Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dan Shaughnessy is an idiot. Let me tell you why.

Dan Shaugnessy wrote a stupid column.

I am a Heat hater.

Miami’s basketball team can’t lose enough games to make me happy. When I pass under a television in a crowded airport and see the score crawl, if the Heat are losing, I crack a big smile. I hope they lose ’em all.

The Celtics are in Miami tonight to play the third-place Heat.

The third-place Heat. Don’t you love it? I want them to be the Miami Clown Machine.

"Miami Clown Machine"? Where is he getting these jokes, Jay Leno's trash can?

Remember the preening and the fog machines and the hideous chest-thumping at American Airlines Arena after LeBron James told us he was taking his talents to South Beach? That was the night he said he was planning on bringing multiple championships to Miami — “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven . . .’’ It was disgusting. How about winning one before you talk about seven?

Every single player in NBA history says he wants to win championships when he joins his new team. It's not like you're banned from saying the word "championship" unless you've won one. Jeez.

When LeBron and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade, those blinded by the lights were quick to anoint the 2010-11 Heat as the NBA’s best-ever team. What rubbish.

Please show me one example where a single sports columnist or analyst said the 2010-11 team were the NBA's "best-ever team." Just one. Seriously. A lot of people said they had a chance to be very good, seeing as how they had just combined the talents of three still-young players who had 17 All-Star appearances among them; nobody said they were the "best-ever team."

Any way you cut it, the Heat are overrated. Take a long look at Bosh, for starters. How in the name of Elgin Baylor did Bosh get lumped in with James and Wade? He simply doesn’t belong. He has been a big numbers guy with a bad team. Now he is the answer to the question, “What’s wrong with this picture?’’

Bosh may not be quite as spectacular as Wade, who has won a championship, and James, who is a two-time MVP, but it's not like he's Jack Haley, either; he's a five-time All-Star (to James' and Wade's six). Hilarious note: a few years ago, Shaughnessy's beloved Boston Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett from the Timberwolves, and Garnett immediately helped lead them to a championship. I don't remember anyone in Boston complaining that he had just put up big numbers with a bad team. In fact:

Chris Bosh, first seven seasons: 20.3 points, 9.3 rebounds per game. Five All-Star appearances. Two playoff appearances. (Never got out of first round)

Kevin Garnett, first seven seasons: 18.9 points, 9.9 rebounds per game. Four All-Star appearances. Six playoff appearances. (Never got out of first round)

So by Shaughnessy's logic, Boston should have turned down the Garnett trade because he was a big loser. I guess Celtic fans are lucky he's not the GM.

Wade is leading the Heat with 26 points per game. LeBron is averaging a healthy 20.6 and had a triple-double against Utah Tuesday. Incredibly, he snatched his first offensive rebound of the season in Game 8. I am not kidding. The King has two offensive rebounds this year. Next time he asks, “What should I do?’’ let’s all stand up and say, “Follow your shot one time!’’ Moses Malone he is not.

Moses Malone was a center, a position generally expected to grab rebounds. LeBron James is a small forward, a position generally expected to play on the wing. Judging James against Malone would be as logical as judging him against Spud Webb.

And, incidentally, Moses Malone, first seven seasons: 18.5 points, 13.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists per game. One MVP award, two All-Star appearances.
LeBron James, first seven seasons: 27.8 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists per game. Two MVP awards, six All-Star Appearances. BUT HE CAN'T REBOUND LIKE MOSES DID IN THE OLDEN DAYS!! *Finishes column on old-timey typewriter, puts on fedora, catches trolley home for a nickel.*

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Simmons, Vick and Redemption

Mocking columnist Bill Simmons is usually the territory of the excellent website Fire Jay Mariotti, but Simmons' latest column, about the resurgence of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, has bugged me for weeks. So I'm going to take a few swings at it.

Before I take a closer look at Simmons' column, let me say a few things. I'm fine with Michael Vick playing in the NFL after his conviction and prison term on dogfighting-related charges; he's done his time, and if a franchise wants to employ him again, that's their call.

I'm fine with people rooting for Michael Vick; as a friend of mine accurately pointed out, we root for athletes who do thoughtless, cruel things to humans all the time. And I must acknowledge that, post-release, Vick has conducted himself well. I hope that continues.

That said: What I'm not fine with is sportswriters ignoring, minimizing or excusing Vick's substantial crimes.

When you're reading this column, keep the following in mind: Michael Vick financed, set up and helped operate a dogfighting ring. When the dogs didn't perform, Vick or his co-conspirators killed them by hanging and drowning them.

That said, let's plunge into Simmons' column.

My wife overheard me talking about Michael Vick this week. I made the mistake of mentioning how much I enjoyed his recent resurgence. In retrospect, I should have just said that women shouldn't have the right to vote, or that men should be allowed to trade their wives in every six years like cars. She waited for me to hang up, then asked calmly, "What's going on with Michael Vick?"
Oh, boy.
I explained that Vick had won the starting job in Philly, rejuvenated his career and emerged as the feel-good story of the 2010 NFL season. He's been the most valuable player in the league. It looked like a transition year for the Eagles as recently as halftime of Week 1. Now they think they can win the NFC East. All because of him.

I like how Simmons slips in the casual but matter-of-fact line about Vick being the league's most valuable player. Vick has been terrific, but was hardly a slam-dunk for MVP of the first three weeks.

If Vick didn't pay a reasonable price for his sins, it would be one thing. But he torched his career, blew a lucrative contract, went bankrupt, spent 19 months in prison and became a public pariah. That wasn't a reasonable price?

