars, when in actuality, only a handful will remain with the team beyond a few years.  But since you never know if this year can be the year your team absolutely nails it...that optimism remains.  And this is probably why I've been obsessed with the NFL draft since I was 14. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What April 25th Means To Me: Why People Hate Nickelback

Chuck Klosterman wrote a thoughtful article yesterday where he attempted to dissect why people hate bands like Nickelback, while attending a Nickelback and Creed show in the same evening.  The article is definitely worth a read if you're interested in music from both a technical and sociological standpoint and, for the record, Chuck Klosterman remains one of the top 3 people in the world I'd love to share a meal with (though I suppose that's irrelevant). Anyway, I figured I'd throw in my two cents on the subject because I believe the answer is kind of simple.
People hate Nickelback because they are the Walmart of Rock and Roll.

Before I explain my theory, I first must say I do not hate Nickelback.  In fact, I don't really have much of an opinion on them, period.  I have their song "Photograph" on my iPhone, and don't cringe when it comes on, and I may have another of their tunes downloaded and don't even know. So there, I'm not speaking from a position of bias. Now that we got that out of the way...

People use music preference to express individualism.  It's why many blast their music from car windows, and why band shirts are popular.  These shirts differ from, for example, t-shirts featuring your favorite football team because those are supporting a community that is formed in the name of good-natured competition. It's to signify you belong to a club.  A t-shirt featuring your favorite band is an expression of what kind of person you are, or more specifically, how you like to be seen.   If you see someone wearing an old Metallica shirt, your mind automatically forms an outline of what kind of person that guy is.  Same with an old Nirvana, Sonic Youth, or Pavement t-shirt. Those people directly involve themselves in the rock and roll subculture.  But someone who wears a Nickelback t-shirt?  Doesn't really say anything. But to rock and roll fans, it's almost like a slap in the face, and,  if this were the 90's, the word "poser" would come to mind. 

As Klosterman mentioned in the article, Nickelback's head man, Chad Kroeger, seems to have studied the elements to a hit song, and then created many Frankenbabies to sell the perfect, sellable record.  Whether that's true or not, there's nothing that feels grass roots about the rise of Nickelback, but instead they appear more like a band that rode the coattails of their predecessors, or more aptly, a barnacle. 

But even if the above is true, the question of, "why do people hate them" remains.  Rock and roll is territorial.  Whether you like indie rock, classic rock, "alternative rock," or if this were the 1990's "grunge rock," a fan would double down on their explanation to why a certain band was good because, as mentioned, they've mixed their self identity with the quality of the music.  They might wax poetically about original lyrics, sounds, or they may mention the chances the band took in their pursuit of good music.  Nickelback doesn't try to be original, therefore, they never gained that coveted audience that views themselves through a rock and roll prism.  The only audience they earned is the top 40 audience, which is vast and great for cash, but bad for "legacy" (for lack of a better term).  You won't find many Nickelback fans that will strongly come to their defense because people who listen to top-40 are generally passive music listeners.  If you ask a Nickelback fan why they like their music, you probably won't get an answer that's anymore revealing than a shrug.

So, the only way to express individualism through a band like Nickelback is to claim to hate them, because a vote against Nickelback is a vote against conformity.  And since rock and roll was built on the back of rebellion, bands like Nickelback become to whipping boy for people who want to show their individuality by suggesting they are "above" a band that chooses perceived conventions over "originality."

But hey, bands like Nickelback are generally harmless, always on the radio, and we'll continue to passively listen to them and complain when one of their songs gets stuck in our head.  Sort of like when you need toiletries and the easiest place to get them is Walmart.  We'll bitch and shop there anyway because it's convenient and there.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What April 24th Means To Me: Chimpanzees

My friend convinced me to accompany her to a screening of Disney's "Chimpanzee," and I figured there were worse ways to spend time than watching a bunch of cute chimpanzees doing whatever they do.  It felt like it would be one of those movies that everyone would love, say is beautiful, and then quickly forget.  And chimps are fascinating, right? Hell, if you dressed them up in suits and stuck em in an office for eight hours, I'd watch them pretend to answer phones the entire time.

And this is why I was surprised that the movie really sucked.

I suppose I came into it figuring it would be a documentary, and though it sort of posed itself as one, it created this simplistic, fake story that made it feel like one of those D-rate half entertaining/half educational movies from the 70's/80's that they'd show us in elementary school when the teachers had conferences or something (it was maybe as entertaining, but less educational than Voyage of the Mimi!).  In fact, the whole thing may have well been thrown together with stock footage, sort of like how the creators of Flipper just used the same four shots of the dolphin to tell their story (I'm not claiming this is what happened, it clearly wasn't, but they probably could have achieved the same thing if they had).

I don't know why the filmmakers originally decided to traverse the jungle in search of chimpanzees, but they did find something extraordinary while filming.  After a baby lost his mother to a leopard attack, the orphaned chimp was adopted by the alpha male, which apparently is unheard of, and I suppose was touching (though they didn't even pay this off well).  Knowing they had this beautiful footage, they decided (and this is complete speculation) to construct a story around rival chimp gangs (West (Africa) Side Story) that battle over precious nut groves and fig trees in order to ensure survival.  We never actually see these two groups together (other than some footage of fighting that might as well be any chimpanzees) and I'll safely assume, due to the lack of footage and really simplistic storytelling, that this "plot line" was completely fabricated.  Not to mention, the film thanked three separate countries in the credits (Uganda/Ivory Coast/Gabon), which suggests they shot in all three, though we were lead to believe that the chimps were battling over an area that couldn't have been bigger than a few square miles.  Also, for you geography whizzes, those countries do not border each other. 

