Monday, February 26, 2007

Hot Air

Like a ton of other people, I watched the Oscars last night. I generally hate award shows, I don't see the point of having a competition for art. Theatre, film, music and the like are not sports, and it's somewhat annoying to see them treated that way. And the shows themselves are usually really annoying and boring. The Grammys are the absolute worst, I don't even remember the last time I even tried to sit through that nonsense. Call me when they bestow a lifetime achievement on Billy Bragg or Robyn Hitchcock. I'm not holding my breath.

But I still watch the Oscars for some reason. Probably because I was a theatre major and that's what you did. If you were in rehearsals for a show, it would be scheduled around Oscar night and there was always a party. There would be lots of drinking and a lot of bitching about who got "robbed" that particular year. Good times.

Last night was supposed to be a mini version of that. Our friends Joe (also a theatre major in school) and Megan were supposed to come over. A perfect time for Joe and I to drink beer and criticize everybody and everything in the Oscar telecast. But the weather forecast for New York last night was not pretty, which meant that Megan would have to get up even earlier for work this morning to be able to take the Long Island Railroad to work instead of her usual two hours on the Long Island Expressway, which would probably be covered in ice and dumb shit drivers who think they drive great in the snow (they don't). So they stayed home so they wouldn't be getting back at 1:00am to have to wake up at 4:00.

It was too bad. Except that I got to keep all the Boddingtons I bought for the occasion for myself. First introduced to it by my buddy Armando several years ago, it is one of my favorite special occasion beers, with all its rich and creamy goodness. Mmmmm.....

Anyway, it was great to see Martin Scorsese win last night of course. It will never make up for the intolerable cruelty of having lost to Kevin Costner in 1990, but still, it's good to see a long overdue recognition of the greatest director of his generation.

Probably nothing in the Academy Awards is as bad as the usual choices for original song, and this year, despite that I generally like Melissa Etheridge, was not much better. Three nominations for songs from Dreamgirls? They are nothing more than slicked-over, homogenized, musical theatre versions of the "Motown Sound" from a show that was crap even in its stage version.

Meanwhile, some of the most interesting original music in a movie was completely shut out. How they could give so many nominations to Little Miss Sunshine but overlook the song Til The End Of Time by DeVotchka is just mind-boggling. It really was the best song written for a movie this year (listen to it here if you don't believe me). Rewarding over the hill rockers and vanilla-flavored, pedestrian crap is supposed to be the Grammys' job, but there is no shortage of that at the Oscars either. It seems that their only nod to anything interesting every year is Randy Newman, but even his recent stuff isn't nearly as good as his 90s movie songs. About the last time the Academy took a chance on anything interesting for songs was the 1997 to 2000 run of Elliot Smith, Amy Mann and Björk. And they lost to that horrible Titanic ballad, Phil Collins' Tarzan song (which amazingly enough, was even worse than just normal Phil Collins) and a late career Bob Dylan snooze-fest, respectively.

Last night also had a lot of praising of Al Gore for "inspiring everyone here" to do something about global warming. Now that's all well and good. I personally feel pretty good about my low contribution to the amount of global warming-causing gases in the atmosphere. In fact, I would say that I'm probably better than a vast majority of my fellow U.S. residents when it comes to that.

Listening to the way people were talking on the stage last night and the way everyone cheered when Gore was thanked for making the country change its ways about carbon pollution, you would think that all the people of Hollywood were better than the average person about not contributing to the green house gas problem. But does anyone seriously believe that? How many people in the Kodak Theatre last night do you think took the subway there? Seriously, of all the places in L.A., that part of Hollywood is probably the easiest when it comes to public transportation. There is a subway stop literally outside the front doors of the theatre at Hollywood &Highland. (Though that station was closed yesterday for "security" reasons, the next one is only a few blocks away at Hollywood & Vine) From there you can take a straight shot one-seat to the Valley, or downtown and transfer to light rail that will take you to anywhere from Pasadena to Long Beach. But I have yet to hear of any stories of DiCaprio popping out of the subway or hopping off the bus and making his way to the red carpet. Or dropping his bicycle off at the valet.

So while all of the famous people were talking the talk about global warming and clapping for Al, do you think anybody in the building last night besides some of the ushers and bartenders, and maybe Ed Begley Jr. if he was there, got there by any means other than a car? And I've never heard that they make a hybrid limo.

