Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sick Days and the Bad Television We Endure During Them

I took a sick day today. I slept through the hour that has been my favorite sick day activity since I was eleven: watching The Price Is Right. Darn! Instead I confirmed a suspision that I’ve always had about us not missing anything important on television while we’re at work. Here are three things I watched.

1) I watched a portion of Tyra Banks’ talk show in which she was interviewing legal prostitutes from The Bunny Ranch in Nevada. You would think I could watch this for hours, but Tyra somehow managed to make hookers boring. I couldn’t help but think that the only difference between these girls and Tyra is that she is slightly prettier. I’m pretty sure that any one of these hookers could catch up to her level of interviewing skills in a matter of minutes. The picture I used was from a show in which Tyra put the rumors about her breasts being fake to bed by having a live sonogram! The uncertainty was keeping me up at night, so I’m glad that’s resolved once and for all.

2) I then watched a few Michael Jackson videos. He was a good-looking guy, remember? What in God’s name did he do to his face? What surgeon went through with those wacked-out surgeries? Wouldn’t he/she be like, “Yeah, Mike, we could make you look really goofy like that, but maybe God put cartilage in our noses for a reason. You know, so our noses don’t look like a deflated balloon. Um, yeah, we could make your face look like a Michael Myers mask from the movie Halloween pulled back way too tight, but let me show you a few of our more subtle alterations . . . ?” Didn’t he have friends to talk him out of that stuff? I wonder if he was showing photos to his buddies, and being like, “Yeah, in just two weeks I’ll look like THIS?” Maybe when your friends are Elizabeth Taylor, Emanuel Lewis (TV’s Webster), and Bubbles the chimp, who I heard he stabbed routinely with a pen or something, perhaps one needs more rational friends. Where was the ever-level-headed Tito when these decisions were being made? That was a perfect opportunity for him to throw his weight around (see photo).

3) Right when I was about to put my sloppy joe away and go back to bed, I heard an intriguing song on BET. The close ups revealed that it was a new Prince song called Black Sweat, in which he says “workin’ up a black sweat.” God, that’s a great chorus! The song and video were overtly sexual, like "Get Off" or "Pussy Control," but it was very much with the times while staying true to his James Brown and Sly inspired funk/R&B roots. I immediately downloaded it, legally of course.

Well, tomorrow I’ll be back at the old salt mine, my dad would say, so Tyra, the hookers, Michael, Tito, Bubbles, and TAFKAP (The Artist Formerly Known as Prince) will have to get by without me.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Is It Wrong for 3 Straight Men to Watch Flashdance, and What's Worse, Enjoy it?

My friend from L.A. was in town this weekend, and a bunch of us went out. We had entirely too many libations and we were talking about old times. The next day we were all useless, and more than ever aware of how a hangover is much more severe in your late twenties than it was in our seemingly invincible early twenties. This led us to sit around all day watching movies in lazy boys, like a bunch of, well, lazy boys. One movie we watched was Annie Hall. That is an unbelievably influential movie to the point where filmmakers don’t even realize they’re ripping it off. Great movie, but it’s not the one I’m blogging about today. Hell, we didn’t even finish that movie. The one that we left on for its entirety was Flashdance.

Yes, she is a welder by day and a semi-erotic dancer by night, with aspirations of becoming a dancer on Broadway, or whatever. She is, in fact, “just a steel town girl on a Saturday night,” etc, etc. The movie does follow the token 80’s, and let’s face it, almost every movie’s formula of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy blows it somehow, boy gets girl back, roll credits. While the film does follow this horribly predictable formulaic pattern, it manages to be memorable through the visuals. Watch the scene when Jennifer Beals is wearing a sexy-ass, sleeveless, tuxedo number, eating what appears to be a shrimp cocktail in a seductive manner, and all the while touching his junk under the table with her fishnet stockinged foot. I defy you not to get a little frisky in that scene.

It’s not even just the fact that she’s smoking hot in the movie, which she is, but she is so damned captivating somehow. She has that hint of craziness (see breaking a window in his house at the slightest sign of infidelity, running away from him for no good reason, taking her bra off through her shirt, asking him to close his eyes and “feel the music,” getting out of his Porsche under a bridge with traffic going both ways and walking down the middle of the street.) I don’t know about you, guys, but I like a little hint of crazy. I don’t like them too crazy, but you have to admit that a little bit of crazy can be fun and interesting, and it often translates into “the sack.” Did I just say “the sack?” How old am I?

