Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Basic Humanity

It is amazing that all it takes to be looked upon like a hero in this celebrity-obsessed world is to not act like an entitled asshole all of the time. Today Christian Bale went (sans media, we only found out about this because people update their Facebook incessantly) to visit the victims of the Colorado shootings and the memorial set up for the victims who lost their lives. Bale is no stranger to acting like a dick, but good for him.

How do they make ends meet????

So apparently being in a rapidly declining sitcom is still very profitable, as today we found out that the cast of Modern Family is unhappy with their compensation. The main cast, with the exception of Ed O'Neill, makes about $65,000 a week during shooting (Ed makes $105,000). I'm no math genius, but that comes out to about $1.43 million for 5-6 months of work. They are holding out for raises to about $200,000 per episode (with O'Neill of course getting proportionally more).

Now, here is where I would normally rail against the machine, where I would deride these fools as money-hungry fame-whores. But the reality is, they should make more than they do. The studio that produces the show is making a killing already and with Modern Family about to go into syndication, they are about to start making the big money. The cast should enjoy some of those benefits.

The kicker is going to come in when the new reality of television starts affecting things like syndication deals. I mean what kind of staying power will this show have? People still like watching Seinfeld, but millions more people were watching Seinfeld than have ever watched Modern Family... Are the millions and millions of dollars really out there?

Either way, for a show that I enjoyed as much as I did two years ago, quite frankly I've stopped watching it. I mean, I'll stop by if I see Sofia Vergara on my television screen, but otherwise complacent characterization and lazy writing have killed any interest I have in seeing where this show goes in the future.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cuz I'm Batman...

So I saw the new Batman movie the other night. So how was the conclusion to the Nolan’s vision? I have read a number of reviews and critics who are underwhelmed by what The Dark Knight Rises is, but as a general movie-goer (certainly not a comic-book fan by any stretch), I was more than satisfied. It wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, but what is?

I really enjoyed the different performances in the film. I have never been a fan of Anne Hathaway, but she made me a convert in this film. It might have been the leather suit, or it just could have been the personality that she brought to what could have been a very dark film. I liked that fact that Christian Bale was allowed to spend most of his time not growling as Batman, but the film allowed him to actually act a bit as a human being.

So where does Batman go from here? I dunno, I’d like to think that there really isn’t anywhere to go, that the story is complete, but we all know that where there is money to be made, that Hollywood will try and make it. I hope that they try for another lightning strike and find a young filmmaker that will come in with a strong vision and aesthetic to take the source material and go someplace new and interesting. I hope, but I am not hopeful. We all know where this is going (we can go see Spiderman as an example), so we should just enjoy the good Batman while we can.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bells of Recantation 7/21/12

When I drive around this valley of sun/death/heat I end up listening to a shit-ton of sports radio. My least favorite radio program is the Doug and Wolf show (actually this isn't true: to use one of my favorite/overused phrases, if I could light Colin Cowherd on fire and then kick him down four or five flights of stairs I would), but they have a bit they do when they have to recant on an opinion. They start ringing bells, and they have the 'Bells of Recantation' which of course I am going to steal.

So what am I recanting on? Well, Britta of course. I have been an avid Community watcher/fan since the beginning. It is a great little slice of television absurdity, but that first season, the only sour note was Gillian Jacobs as Britta Perry. Initially conceived as a love interest for Joel McHale's character, she usually just came off shrewish and condescending. So I, like most normal people despised her.

By the end of season one though, the writers had figured out they had a Britta problem and made some changes to her personality. They didn't make her different, but rather they changed how they approached her smugness and superior attitude and made her 'the worst.' In the vernacular of the show, when you have made a GOB-style huge mistake, you've Britta-ed it. Which has allowed Gillian Jacobs to become one of my favorite parts of the show.

Heading into this fourth season of Community with all of the questions surrounding the change of showrunner and writing staff, I just hope that they allow Britta to continue on her path to enlightenment, where she will of course screw it up somehow...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Takin' Care of Business...