I guess celebrities' way of contributing to solving the problem of global warming is to tell the rest of us to take the subway.

Boy, I hope that personal sacrifice doesn't put them out too much.

I guess I shouldn't be too hard on them. I suppose it's too much to ask them to walk to the bus stop in those brutal Los Angeles winters. Brrrr.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, Back Again In A Couple Weeks

Because the media is longer based on journalism but rather infotainment with bimbo airheads (I'm looking at you Soledad) reading teleprompters, I have to hear way more about Britney Spears than I want to. Well, anything about Britney is more than I want to hear. The current news about her is, of course you've heard, that she shaved her head. Now besides the fact that this isn't actually news by any definition of the word, the other stupid thing about it is that just about every damn print and TV media outlet has referred to the shaving of her head as evidence of some sort of "meltdown" she is having.

When exactly did the whole world (or at least the media) become as bat-shit crazy as my mother?


Jesus H. fucking Christ, it grows back. It even grows back pretty damn quick. What the hell is the issue?

I will never understand people's obsessions with how other people cut their hair, what kind of clothes they wear, the piercings they may have or their tattoos. Damn, let people do what they want and leave them alone. It's called personal expression.

Especially hair. I mean, shit. It's not like a tattoo that takes expensive laser surgery to fix if you don't like it. All you have to do is wait a little while and you can change it again. That's the damn beauty of hair, you can try whatever you want and it doesn't matter. But for some reason it seemed to matter to my insane mother when I was a teenager.

The crazy woman was obsessed with my hair when I was younger. Well, she was obsessed with pretty much the entire look I chose for myself, no matter what phase it was. Whatever I did she seemed to hate and acted like it was the end of the world.

I was a new-waver in high school, so you can imagine what it was that I did. Lots of black in the wardrobe. Haircuts that would involve the back and sides being buzz cut, and then maybe spiked at the top or long and hanging down in front of my face. For a while I had the left side of my head shaved and long hair hanging down the right side. I kind of pulled off a Robert Smith from The Cure look for a short time, though that was just too hard to keep doing for long. Once, I had my friend Andy shave the back of my head in the shape of a peace sign. My mother went ballistic on that one. She also went crazy (well crazier than she already is anyway) when I had my hair buzzed all over except for about two-inch wide spot on the front right-center with about 6 inches of length that hung down in front over my right eye. It was my pseudo-punk look. Sometimes I braided it, and other times I used a crimper on it. I remember really liking that one a lot.

But my mother thought it was the end of the fucking world sometimes. That and my clothes. One thing I remember that really drove her crazy was when (and I did this for years) I used to wear one black Chuck Taylor All-Star high top and one white one. The fights she used to pick with me over that were ridiculous. Or when I wore the bowling shoes I bought used from a bowling alley. You know the ones, the multi-colored alley rental types.

What I wore and how I cut or colored my hair seemed to be my other's obsession. It was really a side effect of her wanting me to fit in and be popular. She had dreams of her kids doing things like run for homecoming king or queen and being one of the cool kids in high school. I, of course, had no interest in that at all and just wanted high school to be over as quickly as possible. Run for homecoming king? Hell, I never even went to a homecoming dance.

My mother wanted me to be the Molly Ringwald or Emilio Estevez characters from Breakfast Club, and instead she got Alley Sheedy. Except I did have friends. Just not the kind my mother wanted me to have.

And she thought she could get me to change by insulting me every chance she got. I think my hair became her top concern in life from the mid-eighties until I graduated college and bolted to Seattle in the mid-nineties. She used to accuse me of doing it just to piss her off, when it was really just about me wanting to be weird and arty. That it pissed her off was just a bonus.

She finally got over that obsession, I think. Now she's obsessed with Jesus. But that's a whole other weirdness. I think I preferred her insulting me over praying for me.

But the point is, get the hell over this obsession with hair people. Britney Spears may have a lot of things wrong with her (like that god-awful music she makes), but shaving her head is not one of them. It's stupid to make a big deal out of it, as well as sexist. Nobody makes a big deal out of any guy shaving his head, why is it that when a woman does it is some sort of sign of her losing it? She is the same brainless twit as she was before the haircut, and nothing changed about her "character" as a result.

