Saturday, September 25, 2004

Googling Yourself into Humility

It may be the most fundamental of human experiences to find one's purpose, one's raison d'etre. Why am I here? What is the Big Man Upstairs' purpose for me? I got a wild hair and decided to see if Al Gore's patented internet machine could help me answer this question. After all, I have a blog now. I'm somebody dammit! There must be something on the World Wide Web that could be affirmation of my significance.

Only the fine people at Google could help me.

I decided to start by searching for images. Not only are they easier to look at than words, but I figure it would only take a moment of recognition for me to spot if my place on the Infobahn was secure. After all, I spend probably 5% of my day looking into the mirror. What I found was shocking.

Oh sure, there are lots of Bill Shannon's in the world. And I mean lots. I mean, for goodness's sake, the priest who baptised me was named Monsignor William H. Shannon, just like me! (The "Monsignor" part was a title he later acquired. But wouldn't that have been a coincidence if that was his birth name? Or perhaps it would have been destiny!) But there really is one me. But how do I distinguish myself from all those many who have come before me? Why, by seeing who has more hits, that's how!

Unfortunately, adhering to that criteria has proven remarkably disheartening. Let me introduce you to some of the other Bill Shannon's I've met. Sure, we haven't seen each other face-to-face, but I feel as if I know them. First, there's Coach Bill Shannon, Head Coach of the Mercyhurst College Men's Hockey program. Since the 1998-99 season, Coach Shannon has amassed a .671 winning percentage. That means he's won more than 2 of every 3 games! Way to go coach! Stiff competition already, I can tell.

Next up is Watertown, New York's Bill Shannon, is a WWII Navy Cross winner, elite high school athlete in both baseball and hockey, and father of seven children! Children with which he probably even keeps in contact! How can I live up to this?

But the most important Shannon (empirically proven by most web hits) is Bill "CrutchMaster" Shannon, "a disabled choreographer and dancer, [who] delivered a refreshing, street-style breakdancing and skateboarding presentation on crutches to a sold-out audience" at the University of Houston Clear Lake not long ago. This guy is the King of Bill Shannons. His fans are legion. This guy does old-school dance moves on crutches that Chicago's own TNT2000 has trouble with on two good legs. Even if I learned the exact same skill and went out today and started doing this crutch dancing, it would take me years to amass the number of website articles that "CrutchMaster" has.

There are tons of Bill Shannons out there that are doing so much more than I. William "Bill" Lee Shannon runs a successful funeral home. Dirt Fans know Bill Shannon as a flagman at Brown County Ohio, Lawrenceburg Indiana, Whitewater Valley (Union County), Indiana, Tri County(Queen City)Ohio, Springfield Ohio, and Florence Kentucky Speedways. Stuntman Bill "Billy" Shannon did stunts for Spartacus, The Wild Bunch, Magnum Force and Blazing Saddles before his untimely death in 1981.

Imagine if they had a convention of Bill Shannons. Would I even be invited? What if I was? When the awards came out, would I win one? Would all the Bill Shannons swap stories about beating the University of Rochester in the 2003 Division 3 College Hockey Finals? Or about falling off a horse so that Tony Curtis didn't have to? Or being considered part of The Greatest Generation? Or doing Boogaloo Shrimp-like breakdance moves on durable medical equipment? What would I say? What would I say?!

"Uh, hi, I'm Bill. Well obviously! Ha ha... uhmmm.. I have over 500 CDs and tapes of rap music. I do a pretty decent Sean Connery impression. I'll do it for you later if you want. I can fall asleep anywhere, on any surface. Let's see... afraid of heights. Been to games in all four major sports, except the NBA. Hmmm... oh! Bad with directions. Unhealthy index-card categorization fixation. That's about it. So anyway 'Bill,' is your job anything like that show Six Feet Under?"

I've gotta do something with my life, pronto. Or at least get my name on the internet.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

It's Patriotic to Hate the Yankees

I saw the documentary Nine Innings from Ground Zero on HBO the other night, and I think it was very well done. It was a nice document of how baseball helped New Yorkers bear the pain of 9/11. A good chronicle of an overlooked sub-event in the backdrop of mass chaos and uncertainty. There was, however, one major and nearly fatal flaw: Everyone in the United States did not want the Yankees to win the 2001 World Series.

