Archive for April, 2008

When You Think Tim McGraw…

This weekend has been most an endless disaster. I won’t bore you with the details, but it involves constant rain, shitty customers, various mishaps with my car, overpriced parts, an overdrawn bank account and arthritis.

I’d been waiting for today since February. Tim McGraw was coming to Jazz Fest. I’ve never seen McGraw before, and it was important to me. He’s possibly the only legend of our generation so far. I’ve been waiting and waiting. And then the long awaited weekend came, and it just would. not. stop. It rained yesterday, making the concert grounds as sloppy as it’s bayou roots suggest. And even though it was sunny enough this morning as I was working on my truck, rain was still expected, and sure enough it came. i found myself wading through streets flooded with 8 inches of water (it may have been more) in a truck that needs four new tires. And for all I knew, McGraw might have to cancel his show. I was miserable, tired and in pain, and I wondered if perhaps I should just give up and go home.

Most people would have said to hell with it, and that isn’t cowardly, its just good sense.

There’s a line from the Transformers (2007) that I really liked. (Yes, I’m quoting a Michael Bay film, what of it?)

Fifty years from now, when you’re looking back at your life, don’t you want to be able to say you had the guts to get in the car?

When I was younger, I was scared of the world. I never moved, never risked, never did anything that made life worth living. And I lost out on opportunity and love and god only knows what else because I was afraid. And as I got older, I learned. The lesson wasn’t not to be afraid. It was that when a fast car comes your way, get in. When I die, I want to be able to say I had the guts to get in the car.

I’ll be down for the crazy shit. The experiences that conventional wisdom says to shy away from. I want to live out loud. And for the most part, I do. There are things. Girls scare me. I detest heights. But to some degree or another I live for adventure in whatever form it takes. Though, I would argue perhaps not quite enough.

So I braved the flood and potential pneumonia for a concert.

Now in all honesty, it turned out to be much ado about nothing. After the initial flood, the evening was reduced to a dreary drizzle over mushy, soaked bayou mud. I did get wet though.

A passerby rightly compared it to going through the Woodstock anniversary ten years ago. It was merry madness. There’s something so sad about New Orleans that is almost Dickensian to me, save for the lack of class. There were hundreds of people there, just as I was, soaked, muddy and apparently either unaware of how ridiculous their situation was, or just not caring.

Parents rolled their babies through the much and mire, or for the little ones capable of walking on their own, just slapped some galoshes on them and went for a stroll.

This particular picture tickled me.

It didn’t come out quite right because I didn’t want anyone to see me snapping pictures of some kids’ asses, but the four of them reminded me of a Pink Floyd poster I saw once.

It’s probably just me.

These kids decided to go for a swim for some reason. I have to wonder where the hell their parents were.

And no, that’s not a pond. That’s nasty, muddy flood water.

Apparently Jesus ain't the only Motherfucker who can walk on water, is he???

Apparently Jesus ain’t the only motherfucker who can walk on water, is he??

It’s like a garage sale at a haunted mansion.

I have a few friends who dig art (being as how they’re artists, DUH.). So I wanted to include some of the art, tangible and painted that is on display at the festival. Some of it is native New Orleans. But a large portion of it…

While it’s worth noting that a majority of New Orleans’ population is black, it isn’t particularly African. So I find it odd that most of the crafts and the vast majority of art tents were devoted to Tribal art. Similarly, the (infinitely smaller) Native American display falls out of place. However there’s at least one Reservation in Louisiana, so it is somewhat relevant even if it isn’t really part of Louisiana’s culture. But there were a small number of displays devoted to New Orleans and Louisiana’s cultural heritage.

No idea what this is, but it looks like an authentic New Orleans tenement. The beer helps with the illusion.

Promotional art by various local artists. Every person illustrated has been a performer at Jazz Fest. The guy in the picture in the corner is more famous for Will and Grace and dying in Independence Day than for his music, but anyway…

Some of the art was more than a little bizarre.

That’s an 8 foot statue of a nekkid woman behind me. I don’t know why.

I ate a little, because if there’s one truth about New Orleans it’s that it’s the drunkest, most belligerent city in the world. And if there’s two truths, it’s that it’s the home of the best food in the US. Most N.O. residents would argue it’s the best food in the world, but that’s just stupid. For one, most N.O. residents have never traveled farther than Biloxi MS, much less the world. Also, the reason the food is so good, is that Thomas Jefferson sent his personal chef to study in France, and that knowledge somehow emigrated here. I don’t really remember the rest of the story, but it’s true. Whatever the reason, the food is awesome. But for some reason, the one stand I chose to eat from sucked ass. It was fried catfish. I shouldn’t have to point out how pathetic it is that I was at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Fried Catfish poboy I ordered tasted like shit. I won’t bore you with the details of the rest of the over-priced, low quality food I purchased there, but whoever owns those stands ought to be burned at the stake.

Eventually it came time to find a spot in the crowd. I’d ended up with “not-quite-backstage” tickets. It took me a while to find the entrance. Once I got in, I used the private port-o-potty provided (ah luv alliteration) and walked outside the greeting tent to try and find the section cordoned off for “special, but not nearly as special as some” people like me. I asked directions of an attendant, and she pointed right in front of me. “Right over there.” Which might make me look stupid except that the area, 50 feet away, was separated from me by a fucking 15 foot moat, which appeared to be about a foot deep.

Got wet?

Up until this point, I’d managed to keep my feet dry, while the rest of me could have won a t-shirt contest at Senor Frogs. I HATE wet socks. I wore these brown water resistant shoes even though they did not match the shorts and orange shirt I had on. I looked ridiculous, but unlike all the other suckers out there walking through 3 inches of water and mud all day, I had dry socks. But this was different. That water was fuckin deeper than Frederick Nietzshce’s bed time stories. There was no way I was crossing the River Nile there without going for a swim. And I really didn’t wanna.

