Monday, June 30, 2008

satisfaction not guaranteed

Below is an oddly worded sentiment I found earlier today at the bottom of an e-mail from a friend of a friend:

"God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in HIM!"

Yeah, like God really cares about the report card you give Him. He's God! I'm pretty sure His ego can withstand your lack of fear or faith, puny mortal.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

etiquette for panhandlers

Before you ask random strangers for money, take off your ear buds and press pause on your iPod. That way they'll have your undivided attention when they respond with something along the lines of "You have got to be kidding me."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chicago Public Radio relationships

On the air each weekday morning WBEZ newsreader Lisa Lavez and traffic reporter Abby Ryan sound like former friends who aren't happy that they still have to work together. Abby always clips the end of "You're welcome" after Lisa says, "Thank you," as if she knows Lisa's gratitude doesn't reach one millimeter beyond that microphone. 

Does Lisa realize what it takes to update traffic reports every morning? Does she know that Abby suffers from acrophobia and would get the shakes real bad if she ever tried to go up in a whirlybird? (I don't know that for a fact, but I bet I'm right.) She might even wet her pants (I bet I'm right about that too), but do you care, Lisa? No! Because you're the one who reads the news, and therefore you think you're a big shot. "Look at me on my news-reading throne! I press this button and this happens, and when I press that button that happens. Fa-la-la-la-la!"

Girlfriend, you need an attitude adjustment. And Abby, you need to smile through the tears and possibly fall out of a news chopper to help you conquer that fear I claim you have. My point is, people are listening, so you two either need to bury the hatchet or get a room. And call me before you make your decision so I can plan my evening accordingly. Thank you. (You're welcome.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

how to interview a rock star like a rock star

In the November 15, 2007, issue of the Sacramento News & Review, Josh Fernandez interviewed heavy metal singer Sebastian Bach about his career, including his time as the frontman for Skid Row and his new solo album, Angel Down. Here are some uncorrected excerpts:

You know, Angel Down gives me the same feeling as the first time I put on Mötley Crüe's Too Fast for Love.

Oh wow! Really?

Yeah, dude, right when the song "Angel Down" came on I was like, "Holy Shit!"

Yeaaahhhhhhh! Hahaha! Well, the song "Angel Down" is great. It makes you turn your stereo up because the intro is quiet, so you're like, "What's goin' on?" Then it's like, fuckin', "Boooooom! It's over!"


It kicks your ass! I made it like that, dude—for me. I'm trying to make an album that you can put in your iPod next to Slave to the Grind and fucking it makes sense. And that's not easy.

Would you be pissed if someone said that Angel Down is better than anything Skid Row has ever done?

Would I be pissed? I'd kiss the motherfucker!

Oh shit.

[A few songs later in Fernandez's set list ...]

I was reading in an interview when I think you were 20-something. You were like, "When I'm 39, my voice will be at its peak." [Bach is now 39.]

Is that what I said?

Yeah dude. And you're like, "I'm gonna' have long-ass hair like Crystal Gayle."

Ha! No way!

And finally, you're like, "and I'm still going to be rocking!"

That's right!

And you still are, dude!

That's totally true! And my hair is getting back to fucking Crystal Gayle level here. I'm on track!


[Now for the power ballad that shows off Fernandez's vulnerable side ...]

You know, when I heard "Falling Into You," I think I fell in love with you a little bit.

Ahhhhhh!!!! [Pause] That's OK!

Ha, does that make you uncomfortable?

That's fine with me. No. I wrote it with Desmond Child. I know he wouldn't be uncomfortable about it.

When you were approached by MTV with Celebrity Rap Superstar, were you kind of bummed out at first?

I kinda just rolled my eyes. My attitude is kind of like, "Uh, is this what you want? This is what you want? It's what you want, right? Here. Here you go." Phhhhhesh.


Like, that is my attitude. I've been doing television shows for MTV for 20 years—this is another one of them. That's what that is. You know?

[En-core! En-core!]

You're the best dude.

Thanks, buddy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

the hands of a Guy

On Saturday I was at a street festival here in Chicago with some friends, and I got to know their friends, two sisters named Kristin and Lauren. They're tall. I'm not. But I do have smaller hands than them. 

Oh, right—that's not something to brag about.

They mentioned an episode of Seinfeld I've never seen in which Jerry dates a woman with "man hands," and any time the woman touches him the camera cuts to a close-up of a man's hands.

On Monday I read an article in the current issue of Spin magazine about Coldplay's new album, and how they still haven't met the recently installed head of their record label, EMI. His name is Guy Hands. Hahaha, your name makes me laugh, powerful businessman!

Hands is the owner of a private equity firm that gobbled up EMI for $6.4 billion last year; corporate restructuring will soon lead to layoffs for nearly 2,000 of EMI's 5,500 employees. At least the unemployed can say they were defeated at the hands of Hands. (What, not funny? Maybe you'll appreciate it more if you get to keep your job.)

On January 21, 1999, nearly ten years ago, 170 of A&M Records' 200 staffers were laid off after Seagram's Universal Music Group bought the company along with the Mercury, Geffen, and Island labels and started consolidating its new properties. 

