Effin' Sweet

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tough September

The anniversary of the terrorist attacks will always be a somber one for me. It's hard to put into words what I felt yesterday. As luck would have it, I ended up going east on the BQE last evening, right around dusk, the sky was a dark indigo, and all the lights were up in downtown Manhattan. The traffic was moving at a nice, brisk pace, and I was lucky to catch some excellent metal songs on WSOU (frustratingly, the DJs never identified them). Cruising down the highway, I was afforded a gorgeous view of financial district, complete with the brilliant twin beams bursting into the sky.

I always get a lump in my throat when I see the NYC skyline these last five years. Almost like I'm being reminded of a lost relative. Strange, because I never visited the World Trade Center and I only occasionally visited Manhattan in general. But seeing the gaping void, the overt absence, left in that view of New York City never fails to elicit an almost visceral reaction in me.

Left to my thoughts on September 11th, I found myself pondering the state of the world today, and somewhat embittered by how our society-at-large has lost sight of the bigger picture. That the concepts of "right" and "wrong" have grown so murky. This is obviously a rant brewing, but I'll spare you all my observations of the "good," the "bad," and the "ugly" of 9/11. But I'll finish with this anecdote - While I was driving down to Princeton for an interview, I was listening to a talk show on 92.3. They were taking calls from listeners who wanted to share their thoughts on the anniversary of the attacks. The most heartening contribution, amazingly, was a guy who's immigrated and lived in the US for less than two years since being born and raised in Iran. To paraphrase, he said, "[He] loved America, and [he] would die for this country." An Iranian-American said that?! Then there's hope for us all!

When I saw his picture on the front page of the newspaper, the last thing I thought was that it was the death notice of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. And I tell you truthfully, tears welled up when I saw the headline. He may have been goofy, and any bargain-basement comedian proved he was highly mock-able, but what Steve Irwin radiated more than anything else, to me, was kindness. He was passionate for his work, for the animals in his care, for demonstrating the beauty of nature. Steve's love was shared with his wife, Terri, and his little daughter, Bindi. And despite fame, celebrity, and financial success, he never lost that affability, that honest friendliness. I think it is because of this quality of character that he remained a popular and beloved international entertainer. To his credit (and probably his embarrassment), the Australian government offered a state funeral for him. Pomp and circumstance were never his style, and his family naturally said, "Thanks, but no thanks." A common bloke with an uncommon talent for sharing the beauty of nature with millions of fans around the world, it is with a heavy heart to say goodbye to Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter.

In the spirit of Steve Irwin's fun-loving nature, enjoy some "Steve Irwin Facts."

"And Now for Something Completely Different..."

And in the "WTF" category, we hear that Anna Nicole Smith's son, Daniel, died suddenly only days after his Mom gave birth to a new baby girl. Only 20, experts are still trying to figure out what the cause was. From the minute I saw this poor kid on the Anna Nicole Show, I've felt nothing but pity for him. And frankly, punching-out at 20 is just not fair. While my opinions of Anna are somewhat less positive, I'll save my criticism and just extend my sympathies. Sheesh... poor guy.

And while we ponder the fickle capriciousness of life, check out Gay Robot.


The differences between Red Sox players and Yankee players are so astounding, I could devote an entire article to it. But I'd rather just take little pot-shots, instead. Today, we'll talk about "class." As in, the Red Sox organization has none. Anytime I hear a Boston player quoted, it's always some mealy-mouthed criticism of the Yankees, to one degree or another. Whether it was Varitek whining, or Schilling shooting his mouth off, the song remains the same - childish complaining. Okay guys, I guess it was cool to be a grown-up talking trash at the Pinstriped Goliath, back when your entire organization was under a magical spell of failure for nearly a century. But now, after you finally got your pathetic monkey off your back, and you realized you guys just sucked for 86 years, it's time to behave like sportsmen. The only charming guy in your crew is Johnny Damon and... oh, right, he's on the Yankees, now. And you got David Wells - the ass. You know what they say about birds of a feather... Come to think of it, take Gary Sheffield, too - he's only good for griping, so he'll fit in great.

But what brought on this surge of Boston Bashing? Why kick them while they're down? After all, they've got two chances to make the playoffs - "slim and none." Two articles. First, it's that pig, David Ortiz, (who has now lost all sympathy from me for his present heart condition) started mouthing off about how he "deserves to get the MVP award this year," and that Jeter doesn't. Frankly bub, I don't care if you have a couple of superior stats to The Captain, at least he plays the entire game. Unlike you, who merely has to waddle over to the plate and swing, Derek actually, you know, fields. And is having a great offensive year as well. Oh, and his team is going to win the division. Kinda puts your selfish little merits in perspective, huh? How "valuable" is a player on a team that's not playing in the post-season? No Mucho. So put that in your filthy helmet and smoke it, you bum. And keep your mouth shut about real athletes. The second article dealt with Willie Randolph and Joe Girardi, two former Yankees who are now very successful managing the Mets and Marlins, respectively. The article was questioning who should be cited for his managing skills - Willie or Joe. And, with that ever-present class and humility, each manager downplays their accomplishments and congratulates the other. No back-biting, no cheap-shots. Just class.

Best Group Shot - Ever

Best shot of, frankly, the best day of my life. Some of you may have been wondering when I was going to give my review on the wedding, honeymoon cruise, married life, etc. And truly truly I say unto you - "I'll get to it". So many ideas and thoughts have been popping into my head these days (as you can imagine, I have plenty of free time), and when I finally venture over to a working computer, I'm usually writing about what I'm feeling at the time... hence, my one-man pity party that you got to read in my last article. Don't worry, I'm over it. Things are looking up and hopefully I'll be gainfully employed in a new and exciting career - Drug Dealing! It's the wave of the future, I tell you!

This picture makes me all sorts of happy.

Worlds Collide - Metallica on The Simpsons - "We Don't Take Rides from Strangers."

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Gone Huntin'

"By Jove! A sixty-thousand-a-year job with bonuses and two week paid vacation!"