So I stood there for a minute, and asked myself how much it was worth. “I didn’t come all this way to turn tail at the last yard.” I said to myself. And I ran for the river and jumped. Of course I misgauged how deep the water was. It was closer to two feet deep. As I fell into the bottomless abyss, I felt the water rise up past my knees and to my pockets where I had my very expensive cell phone and wallet. Frantically I ripped them out. The wallet was a little soggy, but the phone, miraculously didn’t have a drop on it. I made it across the pacific ocean a little worse for wear, but basically fine. Th water resistance of my boots went both ways it seemed, holding the excess water in. In a slightly comedic turn of events, McGraw played his song “That’s All Between the River and Me” about twenty minutes later.

The spot allotted to we happy few wasn’t all that great. It was on the far side of the stage. I would have done better fighting my way to the front with “the little people”. But it did afford me some room to move, rather than be crammed in like a sardine. I found a spot with a decent view of the stage, but I was shoulder to shoulder with a couple of smokers, one of whom apparently thought he looked like McGraw and decided to model himself after him. He gave himself a McGraw-esque goatee; put on a black hat which clearly was not the same as his famous idol’s. Of course he was about a foot shorter than Tim and had no talent, but whatever. I don’t know if it’s like that with other forms of music, but for some reason in Country, there always seems to be one guy who adopts a Single White Female obsession with the artists. It’s sad really.

There were also two drunk bitches behind me, who were completely unable to follow the alcoholic’s credo: Don’t spill your beer. Just everywhere. They also fell on their asses and got covered in slop. It was more amusing than anything else. Shoulda got a picture of that.

All in all it was a fairly good concert. Not the best I’ve ever been to, but great. He debuted 3 songs from his next album, and promptly forgot some of the words. He played some new stuff, like Kristofferson, the new single which I’m a big fan of. I think I was the only one singing along on that one. Also, the cover of Ryan Adams’ Til The Stars Go Blue. His cover of that song makes me laugh, because Ryan Adams was interviewed a few weeks back and talked a lot of shit about country. And I’m fairly certain more people know that song from One Tree Hill’s Beth Joy Galeotti and Tim McGraw (both did a cover of the song) than from him. Honestly, I’ve never heard of Ryan Adams, and I’m certain most people who have think he’s Bryan Adams. But I digress.

He did a few of his old songs as well, most of his big hits like Something Like That and Indian Outlaw, and the crowd just goes berserk every time. Honestly you could smell the wet pussy when he sang Real Good Man. And he has fun with that. You can tell he knows he’s a star and he loves every second of it. After several songs he held his hands out and waited for the applause and the roar of the hungry crowd. They wanted more. They wanted Tim. And he basked in it. And I’m cool with that, because for all his fame and attitude, he seems to appreciate every little bit of the adulation.

It started raining again during his last set. I have two favorite songs, and I knew he wouldn’t play one of them. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t the one I thought!. Don’t Take the Girl is practically a country institution. It was a foregone conclusion that he would sing it. But instead he closed out the show with a cover of a David Allen Coe Song, The Ride. As I understand it, he never does that song. It isn’t even on any of his albums. I’ve only heard it because I found it on the net. But there it was. The band slowly played out Real Good Man and shifted into the next song. The crowd looked baffled, but I knew the chords of that steel guitar. My hands flew into the air in celebration. And when he said “I was thumbing my way to Montgomery, with my guitar on my back…” I was right there, singing along. It was pretty awesome.

After that, I walked back to catch my ride, sore and wet. So was it worth it? I’m not sure. But I did it. I went for it, when I shouldn’t have. And someday I’ll say, yeah, I got in the car.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Seeing another man’s penis makes me uncomfortable. Which is funny because when I see one in porn, it doesn’t bother me at all. I get why seeing a guy’s dick in a locker room freaks me out. It’s got nothing to do with a fear of homosexuality or the like. It’s because all the naked men at the gym are nasty as fuck. If you have to show me your cock, at least lose some fucking weight. Otherwise, slap a towel over it, Tiny. Movies are another story though. I think what bothers me most is that in the invisible set of commandments in my head, there’s one that says “Thou shalt not show a man’s cock in a regular film.” This is going to be the only semi-spoiler here, but you will see dick at some point in this movie. But at least it’s a nice looking dick, so even if you’re offended morally, you won’t be offended aesthetically.

How’s that for an opening paragraph?

I’d been waiting to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall for a long time. Part of that is because I’ve been a fan of the movies that Judd Apatow has written and the ones that he’s produced (for the record, he only wrote two of them). And of course I’m a fan of Jason Segel (star of How I Met Your Mother and the film’s writer and lead), Mila Kunis (star of That 70s Show) and Paul Rudd (everything from Clueless to most of Apatow’s films) who has to be my favorite comedic actor working today. Seriously, that guy is cool as fuck.

But the biggest reason is that the eponymous Sarah Marshall is played by the new Goddess of all Geeks, Kristen Bell.

Allow me to go off on a bit of a tangent for a minute. Bell;s initial claim to fame was the sorely under-watched UPN/CW show, Veronica Mars. In it, Bell played a quirky, funny modern day take on Nancy Drew, except that the stunning Miss Mars, could not only out-solve Drew, but kick her ass as well. Veronica Mars is one of those show that just wasn’t afraid to “go there”. One of the shows central premises dealt with the delicate issue of teen rape and another theme that came into play was child abuse. Bell took a character which could have come off very whiny and unlikeable, and made her into a three dimensional superhero.

