Tuesday, September 30, 2008

100!!...And to a lesser extent, 10!!

There is absolutely no other reason for this post except for the fact that I just noticed that I was sitting on 99 posts for the year and 9 post for the month. I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone and round them both off into their respective powers of 10. I'm always a sucker for round numbers (and asses).

Just so you don't feel that this post was a total waste of time (unlike all the other relevant informative posts), here's that random GAP commercial from the 90s with Daft Punk and Academy Award nominated, developmentally challenged actress, Juliette Lewis, all duded up in denim.

That 30 second clip never fails to baffle me. What a crazy nexus in time is was when all three of those things came together.

Random Outdated, But Still Eerily Relevant SNL Sketch : Reliable Investments

Well, after buckling down, ordering in Chinese, and knocking back some Jolt Cola, Congressional leaders hammered out a sweeping proposed bailout deal to possibly stem the ominous US financial crisis. Unfortunately, when it came down to a vote Monday morning, the House immediately...balked, leading to all the runners advancing. And by "all the runner advancing" I mean "the single one day drop in the stock market ever."

While the remainder of my game show winnings are safely locked up in relatively secure government bonds, diamonds, and gold coins locked in a giant monolith to greed; I have to wonder when this little economic adjustment will end up causing me to comically wear barrels for clothing. In the mean time, I remembered an obscure little SNL commercial parody during one of Alec Baldwin's 130th or so hosting appearance, from all the way back in the 2000-2001 season; a dig at the state of the US economy post-9/11. It's funny because it's true!

Also, while we're on the topic of oddly prophetic comedy from the turn of the new millennium, here's a golden oldie, courtesy of the Onion, from the January of 2001. I think it's safe to say that, despite whoever becomes president in November, the USA's in for a rebuilding year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Farewell Letter to Shea Stadium

Dear Shea Stadium,

For the third year in a row you have become the sight of another demoralizing, down right soul crushing end of the New York Mets season. In a way this may have been the worst yet.

Having the terminally light hitting Yadier Molina and, the living embodiment of baseball mediocrity itself, Jeff Suppan power the barely over .500 Cardinals over a far more talented Mets team in game 7 was bitter. The protracted month long agony and pain of suffering one of the biggest collapses in MLB history, ending with an embarrassing 8-1 blow out by the Marlins on the final day and missing the playoffs was even worse. However, somehow this year for me seemed to top that previous low. At least in the previous year it was a complete free fall by every aspect of the team from hitting to pitching. It was a fairly forgone conclusion by the time Tom Glavine was pulled after allowing his 7th run of the first inning. This year, on the other hand, hurt more because the idea of the Mets pulling it out in the end seemed so much more possible.

The team wasn't competing against a team like the Phillies, whose complimentary surge ahead in the opposite direction of the Mets day by day further rubbed salt in the wounds. This year was a race to the bottom with the reeling Brewers of who could flop less in the final month. There was also the benefit of the universal law of averages and karma; there couldn't have been any way the season would have end on the last day to the same team under the same circumstances. In fact things were actually going fairly well until around an inning or so before the end of the season when Wes Helms hit that go ahead homer. It was also right around that time the Brewers tagged Bob Howry (you know the guy whom the Mets couldn't hit to bring home Dan Murphy from third with no outs in the bottom of the ninth a few games back?) for the 2 go ahead runs in their 8th. So for 161 and 7/9 games I actually thought the Mets could succeed. Unlike last year when I turned the TV off in disgust after the first inning, I painfully held out hope and watched in dire silence like everyone else until the final out. That's one of the reasons why this was the worst yet.

The other reason is that this terrible, gloomy affair will be my final image of Shea Stadium baseball.

For my entire baseball fan life I have watched all but three or so baseball games with you. I know you didn't get much of a send off, considering all the excessive pageantry people gave to that other stadium across town. However, I want you to know that it'll take a good long while before watching a baseball game will feel right without sitting in an uncomfortable, rickety orange chair, surrounded by concrete, in a perfectly symmetrical, cookie-cutter, mutli-purpose, semi-doughnut.

