Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson

Last night my girlfriend and I walked past a man on his cell phone who said, "I heard he was dead but they hadn't confirmed it yet. After the autopsy they'll confirm it." He was talking about Michael Jackson, but there wasn't any hint of sarcasm in his voice. There wasn't any hint of craziness in his voice, either, so what exactly did he mean?

One of my favorite man-on-the-street quotes so far about Jackson's death was in an Associated Press story on Thursday, the day he died. "It's like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died," the 36-year-old New Yorker said. One thing this man can't remember, of course, is where he was when President Kennedy died—because he wasn't born yet! Jackson himself was barely five years old in November of '63.

The self-appointed King of Pop's 1979 album Off the Wall is one of my favorites, but his untimely death shouldn't be compared to the assassination of a president. Elvis's death, maybe, but not Kennedy's.

Of course, Kennedy was a democratically elected president. Elvis and Michael, on the other hand—they were kings.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Life is a verb, in case y'all didn't know.

On Monday, at the National Conference on Volunteers and Service in San Francisco, guest speaker Matthew McConaughey discussed his mantra, which sprang from a line of dialogue in one of his first movies, Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused (1993).

"For me, it was a few words that became a sort of a personal mission statement: 'j.k. livin,'" he said. "Where the J is for 'just,' the K is for 'keep,' and there's no G on 'livin,' because life is a verb."

Actually, there's no G because that's the first letter in "good," an adjective that can't be applied to most of the performances McConaughey gives these days. And if he wants to talk about volunteering and giving back, he needs to give me back the 85 minutes I spent watching his performance in Surfer, Dude last December.

In fact, I'd like to propose community-service punishment for movie stars who waste our time on bad performances. Granted, I got to see Surfer, Dude for free because I reviewed it for Popdose, but surely Cameron Diaz should have to pick up trash off the side of the road for 88 hours to make up for the 88 grueling minutes of The Sweetest Thing (2002). But since McConaughey continues to entertain me with the things he says off-camera, I'd only make him complete 42 hours of service, which he could earn by enlightening underprivileged youths about life and how it's not a noun.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reach out and touch someone.

I was in a sketch show five years ago with a girl named Laura, who said a female friend of hers had sent her the following image in an e-mail. She wondered if this friend expected something more than a long phone conversation the next time she was having a really bad day.

If you're worried about scaring off your same-sex friends with offers of lingerie-clad loyalty, why not try this image instead?

If your friend replies, "I don't think I could fit in a sink with you," you'll know you're on the same wavelength. But if the friend adds "Because you're so fat," you can go ahead and think about what you're going to do with the $20 you were originally going to spend on his or her birthday present.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Letterman vs. Palin

Alaska governor Sarah Palin has accepted David Letterman's apology for a joke he made on Late Show last week about the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez having sex with her 14-year-old daughter, Willow, during the seventh-inning stretch.

However, the joke was about Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, whose pregnancy was revealed last summer soon after her mother was announced as Senator John McCain's running mate on the Republican presidential ticket. And the joke was about unplanned pregnancy, not rape, as Todd Palin, the governor's husband, suggested. However, it was Willow, not Bristol, who was at the Yankees game Letterman was referring to. And the joke was funny, not "perverted," as Governor Palin said, though it's not difficult at all to understand her reaction or her husband's. (Letterman became a parent himself in 2003.)

Maybe that's why Palin still sounded angry when she accepted the apology "on behalf of all
young women, like my daughters, who hope men who 'joke' about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve," according to the Associated Press. I'm pretty sure all of Letterman's monologue jokes are written by Late Show's writers and he just picks the ones he wants to use, but we'll probably never know who originated the offending zinger. As for Rodriguez, he issued the following statement: "She swore she was 19! But seriously, folks, whatever distracts you from my steroid use is fine by me."

Palin acknowledged that Letterman has the right to make jokes about whomever he chooses, but that it's a two-way street and "we have the right to express our reaction." She added, "This is all thanks to our U.S. military men and women putting their lives on the line for us to secure American's right to free speech. In this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect."

When told about the joke that started the controversy in the first place, the U.S. military responded, "Hey, that's funny! But we didn't know we were risking our lives for the right to make a mountain out of a molehill—unless there's oil in that mountain, of course."

Monday, June 15, 2009

African reality

When I asked my friend Paulina, the U.N. employee and recent Kenyan transplant, if she knew why Hollywood tends to invent African countries instead of using real ones in its movies and TV shows, she said, "Real Africa is too African. It's like putting imitation chicken flavor cubes in chicken soup."

Did Paulina just call Hollywood chicken? Yes, she did. And she'd better hope La La Land emissaries Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie don't swing by Kenya the next time they're in Africa to buy an orphan, or she'll be in for the best-looking verbal smackdown of her life.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

African fiction

This week's Soundtrack Saturday post at Popdose centers on the 1988 film Coming to America, in which Eddie Murphy plays a prince who lives in the fictional African country of Zamunda.

On the seventh season of 24, which ended last month, some of the bad guys were from the fictional African country of Sangala.

If one were to create a fictional map of "the dark continent," would Zamunda and Sangala be anywhere near Matobo, the fictional African country in Sydney Pollack’s The Interpreter? (Ivory Coast native Isaach de BankolĂ© played the prime minister of Sangala this year on 24. His name? Ule Matobo.) Wikipedia has an entire page devoted to fake African nations, which makes me wonder if the continent's biggest import is intellectual-property lawyers.

My friend Paulina recently moved to Kenya for a contract position with the United Nations. Apparently it's a real country, but the name could use a rewrite. How about Kinjanja? Or even Kwanzaaland? I'm looking forward to your second draft, Paulina.

Speaking of the Democratic Republic of Kareemabduljabbar, the Associated Press reported on April 30 that thousands of Kenyan women had stopped having sex in order to protest the bickering of their country's male leaders. "We have seen that sex is the answer" when it comes to avoiding civil war in Kenya,
said Rukia Subow. It's hard to disagree with that assessment, ladies, but a man's gun, literal or otherwise, is inevitably going to off, with or without your help.