(1) Nobody's saying that they don't support Vick because his prison sentence wasn't long enough, or because he didn't lose enough money. They don't support Vick because he tortured and murdered dogs. (2) The prison part is true enough, but the list of trials Vick has endured is pretty weak. He "torched his career," then returned to the NFL and a quarterback job; he "blew a lucrative contract," but still makes more money in a year most people will see in 10; he become a "public pariah" but still manages to play in front of tens of thousands of cheering fans. Don't make it sound like he's living in the gutter and covered in boils, Bill.

What more do you want? Deny him a chance to make a living? Under what constitutional umbrella?

Again: Very few people are saying Michael Vick shouldn't be allowed by law to play in the NFL; they're just saying they don't want to root for a person who tortured and murdered dogs. Also, I like how denying Vick the chance to play in the NFL would be tantamount to denying him "the chance to make a living," as if he couldn't possibly work at any of the thousands of careers other people do every day.

Yeah, if I spent enough time looking at electrocution photos and rape stand photos, I'd inevitably end up despising him.

Translation: If I actually examined the crimes Vick committed, I wouldn't able to write a long column where I compare him to a character in The Shawshank Redemption! And I have to make that comparison! It has redemption in the title, people!

dogfighting isn't much more abhorrent than some of the other ways we abuse animals .... More of us are hypocrites about this stuff than we realize.

Translation: If you're a hypocrite some of the time, it's OK to be a hypocrite all of the time!

Generations of people grew up with dogfighting in the South (especially in poorer regions), and it's like anything else: Sometimes you don't fully realize something is wrong if you never knew anything else. We cannot ignore the cultural elements here. Not everyone likes dogs or sees them as companions, guardians or family members. I have friends who regard dogs warily and act rattled around them. Certain religions believe dogs are unclean. (I once lived in a West Hollywood neighborhood heavy with Hasidic and Orthodox Jews, some of whom could barely conceal their disgust with the Dooze. A few even hissed at her. This drove my wife crazy, but hey, dogs mean different things to different people.) When Vick's initial comeback was receiving so much attention last summer, I dined with "30 for 30" filmmaker Steve James (a Virginia native like Vick), who wondered if Vick's saga was more racially driven than anyone realized. James grew up with African-Americans who were terrified of dogs because of what happened in the 1960s and earlier, when police frequently used attack dogs to "quell" racial protests. Could a mistrust of dogs be handed down to future generations? Of course. Again, not everyone likes dogs.

Lots of people don't like dogs. Very few of them end up drowning, electrocuting or hanging them. Those Hasidic Jews in Bill's neighborhood may not have liked dogs, but they didn't spend their spare time setting up rape stands, either.

When Vick renounced dogfighting, many people (my wife included) thought he did so because it was the politically correct move. But what if he really did realize it was wrong? Maybe he never grew up with pooches that licked his face and jumped around happily when he came home. Maybe he never played fetch with dogs, took them swimming at special dog beaches, took them hiking or did anything that would humanize them. Had he done any of those things, it would have bothered him as his pit bulls were ripping each other apart. Can I blame him for organizing an illegal underground gambling ring, breaking the law and surrounding himself with the wrong people? Of course.

In other words, Bill wanted to offer a bullshit justification to blunt the impact of Vick's crimes - that they were excusable because some cultures hate dogs. But Bill knew that argument was bullshit, and didn't want to appear to make it himself. So he spent two looooooong paragraphs positing that argument, then in the last two words tried to divorce himself from it so it would seem like he hadn't made it in the first place.

Much like how O.J. Simpson raised awareness about domestic abuse, Vick did the same for animal abuse. Both men did it unwittingly and disgraced themselves in the process, but there's a crucial difference: By continuing his football career, becoming an animal rights activist and repeatedly acknowledging his mistakes, Vick will do more good than harm.

Unless, of course, young people get the message that you can commit grave crimes and, within a few months of release, sportswriters will be praising you if you achieve a high enough quarterback rating and avoid committing any more federal crimes. That could happen, too.

Fair enough. But I believe in second chances for anyone who screwed up because they were immature, came from a poor background or were surrounded by unseemly influences ... as long as that person makes amends. The difference between Vick and LeBron James -- another superstar who hailed from a rough background and tarnished his image, only unlike Vick, he did so without intentionally hurting anyone or breaking the law -- is that LeBron steadfastly refuses to admit his "Decision" was ruinously handled from start to finish. If he had a do-over, he would ram that butcher's knife into Cleveland's back all over again. How do I know this? Because LeBron never jettisoned the sycophants and opportunists who walked him into July's public relations disaster. And because he still doesn't seem to comprehend why so many found "The Decision" so revolting, as evidenced by LeBron playing the race card this week. You know, because we've been so kind to Brett Favre these past two years.

At some point, LeBron will realize his inner circle led him astray. He will clean house, apologize to Cleveland and seem sincere. He will re-examine his Cavaliers tenure, realize how enabled and coddled he was, then wish someone he trusted had looked him in the eye and said, "Look, you can't leave Cleveland this way ... it's wrong." For a variety of reasons, LeBron lived his first 25 years without ever finding such a person. Sometimes you can't shape your life; sometimes your life shapes you. Nobody knows this better than Michael Vick.

(1) Simmons sarcastically implies the media has been mean to Brett Favre over the last two years, which is hilarious, because no athlete in the past decade or so has had his ass kissed more than Favre. (2) Simmons actually uses the word "revolting" to describe LeBron James' TV special announcing which franchise he'd play for next. Huh. LeBron must of thought a lot of people would be interested in that announcement. Hey, Bill - author of a 697-page book in which you call LeBron James the 20th-best player of all time - where do you think he got that idea? (3) I realize he's not comparing their actions directly, but to compare LeBron's error in judgement - which, by the way, was a fundraiser for the Boys' and Girls' Club - to Vick's federal crimes in any way is abhorrent.