Hey guys! I'm back again. I'll have to keep in mind while I'm typing this that a whole lot of time and events have passed since I blogged the last time. Well, let's see... I got married, had a big party, went on a trip... it's been an eventful August! Needless to say, I will return to these topics at a later date, when I'm in the proper mindset and leisure time to properly blog about them.

Sheesh. Flaming hoops I can deal with.

Ah, this was the blog I was so looking forward to writing. To be fair, I really didn't want to break this news in such an impersonal way. But in the months and weeks leading up to the wedding, I didn't really want to declare - "Hey! Guess what? I decided to quit medical school!" But, alas, it is true. I'm no longer a med student. I will never be prescribe medicine. And pathetically, my witty "Trust Me, I'm a Doctor," t-shirt has become a cruel joke... a never-to-be consummated fashion statement.

I hate to just drop the bomb and move on. It's old news to me - I called it quits back in May, but I didn't really start to share the info until after I returned from the honeymoon, mainly because I didn't want have the "So what are you going to do now?" conversation stealing thunder (and perhaps some happiness) from the wedding event. Certainly, my and Ally's immediate family knew immediately, but beyond them it wasn't exactly broadcasted.

This will most certainly be a topic I'll discuss further in depth at a later date. Believe me - I have plenty to say on the subject - on the lifestyle of doctors, cost of medical school, and where I stand with it all. However, in the here-and-now, I'm far more concerned about finding a job. That oft-frustrating and spirit-crushing pursuit of employment which up until now I have been spared, has occupied my thoughts and energies all summer long. Now that the excitement of the wedding can no longer distract me from this quest, I have given it my full attention.

This past week, I took a break from applying for medical and pharmaceutical sale jobs to pursue a field I'm actually genuinely interested in - the comic book industry. After a block party epiphany, I aggressively sought positions at Marvel, DC Comics, and Wizard Magazine. And to my astonishment and unfettered excitement, Wizard responded immediately. I was contacted the day after applying for a Production Assistant position by the Production Director at Wizard Entertainment (the company that produces Wizard Magazine, Toyfare Magazine, Shonen Jump, etc.). "Could you come in for an interview?" he asks. "I most certainly can," I respond.

One catch.

Wizard Entertainment is not located on Long Island. Nor is it located on Manhattan Island or any of the five boroughs. Nay, Wizard Entertainment is located in a lovely little hamlet called Congers, a mere forty minute drive and two bridge crossings away from my apartment in Queens.

I go to the interview anyway, despite my misgivings about the distance (hoping against hope that the salary will balance it out). Walking into the Wizard Entertainment lobby confirmed everything I dreamed it would be - big comfy couches, pinball machines, a foosball table, and floor-to-ceiling decorations featuring comic book heroes. I was in heaven. The atmosphere was laid back, collegial, with employees sauntering around in t-shirts and jeans. Of course, I looked like a big nerd with suit and tie interview outfit on. I met the Production Director and we had a great conversation ("He likes me," I think.) Gravely, however, he explained that the entry-level position did not offer a whole lot of money. And although the position offered the opportunity to have a foot in the door of the industry, with future prospective networking with comic book and other publishing companies, it simply didn't seem like a practical career move at this stage in the game. Needless to say, the drive home was decidedly grim.

Ever have to turn down your dream job?

I googled "thumbs down" and got this. Seems appropriate.

As I've said on numerous occasions in the past, I don't want this blog to be a forum for me to whine. And if I've dallied a little too closely to on the border between "sharing bad news" and "whining," I apologize. But down in the dumps am I, and this is what happens when you blog sad.

Moreover, I wanted to both update you on my life, as well as explain why I won't be blogging too much in the immediate future. If I happen to find a sweet 9-to-5'er working in Advertising, Publishing, Marketing, Sales, Public Relations, or whatever... I may just be a little more regular. Think of stable employment as the fiber of blogging digestive tract. A tad gross, but nonetheless accurate. Should you have any job leads in any of those fields... or if you know of any jobs you think I might be good at, you know how to get in touch with me!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

This Time, I'm Serious

Amidst personal turmoil and other fun pre-wedding emotions, I've neglected my poor, oft-lamented Wedded Blitz for far too long. Now, I'm not throwing down the blog gauntlet much like Anskatius, but I am planning on getting this shiznit down. Every member of the bridal party will get their moment in the spotlight. Unfortunately, I have to qualify that declaration by adding that the spotlights may not be as long or as encyclopedic as my previous nuptial "who's who" entries. In showbusiness, they say, "There aren't any small parts, just small actors." Well, in Wedded Blitz, "There are no small wedding-folk... just Tom procrastinating to the last minute... as usual." Okay, that's not as popular a saying... but I'm spreading it around nevertheless... maybe it'll catch on for Louie's future... event. (I'll say no more, but he is hereby required to announce a certain something on his blog other than his love of Dimebag Darrell. All well and good, my hellenistic hombre, but I think it's high time you declare your OTHER love, y'know? And I don't mean "souvlaki.")

Okay? So that's it - fasten the seatbelts chilluns, I'm bloggin'.

Okay, that was fairly gay.

What Are You Callin' an "Epidemic"?