Don't get me wrong, I don't give a shit about Britney Spears. I'd be fine if she just died and I wouldn't have to hear about her anymore. But if we are going to demonize people let's do it for things that they deserve it for, like beating their kids or invading a country without provocation.

My wife and I have discussed maybe having a kid and I hope that this kind of shit would be the last thing I cared about. If my daughter wanted to get a Mohawk, I would say no problem and take her to the barber myself. I would hope that I'll be a lot more concerned with how she's doing in school and that she's not shooting heroine or becoming a Republican than with whether or not her hair and clothing choices would be the ones that I would make for myself. It's going to be her body after all. And if you can't do weird shit when you're a teenager, when can you? Damn, isn't that how you find yourself at that age?

I'd much rather she look back at pictures of herself and laugh at the goofy hair and clothes she had when she was younger than think about what an ass-hole her father was when she was growing up.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Who Wants To Live Forever?

Been thinking about immortality lately? Well, Carol at Feeling Peevish sure has. Go check it out at share your thoughts on the idea of mortality/immortality with her.

I would, but whenever I think about living forever I get distracted by the idea of having Sean Connery as a sidekick and hearing the music of Queen in my head all the time.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jet Not So Blue

I mentioned at the end of one of my posts last Thursday that I was going to be in lovely Chicago for the weekend. Well.....guess which airline I was booked on.

None other than Jet Blue.

As you may have figured out already, just based on that last sentence alone, my wife and I never got to Chicago. Our flight on Thursday was canceled, and the earliest they could book us on anything else would have been Sunday, which was the day we were scheduled to fly back. So we didn't go at all.

Now there has been a lot of bad news in the press about Jet Blue's problems over the last week, and rightly so, considering today is the first day that they actually got back to actually flying their whole schedule, a whole six days after the Northeast snowstorm. It has been that long since they got more than two out of five daily flights from JFK to Chicago off the ground, and none of them on time. That's pretty damn bad.

But you know what? For us it was a blessing in disguise. We never got stuck at an airport waiting for a plane that would never come, we knew our flight got canceled before we left the apartment. So we didn't have that stress or the stress of being stuck somewhere trying to get home in time to go to a job or anything. We just didn't get to go to Chicago on a random weekend we had picked because it fit in to my wife's schedule. And after some schedule juggling, we found time two weeks later that we could go, and re-booked the whole thing. We're even staying a day longer.

Best thing about this? Well, there are several. First, instead of being in Chicago with a bunch of snow on the ground and the temperatures in the single digits, even worse with the wind chill, we now get to go on a weekend that is forecast to be in the upper 30s/low 40s. And the snow is even going to melt in the meantime.

Second, airports suck in general. Airports suck even more on the day after a major storm shuts them down and forces several hundred flight cancellations, and they are full of thousands of tired, cranky and often smelly people trying, for the second day in a row, to get on a plane. We got to skip all that.

Best of all, I got to book myself on an earlier flight so I could skip on down to downstate Illinois, where I went to college, so I could spend a night hanging out with one of my all-time favorite people in the world. A trip to see great old friends is even better when the list of who you are going to see is one person longer. So this worked out especially sweet for me.

I couldn't be happier.

Thanks Jet Blue. Pass me some blue potato chips and let's see if there is a West Wing marathon on the digital TV.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I've Got A Message For You, Rudy

I know the election is almost two years away, and you are probably sick of hearing about all the candidates already, both the officially announced and the ones who have "formed exploratory committees." But I just have one quick little observation.

Of all the candidates out there lining up and lying to the American people about everything they can, from Mit Romney's daily changing story about how he feels about abortion and gay marriage (as well as his big lie about how big the budget deficit was in Massachusetts when he took over) to John McCain's always changing views on, well, everything, and calling it "straight talk."

But there is one way that we as a country could prove ourselves to be a stupid people and completely delusional.

We elect Rudy Giuliani as president.

I am so sick of this guy being called "America's Mayor." His whole image is based on looking kind of tough during the attacks on the World Trade Center, and it seems to cloud people's ability to remember the truth about Rudy. He was leaving office a disgrace before September 11, 2001. From his deplorable defense of cops who committed horrible acts of brutality against innocent minorities to his to having his mistress live with him at Gracie Mansion while he was still married, his legacy as mayor of this city was one of failure. He was going to be lucky to even find a job after he left office.