Take me for example: red-blooded American boy of 25 years at the time, living in the state of New York, four hours away from the site where cowardly fanatics did the unthinkable. In fact, I had been at that very site less than two months earlier. I am also a Yankee hater of the highest degree. I hate everything about the team. I hate the owner, I hate their players, I hate their fans. I hate the sense of entitlement they've carried around since their first world title (in a few years anyway) in 1996. I hate the way their fans call players by their first names (Tino, Jorge, Mariano, El Duque).

Now this isn't to say I hold any ill will toward the people of New York City. Quite the contrary, I've never felt more of a part of the metropolis. While it's a bit presumptuous to say "We were all New Yorkers that day," it's not an exaggeration to say we took the attacks personally outside of New York as well.

But to say this would somehow translate to a desire to see the bane of my sports spectating existence is preposterous. It wasn't just New Yorkers who were suffering, remember. People from Boston and Baltimore and Oakland and Seattle and Phoenix were suffering too. This was not just an attack on New Yorkers, it was truly an attack on all Americans, it just happened to be in the high profile of NYC.

Former Yankee 3rd baseman Scott Brosius was quoted as saying (and I'm paraphrasing), "It's not fair. If there were ever a year that the Yankees should win the World Series, it was this year." Let's put aside the fact that the Yankees didn't deserve to win that World Series, as Games Five and Six were pulled from the team's collective anus in the late innings. But why would it be "fair" for the Yankees to win the World Series? I didn't hear any Diamondbacks saying that. Is it because Brosius played for the Yankees that he felt this way. Mmm, I think so. Was it "unfair" that the San Francisco Giants didn't win the World Series after the 1989 Earthquake? Was America rooting for Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell to uplift the city? Was it unfair that the L.A. Lakers didn't win the 1992 Finals? I mean, it was right after the Rodney King riots. Wouldn't that have brought the city together? Wasn't it "unfair" that Loyola Marymount University didn't win the NCAA basketball championship the year Hank Gathers passed away? (That was actually a sports-related tragedy.) I realize 9/11 is a catastrophe on a much more complex and tragic scale, but the logic of championing a sports team after its city had a disaster does not hold.

Besides, would Brosius give up the Jeffrey Maier home run in the '96 playoffs? Or would he have had Roger Clemens ejected from the Mets/Yankees World Series in 2000? After all, the Yankees didn't "deserve" those breaks.

I, for one, have never been happier at the outcome of a baseball game as I was when Luis Gonzalez hit that bloop single to end the 2001 World Series. I jumped so high that I literally almost hit my head on the ceiling. (And I'm not a tall man.) I was happy -- yes, happy -- that Yankee fans felt the sting of World Series defeat for the first time in years. It is my right and my duty to hate the Yankees. A Yankee win would not have erased the hurt that New Yorkers felt, just as the Diamondbacks' victory did not take away the hurt of wounded Arizonans. The documentary seemed to intimate that the country was united against the hated Diamondbacks, who were trying to deprive the Pinstripes from their rightful crown. Not true.

If I had rooted on the Yankees in that World Series, the terrorists would have won.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Jeremy Shockey Drinking Game

Okay, so all us football fans know what a drag it is to watch the New York Giants. For the last twenty years or so (1986 Super Bowl year excepted) they have been the most boring, predictable, unwatchable team in sports. So when you live in Central New York -- where everyone thinks they're just a stone's throw from New York City, even though we're closer to Buffalo (both geographically and spiritually) -- and they show the Giants every Sunday, even when there are much much better games on, what's a football fan to do?

I'll tell you! Turn that boredom upsey-daisy! Play the Jeremy Shockey drinking game! It's easy! It's fun! And it gets you drunk! Let the NFL's excessive overexposure of the mercurial Giants' Tight End work for you! Here's how to play:

1) Get a 12- or 24-pack of your favorite beverage! Beer works best. Pop only works for making you pee. Wine coolers and alcoholic malt beverages are acceptable for girls.

2) Find a comfortable spot, one where you will land softly when you pass out. Open your beverage and turn on the Giants game! (If you are at a bar, best to get a pitcher or two.)

3) Begin! Here's how the scoring works!

