Saturday, December 22, 2007

Juno what I did today?

Saturday was more interesting than some days and less interesting than others.
It started with a two-hour spin session over at the local fitness center. I know what you're saying (I do), "Who wants to spend two hours on a spin bike?" Not only that, but I paid $6 for the privilege. The good news is that my heart rate stayed between 140 and 160 bpm for pretty much the entire time. It's lower now.
After a short nap (really) it was off to the city to see the latest high-end critically acclaimed film, "Juno". It was playing every 45 minutes in one of those multi-plex theaters where, if the rooms were a little bigger it wouldn't have to run in three theaters. I suppose they hedge their bets by making the rooms small in case they accidentally book a loser. This one is close to selling out every show, so they wind up wasting three theaters where one bigger one would do.
It's a clever story with lots of pithy dialogue. Think M*A*S*H (the TV version) with kids in Minnesota. The kind of dialogue that is so clever that it sounds written, because regular people would have to be set up with it ahead of time to speak so cleverly.
Juno MacGuff: You should've gone to China, you know, 'cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.
The film stars Ellen Page as 16-year old Juno MacGuff, who is one of those movie-typical high school outcasts, street-smarter than most of them and she's supposed to be ugly or something. I would call her "movie ugly", which is a far cry from real ugly. Supposedly, the boys in school find her unattractive which, to me makes her all the more appealing. She will surely be nominated for an Oscar, since the film carries her character's name and if we don't buy her, we aren't going to buy the film. She is compelling and as an audience, we like her and feel sympathy for her, which is key to carrying the movie.
There's a nice supporting cast, including J.K. Simmons (Dr. Emil Skoda, Law & Order) as her father and Allison Janney (The West Wing and Ricky Fitts' mom in "American Beauty") as her mouthy stepmother. There's also a despicable role by Jason Bateman (every movie needs a despicable character) and Jennifer Garner, who narrowly avoids bimbo and moves straight to compassionate with one key scene at a shopping mall. If you're a fan of Rainn Wilson and you have seen the movie's trailer, you have seen his entire role in this film. He's pretty much Dwight Schrute with a pharmacist's coat.
It's a little different, in that a teenage girl gets pregnant and her parents support her. That's different in a refreshing way. There's an odd, too hip for the room soundtrack and ten tons of convenience store snack food references - everything from orange Tic Tacs to Super Ropes - but mostly, there's a great story and a film that somewhere between the snappy dialogue and the great acting finds a heart, and the unexpected affection that a young girl can feel for two people she doesn't know and one that is growing inside her. I give it two thumbs up - because I only have two thumbs.
At one point, when asked what she was doing, Juno tells her mother, "I was out doing something way beyond my maturity level." That pretty much sums up the film. It's one of those stories where the kids are more mature than some of the adults, so take your kids to the theater. They can help explain the dialogue, too.

Friday, December 21, 2007

My "Eureka" moment.

I can picture a young Arthur Fry, sitting around his office at 3M, wondering how he can improve the world, when "Eureka!" he comes up with a piece of stationery with a re-adherable strip of adhesive on the back, designed for temporarily attaching notes to documents, computer displays and so forth.
"Why didn't I think of that?" you wonder quietly to yourself. Why indeed, dumbass. It's a piece of paper with some glue on the back that isn't quite sticky enough to really stick to something. A triumph of bad materials and a ticket to early retirement.
So, there I was hanging out with the 5:05 Club (a drinking organization co-sponsored by Anheuser-Busch) wondering why it takes so long to order something as simple as a bottle of Yuengling beer. Once I realized that the bartenders specialized in not making eye contact - a clever rouse designed to rid themselves of the nasty necessity called "customer recognition" - I stumbled onto an idea whose time has apparently come.
A beer vending machine. Simple in concept yet clever by thought. Inspired by alcohol, as are many ideas - the Bush/Cheney ticket, seat belts and the Phillies hiring Charlie Manuel to manage the team.
Why wait for busy bartenders when you can swipe a credit card or (God forbid) insert cash and almost instantly be served a fresh can of pilsner beer. This is it, I thought. My Post-it note. My Velcro. My cell phone tower disguised as a tree. My great idea. My name, synonymous with beer in vending machine form. What more could anyone want out of life?
More, apparently as it seems that the Japanese have once again beat us to the punch. Much like the attack on Pearl Harbor, they have come up with the perfect system and have even come up with a name for it. Liquor House Mini. The bastards.
That doesn't mean it wasn't a good idea, because it was. Once Bush gets out of office and the Clinton's are back in, I'd say the road is cleared for the nationwide distribution of the beer vending machine. No more waiting for bartenders or nursing warm beer. Simply remove the jibberish Japanese characters and replace it with standard English and it's a done deal.
We should use the power of numbers to get this idea off the ground. Write to your legislator, call your municipal planning committee and get this thing moving. It works in Japan, and 127 million Japanese can't be wrong.
The sons of bitches.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Clash of the TV Trash