I had a logical, well reasoned post about Fred's arrest this morning all ready to post. Then I went to twitter and saw that Chrissy Teigen had boiled the situation down to its essential point:

what the fuck? who DOESN'T masturbate in a porn theater? are there any other options? no one is eating sour patch kids and dibs

Boom, she's pretty and she has great common sense...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Leader!!!

So it's Batman time again and people are already grousing about whether or not the movie is good, or whether or not Nolan is a good film-maker, or whether or not Batman's voice is a hate-crime against movie-goers. The argument as to Nolan's talents is an interesting one to me. He is accused of being too literal by many critics which is a fascinating thing to me to understand.

The criticism started picking up steam with The Dark Knight and really got going with Inception. He is often accused of not showing his ideas, but rather telling them through dialogue and exposition. Which I kind of agree with, but after watching most of Nolan's work, I would argue that these are more stylistic choices than any inherent flaw of Nolan's movie-making.

From my own perspective, the biggest problem most people have is a disconnect between expectation and execution. People want campy Batman, or some sort of French New Wave auteur, or David Lynch or something. Instead, Nolan gives them an earnest, almost abrasive storytelling style that reflects a clear, analytic, almost cold perspective that Nolan has towards his subjects. It is shocking to me that he has become a director of blockbusters because if you look at his work it is not for the faint of heart or the simple of mind.

Is Christopher Nolan a great film-maker? I don't know enough about film to say yes or now, but he knows how to create films that can challenge, intrigue, and resonate. I'd rather spend my money this way than by lining Michael Bay's pockets.

Slice of Life

So I was heading into work today and made my customary stop at the QT on 52nd and University. I go into the restroom and was hit in the face with the overwhelming smell of human waste. This is noteworthy due to how clean the QT usually keeps their restrooms. I have to wait in a short line to take care of my business, which again was strange, and you can just hear this guy taking a HEROIC shit. I mean just epic. Anyway some time passes, I take care of my stuff and am washing my hands as the door to the toilet flies open and this dude staggers out looking dazed and/or confused. He pauses in front of the mirror and walks out, not bothering to, you know, wash his hands or anything.

He then goes and grabs a 44 ounce cup, fills it with soda and waltzes up to the counter like he's not spreading hepatitis c just by walking through the place. I wanted to throw up.

Anyway, just thought I'd share.

The Gambler

I hate Pete Rose almost as much as I hate any Dodger. In fact, I think that he should only get into the Hall of Fame after they let his many ex-wives kick him in the junk and light him on fire. Although it would have to be a kick-ass fire... I only bring this up because there is supposedly a reality show in the works starring this freak. I'm betting it only gets a couple of episodes before it goes off the air...

But you know the only reason that anyone is going to sit and watch this creative abortion is Pete's girlfriend looks like this:

Although to be fair, she has been so Photoshopped that she could really be a Thai ladyboy named Panit for all we know. Either way though I'm going to pass, so thanks Pete, for nothing.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

You've Been Warned!!!

So I'm reading my Facebook feed as best I can this morning (can they please stop fucking it up anymore? Please?) and this picture pops up. I'm kind of at a loss to even try to make a pithy comment due to the fact that you have a woman with a huge Slayer tattoo on her stomach. I mean really if you see her like this, you have been warned that she is insane and likely to remove parts of you if you actually talk to her. No matter what she does from here on out - murder hobos on the street, rob banks, or try to eat someone's face off in a rage - people will see that tattoo and think to themselves, "well, yeah just look at that tattoo..."

That and you just know she's got VD...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

So yeah....

That didn't work out so well. Apparently I don't have that many PG rated takes on things... Anyway, I've been busy working and not doing anything productive, so I have decided to blow up my blog. So, fair warning...

Monday, June 18, 2012

But what do we think of his hairpiece?

So I've been behind on my social commentary, I'm not really sure why. For whatever reason, I've been reading about John Travolta and his little problem with the help and I was really struck by two things:

1. Kelly Preston is still really hot.


2. Why do I give a damn about who or what John Travolta wants to sex up? This doesn't excuse his unwanted advances on people (who if they are willing to be paid off are kinda saying they didn't mind all that much), but if Danny Zuko wants to go bust off some moves with some dude, why do we get so upset about it? The gay boogeyman really needs to go away. All this gossip-mongering about Travolta has actually made me feel bad for a privileged multi-millionaire. Who woulda thunk?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

So What is the Endgame Courtney?