If you ask me I don't really understand what the big push for a stadium was all about. I was perfectly content with watching perennially disappointing Mets baseball in our current set up until all the outside blue paint fades away. You're a perfectly fine stadium for watching a ball game. It's not like chunks of you were falling off a la the Kingdome or you were slowly sinking into the ground or infested with rats, or built on top on an Indian burial ground. Sure your once futuristic architecture and features have become outdated in that sort of Logan's Run like manner but there's nothing really wrong with that in my book. In fact, I suspect in about fifty years or so that look will be cool again and there'll be a whole new wave of stadiums opting for that "Retro" 60s-70s cookie cutter stadium look.

Unfortunately, though, the unrelenting parade of human progress marches on with no regard for the hurt feelings of a plain, unassuming, middle aged, stadium. Come next September I'll be watching the latest collapse in that gaudy, faux-nostalgic, corporate licensed, modern monstrosity and you will most likely make up the auxiliary parking lot. All I want so say is that you were a fine stadium and despite the relatively smaller amount of classic moments and history, for me it was always a special occasion when I made it out. At least we'll have the old stubs and the memories.

Your faithful patron,

P.S. My one optimistic hope for CitiField is that they find a way to eliminate or at least significantly reduce that burning peanut smell that hits you right as you step in front of the main gates.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

At least they didn't bring up "One Night at McCool's"

So Michael Douglas, being the socially conscious Hollywood celebrity that he is, decides to go to the United Nations to speak his mind about some issues that he finds of pressing global concern. Douglas feels strongly about the banning of nuclear testing (and after witnessing firsthand the nuclear horrors of "The China Syndrome", who wouldn't be?) and held a news conference to urge the United States and some other holdout countries to get in on the test ban treaty. As he was fielding questions, one reporter apparently got their facts slightly wrong.

Sure it's easy to laugh at the idea of how ill informed a reporter must be to address an actor by the character they played in a film over twenty years ago about a topic related to that character; however this was not the first time an academy award winning actor or actress was confused with their award winning film role.

Did you know?:
  • Marlon Brando was once brought up on Racketeering and Corruption Charges by the New York State D.A.
  • John Houseman was offered a tenured position teaching first year Contracts at Pepperdine University Law School.
  • George C. Scott was briefly given full command of the Third United States Army.
  • Faye Dunaway had to testify in front of the FCC regarding ethical programming practices of the major broadcasting networks.
  • Sissy Spacek was nominated for the 1981 CMA Entertainer of the Year award.
  • Jeremy Irons is still under suspicion for the attempted murder of millionaire heiress Sunny Von Bulow.
  • Tommy Lee Jones was brought into assist in the nationwide manhunt for serial killer Andrew Cunanan.
  • Cuba Gooding Jr. was offered a 2 year deal to play WR for the Denver Broncos in 2001 after losing Ed McCaffrey for the season.
  • Angelina Jolie was interred at an undisclosed psychiatric institution for a three month period.
  • Javier Bardem was arrested for the murder of dozens of individuals in the southern Texas area during the early 1980s.
If it's on the internet, it's a fact!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Internet Misinformation Database

Before Wikipedia came along and caught us all in its loving, link laden, open content, accountability free, arms, the great majority of my esoteric pop culture trivia needs were satisfied by IMDB. Although we take it totally for granted today, just five years ago, the IMDB was practically the only place where one could find clearly organized, relatively accurate information about movies and television that had absolutely no academic value whatsoever. Your high school librarian didn't know if Barbara Billingsley was still alive, it was doubtful that there were any academic reference books that verified that Yahpet Kotto was in "The Star Chamber", and the Encyclopedia Britannica was of no help in telling you the name of that episode of "Miami Vice" where Bill Russell played a gambling addicted judge and Bernard King played his son (in fact, with the new video feature you can actually watch it for free).

