Thursday, June 21, 2012
However, I like the idea of creating some cards, and giving them out to fellow members. It's kind of like the "school of life" or "school of hard knocks;" it may not be a real place, but that doesn't mean you can't learn from it.
The "Nothing Sacred" school of humor is built on a foundation of the following four rules:
1. Timing is everything. Any comedian will tell you this is true. If you tell a joke to quickly, too slowly, or even mess up the rhythm of the joke, its humor can be lost. You have then killed a perfectly good (or wonderfully bad) joke.
2. If you have to explain it, it's not funny. Have you ever told a joke, and it totally fell flat? No reaction from your audience, save the distant sound of crickets chirping and a lone tumbleweed drifting down a nearby road? Looks like that joke died, too. Don't try to resuscitate it by explaining why it's funny; you're just kicking the corpse. If you killed the joke, odds are it was lame anyway, and had to be put out of its misery. (Yes, I just compared jokes to horses. Ha! Beating a dead horse! Get it? Get it?)
3. Play to your audience. What is funny to one person may not be funny to another. A joke that gets full gut-laughs from your best friend may get a confused look from a family member, or may cause offense in someone you work with. Unemployment is rarely funny; even less so when it happens to you. With humor, one size definitely does not fit all.
4. Everything is fair game. George Carlin put it best when he said "I believe you can joke about anything; it's all in how you construct the joke." There is no topic you cannot turn into humor in some way or another. The trick is finding the right way to tell the joke, and the right person to tell it to. And don't let anybody censor you; that way lies the path of cutesy, milquetoast family fare that is only amusing to Ned Flanders. It's a slippery slope that has killed many comedic careers. Filter yourself, yes; but do not censor yourself. Either everything is acceptable to be joked about, or nothing is.
With these simple rules, it's not that hard to be funny. I'd like to get them printed up onto cards; then I could actually be a "card-carrying member."
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
I saw "The Grey" (the new Liam Neeson movie where he fights off wolves in the Alaskan wilderness) over the weekend, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed it, for the most part. The acting was topnotch, the story was definitely engaging and I really felt for the characters. Liam Neeson, you remain one of the all-time most awesome badasses in cinema.
There is one sticking point that my mind kept going back to, all through the movie. Try as I might to ignore it, I can't seem to get past the fact that the main character, John Ottway, has obviously never taken a single survival class, and wouldn't be fit to lead a parade. There is one absolutely vital rule in any situation where you are lost in the wilderness...
STAY WHERE YOU ARE.
The plane is the only location where the survivors have any chance of surviving until the coming rescue. There are several arguments for this:
1. There are no reasons the forest would be better, and plenty of reasons it would be worse.
Ottway decides, entirely on his own, that the crashed wreckage of the plane is not a safe place to be, since it is obviously within the wolves' territory. He tells the other survivors that their best bet is to head for a forest, about a day's hard march through the blizzard. He also admits that he has no way of knowing where the wolves' hunting trails begin or end, and that their kill-zone is over 30 miles wide.
So of course, leaving a big metal structure and trekking across the tundra while hungry and injured is a brilliant freaking idea. Equally stellar is the notion that you'll be safer in a place where there is cover for these vicious predators to sneak up on you. Besides, that forest is just as likely to be part of their hunting grounds, as plenty of prey most likely lives there.
Dude. Any one of the other survivors would raise his hand at that point and say, "Um, shouldn't we maybe stay near the plane, which rescue crews are most likely to be looking for? You know, where the pilot was probably making frequent radio check-ins, and is along the pre-arranged flight path that the FAA knows?"
The plane also most likely has a GPS and an emergency signal transmitter in its Black Box (flight recorder,) which is designed to withstand a horrific crash. An airplane's flight recorder is specified to withstand an impact of 3400 Gs and temperatures of over 1,000 °C (1,832 °F.) The authorities are going to be looking for that signal first. It seems kind of stupid to make them search for 7 tiny little people in a big honkin' tundra, after they searched for and found a plane.
2. Burned-out fuselage may look depressing, but at least it has a roof. And walls.
That plane is the one place anybody lost in the snow would want to be. It may be within the wolves' kill-zone, but it's also the most easily defensible location. There is plenty of scrap material all around that can be carried over and used to fortify their position against a predatory attack. The best thing they can put between themselves and the creatures who want to eat them is distance, but do you know what's a close second?
