Thursday, November 30, 2006

On Notice!

8. The St. Louis Bar and Grill. Mediocre service, flat ginger ale, indifferently cheesy nachos. I expect more from an establishment named after America's most dangerous city. Where is the life-size animatronic statue of Stan Musial to welcome us at the front door? Where is Archie the St. Louis Arch, the lovable mascot who bears a possibly litigious resemblance to the McDonald's logo? Where are the waitresses dressed like the backup dancers in a Nelly video? In fact, where's Nelly? His career is basically over now, isn't it? Can't he be a greeter or something? Anyway, if you do end up going to the St. Louis, try the wings and ribs, since that's what they're apparently famous for. Perhaps I should've tried a bar's signature foods before I trashed them....ah, screw it. Avoid Pizza Hut, people! The burgers are awful!

7. Aaron Sorkin. Dammit, Sorkin, be more consistent! Why are some episodes of Studio 60 tremendous and others so eye-rolling poor that I want to eat my hand? Why are some of your characters brilliantly complex while others are as two-dimensional as Tetris pieces? Why are Matthew Perry and Steven Weber turning in career-best performances while Amanda Peet looks and acts like someone in her first day of drama class? There is only one solution -- Sorkin needs to get back on the drugs. They give him his power, like Popeye's spinach.

6. Rod Barajas. An excerpt from my upcoming one-act play, In Rod We Trust: The Life And Loves of Rod Barajas.

Agent: Hey Rod, I've got you a good deal from the Blue Jays!
Rod: That's great news! I'll totally sign that terms sheet!
Agent: Looks like we can put this one to bed. Yep, another successful contract negotiation for....hey wait! You signed it "Bod Rarajas."
Rod: Yeah, I had a total change of heart in the three seconds between saying I agreed to sign and when I actually signed. I'm not playing for Toronto!
Agent: Why not?
Rod: I'd be making less money than I did last year!
Agent: Do you know how hard it was to get you a contract at all? You're Rod Barajas! You're a career .240 hitter! You, to put it charitably, suck!
Rod: I don't care! See you on the flip side, you unsupportive bastard! You're fired! I'm going to hire Jerry Maguire!
Agent: He's a fictional character! God...I knew I should've stuck to managing that car wash.

And, scene.

5. Parking. I was up at the university tonight (more on this later), and since it was raining, I argued Dave into parking right by the Grad Club instead of walking across campus from a free lot. We ended up parking in the MIT building lot, where it cost over seven dollars for a mere two hours of parking. Seven dollars. It was like I paid for a movie ticket to a film called "Parking." Actually, according to IMDB, there was a movie called 'Parking' released in 1985. It was a French remake of Orpheus, except it was a musical and set in a parking garage. That doesn't sound like something I'd pay seven dollars to go see!

4. American college football. Man, all of those tempting possibilities for championship games and we end up with boring old Ohio State vs. USC? I was looking forward to seeing, like, Michigan and Rutgers battle for the title. Myself and some of the Gazette guys have been having a good old-fashioned e-mail debate over the last few days about the NCAA football system, and the overwhelming feeling is that the NCAA are idiots for not having playoffs. Yeah, I know, not the most original thought, but man, the masses have spoken.

3. Trivia. Ok, so more on that parking thing. For the last month, I've been competing in a team trivia event at the Grad Club with Dave Lee and some of his pals from the MLIS program. I'm technically not an MLIS student, of course, but 'ringer' is such a harsh word. Anyway, our team, Murph and the Orillia Stranglers, have won all three weeks that we've competed as a unit. Wednesday, however, our streak finally ended when we finished in third place. Frustratingly, for several of our wrong answers, we actually had discussed the right answers but overthought things and went for different options. It was a bitter pill to swallow. In our defense, we were beaten by a team of 10 people (while we just had five) and a team that included two guys that had to be pushing 70. We did pretty well considering we were outnumbed two-to-one and outnumbered in life experience by about two decades to one. So pour one for us dead homies, Team Murph. It brought back fond memories for me of the time I played Reach For The Top in high school, except this time, our opponents weren't all nerds.

Voice of Reason: Yeah, it was just the opponents who were the nerds.

Shut up, Voice of Reason!

