Monday, July 21, 2008

Passing Gas

Farting is both hilarious and kind of terrifying. God gave us a portal from which to expel noxious odors from our intestines. It's a blowhole of sorts from where our innards remind the world of their existence by emitting a smell that can have a varying degree of offensiveness. But there are some interesting things about farting, several of which I am going to write about now.

One thing is that it gives us control of the weather. It's true! If you are in a room with several people, you can actually affect their environment just by little out a gentle little toot. It is the only bodily function where you can purposely send a smell out into the world. You can't do that from your armpits, mouth or anywhere else, because those places have to already have a certain amount of bad odor to begin with. You would have to work your way up to bad breath or a nasty armpit. But with farting, you can be dapper and well-groomed, and still ruin a football game for five minutes.

Another interesting thing about gas: how is it that you can tell how bad it is going to smell just by the way it comes out. When you let one rip, you can always tell how bad it's going to be. But usually not until the genie is out of the bottle, so to speak. Sometimes you take a risk; you are in a crowded room or elevator, and really need to unbloat, so you let off a little tester to see how it's gonna be. Hopefully, it's only a small amount that no one else will notice. But other times too much comes out, and you've made an ass (no pun intended!) out of yourself.

We think of air as being a constantly flowing entity, bound only by the strictures of those materials which hold it in. Yet, we can control air itself just through the simple contracting and expanding of our sphincter muscles. Think of the power of that!

Farting is also a good indicator of someone's social comfortability level. If you are in a business meeting, you are not going to let one go, because you are a professional and that would reflect poorly on you. However, if you were in my college dorm on any given night of the week, you would not hesitate for one moment to blast a butt-trumpet before yelling "safety" or "doorknob" or whatever phrase you would yell in futility to get you out of a beating.

I think willingness to drop ass is a good indicator of how close you are to someone. I have a wonderful friend who refuses to use public restrooms, but will gladly fart in my presence, often several times in succession. This person has purposely farted directly on me more times than I care to count. But by virtue of this, I know this is someone I can always count on, and someone who trusts me. (I hope the individual didn't trust me to keep the farting stuff to myself because, well, that cat is out of the proverbial bag.)

In fact fellas, I should say this: if you can find a woman who will not only fart in front of you, but be proud of it, you marry her. By gum, you marry her but good!

I will conclude thusly: if you know you have gas and bloating, and it is giving you discomfort, don't hestitate to let freedom ring. Maybe give me a heads-up so I can either cover my face or grab some matches. Don't hold it in. Who knows, you could be the next Le P├ętomane! Besides, I read somewhere that if you hold it in, it turns to cellulite.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Most Pathetic Ad Ever

Apparently the recession has hit the great state of Washington very hard. Please take the next 1:24 to view the following video, a Republican-made video that is intended to "welcome" Michelle Obama to Washington State.

There are three simply wonderful things about this ad.

#1. The production value is second to none. Not only is the quality of the VHS tape used for this spot of the highest quality (I would have to guess it's a JVC T-120 SX), but the acting is remarkable. Watch the way Lori Sotelo completely disappears into her role as "Patriotic Woman No. 1" by moving her eyes from left to right (or right to left for we, the viewers). The charisma just drips off of grassroots activist Melo-dy Leo (aka "Patriotic Woman No. 2") as she speaks from the heart, talking extemporaneously about how Americans can speak freely, and how she wakes up every morning proud to be an American. This clearly came right off the top of her head. State Senator Val Stevens ("Patriotic Woman #3") gave her not-at-all-contrived answer in front of a TV that she had turned up all the way.

#2. The reasons for being proud of America are well said and completely original. Lori Sotelo says that she is proud to be an American "because we live in the land of the free, home of the brave." Holy shit, where did she come up with that?! Fucking poetry. Is she one of McCain's speechwriters? Rose Strong ("Patriotic Woman #4") says (and please note the flawless syntax in this sentence), "no matter what your background, race or religion you have, you can do or be whatever you set your mind to!" Stand back folks, there are some new and radical ideas coming down the pike in this ad. I can do accomplish anything if I believe in my self??? We live in the land of the free? The home of the motherfucking brave?????!?!?!?!??!! Mine eyes have seen the glory! Take me now, lord! These words are dangerous and powerful! They could give people new ideas and inspire them!