Think about it—only 30 people kept their jobs. If I'd been one of them, I'm not sure I would've attended the "We're All Screwed" party, since the fine print on the party's banner would've said, "Except for You, Kiss Ass!" 

I was laid off from a job almost eight years ago after three months of gainful employment. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise: I got out before the job market slowed down later that year, and my delicate lady hands were back at work one month later at a new job, where I gently bathed them in milk and honey and a sprinkling of rose petals every other hour. I like to spoil myself. Because I'm worth it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stop monkeying around, media muckrakers!

I get so tired of the media and its liberal bias, especially when that bias extends into the area of anti-simian discrimination. The photo on the right was used alongside a real news story last week to undermine our president, but what's wrong with a commander in chief who resembles a chimpanzee? Those who drag their knuckles along the ground are closer to the earth and therefore better equipped to address the concerns of the common man, such as the current Central American banana crisis. Who will supply us with our bananas in these troubled times? We have no bananas!

But we mustn't panic. Instead we must put our trust in the banana Republican who leads our country. He may be a lame duck, but ... wait, he can't be both a chimp and a duck. And if he drags his knuckles on the ground, doesn't that make him a gorilla, not a chimp? Or do apes drag their knuckles, not gorillas? And do all simians eat bananas, or am I totally stereotyping them? I bet one of those smart gorillas who knows sign language could settle this once and for all. And if none of them are available, I'm sure someone could travel forward in time and ask Dr. Zaius. But we shouldn't send some liberal, monkey-hating clown like Al Franken. He'll sarcastically call Dr. Zaius a "damn dirty ape," the good doctor won't get the reference, and then we'll never get the answers we need.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

a movie poster that could've used ... well, anything but this image

What Happens in Vegas was released over a month ago, but the film's poster still haunts me.

I read a review that said the film's cinematography doesn't do Cameron Diaz any favors. Well, neither does this poster. Meanwhile, Ashton Kutcher's facial expression and body language seem to be saying, "Can you believe this girl? Is she crazy or what? Seriously, you guys." 

Kutcher studied at LIF, otherwise known as the Louder Is Funnier school of comedy. Sometimes louder really is funnier, but Kutcher is a former male model, and people like me tend to be suspicious of pretty boys who do comedy, a form of entertainment that springs from personal pain, failure, and rejection. Has Ashton Kutcher been rejected once in his entire life? Okay, maybe in 2002 he asked out Joan Collins and she said no so he had to settle for Demi Moore instead, but I doubt it. All I know is that his self-pity will never equal mine. I've got warehouses full of it, so don't even bother trying to catch up, Ashton.

Here's one more promotional picture from What Happens in Vegas:

Shudder. But so far the film's made about $75 million. Obviously, somebody's been paying to see it. And by "somebody" I mean women who are forcing their boyfriends or husbands to tag along and put up with loud but pretty comedy for 90 minutes.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The martial arts are funniest when performed by chubby white guys.

Last fall at work I came across a battered copy of the Beverly Hills Ninja soundtrack that had been left behind by a laid-off coworker. The movie came out in January of '97, and usually when a studio releases a film at the very beginning of the year, it's a sign that the product's no good. However, in the last few years studios have begun to realize that the three-day Martin Luther King Day weekend can be a lucrative one, hence Paramount's release of the monster movie Cloverfield this past January. It had a big opening weekend$46 millionand then trailed off pretty quickly, with a final gross of $80 million in theaters. But perception is what rules in Hollywood, so the final verdict was "hit," not "disappointment," probably because Cloverfield cost $25 million to make instead of $100 million. I'm sure it'll make millions more on video.

Beverly Hills Ninja also came out right before Martin Luther King Day, but it made $12 million in its opening weekend and $31 million total. I've only seen parts of it on TV, and those parts didn't make me want to see the whole thing. It's the last movie Chris Farley appeared in before he died on December 18, 1997, at the age of 33 (the same age as his hero, John Belushi, and his savior, Jesus Christ), though two more were released after his death. Desperate Housewives' Nicollette Sheridan and Farley's Saturday Night Live costar Chris Rock are in it too, though Rock's never had anything nice to say about the film.

Ninja was directed by Dennis Dugan, who started out as an actor in the '70s on TV shows like The Rockford Files (1974-'80) and its short-lived spin-off, Richie Brockelman, Private Eye (1978). (Actually, the character first appeared in a 1976 TV movie, then showed up on a two-hour episode of Rockford in the spring of '78 in an attempt to get that show's fans to watch Richie Brockelman in the same time slot a few weeks later. But the series only lasted six episodes, and then it was back to Rockford for one more two-hour episode in the spring of '79.)

Dugan was also Maddie Hayes's quickie-marriage husband, Walter Bishop, for about five seconds on Moonlighting in 1988, as well as Steve Martin's jackass boss in Parenthood (1989). He also played a character named Tom Trimble in 1979's The Spaceman and King Arthur, which I think my brother and I saw on TV when we were little. Coincidentally, Tom Trimble is a friend of our dad's. Not the fictional charactera real person named Tom Trimble.