Ultimately, Simmons and I would both be happy if Vick conducted the rest of his comeback with good behavior off the field. In that sense, we're both rooting for Vick. The difference is that I'm not trying to excuse what Vick did before that comeback started.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seattle Times Readers Enrage Me

Whenever you run a column about education, you can be sure crazy people will make comments. They did.

Pick up a 1985 phonebook. Turn to the blue pages. That should be the size of government period.

Pick up a hedgehog. Hollow out the hedgehog (careful, he'll try to bite). Then light that dead, hollow hedgehog on fire. Government should be the size of the papers you can fit inside that burning hedgehog.

Get the labor unions off our campuses and truly open up those jobs to the best qualified rather than the union pecking order list. I've seen enough people hiding in campus parking lots in a van or asleep at their desk when you walk in.

I do not believe for one sweet second that you have literally seen somebody asleep at their desk at the University of Washington. Maybe you saw that in an episode of Barney Fife. Is that what you're thinking of? Barney Fife?

Children who wish to attend college need to work during the summers as teens, save that up for tuition, and then work while going to college, and not rely soley on parents or student loans to fund the college education.

The average expenses for students living at home in 2010-2011 is projected to be $15,000. The average expenses for students living on campus is $22,000. If a kid can find a job to pay for that over one or two summers, they should keep that job forever because it's amazing.

The Average (salaries) are approx $120,000 for a State worker vs $60,000 for a private industry worker.

In 2007, the Secretary of State made $114,000. Am I to believe that average state employee - and there are more than 400,000 of them - made more than the Secretary of State? Because I do not.

Someone mentioned there are six employees at the UW for every student, and those employees are well paid, have excellent health insurance, fixed pension, etc. And the professors earning six figures for part time teaching? Janitors at the UW earn about $18 an hour. In the private sector, is (sic) more like $9 an hour. Now you know the reason costs are high!

1) There are more than 40,000 students at the University of Washington. If there were six employees for every one of them, the University of Washington would employ more than 240,000 people, which is more people than there are living in Orlando, Florida.

2) I like how this commenter is angry that employees at one of the best universities in the country are "well-paid" and receive "excellent health insurance." WHY ARE THEY NOT LIVING IN SHANTIES AND DINING ON A STEW MADE FROM PIGEON BONES AND RAT MEAT?

3) There is no way every employee at the UW gets a pension. No. Freakin'. Way.

4) I'm too lazy to actually look this up, but I'm pretty sure professors who make "six figures for teaching one class a week" are usually researchers or scientists who spend the rest of their time curing cancer or whatever.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm Tired Too, Robert

So, a guy named Robert A. Hall has written a screed of warmed-over right-wing talking points, and I'm afraid I can't pass up the opportunity to mock some of them. Sorry.

I'm 63. Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce and a six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day, I've worked hard, since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven't called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary, but I didn't inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there's no retirement in sight, and I'm tired. Very tired.

One of the most common right-wing tricks is to confuse good fortune with virtue. It's great that Robert worked hard to carve out a life and a living for himself, but the fact that he hasn't called in sick in seven or eight years is probably more luck than hardiness. There are people who work just as hard as Robert who get in car accidents or get cancer. They're no less hard-working than him, so maybe he should slowly climb off that cross. Don't cut yourself on the nails, buddy.

I'm tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth" to people who don't have my work ethic. I'm tired of being told that the government will take the money I earn, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn it.

First of all, I love the ominous-sound reference "by force if necessary."Apparently the government should only enforce its powers that are helpful to Robert. Secondly, I'm not quite sure who he's writing about when he says the government is giving money to people who don't have his work ethic. If he's talking about people on welfare, he's wrong.

I'm tired of being told how bad America is by left-wing millionaires like Michael Moore, George Soros and Hollywood Entertainers who live in luxury because of the opportunities America offers.

Those lefties are awful for always talking about how much America sucks right now! Now, please finish reading my rant about how America sucks right now.

I think it's cool that we have a black and that a black child is doing her homework on the desk where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I just wish the black president was Condi Rice, or someone who believes more in freedom and the individual and less arrogantly of an all-knowing government.

Condi Rice believes in freedom and the individual, unless of course you count being apprehended, imprisoned without trial and tortured as not being free.

I'm tired of being told I must lower my standard of living to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate.

"The power that provides electricity for my house now comes from a solar plant I've never seen, rather than a coal plant I've never seen! LIFE IS AN INSUFFERABLE HELL!"

I'm tired of illegal aliens being called "undocumented workers," especially the ones who are not working, but are living on welfare or crime.

Illegal immigrants are not eligible for welfare. Apparently one of the things Robert is tired of is doing research.

I'll let myself be subjected to all the humiliation and abuse that was heaped on terrorists at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo, and the critics can let themselves be subject to captivity by the Muslims, who tortured and beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or the Muslims who tortured and murdered Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins in Lebanon, or the Muslims who ran the blood-spattered Al Qaeda torture rooms our troops found in Iraq, or the Muslims who cut off the heads of schoolgirls in Indonesia, because they were Christian.

You probably won't be comparing notes if they treat you like Manadel al-Jamadi, who was tortured by a CIA officer and a private contractor until he died.

I'm real tired of people who don't take responsibility for their lives and actions. I'm tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination, or big-whatever for their problems.

So in short: Robert finished his long screed against government programs by telling people to stop blaming the government for their problems.

Seems about right.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Liveblogging: Transformers

0:00. I've previously blogged about this movie, but decided to revisit its awfulness in a little more detail.

:55. The first identifying title shows the opening scene is set in Qatar, then helpfully specifies that Qatar is set in the Middle East.

