Monday, February 28, 2005

Random Oscar Thoughts



Since there were absolutely no surprises as to who won what, some random thoughts on the show:

--Chris Rock will not be back as host. Sure, he was funny, but that means nothing. He didn't kiss any of the stars' asses, and, in fact, made Sean Penn kinda angry. Plus, the little Bruce Valanchesque one-liners he read between awards were really terrible. The shit at the Magic Theatre was hilarious, though (and did Method Man and Albert Brooks just happen to be there, or was that a setup?)

--Why did Beyonce perform three of the five nominated Best Songs? I mean, she's not popular enough that she needs more exposure? I miss when the artists used to come on stage and sing their own songs (I will say the Counting Crows shouldn't have performed their song, or written it in the first place, for that matter). Like last year, when Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy came out dressed as Mitch & Mickey to perform "A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow". Great shit, but apparently, the Academy is going a different way on that now.

--Speaking of which, when did Carlos Santana lose the ability to play guitar? Guy used to be able to tear a guitar up. But, since he's come back into vogue in the last 3-4 years, his contribution to most songs is just those little guitars fillers that sound exactly the same in every song. I guess it's awesome when you're the punchline to a joke that everyone thinks is funnier than shit. And speaking of shit, what was up with that song? Was that the 2nd Worst Song Ever (that Counting Crows song is 1st), or was my reception just bad? And it won Best Song? Lower those standards!!

--What the fuck is wrong with Renee Zellweger's face? In the movies, she appears to be marginally attractive. But at the last three Oscars (at which she's been prominently featured), she's looked like she's recovering from a botched facial reconstruction surgery. I think there needs to be a special Oscar every year, given out to the makeup artists that make her look like a normal human in the movies, and not like the clonazoid replicant that she obviously is.

--Who knew that Jeremy Irons was funny (his performance in Die Hard With A Vengeance notwithstanding)?

--What's up with giving out awards in the aisles? That's gotta be some sort of fire code violation.

--It's a really bad idea to have two Hispanic women with marginal English skills speaking together, even if it looks really nice.

--When will the Oscar broadcast stop featuring an actor presenting an award with an animated character? I wish said actors a quick spontaneous death, so that they don't have to be as embarrassed for themselves as I am.

--As far as the actual awards went, everything that was supposed to win did. The one that will get in everyone's craw is Clint winning Best Director. Sure, Scorsese has had a great career that has been vastly overlooked by the Academy, and I'm sure The Aviator is beautifully directed, and he probably deserves an Oscar, but I'm glad Clint won. Clint is my nigga. Any aspirations I've ever had to be a filmmaker derive from this man's career. Wanna talk about overlooked? Clint made films for twenty years before he even got nominated. In fact, Clint would have six Oscars if the Academy hadn't given those pity Oscars to Peter Jackson after snubbing him for two straight years. Actually, now that I've got to raggin' on him, I feel bad for Marty. Maybe he does deserve those Oscars. Ya know what: Fuck my idol. Clint's already got two of them shits. Give Marty his birthright, dammit!!

All around, a pretty so-so Oscar night. At least they managed to keep it to three hours.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Totally Random Shit


People like to read list shit like interests, thoughts, favorite things. So, here's a whole lot of all of that.

SPORTS
Jeff Gordon won his third Daytona 500 Sunday, so, of course, I go into work and all the hillbillies I work with were all up in arms, with "FAG" blasts and snide "Rainbow Warriors" remarks. Of course, Gordon himself does nothing to dispel these rumors, as the above picture of Kurt Busch going in for the blowjob shows.

BTW, I'm eagerly anticipating the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.

