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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means

Only in Hollywood could someone so terribly miss the point.





Somehow, I don't think that F. Scott Fitzgerald intended for his title character to become a symbol for the "ultimate in eco-living" or any other sort of goal for which to strive.

The developer could have at least read the Cliff's Notes before naming his building after one of the English language's most influential novels.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

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This news confirms, for the millionth time since the advent of the medium, that network television is no place for attempts at higher-brow programming.

It's not that Kings was some amazing, can't-miss show whose passing the world should mourn. I only saw one episode, and it was at turns laughable, interesting, and weird as hell. But the show, for whatever its detriments, was trying something. Hell, it was trying to tell the story of the kings of Israel on network television, which is some kind of undertaking. Misguided, maybe, to think that the network suits and audiences would get behind something like that for long, but a laudable gamble.

And, for someone trying to break into the medium, it just goes to show that risk-taking on network is not the way to go. It reminds of something I heard a while ago -- OK, it was yesterday, on KCRW's show The Business. On it, some writer for the late (finally!) ER (you'll have to listen to it; I can't remember his name) was protesting a bit too much about the limits -- or, in his opinion, lack thereof -- of network TV. No one watches cable, he said. No one in the heartland cares about shows like Mad Men -- it's a coastal phenomenon, he claimed. ER had numbers rivaling All in the Family and M*A*S*H, and network TV is still the best place for drama and the best place for the public to go watch television.

I sincerely fucking doubt those claims. Or at least, I doubt the spirit and overall validity of those claims.

Let's face it -- network TV plays it safe. Got a hit like CSI or Law and Order? Why not make few spinoffs that are exactly the same? It's not that the aforementioned offerings suck, it's just that they're boring and more of the same. It appears, like it has so many times in the past, that the networks are simply not interested in putting out thought-provoking and interesting fare.

It's not the cable networks are infallible, either. It's just that they seem to have a slightly better handle on newer models of programming. You don't have to have a star who wants a million dollars an episode and huge budgets -- you just have to get some people who want to be a part of something good.

I don't know. It seems that the networks are giving up. I just hope the places that have been outlets for good TV over the past few years -- HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX, and so on -- don't give up as well. At least not until I get a show on there.

Friday, April 03, 2009

I Most Strenuously Concur

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Thank you, Los Angeles Times.

Rachel Getting Married was one of the most pretentious movies I've ever come across. Nothing like a movie written by the daughter of Hollywood royalty to miss the mark so completely when it comes to showing "how families get along." Yeah, because everyone has a "small family, DIY wedding" with multiple, ethnically- and stylistically-varied musical acts on the sprawling grounds of a Connecticut mansion. It's not very often that, when watching a movie, I find something wrong, cringe-worthy, or too hipster for words in EVERY DAMN SCENE. I think the coup de grace would have to be the casting of the lead singer of TV On The Radio in major supporting role. Not that I dislike the band, but can a movie try any harder to say, "Come to me, my Ramones shirt-wearing children. Have some organic, vegan taboulleh before settling into your Joanna Newsom concert."

Gag. Still, I blame the filmmaker and writer, not the lovely Anne Hathaway. She can do wrong in my book. So pretty. And her appearance on Saturday Night Live was pretty damn funny.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Your Honor, I'd Like That Remark Stricken From The Record



In what could be called Part Two of my ongoing "Linguistics of Anger" series, I'd like to submit the following the proposal -- we need to remove certain terms from our collective vocabulary, lest these offending terms mutate, multiply, and moronify us all.

It's not exactly the writing of the Newspeak dictionary here. I'm not suggesting that we remove words associated with insults, off-color jokes, or stereotypes. In fact, I think those terms are sort the spice of our language.Instead, I'm talking about words that are so overused or ubiquitous that they've lost any punch or meaning or cleverness. Just consider me some sort of thesaurus-obsessed Hannah Arendt, railing against the banality of language.

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Anyway, that's enough of an explanation. I'm sure these boring, tired descriptors, adjectives, adverbs, clauses and phrases will fairly jump out at you and you'll flood me with your letters of agreement.

