Archive for March, 2011

Mitch Hedberg

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    Here’s the deal.  I don’t like turtlenecks.  I find them very constricting.  For the same reason, I don’t wear rings, or watches, or bind myself with rubber bands.  I like elastic, shoes that are one size too big and any piece of clothing that flows.  One of my favorite stand-up comics and fellow turtleneckaphobe may have put it best…

    “Wearing a turtleneck is like being strangled by a really weak guy, all day long,” Mitch Hedberg.

    I also don’t much care for the way they look.  If you wear a turtleneck it looks like a fabric python is swallowing you whole and only your cranium remains undigested.  I will say that the turtleneck looks better on women than men…but, then again, what doesn’t?  (How is it fair that women look better in both their clothes and ours?  It’s very discouraging).

    And how is it that turtlenecks have remained popular lo these many years?  We’re talking about an article of clothing that blatantly tries to make you look more like a turtle.  When, in the history of humanity, has one human being ever turned to another and said, “I wish I looked more like a turtle…specifically in the neck area.” 

Unfolded turtleneck

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    Plus, I can’t quite get away from the image that a turtleneck wearer projects.  Especially the hefty, turtleneck sweaters.  I just feel like that guy is about to stir his hot cider with a stick of cinnamon, turn up the jazz fusion, aimlessly adjust the logs in the fire, and note how a couple of throw pillows might really brighten up the cabin.   

    I mean, there is such a thing as too cozy.  

    So, how am I going to do it?   How will I defeat this confounding, confining clothing?  One word – scissors.

   Maybe I can even make some money off the deal.  Leg warmers were all the rage in the 80’s.  Maybe if I start severing every turtleneck I encounter, I can sell the remnants as neck warmers.  This could be big.  Snuggie big.  Of course, my neck warmers will be just as choking as they were when attached to the sweater.  But at least this way I can make a buck.  Heck, if everyone else secretly wants to look more like our reptilian friends, maybe I’ll even expand my business… 

    Terrapinstripe suit, anyone?


    Here’s the deal.  Vampires used to be creepy.  The last thing you’d want to meet in a dark alley.  Worthy of our fear.  Dracula was not huggable.  No one ever produced pink, I Love Vlad the Impaler hoodies.  Throngs of teenage girls never swooned over Nosferatu.

Shadow of Count Orlock, in the film Nosferatu

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     And vampires were never moody.

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been adapted for the screen over 170 times (including ‘93’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and it’s gradually been so watered down, that today’s vampires are hardly recognizableVampires were blood-thirsty killers.  Cannibals.  Parasites.  Sure, there was a certain allure – a dangerous charisma, but at the end of the day, it was all about survival, and that meant sucking you dry…not helping you get over your teenage angst.

    Bottom line – vampires should never sigh.

    I’ve never seen or read Twilight, but here’s what I garner.  The vampires in that world aren’t particularly bothered by the sun (although it does, apparently, make them sparkly).  Wooden stakes don’t kill them.  They don’t have fangs.  And garlic, holy water and crucifixes are no big deal.  I can see why they have the time to mope, they live hundreds of years with nothing to worry about except that if they head out in the afternoon they might twinkle. 

    And it’s not just Cullen and company, it seems like all the blood suckers these days spend less time looking for a good meal and more time looking for a good therapist. 

    Come on, if you’re a vampire, and you’re immortal, how you know when to have your mid-life crisis?  How can you spend so much time being reflective if you don’t even have a reflection?    And since when do vampires keep diaries?  (“Dear Diary…After agonizing over the state of the world all morning, I went out this afternoon and just glimmered.”)

Gary Oldman as Dracula in his geriatic form.

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    Some die-hard fans will argue that these are re-envisioned vampires – different and special in their own way.  I’ve seen the New Moon, Half Moon, Crescent Sliver trailers – those vampires jump around like bionic kangaroos.  Those books were written by someone who didn’t know what a vampire was.  You can’t just ignore the mythology and label your characters vampires because it seems sexy.  Guess what – I just wrote a new werewolf screenplay.  All of the werewolves are middle-aged accountants and whenever they see the moon they become covered in glitter and turn into break-dancing gerbils.  It’s my re-envisioned werewolf.           