MUSIC
Here's what I've been listening to lately:
--Fallen by Evanescense. Yeah, I know this album is old as Hell, but after having lost my copy for a long while, I'm listening in full fury once again. Great record.
--Collision Course by Jay-Z & Linkin Park. I've never been a big Jay-Z fan, but I've been with Linkin Park from Day One. And if you don't think this is the best album of last year, well, you can go kill yourself, because it fucking rocks and you don't know what a good record is (Wow, that was really harsh, but the record really is that good).
This one will draw "boos" from the stands:
--Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson. A really faggy choice, I know. But, instead of following up her first record with the same record that all American Idol finalists and runner-ups put out, full of John Tesh Show lite pop, she put out a record that actually has some rockers on it. Mind you, they're of the Avril Lavigne School of Rockers, but, hell, Liz Phair's last record was full of those, too, and it rocked me all night.
--"Drop It Like It's Hot" by Snoop Dogg. C'mon, what's not to like about this song?

BOOKS
I honestly haven't had the time to read many books, but I am slowly struggling my way through Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk. For the Palahniuk fans out there, he's got a new book coming out in May, and has a short story in this month's issue of Playboy.

TV, MOVIES, ETC.
Since HBO only puts out a season of The Sopranos every 2-3 years, I've had to find another show to watch (and, honestly, they've been slowly declining in quality since Livia died), and I've found one. The Wire, also on HBO. If you thought The Sopranos had a big cast and an intricate plotline, The Wire makes that look like a production of Waiting For Godot. If you miss an episode (or try to watch the current season before watching the previous two), you'll be totally lost. Great episodic television that actually makes the bad guys likeable: something not a lot of TV shows do these days.

And speaking of great cop shows, The Shield starts back up in March, now with Glenn Close! It's awesome when a show's protagonist is also the world's biggest asshole. Great stuff.

After a shaky transitional season where a new creative crew tried to figure out what to do with Aaron Sorkin's brainchild, The West Wing has finally gotten good again. The cast has gone back out on the campaign trail again, and these episodes, even in the previous seasons, have always been the best. Now, every other episode is dedicated to it. Odd thing about the show's Presidental campaign: for a very liberal minded and obviously Democractically slanted show, it's somewhat odd that the candidate shown in the best light is a Republican.

And, if you haven't watched any of The Office yet (the UK version, not the midseason replacement US version), you should probably do so now. David Brent is one of the best characters ever portrayed on TV.

As for movies, if I see anything that isn't a total piece of shit, I'll let you know. So far, no dice.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Constantine Gets Me To Thinkin'


The Girl and I saw Constantine opening night, and as far as Heaven v. Hell Movies go, it's pretty enjoyable. But something about its premise (and that of all Heaven v. Hell Movies, for that matter) is problematic. So problematic, in fact, that it fucks with the entire foundation of Christianity.

The basic premise of all Heaven v. Hell Movies (the Prophecy movies are a good example) is that angels and demons fight each other on Earth. The reason they fight each other always has something to do with The War of The Angels, wherein Lucifer, himself a former angel, led a rebellion of other angels against God, and, in losing, got himself and his followers banished to Hell. So, the angels and demons continue this fight on Earth throughout the centuries. It's Homeric melodrama of literally biblical proportions. There's one problem with this biblical story, though: it's not in the Bible.

Now, let me clarify something here. I am, by no means, a biblical scholar. Everything I know about the Bible I learned in Sunday School 20 years ago (that shit stuck, though; I will fuck up any Bible category on Jeopardy). I've only read bits and pieces of the Bible. But, I have a pretty good understanding of what is and isn't in there. And this "War" ain't in there (there is a small passage in Revelations that makes mention of Lucifer being tossed from Heaven, but Solomon cutting the baby in half gets more page time than this supposedly epic battle). In fact, only two angels are mentioned by name: Michael (once played by Travolta) and Gabriel (played three times by Walken).

So, where did this legend come from? Since it only seems to appear in movies, it could be said that some legendary screenwriter like Robert Towne or William Goldman came up with it. But, I don't think so. It sounds like something that would be in the Bible. So, where is it? Well, that's where it gets tricky (any good Christians should turn away now, cuz this is gonna get messy).