Metal. Lots and lots of metal. And distance is kind of hard to come by when you're trudging along at 1 mph, putting the scent of blood into the air. The survivors are basically turning themselves into a slow buffet line by walking away from the only real shelter they have.
3. Food and fire kinda come in handy when you're hungry and cold.
There is no guarantee there will be anything to eat in the forest. There is sure to be a cache of emergency supplies in the plane, probably somewhere near the aforementioned Black Box. Besides, a human being can survive for up to 3 weeks without food. That same human being is unlikely to survive the teeth of a Yukon Wolf for 3 minutes.
And while there is plenty of wood to burn in those trees, there's plenty to burn in the crash site too. And it's easier to light a fire when you're protected from the wind and snow by those nice, big, metal walls. Plus, body heat will not dissipate as fast, and the heat of 7 men will keep that wreckage nice and toasty for a good long while.
Admittedly, a film about 7 guys hanging out at a crash site until they're rescued a week later wouldn't be nearly as thrilling. Nor is it even half as badass as seeing Liam Neeson use electrical tape and mini liquor bottles to Wolverine his fist. But still, this character would be far more believable if he showed the survival skills taught to the average Cub Scout.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
I had a crystallizing moment today. I realized that I seem to be very single-minded when it comes to some of my friends. There are a number of people that I care about a great deal, who have certain aspects of their life that catch my attention. A couple of them are Jewish, some are gay, one or two have military experience and a good number of war stories. These are just a few examples of interesting parts of the interesting lives of the interesting people that I know and care about.
All of these parts of their lives are fascinating, and I have just realized that when I am with these friends, I tend to focus almost solely on these parts of their personality or history. Nearly my entire conversation with these people seems to center around one or two topics, usually related to these particular aspects.
When it comes to my Jewish friends, I always bring up topics about religion, Hebrew culture, and stories in the news about Israel or Anti-Semitism. With my gay friends, it becomes a discussion about gay rights, if and when they will be allowed to marry, and how the gay community is treated by certain groups. And with one particular friend who was a Navy SEAL, I always want to hear more epic tales about his time in the service.
The moment of clarity I had this morning has laid bare a fact about me that I'm not sure I like. I am single-minded. I tend to focus entirely on one topic, and proceed to beat it into the ground. This is not exclusive to what my friends have to say. When I want to tell people about a movie, band or book that I am into, I will completely canvas the entire subject, and talk about it ad nauseum. As a result, I will actually turn people off the topic I have brought up.
This is the exact opposite effect of what I would like to happen. I talk about things that interest me because I would like to get people interested in those same subjects. That is the typical goal of anyone. When you talk about something, it usually means a lot to you, and you would like it to mean a lot to others.
I now realize that this means I can tend to pigeonhole my friends into certain mindsets and labels. I don't like this. I need to realize, the people I care about are complex, multi-faceted people. They have many interwoven aspects to their lives that deserve my interest and attention.
So now, to any of my friends who have been on the receiving end of my one-note conversations, I would like to apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness. I want to know you as entire people, rather than just identifying you as one part of yourselves. So please, dear friends, let me know that there is more to you than what I focus on. I'll try in future to let our frienships be more encompassing. Thanks.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
It'll be good to hang out with some friends I haven't seen in a while. However, I'm sure this will be nothing like the bachelor parties you see on TV and in the movies. Of course, that's definitely a good thing. The impending party tonight has me thinking about one of the better movies from last year: The Hangover.
I went to see it because I figured I could stand to shut off my brain for a couple of hours, and I thought this would be something along the lines of Dude, Where's My Car? or SuperBad. I was pleasantly shocked to find that The Hangover is suprisingly smart, well-written and the acting is top-notch. Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms play off each other remarkably well, and keep the audience laughing and fascinated for the whole time.
Later, I realized that The Hangover is more than just a well-written and excellently performed buddy comedy about a bachelor party gone horribly, horribly wrong. I felt I'd seen this story somewhere before, but couldn't quite put my finger on it. Later, I realized where I'd seen it, and that made me laugh myself silly all over again...
The Hangover is a modern retelling of The Wizard of Oz.
Now bear with me, readers; I've given this a good deal of consideration. (This goes to show the weird places my mind goes to when I get lost in my own thoughts.) Anybody who hasn't seen The Hangover yet, be forewarned: spoilers ahead.