I have no idea what the character’s name is! That may have something to do with the fact that we were talking throughout the whole thing, but the fact is the dialogue isn’t important in the movie – it’s the visuals. Hey, why not have her and her friend stop and watch some breakdancing for what seemed like way too long? While we’re at it, why not have her do an artsy-fartsy dance in kabuki theatre makeup with strobe lights blasting while she runs into the walls? Was she a meth-addicted performance artist? Would people really come to that dirty bar to watch performance art? Wouldn’t they yell for her to take it off, etc? Oh no, these working class, Pittsburgh natives just sip their beers and applaud her efforts. There is one scene where she tapes up her feet and proceeds to dance alone in her apartment, but the dancing appears to be more accurately running in place, and more exercised based than anything else. The amount of sweat shooting off her curly hair is ridiculous (see photo)! I think I may need to switch to running in place dancing in my apartment to fill the cardio component of my workouts. Great looking scene though, and it is when we hear Michael Sembello’s Maniac, which had to be rewritten due to the fact that it was originally a song about a serial killer. You didn’t think I’d get through this blog without a tid-bit of obscure music knowledge, did you? Anyway, there are tons of bazaar, visual based scenes that aren’t realistic, and they don’t really move the story along, but it’s a lot of fun to watch somehow.

What is really sad is that because Jennifer Beals is so damned captivating in the movie, the character grows on you to the point where you really do want her to nail that audition at the end. I felt a little gay when I got the chills right when she puts the record on and What a Feeling by Irena Cara kicks in. I felt even gayer when faced with the realization that I was guarding the remote all day, and perhaps a little more into this movie than my friends, but that’s a realization I don’t care to delve into right now. Moving on, she falls down at first, but she asks to start over. That’s when she wins those judges over. Maybe it was going judge-to-judge, spinning around pointing right in their faces, or the 80’s-out fist pumping while backpedaling, but I contend that when she goes into that tight, fast, breakdancing backspin she really won their hearts. We don’t know for sure if she passed the audition, but it doesn’t matter. The way she goes running out of there, looking like she’s on top of the world, with her boss boyfriend, the foreman or whatever at the steel plant, who has put a bow on her pit bull and brought flowers, you know that either she passed the audition or she simply knows that she has wowed those judges and she doesn’t care what the result is. That’s all the viewer needs to know, so it is at this time that they do the cheesy freeze frame and the film concludes, with all of us, or maybe just me, feeling a little happier than we were before investing that hour and a half. “What a feeling,” indeed. God, I wanted to delete that lame sentence, but it’s too funny, so I’m going to leave you with that: “What a Feeling,” indeed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It's a Sad Day When You Find Yourself Alone Watching American Idol

Watching American Idol alone is like watching someone fall down in glorious fashion with their grocieries spraying in all different directions, and having nobody around to laugh with. All my roommates were out tonight, and I felt like watching this show, despite not watching the last three weeks or so. I really did try to get into it alone, but I found it difficult. So, since I had no one to share my comments with, I will now bore my 7 readers with my impressions of the 15 minutes of Idol I saw tonight. Here is what I wished I could have shared with someone an hour or two ago:

1. I need more witnesses to the fact that I consistently have the same view as Simon, before I hear him comment, even when his opinion differs from the other two judges. Does this mean I’m an amazing judge of talent or just an amazing asshole? Matching his ear would be great, but if I could approach his assholeness, I’d die a happy man.

2. If someone does a spot-on impression of Randy Jackson in the middle of the forest, and no one hears it, did it really happen, and was it really that money? Well, yes, it is that money, but not much fun to do alone. “I don’t know, dogg (even when he’s talking to a girl), it was a little pitchy.” Funny, pitchy came up on spell check. You know why? Because it’s not a flipping word! Well, neither is assholeness, which I used in the last bullet-point, but that’s just for effect. “I don’t know dude (still talking to a girl), I just wasn’t feeling it . . .” Randy, if by feeling it you meant the nausea, I was feeling it in spades this evening, and that’s what I love about the show, when you have COMPANY. The queasiness alone serves no purpose, but shared discomfort can be a riot, you know?

3. I need someone to share the beauty of Paula Abdul’s public breakdown. I don’t know what her story is, but sometimes she is high as a kite, hugging everyone, and the next minute she is super crabby and wanting to kill Simon. He is SO GOOD at pushing her buttons. He does it effortlessly. She is so sedated sometimes that you can sense Randy and Simon’s uneasiness. I used to love how she was in the business of being nice to people instead of actually providing any valuable input. Even if she had nothing nice to say about the singing she’d say, “You look beautiful.” What the hell does that have to do with anything? All of a sudden this season she’s a tough critic. She must have taken all the criticism about being overly nice to heart, so she’s suddenly become a hardass. Well, guess what Paula: I don’t think your input on singing ever held too much validity. She was a good dancer, a good choreographer, a good Laker Girl, she even provided a good cameo in the Nasty Girls video by Janet Jackson, but she was never a good singer. “I don’t know, dogg, Forever Your Girl was a little pitchy . . .”