The most entertaining part of the movie was actually the end credits, when they give us a glimpse into how the filmmakers shot the movie (which is something I thought about while watching.  I wondered how much danger they put themselves in to create this boring movie.)  So that probably tells you everything you need to know.

Regardless, maybe the Disney name should have warned me, but I just expected something more than an overly narrated (by Tim Allen..and yes, he even had a signature grunt in there) story about anthropomorphized animals fighting over nut groves in the African jungle.  Perhaps they really should have dressed up the monkeys in suits and had them throw office equipment at eachother instead.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What April 23rd Means To Me: A lot of TV

It can be stressful trying to keep up with your favorite TV shows, and it seems like all mine happen to air on Sunday night. Normally, I watch a couple of them on Sunday and spread out the rest over the course of the week like one might with leftovers.  But since I knew I'd be having a busy upcoming few days, I decided to just knock em all out yesterday...which meant five straight hours of TV.  But hey, I was mostly productive otherwise...and, lets face it, I have no life. 


6PM: The Killing:  Last time I spoke of this show, I wasn't too kind.  And it still sucks.  And I still watch it.  Fuck me. Regardless, I'm still bothered by last year's misleading ad campaign that suggested we'd discover the killer's identity in the finale.  In fact, I got bored about halfway through last season, but just wanted to know who the damn killer was.  But since we didn't find out, I'm back for more punishment this year, going through the same bullshit in hopes of being only mildly underwhelmed when the mystery is solved. Per usual, about halfway through last night's episode, I checked meaningless information on my phone, counted the minutes until the laundry was ready, and didn't wait for commercial breaks to pee. The shows holes are, once again, starting to show and, my God, why don't the creators mask the horrible acting by the Larsen kids by, I don't know, not showing them so much?  Oh yeah, and I've lived in the Pacific Northwest, and though it rains quite a bit, it's not showers 24/7. 

7PM: MadMen:  I always found the "scenes from the next episode of MadMen" to be annoyingly pointless.  After all, it's just a string of quick moments that seemingly have nothing to do with each other and give you zero idea of what the next episode entails.  But then it finally hit me:  It's because Mad Men episodes barely have a plot and often amount to nothing if only viewing the show as a serialized drama. Think about it, if the preview for last night's episode centered around Peggy fumbling the bean campaign and Don and Megan going to Howard Johnson's, it would almost seem laughable.  What would the voiceover say? "Next week on MadMen, Peggy spills the beans. ("I think you like this campaign, but you just want to fight!") and Don and Megan share orange sherbert at Howard Johnson's...but Megan thinks it's shit. ("It tastes like perfume!")"  Doesn't quite work.  But I suppose that's the beauty of the show, it wonderfully captures the complexity and horrors of the mundane.  Humans are multilayered creatures that are incredibly faulted, MadMen doesn't need the bells and whistles to explore the dark side we all share.

8PM: The Amazing Race: Who needs cake and cookies when we have the Amazing Race for dessert!  We are down to five teams, four of which who are completely and utterly deplorable, as they navigate their way through India.  For the past few weeks, I've thought that you could make a good drinking game based on how many times Bopper and Mark mention their kids.  And last night's ep was a doozy.  During a challenge in which contestants had to learn a Bollywood dance routine, Mark couldn't nail the choreography and started to wilt under the hot Indian sun.  At first, he saw the insurmountable task as a lesson to his kids about never giving up.  But the more he failed, and fainter he felt, he suddenly switched gears and announced that he needed to take care of his kids, and therefore had to drop out of the race.  As if the only two choices in the matter were 1) finishing the task or 2) dying from heat stroke.  He stormed off the Bollywood set, despite pleas from the dance instructor, spewing something about getting back to his kids much like a wounded soldier on the verge of death deliriously begs to go home.  But after a quick moment in the shade, and some tears shed by both he and Bopper, Mark suddenly switches gears again, citing that quitting was no way to set an example for his kids.  So, he went out there and finished it for his fucking kids.  By the way, I'm not hating on those two, that's the team I actually like, and I hope they win.  But I kinda hope the next destination is Nepal, so Brendan and Rachel can fall off a cliff.

9PM: Game Of Thrones:  Like MadMen, this show makes me feel unintelligent because it's so multi layered and fascinating, and my only reaction to it is to clap like a seal when its over.  There's plenty of commentary to be had about the show, but I'm generally left with nothing but wonderment.  That said, I hope whatever came out of the redhead at the end doesn't kill my Khaleesi's dragons...even though they are a gazillion miles away from each other.  Also, I could watch a spinoff show of Peter Dinklage's character just having conversations.  Sort of like a "My Dinner With Andre."  This is the part where I try to think of a clever title using the word "imp," but something like "Imp My Ride" doesn't quite make sense.  So, I fail. 

10PM: VEEP:  Julia Louis Dreyfus's new show comedy about the life of a Vice President premiered last night, and I'm already 100 percent in. 110 percent.  I'm not sure how to describe this show other than it's non-stop.  Conversations effortlessly segue into new ones subbing multiple, energetic characters seamlessly in and out.  It's hilarious, smart, engaging, and you just can't get enough of JLD...or the girl who was once the star of "My Girl."  I had no clue she was still working.