1:10. We meet a group of U.S. soldiers in a helicopter. There's a tough black guy, a guy from the Bayou who talks about how tasty alligator meat is, and then, amazingly, a guy from Bawstan who tawks about how great Fenway park is. I'm not saying these characters are cliches, but I'm surprised the helicopter is not also occupied by a cop who doesn't play by the rules, a thief who needs to pull off one last job and a plucky, adorable newsboy with a suspicious cough.

2:32.07. Soldier Josh Duhamel chats with his wife via laptop. When she informs him that their infant daughter just laughed for the first time, he is thrilled, then asks, "Are you sure it wasn't just a fart?" Side note: Never, ever marry someone who can't tell these functions apart. Or at least don't tell them any jokes.

3:10.00. A helicopter lands at the military base, then turns into a big hurkin' robot that stomps through the base.

4:42.12. We meet Sam Witwicky, a high-school junior in California played by Shia LaBeouf. His great-grandfather was an explorer and LeBeouf is trying to sell some of his old explorer stuff, including his eyeglasses, to his classmates via a show-and-tell session.

5:10.13. LaBeouf's teacher tells him his presentation earned a "solid B+" and director Michael Bay actually adds a special-effects whooshing sound to convey LaBeouf's disappointment. Subtle. Maybe later, Bay will accompany LaBeouf's ogling of costar Megan Fox with a pair of animated eyes that pop out of his head and an AWOOOOGGGGAAA.

6:00.32. LaBeouf buys a magic yellow car that seems to have a mind of its own.

6:10.10. The movie's setting shifts to Washington, D.C. Jon Voight tells a group of super-nerdy hackers about the attack in Quatar, but doesn't tell them Quatar is located in the Middle East. How will they know where the attack was?

7:38.21. LaBeouf blusters charmingly while driving home his long-time crush, Megan Fox, whose facial expressions range from 'petulant' to 'slightly less petulant.' Also his car seems to have a mind of its own.

1o:21. Incidentally, these time stamps I'm using have nothing to do with how much time has actually elapsed. Sorry.

11:44.41. There's a boom box sitting beneath a seat on Air Force One, which immediately transforms into a slinky, slithery robot with glowing blue eyes that then scampers through the cabin, because who would notice a small, sentient robot with glowing eyes on the plane with the highest security on earth? Oh, and way to be current by disguising yourself as a boom box. What's next, a robot disguised as a Jordache jacket?

12:12.76. The scampering robot hacks into government files about LaBeouf's explorer grandfather.

13:01. The robot is caught in the act, so Air Force One is grounded. Despite the fact that Air Force One, and several Secret Service agents have been attacked, there is so little security watching the plane that the robot escapes by scampering across the open tarmac, past several guards and into a police car.

15:47. LaBeouf's car takes itself for a drive, but he's able to catch up with it on his ... bicycle? He briefly sees it transform before the cops show up.

17:30. LaBeouf is interviewed by several police officers. Apparently cops in California have oodles of time to dedicate to teenagers who are accused of ... stealing their own car? Wait, what's happening here?

19:10. Duhamel and the cliche commandos are still wandering through the desert and occasionally fighting transformers. Because apparently, the U.S. military didn't bother to search the surrounding area after a major attack on one of their military installations.

22:08. Duhamel and his team find a phone, then call in an air strike on a big scorpion-like transformer that is attacking them. After the transformer is destroyed, Jon Voight orders the team debriefed. Wait, you think the guys who witnessed an attack by a piece of technology never before seen on the face of the earth should be interviewed? No wonder you're the Secretary of Defense.

24:15. Anthony Anderson turns up as a buffoonish black man who yells at his grandmother to "drink her prune juice," ... but he's also a computer genius. Michael Bay is busting stereotypes left and right.

24:36. Anderson's helping a government computer expert. She's been in several scenes before, and has an Australian accent of varying degrees of intensity. Right now it's set on "Paul Hogan impersonator."

28:75.72. The FBI busts down Anderson's door. When they force him to the carpet, he yells that his (sassy) grandmother doesn't like anyone on the couch, especially "po-lice." I'm embarrassed to be watching this.

30:00. LaBeouf is chased through a warehouse by a police-car transformer that is seeking his explorer grandfather's glasses. When he sprints out of the warehouse, he runs into Fox and hurriedly explains that he's being chased by a monster. When the monster - which, by the way, is about 15 feet tall and has glowing red eyes - emerges from the warehouse, LeBeouf tells Fox, "Here it comes!" THANKS FOR CLEARING THAT UP DUDE.

30:01. Let me get this straight: The evil transformers have determined that LaBeouf's grandfather's glasses are very important in their plans for universal domination. But, despite the fact that they can (a) travel through space, (b) transform themselves from robots into common-looking vehicles, and (c) hack into the most advanced computer systems in the world, they still need to chase LaBeouf and threaten him into telling them where the glasses are? That's dumb. I mean, I realize this is a movie about giant robots fighting each other, but have some self-respect, screenwriters.

31:50. LaBeouf and Fox hop into LaBeouf's car, which is a good-guy Transformer named Bumblebee. Incidentally, LaBeouf was initially attacked by the police-car transformer in the morning, but now it's night for some reason. Not only can his car transform - it can speed up time!

31:51. I wish I had a car that could speed up time, because maybe it could bring on the end of this movie.

33:07. LaBeouf, on Bumblebee: "It's a super-advanced robot. It's probably Japanese." I wish I had a time machine so I could go back to 1987, when that joke would have been funny.

35:44. Bumblebee talks by switching rapidly from radio station to radio station to piece together words to form sentences. That's actually pretty clever.

40:04. I would vote for the disembodied voice of Optimus Prime for president. Not a joke.

41:90. We get a flashback of LeBeouf's explorer grandfather discovering Megatron, the leader of the evil transformers, under the ice at the North Pole. Incidentally, I love the fact that the exploration party's dogs are able to smell Megatron's presence under the ice, despite the fact that he's made of metal and about 100 feet under the ice.