ONE DRINK IF... Shockey catches a pass; Shockey's name is mentioned when he is on the field; Shockey is shown in a replay throwing a block; Shockey drops a pass; Shockey is shown laughing on the sideline; an announcer compares Shockey to another white Tight End like Todd Heap or Christian Fauria; Shockey is called for a penalty; an announcer mentions Shockey went to the University of Miami.

TWO DRINKS IF... Shockey is mentioned when he had nothing to do with the play; Shockey is shown on the sideline when the Giants are on offense; Shockey drops a pass on 3rd down; Shockey's name is mentioned even though he is inactive for the game; Shockey is compared to a Tight End of Color like Randy McMichael or Tony Gonzalez; Shockey makes the "first-down" sign after catching a pass; Shockey is flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

THREE DRINKS IF... Shockey is shown on the sideline when the Giants are on defense; Shockey drops a touchdown pass; Shockey gets in another player's face; Shockey gets into a fight with another player; Shockey's appearance on Howard Stern is mentioned by an announcer; Shockey is ejected from the game; John Madden mentions Shockey's name more than 3 times or more within the context of one sentence [Monday Night Football special rule!].

FINISH YOUR BEVERAGE IF...! Shockey catches a touchdown pass (don't worry, this has only happened two times in four years); Shockey gets into a fight with a fan OR throws a cup of ice at a kid; Shockey is carried off the field or is killed during the game; Shockey cries.

Make sure you make the appropriate arrangements to get home. And don't feel bad if you have to quit at halftime. Even Giants games can be fun, if you know how to watch!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Classic Overbinge Weekend - Midwest Interleague Edition

Today is the 90-day anniversary of our trip to Chigago to visit our friend Dan. We went on a 4-day, 10-man mission. The lineup: Bill (me), Javen, JT (aka Jitter), Willie Moe, Toastie, Phelps, Dunford, Reyn, Tucker and our host Danny. The objective: to consume as many carbohydrates and ingest as many cans of Old Style as humanly possible. I don't think I'm being presumptuous in saying: "Mission Accomplished!"

What follows is my log of the events of Thursday, June 17 through Sunday, June 20, 2004.

Thursday, June 17

+ I pick up Willie and Toastie at Toastie's house. We go to the mall to pick up Mad Libs and Trivia books. Will also needs underwear.

+ We meet Javen and Dunford at my Teall Ave residence at about 3:45, load up the van, go pick up Phelps and get on the road. There is construction and a traffic jam on route 81N, so it takes us a while to get moving. We take 690 West to Interstate 90 and begin our exotic journey. Dan and JT don't know Phelps is coming.

+ From Syracuse to Mansfield, OH, Toastie, Phelps and Will play some weird baseball card game with a 20-sided die. Later, as the night gets darker, we switch to playing Euchre; Toastie and I are pitted against Phelps and Willie, and due to a slow start, Phelpsy and Will defeat us.

+ We eat at Arby's in PA and "ring the bell" when we leave. That means the food was good. Phelps had been dreaming of Arby's for hours and finally gorged himself. Javen orders the adventure meal, to which the attached prize is a magnetic skier. Toastie uses the magnetic skier on his shirt, putting the magnetic bottom under his shirt and moving the outer skier up and down his chest. Quoth Javen: "Make sure you don't get it caught in that thicket of back hair."

+ Javen calls Jitter to tell him we're gonna be a little late; JT is non-plussed, peppering his response with a bunch of "Gary"s. We pick up some cans of brew for the trip, but the beers are only consumed when the car is not running, and never by the driver.

+ We get the brilliant idea to spring Phelps on Jitter as a surprise. Jitter hops in the driver's seat to take us to one of the local Mansfield watering holes, and we hide Phelpsy under some jackets. We get out of the car and leave Phelps in the back seat. The others are about to leave Phelps there, but I let him out. Jitter is happy that Phelps is here.

+ We hit the second bar in Mansfield. Then we head to the bar (the Wood Street Cafe) and begin the process of downing $1 Stroh's cans all night: Classic OverStroh. Jitter gets down and dirty with one of the locals. Free Bratwursts, the best I've ever had. Two married lasses try to take Phelps and I to a Jacuzzi at their hotel. No word as to whether their husbands are also there. We drunk-dial my brother at about 3AM. I yell, "Juh-juh-juh-juh-juh-juh-GEE U-NIT!" to a guy at the bar and he "G-Unit"s me back.