10:30PM: Girls:  I was a little critical of Girls after their premiere episode, because I thought the show might be trying to make a heavy handed statement on Generation Me, while forgetting to actually make an entertaining show.  Well, my fears have been put to rest.  Unfortunately for me (or fortunately), I watched the three episodes on the HBO Emmy screener, assuming that the 3 episodes featured on the disc were the first three episodes of the series.  Well, they aren't, so I watched two episodes that fall somewhere in the middle of the season, somewhat ruining some plotlines.  But regardless, the show becomes much less of a "statement" and more of a show about 4 quirky, clueless (yet smart) characters navigating a world unique to their generation.  The subject matter that was dealt without subtlety in the pilot, was given a softer hand in episode two.  For example, the idea of Generation Me's indifference to the AIDS phenomenon (Hannah's character excluded) was a perfect way to encapsulate the generation's feeling of invinsibility without pounding us over the head with the information.  The show has a ton of heart and plenty of laugh out loud lines.  I definitely recommend. 

11PM: I fucking went to sleep. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

What April 20th Means To Me: Random Thoughts

1) I guess today is 4/20, do people still smoke copious amounts of dope today?  (Yes, I used the word "dope" because it makes me laugh).  I've never actually tried it before, which is especially surprising considering I've been raised with a generation that's embraced it, I went to a college nicknamed "weed," and I've listened to the Chronic many times.  Perhaps the DARE program worked on me?  Ya know, to keep the kids off drugs and all. 

2) If I had one superpower, I'd choose teleportation.  Flying would be a close second, but the idea of being able to travel in and out of any situation at the snap of a finger is appealing.  How cool would it be to sit at work all day and, I dunno, have lunch on a beach in Australia, only to be back before the afternoon bullshit?  Then again, if I could teleport, I wonder if there was a way of monetizing that ability. There has to be, right?  Maybe I could be the world's best courier.  Also, would I be able to take people with me if they were hugging me during transport?  These are important questions. 

3)  If I could play one professional sport, it would be basketball.  Football is my favorite sport by far, but the idea of walking after I'm 40 is appealing, so I prefer to watch other people bash their heads in for my enjoyment.  Basketball is a fun, healthy activity, even though I'd look ridiculously small on the court. 

4) It seems like half the songs on the radio I feel the need to identify using "Shazam" are Linkin Park songs.  I should be long past the age of being embarrassed by such things, but there's always a twinge of "aww really," when the band name/song title is revealed post tag. 

5) I overheard someone say "If you give me herpes, I'm gonna find it in the car" at Starbucks.  I really must have heard that wrong.  I hope

6) Why do people air their dirty laundry on Facebook?  Seems like the closer our society comes, the lonelier we get.

7) I strongly suggest that every iPhone user change their text tone to "Sherwood Forest."  Each time it rings, it feels like you're about to read a message from the King.  Thank me later.

8)  The restricted TED trailer is hilarious.  Not sure they can keep this up for 90 minutes, but I'm more than willing to give it a shot. 

9)  Speaking of furry things being nasty...

10)  Have a good weekend, everyone. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What April 18th Means To Me: Waking Up

Perhaps I'm too much of a believer in the Butterfly Effect, but I also figure small, meaningless alterations in hopes of wholesale changes can't hurt.  I suppose it's no different than praying.  Though, admittedly, I probably take too much stock in it all.

That said, every six months or so, I change the sound of my alarm clock, as if the new noise will somehow  usher in a more exciting life.  My new selection?

There's something equally comforting and absurd waking up to the sound of a duck quacking, but since Apple leaves no stone unturned when it comes to detail, I assume the quacking duck option was selected for a good reason.  So, in the name of optimism, I will assume the duck is a clairvoyant with news of riches.

Do you know my cousin Scrooge McDuck?

Yes, that guy.

That's you, baby
I've had it for a few days now, and all its done is make me question the choice.  I generally stare at the phone with one eye open and ponder it for a moment before I forget about it and stumble to the bathroom for the morning pee. 

You're Welcome
File this one under #DesperateAttemptsAtGainingControl

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What April 17th Means To Me: Names

Marlo Stanfield, the fictional drug kingpin from HBO's The Wire, once memorably stated "my name is my name," upon discovering his reputation was sullied on the streets of Baltimore.  He knew his name equated power, it was the thing that truly identified him.

Names are funny like that; really they are just two random words, but they are two random words that embody who we are.  They identify us. They are us.  So anytime you meet someone with the same exact name as you, you wonder about their life and how both the name has served them and what reputation their name has garnered. 

Which is why Googling myself last night proved to be a fun experience!  Apparently, there are a few people with my name who have had success in the educational field (including one in Australia).  Good for them.  But I'm most proud to share my name with this fellow.   Make sure you read the bio on the side, it's pretty fantastic. 

Anyway, I want a cool nickname like LIL BUCK too. 

That's the thought of the day. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

What April 16th Means To Me: HBO's "Girls"

I was really looking forward to HBO's new half hour dram-com about modern era, confused New York 20-somethings, as critics claimed it was a glimpse of the world through the confused generation who fell victim to the sins of their fathers, and are now left to pick up the pieces, navigating through a jobless world. 

I enjoyed the episode, despite some of the "clever" dialogue that sometimes felt like a reaching re-hash of Diablo Cody, but couldn't help but wonder if the creator, 25 year old Lena Dunham, was in on her own joke. 