Now, let me preface this by saying that I don't have anything against people who want to humiliate themselves for my amusement. That said, I have to really question what the hell Courtney Stodden's father/husband/pimp is thinking. The poor girl is 17, looks like she's pushing 30 most of the time, and is continually pushing the idea that she is some sort of sexpot. I hate to be the one to tell her that when you are constantly telling people you are sexy, that means you really aren't and no amount of silicon or make-up will cover that fact up.

I guess that my question is really, where can she go from here? Unless she is angling for a career in porn, she's put herself into that corner before she's even had a chance to have a real career. Sadly, she's probably more marketable/hireable than Lindsay Lohan at this point, but really if they stood next to each other, who could tell the difference?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Like a lemon to a lime a lime to a lemon

So MCA died yesterday and none of you ghouls had him, for which I'm kinda grateful. I was never a huge fan of the Beastie Boys after Paul's Boutique, but they were funny and you never knew what they were going to do next. We wore out License to Ill in high school, so that is why I picked this video to post, some good times were had.

Mad Men Season 5

So in a previous post I lamented my late arrival to the television series Mad Men and my damn near heroic efforts that I undertook to get myself caught up. No, it wasn't nearly as horrifying as it could have been, but getting through 54 or so hours of television in about a month is no small feat.

Anyway, I bring this up because season 5 is currently airing and boy howdy, is it good (see what happens when I start censoring myself a bit? I don't care for that...). I contemplated being one of the bandwagon jumping blogger who spouts off knee-jerk reactions to episodes, but that didn't really appeal to me, besides watching Mad Men and trying to figure out what is happening after one or two episodes is like trying to divine the true meaning of the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42. You need time, space, and perspective to figure out that it is just Damon Lindloff's idea of how to see Evangeline Lilly in skimpy outfits every day... Anyway, here are a couple of thoughts about this season of Mad Men:

1. The writers have done a really clever thing in the way they are treating Don's marriage to Megan. Prior to the season premier there was so much speculation among critics and fans as to how they could get rid of Megan so as to not kill the show or how their relationship would be some sort of farce and the actions of Tomorrowland would be the series' shark-jumping moment. Neither has been the case, instead we get a complicated portrayal of two strong-minded people trying to make a strange marriage work. Don may have thought he was getting Julie Andrews-like nanny, but what he really got was a smart, driven young woman who isn't afraid to call him on his shit. Don had been so cloaked in secrets and lies that many thought their relationship was doomed before it started. The writer's have shown us how Don has changed, and how he hasn't, whithout a lot of clunky dialogue or hacky set pieces. It has been interesting to watch.

2. Nobody has missed Betty. We all got to see too much of her last year as she devolved into a shrew that even her new husband couldn't stand. This year she has been relegated to one episode and it has been the season's low point. They have reached the point where they either really need to ramp up Betty's role in the story or they just need to get rid of her altogether.

3. Finally, Roger Sterling is the Man...

It has been a good season so far, I am very interested in where they plan on taking this story, to see what this is all supposed to mean and how it all affects these characters who are as richly drawn as any that television has ever had. Oh, and good on Joan for getting rid of Dr. Raper this year too... He was creepy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Death stalks you at every turn!

So in the grand tradition of the Van Blogger/Haven we are continuing our annual morbid countdown to see which of these celebrities makes it through the year and which ones take the long dirt nap. As always, the winner gets a 12 pack of Coke products...which isn't product placement like the Hecht's neighbors getting a Jetta on The Middle... Stupid corporate America...