During those wild early years of turn of the millennium, AOL based internet, IMDB along with "All Music Guide" covering the music side, were the two sacred tomes from which all relevant information followed. Even today, with Wikipedia exponentially spreading its user created, reference producing tendrils out over every form of possible human knowledge to the point where it'll one day give you a "Trivia" section that'll predict the date of your death to the minute, I still turn occasionally to the IMDB to get a deeper pool of information. There's also the "Movie and TV News" sidebar to keep me abreast of important "who's canoodling who in Hollywood?" information.

Owing to the significance of the IMDB during my formative years , it was always a shared dream of mine and a few of my high school friends to one day actually be listed within the database. It didn't matter if it was as the headliner for a record breaking blockbuster or as assistant to the fluffer for a third rate listed porno; to be a part of the actual reference itself, to be connected even by the most tenuous and tangential of threads to this great universal pop culture tableau was one of the noblest of goals. As of now I can actually proudly say that I am friends with a few listed individuals, some with more extensive listings than others.

Oddly enough, even after appearing on three nationally aired television game shows (albeit two of them in the boondocks of the cable landscape), I never thought of the possibility that I might have been listed. I always figured being on a game show to be the "acting" equivalent of being interviewed on the street for a local news broadcast. With an incredibly limited exception of notables nobody really gains any lasting general fame from a game show appearance. Since a game show rarely ever makes an references to a past contestant, win or lose, you exist in the ether of your particular episodes and you're essentially gone forever. With such an endless parade of the non-famous working their way through the daily meat grinder of game shows, it's hardly worth IMDBs time to give any memorial to the faces.

So imagine my surprise when, while idly wasting time on the internet, I recently came across my profile! Apparently my failtastic performance on GSN's "Grand Slam" was listed along with all the other contestants, thus being forever immortalized with my modest little plot on the vast IMDB landscape. However, what came up as an even more surprising discovery were my additional credits along with my "Grand Slam" appearance.

Did you know that about six months before I filmed my performance on "Grand Slam" I played a small role as "Bailiff Sullivan" on an episode of the long running daytime soap classic "Days of Hour Lives"?

Regardless I am quite proud of my role as "the Bailiff" since it demonstrated that my acting range was not limited to just playing doctors as in my debut role as "Dr. Allen" in the family classic "The Ultimate Gift" with James Garner and Lee Meriwether. It also showed that I could act for TV and film (or at least straight to DVD).

Of course I still keep busy with my work behind the camera like when I assisted the producer of an episode of "Star Trek: New Voyages". In fact my proudest accomplishment is obviously my work in "2 Guys" which I juggled the three roles of script supervisor, associate producer, and first assistant director. Although there doesn't appear to be an actual copy of this film available anywhere and any internet search for it returns random links to gay pornography, I am still quite proud of my important role in the production. After all anonymous, unwatched films don't script supervise, associate produce, first assistant direct themselves.

As surprising as it was for IMDB to have found all these previously unknown accolades. I was really impressed with their thoroughness when I noticed they uncovered in the "additional details" section, my 1978 cover photo in "Swimming World".

What can I say? Try as I might, I can't escape my (fake) fame.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On the Lighter Side...

If you haven't noticed already, since the week began, the US economy has had a bit of a hiccup. While all these big numbers and gloomy outlooks seem ominous, I for one am not all that concerned. Life has gone on fairly uneventfully for me this week and I predict that there won't be much change from that. When the collapse of our investment institutions and economic shock waves from the toxic home mortgage market finally trickles all the way down to me and makes my Wendy's Dollar Menu go up, that's when I'll start writing to my congressman (you're on notice Steve Rothman-D).

One big side effect of this little financial episode (aside from all the people losing their jobs and savings) was that this week has been the golden age of stock "Wall Street/Business News " footage. Never again (well until the next financial crisis) will we see such a prolific display of all the classic B-roll "economic trouble" footage, in television and print; classics like: forlorn floor traders, or people walking out with boxes, or people standing in front of the logos of their troubled businesses. The only images more timeless then the business trouble ones are the "obesity in America" anonymous fat people shots. I have to believe there has to have been at least one incident where someone decided to take stock of their life and start eating right and exercising regularly after recognizing their fat faceless ass on a news report about the rise in heart disease.