Dunham's character refers to herself as "the voice of her generation," but manipulatively amends it to "a voice of a generation," while asking her parents for what amounted to 26,400 (over two years), while she finished her book, somewhat implying that she was a victim to society and was entitled to this "scholarship" so she could provide the world her genius.  Of course, when her parents deny her, she didn't accept her new reality and, instead, faints while blaming her "sickness" on opium tea.  And, of course, because she's shattered, she tries to order room service on her parents dime the next morning, and then steals the housekeeper's tip because she desperately "needs" the money.  You know, because the world is so unfair.  After all, its tough being a college educated white girl living in New York City.

We live in an age where social media has encouraged us to flex our voice, but it also has provided us an illusion that said voice is important and needs to be heard.  With every Facebook "like" and retweet, we're further encouraged to spread our creative seed, as we increasingly become convinced that our words not only can make a difference, but are destined to.  And anything standing in our way, whether it be parents, unfair bosses, our housekeepers better watch out because they just don't understand what it's like being a jobless 20 something in today's America.  We've just created cocoons where our myopic view convinces us that we're under society's microscope, when in reality, the inaccurate assumption just increases our megalomania.  This is not to mitigate the problems someone like Dunham's character has (and I sometimes find myself aligning with her thought process), but her show represents a generation who prefers to roll over on its back at the first sign of trouble, instead of figuring out how to move forward. 

I'm curious to see which direction the show takes, and if it becomes more self-aware, but as of now I'm just not sure if it's trying to make a statement, attempting to create an actual, self-aware portrayal, or if Dunham created a series to reflect her generation's tortured thought process.  And if its the latter, that's a scary thought. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

What April 13th Means To Me: The 20th Anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah!

When I started writing the title of this blog, I actually had no clue what I'd discuss today.  Then, suddenly the date seemed familiar to me, and I quickly recalled I "became a man" on April 13th.  After a quick calculation, I realized it was actually 20 years ago today that I was finally relieved of all my Jewish duties.

I fucking hated Hebrew school, Bar Mitzvahs, and everything that came along with the responsibility of my family's religion. But like all good Jews, my parents bartered: If I completed my Bar Mitzvah, I'd never have to step foot inside a temple again...and, for all intents and purposes, I haven't.  (for accuracy purposes, my father, the wonderful communist, athiest he is, never gave half a shit.  It just wasn't worth the fight with my Mom, and I don't blame him).

But when I think back to my days at Hebrew school (which, in actuality, wasn't a terribly long commitment...twice a week for a couple of hours for a few years...wait, nevermind, that's a long time), there are only a few memories which stick out.

1) - I was a fucking terror:  Which is ironic because I was scared to even get in the slightest bit of trouble at normal school.  I was somehow convinced that if I even took one wrong step in elementary school, it would somehow ruin my life.  For some reason, this absurd logic didn't carry over to Hebrew school, where I'd do my absolute best to be the world's great pain in the ass.  By the time I was 11, teachers refused to hand me textbooks when all the other kids were provided them.  Why?  Because they feared I'd color in them.  And they were probably right.  As punishment, they'd sometimes send me to the back of the room, but that only encouraged me to fling my shoe towards the front of the class.  I'll never forget the time my shoe actually fell into the garbage and a classmate screamed "three pointer!!"  Lulz a plenty.  Then there was the time some hassidic Rabbi came to speak to our class and kept proclaiming that his mentor was the greatest Rabbi of all time (and brought a video of his accomplishments as "proof"). Not that I cared, but I felt the need to question this assertion, and wondered why the Rabbi of the school's temple wouldn't be considered for the lofty honor (yes, the foot fetish one (little did I know).  The guest speaker got frustrated very quickly as he couldn't, for the life of him, understand why I'd question his word.  He just didn't realize I was being my normal dickhole self. But I think my "proudest" moment in Hebrew school was when I somehow convinced all the boys in class to not pay attention for a week leading up to a "major test," to see who could do best without any knowledge of the material.  Somehow, I actually did score best with a 35.  Hooray for me.  I'd sometimes get sent to the principal's office where they'd threaten to take away my Bar Mitzvah.  But it only further annoyed them when I considered that a bonus.  In actuality, I'm sure I was quiet most of the time, but I had my moments of extreme brattiness.

2) - Mrs. Bobis:  By the time I was 13, I qualified for the, I don't know how to put this, more "grown up" Hebrew school classes.  One of them was, of course, about the Holocaust.  Because even though it was an unspeakable tragedy, Jewish people love to talk about it.  But if you want an in-depth history lesson on the Holocaust, there are better places to take classes than a Jewish Sunday school.  This is how 75 percent of our classes joke.

Our perma-scowled teacher, Mrs. Bobis, would stand in front of us and say in her thick Brooklyn accent:

"Hitluh was a loosuh.  Hitluh was a lonuh.  He was a bum.  And he got a bunch of othuh bums togethuh, and they ruled a country." 

It was top notch, in depth teaching at Temple Beth Torah, let me tell you.  The other memory I have of Mrs. Bobis was the time my classmate, Brian, accidentally called her, to her face, what everyone called her behind her back:  Mrs. Boobies, naturally.  She didn't even have to say a word, the look of death caused him to leave the room voluntarily. 