For every moment where it seemed as though Mars was invincible and limitlessly talented, there was another moment where she would nearly be killed for failing to recognize her limitations (which we the viewer even manage to forget). And it becomes evident that for all her many gifts and all her strength, Veronica was drowning in her pain. But it wasn’t a depressing show. It was funny as hell and each episode was worthy of multiple viewings. I have very high standards of taste when it comes to fiction, and believe me I have no qualms about listing Veronica Mars as one of my favorite shows of all time. Since it was criminally killed off after one season The CW Network, Bell has moved on. She did a horror film whose name escapes me. And she recently did a stint (which she may reprise) as Elle, the villainous bolt caster (she throws lighting) on NBC’s Heroes.

Now back to our regularly scheduled review.

As much as I wanted to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I admit that the trailer didn’t look that good. And at first, while watching it, the film didn’t seem too promising. But one thing that you need to know about this film is that it starts off slow, but gets much better as it goes along, gaining momentum quickly. At the end of a film I always decide to myself whether it’s worth getting the DVD. And I will definitely be buying FSM.

the story

The title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Jason Segel plays Peter Bretter (Sp?), a composer for a hot CSI-style show, which stars his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall. Peter has been living a hermit like lifestyle for a while. They don’t explicitly say it (which is cool, because it seems like films don’t know how to function without exposition anymore), but it is apparent that Peter has been depressed for a while. One day he comes out of said depression, only to be thrown into a deeper one when his girlfriend Sarah leaves him for another man. That other man? Aldous Snow, lead singer of Infant Sorrow, who appears to be a combination of every Brit lead singer ever (including George Michael)… except good looking. Peter falls apart. His step-brother (played by SNLs Bill Hader) convinces him to go on vacation. Peter decides on a resort in Hawaii (Turtle Bay, which is actually supposed to be one of the best resorts on the islands) which Sarah used to talk about. Of course Sarah and Aldous are already there. Hilarity ensues. But so does romance, as the resorts Social Activities Director, Rachel (played by Mila Kunis), catches Peter’s eye. Beyond that, the plot is a by-the-books date movie, right down to the ending. But that isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t matter if this story has been rewritten a thousand times, it’s the execution that makes it great.

the cast

Well, to start with, there are a lot of little characters here that add a subtle level of charm to the movie, some of which comprise Peter’s surrogate family. Several of them are unnecessary, but brilliant. One such character is a puritanical young man (played by the usher on 30 Rock) on his honey moon. He and his wife remained celibate for their courtship, but now that they’re man and wife, she wants to FUCK… and he has no idea what he’s supposed to do. That has absolutely nothing to do with the central plot or theme, and yet it is both hilariously executed and helps to justify your love of this movie. Subplots don’t always have to synch up with the rest of a story, as long as they add something to the story. But I digress… As I mentioned earlier, I love Paul Rudd. And while this isn’t the best role I’ve ever seen him in (that honor probably goes to his guest role on Veronica Mars), I’ve been quoting his faux British accent for 3 days now. He’s so awesome. Maybe the funniest character in the film is Aldous Snow played by Russell Brand. He was absolutely perfect for this role. I bought every second of his looney hedonist persona, and like one of the characters says, I have to agree, he’s cool as shit and never once comes off like a prick. That fact in itself defies the standard of movies like this. The guy who steals the girl is ALWAYS an unrepentant asshole. Here, Snow brings an aire of childish simplicity that makes us feel that this is a man living a life we wished we could as kids, and is not at all fake about that fact. He is who he is. And I think that reflects on one of the themes of the film. Accept people for who they are, not who you think they should be. Jason Segel does an excellent job as Peter, but that should come as no surprise considering he wrote him. Segel has proved his acting chops throughout his career, but here he is forced to make a whiny, pathetic character likable, and I think he does that as well. I could see why Rachel and Sarah both fell for this honestly plain-looking, sad man. And speaking of the ladies…

Bell is perfection here. She is once again funny, smart and vulnerable. And like Brand’s performance, she manages to sidestep conventions, by making you like her. And that may be contrary to Segel’s intentions, but it works. Towards the end, there is a point where you know you’re supposed to hate Sarah Marshall as an evil, selfish harpie… but I didn’t. Honestly I would have been equally happy whether Peter ended up with Rachel or Sarah, and in fact, had Segel gone another way with the script, it would have set his movie apart even further from all the other date movies. I truly hope this film gives Bell the attention she deserves, and makes her a household name. And the fact that she is so adorable made Mila Kunis’ job a thousand times harder, no matter how unbelievably gorgeous she is. In fact, not many actresses would have had the stones to go up against Bell in this. But Kunis did the dirty j-o-b and made it work. She wasn’t little Jackie from That 70s Show anymore… she was a grown woman doing a damn fine job as the film’s female lead. God-damn she was sexy. And despite my earlier comments, I was rooting for her to end up with Peter.

the profanity

I loved Superbad. Thought it was hilarious and well written. But I understood the people that thought it leaned too much on filthy language and sketches of cocks as a comedic crutch. There was much more to the story that that, but I get why people couldn’t see past it. Compared to Superbad, FSM really wasn’t all that dirty, but that isn’t saying much. It’s still dirty. And yes, there are still dicks (real ones this time), but Segel didn’t lean into it nearly as much as Seth Rogen did. It was profane where it should be, rather than all over the place.

One thing that didn’t work as well without the dirtiness is Jonah Hill. It seems he’s only funny in two ways. Either as an unrepentant potty mouth or as a wierdo (see his role in 40 Year Old Virgin). I’m not sure he cursed in the whole film. Fortunately there were moments where he got be creepy, which made seeing him in this worthwhile. Still, he might want to look into that problem, lest he be pigeon-holed as a poor man’s Seth Rogen (who at least appears to have some range).

the extras

Stay a few seconds after the credits roll to see a cute little piece that seems to be a shot at Jennifer Love Hewitt. Also… it’s not a part of the film, but there is a viral marketing campaign associated with FSM, just like all of Apatow’s productions.

Click HERE to see The McLovin fund starring Kristen Bell.

And HERE to see Aldous Snow (Russell Brand).