4. Have you seen the terrible montage segments when they show the contestants out on the town together and they’re all singing? I want to meet the person that gets done watching that little slice of hell and is glad they watched it. You know what, this is the part of the show in which more than any other time one needs a partner in crime to endure the discomfort. Watching that without throwing out comments to someone is impossible. Luckily, one of those segments did not come on during the course of my watching, but if it had, I may have had to run downstairs and grab one of my neighbors to watch with me, preferably not the guy that unknowingly lent me his bicycle that I in turn rode to work . . .

The good news is my roommates came home in time to watch some Winter Olympics with me. The feud between the Black and white American speed skaters was a lot of fun, but I’d much rather have had someone to marvel in my ability to match Simon’s keen ear, to be astounded at my ability to mimic Randy, to share in the joy of watching a public breakdown, and to watch in disgust at the perfect excecution of a stomach churning, musical montage.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Dick Vernon: An Innovator

I am working a Saturday Detention as I type this blog. I got thinking about The Breakfast Club. I was in grade school and junior high when I watched that movie for my first through forty-first time, and I so looked forward to being like John Bender and getting Saturday Detentions every weekend! Sadly, I was more like Brian Johnson, and much like him, I was a dork, and I only had one Saturday detention. My Saturday detention was nowhere near as cool as in the movie. It was me and like 3 other kids, and we were watched over closely by the dean. In the movie, Dick Vernon leaves the room. Leaves the room!!! Can you imagine? It’s not like anything bad happened, right? Well, I guess the kids did GET HIGH!! How did he not smell that? Also, John Bender climbed up onto the ceiling and crawled around in the rafters, but that’s not dangerous, right? I wonder if I should take the Dick Vernon approach . . .

I have seven middle school kids in here. It is a library, like the Breakfast Club, but we don’t have the modern art sculpture as a centerpiece, complete with bologna stuck to it. I made sure to put them all at individual tables with each of their smiling faces facing me. They have to raise their hands if they want anything, and then I come over to them to see what it is they want. I let them know at the start that there are scheduled bathroom breaks, so don’t ask me if you can use the washroom. It appears as if Dick Vernon and I differ in our styles. I am also yet to use the pull the kid into a private room and dare them to punch you in your face technique, but maybe I’m just not being open-minded enough. We have little packets of busy-work for them to do, so that they can’t use this as an opportunity to catch up on work, and so we have a standard measure of how much they complete. Dick went with the essay of “no less than 1,000 words.” That’s always good too, but aren’t they going to have to come back next Saturday since Brian Johnson wrote all of their essays? Well, four of them hooked up with each other, and they got high, so why WOULDN’T they want to come back the following week? Wait, four of them hooked up, so that leaves Brian Johnson as the lone guy not to hook up, AND he had to do everyone’s homework. Wow, he was a lot like me in high school.

Sincerely Yours,

The Breakfast Club

(Cue the Simple Minds track. As a kid I always thought that was Billie Idol. The singer really sounds like him. I had a soccer picture in button form from when I was around 8 in which the wind was causing my blond hair to blow and my face to contort, both of which led me to look just like Vital Idol! I have to find that picture and post it . . . )

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Chronic Case of Guitar Envy

I have a chronic case of guitar envy. I think I’ve had this affliction ever since I made a guitar out of cardboard and played along to “Save a Prayer,” of all songs, by Duran Duran when I was like 7.

It is a really irritating disease because I come up with these unbelievable ideas, but I have never even come close to mustering up the ambition to pick up a guitar and try to learn one God damned note. One idea I just had was a version of Without You by Badfinger. You know, it would start out all slow, acoustic, heartfelt, and puss-rocked out like:

Well I can’t forget this evening
And your face when you were leaving
But I guess that’s just the way the story goes
You always smile but in your eyes your sorrow shows
Yes it shows

Well I can’t forget tomorrow
When I think of all my sorrow
I had you there, then I let you go
And now it’s only fair that I should let you know
What you should know . . .

(Then the drum fill kicks in, the guitars get all crunchy and loud, and the singer starts SCREAMING!)

I can’t live!
If living is without you!
Can’t live!
Can’t give anymore!