But then some crazy fuckers crashed planes into some buildings, and it was a whole new ballgame.

And Giuliani couldn't be happier about it. It was the best thing that ever happened to him, and now he has the gall to run for president.

It would just be another step on the ladder he has climbed built on the backs of 3000 dead innocent people. He makes me sick.

Years before the planes crashed in to the towers, New York built a new commend center for their emergency response. Giuliani was told by his police chief and security experts not to put it anywhere near a high-profile target like the World Trade Center. so where did he put it? On the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center. Rudy was also told for years that the radios used my first responders were inadequate and needed to be updated. They knew this because of the problems they had with them when the towers were attacked the first time in 1993. He did nothing to make sure that the police and fire departments had working radios. He was way too busy making sure that cops were properly harassing people in minority neighborhoods.

It is quite possible that a lot more people died on that day than had to because of this idiot's blunders. So what does he do now? He runs a few security consulting firms. Oh, and goes around the country making speeches and raking in millions of dollars.

He has turned thousands of families' personal tragedies in to a major personal gain for himself. And he doesn't seem to feel even a twinge of guilt about that. Shame on you, Rudy. So many people thought the worst thing you would ever do was marry your cousin. Boy, did they underestimate you or what?

He must get down on his knees everyday and thank his god for 9/11. It is the best thing that ever happened to him. And he has not hesitated to take full advantage of it.

If we reward him for it, what does that say about us?

The Infotainment Age?

On this week's Roundtable, John speaks to the topic of decade definition. You know, how every decade can kind of be labeled with something that seems to define what it was about? The 30s were about the depression, 40s about the war, 50s middle class suburban boom, 60s were civil rights and hippies, and so on. You get the idea.

The question John is asking, is what defines this decade? Of course, I'm still not sure if we ever decided what defines the 90s.

Anyway, go over to johnsadowski and share your thoughts on the topic.

In the meantime I'll be heading to Chicago for a weekend away to see old friends. Mmmm....Chicago in February, is there anything better?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Guilt Of Pleasure

On today's Roundtable, Suzanne takes on the topic of guilty pleasures. It seems she has a ton of them. Though hers are more of the variety of things she likes to do even though she should be doing something else. There are also the kind of guilty pleasures that are things you like to do that you would rather people not know that you are into. Like, say, maybe watching Around The Horn on ESPN or the movie Grease 2 or the deliciously over-dramatic TV show Cold Case. Not that I do any of those things, um, I'm , you know, just throwing out a few examples.

So head on over to Perfecting the Fine Art Of Procrastination to see what makes Suzanne feel so good, and bad, and share your own guilty pleasures.

And if yours is sleeping with your sister, well, maybe that one you should just keep between you and Jerry Springer.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Smokey Smokey

This posting probably won't be that interesting. It is just going to be me boasting and celebrating an achievement that I'm pretty proud of having accomplished.

Today is an anniversary for me. Five years ago tonight I smoked my last cigarette. I was sitting in a bar next door to the Royal George Theatre in Chicago after rehearsal for a show I was stage managing. It was a Wednesday night, so it was just me and the bartender/manager sitting there talking, and I was a regular since I had been doing a show next door for close to a year.

I had been walking to the El that morning, smoking a cigarette of course, and just kind of decided that I would finish the pack I had and be done with it. I really hadn't enjoyed smoking for a long time, I was just feeding the addiction. Don't get me wrong, for years I absolutely loved smoking. Smoking after a good meal (or any meal), smoking while waiting for the bus (in Seattle) or El (in Chicago), smoking after sex, smoke breaks at work, smoking in an under crowded bar while loading money in a jukebox and with a cocktail in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It was paradise for years. But for a while I just wasn't enjoying any more than one or two of the twenty smokes I was having each day. For those of you who have never smoked, that's how many are in a pack. That was my usual, a pack a day for about eleven and a half years.

I didn't quite live up to my goal I set for myself that morning. I had two more after I finished my pack. I bumbed them from the bartender while I sat there talking to her. Usually not the best sign of success when you break your goal on the very first night. I had tried to quit several times before and that was how I always started again, falling off the wagon once and then just saying "screw it" and start smoking a pack a day again.