I’m hoping Apatow does more of these. Especially more Know More Things spoofs.

overall

Despite the slow start, I have to give it 8 out of 10. There are films far less worthy of your attention and money on the market toady. This is a movie for anyone who has ever been dumped by someone they love. Or anyone who wants to marry Kristen Bell. (Back off motherfuckers, she’s mine.)

The 2008 CMT Awards

I don’t really watch awards shows.

Almost never, in fact. There’s just no reason to, honestly. For one, we all know it’s usually rigged. The people who should win never do. And in cases like the Grammy’s the winners are always selected because A: they want to make a political statement, or B: because no one has ever heard of the winner and the record label bribed someone for a little exposure. But the worst thing is how obnoxiously hedonistic the whole thing is. Awards shows are public circle jerks for famous people. A chance for them to sit around congratulating each other on being rich, talentless and incredibly fucking lucky. I can’t take watching things like that. It depresses me.

The only real exception is Country Music awards shows. I watch those because it’s an evening of good music, good people and stars that I feel actually deserved to be honored. Of course I don’t watch every one; it’s still an award show, but sometimes I’ll tune in.

This year, the fan- voted CMT Awards was hosted by pop sensation Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) and her formerly-famous-for-making-an-annoying-pop-country-dance-song dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. First of all, I have to admit that I like Hannah Montana. Yes, it’s a kids show, but in many ways it is reminiscent of those great TGIF shows from my childhood. It’s kind of funny and more than a little silly, but it’s the good kind of silly. And I actually like some of her music, including her father’s recent stab at reattaining pop chart fame (a duet with Miley) Ready, Set, Don’t Go. So part of the reason I watched the show was because I love Country Music, and part of it was that I was curious how they would do as hosts of the show.

I’m writing this a day late because I had a little mishap with my VCR (yes, I still use a VCR) on Monday. (Damned Daylight Savings Time!) I didn’t actually get to watch until last night. Overall I was fairly entertained by what I saw. Here’s my breakdown.

THE HOSTS

On some level I always thought it was pathetic that Billy Ray seems to cling to his daughter’s coat-tails in one last shot at fame. In fact, the duet I mentioned wasn’t originally a duet, but it didn’t seem to catch on when it was just him singing. It is a good song though. Surprisingly, they didn’t shy away from this subject. Billy Ray made an ironic joke about how the public was using Miley to get to him, which surprisingly made me laugh. And I laughed quite a bit harder at this exchange.

“Miley! Do you mind {not texting while I’m trying to talk}!?”

“I’m sorry, I just looooove to text!”

“I know, I pay your cell phone bill.”

“Who are you kidding? I pay yours!”

It’s clear that they have a good sense of humor about it and about themselves. Billy Ray also made fun of his Achy-Breaky-dancing days. And comedian Rodney Carrington threw in a bit about that too.

Miley took a bit of a backseat to her father in this case, but acquitted herself well as co-host. I suppose she’s used to dealing with sold-out stadiums.

I do like seeing them together. It’s clear that she adores her father, which is an all too rare thing with teenagers, especially ones who have attained the level of fame she has at such a young age. It’s nice. It’s Country.

THE PRESENTERS AND GUESTS

One of the worst things about modern Country is that the people in charge are desperate to legitimize it to the public, a feat which is both condescending and unrealistic. First, Country is legitimate. It’s been around longer than any other popular form of music (not counting Opera or classical) including rock n’ roll. Second, some people just aren’t going to give it a chance, no matter how many times Tim McGraw makes Nelly’s songs sound good. The worst was when the ACM Awards (I think it was them) moved the show from Nashville to New York, and trotted out a slew of stars who not only had nothing to do with Country Music, but didn’t seem to like it or know who the hell they were on stage with.

This wasn’t nearly that bad.

They did bring out Paula Abdul, but even though she was obviously once again high as giraffe pussy (thank you Joe Rogan), she did have a reason to be there. American Idol has been fertile ground for breeding Country stars. SO far they’ve given us Josh Gracin, Kellie Pickler, Bucky Covington (who won’t be around too long– and on a side note, I saw him for the first time last night, DAMN is he ugly! he looks like a woman with a Tom Sellick mustache.), and most notably Carrie Underwood. I’m sure I’m missing a few as well.

Donald Trump was there for some unknown reason. He talked about how awesome he is. That was it.

John Rich brought out his “students” from the show Gone Country, where he tries to turn washed up pop and R &B stars into Country singers. So Bobby Brown, Diana DiGarmo (I think she was on American Idol), Sisco and… some other chick… introduced Kenny Chesney.

There were a few others, but the best one had to be Snoop Dogg, who presented alongside Jason Aldeen. There were boos. A lot of them. And they were loud. Aldeen could barely keep a straight face as he read his lines with Snoop. I think he wanted to boo too. Apparently Snoop was there to promote his new Country-themed song, which was supposedly inspired by the late, great Johnny Cash. Uh huh.

THE PERFORMERS

One of the best things about these shows is the performances. Live Country occasionally yields some kick ass acoustic versions and b-sides. You don’t get that with other forms of music.

My favorite performance of the night was Tim and Faith doing I Need You together. Like the video for the song, they sang the song to each other, facing one another with a dial sided microphone between them. It sounded amazing, but it didn’t feel all that romantic. It was more like they were going through the motions together.

The worst performance was kind of a shock. Brad Paisley played his new single “I’m Still a Guy” which is actually one of my favorite songs on the album. Half way through, Hank Williams Jr joined him on stage for a duet. It must have been a dream come true for Paisley. A legend was singing one of his songs. Unfortunately, Hank must have been informed only seconds before, because he completely sucked. It was very clear that he was reading the lyrics off of a teleprompter as he was singing them. I’ve heard better karaoke.

Miley and Billy Ray performed an adjusted version of “Ready Set Don’t Go”, which came off as a little unpolished to me. It sounded fine, and featured more of Miley than the radio version, but I think it could have used a little work.