We'll start with the defending champion Kristin's picks:

1. Tom Sizemore
2. Lindsey Lohan
3. Andy Griffith
4. Aretha Franklin
5. Betty White
6. Zsa Zsa Gabor
7. Kirk Douglas
8. Dick Van Dyke
9. Prince Phillip (the Queen's hubby)
10. Charlotte Rae

Brandt checks in with the following:

1. GHW Bush
2. Ruth Bader-Ginsburg
3. Fidel Castro
4. Arpaio - by assassination (+ 10 points for calling it)
5. Coach Eddie Robinson
6. Stan "The Man" Musial
7. Fats Domino (fat and nearly dead)
8. Nelson Mandela
9. Stephen Hawking (.5 dead already)
10. Rev. Billy Graham (a rude awakening awaits)

Renee selected the following:

1. Britney Spears
2. Paula Abdul
3. Ringo Starr
4. Paul McCartney (Car Crash)
5. Queen of England
6. Yoko Ono
7. Diana Ross
8. Florence Henderson
9. Mel Brooks
10. Demi Lovato.

My picks are broken into two divisions again:

Old Bastard Division:
1. Kirk Douglas – Stroke
2. Mary Tyler Moore – Diabetes complications
3. Nancy Reagan – Overdose!
4. Dion Warwick – Suicide
5. Pat Robertson – Assassination

Young Freak Division:
6. Josh Hamilton – Car Accident/DUI
7. Terell Owens – Suicide
8. Christina Aguilera – Choking on her own vomit
9. Arte Lange – Heart Attack
10. Ke$ha – Overdose

And we have a new participant this year as Heather decided to school us all:

1. Eddie Van Halen – Alcohol/drugs
2. Rumor Willis – OD
3. Demi Moore – OD
4. Mary Tyler Moore – Stroke
5. Muhammad Ali – complications from Parkinson’s
6. Steven Tyler – Heart Attack
7. Dick Clark – Stroke
8. John Madden – Heart Attack
9. Tara Reid – OD
10. Bobby Brown – Grief over lost love

So far that's it... There is still time for Eric to join the fun.... Or anyone else who wants in.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

So Who the Hell

works for Askmen.com? On my old blog I wrote a rant about Maxim's choice of Katy Perry as the sexiest woman alive a couple of years back. After looking at this new list that Askmen.com put out (which received a surprising amount of publicity by the way, what the hell is that about?) I feel like I need to apologize to Maxim.

Well, now that I think about it, no I'm not apologizing to those idiots, have you actually read that dreck?

Anyway, this new list is horrific. Of course I'm good with Sofia Vergara, but most of the others in the top 10? Rihanna? Nicki Minaj? Miranda Kerr? Rooney Mara? Candice Swanepoel? Ugh... All either solidly meh or flat out terrifying. Of course might prompt me to come up with my own again.... Consider yourself warned.

Stupid books

So I totally ditched Catch-22 for now. I hate it. I'll give it another read later, but I was bogging down with the stupid book, life's too short, so I'm reading Tender is the Night by Fitzgerald. So far it isn't too bad, but who knows.

What I really want is a good new book, but I am at a loss. I think that I'm just going to have to go to Barnes and Noble and spend some time and money finding a new book or a new author to read. Gee, that sounds horrible.

A Different Kind of Van Halen

Van Halen released a new album today. I've been trying to work my way through this information, to process it and quite frankly I'm not sure how I feel about the whole endeavor.

I'd like to say that I'm past the idea that Van Halen matters to me in any way, but I'm obviously not. I'd like to say that the thought of a Van Halen that doesn't include Michael Anthony doesn't bother me, but it does. I considered a boycott, but I'm afraid that I just couldn't do it. They have pissed me off, but I'm like a battered spouse at this point.

Trust me, I'm not crazy enough to think that any of this crap matters in the grand scheme of things (or even in the little scheme of things), but Van Halen sold records on a couple of key ideas and idea number one was that nobody had more fun than they did. A Van Halen show was a party and everyone was invited. Well, I guess that over the past decade of inactivity, bitterness, and hatred directed towards ex-band members and fans taught us that this concept was nothing more than marketing. Quite frankly after seeing the mess that EVH was in 2004, I'm surprised that he's still breathing.

Now they are selling themselves as something, I'm not quite sure what. It is funny that they have done no press for this, I guess that they are afraid that someone might ask a question about their inactivity or stupidity. Whatever...