3) The Actual Bar Mitzvah - I often claim this was one of the hardest tasks of my life, which may speak more to my charmed years than anything.  But remember, I didn't give a shit about learning Hebrew, never paid much attention in class, and suddenly had to learn how to speak a new language in about three months.  There was just too much to memorize, so it was easier to actually learn how to read it.  And study, I did.  Mostly because I didn't want to be embarrassed in front of everyone during the actual Bar Mitzvah.  If I recall, I did pretty good up there, made minimal mistakes, and got through it without any embarrassment.  And that was that.  After the ceremony, my mother asked me if I was "proud" of myself for the accomplishment.  I remember telling her, "No, I'm just relieved it's over and I never have to do it again." 

And 20 years later, I feel the same way (and 20 years later, that thought still annoys my Mom.)

Have a great weekend, all!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What April 12th Means To Me: Top Five Indoor Recess Games

Twas a bit rainy in Los Angeles yesterday, and it had me waxing nostalgic for those days of yore when I'd be stuck inside my elementary school classroom for indoor recess.  Indoor recess obviously paled in comparison to the outdoor version, but it was preferable to more math lessons, so my class generally looked forward to the 45 minutes of pointless games and talking. 

Anyway, it got me thinking about my top-five favorite indoor recess games.  So here we go:

5) Heads Down, Thumbs Up - OK, actually this game actually sucked, and probably doesn't deserve mention here, but I'm certain the game was universal and would conjure a lol or two.  If you don't remember the rules, they were simple.  The class would sit with their heads down (eyes covered) while holding out a thumb like they were hitchhiking.  Six lucky kids would then each press down one thumb and then, of course, whoever had their thumb pressed would have to guess who did it.  Let me tell you, second only to chess in intellectual games.  For whatever reason, my friend Jarrett and I would always accuse Mrs. Griffith of pressing our thumbs...even though she was just an occasional substitute teacher and was probably miles away 99 percent of the times we played it. 

4) Oregon Trail - This one came a bit later in my elementary years, after one of our classrooms secured an old Apple IIe computer.   You know, one of those large ass computers that probably holds less information than an iPod shuffle.  Oh, but what fun it was shooting green deer only to die of dysentery during recess!  I actually only have one really solid Oregon Trail memory.  My buddy Ryan and I were in the midst of an absolutely flawless game.  We were killing those deer, no one was getting sick, we survived the Indian attacks with ease, and we were trekking middle America as if on a bullet train. We were like Vanderbilt and Rockefeller in the front of a wagon..with a hint of Chuck Norris.

This was the first picture that popped up when I googled "Rich People On A Wagon." I just thought that was funny

Anyway, we had more meat and money than we knew what to do with, but for some reason, I didn't want to pay the Indian 5 measly dollars to help us cross the Snake River.  Ryan accused me of being a racist and a cheap Jew, and he had a point, we had the money and I assume the nice Indian could have used it to help feed his family. But I can be a convincing son-of-a-bitch when I want to be, and I demanded we caulk the wagon and forge the river to prove we could cross the country with no help. Of course, the wagon promptly sunk, we lost all our money and food, and got AIDS or something and died.  By the way, he still reminds me of this 20 years later. Seriously.

3) Paper Football - Simple game.  Fling this...

...toward someone's unprotected facha...I mean, outstretched hands in the shape of a goal post. Hours of lulz.  But I always wondered how many children lost eyes because of this game.  I wonder if teachers let kids play this today?  What am I saying, kids have PSPs to play now, and iPhones so they can watch porn.  They have no interest in paper football. 

2) Quarter Hockey - Another fun (and safer) game.  Simple rules:  Your opponent places his knuckles against the edge of the desk and extends his pinky and forefinger to create a goal.  The offensive player matriculates three quarters down the desk by flicking one of the quarters through the space created by the other two until you score a goal.  Sounds easier than it was.  My friend Kevin believed he had some natural advantage because he was actually good at real hockey.  Needless to say, he didn't.  Then again, Kevin was probably more mesmerized by the fact there was 75 cents laying on the table.  "Dude, you can buy 13 pieces of Bazooka with that!"

1) RISK - Ah yes, the game of world conquest.  Let me be clear, till this day, I have no clue how to properly play RISK.  But in my 4th grade classroom, RISK was as intense as actual war.  Our rules were simple.  We each got colored pieces and split up the countries arbitrarily.  Then we'd challenge countries (players) to a battle and whoever had the higher dice roll won.  That was it.  I'm actually not sure what we argued about, but we did all the time.  Loud arguments.  We were told to keep our voices down constantly.  Also, so many people wanted to play that we had two to a team...because it's very difficult to roll dice.  Matt Brady and I were always in charge of the blue army and, for some reason, felt the Congo was the most important country in the world, and would attack this relentlessly if it wasn't ours.  We'd pile many of our blue pieces on the Congo until it was completely covered.  This was, of course, all for show but...

Must protect...

This miserable place at all costs
I'd like to think we just wanted to secure the Congo's gold and diamond mines, but we weren't that worldly then, and I'm sure knew nothing about the Congo period. (Though Matt did go on to the Merchant Marines..I wonder if he ever visited the Congo in real life.  Either way, I'd like to think our teamwork inspired his life choices. We did dominate.). Brian, in charge of the green army, felt that Yakutsk should be his home city because when you could live here...

...Why would you want to live anywhere else?  That's right, New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Tokyo be damned, we needed to protect a wartorn shit hole of a country in Africa, and an old, run-down Soviet dirt clod. 

Anyway, our arguments got so intense that our teacher eventually forbade us from playing.  In fact, the board became so toxic that she actually raffled it away to ensure that it was never in her classroom again.  I actually won the board, though I sincerely doubt it was ever played again. 