All this actually reminds me of a totally overlooked but one of the more chuckle worthy SNL sketches of the past five years (and Lord knows the laughs are few and far between). And for all those people out there who are still concerned about their fiscal futures, here's my can't fail secret for assured financial security.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

When You're Here You're Competition!

The weather's getting cooler, the kids are dejectedly headed back to school, the networks are proudly rolling out their finest new programming, and massive hurricanes are ravaging the Gulf Coast. It must be Fall!

If it weren't for the whole "going back to school" deal breaker, Fall would be by far my favorite season. With the lowering temperatures, I can finally start enjoying the benefits of jacket weather. I get the spiteful enjoyment of seeing many of the allergenic plants that gave me so much grief over the spring and summer slowly (and colorfully) die off. You get longer nights, the baseball playoffs, and the start of football Sundays. TV becomes more interesting again and they start rolling out the Oscar favorites in theaters. It also has two of my favorite Holidays: wicked and decadent Halloween and its uptight, straight edge, brother Election Day.

Aside from all the real obvious merits of Fall, a personal positive that always rings in the season for me is the return of Olive Garden's Never-Ending Pasta Bowl. Every year around late August to early September the OG rolls out its usual series of ads involving some clueless douche getting overwhelmed by all the various combinations of never ending pastas and sauces and the change in seasons becomes official. As a life long amateur practitioner of gluttony I can't help but admire the dedication of Olive Garden in issuing this bold challenge to the hungry, theme restaurant eating American public year in and year out. You never see TGI Fridays or Red Lobster or Chili's throwing down such a gastronomical gauntlet on the public. This year's running of the bowls is even more impressive considering the record increase in the price of wheat (and food in general) worldwide.

Although the NEPB is a time of joy and celebration, most years my enjoyment of the promotion is unfortunately curtailed. There's always the conundrum of finding a party to go with me. Unlike movies, I have yet to reconcile solo trips to sit down restaurants. A single meal by oneself is uncomfortable enough, but attempting to eat a double digit number of pasta dishes one after the other alone at a table like Mr. Creosote enters into a disturbing new level of sadness. Past experience has also taught me that bringing a date along is almost as unattractive a proposition, unless you can find someone that is willing to awkwardly sit and watch you try to stuff another plate of linguine down or is willing to go on a date to the Olive Garden in general. Really the true way to experience the Never Ending Pasta Bowl is to enter with like minded challengers. Bringing in a fellow competitor or a group of competitors eliminates the stigma of being the only gorger in the room, keeps the servers alert and busy, and, in the end, everyone pushes each other to achieve their personal best. Also, you never know if your competitive bowl stacking showdown will attract a random crowd of rowdy, gambling supporters a la "Over the Top".

So let this be my declared challenge to the world at large. During the month or so left of this promotion, I, Victor Lee, will accept any challenge from any man, woman, or carbo-loading Olympic champion to go bowl for bowl at any participating Olive Garden Restaurant. We'll pick a date, get a table, and trade dish after dish until one side capitulates. Any combination of sauce and pasta is open and there'll be unlimited salad and bread sticks at the eater's risk. The winner will pick up the other's $8.95 tab along with drinks. If you can beat me I'll even pay for any incidental stomach pumping required. Warning to all, don't take me lightly just cause I'm a skinny Asian guy.

I'll see you at the faux-Tuscan themed dining hall!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gettin' Ziggy Wit It!

Some of you may recall that bizarre month or so period in May when I became semi obsessed with trying to comprehend the nonsensical awfulness of Ziggy comics. Fortunately I had all but given up on attempting to decipher their surreal, confusing, and often times, depressing attempts at "humor" before my head exploded; leaving behind a tentatively implied promise that I would Zig no more forever. Without the maddening task of trying understand the sad adventures of that deformed, half man I slowly started sleeping regularly again and my intense frustration headaches had all but ceased. I was well on my way back to pre-Ziggy normalcy.