If you don't want to read through this bad-ass republican conservative, Norman Rockwellian rant... skip down the article to Superman... If not, don't say I didn't warn you. Believe me, I can already hear you scoffing from here... but seriously, Official Rush Limbaugh sites and Anne Coulter fanfics aside... I've noticed that the mainstream internet seems to slant a bit towards the political southpaws. Okay, perhaps to put it plainer, the mainstream internet attitude often is "not coinciding with what your's truly thinks." Perhaps I pick and chose my issues... and more than likely, I'm being a bit over-sensitive about this (hey, I'm trying to be as even-handed as I can, here) but I can't help but notice the terminology certain writers published on a certain well-trod e-mail and search-engine provider, Yahoo, uses to describe a fairly benign... and not to mention, typical, annual event. Anti-American Subtext, or Just a Poor Choice of Words? Hey, I may be overthinking this one... but what the hell is this? "Flag Epidemic?!" We do understand what an "epidemic," is, right? Not exactly a term with a positive connotation. Although I'm going a bit hyperlink crazy, here, I figure I'd provide you with dictionary.com's take on the noun known as "epidemic." Just because Americans across the country are all simultaneously displaying red, white, and blue in greater frequency in the days approaching Independence Day (incredible, I know!) I fail to understand how this constitutes "news," or why it would be termed an "epidemic." Semantics aside, the tone of the article makes the whole "phenomenon," out to be some sort of mass hysteria... bleating sheeps emblazoned with patterns of Old Glory. Next thing I'll expect on Yahoo's front page is an in-depth article about an insidious rash of pine tree abductions occuring in the weeks preceding December 25th. The horror! What are those crazy Christians doing now? Oh, can't the rest of the country all be as wise, worldly, and ironic like we are on the blue-state, cosmopolitan internet? Flag waving in July isn't an "epidemic," it's an annual celebration of patriotic pride in our home. We as Americans have no common heritage, no common customs, and no common language... so we take heart from the few symbols that unite us with a common thread, and the most prominent of these is the American Flag. No nation on earth shares such an affinity with their flag. It's not an embarrassment, and certainly not an epidemic... it's what unites a recently naturalized dude from Pakistan and Elmer Smith who can track his geneology back to the Mayflower. They're both Americans. So don't hate on the flag... okay?

Box Office Results - Not Exactly, "Up, Up, and Away."

And since we're on the subject of patriotic skittishness, let's take a moment to consider the new Superman movie. Much has been made in that his famous slogan has gone from, "Standing for Truth, Justice, and the American Way," to "Standing for Truth, Justice,... all that stuff." Gee, the "American Way," was a lot more popular back when everyone was scared of the Soviets taking over. Ah well. I think it's a lame cop-out... because if Supes isn't an apt representation of "the American Way," I don't know what is. He's the strongest in the world, acts quickly and decisively to solve the world's problems, and is resolute in the moral rightness of his actions. For better or worse, that's pretty much how the average American views the world. But anyway... off the soapbox...

First off - It's a great flick. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend that you do. As long as you are really into Superman and like highly-philosophical super-hero movies with plenty of religious overtones and can handle a major plot departure from the regular comic book continuity. I won't get into what it is, but it's been out for a while, and you really don't have any excuses not to see it. However, I'm willing to put down even money that you've heard at least one local tough, collar proudly-popped, complaining about what a "gay" movie it was, or how it was a waste of two hours. And, loathe as I am to agree with any of their ilk, I can't deny that they have a point. The movie is long, the movie is plodding, and the movie doesn't have a whole lot of action in it. But that's really the problem with Superman in general... the guy is too damn, well, "super." He's super-fast, super-strong, super-invulnerable, can fly, shoot laserbeams, see through walls, and has super cool, minty breath. With the exception of green crystals, nothing can hurt him. Aside from two excellent action sequences (and they absolutely demand to be viewed on the big screen - no joke!), the movie is a lot of character development and pretty imagery. I loved it, but I think the average bub off the street has gotten a bit spoiled over the last couple of years watching Wolverine and Spider-man mixing it up with colorful bad guys over witty banter. Despite Kevin Spacey utterly throwing himself into his role as arch-fiend Lex Luthor... he's really not much of a match for Superman. Thus, Superman Returns, sadly, despite being a clearly lovingly-crafted film, is shaping up to be a financial disappointment, while the X3 still remains the summer's box office champ. Booya.

"But Captain Jack Will Get You High Tonight... "

And to sum this puppy out, I'll mention that I just caught Pirates of the Caribbean 2 the other day. Excellent little flick. Definitely 2-plus hours of cinematic fun... all except the last 5 minutes of the movie, when it takes a major mis-step. Suffice to say, a certain main character completely acts... well, out of their character, resulting in a severely (seemingly) permanent plot development. Yeah, this movie basically just sets us all up for the third one, but I tell you, there will be repurcussions and a certain someone is going to get their comeuppance. American action movies have their own set of rigid moral requirements... and after this particularly uncharacteristic incident, something mighty bad must happen to them in the third one. Mark my words.

To be honest, the last 5 minutes of the movie left kind of a "throw-uppy" taste in your mouth. You're having a great time, watching goofy pirates and witty banter and incredible action sequences, and then all of a sudden, this one main character does something so crappy, you wish Jerry Bruckheimer just cut the movie short with "To Be Continued," instead. It's definitely a deflating sense of afterglow after an otherwise damn fun movie to watch. Tell ya what, guys... if you haven't seen it yet, go see the movie, and then leave just towards the end when Captain Jack Sparrow returns to the Black Pearl and shoots the kraken. Just leave. Because if you sit for the last five minutes, I promise you, you're going to walk out of the theater with an expression on your face, like you just saw Tom Hanks appear out of nowhere and punch your grandma in the mouth. It's just that disquieting. You're not even excited about the next sequel, you're just looking forward to a certain character getting what they deserve.

Okay... stay tuned in Wedded Blitz for the next three weeks. It's gonna be lively.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Lest WE Not Forget (Part Deux)

Shame, shame upon me... for forgeting some of my most cherished 80's movies from my childhood. So after much reflection, some helpful blog comments, and a couple of procrastinated hours on Google and IMDB, I present the second half of my favorite flicks from my '80's childhood - 10 more flicks from my halcyon youth.

Let me reiterate:
1. This is not listed in any order of importance - like a parent's children, they are all equally loved

2. These are movies made in the '80's that I watched in the '80's. Thus, typical "Top '80's Movies" staples, The Breakfast Club, Saint Elmo's Fire, or basically anything with Molly Ringwald, is not listed, because I didn't see them until the '90's.