Another bright spot was Sugarland’s cover of Life in a Northern Town, which features Little Big Town and Jake Owen. There’s something about that song that lends itself seamlessly to Country. It was probably one of the best acts of the night. Oddly enough, it made me want to see Sugarland in concert. I love their music, but I’ve seen them in person, and was not a fan of them live. They sound fine, but Jennifer Nettles, the lead singer, is a spaz. But she seemed fairly calm at the show. No jumping around or waving her arms like a cheerleader on heroin.

And there were a few standard fare performances by Chesney, Leann Rimes and (a current favorite among kids) Taylor Swift. And the commercials were played into by short performances by artists struggling to find an audience and a few complete unknowns.

THE WINNERS

The CMT Awards are giant golden belt buckles. The voting is left supposedly completely up to the fans, but in a few cases I think it’s clear that isn’t the case. Case in point? For best collaborative video (duet, basically) Tim and Faith got passed over. That’s fine. So who won? Bon Jovi and Leanne Rimes. Someone must have been bribed. Bon Jovi is one of several recovering pop rock acts that is trying to hollow out a career in Country, including John Mellancamp, Jewel, and Sheryl Crow. The fans haven’t bee receptive. It’s more than a little insulting that they assume that because pop fans have rejected them, they can just trick a bunch of country bumpkins into buying their crap. So their record labels have been pairing them with successful Country acts. Sheryl Crow appeared on a song with Brooks and Dunn. Jewel, who has always written her own songs, is getting help from John Rich. Bon Jovi got a more famous boost. First Sugarland worked with them on an unbelievably shitty song called “Who Said You Can’t Go Home?” that would be considered over-played and over-hyped even if it had been a decent song. The video which won though, inexplicably received no airplay. At least not here. Not even on a weekend syndicated countdown show. I’d never even heard of it. Bribe.

Kellie Pickler won three awards, including Breakthrough Artist of the Year, which celebrates up and coming acts. I’m glad. I think Pickler has a shot at a career, much more so than some of the overnight sensations that are currently emerging. I’m a big fan of her song “I Wonder” which talks about her Mother leaving her as a child. She won the last two awards for that.

Last year’s Breakthrough winner, Taylor Swift, was the obvious fan favorite of the night. Girls have been going crazy over her songs since they started playing them on pop stations. I actually own her album myself, but I bought it about a year ago, before she made it big. She actually managed to take home the Artist of the Year award, beating out Carrie Underwood. It was kind of an upset. Cool though.

OVERALL

I think it was a decent show. It had it’s moments of humor. As always I was unhappy with some of the winners. And I really didn’t like the fact that they pimped out the three front runners for 2008 Presidential Election. I could see John McCain trying to get his grandkids tickets to see Hannah Montana, but Hillary and Obama were very out of place. Still, as awards shows go, this was one of the least whorish. And I did get to hear some great music, and that’s never a bad thing.

The Religious Right and Wrong

Some people incorrectly describe me as an atheist. Not true. Never have been; never will be. What I am is… difficult to describe in it’s entirety.

But let’s get Mr. Peabody on the line and take a quick ride in his Way-Back Machine. I was born the son of two Italian families. By default that makes me a lifelong Roman Catholic, even if it isn’t true. As a child, I went to catechism, learning the ways and means of Jesus and his homies. I never really got a whole lot out of catechism except bruises. Yes… I got beaten up in church. Imagine how it is to be me… But I digress. I was confirmed at the age of 13. As I recall they confirmed me twice (just in case…), once upon completion of catechism and then later by my Catholic school as part of 8th grade “graduation.” Church never held much for me. No power or sway. It isn’t that I didn’t believe… I just didn’t get it. I was born with the mind of a 12th century philosopher. Even at 8 I had questions. What the fuck is the Holy Spirit? Why does he look like a dove? (Mom said it’s so he could fly.) (And a follow up question later) what do you mean, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the same person? Are you telling me Jesus has multiple personality disorder? Jesus is a schizo? (Most of this, by the way, is part of my act, so I’ll thank you not to repeat it.) And what if your wife dies and you get married again… when you die, who are you married to? Do you get to fuck both of them? I don’t think Jesus would like that. Seriously, this is the sort of stuff that went through my young mind.

I went to a high school named after Saint John Baptiste De La Salle. They had their very own national Christian youth group… the La Sallian Youth. My senior year, I decided that I wanted to be closer to God. So I joined the LaSallian Youth and started going to church. I helped them tutor underprivileged kids three times a week. You would be amazed how bad Bill Cosby impressions will get ten year olds to do their homework. It may be b/c I promised them Jello pudding. I was even asked to write an article on faith for the national newsletter. But in the end, I found religion… wanting.

People call me an atheist. They say I do not believe in God. And it isn’t true. I believe in God… I just don’t believe in him the same way you do. I do not believe in religion. People get confused often. They think that religion and faith are the same thing. In fact neither has any dependency on the other to exist. Religion is a collection of rituals and traditions surrounding one central concept. Faith is simply believing in something. I have faith. But I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell. I know Jesus existed, but I don’t believe he was anymore the son of God than any of the rest of us. No magic powers, just a guy who believed. A lot. And I honestly don’t believe God gives a shit whether you belong to Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam or Taoism. It’s just a fucking -ism. It’s a word. Means nothing. What matters is how you act, how you treat people, how you strive to do better and learn, and in so doing, make the world a little better. And that’s my problem with religion. I’ve met a lot of religious people (this IS the South) from various different denominations. And for quite a number of the ones who claim to believe the strongest, it’s all the same shit. For instance, I have known around 8 different people from a so-called “Non-denominational” church. Which is a load of horse shit. They believe the same stuff that I was taught in catechism, they just don’t like the name. And every one of these supposedly non judgmental, new age Christians has been a complete whack job. Like two steps shy of David Koresh and a bunker, drink the kool aid whack job. (One of them said to a friend of mine that there is no evidence of dinosaurs and that they made them up… seriously.)