Happy Thursday, all. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What April 11th Means To Me: Dealing With Rejection

It's no secret that a writer's life is full of rejection. Tons of it. But this isn't a post about how one should best deal with that.  Anyone who has been writing for a while full well knows the process: A touch of disbelief, shake your fists at the world, roll through the bouts of self pity, and engage in a little destructive behavior before time eventually takes over and heals the wound.

No, this is a post for girlfriends or boyfriends of writers. Husbands and wives of writers. Loved ones of writers.  Good friends of writers.  I'm sure you've all had to deal with a rejected writer's sourpuss, woe-is-me routine where they equate their life to smeared dog shit on the bottom of a shoe because their work isn't being recognized.  It's annoying, right?  It ruins your night.  But you care about them and want to help, because you're a good person!  And when they come to you looking for comfort, you generally say something like:

"I'm so sorry.  It's gonna happen though, the next one.  You have to stay positive."

I bet they get pissed after that, right?  And you don't understand why they are lashing out at you because you just want to help.  Well, I'm here to tell you how to best handle this situation, and how to make the writer's self-wallowing quickly disappear.

We know you mean well, we know you're supportive, but saying the above will only make the rant worse and more annoying.  Trust me.  First off, don't say you're "sorry," you had nothing to do with it.  This feels patronizing.  Secondly, you don't have insider knowledge about the future, so don't throw out random guesses about success.  And thirdly, please never say "stay positive."  No one ever wants to hear that after their dreams have been dashed. This also goes for "it's a tough business you picked."  We know.  Now is not that time.  Save that for the random times we're actually in a good mood.  Is this unfair to you?  Of course!

Anyway, this is what you say to a writer who has just told you about an especially difficult rejection:

"What?? That's fuckin' GAY!" 

Whoa whoa whoa.  I know what you're thinking:  Brett, how can you suggest such an insensitive comment!  Shame on you!  You're horrible!  And that's the whole point. You should say something so out of character, so outrageous to show how distraught you are over the rejector's egregious error that you're willing to offend an entire group of people to prove your exasperation.  Don't worry, this is all in private.  We know you don't mean it.  But the more shocking the statement, the better.  If you really don't feel comfortable with the offensive slur, then say "that's fuckin buuuuuuuuullllshit!" That will probably work.  If you feel uneasy cursing, well, then don't be friends with a writer.

Now, after the writer is pleasantly stunned by your initial reaction, follow that up with...

"Dude (always start with Dude to show you're serious), I don't know anything about anything (show humility and that you have inferior knowledge, trust me), but (jam your finger in the table with each word).  (then point to some random space to signify the people rejecting the work and dismissively say...) "Fuck them."

Boom.  The writer will have no idea how to take that statement apart.  He/she will nod, agree with you, and feel better about the whole situation.

And, most importantly,  it will save you the grief of having to deal with his/her bullshit for hours and hours.  

You can thank me later!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What April 10th Means To Me: Ozzie Guillen

Doesn't the first amendment say something about freedom of speech?

Recently,Ozzie Guillen, the manager for Major League Baseball's Miami Marlins, uttered some thoughts in support of  Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's ability to stay in power despite such heavy dissent.  Now, personally, I think Ozzie Guillen is a bit of a blowhard asshole, but not because of the recent comments he made to Time Magazine. 

Here's the comment:

“I love Fidel Castro…I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still there.”

And, of course, there was/is uproar over the insensitivity of it. This is a major problem for the Marlins, especially when they are trying to fortify their fanbase through the vast Cuban community in the South Florida area.  Cuban groups have already claimed they will boycott games, while others have called for Guillen's ouster.  And, due to the public pressure, the Marlins have suspended Guillen for five games.

All I can say is...slippery slope, people.  He's a baseball manager.  And, honestly, his comments have been blown way out of proportion.

Freedom of speech has taken a strange turn these last few years as "political correctness" has become more important than volatile opinion.  But while I can understand why a suspension may be worthy for overt, inflammatory remarks (for example, if Guillen had said "I wish all (enter racial group here) should die,") I don't quite get why punishment is warranted for these remarks, which seem more historically based than anything.  I understand why the Marlins need damage control to quell the uproar from the fanbase, but I'm not sure why unpaid leave (suspension) is the obvious course of action.  He's being punished for a somewhat innocuous opinion.  Even if he did support Castro's unpopular politics, so what?  Is this the new red scare?  What's next?  Suspending baseball players for poor play because their errors offend the fanbase?  Regardless, he never supported Castro's modus operandi or his opinions, just his ability to stay in power despite lack of support.  That's it. 

I know some media members have wondered if Guillen would be fired if he said the same about Adolf Hitler.  But again, he wasn't coming out in support of a political agenda or the oppression of people.  He was only speaking to the resiliency of someone who was able to stay in power despite the strong world opinion that he should be ousted.  If he thought the same about Hitler, honestly I could understand that. 

He's a baseball manager for crissakes, not a political leader ready to wield power with an army.  Relax. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

What April 9th Means To Me: Random Thoughts

Here's some random thoughts from a weekend away:

Overhead Bins:  The overhead bins that line the aisles of an airplane are deceptively spacious.  And someone needs to tell the airline this.  I generally fly Delta (without complaint), but their "bin tester" (for lack of a better term) is barely wide enough to hold my wallet, let alone my bag.  Yet the employees use it as an incredibly inaccurate measuring stick and force you to check bags that won't fit into it, even though they'd slide into the actual overhead with ease.  Is this done on purpose because they know there won't be enough space on full flights?  Conspiracy!!!!!!