Project X (1987)

Comon' guys, don't tell me you've never seen this one! Matthew Broderick, a very pre-Mad About You Helen Hunt, and lots and lots of chimpanzees! This movie pretty much had me wishing for a pet chimp well into the mid-'90's. Anyway, for those of you who may have forgotten, Project X is about a washout Air Force cadet who gets a new appointment training chimpanzees to fly planes on simulators. Why? The military is testing the flying chimpanzees to see how long they live after they subject them to lethal radiation, to see how long human pilots could survive in a nuclear war. The bad situation gets worse for Matt, when he forms a special bond with Virgil, who had been trained to communicate with sign language. This one's got a couple of heartbreaking moments before the thrilling climax.

Random Quote - Virgil: "Apple."

Weird Science (1985)

As I mentioned in the last blog article, I did not see Fast Times at Ridgemont High during the '80's. I did not see Phoebe Cates in that movie. However, I did see Weird Science. And I did see Kelly LeBrock. And... well. There ya go. This movie is amazing on so many levels, I don't know where to start. True, it has Michael Anthony Hall, but his involvement is forgiven on account of Kelly LeBrock, an off-the-wall story, and Kelly LeBrock. Where John Hughes came up with a story that involved a couple of unpopular nerds creating a magical woman out of a Barbie doll and a computer, whilst donning bras on their heads, is anyone's guess. I think Tab had something to do with it - it was the '80's, after all. Complete with ├╝ber big brother, Chet (played to perfection by none other than Bill "Game Over, Man!" Paxton), and a young, pre-criminal record Robert Downey Jr. as "Cool Guy #2," and a worthwhile message, and you have an instant classic. And did I mention Kelly LeBrock..?

Random Quote - Mutant Biker #3: "Can we keep this... between us? I'd hate to lose my teaching job..."

Teen Wolf (1985)

Now, this was the movie that paved the way for this article. After Chris mentioned it in the comments section, I realized I had made a grave error in forgeting this Michael J. Fox tour-de-force. Scott , Boof, Stiles... Bad Guy Mick, Blonde Pamela, the Theater Director ("Uh, Wolf... Person?"), Chubby, the Coach... surfing on top of the "Wolf Mobile"? This had all the proper elements for an '80's teen movie - socially awkward lead, wacky best friend, good girl brunette "buddy/love interest", evil blonde goddess, game-winning montage (complete with montage music), 30-year-old "teenagers," and werewolves. I remember watching this as a kid and being absolutely terrified of going to high school, what with the parties with all the sex games (Did Chubby ever eat all that jello?)... Hey, I was, like 8 when I saw this flick for the first time... Believe me, I have a new appreciation for Stiles' perverted imagination and party-planning skills, nowadays.

Random Quote - Scott Howard: "GIVE ME... A KEG... OF BEER. And these."

Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon (1985)

A lazy Saturday afternoon wouldn't be complete without The Last Dragon popping up on some random cable channel in the '80's. This flick hearkens back to a simpler time in Harlem, when Vanity hosted neighborhood video dance clubs (whose futuristic architecture always reminded me of Laces, the roller skating rink), where multi-cultural, gi-clad gangs could swagger where they pleased, and arcade owners hired pro-wrestlers and thugs to take out a pesky young man named Leroy Green, who was only attempting to improve his martial arts skills in order to attain "The Glow." Those were good times in Harlem... full of breakdancing and kung-fu. Man, I miss the '80's.

Random Quote - Shonuff: "I AM the Shogun of Harlem!"

Cloak & Dagger (1984)

I would be remiss if I didn't include a Dabney Coleman movie in this list somewhere... am I right? I just like saying his name, "DABNEY COLEMAN." What a great name... Cloak & Dagger - a cool movie, but don't remember the whole story. It always stuck with me, though, because it's all about a lonely little kid who has an imaginary friend based on one of his secret agent toys - "Jack Flack." "Jack Flack" and the little boy, Davey's, neglectful father are both played by Dabney. In a classic case of '80's logic, Davey somehow intercepts US military secrets that have been concealed in an innocent Atari game cartridge (WARNING - BLATANT PRODUCT PLACEMENT!). Jack Flack helps Davey outwit and elude some nasty Soviet spies, until Davey's Dad gets his act together. As a G.I. Joe nut back then, who was always wrapped up in all those imaginary adventures, I was always enamored with this movie. And speaking of G.I. Joe...

Random Quote - Davey: "Jack Flack always escapes!"

The Boy Who Could Fly (1986)

Uh, yeah. This movie is all about a lonely girl befriending an autistic boy who lives next door and is obsessed with flying. By the end of the movie, he flies. That's the movie. I think she also falls in love with him. Yadda Yadda. But what I truly love about this movie is the subplot featuring her little brother, Louis, played by a young Fred Savage. That's right, baby. Louis is a HUGE G.I. Joe fan. He's got them all, lined up, posed all around his room. Every scene, he's got handfuls of them. He even sets up a cemetary in the backyard for them (what boy in the '80's didn't bury their action figures at one point or another? We were a morbid generation, we, the last to experience the final gasps of the Cold War... The subplot involves Louis trying to ride his Big Wheel (Oh God, I love all this '80's stuff!) around the block, only he keeps getting beat up by the neighborhood bully and his knuckle-dragging throng. Each time he tries, he has to rebuild his destroyed Big Wheel, and try a different strategy. When he finally does it, with a pimped-out ride that would make Xzibit jealous, and the bullies get their karmic desserts... it's just awesome. Watch the movie just for Fred Savage. And G.I. Joe.

Random Quote - Bully #1: "There's no water in this gun?" Bully #2: "So what's in it?" Louis: "PISS!"

Red Dawn (1984)

The USSR and Cuba join forces and invade America. Remember what I was saying about the last gasps of the Cold War in the '80's? One scene that I'll never forget was when all the Russian paratroopers landed outside the high school, and when the teacher went out to talk to them, they mowed him, and most of the student body, down with their evil Soviet machine guns. This movie was crazy, with death camps, and firing squads, and C. Thomas Howell. Luckily, a small band of heavily-armed teenagers fight a guerrilla war against the Communist occupiers, calling themselves the "Wolverines." Only later, after I discovered comic books, did I realize how cool that part was. When I was a kid, I was mystified at all the guns they were able to get, and how freaking scary it would be if we were ever in the middle of World War III. Luckily we had Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, and Lea Thompson to kick some Socialist asski.