     So, how am I going to do it?   How will I transform from mild-mannered copywriter to stealthy vampire hunter?  How can I get these hunky pseudo-suckers to look and act more like Gary Oldman with hair buns?  How can I get them to stop sulking and start behaving like the glorified ticks they are?  I don’t know.  I suppose it’s just a waiting game.  The median age of vamp-lite fans is 14.3 years old.  If I can just hold on for another eight or nine years, they’ll get it out of their system.  Besides, there’s millions of them and only one of me.  Plus, to be honest, I wasn’t that big a fan of the old vampires.  They are, literally, the lesser of two evils.  But I’ll do what I can.  Because I think we all can agree…

    These revamped vamps need to spend less time thinking, “Be positive,” and more time drinking B+.

    Here’s the deal.  It is the rare athlete that has something new to say.  Most post-game interviews are interchangeable, with the same old clichés flowing so easily that you’d think there was no other way to answer the questions.  There’s no “I” in team.  I’m really proud of our guys.  We’re just taking it one game at a time.  These are annoying, but all of these thoughts fall into the realm of possibility.  Today, however, we’re discussing the impossible – giving 110 percent.

     One hundred percent is all you can give.  That’s it.  That’s everything.  Granted, one could go out and run 110 percent as many yards as they did the game before – but they never say that.  They say that they’re going to give 110 percent.  Which you can’t do.  I’d like to see it.  “He’s having an amazing game, Jim, he’s taken 14 free throws and made 15 of them.”

    Of course I understand what they’re trying to say…but how is 100 percent not enough?  If you give 100 percent, that’s not too shabby.  I’ve never given 100 percent to anything in my life.  I’ve never surpassed the 81 percent mark.  Honestly, I don’t think there’s ever been an athlete that gave 100 percent, regardless of the sport.  Think about it.  That would mean that on every single play of the game, they ran as fast as they possible could, jumped as high as conceivable, hit the hardest they’d ever hit, etc.  I’d say that anywhere in the nineties is really impressive.

    The other problem with giving more effort than is mathematically possible, is that if you’re going to throw out a random number like 110 percent – why not go higher?  Oh, they have.  They’ve gone much higher.  In every arena.

    Here’s third baseman, Melvin Mora, after recovering from an injury, “I’m fine now.  I’m 120 percent.”  That’s impressive.  For him, “fine” is ten percent better than all of those athletes who are straining to give 110 percent.

    NFL player, Adrian McPherson, takes it up a notch, “I owe it to the organization to come in and give 150 percent and that’s what I’m going to do.”  That’s right, you owe us 30 percent more than Mora, after all, he’s coming off of an injury.

African American boxer Sugar Ray Leonard

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     In the world of boxing, Mike Trainer, Sugar Ray Leonard’s agent, said, “Every time out Ray gives 180 percent.”  (I wonder if he’s inflating the numbers because he’ll make more money as his agent…after all, ten percent of 180 percent is more than ten percent of 110 percent).

    Hall of fame basketball player Karl Malone adds his opinion, “If I can’t bring you 200 percent, from me, I can’t bring you anything.”  It’s all or nothing with this guy.  He’ll either give twice as much effort as is humanly possible or he’ll just sit there and not do a thing.

    But the numbers go higher.  A college track coach offered this nugget, “Penn traditionally has the type of kids that fight – not necessarily the stars, but they give 500 percent.”  Just incredible.  I wonder what number their stars turn in.

    Wrestler Matt Sydal takes it to the next level, “If you don’t love it and give 1,000 percent, you can’t make it.”  Normally it would take ten men to give 1,000 percent – this guy means business.

    And the highest number I could find came from the world of soccer.  Columnist Manuel Traquete wrote, “They’ll now face an extra-motivated Arsenal side who will give 10,000 percent.”

    It’s ridiculous.  Once we establish that there’s no mathematical limit to the amount of effort you can bring to your particular sport, the sky’s the limit.  Personally, I’m no longer going to watch any games unless all of the participants on both teams have agreed beforehand to give a minimum of 383,417 percent.

    Anything less is unacceptable.