But this time that didn't happen. I stuck to it, and now I haven't smoked in five years. I can't believe it has been that long. The first six months seemed like an eternity, but the last four and a half years have just kind of flown by with very few times that I've ever wanted one. I don't even like to be in smokey bars now. I love that so many places have laws against smoking in bars, including the last two places I've lived. It's actually hard to be in a smokey room for me now. Maybe that means I really have kicked it for good.

Damn, I'm proud of myself.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Guerrilla Gofers

OK, so everybody has heard about the crazy shit that happened in Boston last week. My friend Jose sent me this blog posting of a guy commenting on it. Now this guy made some good points about the whole thing, despite being a Bostonian. He must be a transplant to the town of the intellectually challenged.

I especially liked his skewering of the media and their inability to gather any actual facts before reporting, or doing any info checking about the show on Cartoon Network that was the center of all this brouhaha.


One thing that has been really getting on my nerves is that these guys have been referred to, by both this Bradley's Almanac guy and the mainstream media, as "guerrilla artists."

OK, these guys are not fucking guerrilla artists. They are a couple of low-level lackeys who went out in the middle of the night and put up a little light contraption designed by some marketing guy sitting in an office somewhere. Nobody calls the guys who paste the pictures on billboards "artists," so why would we call these guys that? Because one of them has dreads? Because they acted all weird and talked about 70s haircuts in their little press conference after getting out of jail? "Ooh you are so non sequitur and esoteric, you are such an artist. Its so deep. I wonder what the meaning of the 70s haircuts is supposed to represent? Oh, they are so creative."

Give me a fucking break. This is what happens when advertising has co-opted our entire culture. Guys who are nothing more than than a couple of agents for the corporate machine, and just a couple of errand boys at that, get labeled as artists.

This is just another sign of the way that marketing and product placement has become just another ubiquitous part of our society. The media even pointed out that it was young people who didn't think it was a big deal because they are "used to" this sort of marketing. Well, forgive me if I don't think that's a good thing. Just because they are used to it, having had advertising ingrained into their skulls since birth, doesn't make it a good thing. In fact, it is a sign of just how low our society has gotten. We expect to see advertising wherever we go and don't even shrug about it. An old sports stadium gets renamed after some corporation who buys the naming rights, and by the next day people are calling it by the new name without even thinking about it. People actually watch the Super Bowl for the commercials.

We allow ourselves to be told what's what by the PR firms of the world and then say thank you and give them our money.

We've got to start saying no more. You shouldn't be allowed to co-opt our culture for your own nefarious aims. Going out on a secret mission to plaster a city with advertisements for a cartoon doesn't make you The Living Theater. You're a lot more like Ronco.

One of the things that hasn't been mentioned in the press so much is the fact that this guerrilla marketing stunt used public property without paying for the space. It's bad enough that we are underfunding public transportation so much that they have to sell advertising on the trains and stations, but now these companies think they can do it without asking and without paying.

A couple of the bridges that these things were placed under in Boston are along a path that runs beside the Charles River, part of a public park called the Esplanade. It's one of the few long stretches in Boston where you can walk and be surrounded by a view of trees, grass, water, bridges over the river, and you don't have to be subjected to advertising. It's what a public space should be about.

And these ass holes decided it was OK to ruin that experience for people because the Cartoon Network gave them a few bucks. I hope they, and the guys on Madison Avenue that thought this marketing scheme up, get jail time. Not for what what they are charged with, which is dumb and won't hold up in court (something about a hoax to purposely cause fear or some shit), but for defacing public property.

We don't stop this and what we call art in years to come could be very scary.

"Hey have you seen the new exhibit down at MOMA? It's the newest 'Head On, Apply It Directly To Your Forehead' video sculpture. Next week we are going to go to the Met for the Mr Whipple career retrospective. Should be amazing."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Gunter Glieben Glauchen Globen

Like foreign languages? Like slang? Love foreign language slang? Well then you're in luck, that just happens to be the topic of this week's Roundtable.

So head on over to Incurable Insomniac and check out Steph's favorite foreign expressions and offer up your own favorites.

And no, "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)" does not count. This is Roundtable, not 9th grade study hall.