Random Quote - Jed: "C'mon! We're all going to die - Die standing up!"

The Princess Bride (1987)

Long before the Hot Topic kids got their pale, grubby hands on this, The Princess Bride was an odd little flick, full of irreverent humor, imaginative characters, and a lot of clever dialogue. While the movie is supposed to be about a dashing hero saving his true love, all everyone remembers are all the great secondary characters and the one-liners. There are so many great lines, I'll be sure to annoy someone with my pick for "Random Quote," but it simply can't be helped. I remember watching this wacky adventure tale - told as a story by a grandfather to his sick grandson (played by Fred Savage!) - not quite sure what to make of it. A lot of the humor went right over my head, but it didn't stop me from enjoying it. Plus, it had Andre the Giant (as a Giant, imagine that!) and Mandy Patinkin (Who also has a great, sayable name - MANDY PATINKIN... MANDY PATINKIN) as the Spaniard, Inigo Montoya. Timeless.

Random Quote - Vizzini: "Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"

Three Amigos (1986)

This was another movie I remember watching on the couch while my Dad cracked up over every line. I'd watch him laugh, trying to figure out what was so funny. Sure, Steve Martin fell down, or Chevy Chase accidentally killed the invisible swordsman... but most of the stuff didn't make any sense to me. It's interesting, being a kid and watching a movie. Whether it's a comedy, or drama, or action, you really don't catch the overall story, or most of the dialogue. You can follow the plot, to a point... but mostly, you're watching out for when people get whacked in the head or something. Three Amigos is an awesome movie, and only in recent years have I understood how freaking funny it is. Looking at it now, I'm absolutely floored by how creative movies used to be. I mean, "singing bush"? "Invisible swordsman"? "My Little Buttercup"? "Chevy Chase was funny"?! The drugs must've been good back then... or the writers.

Random Quote - Ned: "Sew, very old one! Sew like the wind!"

"Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?"

One Crazy Summer (1986)

This is the second of the two John Cusack movies directed by Savage Steve Holland. The first, being Better Off Dead, is a movie I still have yet to see. Why? I just don't know. But what I do know is this - One Crazy Summer is a great, great '80's movie. I loved it as a kid - a cartoonist, a boat race, a killer dolphin, and Bobcat Goldthwait. Mysteriously, both of Savage Steve's Cusack flicks follow (heck, they may have designed them) some of the classic '80's teen movie guidelines - a rag-tag band of misfits have to save an orphanage or something from some greedy snobs, and the only way to do it is to beat them at either a ski or boat race. (Very similar to John Candy's Summer Rental, which had come out a year earlier). Why these ski/boat races are so important is never fully explained, but it sets up a great climax for the end of the film, when the wacky misfits whip out an amazing secret weapon after the mean snobs pull every dirty trick in the book to get ahead (even though they have a top-of-the-line yacht and the good guys built their boat out of driftwood and Big League Chew) and come from behind and win. Even though South Park later parodies this plot point, it never gets less entertaining.

Random Quote - Egg: "Ack Ack, let me tell you a little story. A story about a little fat kid who everybody made fun of, and nobody liked and he had a twin brother, and everybody said he never looked like his twin brother, but he wanted to..." Ack Ack: "Egg, where you that little boy?" Egg: "No! No! But I used to beat the shit out him! "Why are you so fat? Why are so ugly?" Aaagghh!" Ack Ack: "Great story, thanks."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Lest WE Not Forget...

Flipping through the channels today, I found one of my all-time favorite movies showing on cable - Back to the Future. It's towards the end, Marty is falling apart on stage, trying to play the chords to "Earth Angel," hoping his father will stand up for himself and finally kiss Lorraine. He's looking at the picture that once showed he and his two siblings, now nearly faded away... Marty's hand is disappearing in front of him, in what was probably the height of movie special effects back in the day, when suddenly George McFly knocks the mean red-head kid (who stole Lorraine from him a few moments earlier) onto his butt, grabs Lorraine, and plants a big smooch. Miraculously, Marty's back, his siblings are back, and most importantly - his prodigious guitar skillz are back. It's one of many great moments of a great movie.

But to my dismay, as the movie cuts for commercial, I am confronted with the cable station's method of presentation of Back to the Future... it's called, "Three Men and a Chick Flick." Is the "We" (presumably standing for "Women's Entertainment," or something) network somehow insinuating that Back to the Future is a "chick flick"?!

"Great Scot! I love Huey Lewis and the News!"

Back to the Future is many things - a great '80's movie, a soundtrack showcase for Huey Lewis and the News (Goin' BACK - IN - TIME!), arguably one of Christopher Lloyd's best roles (Doc), and further proof that Michael J. Fox is awesome. But a "chick flick"? Never.

I'm not bashing chick flicks, either. Everything has its place - even chick flicks. I myself have a soft spot for los flicas chicas. I've gotten a kick out of You've Got Mail, and have caught myself watching Kate & Leopold more than once (although the latter may have more to do with my unresolved Hugh Jackman issues... but I digress) But under no circumstances, can Back to the Future be even loosely considered a "chick flick." And I'm willing to bet that chicks everywhere would agree.

In no particular order, I present my Top Ten '80's Movies. This is a completely arbitrary list, with no order of significance. The only criteria I'm following is thus: These are '80's movies that mattered to me in the '80's. There are no retroactive "favorite '80's movies" that I first saw in the 90's or later... otherwise this list would be a lot longer than ten!

Back to the Future

Back to the Future, like The Matrix, is a great, great film that spawned a somewhat unnecessary trilogy. Though the sequels were good, this first one easily stands alone as an excellent story. Seen in my misty, halcyon youth in the 1980's, I later assumed I only loved it because I was a kid, and it had a time-travelling Michael J. Fox in it. Not so. This movie can be appreciated on its own merits today - great story, great cast, great soundtrack, great dialogue. This isn't just one of my favorite '80's movies - it's simply one of my favorite movies of all time!