Christians hold The Bible to be a literally accurate historical document. If it's in the Bible, it really happened, just as it's written. If what's in the Bible is supposed to be an accurate record of what happened in that era of history, we may want to check the archives, because some shit is missing. Check this: there are books of the Bible, commonly referred to as the Apocrypha, which aren't in most standardized Bibles.

If that doesn't sound right, think of it this way: the Bible is a book, written over a number of years, by many different authors. How long it took to write it and who actually wrote it is disputable. In fact, the Old Testament is mostly taken from the Jewish Bible. But, at some point in time, what you had were all these documents that someone decided to combine into one book. This person looked through everything that had been written on this particular subject, and put it together as a single book. And, like any good editor, he cut out some stuff that he didn't feel was "Bible material". So, what we end up with is the Bible, and a bunch of miscellaneous documents of the same ilk that didn't make the cut (maybe this "War" story was amongst those documents). This exclusion of material brings up a very scary question: if this is a literally accurate historical document, why is this stuff missing? Are they hiding something in history? Are there angels and demons fighting in the fucking streets that I should know about?!? In fact, no, they aren't hiding anything, because (wait for it) you can't hide something that never existed in the first place. Very few things in the Bible can actually be proven to be true, and we're supposed to take this as a literal history of the world, all the way back to Creation. Suuure we are.

The religion of Christianity was started by someone. Quite obviously, the basis of this religion are the teachings of Jesus Christ(ianity; see how that works?). Some one decided that Jesus had some great things to say, and wanted to share it with the world. And here's this book that has all of Jesus' teachings nicely compiled, along with a whole lot of stuff from Judaism (which mostly turn out to be parables and fairy tales; there's no proof that Moses even existed). But, and this is a pretty huge "but", no one can actually prove that Jesus existed. I'm sure he actually did, and may have even claimed to be the Messiah. In fact, for argument's sake, let's say he even founded Christianity as a religion during his lifetime. Now, let me change directions for a sec.

Go pick up a copy of Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. One of the stories it tells is of the founding of The Church of Latter Day Saints by Joseph Smith. Take some time and read this book, and pay careful attention to the parts about Smith and the writing of The Book of Mormon. Once you're finished, go through again, and cross out every reference to "Joseph Smith" and "The Book of Mormon", and replace them with "Jesus Christ" and "The Bible". Most people think Mormons are a bunch of kooks (even though they, too, are Christians), but if you look at their story with the alterations I suggested, how does that make your run-of-the-mill Christian look?

But, that's just to prove a point. Jesus didn't write the Bible, nor did he found Christianity. But someone did. And he (or they) took these beliefs and this book on the road, and found a lot of people who thought it sounded like a good idea, to the tune of it becoming the largest religion in the world. Many Christians look down at other religions as being "false" or "crazy", but how is Christianity any different? Just because the main prophet of Christianity claimed to be the Son of God, that gives Christians a free pass to look down on other religions as lesser, just because their prophets were simply enlightened men who claimed to carry the Word of God? It's really quite ignorant and hateful for the world's largest religious population to be so intolerant, when their shit is exactly the same as everyone else's: someone claimed they heard The Word of God, and someone else believed him. It may all be horseshit. It may all be real. Really won't know until we get our tickets punched for The Big Ride. We might all get to The Afterlife and see Zeus sitting on the throne. There might be angels fighting Norse gods there, and Lucifer getting his ass kicked by Shiva. No one knows. So, worship what you want, but don't be disappointed if it turns out to be a false idol. Cuz it's all about the same; it's what you believe that makes it different.

And you thought this was going to be about Constantine.

The Sims 2: Way Better Than Real Life



I'm sure most people have played The Sims. It's only like one of the bestselling games of all time. With all the expansion packs and whatnot available for that game, most people don't feel the need to upgrade any further. But, when you have a serious Sims fanatic in the house, you have to upgrade. So, The Girl bought The Sims 2. And, now that I have logged in some considerable time with it, it may be the one of the best things to happen to me. It's actually improved my life, because I get to do all the wacky shit that I would never do in real life.