    So, how am I going to do it?   How will I convince athletes (and, actually, performers, salesman, really anyone who has to bring effort to their work) around the world to follow the rules of logic?  It won’t be easy.  This thing is epidemic and growing larger every minute.  I’m going to have to focus.  I’ll have to bring my A game.  I’ll have to leave it all on the field. 

    I’ll have to give 82 percent.

    Here’s the deal.  Over the past six months, I’ve done an informal study.  It turns out that 61% of people who are driving in front of me do not know how to properly operate their turn signals. 

    We have a lot of traffic in Los Angeles.  But, unlike other big cities, the drivers here tend to be less aggressive.  A more mellow group.  So laid back, in fact, that they often over-relax and slow down and make turns without necessarily letting everyone behind them know that this had been their plan all along.  We’re mellow, but we’re self-obsessed – and it’s about time we thought about the drivers that aren’t us…it’s time to start signaling.

    So, let’s review. 

Vehicle with its left directional signal activ...

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     If you’re going to be piloting a motor vehicle, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get where you need to go without turning to either the left or right at some point in time.  Therefore, it will behoove us all to learn how to properly utilize our blinkers.

    Step one, locate the lever on the left side of your steering column.  Found it?  Good.

    Step two, to signal a left turn, apply gentle pressure to the lever in a downward fashion.  If, however, you desire a turn to the right, you will need to push the lever upward.

    Do not be alarmed by the small, flashing green arrow that will now appear on your dashboard.  Similarly, do not concern yourself with the soft clicking sound.  These are merely indications of a job well done.  That’s right, friend, you’ve just successfully used your turn signals.  Congratulations.

    It’s not hard to do.

    And it’s so much more effective than the choice of drivers I encounter – simply veering suddenly to the right or left.  I’m not a prognosticator.  Let me know where you’re planning to go.  If you’re at someone’s house for the first time and need to use the restroom, you don’t just suddenly run off in search of a bathroom without telling anyone (unless you’re really in need of a restroom).  No, you ask if you might use the facilities and then proceed in the correct direction.  This social nicety is you using your interpersonal blinkers – I’m merely requesting that you have the same manners while driving.

    So, how am I going to do it?   How will I defeat the inconsiderate drivers who turn without warning?  First, I need to get us all to agree that it’s probably best to minimize surprises while driving.  If you’re planning a surprise party, you ought not all hide in the backseat of the birthday boy’s car and then jump out and yell “Surprise!” while he’s merging on to the freeway.  You know that can of peanuts that is actually a coiled, spring snake waiting to pop out at the unlucky sap who’s looking for a snack?  You probably shouldn’t hand that to Grandma while she’s passing that semi.  And you probably shouldn’t weave in and out of traffic like a drunk Etch-a-Sketcher without alerting your fellow drivers to your impending lateral movements.

    I beg of you, oh, hard-headed commuters, hear my plea.  In the past, you’ve turned a blind eye to the other drivers you’ve infuriated.  You’ve turned a deaf ear to their cries of outrage.  You’ve turned up your nose at the laws you think don’t apply to you.  But it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf.  And, what with all the turning you’ve been doing – just use your *#!%#8$!&# signal.

    Here’s the deal.  I thought I had it this year.  I thought I had the perfect bracket.  I looked it over carefully and couldn’t find a single mistake…until they started playing.

   Of course, I’m talking about March Madness – the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament.  I suppose it should come as no surprise that my bracket did not end up perfect – there are, after all, quintillions of ways to fill out your bracket.  That’s not hyperbole, by the way – just the numbers.  Now, a number sixteen has never beaten a number one, and a number two has almost never lost in the first round, so your odds are slightly better than that, but even the most generous estimates figure it’s in the seventeen billion to one range to pick every single game correctly. 

    But I started so well.  I was 100% through the new first round.  I know, it’s only eight teams.  I had a one in sixteen chance of getting them all right.  It’s no great feat.  But it was so lovely to look down at that pristine bracket, without a single error.  Now, of course, my bracket has more red ink on it than a Mike Tyson dissertation.

    My tricky eleven-over-a-three-seed pick failed to materialize.  The safe bet one over an eight went down in flames.  It took a double overtime squeaker to keep me in the running in my two-man pool.  The whole thing is a mess.