First we meet Alan, played brilliantly by Zach Galifianakis. He is the Scarecrow. Just listen to him talk for 30 seconds, and you will agree that he definitely needs a brain. Even his unkempt hair and beard look like the straw that is poking out everywhere in the Scarecrow's body.
Next, we go to a school where we encounter Phil, brought to life by Bradley Cooper acting like...well...Bradley Cooper. He is the Tin Man. You can hear in his smug, cynical ramblings that he needs a heart. He swipes his students' field trip money to add to his gambling funds, and refuses to help a kid who wants to ask him a question. Phil even jokes about leaving his wife and son, and never returning from Las Vegas. The silvery gray vest he wears symbolizes the Tin Man's hollow metal chest.
Third, we meet the hapless Stu, played by The Daily Show's Ed Helms. Stu is absolutely the Cowardly Lion. You can't help but feel bad for this poor schmuck, being picked apart by his soulless harpy of a girlfriend, Melissa. If anybody needed courage, it is Stu, who doesn't have the cojones to stand up to Melissa or dump her.
After a wild night, which nobody can remember at all, Stu wakes up to find, to his horror, that he is missing a tooth. This is a perfect metaphor for the Lion's lack of courage: he's toothless.
Doug, who is missing for most of the movie, is Dorothy. He just wants to get home.
After our reluctant heroes go through many trials and tribulations in Las Vegas, (what better location exists to portray the magical and terrifying land of Oz?) they are ordered to return a misplaced $80,000 to Mr. Chow, who apparently has Doug held hostage. The guys band together and hit the Blackjack tables to win the money. In true Hollywood fashion, they win big and give Mr. Chow the cash. He releases Doug, but there's one problem: it's the wrong Doug.
Mr. Chow is now revealed to be the Wizard of Oz: a supposedly powerful man who does not truly come through with what the heroes are expecting of him. But then, thanks to an offhand comment by the other Doug, the fellows realize that Doug was on the roof of the Caesar's Palace hotel, mere yards from where they slept, the whole time. This is even alluded to early in the movie, when we see the mattress that Doug threw off the roof, in an attempt to signal somebody on the ground.
After Doug (the original Doug) is rescued, everybody heads back home, and we realize that our heroes had everything they thought they needed, from the very beginning: Alan had the brains to count cards and take the Bellagio Casino for $80,000 at the Blackjack table; Phil has a heart when he realizes at the wedding just how much he missed his wife and son; Stu shows his courage when he finally mans up and dumps Melissa.
And as for Doug? Well, as Glinda the Good Witch said in The Wizard of Oz, "You had the power to go home all along!" Dorothy just had to click the heels of her Ruby Slippers together and say "There's no place like home." The Ruby Slippers are presented to us in The Hangover in the form of the silver 1969 Mercedes 280SE Convertible they borrowed from Doug's soon-to-be father in law. (In the original book of The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy wore Silver Slippers, not Ruby Slippers.)
There are many more parallels to The Wizard of Oz that pop up in The Hangover, but I think this shows with plenty of certainty that there is a definite correlation between these two excellent movies. The next time you watch The Hangover, I hope you spot some of these similarities, and that it adds to your enjoyment of a very funny, clever and well-acted film. And to those of you who plan on going to Sin City, remember these two famous phrases:
"There's no place like home."
--Judy Garland as Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
"Remember, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Except for herpes. That shit'll come back with you."
--Jeffrey Tambor as Sid, The Hangover
Thursday, November 4, 2010
There are several things about my office that annoy me. Among these are the unnecessarily long training sessions, computer systems that seem designed to spike my blood pressure, and the rare occasion that I am instructed to take Tech Support calls instead of doing my normal work. (If I wanted to do Tech Support, I'd work in Tech Support.)
However, at the place I go to pay the rent, one of the top events that makes the bile rise in my throat is the way the managers celebrate birthdays and anniversaries of employment. Any time that somebody has been with the company for a number of full years, or if their birthday is that day or during the coming weekend, a dozen managers show up with balloons and bellow out: "Attention everyone! We have a birthday/anniversary on the floor! Mr./Ms. So-And-So!"
These managers, to whom we look for leadership and advice, then all start to sing.
If it's a birthday, it goes:
Happy happy birthday, today's your special day
Happy happy birthday, that's why we're here to say
Happy happy birthday, may all your dreams come truuuuuuueeeee.....
Happy happy birthday, from all of us to you!