It’s all the same shit. And there’s a reason for it. There is a divine guiding force, an abstract raison d’etre that has guided human history. Selfishness. Everything in human existence eventually boils down to territorial-ism. What’s mine, and what’s yours. I have to have more stuff than you. I have to be smarter than you. My God HAS TO BE THE RIGHT GOD. Because if it isn’t, if I’m wrong then I don’t know what happens to me when I die. I have no control over the universe, I am mortal, I am tenuous. Do I even exist? Nothing makes sense unless I am right. And for me to be right, you have to be wrong. Like I said. Everything boils down to territorial-ism. And it’s foolish. It causes so much hurt and destruction. Religion is a wonderful idea. But the problem is, someone takes that great idea, twists it and uses it to further their agenda. There are people out there who insist that God hates gays. Why? I was taught that we are all God’s children. And that God has plan. Well if that’s the case, then maybe God has a fucking plan for Gay people too. If we’re all modeled in God’s image, then maybe some days (I’m guessing Tuesdays) he likes to put on some lipstick a dress and a pair of open-toed orange pumps and look fabulous. Maybe anal sex and blow jobs are God’s way of giving us a pleasurable alternative to population control. Argue with that… I DARE YA. So remember ladies, every time you swallow, you’re saving the world.

And the people that think other religions are going to hell… why? Isn’t God supposed to be forgiving? Well then why wouldn’t he forgive someone for simple ignorance? And if it looks like I’m picking on Catholicism, I’m not. They just happen to be what I grew up with and know the most about. Most religions make the same mistakes they do. Some of them want to kill us over it. I’m not particularly fond of atheists either, not because I think they’re bad people, but because most of the ones I’ve met have shitty reasoning skills. And since I consider myself somewhat of an expert on reasoning, it offends me. the biggest argument I’ve heard is “If God exists, then why would he allow there to be suffering in the world?” Because he’s God, not Princess fucking Lollipop of the Rainbow Cotton Candy Club. How do you define happiness without sadness? How do you define good without bad? Can there be a Heaven without a Hell? It is the contrast that defines the world. In order for one thing to exist… EVERYTHING must exist. Otherwise you could not appreciate the beauty and wonders we are given. So basically someone in Somalia has to starve so that you can clog your arteries on pork rinds. And that sucks, but it’s not God’s fault. It’s physics. Bad reasoning aside, I don’t fault either side for believing as they do. If you can’t see something magical in existence… that sucks. But I can see why you would feel that way. And part of me wonders if you’re right, because as any good philosopher does, I have reasonable doubt. If going to church and saying your prayers gives you strength… God be with you. I envy you. Though I am far too cynical and pragmatic to feel that way. If you believe that killing others makes you right, then I truly hope there is a hell. But I have no answers. In the meantime , I draw my strength the old-fashioned way… from the people I love. But that doesn’t make me an atheist. It makes me a man with reasonable doubts.

Quote of the day: “May God stand between you and harm in all the empty place where you may walk.” ~J. Michael Straczynski

How I Fell In Love With Comics

I was reading one of my favorite websites/blogs, Whitney Matheson’s Pop Candy on USAToday.com. Today’s edition featured an article discussing how many creators fell in love with comics. And I have to talk about that. There are few things I love more than comics. It’s a short list that includes women, Disney World and travel.

I can honestly say that there is nothing in this world that has affected my life on the level that comic books have. It started, I imagine, with my love of reading. Most of that I attribute to my Mama buying me those illustrated books like Dr. Seuss and the Disney ones. And as I grew older, I became fascinated with mythology. In particular I loved stories about Greek myths and the legends of King Arthur. In fact, I took it so seriously, I can remember becoming upset as a child when I found out Guinevere had an affair with Lancelot. I felt sort of betrayed. Weird, huh? I think it was because I never really had any friends, and to me, these were real people. In many ways, the fictional worlds that I love are all real to me.

But I digress. I don’t remember specifically when I started reading comics, but I know it was in grammar school. I know it had something to do with the trading cards that Marvel Comics had started putting out at the time. I saw some kids in after-school care trading cards, and I asked questions. Suddenly, I was buying cards as well; learning about the Marvel Universe and all of it’s wonders. Not long after, I bought my first issue of X-Men. It was the first part of the Muir Island Saga, a crossover that re-defined the X-Men for the next decade. It was drawn by Jim Lee, a man who would come to be my favorite artist of all time. It took me all of five seconds to become hooked. And all of a sudden I became emersed in this world. A world where Gods walked among us. I wanted to be there. I wanted to live that life, and knowing that I could not… I wanted in on any way I could to be part of it. I dreamed of being the next Jim Lee. But realistically, I know that would never happen. I didn’t have the talent.

Comics are responsible for so much of who I am. The truth is, I have always been an outcast. I don’t think or act like other people. I don’t know how to. And when I was a child, no one wanted to try. Even among my family, I’m the odd man out. Often people discuss where they got their traits and their talents. But with me, the truth was, I’m nothing like my parents or anyone else I’m related to. I’m an anomaly, genetically and personally. To me, that made me a mutant. And I used comics as a form of escapism from everything. I hid within this fictional world to shield myself from a world that didn’t understand me and oftentimes hated me. It was a familiar theme to me.

But there was more to it than that. I needed something to believe in. And the world of comics was where I found that something. I didn’t have heroes or role models growing up. But I had Spider-man to teach me about responsibility and show me that things work out, even for guys like me and Peter Parker. I had Batman to teach me about hard work. Superman was all about doing the right thing. The New Warriors taught me that sometimes you aren’t just born into family… sometimes it finds you. And the X-Men to taught me about perseverence and tolerance. I needed those lessons. I needed those heroes, because when I was growing up there weren’t any. But in the world of comic books, men did the right thing, not for rewards, but because that was the right thing to do.