(Then I think maybe the singer should curse through the chorus like this):

You’re a bitch!
You’re a dirty, stinking bitch!
You’re a bitch!
You scum-sucking bitch!

Jeez, this Idea sounded way better until I wrote it out. Well, I still think if you REALLY sold it, then it could bring the house down. My little imaginary band in my head is doing an extended jam version of this number right now live at the Empty Bottle. I’m the guy stage right, rocking the cardboard Stratocaster with my hair all teased up like Andy Taylor.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

I Never Met a Zombie I Didn't Like

Was it Roy Rogers who said, “I never met a zombie I didn’t like?” I tend to agree. If a flesh eating zombie were gnawing at my arm right now as I type, I’d be in excruciating pain and scared for my life, and scared that I too would become a zombie and try to eat my roommates, but I couldn’t help but look down at his glazed over eyes and rotting flesh and I’d smile.

I can’t say for sure when my love affair with zombies started, but I’m sure it had to do with watching Night of the Living Dead on PBS every Halloween. There was something about watching those people run away from zombies and bash them in the heads with blunt objects that made me want to have a gaggle of them after me. I think it has to do with the fact that due to their dimwitted nature and lack of speed and agility, I can’t help but think I’d stand a chance against them. If Freddy Krueger wanted to kill me, he’d have no problem. He has all kinds of super powers and trickery. However, I believe since I’m still relatively young and in decent shape, I think I could hold out for quite some time with numerous flesh eating zombies after me, and I might even take a few down with me.

I thought about these lovable silver screen stars when I was watching Sean of the Dead the other day. I went into my kitchen to get something, it could have been peanuts, my roommate’s Captain Crunch, it’s not important right now, but I was hoping against hope that as I turned the corner I’d be face to face with a real life zombie! Because I’ve watched enough of these movies to know that the only way to kill one is to get to their brains, I was thinking I’d take the thing that screws in the paper towel roll in the paper towel holder and I’d stick it dead center into his forehead. At least I think that would do the trick. Well, until that glorious day when I see my first zombie, and he meets his end with a perfectly delivered paper towel thingy, I’ll have to settle for the movie versions. Here’s my favorite zombie flicks.

1. 28 Days Later: This was directed by the guy who directed Trainspotting, so it’s almost like a zombie art film! I can watch this movie 100 times. It’s very well done.

2. Night of the Living Dead: You can’t go wrong with the original. The acting is SO BAD, but I heard the people weren’t even actors. Kudos to the bald guy who repeatedly insists on trying to talk everyone into going into the cellar with his zombie daughter. Great idea!

3. Dawn of the Dead (The remake): As much I love the slow moving, groaning zombies of yester year, I have to admit that the updated fast as hell ones, like in 28 Days and Dawn of the Dead, are much scarier. Watch the scene when they’re pointing out zombies that look like celebrities and picking them off from the rooftop.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Big Bangs, The Environment, and Republicans: The Oneness

I wake up every day to 780 AM, a local Chicago radio station that I stumbled on. They do a hell of a job at shooting through the news stories and not annoying me, which is good, because I’m VERY easily in annoyed in the morning. It’s a super station, but it’s not the station I’m writing about; it’s the content on this particular morning.
The DJ, or newscaster, or whatever you want to call him, was saying that the economy has been boosted in recent months due to an increase in shopping, believed to be because of the warmer weather. This is an equation that Republicans have to love: A rise in global warming causes a spike in the economy. Wow! Republicans are typically apathetic, perhaps even adversarial, when it comes to the environment, so this seems like a win-win situation for them.

Hold on! Don’t leave me yet, readers. I’m not usually political in my writing. I’d say it’s more focused on writing on all things useless. Now comes the useless, absurd part that you’ve grown accustomed to. Would if Republicans dropped the “War on Terror” and launched a campaign called, “The War on the Environment.” The first strike would be, naturally, a long overdue, direct assault on the ominous, shopping reducing ozone layer. The CIA would fly out to New Jersey to round up all the girls that swore by “jersey hair,” which is the style in which they tease their hair 1 foot in the air. God, I’m glad I was only in junior high at the time this was big, so that I never had to sleep with a girl rocking this God-awful look. If I could post pictures with my crappy internet, I’d find a picture for you by digging out my junior high yearbook, openning up a page at random, and blindly pointing. Odds are I would hit a girl with at least a foot of bangs straight up in the air donning a NKOTB shirt. If you don’t know who NKOTB is, all I’ll say is, they are no longer “hanging tough,” nor were they at the time in my estimation. My advanced sense of humor buddy wore a “Nuke Kids on the Block” shirt with a big mushroom cloud. Tom, big ups to you and your 12-year-old inner child for having the juevos to wear that to school, knowing that you’d piss off all the hottest girls who were in love with Jordan, Donny, and the rest of NKOTB. Perhaps Tom, like me, just didn’t find that hair attractive. Personally, it was all I could do not to reach over and crack a fistful of the straw-like hair in two. Not to be mean, just because once I got the thought in my head, I couldn’t get it out.