Priority Boarding/Security:  I generally have few complaints about traveling and, more specifically, the airport, but I have to admit the security line often makes me antsy. I know I'm not the only one that thinks this because the general malaise around the these long meandering lines is obvious. Delta (and I think a few other airlines) allow anyone with their miles credit card to skip the big lines, which is worth the annual fee itself.  Yet I'm always surprised when the flight attendants ask if anyone would like to sign up for the card, there are few takers.  We all use credit cards anyway, might as well sign up for an Amex with tangible perks.

Things We Learn About Our Parents:  Apparently when my father was 7, he was on something called The Joe DiMaggio Show, which was some 15 minute local program for children featuring the Yankee great in the early 1950's.  Dad correctly answered a question (he could not recall what it was) and won a years supply of cheap pasta.   You would have thought it would have come up at some point in my 33 years of living.  For some reason this story filled me with the power of lulz. 

Time Passes:  I attended my first passover sedar in about a decade, and my have things have changed.  While the location was the same and the people were generally the same, the other "kids" my age now have kids themselves.  I don't really know how to articulate thoughts about it other than it's interesting.  Also, I'm not sure if the sight of four screaming infants makes me want kids more or less. #thingswethinkaboutwhenweareolder

Catching Up With Old Friends Is Cool:  Don't really have anything to add other than that.

I Think I'm Coming Down With A Cold:  That sucks.

Game Of Thrones: Should use a soap opera format with new episodes five days a week.  Even when nothing special happens, I'm captivated by the show. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What April 4th Means To Me: Dad's Birthday!

I unfortunately don't have a ton of blogging time today, but just wanted to say happy birthday to the person who introduced me to pretty much everything that's important in my life today: Dad!  Whether it be a love of sports or bad handwriting, he's had quite an influence on my life, and it's because of him that I'm not homeless, uneducated, or too big of an asshole.  Though, strangely enough, Dad doesn't like going to the movies much (either does my Mom, don't know where I got this from), which is probably a good thing because I imagine he'd fall asleep during 99 percent of em.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What April 3rd Means To Me: Top Ten Things I Don't Like About New York

I'll be going back to New York this week for Passover for like the first time in 150 years.  Going back home always provides a strange feeling, as the inertia of Los Angeles generally tugs me westward after only a few days.  Regardless of my mostly love/sometimes hate relationship with New York, there are tons of things I miss about it.  The people, the city, all the obvious bullshit that people say when they wax poetically about the city that never sleeps.  I'll leave that to DeNiro, but it's all true, New York is a fantastic place.  Even the picture above has me nostalgic for it.'s certainly not perfect. And for the purpose of this post, let's discuss the top ten things I DON'T miss about New York.  And, of course, I do say this all with love...or something like that.

Here we go (in no particular order):

"Im Real.  New Yorkers are real.":  You hear this a lot from New Yorkers, especially when they compare themselves to Angelenos, even though many have either never stepped foot inside LA, or have only been here on a quick vacation.  New Yorkers pride themselves on "being real," but if this means being overly opinionated and "honest" in an effort to look "tough," then you're not being real, you're just being an asshole. 

"I can handle this, I'm from New York": Another thing you often hear from native New Yorkers.  When put in tough situations, they spout this out as reason for being able to handle anything.  Hell, I may have even done it myself, but what the hell does it even mean?  It's not like a morning commute in New York involves dodging bullets and endless chasms.  Sure, New York has a fast paced environment, but it's also probably one of the only places in the world where you could live a very comfortable/cultured life without leaving a 4 block radius.  It's comments like these that makes the rest of America roll their eyes at New Yorkers.  Sure, New York might not be for everyone, but either is Cheyenne, Wyoming.  There's nothing inherently hard about living in New York.  It's a great place to live, but I assume living in Uganda is probably more difficult...and I have a feeling native Ugandans don't come to Manhattan and say "I'm from Uganda, I can handle this know, Joseph Kony and all. I know you saw that shit on Youtube in the comfort of your 88 million dollar apartment"  They should. 

The Weather:  It sucks.  It's cold and dreary in the winter, hot and muggy in the summer.  New Yorkers will often have a conversation about which is worse, and I have to say walking through that bowl of soup otherwise known as a humid summer day is pretty disgusting.  Your skin is sticky, clothes sweat stained, and there's really no escape from it.  At least, in the winter, you can find refuge in warm clothes (though these can be cumbersome).  There's about a month in the autumn when it's beautiful, and another month in the spring that's a warm hug.  And, it's true, Central Park in the fall is a fantastic place to be.  But I'll gladly have my 70 degree January and skip the whole season thing.  (though I know New Yorkers enjoyed similar weather this winter too...well, for a day or two.)

Construction On The FDR:  I grew up in the suburbs of Manhattan, but would often spend evenings in the city, only to drive home sometime after midnight.  And every so often there would be construction near the GW bridge that would create a parking lot out of the FDR.  There was little more annoying than being ass tired only to sit in two hours of traffic while an entire highway's worth of automobiles are funnelled into one stop light somewhere in Washington Heights.  I suppose there's no way around this, construction needs to get done, but I do not miss it.  I suppose it could be worse; I could have shot my friends in the face during target practice for the Ugandan youth army.