I had better heroes than most people to guide me.

But in the long run I gained more than that. Comics taught me a lot of things that I wouldn’t have payed any mind to in a classroom. They fostered my love of art. And ultimately, they made me want to be a writer. Writing is in my blood. It’s what I am. I learned that from reading the works of Chris Claremont, Fabian Niceiza, Mark Waid, Peter David, James Robinson and Garth Ennis. They taught me to be a man. They didn’t just change my world, they gave me one to be a part of.

And as a result, I still live in a world of heroes.

The Evils of Downloading

Occasionally I listed to the Kidd Kraddick show in the morning. As much as I love Walton and Johnson, I just needed a break from the heaviness. Unfortunately W & J are the only decent DJs/ Talk Show on the radio. So I listen to the country stations for the music, and then when the Djs start talking I change the station, from time to time landing on the Kidd show. I’m not exactly a fan. They’re affable. And they can be entertaining depending on the day. And I like Big Al, so it works out as long as I don’t listen to them steadily.

Today they had Kelly Rowland on (formerly of Destiny’s Child, currently a solo R & B artist). I actually listened to most of the interview because Rowland seemed to be a decent, down to Earth guest and they all seemed to be having a good time. And then it took a turn for the worse. Rowland asked the leader, Kidd, what he thought of the state of the music industry. And he proceeds to go on what felt like a prepared speech from the music industry about how people need to understand that they’re stealing from artists. I had to shut the radio off. Shut the fuck up, you ass-kissing prick.

That just annoys the shit out of me. Not that he’s entirely wrong, but because that’s the lines that the corporations give you in order to invalidate anyone else’s argument. There are a lot of issues with new media and technology like downloading and burning (both music and DVD’s) which have yet to be resolved.
Downloading is most certainly stealing. No argument around it. Is burning? That’s up for debate. If I buy a cd or DVD and my friend wants to try it because they’re not necessarily big fans, is that theft? No, it’s not. It’s my property, and if I want to give my friend a copy, I purchased it. It isn’t preventing a sale, because in most cases, they aren’t going to buy it one way or the other. At the least, they would just borrow it from me and give it back. And in actuality money is still being spent, because we have to buy software and CDs/ DVDs in order to make the copies.

And looking at it honestly, the new mediums and tricks are irrelevant to the argument. There is no difference between downloading a song now and recording it on the radio back when I was a kid. NO DIFFERENCE. At least not fundamentally. It is a thousand times easier and faster to download. Back then you had to wait by the radio for hours with your finger on the button for the DJ to play the song, and hope that you started recording before the song was too far along, praying that the DJ wouldn’t talk over it, or worse sing along with it. And the same goes for movies. We used to record movies on VHS. We’d rent them and copy them, or use a friend’s copy. For fuck’s sake… THEY SOLD BLANK TAPES AT BLOCKBUSTER/ VIDEO PLUS! Are you going to tell me that Kidd Kraddick never did any of those things? Or that he considers them immoral? Bullshit. It didn’t destroy the entertainment industry then, and it isn’t destroying it now.

The key factors for any consumer is cost vs. value. When I was a kid, recording music off the radio, it was because there was a song I like. Maybe I needed to save up my allowance so I could buy a $9.99 cassette tape. Or maybe I simply realized that the musician in question put out crap and I only wanted the one song. Often the case was the former, but most of the time it was the latter. That’s the worse thing about the music industry. They put out more shit than a manure factory, and they expect you to pay top dollar for it, even though new mediums are cheaper than ever to produce. There are an abundance of artists like the Dixie Chicks out there. In the late 90s I bought the Dixie Chicks’ first two CDs based on the strength of their singles. And you know what? I got ripped off! I spent 18 bucks per CD, and they were both gigantic pieces of shit. You know why? Because the DC’s, like most artists, produce four good songs on every album to get you to buy it, and then make a bunch of half-assed songs as filler. By then, you’ve already spent the money though. But you still like them! Maybe it was fluke. So you buy the second CD. And there they are at the end of the tracks, laughing at you. Fooled you twice, dipshit! So if all they’re going to do is sell singles, why should I buy the album? Should I spend a dollar fifty per song on legal downloading? No, because then you’re still spending top dollar and you don’t even have the physical evidence of the purchase. And as for DVDs, again, it comes down to price. Are you telling me that a DVD which cost 37 cents to make is worth 55 times that amount? Bullshit. My favorite show is Babylon 5, yet I still don’t own a copy of any of the seasons, because Warner Brothers deems the value of it to be 80 dollars per season. THATS ALMOST AS MUCH FOR THE DVD’S AS IT WAS FOR THE DVD PLAYER!!! And yet I still own about a thousand dollars worth of DVDs. Most of it is from Television season box sets. It’s an addiction of mine. Some of them were as a result of watching a friend’s burned copy of one of the discs. That’s right!!!!!! The corporations made money off of a burned DVD!!!! They made a lot of money off of it, from me alone. And when I see a great movie in theatres, I buy the DVD. When I hear a great artist on the radio, one that hasn’t burned me in the past, I buy the CD. But when the corporations put out shitty music and movies, fuck you, I work for a living. THEY DON’T.