Alas, in this cold, imperfect world we live in, the cruel arbitrary wheel of fortuna constantly brings us up and down. Just the other week, while killing time in class randomly going across the online comics for the first time in weeks, I was violently dragged back to the nightmarish one paneled madness that was Ziggy:

Aside from how completely humorless and trite this feeble attempt at "contemporary" comedy is, it's even more awful when you recall back to the comic from my last Ziggy entry:

Almost four months and it's nearly the same panel! You know what the really sad thing is? The recent one is actually a vast improvement when compared to the original. After looking up exactly what a push-poll was, it sort of made sense (at least more sense then a shell screaming "virus alert")!

Of course I'm not well versed enough in the decades upon decades of Ziggy lore (nor would I care to) so maybe this whole "talking or listening to out of context messages at the beach from a shell" thing is actually a long running Ziggy conceit like the doctor's office or the complaints department. If that's the case and this minimal amount of all around effort and quality is all that is required to produce a nationally syndicated comic for nearly 40 years, then hats off to you cartoonist Tom Wilson, you have found one of the greatest jobs in the world.

Here's a freebie you can use for next week on the house:

Sunday, September 07, 2008

It's on like Donkey Kong!

You could probably mark it sometime around the beginning of last year's NFL season, the moment in time when Peyton Manning's media exposure hit its critical mass. While it had been steadily growing for a few years prior, a Mastercard commercial here, a United Way PSA there, things really began to pick up steam after he cemented his legacy by getting past the Patriots and beating the Bears to finally win his illusive Super Bowl. After that things really started to spiral completely out of hand. Eventually the whole family started getting into it and then there was the inevitable "flavor of the week" SNL hosting gig (featuring a sketch so astoundingly pointless and completely lacking in humor that I can't decide if it's the worst or the best sketch I've ever seen). Apparently America just couldn't get enough of that blond, doughy, southern fried, Manning charm. In the end it shouldn't be a big surprise really. Peyton's slightly schlubby, good old boy persona is a far more relatable then his main rival, three time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady with his pretty boy looks, GQ covers, and supermodel girlfriends.

One such commercial from the height of the Manning era was a modest little campaign with his brother Eli for Double Stuff Oreo Cookies. It was definitely not one of the more high profile, high visibility campaigns but it had its charms. The whole set up was pretty simple. In the initial wave of teaser ads Peyton and Eli announce they were becoming two sport athletes in football and a mystery sport that the ads abruptly ends before revealing, with only a random website posted on the screen. In the coming weeks the commercials reveal that the DSRL stands for the Double Stuff Racing League, some sort of competitive Oreo licking professional sport (complete with mascot and referees) that has apparently not caught on with the public. It was a commendably unexpected use of the two stars and the subtle inclusion of the parents and their reactions were a nice touch. On top of that, the DSRL theme was an all time classic; a brilliant synth laden 80s mainstream arena metal pastiche that sounded like a lost Survivor track.

The whole campaign eventually came and went. While I always enjoyed its occasional appearance that year, I'm not sure if it actually got me to buy any more than my usual amount of Double Stuff Oreos that year (zero, that Double Stuff is mad gross). It had its brief moment in the network sun and it appeared to have headed to the resting place for all commercials, YouTube, to be preserved for future generations looking to idly waste time and provide topics for me to write about. However, as it turned out the DSRL returned for another cream lickin' season, with a shocking new development!

The inclusion of the Williams Sisters is a fantastic new development for the DSRL. If you think about, there really is no other competition more perfectly suited for the Manning brothers. With Eli's Super Bowl win last year, even the most vocal critics have to begrudgingly admit that he joins his brother as the two most successful siblings within the four big major sports (apologies to Matt and Tim Hasselbeck and Brian and Marcus Giles). On the other end you have the Williams sisters, who have had a historic run of sibling dominance within womens tennis for roughly a decade. They are classic opposing forces in every manner. It's the guys versus girls, brothers versus sisters, battle of the sexes. You have the most American of sports football, with its celebrated brutality and its war-like formations and attack terminologies against the quintessentially European sport of tennis with its proper etiquette and high brow civility. On top of that you have the unspoken but undeniable tensions of a a racial clash, black versus white; which given the sponsored product and viewed against the backdrop of this parallel historic presidential election becomes more and more apt.