I guess all that matters is the music on the new disc and fortunately for them, most of it is pretty good. Most of these songs are old, written in the mid-70's or early 80's, so we are not dealing with the most vital songwriters anymore, but I guess that the fact that Ed is still alive and playing pretty well is something to celebrate. Just forgive me if I'm not leading the parade on this one.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Catch 2-blah....

So in the interest of honesty, I have been trying to read the novel Catch-22 for the past week. I cannot truly express how little I care about this book, so far. It is slowly getting interesting, but I don't know how long it will take to actually read it. So, the posting will be slowed until I finish it. Yuck.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

No. 45 - The Sun Also Rises

So I'm going to be reading the Modern Library's 100 best novels. First up? Number 45, Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters.

Let me get this out there at the beginning: I HATE Ernest Hemingway, I always have. His 'iceberg theory' (which I have to be completely honest, it could be something that a teacher/professor attributed to him, I've never read anything by him describing it, but it sounds right, so I'm going with it)of storytelling is pretentious and his storytelling style has become sort of a shorthand for 'underdeveloped.' My experiences with Big Papa were previously confined to some short stories and two novels I had all read in high school: The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms.

So the question is out there, why would I pick a book by Hemingway first to read off of the list? I don't know. I do not have a good reason other than it looked good and short (which is a good enough reason to me). For whatever reason, I picked up The Sun Also Rises Thursday afternoon and found it compelling enough to finish yesterday. I have to be honest, I really enjoyed the book. It finally gave me some understanding about several things concerning Hemingway.

First, it is the only work of Hemingway's that I have read where it didn't feel like he was trying too hard to be 'literary' or important. That was always my beef with his work, they have always felt too labored and stiff. I liked the main character, Jacob 'Jake' Barnes. Jake was maimed in the war and as a result he was impotent. This fact come up very obliquely several times as a reason why Jake has difficulty committing to relationships, but it becomes obvious that even if Jake were whole physically, he'd be just as incapable of finding happiness and contentment. Jake's interactions with his friends and acquaintances was enjoyable and Hemingway does really make post-war Paris and Spain feel alive. The dusty, underdeveloped backwaters of Spain and the bright fanfare and non-stop Bacchanalia of the Festival of San Fermin are a great complement to the disintegration of the relationships that are happening in the novel. Hemingway has always somehow been linked to the running of the bulls in Pamplona and now I finally know why.

This is not to say that this novel is perfect, far from it. The rampant anti-Semitism in the novel is off-putting. Robert Cohn is ostracized and belittled for being Jewish, he's the outsider of the group, whose personality falls into stereotype on more than one occasion. There are plenty of reasons to hate Cohn's character, Hemingway didn't need to keep hitting that chord. In fact, there are several instances of some fairly nasty racial epithets in the novel. In 1926 these terms were less shocking I'm sure, but to today's reader they are unsettling.

The idea of how this novel would be written in today's world is an interesting one. Sure, we'd probably get a more sanitized world-view, but I'm positive that the content today would be much more explicit sexually and linguistically. Neither of which would improve the book. The general tone of these characters looking, searching for something to give their lives some sort of meaning would be cheapened by the tawdriness of it.

They say that this is Hemingway's ode to the Lost Generation, that this was his way of expressing the ennui and discontent that afflicted this post-WWI group of writers and expatriates. I don't know about all of that, what I do know is that it gave more credence to the idea that people have never changed. When Jake and his companions continue searching for something to fill the void within themselves, whether it is religion, alcohol, or sex, they were mirroring the world that Hemingway lived in, but they could just as easily be writing about people today. The quote at the beginning was Jake's response to Robert Cohn's complaint that he isn't living his life to its fullest capacity, that he wasn't living his life all the way up. I had always believed that to be a 60's or 70's gripe.

So, now that I have finished the first book of this challenge, do I still HATE Ernest Hemingway? Nah,that's way too strong. I don't know that I'll read any of his other works, but this book worked for me. Maybe relying on opinions created by a teen-aged version of me isn't the best idea... Something to think about I guess.

P.S. The Iceberg Theory really was Hemingway's. I still think it's garbage...