2. Glenn Beck. Boy, do I hate this guy. Did CNN Headline News look at their lineup and say. "Hmm, what we need is a little more Fox News-esque brain-dead conservatism. It's time to Beck it up!" My favourite Glenn Beck moment is a tie between the time accused the movie Happy Feet of being "leftist environmental propaganda," and the time he said to a Muslim congressman "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way." That's some great journalism. Tune in tomorrow, when Glenn attacks Bambi for giving the NRA a bad name, and when he asks Lance Bass to take an AIDS test before appearing on the show.

1. Bears! Namely, the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots. Had they managed to make their 17-13 nailbiter on Sunday just a wee bit closer (i.e. within three points either way), I would've won 64 bucks on ProLine. After the Bears got a crucial interception within the last two minutes, I said "My fate is in the hands of Rex Grossman." On literally the next play, Grossman threw an interception and the Pats got the ball back to ice the game. God. Remember last year, when (the admittedly pretty bad) Kyle Orton had led the Bears to something like a 9-1 record but the coach switched to Grossman because he felt he was an upgrade at quarterback? The Bears are 9-2 now, and Grossman is playing like my 85-year-old grandma. Actually, my grandma just had cataract surgery, so even she could spot receivers better than Grossman can. I think it's time to give Orton another shot. OR-TON! OR-TON! OR-TON! No, I'm not just bitter because Grossman cost me money! OR-TON! OR-TON! OR-TON!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Wind It Up

I'm curious as to the origins of Gwen Stefani's new song. It has to be a case where Gwen lost some type of bet to one of the No Doubt guys, with the stakes being that the loser had to craft a song out of the lamest sample possible and release it as a single. I'll bet ND guy predicted the Democrats would win both houses of Congress, while Gwen just predicted them to win the House. Yeah, I'm sure that was it.

Anyway, the No Doubt guy picked the Sound of Music riff, since by this point, he and his bandmates have to be openly trying to sabotage Gwen's solo career. Gwen grits her teeth and brings in Pharrell to try and salvage a few corn niblets from this turd, but nothing doing. You win this round, No Doubt bandmember. For those scoring at home, this makes it Gwen 52984, Rest of No Doubt 2.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Commentary on DVD commentaries

There are few things as consistently shitty in movies (I want to say in life, but that's a pretty broad spectrum) than DVD commentaries. For all of the time that studios put into DVD releases nowadays, why do most commentaries seem to have the applied effort of a hungover physics student writing a practical exam? The directors-actors-writers rarely have interesting things to say, there are more awkward pauses than during one of my dates, and there is an odd air of tension over the proceedings. It's almost as if you can feel the fact that most of the people would rather be doing anything than recording commentary about a movie that they may or may not hate or have become totally sick of after having it consume their lives for months at a time. When something is so dull that a filmmaker or actor (the most egotistical creatures known to man) doesn't want to talk about themselves, you know you have a loser.

Notable exception to this rule: Roger Ebert. His commentary on Citizen Kane is about as good as the movie itself. Apparently, Ebert has given lectures where he and an audience have literally broken down Kane shot-for-shot over a period of a few days, so the man knows his shit. Hopefully he continues his practice after his body recovers from exploding.

Anyway, notable moments in the history of the DVD commentary....

* Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David's commentaries for Seinfeld, which are disappointing to the extreme. If you took a shot every time one of them went "Which episode is this?" or "Oh, this was a good one," you'd be dead. The Seinfeld commentaries are somewhat redeemed by the cast commentaries, which feature Michael Richards saying maybe three words in total, and all in somewhat crush-esque praise of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Good thing she's not black, or else Richards would've apparently had more to say. I always thought Kramer's puffy hair was shaped like a Klan mask.

* The Coen Brothers had a 'film historian' do an Ebert-style commentary track on their movie Blood Simple that simply made everything up. For example, "the opening scene was shot upside down with the actors reading their lines backwards, then everything was switched in post-production."

* Any time the cast or crew gets drunk while doing the commentary. Proud examples of this include Boogie Nights, Eurotrip, and Stifler and Ashton Kutcher during Dude, Where's My Car?

* Bob Odenkirk and David Cross recorded a commentary on their commentary for the Mr. Show DVDs. Their commentary-commentary almost entirely consisted of comments like "Boy, that was an insightful fact, Dave!" "Thanks Bob!"