The Smell Of The Subway In The Summer:  While the smell of hot, rancid garbage mixed with homeless pee might be appealing to some...

The New York/New Jersey Rivalry:  This is easily one of the stupidest things period, mostly because there isn't much of a difference between the two aside from slight inflection of an accent.  Plus, if a New Yorker and Jersey guy ran into each other in Moscow, there would be immediate kinship.  But if a New Yorker takes up a parking space somewhere on the Jersey Shore (the actual place, not the show), this is apparently cause for outrage.  I guess people need to fight about something.

Dunkin Donuts :  Just kidding, I miss you.  Though apparently you will be gracing the west coast with your fine coffee soon. 

Pizza and Bagels:  OK, I know this will be sacrilegious, but the idea that pizza and bagels are infinitely better in NYC is questionable to me.  Listen, I've had some epically shitty pizza in LA, but arguably my favorite slice is from a place on Melrose.  Similarly, I've had sublime pizza in New York City, but some of the worst slices I've ever tasted have come from Manhattan street corners.  I know, I know...BROOOKLYNNNN...I NEEED TO EAT PIZZA IN BROOOOOKLYN...whatever, enough.  I'm sure in a blind taste test, the best New York pizza wouldn't really stand out.  This just seems like something people grasp on to in an effort to show hometown pride.  Or maybe I'm just not that picky of an eater.

Canyon Winds:  My God are these cold in the winter.  Walking five feet only to duck into a warm store just to avoid the arctic chill of a canyon wind is no fun.  Maybe this is what natives mean when they point to reasons New Yorkers are tough.  Hell, even Ugandans don't have to deal with this.  Uganda 65- New York 1.

Really Fast Elevators:  Because Manhattan has some incredibly tall buildings, they also have elevators that reach the high floors at the speed of light.  I've never liked roller coasters, and I don't like these supersonic elevators that leave me feeling a bit sick.  Call me a pussy, fine. I probably am. But hey, I'm a native New Yorker.  You know, where only the strong survive.

***Honorable mention:  LONG ISLAND PRIDE:  Long Islanders are an entire group of people seconded only by Texans in hometown pride.  I'm surprised there are no Long Island flags.  You have a couple of airports and gave us Billy Joel.  Relax.  There's nothing all that special about it. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

What March 31st-April 2nd Means To Me: Bullying and the film "Bully"

Just first have to say two great episodes of Madmen and Game Of Thrones last night. I have nothing of real value to add other than I'm glad I have them both for the next several Sundays.  I'm sure you can find some intelligent commentary somewhere else.  In fact, here's Andy Greenwald's take on the first ep of Thrones .    I haven't read it yet, but his observations are always thought provoking, and he's a fellow Walking Dead hater.  So there! 

Anyway, speaking of bullying...

Lunch money!  NOW!
I'd been looking forward to watching The Weinstein Company's heavily discussed documentary about school bullying, appropriately called "Bully," because I'm curious about the level of bullying in schools, and the psychology behind it from both the victim and the aggressor.  Bullying has been in the national conversation since a handful of American children have committed suicide due to the emotional abuse.  Going into the film, all I knew about bullying was 1) kids don't like it. 2) it hurts them 3) it's sad.

And after watching the movie on Saturday night, I now know: 1) kids don't like it. 2) it hurts them 3) it's sad.

In other words, the movie brought absolutely nothing to the table other than some manipulative sob stories, and I, honestly, couldn't tell if some of the scenes were staged due to the intimacy of the camera.  The movie followed a handful of kids who go through physical and emotional abuse from their classmates on a daily basis, but they are the kinds of stories I've heard about for years.  In fact, they were the kind of stories I heard about when I was a kid.  Since bullying has recently garnered media interest, we've heard a lot about internet bullying/facebook bullying, and how that was difficult for the school districts to control.  And this point wasn't even mentioned in the movie.  Actually, at one point, I remember wondering whether or not the subjects even HAD the internet because it was never once discussed, and they seemed to spend a lot of time playing outside throwing rocks at trains and chasing rabbits.

"Bully" also didn't even bother to explore the culture of bullying from the side of the bully.  They never asked the question "why" or "what causes it?"  The film neglected to show what might become of a bully once they grow up, or when these kids tend to stop bullying.  They didn't posit any thoughts about the bully's homelife or if poor parenting had any influence.  No confessionals from bullies.  No behavioral therapists were interviewed. Nothing.

Also, the absence of any sort of sociological viewpoint was a missed opportunity.  All the subjects seemed to come from, pardon the term, "red states."  Whether it was Georgia, or Iowa, or Nebraska, none of the subjects resided in big cities.  I don't really want to make this political, but perhaps I should.  I have no clue if bullying is less of a problem in more "liberal" areas, where an idea of community is perhaps stronger, but the idea of children cementing their standing through force might be a symptom of a culture that celebrates firearms, individualism, and intolerance (in fact, one of the subjects was expelled from school for threatening her bullies with a gun).  I wonder if there is a correlation between the two, and if there is, that would truly be an eye-opening study, and could immediately attack the root of the problem.  Because if your solution to bullying is something like "well, teachers should pay more attention" or "the bus driver should stop the bus if a kid gets punched," then you're just picking at the flies and ignoring the swamp.

And, speaking of, the movie didn't even attempt to discuss possible solutions to the problem, aside from raising awareness.  And, yes, awareness has value, but if there's no plan beyond that, an issue like this will never truly go away, and probably will only get worse.