Yikes! Mammoth tangent. Back to the CIA and “Operation Jersey Girls.” These jersey girls, thinking that style of hair would be en vogue forever, and now hoping against hope that the style would come back, still have cases of Aqua Net in the basement of their mom’s house, where many of them still live. The CIA would, through threats of releasing tapes of their shocking behavior backstage at a 1990 Poison show, coerce them all into driving to an open field at 4 am and spraying ALL of their Aqua Net into the air. The CIA would provide the biggest fan known to man to blow it directly at that ozone layer, delivering the crushing blow that will lead us all to shop until we drop, and drop we will when we all get skin cancer and die, but we’ll look great in our Speedo’s, which will come back into fashion due to necessity, and the economy will be rock solid. Sting, if you’re reading, stop this nightmare from becoming a reality! Better yet, just shut up and get The Police back together before you’re too old and embarrassing.

The Eighth Samurai

My mom sent me the following article from the Chicago Tribune:

Cops probe series of N. Side robberies

Tribune staff reports

February 9, 2006, 9:09 AM CST

Police are investigating a number of strong-arm robberies on the city's
North Side.

The crimes occurred in the evenings and weekends between Jan. 21 and
Feb. 3 mostly in the Lakeview neighborhood, in an area bounded by
Lawrence Avenue on the north, Diversey Parkway on the south, Lake Shore Drive
on the east and Damen Avenue on the west, police said.

The robbers are working in teams of two or more, jumping victims from
behind, striking them on the head and in the face, knocking them to the
ground, police said.

The suspects demand victims' wallets and bankcard PINs, and have fled
on foot or in a white Pontiac, police said.
Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune


Granted this is a HUGE stretch of real estate, so the odds of getting robbed by these thugs are a little slim, but I was a little scared when I read it. I have done many walks home alone and thought nothing of it. However, there was one night . . .

I was at the Liar’s Club. It was just my roommate and I out. We got talking to some girls, and then there was a stretch of time when the lone semi-attractive one was chatting with the two of us. I got thinking, well, he’s in a bigger slump than me, I’m certainly not into anything that would involve the BOTH of us, So, I was looking to pull a Houdini, and let him have this one. I know there is a definition of a Houdini that has to do with an act that no man has actually ever done in the same vain as The Donkey Punch, but that’s not the definition I’m talking about. The one I’m referring to is when you duck out of a bar without saying goodbye to anyone. This is done for various reasons:
1) You don’t want people trying to talk you into staying.
2) You want to disappear because there is someone at the bar you don’t want to see
3) Your friends are all hooking up and you’d rather just disappear without making an issue of your absence.

This night was a Class 3 Houdini. All my close friends have done this on at least one occasion. As a guy, I think it’s fine, but women tend not to do this because of safety issues. This is when you come across some Gate Keepers, but that’s a whole other blog entry. Anyway, I’m walking home alone up Ashland thinking I’m perfectly safe. For whatever reason, be it drunkenness, tiredness, depression, or some combination of all of them, I was walking with my head down. Just through my sense of hearing, I knew there were some drunken 20-somethings approaching, but I didn’t lift my head to acknowledge them. Before I knew it, I heard an ungodly war cry, which caused me to look up, as anyone would when they hear an ungodly war cry, and at that time I saw an angry-faced psychotic drunk swinging a samurai sword in my face. What could I do? I screamed like a girl and said, “Jesus Christ you scared the shit out of me!” as I kept walking. His friends continued to walk away, laughing, while angry-faced psychotic drunk (AFPD) just pivoted, all the while maintaining his angry face and pointing his sword at me as I walked away.

Well, needless to say it scared the bajeezes out of me, but at least I didn’t get beaten into giving up my wallet and ATM code. Well, mom, if you’re reading, I promise to take a cab from now on. But, if I happen to be heading up Ashland in my cab, and I see AFPD, I will be left with no choice but to exit my cab, “striking (strike) them (him) in the head and in the face, knocking them (him) to the ground. He can keep his “wallets (wallet), “bankcard PINs”, and “White Pontiac.” I may have to take his sword so that this doesn’t ever happen to anyone again! Well, after the 2 or 3 people I do it to on the walk home . . .