+ We leave the tavern and head to the dearly defunct Google's parking lot. Don't remember what happens there. We go home to JT's and Ma Jitter is already cooking up some marvelous food for us: Mexican Pizza, Salsa, Fried Cheese, the works. JT takes Toastie to meet his dad, Bill Jitters, who has been sleeping, then abandoning Toastie to try and explain why he woke him up. But JT's parents are incredibly hospitable and unusually tolerant. We all pass out.


Friday, June 18

+ We all feel like dogcrap. We get on the road at about 10AM. Plenty of Dr K and Root Beer in hand. Toastie plays a CD that I assume is Bon Jovi's "New Jersey." Toastie assures me this CD is a mix CD and not the full album. This promise secures that I will not leap from the moving vehicle as previously thought. We drive...

+ ... and drive. Ohio is fine. We get to a rest stop where we discover 50 cent wristbands from a prize machine. We try to get "The Dragon," which is a red wristband with some sort of Chinese inscription on it, but most of us only get blue or red. We all wear the wristbands, many of us for the rest of the trip.

+ Gary, Indiana. We crawl through massive traffic for about 2.5 hours. There are three girls in a red car; Jitter and Phelpsy consider getting out of the car and offering peanuts. Javen opens Phelpsy's door for him a few times, but Phelps declines leaving the vehicle. Gary is grueling, bringing down the morale of the group for the first time, making everyone miserable, but still never irritable.

+ We get to Chicago and drive through the city for a bit, then get on one of the main highways, to finally, at long last, head toward Milwaukee. (We see a tank on a street corner for no apparent reason. Toastie: "Why is there a tank?"; Will: "Duh. In case there's a war.") Again, the drive is slow and annoying, and the weather is grey. But we finally reach Wisconsin, and have our first "Reversal of Fortunes," which is buying some Miller High Life at a gas station and playing Hi-Lo. "All of it higher! All of it lower! Freeze those cards!" Spirits are immediately lifted as we head to the stadium. Javen later says he has never seen so many large men get so drunk, so fast.

+ We arrive at Miller Park, a beautiful ediface set against an underrated Milwaukee skyline. People are tailgating at the baseball game, a surprise to me. We enter the park, too late to get the complimentary yellow throwback Brewers hats, but on time to see the 3rd inning. Not a bad game; Brewers 4, Twins 1. There is a guy at the stadium with "Overbay" in masking tape across the back of his shirt. Classic Overbay. At the 7th inning stretch, they play a song called "Roll out the Barrel," the words and melody to which are inaudible. Will says the words are "Tree slap boing!"

+ After the game, we head out of the stadium. Every time we pass each other on the steps going down, we "Rock" our wristbands at each other. People are surely impressed. We tailgate for a little while in the parking lot, playing frisbee with some local Wisconsiners.

+ We get back to the hotel and get a move on. We split into two camps: Javen, Jitter, Dan and I walk 3 blocks in the wrong direction, then take a cab to a local bar. Our camp is feeling a little down, and a gaggle of girls give me the finger for no apparent reason while I'm on my phone. But then we experience another "Reversal of Fortunes" when Javen has a brief "Urge Contrary to Swallowing," catapulting our night forward. We end up at another bar (I think it was a lesbian bar, but not sure), where we break numerous sports trivia records on a computer touch screen and begin to get tanked. After a few Blatz, everything is going down very nicely indeed. The rest of the crew shows up, shots are had, bartenders are molested. We go into a rousing "O-leee Ole Ole Ole" and "Rock N Roll Part 2" medley, bringing the house down. We take separate cabs to separate places; I have a gyro in a sketchy neighborhood. We go back to the hotel and pass out.


Saturday, June 19

+ Jonestown, Wisconsin. The entire party is hung over and hating life. Javen may or may not have slept with Toasty last night. Tommy and Reyn are out cold. We load up the ride and it's on to Chicago. Ren begins vomiting in the back of Dan's car. Tommy wants to know, "Anyone got any gum?" We are all very weak from lack of food and hydration. (Classic quote- Q: "What is Reyn throwing up in?" A: "A Dodge Stratus.")

+ Dunford, Toasty, Phelps, Tommy and Ren go to the Cubs game. Bill, Jitter, Javen, Danny and Will go to Sluggers, a little hole-in-the-wall in Wrigleyville. We eat hot dogs and french fries and drink Old Style cans. We all start feeling a whole lot better. The Cubs win in the bottom of the ninth and the place goes nuts.