Georgetown Hoyas vs. American University

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     Then again, I didn’t watch a single college basketball game all year before this week.  I make my picks based on whether or not I know someone from that school or area, memories of how well these teams are historically (if someone says Georgetown, I think of Patrick Ewing…it’s been a while since I followed the sport), and how cool their names are (I pick Gonzaga to make the sweet sixteen every year…if I’d known there was a school called Gonzaga when I was a senior in high school I would have applied just because their moniker is so awesome).  I took Princeton to upset Kentucky because I figured they were smarter (which really speaks more to my intelligence).  I reckoned Notre Dame would lose because I envision a team of hunchbacks.  And I picked San Diego State to win it all because…okay, I have no idea why I picked San Diego State to win it all (I’m beginning to suspect that igorance might not be bliss).

    And, as a result, my bracket has more miscalculations than a chimpanzee taking a calculus exam with a broken abacus.  (As if, I suppose, a chimp with a fully-functioning abacus would ace the test).

    So, how am I going to do it?   How will I ever pick a perfect bracket?  I suppose I could do my research and make more educated predictions.  I could fill out millions of brackets to better my odds.  I could actually watch some games beforehand.  But I think my best bet is hoping that, instead of continuing to increase the number of teams in the tournament, the powers that be decide to shrink the tournament to the top eight teams.

    I’m pretty darn good when there are only eight teams.

     Here’s the deal.  Jaws: The Revenge is a very bad movie.  I enjoy knowing which movies people like and don’t like and why.  I firmly believe that intelligent people can appreciate very different movies.  But I have yet to meet anyone who thinks Jaws: The Revenge is good.

    In my humble opinion, it is the worst movie sequel ever made.

Space Jam

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    Of course, everyone has their own ideas.  I recently heard Topher Grace opine that Space Jam is perhaps the worst movie ever.  Silliness.  Space Jam is not particularly bad.  Then again, it’s hard to fully trust someone when, if you exchange the initial letters of their first and last name, they appear to be a sketcher of oversized rodents.  Am I right or am I right?

    Please, use the comment section to express opinions contrary to either those of myself or Topher, but I’ll stick with my contention.  Yes, Star Wars (The Revenge of Jar Jar) is in the running, Batman and Robin (and Schwarzenegger) is a contender and a close runner up may be Oceans Twelve (i.e. Walking Around Europe Talking), but they fall just short of snagging the honor. 

    Why is this fourth fish tale so egregious?  Because the original was such the opposite.  Jaws is one of my top ten favorite movies of all time.  Because this is not a blog about things I am in favor of, I shall not spell out the argument for this cinematic gem here, suffice to say there is nothing in the history of filmmaking that compares with the disparity between the original and the final entry.

    You want evidence?  That I can do.

    Here’s the basic plot – Ellen Brody, for fear that sharks are singling out her and her family members as entrees, retreats to the Bahamas (nice move, you’ve got shark troubles so you move to an island), where Great Whites do not live.  Or do they?   For, you see, such is the raw hatred for the Brody family among sea life that one such shark does in fact follow her all the way from New England.  The “story” tellers never bother to explain why this particular shark is out to get her.  There seems to be some vague connection to the shark her husband killed years before – maybe they were roommates in college…that’s as viable as anything this movie offers in terms of logic.  Who knows why the shark is out to get her and her family?  Who knows how the shark knows where she went?  Who knows why Michael Caine agreed to appear in this film?  The good news is, by the time you’re ten minutes into the movie, you just won’t care.

Cover of

Cover of Jaws - The Revenge


    Maybe you’d argue that it has some type of camp value.  I say good movies are allowed only one campy sequel.  Say hello to Jaws 3D.  Also quite silly, but not nearly as intellectually insulting.  And here’s the crazy thing, the fourth Jaws chose to completely ignore Jaws 3D.  Yes, they both featured the character of Michael Brody, but everything Michael did in 3 is unaccounted for in 4.  (Can you imagine if, in Toy Story 3, Woody was a Tickle Me Elmo and Buzz was a pet rock?)  And it would not have been difficult to keep the story line coherent, but the filmmakers were clearly too busy wooing Mario Van Peebles to take a gander at the movies they were basing theirs on.