43:38. The Aussie computer expert and Anthony Anderson are grilled by FBI agents about illegally accessing the recordings of some of the Transformers' communications. Anderson calmly rebuts the FBI agents' points. Ha ha, just kidding! He screechingly blames it all on the Aussie.

46:72.10. There's a comic scene where multiple good-guy robots walk outside of LeBeouf's house, while trying not to attract attention, despite the fact there's no reason for them to be there and they could easily remain disguised as vehicles. I think this movie is making me dumber. For example, I just ordered a DVD set of "Two and a Half Men."

49:31.45. A smarmy government agent referred to aeBeouf's dog, a chihuahua, as "the Taco Bell dog." Was this screenplay written in 1999? If so, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a cameo by Jamiroquai.

1:01.00. Most of the main characters are brought together at Hoover Dam, where it's revealed that the government has been holding the leader of the bad transformers, as well as the powerful energy cube both sets of transformers are looking for. We see a montage of a bunch of evil transformers rolling to the dam, including, uh, a tank. I'm sure it'll arrive in 2016 or so.

1:03.84. The Aussie's accent is now set on "voice-over for Foster's commercial."

1:07.32. Giants robots are fighting each other. Now that's more like it.

1:10.00. A group of characters flees with the cube, and after they're attacked by the evil transformers it's determined that the best course of action would be for LaBeouf to run down the street really fast with the cube under his arm while all the members of the military stay behind to fight. Don't put him in a vehicle or give him an armed escort or anything, guys.

1:13.21. This climax is so interesting I check Facebook while it's still playing.

1:15.60. LaBeouf is supposed to put the cube in an opening in Optimus Prime's chest, which will destroy both Prime and the cube; instead he inserts it in the main evil transformer's chest, destroying both. How did he know that would work? Oh well.

1:16.99. Instead of keeping Megatron so they can study him or make sure he doesn't try to take over the universe, they drop him into the ocean where nobody will be able to keep tabs on him. Sometimes I think Earth deserves to be attacked by evil alien robots.

1:17.00. The conflict's over, so we get to see the characters' fates. Duhamel returns home to his wife and flatulent baby.

1:23.1. LaBeouf and Fox make out while lying on Bumblebee's hood. Um ... Eeeeww?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Liveblogging: I Know What You Did Last Summer

0:00: I Know What You Did Last Summer, the tale of four teens hunted by a hook-wielding killer after they accidentally run over a pedestrian one night, has always seemed like an intriguing brew of schlocky "horror" and earnest young actors whom I could mock for not being awesome yet. Let's get started.

2:00: There's a guy who looks mournful sitting at the edge of a cliff. He's wearing overalls. Working theory: The overalls are making him mournful.

5:19: Sarah Michelle Gellar is a contestant in a summer beauty pageant. Meanwhile, her "friends" Ryan Phillippe and Freddy Prinze Jr. watch and comment on her boobs. Hey, just like bloggers! Jennifer Love Hewitt rounds out the group of friends.

5:43: The host asks Gellar a question, then immediately opens an envelope with the winner's name inside. If you already have the winner's name, why ask her the question 10 seconds beforehand? Great. Now I'm not going to believe anything that happens from here on out.

5:54: Gellar wins, prompting Phillippe to pump his fist and scream, "That's my girlfriend!" The director is clearly a master of subtle exposition.

6:06: The characters attend a beach party to celebrate Gellar's victory. Johnny Galecki from Roseanne shows up. You can tell he's going to be a suspect later because his stage directions evidently said, "Deliver every word as if you're Jack Nicholson in The Shining."

7:20: Galecki asks Hewitt out. She then pauses awkwardly, turns her head, and gives Gellar a What-Do-I-Do-Now glance with the nuance of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. If Galecki didn't want to kill you before, he probably does now, you freakin' nitwit.

8:42: The main characters retire to a more private beach, where Prinze tells the urban legend about a killer with a hook for a hand. It's also revealed that Phillippe is a star high-school quarterback, despite the fact that he looks like someone whose parents probably named him after their favorite brand of yacht.

13:52: Phillippe is drunk, but still wants to drive. Huh ... maybe he will be a good pro football player.

14:04: Prinze is driving Phillippe's car when they hit a person. This is what's called the 'inciting incident.'

18:50: The four main characters seem to be talking themselves into dumping the dead guy's body when a truck drives up from behind. Amazingly, Prinze and Phillippe decide that this would be an excellent job to pick up the body and begin carrying it across the road. Aw man, this movie was so close to being Weekend at Bernie's.

19:20: The truck's driver turns out to be Galecki, who, when he sees the damage to the car, says, "Daddy's gonna be maaaaaaaaaaad" then flashes an evil grin. He's also sharpening a knife and singing a creepy nursery rhyme to himself while wearing a hockey mask.

21:04. They've chosen to dump the body off a pier that's approximately three and a half feet long. The water's probably about eight inches deep. If Phillippe doesn't make the pros, I'm guessing he's not going to have 'criminal mastermind' to fall back on.

21:46. The dead body turns out to be not so dead and the guy grabs Gellar's princess crown before sinking to the deep. I hope later in the film, we get a scene with a hard-bitten cop saying, "We've narrowed it down to Sarah Michelle Gellar and Cinderella!"

24:10. It's a year later.

24:30. I had hoped Hewitt would deal with her guilt by taking constant showers with fellow female students, but instead she's gotten all pale with stringy hair and dark circles under her eyes. Also, she's going back to New Bridgeport. That's not the actual name of the town, but it looks like some place that should be called "New Bridgeport."

27:33. The town is called Southport. Wow I was pretty close.