+ We meet the rest of the crew in front of Wrigley Field, where Woo-Woo is challenging people to a hula-hoop contest. Few can hang with Woo Woo, though Tommy tries. While Reyn, Tommy, Danny and Phelps go back to Danny's for maintainance, the rest of us go to the Dugout, a sports bar that felt like a nightclub after the Cubs game. Jitter, wearing his bootleg "Garyland Terrapins" t-shirt, got into a discussion with several Maryland alum. He pretended he was one of them. Jitter was also mistaken for hockey player Chris Pronger. We went outside to sit at a table and drink. We told the cute waitress -- wearing her Ralph Wiggum "I'm Special" t-shirt -- we needed "attention" when she asked us if we needed anything. And she gave it to us.

+ We begin looking for another bar. There is a bar in Wrigleyville (and this part is a little hazy to me) with an entrance, but also seats outside. Jitter, being nearly 7 feet tall, steps over the "velvet ropes" of the outside portion of the bar & grill, circumventing the regular entrance. He is promptly removed from the premises for not using the proper entrance. (At least I think that's what happened.) That place has no idea how much money they lost that night. I mean, we were throwing it around.

+ Next stop was back to Slugger's briefly and then to a pizza shop near Wrigley where we had the biggest slice of pizza I've ever seen and then a massive deep dish slice. This made everyone a little groggy and ultimately proved not to be our greatest idea. The pizza made everyone a little tired, and that coupled with waiting for the train took the wind out of our sails a bit.

+ We passed onto Danny's neighborhood where we went to Danny's local neighborhood bar, a nice little place, but hot as hell, further adding to our fatigue. Everyone was a little whiny, but I blame it on the pizza, not the alcohol. Phelps finally got irritated and began calling everyone out for being a bitch. He was right. A few shots of Malort -- the worst-tasting alcohol in the world -- curiously brought back our gusto, allowing us to enjoy the evening and not die.


Sunday, June 20

+ Everyone woke up hurting, from the Malort I guess. Everyone's voice sounded as if we had been swallowing bees all night. We went to the Deluxe Diner in Chicago and enjoyed a massive breakfast. Phelps had wanted to leave no later than 9:30. We got on the road slightly after noon: myself, Phelps, Toastie, Dunford, Javen, Willie and Jitter.

+ The first six hours of the trip was uneventful, perhaps because of the melancholy of its imminent cessation. Perhaps it was because we had to drop off Jitter, our driving force, in Ohio but a few short states later. Toastie read some comments from a young child talking about the Chicago White Sox that made us all laugh. We enjoyed some so-called "iced cream."

+ We stopped at another Arby's, hoping lightning would strike twice. Alas, it did not. Had there been a bell to ring, we likely would not have rang (rung?) it. It didn't sit well in most of our stomachs. Even Phelps was non-plussed, and most food plusses him. After eating, all seven of us pulled out our cell phones and called our dads for father's day, standing in seven different corners of the Arby's parking lot.

+ We dropped Jitter off and said our lugubrious good-byes. Not coincidentally, at this point, the sun just started going down. I rode shotgun for only the second time in the trip, and waste little time nearly getting us into an accident by screaming "LOOKOUT!" at Javen. We survive.

+ We stop at a gas station in Erie, PA, and as luck would have it, for the last leg of our trip, Lady Fortune would Reverse herself in our favor again. Somehow, the subject changes to stories of being drunk, and from Buffalo to Syracuse, we listened to each other's exploits involving alcohol and nudity. Toastie stole the evening with his ribald tales. It was here that I coronated him MVP of the trip.

+ We all went home and slept for 43 hours. Overall I would have to say that it was a great trip. Even looking back on the more tedious events of the trip (mostly involving sitting in a large car filled with sweaty, gaseous men) I would do the whole thing over in a heartbeat. Would I have made a few changes? Sure. But not much.

The end.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Mike Vanderjagt Sucks

There are so many reasons to hate Indianapolis Colts placekicker Mike Vanderjagt. In fact, the only reason to like him at all is that he is Canadian.