The List

If you have never noticed, I tend to be a little bit arrogant about a few things. Well, maybe very arrogant, but you know what, I don't give a damn about your judginess, so whatever. Anyway, I've always taken a bit of pride in the fact that I am fairly well-read. Some of that is a reflection of taking the amount of English courses that I have taken, some of it is the fact that I love to read.

So I was sitting at work the other day the idea of these "best novel" lists came up and I was curious as to how many of these books I've read. I've seen several of these lists, the one from The Guardian is good, as is the one from the College Board, but for some reason, I was really drawn to this one from the Modern Library (which isn't really a group of librarians, but whatever). What was surprising to me is that I had only read eleven of the 100 books listed. Now I hear you saying to yourself, "Only eleven? You suck Francis..." trust me, I said it to myself as well. So I set myself a challenge: to read the other 89 in 2012 (preferrably before December when the world ends). Can I do it? I dunno, but I'm going to give it a roll. And lucky you, interwebz, you get to be subjected to my superficial ramblings about these books. Ha, ha!

For the record, prior to Wednesday, January 18 I had read the following books (with their ranking on the list):

2 - The Great Gatsby
5 - Brave New World
13 - 1984
18 - Slaughterhouse-Five
31 - Animal Farm
41 - Lord of the Flies
64 - Catcher in the Rye
67 - Heart of Darkness
69 - House of Mirth
74 - A Farewell to Arms
88 - Call of the Wild

Now, I'm going to be honest here, I've read about half of number 90, Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, a book that did a fantastic job of killing off the VanAusdal Family Reading Club, so I need to finish that one off to count it. The books on this list are pretty varied and should make for some interesting reading, and if I don't make it through the list this year, what's the worst thing that happened? I read some good books? Sounds good to me.

One last thing, I'm not going to go in any particular order, as you will notice in my first reading selection.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Location - Sometimes

So, I am making the leap to a more mature, less flippant blog... You can find it here: http://gonnasayno.blogspot.com/. Stupid name, I know. Maybe I'll change it later.

I'm still going to post here occasionally, if only to vent in a more private kinda way, but the other place will be more active... So with that, adios for now...

Watch This Show!

I am reaching the age where I'm starting to wax nostalgiac over a great many things. Music was better when I was young. Movies today aren't worth a damn. These kids today... All of that kind of grumpy old-man stuff that makes me crazy, I'm saying it and thinking it. Except that I do not really believe it. Things today are different, but that really meaningless in the grand scheme of things. They just are. Our culture reflects us, for better or worse. Take television for example. For the most part television in the 70's and 80's stunk. There were great shows, but the crap to gold ratio was astonishingly bad.

Thankfully, most of the dross from this era (I mean Alf, really?) has been relegated to the dustbin of history, never to be heard from again except in some ironic, hipster kinda way. What's left? Well, that is what they call the 'Golden Age' of television, right? All in the Family, M*A*S*H, and the like. Except that when you watch it from a modern perspective, these shows are preachy, moralistic, and slow. Which of course must mean that they had meaning. Or not. Viewed from today's prism of an uptempo world, these shows are dated and difficult to watch, unless they remind you of a simpler time, like when Hawkeye would bust out the wine to get the unnamed nurse of the week tipsy so he could reinforce his Lothario reputation. Of course the concept of 'date-rape' was still a decade or so away.

Which brings us to today. Our airwaves are filled with tripe that makes My Two Dads look like Shakespeare. The art of the narrative seems to be lost, at least that is the rallying cry of those who look to the past and see some sort of utopia. The reality is that we are going through a new Golden Age. There are some amazing stories being told today. Not all of them are playing on the big 4 networks, but if you are looking at today's television landscape and seeing a wasteland, you're not looking in the right spots.

So, why am I writing all of this today? Well, one of today's best shows not on a premium channel, FX's Justified, is making its return. And I cannot wait to see what happens to U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens. He's not quite an anti-hero, but rather he's a character that enbodies the more relativist nature of today's America. We don't trust the do-gooder who has no flaws, nor do we want Dirty Harry shooting up the place, we like to see our heroes today as flawed but just. That said, Raylan doled out some serious justice in a great season two of Justified and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.