27:46: Hewitt gets a handwritten note indicating that somebody Knows What She Did Last Summer.

29:49. There's a bitchy blonde girl who hates Hewitt and Gellar. COULD SHE BE THE KILLER? (Answer: No.)

30:46: The bitchy blonde girl works with Gellar, and as Gellar and Hewitt discuss the note, she eavesdrops with the same subtlety Galecki brought to his role. I'm surprised she doesn't hold a drinking glass up to a door to hear better.

31:46: Gellar is smoking and wearing her hair in a matronly style. Apparently she's going to hide herself from the killer by disguising herself as the matriarch on a soap opera.

32:04. Phillippe dismisses the note, saying, "How do you know what this is even about? You did a lot of things last summer." You were very wise to hitch your wagon to his star, ladies. Very wise indeed.

34:11. They think the letter came from Galecki, so Phillippe goes to his workplace and roughs him up, threatens him and comes pretty close to admitting what they did. I don't even have a joke - that's just stupid.

35:00. It's revealed that Phillippe has played college quarterback. Who for? DeVry?

37:47: The killer just offed Galecki,. That's a shame, because I'm pretty sure he was about to grow a long moustache just for twirling.

40:40. Someone steals Phillippe's car, then chases him down with it. Phillippe's character stays consistent by attempting to escape by running in a straight line in front of the car. Oh, then he's run over.

40:40: I watch Phillippe get run over by a car again.

40:40: I watch Phillippe get run over by a car again.

40:40: I eat some Cheez-Its.

40:40: I watch Phillippe get run over by a car again.

42:31: Wait, he's still alive and in the hospital? Aaaawwwwww man.

48:34: Hewitt and Gellar talk themselves into the home of the accident victim's family by pretending to have a stalled car, making up fake names for themselves on the spot and pretending to use the family's telephone. Best moment: Gellar pretending to use the phone, but not talking into the speaker despite the fact that the victim's sister is standing about five feet away. I get the feeling those two don't spend their down time by going to Mensa conventions.

49:40: The victim's sister fixes Gellar and Hewitt with a long, creepy stare as they drive off. Johnny Galecki has died but his acting style lives on.

53:43. Gellar, to Hewitt: "We used to be best friends." Hewitt: "We used to be a lot of things." Wait, what? What does that mean? Amateur astronomers? Aspiring rodeo clowns?

58:40: Something is rattling around in Hewitt's trunk. It's Galecki's body, crawling with crabs. Gross.

59:46: Now the body and crabs are gone. So wait, the killer followed Hewitt, waited for her to stop her car and look in the trunk, then ran up to the car, which was parked on a street in broad daylight, and removed a dead body and numerous live crabs, then cleaned the trunk and escaped before Hewitt could return? I like your style, hook-hand guy.

1:04.45: Gellar has to be in the town's 4th of July parade, so Phillippe protects her by sitting on the edge of the float while wearing a pair of khakis and a yellow polo shirt. If anyone tries to attack Gellar, Phillippe is going to challenge them to a pheasant-hunting contest.

1:06.04: Unsolicited advice to Jennifer Love Hewitt: If you ever travel to a creepy house and Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" can be heard from inside, haul your ass out of there as fast as possible.

1:07:16 - 1:07:25: Best moment of the movie: Gellar, while perched on one of the parade floats, sees approximately 27 town residents who are wearing the same rain slicker and floppy hat the killer has been wearing, despite the fact that it is the middle of a summer day.

1:07.41. One of them menacingly raises a hook he has clenched in his fist. OK, that one may be the killer. Or he's a hook salesman, shopping his wares. They're often the victims of misunderstandings.

1:12.13: Phillippe's killed via hook. Abercrombie & Fitch's stock plunges.

1:15.44: Gellar, who is trapped in the back of a cop car, sees the killer approaching with a hook. She then kicks out a window, increasing her chances of death about 100 percent.

1:16.39: Gellar runs. The killer follows at what appears to be a leisurely walking pace. The distance between them does not change.

1:17.49: Gellar slams her palm on the door of the store in which she works. hoping to get her bitchy blonde co-worker to open the door. The co-worker pauses to grab a set of keys, because apparently the door locks from the inside with a key. Wait, what?

1:18.23: The bitchy blonde co-worker is killed via hook.

1:19.24: The store's mannequins are covered with plastic to prevent unsightly mannequin dust. Oh, wait, one of them is the killer.

1:22.38: I think Gellar just died. Hold on.

1:25.42: The killer is revealed. It's some guy, and Hewitt's stuck on a boat with him.

1:26:17: Hewitt runs to the deck of the boat, then swears when she sees that land is approximately 75 feet away. Despite growing up in an ocean-side town, she evidently could never swim that far.

1:30.57: Yup, Gellar's dead. But on the plus side, Hewitt had to strip down to a white tank top and crawl around in a bunch of ice for some reason. If they had called this movie Jennifer Love Hewitt Strips Down to a Tank Top and Crawls Around in a Bunch of Ice For Some Reason it would have raked in more cash than Avatar.

1:32.42: The killer dies in a Rube Goldberg-like way involving ropes and pulleys and hooks and a severed hand. This is exactly the kind of thing that would happen all the time if the Three Stooges became homicidal maniacs.

1:34.10: Funniest line of the night: The small-town sheriff sees the killer's hand, still clutching a hook, hanging from the ship's netting and says, "The body will turn up. They usually do." Yeah, it's just the standard situation where a hook-wielding maniac has his hand severed on a fishing boat, then plunges screaming into the ocean. I'm pretty sure that's a code 151 on the scanner.

1:34.30: One years later.

1:34.52: Hewitt's about to take a shower.

1:34:58: A new note distracts her from stepping into the shower. DAMNIT HOOK MAN THIS WAS YOUR GREATEST CRIME OF ALL!