It isn’t about the value of intellectual property for a corporation, it’s about greed. And you can’t argue otherwise. For proof, look at the recent Writer’s Guild Strike. How many times were CEO’s caught on tape saying how the future of entertainment is the internet, and then did a 180 and said there’s no money in downloaded content when the WGA wanted a fair cut of their own intellectual property? It’s bullshit. It’s about greed. For instance, I was reading about one of the people sued for downloading off of Napster years ago. The recording industry, featuring more musical acts than any music festival, went after ordinary people. KIDS! One of them was a single mother of two, struggling to survive and put food on her kids’ table. They sued her for something like forty thousand dollars, for what probably amounted to 200 dollars worth of music (probably a lot less). That’s 200 times the actual value, a 2000 percent profit. If you asked them why they did it, they’d probably say it was a moral victory or a warning to other downloaders. Well guess what? There’s nothing moral about setting a woman and her children into poverty over a couple of songs. And the amount of downloading has only increased over the years. The irony is that one of the spearheads of the trials was Lars Ulrich of Metallica. It’s a well known fact that Metallica used to encourage their fans to bring recording devices to their shows, so they could record the music. It’s one of the reasons they first got so popular. So what happened? They got greedy. They turned into a bunch of rich assholes who cared more about their own pathetic, worthless lives than the kids who put them in that position. They sided with corporations who never cared at all.

If the entertainment industry wants to slow the rise of illegal downloading and burning, then they need to stop suing children, college students and single parents. They need to start putting out good music, and good movies. And most of all, lower the cost of legal downloads. Work with companies like iTunes (which by the way, regardless of the existence of companies like Limewire, still make an ungodly amount of money) to lower the cost to the consumer. Maybe make single songs 75 cents and television episodes 2 dollars. People will still buy CDs and DVDs or whatever physical medium comes next. That isn’t going to change. You want the people to stop stealing from you? Well you stop stealing from them first.

Does Not Play Well With Others

You know those games that people play where someone says something to you and you’re supposed to say the first thing that you think? Whenever someone says song you most relate to, I think of Creep by Radiohead. Is that sad?

It probably is. But that’s just the way I am. I’m a Rebel, baby. An Outsider to the core.

When it comes to failed friendships and people hating on the Adam-train (don’t be hatin’ yo!), I have a list as deep as a bunny rabbit’s taste for human flesh. (those things are fuckin’ evil. don’t be fooled by the ears and the candy.)

Yep, I just can’t seem to get along with people. I should come with warning signs like “Does Not Play Well With Others” and “Do Not Feed After Midnight” and “Do Not Expose to Cleavage”. It would make life simpler.

It’s not my fault really. With me, what you see is what you get. That is, unless your vision is impaired. The thing is, for all the discussion of low education standards in this country, we are largely a culture of subtext. People like to discuss what is not being said in the world even more than what is. While I am a big advocate of the subtleties of the English language, more often than not, when someone accuses someone of “false advertising” in this day and age, the accuser is usually just making shit up. If you say that most of your friends are white, there’s always someone there to yell out “What, you don’t like black people????” Nevermind that the person didn’t say that. But I’m not here to get political. This is about me.

My point is, there are two words in the English language that constantly come into play, but people don’t seem to know.

imply– to use subtext to say things that one does not wish to say directly.

infer– to assume subtext in someone’s words, where there isn’t any

People tend to infer a lot of shit from me. Constantly. If I’m quiet when I meet someone new (which I always am, ’cause I’m shy), they walk away saying “Gee, what an asshole! Like he’s too good to talk to me??” Huh? Did we have a conversation that I missed? It’s funny, because while I like the idea of subtlety of language and subtext, I don’t use it. I literally have no sense of subtlety. I just sort of say what I’m thinking. That isn’t to say that I don’t think before I speak, I do… I just think fast. If I don’t see anything wrong with being honest, then fuck it, I’ll say it. And people blame for stuff that I didn’t even do. “Well, you were the one who was acting like an asshole.” No, I wasn’t. You were in a pissy mood and started accusing me of shit. Sorry, not my fault.

And then everyone and their mother needs to tell me what’s wrong with me. Well, FUCK YOU. Telling me my problem, of which no one ever seems to have a clue, seems to be the national pastime some days. But god forbid I should tell them what wrong with them. That would just make me an even bigger asshole, not to mention wrong (not frakking likely). And I’m a big advocate of taking responsibility for one’s actions. I always take responsibility for my fuck ups. But here’s the thing… why should I have to take responsibility for someone else’s inferences?

And at the end of the day, who are they to tell me what my problem is and what I need to do to fix me. Who are these people to tell me that there is something wrong with who I am? Make no mistake, this is who I am. And if you don’t like that person… don’t hang around me. It’s bullshit.

But I think it goes beyond that. I’m a firm believer in pheromones. That’s the idea that animals are attracted and repelled based on smell. You see your nose is just one big chemical detector. It’s chemistry, you see. Laugh all you like, but it’s a scientific fact that some animals mate based on scent.
And make no mistake, we are all just animals. You might argue we’re really smart animals. (That’s up for debate.) But we are animals. So how do I back up this hypothesis?

Well for starters, it explains chemistry. You ever met someone who is absolutely perfect for you… same interests, same background or life experiences, whatever… but you just don’t have any interest in them? Or better yet, how do you explain women who keep going to men that abuse them? Love? Bullshit. Battered women show every sign of addiction.

And then there’s grammar school. Think back. You made your first best friend in kindergarten or the first grade on the very first day. You walked up to someone (or a group of someones) and asked if they wanted to be friends. No knowledge of them. They didn’t even speak before they said yes, but you chose them. And yet there were a certain number of people… a very small number who weren’t chosen. They were just as nice as everyone else. But no one chose them. And you know what? Those people kept not getting chosen over the years. By high school, you had created clearly defined reasons why they were outcasts, and yet you never actually got to know them. You just knew of them. You inferred things about them based on your own judgment and a complete lack of facts. See what I mean?

But we are who we are. I know I’ll always be this person, and I don’t especially see anything wrong with that. I will be accepted as I am or not at all, but I will never be who you expect me to be.

Whatever the reason, it seems I’ll always be on the periphery. It’s a fate I’ve long since accepted. Loner. Outsider. Rebel. King of the Outcasts. Does not play well with others.

You got a problem with that, bub?