My character in the game, Peter Parker (unoriginal name, I know) has, in the course of a couple of weeks worth of gametime: managed to sleep with nearly every woman in the neighborhood; been married twice; had his first wife die in an electrical mishap; married a successful politician; caught his second wife cheating on him with another woman; cheated on his wife with her sister (and many others, for that matter); fathered five children: two with his wife, and three bastards, all with the same woman; aged backwards almost to his teens; owned three different houses, including a 15 room mansion; and is filthy rich and has never had a job. Most people can't accomplish this in a lifetime; he's done it in weeks.

The odd thing about this new version of the game is that some of the above exploits are actually necessary in order to have a good experience. New to The Sims 2 are Life Aspirations. They range from buying a recliner to sleeping with as many people as possible. When you meet one of these life goals, you're rewarded with points which can be spent on some fun WMDs: The Money Tree, The Elixir of Life, and, my favorite, The SimVac, which allows you to steal other Sims' skill points, as well as many others. Your Sim also ages in this game. You can literally play from birth to death. Of course, there is a way to cheat this: The Elixir of Life. One drink, and you age backward three days (time is measured in days; the average Sim life is about 60 days). Drink the whole dispenser, and a middleaged man is a child again. And this is why Peter is a cheater: because he wants to live forever.

Peter has Romantic Aspirations, which means that he gets points for anything having to do with romance: making friends, making out, sleeping around. In order to buy that sweet, sweet Elixir, he has to sleep with as many people as possible (sleeping with 10 different people is worth 15,000 points; the Elixir costs 31,000). Of course, if Peter had a different personality, he could accomplish the same thing by buying a lot of nice furniture. But he's not wired that way. Gotta feed that libido to not die. In fact, if your Aspiration Meter isn't high enough, the Elixir makes you older. So, not only does he have to cheat to buy the shit, he has to cheat just so he can use it. And you thought your life was fucked up.

"Fucked up life? I thought you said this game was fun?" Oh, it is. It's like a sociological experiment where no one goes mental (although Sims can go crazy; a psychiatrist even shows up). If you've never played any edition of The Sims, this may not be your cup of tea. If you have, you need to get The Sims 2, so you can spend hours wreaking havoc on other peoples' lives, much to the consternation of your significant other.

Maybe it's not so different from real life after all.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Hangin' Wit My MU Homey



The Girl and I attended a Milwaukee Bucks game the other night. Some random thoughts:

--The game was against Atlanta, yet I was somewhat surprised not to see lifelong Hawk Chris Crawford, my classmate at Marquette, in attendance. But then, during one of the periods of boredom that occurs during a 30 point blowout, there he was, in street clothes at the end of the Hawks bench. I wonder if it's exciting for him come back to his college home court. Probably not.

--Speaking of MU alumni, the amount of Dwayne Wade Miami Heat gear available at the MU clothing store is shocking. Not a drop of Bucks gear, however. I began to think I was maybe in Miami, and not Milwaukee (No Shaq gear, though; sorry).

--Speaking of Heat alumni, I was shocked and scared to see that Kevin Willis was playing for the Hawks. Willis is the same age as his uniform number (you'll have to Google that), and last played with the Hawks when I was in high school. Hang it the fuck up, dog.

--The Bucks are returning to their late '80s form of being able to field a team of almost entirely white guys.

--Speaking of white Bucks, when did Toni Kukoc become like the most underrated role-player in the NBA? The guy is slow and doesn't score much, but he's got some Magic Johnson-like passing skills. And he ran the floor like he was trying to "Threepeat the Threepeat". I know, I know: The lifelong Bulls fans will balk that he isn't that great. And maybe he isn't. Maybe he was just showing off, because I was in attendance. Stranger things have happened.