And as saccharine as that song is, it can't even hold a candle (Ha! Candle! Get it?! No? Moving on...) to the Anniversary song, sung to the William Tell Overture, with lyrics that seem written by Rain Man:
Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary, Haaaaappy Anniversary.
Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy Anniversary,
Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy Anniversarreeeee!
I hate this.
My coworkers are very aware of my dislike for this corporate celebratory nonsense, and understand why I immediately reach for my headphones to drown them out with Metal or Techno music any time I see someone carrying balloons. However, one of them remarked to me the other day that she hates hearing me complain about this irritating distraction from...you know...work. I've been on the phone with clients before, who have to wait until this off-key bellowing is finished before I can continue with actually doing my job.
She can't stand my bad attitude about what is "supposed to be a celebration." Okay, she's a good person, I like working with her, and she has a point. I'll admit that grouchy curmudgeons are annoying. But do you know what's worse, in my opinion? Chipper, happy-slappy optimists who go around all day vomiting sunshine, insisting that everyone act as if we live in a sugary fairy land, filled with puppies, kittens and unicorns that fart rainbows.
And to those of you who think I'm making a big deal out of nothing, and that a few songs once in a great while are not something to get stressed out over: let's do a little math, shall we?
I crunched the numbers on the people who dwell in my workplace. There are 83 within immediate earshot. That means 83 birthdays and 83 anniversaries a year. That's 166 celebratory songs in a year where there are about 253 working days (52 weeks x 5 days a week, minus 7 paid holidays.)
That means, on any given day, there is a 65.6% chance (That's nearly 2 out of every 3 days at work) that I will have to listen to an off-key, ear-splitting rendition of a song that makes me want to take an ice pick to my eardrums.
And several times a month, it is the birthday and/or anniversary of several people at once. Like last week, when the denizens of my cube farm celebrated 6 anniversaries and 1 birthday, within the space of 10 minutes.
Go to YouTube, search for the video "Happy Anniversary!!!" submitted by ViddyBarbarino, and play it 6 times, back-to-back. See if that doesn't make you willing to listen to some other song, any other song, just to get it to stop.
So yes, I am a grumpy bastard. I like being angry about things that anger me. To sum it up, I leave you with a quote by Aldous Huxley, from his excellent novel Brave New World...
"I reserve the right to be unhappy."
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I have read Twilight.
Even admitting to this makes me feel as if I should hand in my Y chromosome. Those of you who know me are well aware that I have a very strong disdain for this book series that I refer to as The Wacky Adventures of Emo McSparkleVamp and His Furry Friends.
The day I realized I was officially too old for MTV was the day of the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, when the award for Best Movie (voted on by the viewers) went to: not Iron Man nor The Dark Knight, but Twilight. I decided at that exact moment that if this was what the MTV-watching public decided was "cool," then I no longer wished to be a member of the MTV-watching public. My abhorrence for MTV's tastes has recently been reinforced by the Best Movie award for 2010 going to the sequel, New Moon.
I have given my reasons for despising Twilight before, on multiple occasions. So why, you may ask, would I willingly read the first volume of something I have already proclaimed to loathe with the fiery passion of a thousand suns?
About 2 weeks ago, I was expressing my dislike of Twilight to the latest person who was willing to listen: Renne, the sister of my girlfriend Roxanne. Finally, Roxanne had heard enough and called me out on it. She asked how I could possibly talk about this book series, let alone hate it, if I had never even made the effort to read any of it.
I had to admit, she had a good point. I'd been tempted to give Twilight a try before, but always shied away; mainly because almost anybody I knew that had read it warned me not to bother; it was little more than Fan Fiction, and third-rate Fan Fiction at that. But I finally felt that I could no longer express an opinion on something I had not experienced myself. So I borrowed a copy from a friend. (He couldn't even finish it himself.)
Well, I have now read the full 498 pages of this opus, and I can speak with definite authority. This book is, for want of a better term...
There are a number of reasons that I can now hate Twilight in peace. Let's journey into it, shall we?
1. This book is sappier than a Vermont Maple Syrup Festival. It should have been written on pancakes, not pages. I rolled my eyes so much at the flowery teen-diary prose, it nearly gave me a migraine. I almost wish it did; that would have distracted me from the painful writing.
2. The main character, Bella, is a vapid, luke-warm, nearly brain-dead martyr. She has absolutely no faith in herself, and believes with every fiber of her being that she is plain, boring and worthless. And with how much she jabbers on about that, it's hard to disagree.