1:35.00: There's a twist.

1:36.00: I look up Southport on Wikipedia and discover it's a real place.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Closer Look at Textbook Controversy

The Texas State Board of Education recently imposed controversial new standards for textbooks that some say are too heavily tilted toward conservative thought. What are some of the changes in the new textbooks?

1) In cost-saving move, list of presidents already includes Sarah Palin.

2) Fifteen pages devoted to civil-rights struggles replaced with tasty but historically irrelevant barbecue-sauce recipes.

3) Book asserts that founders meant most constitutional amendments sarcastically, "like when you write 'Hope we hang out soon!' in a fat kid's yearbook."

4) Section devoted to Ronald Reagan accompanied by Photoshopped image of Reagan performing the Moonwalk at the Motown 25 show in 1983.

5) Loss of Vietnam war blamed primarily on premarital sex by Billy Thomas and Suzie Watkins on Nov. 21, 1971 in Thomas' parents' basement.

6) Every scientific achievement mentioned illustrated with a photo of characters from "Revenge of the Nerds."

7) Claims that Joseph McCarthy was vindicated; also claims that he wrote the "Twilight" series.

8) Free-market economy is championed, but note in back claims that book "can be burned for warmth."

9) Portion devoted to George W. Bush's presidency to be blacked out in each book with Magic Marker.

10) Al Gore sarcastically listed in index as "inventor of the internet."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Seattle Times Readers are Inhuman Monsters

The Seattle Times recently ran a story about a boy who has become a health-care advocate after the death of his mother. Leaving aside the fact that the story raises some unanswered questions, I'd like to point out that it has spawned a crazy, mean-spirited host of comments clinging to the story's belly like a parasite to a host. Let's dive in, shall we?

I'm sorry, but I'm no more responsible for this family's healthcare than Bill Gates is responsible for my retirement.

Bill Gates presumably pays social security taxes, so he is kind of responsible for your retirement, unless you plan on turning down that money. Oh, and he's also helped pay for the roads you drive on, the public schools you or your children attended, the fire department you call when your house catches on fire, and ... well, you get the idea.

What did the woman weigh when she fell ill? Was this not a contributing factor? Senator Murray's webpage said she died because "she didn't have insurance". I suspect she died because of more than that. But that would speak to personal responsibility and that - of course - is anathema to those who want more government, more taxes.

Shorter version of that comment: Fat people deserve to die! Oh, and I like how this commentator "suspects" she died of "more of that." Tell me more, Dr. House.

the deceased made some seriously fatal errors in judgement that had little to do with whether she was insured. if she was a smoker as some have suggested, it changes the story even more.

First of all, there is no evidence whatsoever whether this woman smoked, and there seems to be no evidence that if she did, it was a risk factor for her condition. But, putting that aside, this author seems to imply that someone whose condition is caused by their own actions does not deserve health care, which is both mean and stupid. If you cut your thumb off while slicing vegetables, don't call 911! It's your fault, one-thumb!

Oh, and here's another thing: The Seattle Times doesn't specify if this family is American-born. Are they truly American citizens, or are they illegal aliens??


I don't mean to appear harsh, but a part of life is death.

If a burglar breaks into your house and starts stabbing you, don't fight back! After all, death is a part of life!

this kid is being used patty to promote her socialism-how sad!

Hey, you know what else is sad? Having your mom die of complications from pulmonary hypertension.

Let Obama have the 13,000 insurance companies compete across state lines, and go after the Tort lawyers, and you'd have at least a 50-75% reduction in cost.

I would really, really like to know where the author came up with that 50-75 percent number. I'm guessing he pulled it right out of his ass. On a related note, studies have repeatedly shown that tort reform will have little to no effect on health care costs.

Allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines, let the market drive down prices.

Currently, one of the largest problems with this country's health care system is that insurance companies will not insure people if they are at risk to get sick. (Or they kick them off the insurance if they do get sick.) Nobody has ever explained how allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines will fix this. If a company based in California won't insure you because you had leukemia, why would a company in Ohio be willing to take you on? Oh, and even if you are able to fix that part of the problem, letting companies sell insurance in different states remains a questionable proposition.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mocking Seattle Times Readers: An Ongoing Series, Part II

I don't know about "blaming the poor." The larger problem is that those who would label America a heartlessly judgmental place cannot account for an entire class of people who are simply working the system rather than taking advantage of the most meritocratic nation in the world. I can hear it now..."but these people have been kept down by their social situation"...but here's the truth: no matter how much baggage your crappy background produced, there are really two classes of people: Those who move forward and make the best of it and those who live in the past and expect everyone to agree that they can't work because of various grievances they have with life. YES, there are many people out there who are in dire circumstances, and those people MUST be helped. But how do you tell the difference between them and the shirkers? The shirkers are NOT fictional, and people are angry at THEM, not the poor. The shirkers are the people that are killing the unfortunate poor because they are posing as impostors, the better to milk the system, overwhelming it and embittering those who hold up the social safety net with their taxes.

(1) When somebody begins a sentence by writing, "There are really only two classes of people," you can be 99 percent certain that, logically speaking, a sack filled with bullshit is about to be dropped on your head. In this case, the writer would have you believe that the only people to receive government assistance can be divided into two categories: (a) People who will escape poverty to get high-paying jobs or valuable college scholarships based on pluck, just like that guy in The Pursuit of Happyness, or (b) cheating scofflaws who use their food stamps to purchase paint to huff. This is an easy way to justify loathing those who receive government assistance, but it's simply not true, as anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention knows.

(2) I like how the shirkers are "posing as impostors." If you posed as an impostor, everyone would instantly know you're an impostor because that's what you're posing as.