Dugan directed some episodic television in the late '80s, including one of the final episodes of Moonlighting (he also appeared in shadows in the very last episode as a TV executive telling David and Maddie why nobody watched Moonlighting anymore), then made his feature debut with Problem Child in 1990. It starred TV mainstay John Ritter and earned five times its budget despite horrible reviews. In other words, a surprise hit.

Dugan's next film was 1992's Brain Donors, an attempt at a modern-day Marx Brothers farce. John Turturro played the Groucho surrogate, and it looked like nothing else in theaters at that time, but it came and went quickly, grossing less than a million dollars. After that it was back to directing TV until Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore (1996), a low-budget comedy like Problem Child that earned almost four times what it cost and became an even bigger hit on video and cable. Dugan then directed Beverly Hills Ninja, which didn't gross that much less than Happy Gilmore$31 million compared to Happy's $38 millionbut the all-important perception was that its gross wasn't anything to cheer about.

Dugan returned to Sandler's nurturing embrace for 1999's Big Daddy, and since then he's found all of his box-office success working with the popular comedian, directing him in last year's I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and this summer's You Don't Mess With the Zohan, which opens today. Sandler also produced Dugan's The Benchwarmers (2006), which earned a respectable $59 million, whereas Chuck and Larry grossed $120 million, and Zohan will most likely be another $100 million hit for Sandler, whose loyal audience of eternal 12-year-olds loves him in comedies, if not dramas. Between Big Daddy and The Benchwarmers, Dugan floundered with 2001's Saving Silverman ($19 million) and 2003's Martin Lawrence vehicle National Security ($36 million), which was released, like Beverly Hills Ninja, in mid-January.

The Ninja soundtrack is one of many mid- to late-'90s movie soundtracks that was unfortunately influenced by the soundtracks for Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, meaning that in between songs like Blondie's "One Way or Another" (easily their most overplayed song) and Carl Douglas's "Kung Fu Fighting" (not a shining example of '70s kitsch) there are snippets of dialogue from the movie, such as the following exchange, which kicks off the album:

CHRIS ROCK: Ninja? You're a ninja? Get outta here! You a ninja?!
CHRIS FARLEY: (bored by the question but defensive at the same time) Yes. I am a ninja.
CHRIS ROCK: You know, I took a few karate lessons myself. I mean, I'm not as advanced as you. I'm what you might call a tangerine belt, a orange belt, you know. I'm one of them citrus colors, you know what I'm sayin'.

Doesn't exactly have the snap of "Any of you fucking pricks move, and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya," does it? Tarantino writes memorable dialogue, but that's not true of the majority of screenwriters, so with a soundtrack like Ninja's you're stuck with dialogue tracks titled "You're the big, fat Ninja, aren't you?" and "... Yes, I guess I did." We wanna see fatty Farley fall down, not hear him talk! The soundtrack also features Patti Rothberg's listless cover of "Kung Fu Fighting" and the Hazies' pointless retread of "Turning Japanese." On the positive side, the soundtrack includes War's "Low Rider," Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy," and Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy," so it's not a total waste, but the whole thing's only 36 minutes long, so if you paid more than $9.99 for it in '97, you got hosed.

Around the same time I discovered the Ninja soundtrack at work last October, I came across a promotional DVD containing the trailer for Kung Fu Panda, which opens today to mess with Zohan for weekend box-office dominance. The DVD came in its own plastic container, like DVDs you buy in stores, and features its own version of the film's poster, displaying the title, Jack Black's name, the Paramount and DreamWorks studio logos, the tagline "Prepare for Awesomeness," and the reminder that the movie is "in theaters June 6, 2008." All that for a trailer that lasts one minute and 11 seconds. Imagine how much money was wasted to package and distribute those 71 seconds to media outlets like the Chicago Reader! Naturally, I'm impressed. (It doesn't take much.)

Compare the posters for Ninja and Panda. In many ways Jack Black is the comedic successor to John Belushi, a distinction that Farley probably wanted more than Black ever did, but he had some of the same addictions as his hero, which helped bring about his early death. Farley's sense of humor tended toward the juvenile, but you couldn't deny his stage/screen presence on Saturday Night Live and his commitment to characters like motivational speaker Matt Foley. Some of my Farley-derived laughter was of the nervous kind when I watched him on SNL in high school, because I wasn't sure if I was about to witness the overweight actor go into cardiac arrest on live television. But that tension, shared between the actor and the viewer, helped produce some memorable performances.

I have a feeling Kung Fu Panda will do better at the box office than Beverly Hills Ninja. But will it open to bigger numbers this weekend than Dennis Dugan's newest comedy? Well, Sandler does kick people in the face in You Don't Mess With the Zohan. Maybe all of the eternal 12-year-olds will show up for Zohan this weekend if their long-suffering wives agree to take the kids off their hands at screenings of Kung Fu Panda. Sorry, ladies, but you should've known on the second date when you slept over at his apartment and saw his videotape collection that this was going to happen.