Bella eagerly volunteers herself into situations that she knows for a fact will make her miserable, since being unhappy seems to be the only thing that makes her happy. Moving to a town she hates was her idea, hanging out with people she doesn't even like was her idea, and refusing to believe that anyone could see any good in her was her idea. She even mentions that once, she ate dirt on a dare. Good Lord, woman! Have some self-respect!
This girl intentionally makes herself miserable so that she has an excuse to mope around with a storm cloud over her head that matches the clouds that seemingly cover Forks, Washington, 364 days a year. (I live in Seattle, people. It's not that gray.) She also seems to be incredulous that anyone, let alone 3 or 4 different guys, could be romantically interested in her. It's the Woody Allen theory. "I don't like myself, so if you like me, there must be something wrong with you." (For the record, I've never much liked Woody Allen either.)
3. Bella goes on and on and on and ON about how pretty Edward is (That's the vampire, in case any of you have been living under a rock for the last decade.) She compares him to a marble statue, an angel, a Pagan god, and will not stop GUSHING over how pretty he is. We GET it. He's PRETTY. MOVE THE HELL ON.
4. Nothing HAPPENS for the first half of the book. On the rare occasion that something more that teen angst actually occurs, it seems completely out of place and tacked-on, just to show Edward off as a super-pretty super-hero. He saves her from a car accident that comes out of nowhere and goes away just as fast. He saves her from being attacked in a situation that nobody who lived in a community of more than 500 people would ever get themselves into.
5. This book is teaching an entire generation of impressionable young girls that this is what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like: "Ohh, the really really really pretty boy who treats me like crap isn't here today! Waahh!" (If you think I'm exaggerating, read Chapter 1, and then the third paragraph of Chapter 2.)
Edward, or as he's known by many of my friends, "Sullen Cullen," is getting Bella involved in a textbook example of an abusive relationship. He stares at her constantly, alternating between desire and revulsion. He follows her. He alternately brings her in close and then pushes her away, just to keep her interested. At one point, he disconnects her car battery so that she can't leave home. He shows off how strong he is to her and actually tells her that he could kill her with a simple move of his hand. He intentionally drives at insane speeds with her in the car, despite knowing that it scares her to no end. And the coup de grace:
He. Watches. Her. SLEEP.
This is before they have even started their relationship! Sullen Cullen actually tells this girl that he spends all night, every night, perched outside her bedroom window, watching her sleep! This just sprinted out of Creepy, pole-vaulted over Icky, and landed smack dab in the middle of Unacceptable. The reason he gives for this? There's nothing else in town to do.
6. And finally, this is probably the most shallow reason to hate Twilight, but it's also the reason that rings the most true for why this book series is crap. When these "Vampires" are exposed to sunlight, do they die? No. Do they burst into flames? No. Are they physically weakened in any way? Nope. Then what happens?
They GLOW and SPARKLE.
Call me a purist if you must, but there are certain rules when it comes to the lore of Vampires. Some rules can be bent, some can be broken.
Vampirism is a disease, not a curse? (Example: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson) Fine.
Holy symbols do not repel Vampires? (Example: Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice) Sure.
But there is one rule that is gospel, and is universal for nearly all bloodsucking creatures of the night:
Vampire + sunlight = bursting into flame, reduction to ash, and death. The only exception is Dracula himself, and he is still physically weakened by sunlight.
Besides being true to the Vampire mythos, the idea of becoming shiny in daylight flies entirely in the face of the natural laws of evolution. Not only does this "glitter factor" completely destroy any ability to camouflage oneself in one's surroundings, it immediately identifies one as a predator! You don't hear cheetahs roaring into the plains at full volume; that would scare away prey!
The best way I've found to express it is the following: Sparkling and glowing in sunlight isn't a sign that you're a Vampire; it's a sign that you're David Bowie.
Quite simply, this is a book that should serve only as a cautionary tale for what happens when you try to pass off a truly terrible and entirely forgettable romance novel as an icon of pop culture. The fact that Stephenie Meyer has become rich and famous by cranking out 5 volumes of this dreck is absolutely beyond belief. And now that I have jumped on this nearly 500-page grenade of mediocrity for you, dear readers, I feel the need to cleanse my palate. Maybe some John Steinbeck will wash this unpleasant taste out of my mind.