Random Quote - Wino: "Crazy Drunk Drivers!"

The Goonies (1985)

For any child of the '80's, The Goonies isn't a movie - it's a cultural touchstone. We've all seen it, cherished it, wished we were in it. This is childhood dreams purely distilled, the finest kids movie ever crafted. It has all the right ingredients - a treasure map, an asthmatic hero, booby trap-laden tunnels, the chubby kid, pirates, a superstrong mutant with a heart of gold, the Asian inventor kid, shorts worn over sweatpants, and Corey Feldman. One day, I fear they may remake this beauty, complete with superfluous CGI and a hip-hop talking parrot... but such hackneyed attempts to duplicate this masterpiece will only demonstrate The Goonies' majesty.

Random Quote - Chunk: "In fourth grade, I stole my uncle Max's toupee and I glued it on my face when I was Moses in my Hebrew School play."

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

One of my all-time favorites. Seriously. I know I'm sort of wallowing in hyperbole, here. But this seriously is in my ultimate top-ten. For serious. This infinitely quotable flick, with an off-the-wall, random story, unforgettable characters, and a weird garage in the middle of the woods makes you wish you could spend the day with Ferris, too. And let us not forget, that this is one of the few great '80's movies to also have the distinction of inspiring the name of an excellent ska band. Combining great dialogue, a main character that continually breaks the fourth wall, and radical editing stye, I like to think of this as the Citizen Kane of teen movies. What other flick could combine "Danke Schoen" with "Twist and Shout" and make it work so well?

Random Quote - Grace: "Oh, he's very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude."

Ghost Busters (1984)

Ha! Like I'd ever forget this one! Another great, quotable movie (I never realized HOW quotable until Gordo entered our lives). But really, back in the '80's, what kid could resist a movie with ghosts and the comic stylings of Harold Ramis? Not this one, let me tell you! Of course, to truly understand the significance of Ghost Busters, you have to picture a time when everyone was wearing the Ghost Buster t-shirts and listening to the Ghost Buster song on the radio. Inevitably, the movie would spawn a worthy sequel, as well as a cartoon series and toy line. Yay, capitalism!

Random Quote - Dr. Peter Venkman: "I feel so funky."

Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins, man! How could I not include this one? Although the first one was a whole lot scarier than its goofier sequel, it didn't stop retailers from merchandizing the hell out of Gizmo and his reptilian foes. Colorforms, coloring books, dolls, toys, Happy Meals, video games... (I'm surprised they never tried a Saturday morning cartoon!) I would also be remiss if I didn't mention another significant aspect of Gremlins' impact on my 6-year-old mind... apparently a young, doe-eyed Phoebe Cates turned me irrevocably onto brunettes for the rest of my life. The resemblance is uncanny... y'know what I mean? Phoebe's other significant impact on '80's cinema is the classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High... and though I love that movie, I haven't included it because I didn't see it until only a few years ago. But even though it's not on the list, it still won't stop me from posting this:

I think if I say anything more about this, it will just get me into deeper trouble...

Random Quote - Gizmo: "Bright Light! Bright Light!"

Flight of the Navigator (1986)

Remember this one? The kid from 1978 gets taken in a time-travelling spaceship to 1986, only to be pursued by NASA? This was a fun little Disney flick that showcased some neat special effects that still sort of hold up to today's viewer. This kinda looks like the protype technology theat lead to the "liquid metal" T-1000. When I first watched it, back in the day, I was confused by all the time-travel logic, but years of incessant comic books and sci-fi movies have cleared up any confusion. I just think it's a cool little movie, wherein a boy gets to command a space ship, befriend an alien computer with Pee Wee Herman's voice, travel through time, and adopt a tiny little orange critter. What more could you want?

Random Quote - Max: "See ya later, Navigator!"

Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)

I guess while we're on the subject of Pee-wee Herman, I should mention this gem. Directed by Tim Burton over 20 years ago, Pee-wee's Big Adventure told the story of Pee-wee's quest to regain his beloved stolen bike. Honestly, you probably haven't watched this in over ten years, but it's still a lot of fun to watch. What's interesting, now, is that you catch some of the more adult humor in some of the dialogue that you completely missed when you saw this back in the '80's. This is the movie that made you dance to "Tequila," this is the movie that bestowed the pearl of argumentative wisdom, "I know you are, but what am I?" to a grateful world, and this is the movie that made us all wonder, "IS there a basement in the alamo?" Watch this again. You won't be disappointed!

Random Quote - Large Marge: "Be sure and tell 'em Large Marge sent ya! Ha Ha Ha!"

Big (1988)

Most boys of the 80's had either one of two different movie-Tom-inspired dream jobs - one was following Tom Cruise's footsteps in Top Gun and becoming a Navy fighter pilot, the other was following Tom Hanks' character as Vice President in Charge of Toy Development ("...and they pay you for this? Suckers!") in Big. Like Back to the Future, you can watch this movie a million times and always enjoy it. Great scenes, great lines, and even a Jon Lovitz role! The white tux, the racquetball game, "I don't get it," and of course, who could forget the famous FAO Schwartz scene? "Heart and Soul," anyone?

Random Quote - Josh: "Well, okay... but I get to be on top."

The Karate Kid (1984)

Whoops. Y'know, after plucking this heartwarming picture from the internet, I've realized that there's some sort of cartoon carrot riding in Miyagi's breast pocket... oh well. It's still a tender moment. Karate Kid was a great movie when we were kids. Who amongst you has never tied a headband on while practising the "crane kick"? That's right, we've all done it. We learned the wisdom of "wax-on, wax-off," that bad guys always wore the black gi, and that blonde guys named, "Johnny" were always the baddest of all. I fondly remember being so fired up by watching the movie, that my brother and I would be having full-on living room-demolishing karate battles by the time the credits were starting to roll. Ahh... childhood.

Random Quote - Miyagi: "Banzai!"