1) "Rockstar" -- When a want-ad claims to be looking for a "rockstar of the accounting world," you know that the term's common usage had strayed a bit from its original meaning. Maybe my cultural memory is a little fuzzy, but I seem to recall the term entering our lexicon through the phrase "party like a rockstar." Right? Well, you're free to disagree with me, but at least in that phrasing, no adeptness or skill (other than at partying) is implied or suggested. So how does the term "rockstar" somehow come to mean "one who exceptionally skilled at something." Besides, any actual rockstar referred to as such isn't usually immediately associated with virtuosity. Bret Michaels -- rockstar. Neil Peart -- not so much.

2) "24/7" -- Yes, we all know that there are 24 hours in a day, and that seven of said days make up one week. Put them together, and that makes...wait, let's see...ALL THE TIME! I get it! But this way of describing "all the time" is getting pretty old. When the disembodied voice that intones "...and by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation" between pieces on All Things Considered also uses "24/7" to describe solutions or advice offered and available, it's pretty much lost its edge. And therefore, its usefulness to me. And hopefully to you.

3) "Sick" -- When used to mean "cool" or "neat" or "good," this term is not to be used by anyone over 16, or by anyone who doesn't have a surfboard under their arm. Also, these same people should not be wearing LA/NY baseball hats with stickers still on the bill. You know who are you. You know because you're wearing a basketball jersey with a white t-shirt under it, and you're 35.

4) "Cougar" -- As used to refer to "a sexually rapacious woman of a certain age." Hey, Real Housewives of Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, St. Louis, Portland, Riverside, and wherever the fuck else they're planning on taking this horrible show -- "cougar" isn't a compliment in my book.

Well, I've got many, many more words that make me mad -- in fact, there are probably more words I hate more than words I love, and I'm aware that this fact makes me sound like a giant, angry Poindexter -- but that's all the rage I can muster for right now. I've got quality Bravo programming to watch.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mother, Do You Think We'll Drop the Bomb?

Another day, more frightening news from our good neighbor to the south.

Another day, more frightening news from Pakistan and India.


Mexico and Pakistan have both haunted my dreams of late. Both seem to be grappling with problems beyond their control, and both seem to be enlisting the help of the U.S. in order to get their territory back under control from their respective "insurgents."

In the case of Mexico, it's drug cartels that are better funded and armed than the national forces. Mexico is understandably turning to to the U.S. for help, since we consume the drugs they produce and sell and since we share a border with them. We've answered their pleas for help, not simply to prop up the Mexican government, but also t protect ourselves. I personally live a mere 135 miles from Tijuana, a place that once was the drunken swaying grounds of American servicemen and college students, but by all accounts is now like a bad day in Sarajevo.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world in Pakistan, a religious-based insurgence threatens not only Pakistani territory, but also territory the U.S. army currently patrols -- Afghanistan. So in a way, another border we have interests in is beset by groups that seem to have the upper hand. All we need now is for some Quebecois liberation movement to gain traction up north and we'll be getting it from all sides.

Moreover, Pakistan is a nuclear state and borders another nuclear state, with whom they also have ongoing and serious disputes.

In short, things are looking rough for some places in which we've become heavily invested.

I'm not offering any solutions here. Instead, all I'm trying to point out is how unstable two close neighbors -- one geographically, one geopolitically -- are in this time of unrest, and you can bet that things will get worse before they get better.

And it scares me. I've made known before my interest in the concept of "faultlines" -- places where cultures, ideologies, or religions collide geographically, making these places ripe for conflict. It used to seem like the U.S. was immune to such shifting plates. But now, with our global presence, economy, and outlook, it seems that we can't help getting involved.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Two Words Good, One Word Bad

I'm taking it upon myself to declare the age of the portmanteau officially over.

I realized that this needed to be done, however preemptively, when I came across the word "momshell" in the course of my daily reading.

After I finished gouging my eyes out and using a crude memory-eraser, I knew that drastic action had to be taken against this intellectually lazy and unsatisfying cultural trend. Thus the unilateral declaration has -- indeed, must -- come to an ignominious end.