--A bit of Bucks trivia: Of the six lottery picks they've had in the past 10 years, the Bucks have traded away four draftees before they ever played a game. These players? Danny Fortson, Stephon Marbury, and Dirk Nowitzki (oh yeah, and Gary Trent). I mention this, as they are really bad and will probably be in the lottery again this year.

Overall, a fun time. As the game was a blowout between two shitty teams, it was actually more interesting watching all the mongoloids around the arena. And people say watching shitty basketball is no fun. I beg to differ.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Out of the Blue, Indeed



I have Yahoo as my homepage on IE. During a rather random scroll down the page, I happened to notice the "Buzz Log", which was featuring the most popular music searches on the Web. Now, the WWW being a rather savvy place, I expected the fourth most popular music search to be something popular like Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan. No, that honor is reserved for one Deborah Gibson, once known to the world as teeny songbird Debbie Gibson. So, how does Debbie Gibson, who's been off the pop cultural radar forever, suddenly become so popular? Can't have anything to do with her being in next month's Playboy...

True confession time, here: As a tweenager, I had a thing for Debbie Gibson. Those of you who know me as a jaded and cynical individual may find this shocking, that someone who contemplated suicide on a weekly basis could be smitten by something as innocuous as a teen pop sensation, but she was my kryptonite. I've seen her in concert. I owned her records. I had a Debbie Gibson poster hanging on my bedroom door. This was my life at 12 (I will say, with no irony, that Debbie Gibson, as a sex symbol, is an acquired taste. Like Liz Phair, her antithetical peer at the other end of the musical spectrum, Debbie's not the girl in high school that everyone lusted after; she's the girl you end up marrying).

That being said, this Playboy thing is my tweenage fantasy come to life...about 15 years too late. I moved on rather quickly after those carefree days, to a point where Ms. Gibson was a forgotten memory by the time I graduated from high school. Even Debbie herself has moved on, now going by the more adult name of Deborah. It was fun while it lasted, but everyone has moved on.

So, when my issue comes, I will peruse the "Deborah" pictorial with the same curiosity that I allot to all pictures of naked women, and maybe, just maybe, think back to the days when seeing "Debbie" naked would have rocked my world.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

"I'm Eating What Now?"


Not sure about your house, but Saturday at my house is Cooking Show Day. From 1000 to 1500 (or 3:00pm for those of you who can't tell metric time), we watch nothing but cooking shows on PBS. Actually, The Girl watches them, and I usually fall asleep. Her favorite cooking show host is Jacques Pepin, the world-renowned French chef, who was once the personal chef of Charles de Gaulle. She has watched the complete series of Julia and Jacques Cooking At Home a half dozen times. And his Word is Bond with The Girl: if he says it's good, it is (I am a classic picky eater, and even I think his food looks good). I've always marveled at how the man cooks everything in real time; nothing is preprepared or precooked, so he's working on four or five dishes simultaneously. Needless to say, motherfucker can cook.

It's rather ironic, then, that following Jacques is The Girl's (and my) least favorite cooking show of All Time: The Kitchen Sessions With Charlie Trotter (I still can't believe PBS replaced Barbecue U. with this shitbag). Charlie Trotter is the owner and head chef of Charlie Trotter's, the Chicago eatery. Now, I'm picky when it comes to food, but I'm not a food snob. I will eat almost anything if hungry enough (I will take time here to say that I hate almost all restaurants that serve continental/American food, due to the fact that they all have exactly the same menus, right down to the words "Southwestern" and "chipotle", of bland, shitty food. I believe the US is second only to the UK in shitty domestic food). However, most of the shit that this seriously pompous asshole cooks on his show doesn't appear to be suitable for animal consumption, much less something I would voluntarily put in my mouth. Even the ingredients sound bad: today's offering was something that featured chicken and beets.