Oh God, in Your imaginary heaven, hear my prayer ... Settle the writers' strike, please. I'm begging ya. Clash of the Choirs was on for two freakin' hours tonight. To make matters worse, I overheard some workplace nitwits discussing this show. Discussing it. They were talking about a show where Michael Bolton runs around picking up singers and they ... compete ... in some sort of singing game with judges and (my God) viewers. I'm sure this nonsense was resurrected from the trash bin at whatever network it's on, since they can't think of anything else to run. Add in the Xmas season and you get ... Clash of the Choirs. Egad.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: Jesus, we're out of shows.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 2: Really? I thought we had five more World's Most Amazing Cheese Molds in the can.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: No, we ran them during the Super Bowl.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 2: We could run that American Gladiators show.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: Isn't that like, 10 years old?
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 2: Who's gonna know? Are you going to tell them? People love to watch other people beating each other up.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: What about that choir show we paid for?
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 2: Oh, you mean the one with Bolton? What did he do with his hair?
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: He lost it when he lost his career.
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 2: How about if we let people beat Michael Bolton up?
NETWORK EXECUTIVE 1: If they can do it while he's singing, I think we've got a winner!
My guess is that there will be another baby boom, right around August or September of 2008 from all the bored couples who have been turning off the TV and doing something else. For those of us without that luxury, we thank our imaginary God for radio and the Internet.
In an effort to give you something to watch on something resembling a TV (your computer screen) this might entertain you. It's a band called Back Door Slam:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A golden shower from Catholics for "The Golden Compass"

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Wednesday condemned the film "The Golden Compass," which some have called anti-Christian, saying it promotes a cold and hopeless world without God. "In Pullman's world, hope simply does not exist, because there is no salvation but only personal, individualistic capacity to control the situation and dominate events," the editorial said.
Wow, only "personal control"? That sounds positively wonderful! So, let's see if I have this straight ... In Pullman's World we don't have to hold out in hopes that some mystical creature will satisfy our needs and wants. We have control over our own destiny without the outside influence of something that may or may not be (in quotes) real. We have the power to dominate events and not some other-worldly faith-based invention that controls our thoughts and deeds.
The U.S.-based Catholic League, a conservative group, has urged Christians not to see the movie, saying that its objective was "to bash Christianity and promote atheism" to children. The Vatican newspaper called the movie "the most anti-Christmas film possible" and said that it was "consoling" that its first weekend ticket sales were a disappointing $26 million.
Let me tell you, I played in that Catholic League and they're full of players that couldn't cut it in the real world. They're such a stuck-up bunch that they rejoice in the failure of others. That sounds anti-Christian to me.
I think I've said it here before, but it bears repeating. What kind of faith is it that can be so threatened by a movie? Is Christianity that flimsy a concept that a film about personal control and ... dare I say it ... anti-Christmas sentiments can shake up the movement? Apparently it is.
I don't know about you, but I just moved "The Golden Compass" to the top of my MUST SEE movie list.
And, don't look now, but the concept of Christmas is about as anti-Christian as you can get. Can someone at The Vatican tell me what is Christian about lighting up your house, decorating a dead tree in your living room, exchanging expensive gifts that wind up being mini-competitions and parading a fat guy around in a red suit with a fake beard telling children that "I'm watching you" and (basically) scaring them into being nice so that they can get stuff.
Tell me, please, because that's what Christmas is and I don't think it's Christian at all. It's drawn from Paganism and Druid beliefs that happen to fit in with the worldly viewpoint that greed is good.
I think, what The Vatican is really frightened about is that people might start thinking for themselves and making their own decisions about their lives. As far as organized religion is concerned, that's about as threatening a concept as anyone can teach.
Merry Christmas, pagans.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A jab at Alycia