Aside: I think that one of the reasons why I'm so tired of this trend is that I may have helped usher it in. The year was 2000, and I was getting ready to move to New York. I had no car, so I knew that I would be required to tote my belongings to and from work. I purchased a bag. I dubbed it "TheMurse." This was before that term existed. Debate that fact if you will, but you know you never heard it before then.

Sure, we all chuckled when the term "Bennifer" came to national attention. "It's cute," thought we as a nation, "because it takes the names of a couple and links them together, just as their decision to become a couple has linked them together. I get jokes!" But then, like every initially-pleasing cultural trend, it snowballed out of control. TomKat. Brangelina. Man-pris. Manny. Bromance.

Bromance, I think, is the one that finally snapped the camel's neck for me. OK, it was the name of that lame-ass MTV show with Brody Jenner. That was OK, though, since no one with an ounce of self-respect watches MTV anymore (except for The Hills, I guess, though I suspect me admitting that I watch The Hills pretty much shows I have no self-respect). But with the relentlessly unfunny marketing push for I Love You, Man, the term bromance, along with any lingering humor attached to the portmanteau, has officially been herewith banished from the realms of my mind.

Another aside -- I like Paul Rudd. I like Jason Segal. I like the whole Apatow crew. Have for years. But since when do guys need lessons on how to be friends? Thank you, Los Angeles Times, for pointing the correct path! Thank you, Judd Apatow, for getting all these lonely guys together! And thank you again, Los Angeles Times, for acting as an advertising mouthpiece for such a plucky underdog of a film!

Consider, if you will, a return to an intellectually vigorous usage system of the English Language. Now, I don't consider myself some sort of modern-day George Orwell, but I would have to agree strenuously with his opening assertion that, and I paraphrase, the English language is in a bad way. Split infinitives. Clunky mixed metaphors. Sentence fragments. Made up words, many of which ignore any convention for such words (see "bro-medy." Huh?).

Or just be clever, and stop beating terms that have the potential to be funny in the short run to death by over-usage. Bromance might have been funny the first hundred times, but after a three-week marketing push, only yokels without TVs are going to find that funny, and that only when they make their biannual trip to the city for chewing tobacco and chicken feed. And what are the chances that that trip will coincide with the opening weekend of I Love You, Man? Or the premiere of The Hottest Mom In America. Not too likely, I'm guessing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bloated, Evil Plutocrats Behave Exactly As Expected


Does anybody remember laughter?

I'm not sure I do, anyway. And the reason why I'm struggling so mightily to remember those lilting peals of joy is because I honestly cannot take any more absurd, terrible, and jaw-droppingly ridiculous news stemming from this financial downturn.

Raising credit card rates and slashing limits (sometimes to below the balance being carried) in order to make a quick profit before the rules change? Yep, that's our financial industry. Giving bonuses to the architects of the most massive loss in U.S. corporate history? Again, that's the industry that keeps this economic engine chugging along.

Here's a little rule of thumb that we maybe can all agree on -- when you, as a corporate entity, submit to the will of the federal government by taking taxpayer money to keep your operations going, you then cede any ability to move along in any "business as usual" capacity. There's no honoring of existing agreements that will tend to deplete the cash reserves given to you by the government (read: taxpayer). You say, "Sorry, this isn't really our money, and we can't give it to you, despite the fine job you've done driving this company into the ground."

Now, I'm not here to debate whether or not the bailouts have been a good idea, or whether they work, or whether or not we've handed the reins of this country over to the Reds, or whether Oreos are markedly better than Hydrox. That's been done ad nauseum, and one more jerk (me) talking about it isn't going to change things. But these bailouts? THEY'VE ALREADY HAPPENED! So if our rules as a free-market society are out the fucking window, then so too are your (AIG) fucking agreements to pay your idiot, greedy, corporate soul-sucking employees their ridiculous bonuses. And so too are your (credit card companies that are also part of banks receiving bailout money) ability to gouge the American consumer. The rules are changed once receive that money. Don't like being told what to do by the government? Don't take the money.

End of fucking story.