    And Jaws: The Revenge has one of the most ridiculously unbelievable endings you’ll ever see.  The shark (which is roughly the size of Metallica’s tour bus) is leaping into the air like a ballet dancer and roaring.  Let’s take a moment here.  The shark is roaring.  Completely inexplicable.  One of the most bizarre choices you’ll ever see.  A shark.  That roars.  Really.  Anyway.  The vociferous beast is impaled by a boat’s bow which causes it to…you guessed it, explode.  I do believe it’s typical for a stabbing wound to cause explosion – that’s why fencers wear those face guards, they don’t want to get messy.

A frame from the sequence where the shark is d...

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     I know what you’re thinking – isn’t this movie review a few decades late?  Yes, of course you’re right.  But when it comes to 89 minutes of poorly written, poorly acted, poorly filmed, mind-numbing crap that dares to claim itself a descendant of Spielberg’s masterpiece…well, that’s worth revisiting.

    So, how am I going to do it?   How will I, a man who can barely doggy paddle, defeat Jaws: The Revenge.  I don’t need to.  It defeated itself.  There are no websites for fans of the film.  But there are dozens of people deriding it.  And rightly so.  I know I’m not nearly the first to point out the movie’s flaws, but I think it bears repeating every couple of years.  Lest our kids not learn the lesson and accidentally add it to their Netflix list.  We have suffered so that future generations may not. 

   Because this is a movie that didn’t just jump the shark…it blew it up.

Vs. Bananas

Posted: March 16, 2011 in Food
Tags: , ,

    Here’s the deal.  I bought some bananas.  You know, to eat.  When I went to bed last night, they were green and unripe.  When I woke up this morning, they were brown and mushy.  I had, apparently, slept through their eighteen-minute window of ripeness.

    Bananas are the divas of the fruit world.  “We’re not ready yet, we’re not ready yet…we were ready five minutes ago, where were you?”  I don’t care for their high maintenance attitude.  But, alas, I’m a sucker for their deliciousness.

    You know those pop-up timers that tell you when a turkey is done?  I would be a rich man if I could invent one of those for bananas.  Imagine if you could attach a device to your bananas that would immediately alert you when they were perfectly ready to eat.  It would even call your cell phone if you weren’t at home.  The banana beeper.  Unfortunately, even top scientists are daunted by the mystery of banana ripening.  And, as technologically advanced as we are, we remain at the banana’s whim.

'Cavendish' bananas are the main commercial cu...

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    And the worst part is, sometimes the bananas themselves aren’t even sure if they’re ripe.  I’ve had bananas that remain green near the stem, while the rest of the peel looks like a close up of Opie Taylor.  Or sometimes the entire fruit is brown and blemished, and yet the peel remains impossibly tough as if to warn, “Don’t open me yet, I’m not ready to eat.”  Those bananas are a fickle, freckled bunch. 

    So, how am I going to do it?   How will I deduce a way to only eat bananas at their scrumptious peak of freshness?  A little online research suggests refrigerating my yellow, tropical friends.  But if I wanted chilled banana I’d buy…I don’t know what I’d buy, but I don’t want chilled bananas.

     A little more online research indicates that I ought to separate the bananas from the bunch.  Now this makes sense.  I’ve always felt they were conspiring against me.  Watching my every move.  Planning.  Plotting.  Waiting for the moment when I’m asleep, out of the apartment for the day, or just have finished a large meal – then the head banana cries out to his minions to ripen instantly.  And they laugh and laugh and laugh at me.  Me, the big shot who purchased them from the supermarket, whom they’ve just rendered impotent with their speedy browning.  Tricky bastards.  But, separated, I weaken their resolve.  I can even keep them in different rooms, so there’s no chance that they can communicate and synchronize their ripening.  This just might work.

    Of course, I could simplify matters and just buy bananas individually.  If only this were socially acceptable.  You almost never see someone purchasing a single banana.  We are trained well to desire bunches.  Do I have the strength to be the outcast who steps up to the register with a lone banana?  Shall I suffer the life of a pariah for the sake of this insolent fruit?

   Screw it.  I’ll just start eating apples.