#3. Thank goodness someone finally questioned Michelle Obama's patriotism. As we all know, black people have had it pretty easy in this country. Things like Jim Crow laws and segregation were really necessary because black folks were getting too much freedom. So how dare a person of color like Michelle Obama have the audacity to imply that somehow her country has not always served her best, due to the color of her skin? I'll bet she is ungrateful to Abraham Lincoln too, who did her the favor of setting black people free from slavery! Doesn't Michelle Obama realize how lucky black people have been in this country? A free ride on a slave ship and 200 years of inequality? Um, you're welcome, I guess! Not to mention, we all know that the best way to show your love of country is by reciting the pledge of allegiance, and spouting trite and well-worn phrases about "freedom," "pride" and "freedom." Questioning the way your country operates -- no matter how fucked up it is, and how much it is actually ruining its own legacy -- is simply not patriotic. Blind justification and partisan loyalty is!

Of course, what do you expect from someone who married a guy who wouldn't even wear a $2 metallic American flag pin?????!!!!!!??????!!!!111 How can you trust someone like that????!!!!??????!!!!!!1111one1111

Hopefully this ad inspired you as much as it inspired me. Now get out there and sing "God Bless America" at a baseball game, drink a Budweiser, and do all the things that proud Americans do!!!!!!!!!!!! For America!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Go Away Now

Dear Brett Favre,

There are about fifty things I like about you. I love that you don't shave but once every two weeks. I love that you made Green Bay a destination football town once again. I love your rocket arm. You are goddamned handsome.

Because of my like for you, I have sort of looked the other way when media types like John Madden, Mike Patrick and others praised you without nearly any criticism. When you celebrated after a touchdown, it was because you "loved the game." When you threw a bad interception it was because you were "a gunslinger." When you had two or three bad seasons in a row, it was because you need "a supporting cast." And in the rare event that the media actually did criticize you -- like when you said Javon Walker should shut up and report to camp -- I even agreed with and defended you.

But the one thing that I simply can't abide is your constant waffling on whether you want to retire or not. I would not tolerate it with genuine assholes like Michael Jordan or Roger Clemens, and even though I think you are a good dude, I will not tolerate it with you either.

For the last 4-5 seasons you have been flirting with retirement, saying you couldn't handle the grind, hated practice, wanted to spend more time with your family, blah blah blah. Enough. I am no Packers fan, but you have held this poor team hostage for too long.

They drafted a QB in 2005 -- THREE SEASONS AGO -- in anticipation that you wouldn't be sticking around. Now, I don't think anyone could blame you for wanting to come back for one more season to break some records. (You now hold 9 of them, and one negative: the all-time interception record).

But then you retired. Officially. You made the decision, let the Packers know before the draft, and then rode off into the sunset, with a decent season marking your last.

But then you came back.

Just go away. You've had your time. Stop drawing attention to yourself. Stop threatening to quit only to come back. Go out on top. Don't tarnish your legacy. Don't be Jordan, getting owned by young buck NBA players. Don't be Clemens, making a jackass of himself on an almost monthly basis.

Go away while you still have your dignity. But for Curly Lambeau's sake, just go away.

[Update: After reading this post from Deadspin, I'm not even sure Favre is a "good guy" anymore.]

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Notes on Hancock

The new Will Smith movie Hancock has gotten some pretty scathing reviews. Apparently it did pretty well at the box office this weekend, although I have to say it's had one of the most disjointed and poorly-defined marketing of any big budget movie I've ever seen.

The studio tried to market it first as a semi-satirical movie about an "unconventional superhero," highlighting it's more humorous elements. (See those trailers here and here.) To me, this was a smart move, making it feel offbeat and different from a typical action movie. But in the few weeks leading up to the movie's release, the tone of the marketing changed, making it look like a typical action movie-by-numbers. (See what I mean here.)

I found the movie to be interesting and entertaining, but ultimately a little frustrating. If you haven't seen it or want to, I'm officially giving a SPOILER ALERT.

Here are some things I thought about the movie:

  • Will Smith has grown on me, because he's shed his Independence Day/Bad Boys/Men in Black "I'm a cool guy" persona and actually found some range and depth to his characters. He plays characters now that are flawed and three-dimensional. It's sometimes hard to forget that he's Will Smith (he doesn't disappear into his characters like, say Tom Hanks or Russell Crowe, for example), but at least we're not aware of it every second of every frame. I still wish he would have just kept calling himself The Fresh Prince, though.

  • Jason Bateman rules. He could play that same stammering everyman character for the rest of his life and I'd be fine with it. He is a bit of a sap in Hancock, but he adds the right amount of comic relief.

Okay, so my issues with the movie itself. First the good stuff:

  • I like the way that the movie combines the worlds of fantasy and reality in the first half of the film. Hancock is a superhero, but he causes more damage than he prevents. He is unpopular because he is sloppy and uncaring. The sort of sweeping superhero stuff is undercut by a lot of missteps on his part (breaking things that don't need to be broken, creating craters every time he lands, being kind of a dick). The handheld parts of the movie make it feel more real, as if this kind of thing could really happen.