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

"E.T. Phone Home!" An entire generation wept, when that lovable little guy died at the hands of the creepy government scientists and scary crashing-through-windows spacemen. Heck, I'm sure there are a lot of fellow 20-somethings whose distrust of the government took root with this movie. Don't let E.T. die! Don't put him in the refrigerator! Look! Look! The flowers are blooming again! E.T.'s alive! Almost two decades before the emotional manipulation of Titanic, E.T. had us all laughing, crying, cheering... rinse and repeat. Like Gremlins later on, E.T. was everwhere - toys, play-doh, underoos, unintelligible Atari games... Strangely, E.T. doesn't come on TV that often. To be honest, I haven't seen the movie in a long, long time. How could such a much-beloved classic be overlooked?

Random Quote - E.T.: "Be Good."

Friday, June 02, 2006

For the Love of Chris

"Remember when there was only one set of footprints?
That's when I was carrying you!"

Yeah, I'm sure some of you guys out there could make a couple of jokes over the title of today's blog article... but truth be told - I'm doin' this one for the Anskatian. Recently, over at his own blog, Chris has drawn the virtual line in the sand, cast down the e-gauntlet - he's going to write 30 blogs in 30 days. He's already blogged once - June 1st. Today is June 2nd, and I have officially responded. I've declared myself his "blog spotter." Much as a training partner urges on a power lifter (and makes sure he doesn't crush his ribcage with too many weights on bench press!), I will try to encourage his consistent barrage of blog. (It might get messy)

Doin' the Bull Dance, Feelin' the Flow... Workin' it, Workin' it!

On a more personal note, I still have a lot of things to say blog-wise, and before I go and get myself employed or something, I better post my shiznit, y'know? So take note, oh faithful commenters - all three of you out there, you won't have as much time to post your messages on my individual articles... so fire the editor, abandon the spell-checker, and full steam ahead, okay? (And nothing is more confusing than some Johnny-Come-Lately Commenter posting some message on an article that's, like 5 articles deep. I get the message forwarded to my e-mail, and I have no freakin' idea what you're talking about. Don't tell me what you think Jesus would say if you took Him to Hooters! That train has sailed, my procrastinating friend.)

I could probably make a joke about how "hot" this book is right now... but that'd just be beneath me.

So, to keep things short and relatively normal, I'll share my thoughts on the phenomena that is Da Vinci Code (I'll try to resist excommunicating people and stuff - but no promises) . Upon realizing about a month ago, that I was one of the few remaining people on the continent that hadn't read the Da Vinci Code, and that the movie was soon coming to theaters, I finally broke down and read the damn thing. And all-in-all... it was a good story.

Maybe it was just some naked Italian dude making snow angels... Who knows?

As a good Catholic lad, I try to take criticisms and comments about the Roman Catholic Church with a grain of salt. With every 2000 year human-run institution, it brings with it a bit of a blooper reel. "The Inquisition?" Yeah, that was bad. "Indulgences?" Hmm, we probably could have handled that one better. "That recent 'molesting' thing?" Don't get me started. But in all fairness, let us not forget all the schools, hospitals, and charities that have been run worldwide by those "spooky papists" for hundreds of years. I'm going ahead and making a bold statement here by saying that I can't think of another singular global organization that has done more good for people around the world than the Roman Catholic Church. Not to mention that it's always the Catholics we turn to, every time Dracula comes back to life.

Do you realize that I have no eyebrows? Da Vinci! Some freakin' genius!

Whoa. This isn't supposed to be an soapbox for the Catholic League, here. All I want to say is that I sorta resent it when all sorts of suspicion is cast upon the entire institution - coverups, creepy white guys in red robes, clandestine meetings, sanctioned murder... to provide one last great boogeyman for our jaded imaginations to fear. And while the story is clever, it says in the very page that "x, y, and z are facts," and they simply aren't. Without that first page, I'd have no issue with the work of fiction. But with that first page of brazen declaration, the narrative takes a somewhat self-righteous tone at certain points. The theories persuasively presented in the story have been debunked and dismissed by a majority of the historian community, but the characters in the story arrogantly counter by saying that "That's just what THEY want you to think!" With that sort of logic, it's hard to rebut, because any argument made by a scholar against the message apparently makes him part of the conspiracy. In addition, a lot of the "sacred feminine" sounded a lot like some college guy trying to impress some girl he met in his "Women's Studies," course. According to the book, the Roman Catholic Church destroyed the female-led pagan religions which celebrated, "the male and female balance in nature." Pagans may have done that, but they also did a lot of kooky things, too. And I have to remark that women were relegated as second-class citizens or worse for thousands of years prior to establishment of Christianity, and that they certainly didn't enjoy any better rights anywhere else in the world beyond Europe.

Why bother casting a real albino when you can make your own out of a pale Englishman? Check out The Albino Code!

What I liked about the book - I was heartened by the fact that the Bishop was manipulated, rather than being some sort of sinister mastermind. When he finally realizes what is happening in the story, he tries to make things right. He is an idealistic, though a bit misguided, character. As for Silas, the creepy albino monk, he is a deeply troubled man, though a pawn as well. His zealous faith is perverted in the cause of one man's monomania.

What I didn't like about the movie - The Bishop is a creepy bad guy. He's prepared to kill. He's the arrogant, high-handed clergy stereotype that Hollywood loves to stick sideways into as many flicks as can be fit in. He tries to come to the rescue in the movie, but for reasons that are never adequately explained.

Whatever answers the cryptex might hold, it still doesn't explain the hairdo, Tom

What I didn't like about the book - The condescending tone of some of the narrative, the "Oh, Let me tell you what REALLY Happened!" kind of attitude. The "Oh How Could those Ignorant Old White Men get it so utterly wrong?" message that is basically beat into you from start to finish.

What I liked about the movie - Tom Hanks' character is actually a dissenting voice throughout the film. Challenging many of the theories put forth by other characters, he takes a couple of swings defending the Big J Man Upstairs.

All in all, despite some of my philosophical differences, I found The Da Vinci Code an enjoyable story to watch, or better - to read. So enjoy... just don't take it too seriously.