* The Simpsons' DVD commentaries by Matt Groening and various writers and actors. These are so wonderful and so clearly show that these people love and respect their work that I can't believe Simpsons has been so dull for the last 5-6 years.

* Speaking of the Simpsons, Seth Macfarlane did a set of Family Guy commentaries entirely as Stewie and Brian.

* Any Kevin Smith DVD commentary, since the whole thing breaks down into he and his cast just ripping on each other. I love Kevin Smith. I think I would pay into the three figures for him, Jason Mewes, Jason Lee and company to record a series of commentaries for a Ben Affleck box set.

* The commentary for This Is Spinal Tap. The three guys do the commentary in-character, claiming that Marty DiBergi (director of the documentary-within-the-film, played by actual director Rob Reiner) intentionally made them look silly, and that scenes were taken out of context. Of course, their explanations of these contexts is even funnier.

CON: When you add someone to your friends list, you're somewhat obligated to add a detail about how you know them, and Facebook provides a list of about a dozen options. These options are both broad and limiting at the same time. For example, you could use the 'I went to college with so-and-so' for everyone, since the majority of Facebookers are your fellow students. Some people who are closer friends take up literally 9-10 of the options. The trick is finding the one thing to essentially sum up your relationship with a person when you have a couple of possible options. It could be social destruction to choose the wrong thing.

For example, say an ex lists you as friends through 'college' or 'we travelled to Mexico together' or 'we were both in the band.' Totally ignoring the 'we used to date' option. What do you make of this? A purposeful revision of the past? A desire to remember the good times rather than the bad? One could drive themselves mad wondering about the possibilities. Or, they could learn the answer to those questions and more by turning in next week on Soap.

Then again, this is assuming people care who's on their Facebook friends list. I have people I can't stand, people I have met maybe once, and people I've never met on my friends list just because I'm too much of a wuss to delete them or deny the claim. There should be a second layer of Facebook relationship -- can't some people be acquaintances, instead of full-blown friends? This will come back to hurt someone in a court case some day.

"Ok, Mr. Jones, you claimed you didn't know the victim very well. Then why were you on his Facebook Friends list?!"
"I swear, I met him once at a party! We talked for maybe five minutes!"
"Did you talk about stabbing him to death with a sharpened copy of a Boyz II Men album?"
"No, I swear!"
"Aha! 'I Swear' is a Boyz II Men track! I rest my case!"

PRO: Ever since Facebook decided to add 100 new features that turned the site from a nice way to catch up with people into a semi-creepy stalker site, I must admit it's made it very easy to keep track of people's lives. I'll admit it -- I'm very self-absorbed. I can't remember the particulars of your damn life. I can barely remember if I'm wearing boxer shorts or not. p.s. At the moment? Not. (pajama bottoms)

The most useful part is the relationship tracker. When a person is dating someone else, they can announce it to the world with 'So-and-so is in a relationship,' complete with a little heart icon. You can also make it say who you're specifically in a relationship with, though I've always been suspicious of the folks who don't do this. The probable reason is that they simply want to keep some privacy (what suckers), or their partner doesn't have a Facebook account, but my conspiracy theory is that it's a good way to weed out who is secretly unhappy with their dating life. Doesn't this sound like the kind of tiny thing that often sets off huge fights between couples?

"Hey, why don't you say you're in a relationship with me? I have a Facebook account."
"I dunno."
"What, are you ashamed of dating me?"
"What? No, I just didn't put it."
"Oh, what, you're really mad about this?"

And....scene. I sure used the word 'what' a lot. I'm like Steve Austin circa 2001.

Anyway, when a relationship ends, Facebook is ready for that too. The caption goes up "So-and-so is no longer in a relationship," complete with a hilariously blunt little broken-heart icon. On the plus side, this means I can keep track of who's dating who so I can avoid those unfortunate moments when I ask how someone's relationship is going, only to find out they broke up weeks ago. Publicly displaying one's painful emotional separation may be traumatic and embarassing, but look on the bright side -- at least it spares me some minor awkwardness.

NOT SURE IF IT IS A PRO OR CON: Back to the relationship status again. You can pick if you're dating, or if you're single. This should be enough, but there's also a broader range for what you're "looking for." This is normally fine and would be a pro, but then I found out my little cousin is into 'random play.' Good lord.