  • For the most part, the comedy works. Since he is ostensibly invincible, Hancock himself can pretty much do what he wants, so he is arrogant, confrontational and ruthless. He doesn't make excuses for his behavior, he just justifies it. After he's saved a life, a female bystander says "I can smell the alcohol on your breath!" to which Hancock replies, "'Cause I been drinkin', bitch!" That attitude makes Hancock repellent to the characters in the movie, but endearing to the moviegoing audience.

    Now the not-so-great stuff

  • There is too much backstory about Hancock's life. I don't mean that they spend too much time on it, because they really don't, but the appeal of the Hancock character is that he's a sort of anarchist ne'er-do-well. By trying to explain his past and psychoanalyze him, it detracts from that detached manner that made him such a compelling character in the first place.

  • There is a major shift in tone a little more than halfway through the movie. It goes from this offbeat superhero character study to a very standard, very typical superhero/action movie. The action itself is fine, but it's very rote. There is nothing new to see here. The humor almost goes completely away, and the lighthearted nature of the first half of the movie becomes one of darkness and despair.

    It feels like a cop-out, as if the writer/director didn't know how to end it, or how to continue the same satirical note for the entire movie, and eventually gave up and said, "Screw it, let's just have shit blow up."

    [An aside: As far as cop-outs in movies go, I have two favorites: the one at the end of M.Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, where we see title cards showing the fate of the two characters we had just spent two hours trying to find out about ("Samuel L. Jackson was sent to a prison for the criminally insane!!!!!!!!"); and the climax of Soul Food, where instead of the family at the dinner table having it out and the writer/director having to create a compelling resolution-through-dialogue, there is the scare of a house-fire -- which interrupts the seething tension -- and teaches us the trite lesson that "Wow, aren't we all so lucky that we have each other? And isn't that more important than all this bickering?" Come to think of it, the resolution in Ron Howard's EdTV -- writen by hacks-extraordinare Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel -- decides to settle its philosophical issues of privacy and the nature of fame with an erectile dysfunction joke. Hancock doesn't come close to that level of disappointment, but the laziness is there.]

  • Hancock's major enemy toward the end is a character who had a very small amount of screen time in the film -- and in an incompetent caper at that -- and then decides to exact revenge in a scene that came right out of Plot Convenience Theater. It did not grow organically from the story, but was rather set up to provide a de facto villain to Hancock. Unfortunately, the villain (named Red) is not compelling enough to provide for a satisfying conclusion; he is not a villain worthy of Hancock. It was a wasted opportunity to establish maybe a villain early on, maybe with some background between the two, and then have it pay off at the end.

Anyway, the movie is fun and worth a look, and although the movie doesn't make good on its promise of the exploration of a superhero in a postmodern framework, it was plently likeable.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Two Brutal Cinephiles

Know what would be awesome? If there was a site that had analysis and retrospective on some of the greatest scenes in the history of movies? And if the analysis was not only semi-scholarly, but also irreverent.

If YouTube clips of some of these movies were available, that would be awesome too.

And if it could be written by me and a guy named Kong, wouldn't that kick some serious ass too?

I wish that site existed.

Oh wait. IT DOES.

Hypothetical Obama - McCain Showdown

I think stuff like this is just very cool.

A site I came across -- Five Thirty Eight dot com -- apparently ran the upcoming 2008 Presidential election through 10,000 different scenarios, I'm guessing based on data they have and info they have analyzed.

Some of these stats are very striking. For example, the likelihood of an Obama landslide is over 26%, while McCain's odds of a landslide are just over 5%. Also, the odds of Obama carrying all of John Kerry's states from 2004 is almost 60%, but McCain's chances of carrying all of Bush's 2004 states is just below 14%.

Interestingly, this poll shows that the value of winning Ohio is not possibly as important as once thought. Here, Obama's chances of winning the election without Ohio is over 10%, and McCain's chance of the same scenario is just under 9%; Ohio, while important, is much less crucial than Pennsylvania. Obama's chances of winning the election without PA is an astounding 0.07%, virtually nil. McCain's odds of 2.98% in the same scenario, while lofty by comparison, still spell out Pennsylvania as being a dire need, and likely THE key swing state this election.

If my boy Tim Russert were alive today, he might be writing "Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania" on a dry-erase board. It's four months away but I still can't wait.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Snapshot Cuz I's Bored

12:00 Midnight between July 2nd and July 3rd is exactly halfway through 2008. I figured that out myself by counting it. On non-leap years it's at noon on July 2nd.

For whatever reason, I decided to put up a snapshot of what I'm listening to on my iPod. This is of no interest to anyone else but I may look back on it one day and wonder why I used to listen to such crap.