Feedback Question of the Day:

"It sounds like people want to hear the bad news first... any other takers?"

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Free Floating Hostility I: Misspelled Names and Inverted Sexism

Nice Face!

Well, Cinco de Mayo has come and gone. We had our little basketball tournament and fajita cook-out. And yes, I got my wish to see Three Amigos for the occasion. As the days following had passed, as that weird salsa aftertaste finally faded, as the muscles in my back slowly knitted themselves back together (you cannot fake being in shape when you play basketball... especially while getting triple-covered by Mad, Danny, and Lamothe!), and as I eventually regained use of my knee joints during this merry month of May, I've had many impulses to blog about one thing or another that's stuck in my craw for one reason or another. Usually, I forget about them... but this particular month, with all the sturm und drang I've gone through, I've decided to stir the venom around a little bit.

Oh yes, and to publicly answer to the commented assertations of a particular loyal blog reader - You don't know the news (neither good nor bad)... I wasn't talking about the surprises of X3.

But my personal announcements will remain unrevealed for the time being, so I can proceed with my personal fury being directed towards some especially deserving targets.

Before I let loose my tirade, let me pose a question to you all - Am I a bad person because I am tired of hearing about Natalee Holloway? Yes, it is tragic that a young woman with her whole life ahead of her disappeared over a year ago without a trace. I feel sorry for her family. But frankly, her story does not need to be on the national news consistently for this long. I'm going to hazard a guess that many people, young and old, disappear every year - from senseless accidents, murder, or worse. So why is the plight of a perky blonde white girl from heartland, who made one very stupid drunken decision in Aruba, somehow still of national importance a whole year later? Right now, there are earthquakes, war, civil unrest in Africa, and - Good God - Brad and Angelina just had a baby! Why are we still hearing about Natalee Holloway?

And thus, with that innocent question out of the way, I bring you my first of many to-be-blogged-about pet peeves -

Deliberately Misspelled First Names

I hate you, Ashlee Simpson. I hate you, so very...very much.

More to the point, it is the "phonetically" misspelled names that bug the hell out of me. For example - "Natalee" "Ashlee," and to a lesser extent, "Aimee." And, y'know, now that I'm looking at them, I guess that I just hate it when lazy-ass parents spell a name that should end in a "y," with a "ee". It just smatters of ineptitude. Ending with a "double e" is little kid spelling. It just sounds childish and ignorant. I guess the elementary school teacher I used to be just instinctively recoils from such mis-use of the English language. Strangely, these lapses in nomenclatural good taste seems to stem primarily from the Mid-West. On both coasts you get a lot of those "last name-first names," like "Madison," "Taylor," "Tucker," and "Piper." And while I'm not exactly crazy about those ones, either, the "double e" names simply piss me off beyond rational justification. Somehow, I think dumbing-down the spelling of one's first name is just setting that kid up for a life full of bloated expectations and colossal failure. Poor Natalee has become a cautionary tale, warning of the dangers of getting drunk on a Caribbean island and staggering into the surrounding jungle with a couple of the local boys. And Ashlee Simpson... I find it difficult to form intelligible sentences at the mere mentioning of the name of that succubus. It's also difficult to type when your vision goes blood red. Suffice to say, until I can calm down long enough to type a proper index of my vitriol, that Ashlee Simpson's blight of an existence is reason enough to never name your child with a "double e." Ever.

So there you have it - idiotic name spelling apparently leads to inevitable disaster. Keep that in mind, folks. Okay, on to my second pet peeve... one that always rears its indignant little head whenever I have the misfortune to wander around any shopping mall on Long Island for any appreciable amount of time. A trend I've witnessed progressing to such obnoxious levels as to question whether or not you've entered some bizarro-parallel world where good taste has not meaning and decorum has been abandoned...

Inverted Sexist T-Shirts

Just in case you can't read that, it says, "Lil' Slut." And yes, women wear this.

I realize that I'll probably get in trouble over this one, but then again, nobody likes to hear bad news - Women, these shirts are fucking degrading.

To coin a phrase "inverted sexist t-shirts," direct insulting characterization towards the wearer. For example, if a guy wore a shirt that said something like, "All I'm Interested In Is Boobs," that would be sexist. An inverted sexist t-shirt would be when a girl had one on that said, "Check Out These Headlights." I'm hardly what one would call a "bleeding heart," but I recognize the justice and morality of the women's rights movement. This centuries-long process of courageous women striving to be recognized as equals with men, not only in America, not only in the Western World, Hell - this is probably some intergalactic struggle for parity - has brought hard-fought-for rights to all women. Sexist and degrading stereotypes are challenged and swept away, never to be employed again. And to any sensible, mature person, these are all good things. So obviously, after generations of brave, determined women broke down all those barriers, it would make perfect sense to a new generation to gals who've inherited all these advantages - to celebrate those very same shallow and demeaning stereotypes!
As I walk through the malls these days, I'm bombarded from all sides with t-shirts sporting the most inane messages I could ever imagine (and seriously people, it's 2006 - t-shirts are already freakin' inane!) "My Daddy is Richer Than Your Daddy," "If You Buy Me Things I'll Pretend to be Your Girlfriend," "I'm Too Pretty To Do Math," "Hooray For Rich Guys," "Buy Me $tuff," "Gold Digger: Like a Hooker, Just Smarter," "Distracted by Shiny Things." This gripe is much in the same vein as my distaste for the obnoxious messages girls these days have spread across the butts of their sweat pants, "Juicy," "Princess," "Keep Staring." What surprises me more is the utter lack of uproar over this stuff. I could go on and on about what I think of this, but I think I should probably just shut up, post some more pictures, and let them speak for themselves...

I love rape humor, don't you?

Whoops! Too late!

Nobody asked

"Mt. Me"? Is that in the Skank Range?

It boggles my mind that someone would actually want to wear this crap. Oh well. It's too bad that Mother's Day has already passed, this website would've really come in handy!

Well, I feel a little better, now. But make no mistake, I'll be complaining again real soon!

Feedback Question of the Day
"So, bad news or good news first?"