With so much riding on the line, how this epic showdown, of not just two sets of athletes but of the entire representative spectrum of the nation itself, will conclude will sure to be fascinating to observe. Like the 1958 NFL Championship, or Ali-Frazier, or even Wrestlemania III, this titanic match up will undoubtedly help define and establish the league and its lasting legend and mythology will belong to the ages.

I can only wonder how they'll be able to top this next year. Kyle and Kurt Busch? All three Molina brothers?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

When Disaster Strikes!

With Hurricane Gustav, to the relief of New Orleans residents, turning out to be a fifth rate Katrina at best, there was only one (possibly two after it's all said and done with the Palin pick) major disaster of note this Labor Day weekend. Since it suddenly struck in the early morning hours of Friday the 28th it has become a true disaster on a national and soon to be global scale, hitting every state and slowing expanding into the overseas markets. Despite being warned about its arrival on a ubiquitous, daily basis for a good clear month by all the major media outlets, there was little our government nor us the average citizen could do to avoid it. That's right it was the general release of another Jason Friedberg and Adam Seltzer movie.

Just as this nation was beginning to bring itself back up and rebuild in the wake of the damage left by "Meet the Spartans" just this January. Just when were beginning to remember what it was like to laugh again; we are pummeled again by "Disaster Movie" and its all out assault on humor, plot, talent, and the art of cinema in general. I don't know if its due to the effects of worldwide global warming or deforestation, or the depletion of the ozone layer but since Date movie the rate of appearances of these Friedberg/Seltzer productions seem to be accelerating and (as unimaginable as it is) getting worse with every incarnation. While there has been plenty of critical literature concerning the growing dangers of these projects, the American movie going public continues to fuel these films in the face of the humorless truth.

The scientific and cinematic community is still not in total agreement as to how such bad movies can possibly be created, but there some common facts that have been established which may aid in someday finding the key to finally understanding and eliminating these movies forever. Some known facts:
  • They are produced so cheaply that they cannot help but make money in the theaters. Even if you eliminated their primary audience of middle school children and the producers' parents, the sales generated from "tickets sold to confused old people by accident" will still ensure enough profits for a sequel.
  • They usually appear at the beginning of the year (around January, February) in the deadest winter period for films. With the exception of "Disaster Movie", these movies thrive and flourish in the harshest of box office environments, where better movies wilt.
  • They are short. The average length of these films top out at around 85 minutes. This is accomplished by eliminating any elements involving plot, depth, or story and inserting a string of celebrity impersonators and passing it off as a joke.
  • Carmen Electra. Her mysterious involvement with the great majority of these pictures appears to be the true key to understanding the series. Perhaps containing may put an end or at least severely hinder the production of these movies.
Despite the research done on the field, the sad fact of the matter is that there doesn't seem to be any end to the proliferation of these films. Even as the latest incarnation rages across the movie screens of the nation, another picture is predicted for early next year. We as a nation are running out of options to turn the trashy tide. Eventually the ultimate option may be a national permanent moratorium new movies all together.

As dark as the future seems, there is still a hint of hope for the future. The previous three Freidberg/Seltzer films (Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans) have averaged domestically over $19 million dollars in their first weeks and usually finished at number one or two. "Disaster Movie" on the other hand, finished a positive 7th place with a $6.6 million dollar domestic haul. That's a positive development we can build on, but we will need a concentrated global effort with pledges of support from our government and the governments of the world.

We must work together to eliminate these productions, if not for us than for our children and for generations beyond. Can you in good conscience bring a child into a bleak, joyless world with twice possible trice a year releases of these films? I for one look forward to that hard fought, bright day in the future when blockbuster films need not fear crude parodies by talentless hacks, where options for quality films exist past the Oscar season, where Carmen Electra is only remembered for her acclaimed work in "The Chosen One: Legend of the Raven", where we are free to laugh again.

Until that glorious day...vigilance.