Now, I could just get on this guy for making bad food, and let it go, but he won't let me. Instead of just saying how a dish has great flavor, or how rosemary adds something to the taste of chicken, he has to go on and on and on about the essence of this and the palette of that, and all kinds of pretentious bullshit. Seriously, after this guy tapes a show, he probably runs to the bathroom to knock one off, cuz when you love to hear yourself talk like that, you know he gotta get his NUT ON!!! But, he can't let it go at that, either. Once the dish is cooked, he has to "plate" it in that avant-garde way that only people with too much money seem to appreciate.

"What's money got to do with anything?" Get to that in a sec. Here's a sample copy of the menu from Charlie Trotter's, which changes daily:

Eel Terrine with Green Tea Soba

Hearts of Palm with Cucumber - Cilantro Relish

Japanese Hamachi with Hijiki Puree

South African Langoustine with Marine Cider Vinaigrette

Heirloom Beets with Aged Sherry Vinegar Sorbet

Diver Scallop with Soup of Sunflower Root

Butternut Squash with Cashew Cheese

Rouget with Silken Tofu & Celery Root

Rabbit Loin with Chinese Eggplant & Parsnip Puree

Squab with White Corn Grits & Roasted Asian Pear

Angus Strip Loin with Black Truffle & Brussels Sprout Puree

Epoisses with Pumpkin Seeds & Rosemary

Thai Basil, Lemongrass & Coconut Sorbets

Raw Pecan Ice Cream with Persimmon & Star Thistle Honey

Milk Chocolate- Cardamom Tapioca with Expresso Syrup

Oaxacan Chocolate with Amaranth, Birch Syrup & Cactus

Mignardises


First off: Wha tha Fuuuu?!? What is any of this food? Is any of it actually food? Now, I may have grown up poor, white trash, but even I know that rabbit, eggplant, and parsnips should never be in any recipe together. Unfortunately, if you want haute cuisine, most places feature odd ingredient combinations that I'm sure taste very good, but don't sound very good (actually, I have eaten at one of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants, and I'd recommend it to anyone who asks). Not only are they odd food choices, but odd serving sizes: the above menu is a single meal of servings small enough to serve on playing cards. Oh, you get a shitload of food, about as much as the 20oz Porterhouse steak plate at the Sizzler, at a thousand times the price. Oh, yeah, the money thing again. The prix fixe cost of the above menu: $175. The feeling of hunger after paying $350 for dinner: priceless.

I guess this is why The Rich are my social betters. They can appreciate paying way too much for tiny portions of weird food. I'm sure there are people who wait hours in the lobby for this exact pleasure. Personally, I'll take the drive-thru at KFC anyday. Now, there's a food Americans haven't figured out how to fuck up. Give this Trotter asshole time, though; he's making leaps and bounds in the chicken preparation field (I should note the picture accompanying this story is of chicken; believe it...or not!!)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

"I Need Closure On That Anecdote!"



If you haven't already bought The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season DVD set, you need to step away from the computer and do it NOW.

Season five is, without a doubt, the best season of The Simpsons. Most producers would think that when you have a hit show that you would want to keep the staff that made it great intact. But the old writers and producers were shown the door (most notably, Conan O'Brien), and a whole new batch came in and made the best season ever. When they first released The Simpsons on DVD, I prayed this shit would be popular, so that they would get around to releasing season five. And now, they have (I should note that I didn't necessarily need the DVDs, as I have a majority of the season five episodes on tape from their original airdates; they're blank tapes now!).

One thing I've noticed watching these episodes in their original, unedited forms is how much has been cut out of the episodes for airing in syndication. One of the most notable examples is the exclusion of Homer's line, "Hey, he's not happy at all. He lied to us through song! I hate when people do that!" from the "Homer and Apu" episode. After having watched these things in edited reruns for so long, I forgot that some scenes were even in these episodes. So, not only am I getting to see the best episodes of a show I love, I'm getting to see shit I (or anybody, for that matter) haven't seen in 12 years.

But, now I'm raving. Just go buy it. And, just so you have no excuses, here's the link:
Buy This Shit Immediately