For someone who is not allowed to practice with the team, he is a cocky bastard. And for a cocky bastard he is just not that good. Yes, he has the record for consecutive field goals made. And yes, he technically is the most accurate kicker in NFL history percentage-wise. But that stat changes every few years; it was Morten Andersen for a long time, and then Jason Elam, and now Vanderjagt is on top, but he won't be for long. Why? Two reasons: arrogance and failure to make clutch kicks.

I remember the first time I ever gave Vanderjagt -- or any other kicker for that matter -- much thought. The Colts were playing in Buffalo against my beloved Bills in 2000. Vanderjagt kicked a game-winning field goal. Fine. That's his job. But what struck me was an interview with Vanderjagt after the game in which he said, paraphrasing, "I saw Doug Flutie on the sideline and I gave him a little head nod becuase I remembered him from the Canadian Football League. And then I said to him, 'I'm about to beat your team!' [Arrogant laughter]" I remember hating him that very moment. Most players, kickers especially, say something like "It was a good snap and the good lord blessed me by letting me put it through the uprights" but not Vandy.

Also, and if you ever watch a Colts game you'll notice this, whenever he makes a field goal, even a 24-yarder, he does a queer little high-five with his holder. It's just like the high five that Will and Jaz used to do on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air: you slap hands at waist-length and then release by snapping your fingers and tilting your body to the outside, while shooting your thumb out for all the world to see. It's all very idiotic.

Need I remind anyone of the incident in the 2002 playoffs when Vanderjagt tried to rally Colts QB Peyton Manning when the team was losing to the Jets at halftime? Then, when Peyton inexplicably didn't get all jazzed up because his kicker told him to, Vanderjagt got "liquored up" and went on Canadian TV to say Peyton Manning and coach Tony Dungy weren't winners, questioning their desire. (My respect for Manning went up a ton when he called Vanderjagt out on live TV at the 2003 Pro Bowl.)

And there was also the time where Vanderjagt kicked a game-winner against Denver in the 2002 season in the snow. The next day, he was on Dan Patrick's radio show and essentially said (again, paraphrasing), "It's about time I got some credit. I've been a good kicker for a long time, and people need to start noticing me!"

But if you couple this arrogance with Vanderjagt's complete ineptitude in any kind of clutch situation, you get a man who is more gabber than game-winner. Off the top of my head I can name games he has blown: Against the Dolphins in the 2000 playoffs, in that same playoff game against the Jets in 2002. He even missed one against Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football in 2003 that was luckily (and questionably) called back on a Tampa "leaping" penalty. (That game went into overtime and he made it only on his second attempt, but the consecutive FG record won't reflect that.) Bottom line: if an important game is on the line, Vanderjagt is not the one you want.

That's what made Thursday's NFL Kickoff game so satisfying: watching such an arrogant jerk miss a makeable field goal that could have tied the game with just seconds remaining. Ahhh... I love to see a man who brings attention to himself, only to be undone by his own hubris.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Movie Review - Garden State

I saw Garden State at the Westcott Theater tonight. It's the first time I've been to the theater in months. The last thing I saw was Dodgeball (which, by the way, was brilliant, and I'm not kidding). Not going to pontificate too much, but here are some initial reactions:

+ Zach Braff does a nice job as the writer-director. I can't think of the last TV star to so confidently and deftly direct a feature debut. He uses some tricky camera angles and funky effects, but never at the expense of the story. It's always in a good context.

+ Loved loved loved the soundtrack. Some of The Shins, some Simon and Garfunkel, some Zero 7 and some Nick Drake. Beautiful mood music. Fit the film perfectly.

+ The theme of the film is really how too much organization is not good for the soul. In this film Andrew is numb, having been put on medications since he was a child. As he moves from organization to chaos, his life improves. His father's world is very sterile, very organized. But he finds himself as he travels to the outer realm of the Garden State. He meets people whose families are not the "ideal" that his own family seemed to be (Mark's, Sam's), but even though they are disheveled, they are filled with love and caring, of which his life is essentially devoid.

+ Finally! Natalie Portman puts in an adult performance, making good on the potential she showed as a young actress in films like Leon (aka the Professional) and Beautiful Girls. She is real and sensitive and very much like a person that you might meet.

+ Many people compare this to The Graduate, but in terms of tone, I definitely see this as closer to About Schmidt. A person, dead inside, dealing with death, growing accustomed to a strange and new life, with new people. But the protagonist in both films ends up being better off because of it. And though the stunningly gorgeous finale of About Schmidt isn't replicated here, the transformative redemption is.