(3) Did you know there are only two classes of people, those who love my blog and those who beat adorable penguins to death with ball peen hammers? TRUE STORY.

(4) The author refers to "those who hold up the country's safety net with their taxes." The implied argument, which you encounter frequently, is that poor people do not pay taxes. That is untrue; even poor people who do not work - and there are, incidentally, lots of poor people who do work - pay sales and excises taxes, and therefore should have some ownership and voice in our government and country.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mocking Seattle Times Readers: An Ongoing Series

True that there are many different reasons that one becomes homeless, but making it easy and relatively comfortable does nothing to inspire one to better themselves. I am all for a hand-up, but not for a hand-out.

I love it when people argue that homeless people are not "inspired," as if the only thing standing between them and success is one of those motivational posters with an eagle on it, and underneath the eagle it says something like "Only when you spread your wings can you truly fly." The implication is that if you give a homeless person a sandwich, they will immediately trade it for crack cocaine; if you, however, make them dance for the sandwich, they will go on to open their own chain of dance studios and name them after you.

Homeless people are typically homeless because of a complex web of problems that can include alcoholism, mental illness or disabilities. Treating those problems is difficult to begin with; it's impossible when the person being treated does not have a place to live, nutritional meals or basic medical care. Giving them those things will not make them lazy; it will make them more healthy. It's the smart thing to do, and the decent thing to do.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Hollywood Jerk: A Field Guide

I recently watched Up in the Air, which pretty much everyone agrees is one of the best movies of 2009. It was great, but I couldn't help feeling disquieted during much of it for reasons I couldn't quite grasp.

I grasped them later: It was a Hollywood Jerk movie.

It's difficult to explain what a Hollywood Jerk movie is, because the genre can be nebulous, but I'll do my best. Basically, if you see a character in a major-studio film who is financially successful or has lots of sex, that character will invariably be shown as having an empty, emotionally shallow life. They are a Hollywood Jerk, and they can only be redeemed by a one or more of the following actions: (a) finding a romantic partner with whom they will spend the rest of their life, because single people are losers (b) giving up their horrible, high-paying jobs, because lawyers and businesspeople who travel a lot are missing out on real life, and (c) rushing to see their child's baseball game or piano recital.

I'm not saying that Hollywood Jerk movies are always bad. They can often be excellent, and lately films like Up in the Air have been injecting new subtlety and ideas into them. (Up in the Air takes such unexpected and nuanced turns late that it can hardly be considered a Hollywood Jerk film at all.) But the cliches that can be found routinely in them have spread to every corner of filmdom. The Hollywood Jerk can appear, magically, in any genre. They can most often be found in romantic comedies, such as Sweet Home Alabama, but can also be found in dramas, such as Regarding Henry; broad comedies, such as Liar, Liar; raunchy comedies, such as Wedding Crashers; or even thrillers, such as Phone Booth. (Side note: Regarding Henry has been deservedly forgotten, but I'd like to point out that a studio actually financed and produced a film about a mean lawyer who only becomes nice after he is shot in the head and suffers horrific brain trauma. THAT IS ACTUALLY THE PLOT OF THE MOVIE.)

Here are some ways to spot a Hollywood Jerk.

1) They wear nice clothes. The easiest way to spot a Hollywood Jerk is by their clothing. The male will be wearing a suit, especially one with a loud, brightly colored tie, and will be carrying a briefcase, which will contain papers that his child will later finger-paint on, teaching the male the importance of Not Taking Things Too Seriously. The female will be wearing some sort of power suit, and her hair will be highly stylized so that later in the movie she will let it down, revealing that women do not actually need to style their hair to be beautiful. (Side note: Yes, they do.) Both sexes will frequently be walking quickly through an office building and be talking at a comical pace into a cellphone, because only powerful people who have lost touch with their emotions do this. Powerless people who have the wisdom to love only use land lines, making calls with old-timey rotary telephones or, in a pinch, Sports Illustrated phones that are shaped like footballs.

2) They have high-powered jobs. Hollywood Jerks, whether male or female are almost always lawyers or businessmen. This tells you instantly that the jerk in question is cold, calculating, focused on material gain and seemingly incapable of love. Later in the film, they will tell their boss off, usually in spectacular fashion during a Big Board Meeting Around a Polished Wood Desk, then quit to go do what they've always dreamed of, such as being a carny or selling a unique brand of chainsaw art.

3) They miss their kids' recitals, birthdays and/or baseball games. The Hollywood Jerk reveals his jerkiness in several ways - using hair spray, for example, or having money - but there is no more revealing one than putting their career first. This frequently manifests itself when the jerk in question misses a crucial day in his son or daughter's life. If it's a son, it was almost always be a baseball game, because god knows, the average youth baseball player only plays 26 times a week, and missing one of those games means Billy will grow up to prostitute himself out behind the bus station; if it's a daughter, it will almost always be a musical performance of some kind, and she will search in vain for her father's attentive face in mid-performance, an act that would cause her to fall into the orchestra pit in real life. The lowest of the Hollywood Jerk, though, will miss his son or daughter's birthday, and they will look really sad when they blow out the candles. Later in the film, the main character will have to resolve some sort of crisis, then rush like an ambulance driver to make it in time for their kid's event, which will then erase all the prior years of neglect.

4) They have attractive sexual partners.
If you settle in to watch a mainstream movie and the main character has sex that actually looks fun, be suspicious, because you are probably in the presence of a Hollywood Jerk. Having vigorous sex with one or more attractive partners may look fun, but as Tom Cruise learned in Jerry Maguire and Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson learned in Wedding Crashers, it's actually a sign that you live a meaningless life. Later, the sex will be soft-lit and occasionally punctuated with wry, funny comments to show the characters Don't Take Themselves Too Seriously Anymore.