At first, I wasn’t sure I had much to offer on the latest Alycia Lane brouhaha, but after careful consideration, I decided that it didn’t matter whether or not I had anything substantive to add. I owe it to the hundreds of Google searchers that come here in search of Alycia Lane stuff. So, here’s my two cents.
THE STORY: Anchorwoman Alycia Lane's future with KYW (CBS3) is uncertain after her arrest early Sunday on charges of slugging a plainclothes New York City police officer. She is also accused of shouting obscenities at the officer and calling her a "dyke". Observers say her return to her $700,000-a-year anchor job hinges not only on her legal case - a felony charge of second-degree assault that could take months to resolve - but the court of public opinion.
Alycia’s latest dust-up with the NYPD isn’t strike one. It isn’t even strike two, and for those of us who are old enough to remember when television had real journalists, it isn’t all that shocking, either.
The early days of television news had field reporters and anchors that cut their journalistic teeth covering World War 2 and later, the turmoil of the 1960s. Men like Edward R. Murrow, Charles K. Smith, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite. They were men who wrote their own copy and conducted themselves with the dignity befitting the job. Recently, television news (especially the local end) has degenerated into a promotional device for the network and a feeder for the evening’s programming. It features one beautiful face after another at the anchor desk, where it appears that the only qualification is nice hair and smooth skin. As we know, once the standards are lowered, they are not going to return.
At this point, Alycia is little more than a local news version of Britney Spears – a celebrity by virtue of having no virtue. That is, she draws unwarranted attention to herself. She sent provocative e-mail photos to a married man-friend and appeared on Dr. Phil’s dopey show twice to discuss her divorce. She clearly lacks the common sense necessary to be a responsible journalist, if you believe that news anchors are journalists to begin with. Odd behavior is a great promotional device, but when it involves the police and arrest records, the entertainment angle is gone.
That isn’t to say that it is necessary to be steadfast and stodgy as a news anchor, but it does mean that you should comport yourself with dignity, since you are asking people to trust you enough to allow you to tell us what’s going on in the world. When you become the news, worlds collide.
Whether or not the allegations of Alycia’s most recent rumpus is true is irrelevant. What matters is that she found herself in such a situation to begin with, and it points to a general lack of understanding of both her position and her obligation to it. She claims innocence, but let’s face it, when it’s your word against a police officer we know who is going to win.
At least the people in charge at KYW (CBS3) have had the good sense to relieve her of her duties, lest the broadcast become even more of a circus than normal. For those of you who need your Alycia Lane fix, you’ll have to try YouTube or your stash of video tapes, because it appears as though she has read her last story for a while … or ever.
The best perspective comes from Tom Petner, the director of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab (whatever that is) who said, “The personality is in danger of overtaking the content.”
It happened a long time ago, Tom. To be frank, there wasn’t much content to begin with, which is where the trouble always starts.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bereft of ideas, I turn to random thoughts and non-sequitur photos.

Here in the Delaware Valley, we escaped the tragic snowstorm that pummeled the northeast last weekend. We'll pay for that one, I'm sure. If I can put in a request, make it a Saturday night, so I can sleep until they clear the streets. Thanks.

Meanwhile, the TV writers' strike is doing two things. First, it's saving me a ton of money on my electric bill, since the TV is mostly in the "off" position; which has a downside since it's new and I'd like to enjoy something besides football games on Sunday afternoon. Second, it has created even more dopey "reality" shows with names like Choir Challenge and game shows with rules that probably take longer than the show to explain. Any time you do a show where Michael Bolton is rounding up singers to compete in a choir showdown, you know that there aren't any writers left in the world.

Michael Vick had a "deathbed" confessional last week, where he wrote an impassioned letter to his judge, saying that he was "sorry" he ever got involved in dog fighting. Sure, now he's sorry. Before he got caught he was fine with it. I don't know what he expected to accomplish with such a letter. His lawyer probably wrote it, since I didn't notice any misspellings or grammatical errors.
By this time, I expected that a dark horse presidential candidate would have emerged from the shadows to overtake the gathering of boobs that the good people of Iowa will have to decide on soon. Obama and Clinton will spend the next year sniping at each other, while John Edwards will continue to tell us that he is the most qualified, citing some "empirical evidence" that he is the most popular Democrat. Stop saying empirical, John and you'll have a better chance.

On the Republican side, they seem to take turns saying something stupid in a sort of political circle jerk. The Mormon, the Christian and the generally uneducated leave no stone unturned when it comes to goofball ideas and beliefs that will no doubt meld the party into one giant ball of hypocrisy until they disappear up their own mouth holes. Is it over yet?

My free trial of HBO and Starz ran out during the day on Sunday. Horrified, I ran to the web to find out how much it would cost to bring them back. $89.50 a month. Jesus. I listed some more Ebola stuff in a futile effort to drum up the money to bring back the twentieth showing of Talladega Nights and the ten HBO channels that show the same programs in different time zones. I think it's mostly that I hate jumping over those blank channels and partly because I was all set to watch AC Hookers on Sunday night, only to find out that the HBO deal stopped during the Eagles game. GRAPHIC LANGUAGE, NUDITY, STRONG SEXUAL CONTENT, ADULT CONTENT. I don't think it was a coincidence.