Nice debut flick for the guy from Scrubs. B+

Saturday, September 04, 2004

The Battle for My Soul

Ever since I was a little kid, my parents have raised me to be a Democrat. They never indoctrinated me or forced me, but they both voted Democrat and they would espouse the Democratic values to me, and it all made a lot of sense. They are conservative, to be sure, but they voted for Kennedy and Johnson and yes, even Michael Dukakis.

(Quick story: I was about five years old when Ronald Reagan was shot. I had always heard my parents complaining about Reagan and so when you're that young you don't have a firm grasp on things. My mother had seen on TV that Reagan was shot and was a little shaken up. She had to pick up my dad that day, so she put my brother and I in the car to go get him. When my dad got to the car, she said, "Did you hear Reagan was shot," and before my dad could respond, I yelled something in the way of approval. I was only 5, I didn't know any better. Well, my dad yelled at me all the way home. So they're not insane.)

Even more than the virtues of the Democratic party, however, they had criticized the GOP and many of the evils they have done. From Watergate to Iran Contra to the final straw -- the Clinton Impeachment proceedings -- to me the Republican Party has been a party of lies and much bad politics. In fact, I think my parents are Democrats because Republicans are the only other choice.

Now all this is black and white and very simplistic to a kid. Since then I have terminated my official membership with the Democratic party because I didn't think they were on the right track either. I mean, seriously, if Gore/Lieberman is the best combo you can come up with for an election, maybe you deserve to have it robbed from you. Furthermore, I found the Democratic celebrity angle distasteful. I'll give you an example: I was watching Jay Leno (don't ask me why) and Eric McCormack from "Will & Grace" was on, and he was talking about how he and someone else from that show were walking around Los Angeles campaigning for Al Gore. I'm thinking, first of all, Will, who the hell are you to be telling people who to vote for? Secondly, isn't Sen. Lieberman one of the foremost proponents of censorship and creative suppression in the Democratic party? Thirdly, aren't you a freakin' Canadian, McCormack?! Spare me. But, to me, anything is less evil than the Republican party.

(Another quickie: there was a time where I had considered switching to the Republican party. I found that I had a lot of common ground with a lot of social issues. Not the racist stuff, mind you, but a lot of the civil liberties stuff. For example, the ACLU's overboard attitude and actions against religious symbols such as Christmas trees and manger scenes, or the left-wing's propensity to litigate frivolously. But when I had just graduated from college, the Clinton impeachment hearings were going on, and I was disgusted. I know that conservatives hate Clinton. I know that they have tried to oust him from office by the ballot, but that didn't work. Truth be told, I'm not a huge Clinton fan myself, but he was a very good domestic president. But I was so shamed by this last gasp effort to remove Clinton from office for such a minor, personal incident, that I turned my back on the GOP forever. It's no wonder they stole the 2000 election, they knew they couldn't win it fairly, but they couldn't risk having another "liberal" in the White House.)

Now, warp to an alternate universe: Since I was 11 years old, I have been obsessed with the Buffalo Bills. In case you aren't aware, they are a National Football League team based in Buffalo, New York. They're the only team in professional sports history to lose 4 consecutive league championship games. But as a young boy growing up in nearby Rochester, NY, I became enthralled with this team. And from 1988-1993, for my money, no football team was more dependable, more easy to root for and more fun to watch. The team was like a family to me; and whenever I got a chance to see them in training camp or at a mall appearance or whatever, it was like meeting a movie star, whether it was a backup linebacker or the starting quarterback.

The starting quarterback for 11 years was Jim Kelly. He's in the Hall of Fame now. He was my hero. The way he turned the team around and made them a winner made everyone in Western New York so proud. Whenever I played quarterback in football, I was Jim Kelly. I wanted to be him, I think. When he dove in the endzone with :02 left against Miami in the season opener in 1989, he was elevated to godlike status. His 2 AFC Player of the Year awards brought our small community to the Big Time. And the four Super Bowl appearances will never be matched. Ever.

Okay, now flash forward to Thursday, September 2, 2004. I'm watching the Republican National Convention, right before New York Governor George Pataki is about to speak. They roam the crowd looking for faces. And the one non-politician celebrity they see is none other than ... Jim Kelly. My hero. At first I didn't know if it was him or not. But then they cast a long camera shot at him, pumping his fist and cheering on Gov. Pataki (one of the worst governors in the nation, by the way), and I knew it could be no one else.

This was my own personal armageddon, a collision between two opposing forces that have shaped my world. It subjects my entire belief system into question.

My world is crumbling.

My only hope is that the Republicans will follow Jim Kelly's lead in this election, and come in second.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Zell Miller and Cheney

Zell Miller is a kook. I must say, his speech was very fiery and may turn some voters in the favor of his Republican party. (Miller saying he's a Democrat is idiotic and shows what a wack-job he really is.) HIs speech was laced with plenty of vitriol, but not much substance. Attacking Kerry on his voting record and for being "soft" in the military (the "spitball" line comes to mind) is simplistic and will work on simpletons and people who don't understand the nuances of politics. (For example, the reason Kerry voted against the additional $87 billion for the war is he wasn't going to give Bush another blank check; it's not because he didn't support the troops, idiot.) But the speech was effective and will likely be good for the Republicans. Again, sound bites and rhetoric will always defeat analysis, because people are too goddamn lazy to read anything and want a quick Cliff's Note to follow.

Watching Miller get into a fight with Chris Matthews on "Hardball" should prove what a nutcase he is. And Chris Matthews kept his cool about him. The thing I like about Matthews is that -- although he never lets anyone finish a sentence -- he plays perfect devil's advocate to both sides. And he tries the best he can to cut through all the bullshit.

Cheney is not a good speaker. He paused too much for applause. But his speech turned strong toward the end. For the first time I can see why people would be drawn to voting for Bush. It would be a huge mistake, of course, but I can see why.

This has been a very effective convention for the Grand Ol' Party. 9/11 has divided this country down the middle like nothing in history, ironically enough ... or atleast the fallout from it has.

The "Great" New York State Fair Debacle

I was going to watch the Republican Nat'l Convention again on Tuesday, but I ended up going to the Great New York State Fair instead after work. Naturally, the traffic was a zoo going there, but not really so bad considering all the cars. I parked in the most remote part of the Exit 6 parking lot you could imagine.

Anyway, the fair was fun. Got to see some people from work, got to hang out, and so on and so forth and whatnot. Okay, so about 9PM rolls around and I had already had about 4 beers a gyro and some fried dough (I'm on the eat like a fat bastard diet). I'm getting ready to leave, but I'm on the far side of the park. So I begin to head toward the entrance I came in.

(As an aside, I think I have some sort of a learning disability that I was never diagnosed with as a kid. I'm serious. I realize now that I have a lot of trouble with directions, with orienting myself, and with spatial relationships. I'm terrible about which way is north and south. I'm even worse about distances, such as how far away things are. If I see a crowd of people, I have no concept of whether there are 1,000 or 10,000 of them. I simply don't have that part of my brain functioning. You'll start to believe me in a few minutes.)

Okay, so the second I think to myself, "Hey, maybe I should leave" this mass of cowboy hat-wearin' and country music-singin' humanity comes out of this Kenny Chesney concert and starts moving exactly the opposite way I'm going. I feel like a salmon floating upstream. It's like the Battle for Helms Deep in there.

Okay long story short (too late, I know) I finally escape the park and get a ride to what I think is the entrance to my lot. Turns out it's a completely different lot, yet like a friggin' jackass I still walk around for 45 minutes thinking I'm in my correct parking lot. It never occurs to me that I've been all over the goddamn lot 3 times, doubling back, looking around as if my car was right there in front of me but I just wasn't looking at it. Finally, I got the brilliant idea. I said to myself, "Idiot, didn't you get dropped off right dead-center in front of the fair? And aren't you now so far west of the fair that there is no longer any sidewalk?"

I walked what seemed like 10 miles, but was probably closer to 1.5, back to the fair, up the goddamn steps, over the bridges, across the muddy parking lot, only to walk to section 22 where my car was (when I got to the parking lot, I was at section 7). Oh! Did I mention my cell phone was completely dead and I was out of gas?

So, from the moment I left the fair (I looked at my watch, it was 10:01 PM) to the time I pulled in my driveway was 2 hours. It generally takes 15 mins, but I'm a jackass who can't tell the brown lot from the orange lot. Don't tell anyone about it, it's too embarrassing.