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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pigs of the sea

Where's the last place on earth you'd expect to find cops? Go ahead, think it over for a minute, that's fine. Guess aloud even, sure.

Space? You honestly don't think you'd find cops in space? Have you ever read any science fiction? There's always cops in space. It's like their favorite place to be because it's all new and they can just make up rules just to fuck with you and then they tase you and throw you into a black hole for infinity when you don't listen to them. There's even a LEGO set about cops in space. "Space Police." I know because I had them, but I always made sure they lost against the space pirates or dragons or whatever the fuck. Plus, I said on earth, idiot. Space isn't on earth at all, it's all out there... in space.

Underground? Fuck that. There's tons of cops underground. That's where truffles grow, and you can get rent cops to go root them up and--wait, maybe that's pigs. Whatever, same difference. There's definitely cops underground, just waiting for you to think there aren't cops underground, and then they'll arrest you and sodomize you and throw you in jail. And then sodomize you again.

Just shut up, you had two guesses already and you couldn't figure it out when I already gave you the answer in the title here if you would have just taken two seconds to think it through. Water! There aren't cops in the water, right? Of course there's the Coast Guard but they're part of the army or something. And yeah, there's that movie about Bruce Willis as a cop on a boat in Pittsburgh, but none of that's what I'm even talking about. I'm talking about the beach. Cops don't go to the beach, especially not in the ocean with all the salt water and sand. If they even think about the ocean, their uniforms shrink up and strangle them and their guns jam up and get rusty and explode and blow off their giant cocks (or so they think they have), so they stay the fuck away from the ocean and the beach. Also, the beach is fun, which is something cops hate.

So there aren't any cops at the beach, right?

WRONG!

Because GUESS WHAT?? LIFEGUARDS are the PIGS of the SEA!

I was in Atlantic City this weekend, enjoying the waves and the sun (until it fried the shit out of my skin and I spent the next day throwing up uncontrollably) as I have not in quite a few years. And in all that time away from the beach, I forgot one thing. I FUCKING HATE LIFEGUARDS. They are always high and lazy and making out in their big lifeguard chairs with each other and all they always want is to RUIN MY FUN.

On the tiny strip of beach that we hung out on this weekend, maybe three hundred feet between two piers, there were no less than twelve lifeguards, and if you wandered beyond twenty radial feet of their chair, they started bloooowwin' the whistle like an Asian baby crying in a movie theatre.

"C'MON IN! IF YOU GET CAUGHT IN THAT RIPTIDE, YOU'RE WAY TOO FAR OUT AND WE'RE WAY TOO HIGH TO EVEN CONSIDER SAVING YOUR BUOYANT ASS. ALSO, YOU'RE WAY TOO GODDAMN FAR TO THE LEFT! WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY, BUT THE LEFT SEEMS BAD TODAY, SO STAY TO THE RIGHT. GET THE FUCK OVER HERE TO THE RIGHT OR YOUR ASS IS KICKED OUTTA THE OCEAN--YOU HEARD ME, KICKED OUT OF THIS ENTIRE FUCKING OCEAN, BUDDY! YOU'RE GONNA HAVE TO GO TO CALIFORNIA JUST TO GET YOUR GODDAMN TOES WET!"

Only a lifeguard would never say something as clever as that. They just blow that fucking whistle and wave their arms and wear puka shell necklaces. Like their land-faring brethren, these pigs of the sea do indeed have a function. To save lives. There is a purpose for lifeguards to exist, and it is explicitly stated in their name. But, again like their terra-firma fucktwins, they are just general lazy assholes who apparently get off being dicks to everyone else and thinking they're hot shit.

So what to do? How do we make lifeguards understand that they're just like everyone else, only stupid and douchey, plus with blonde highlights in their hair and tribal tattoos? I for one am doing my part: "Lifeguard Killa," a collaboration with Ice T and Zack de la Rocha on my next album, dropping in September. In closing, a selection of lyrics from said single:

I got my swim trunks on.
I got my sunscreen on.
I got my snorkel on.
This shit's been too long.
My adrenaline's blastin'.
These waves are crashin'.
I'm 'bout to kill me somethin'.
Fool whistled me for nothin'!

Lifeguard killa! Better you than me!
Lifeguard killa! I just wanted to boogie!
Lifeguard killa! I know your momma's grievin'!
Lifeguard killa! But tonight we get even! Yeah!

Fuck the sea pigs!
Fuck the sea pigs!
Fuck the sea pigs!
Fuck the sea pigs!
Yeah!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Douglas Coupland - Microserfs *****

Every once in a great while I stumble upon a book that has everything I hope for and more. I didn't expect to find that in Douglas Coupland's Microserfs--not that I have anything against the Canadian novelist, I just expected his 1996 release to be simply an enjoyable read, not something that would blow me away completely and be entered into my All Time Top 10 List forevermore. But in Microserfs, that's exactly what I found: a novel full of laughter, of tears, of brilliance and heartfelt subtlety.

Perhaps part of my love for the book comes from my desire to live the exact life that protagonist Dan and his coding co-horts are living in Redmond, Washington, just outside of Seattle on the Microsoft campus in the early 1990s. While I was reading the book, I was also waiting to hear back from a job I applied for with Nintendo of America (sadly, no dice), based also out of Redmond. As I read the book, the good-hearted jealousy poured out of me and into Dan in a vicariousness I had not felt since reading, perhaps, the very first Harry Potter book almost a decade ago. Is this why I felt so sublimely affected at the ups and downs that the characters took? Is this why I sobbed as the novel reached its apex for reasons I cannot still fully explain? Probably. But don't let that diminish the full effect, because even reading it as someone with less of a personal stake in its direction, I still could find it hard to look at as any less brilliant.

Coupland has proven to me beyond a doubt at this point, that a keen eye for pop culture and good humor can go hand-in-hand with a level of emotional humanism I only before thought possible in the hands of someone like Kurt Vonnegut or George Saunders. Usually you get one or the other--a battering ram of modernity like Chuck Klosterman (ugh) or the gentle touch of Jeffrey Eugenides. Not all of Coupland's novels are quite so finely tuned as this, but in Microserfs he has managed to make a believer out of me.

It certainly will help if you, as the reader, are something of a culture nerd yourself, with a special geekiness for computers and the baggage and shortcomings of Generation X, but even without catching all of the references Coupland makes, you will most assuredly connect with the people inside. Because they are even more real than the little things Coupland plucks from the world around him to ground the book. Knowing nothing of Silicon Valley, programming or the computing world in general, the characters that inhabit these pages are enough to make you feel their world and feel everything they are going through.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jack in the Sucks

Mr. Jack in the Box, with your big white clown face and your pointy yellow hat, I don't know what your story is. I guess you're from California and haven't really migrated far enough east for me to have ever tried your burgers, so what you're doing with commercials on my local cable channels, I have no idea. I've always thought you were alright, for what little I knew of you. You don't really affect my life, but that series of commercials where Jack dies were kind of funny even though they meant nothing to me whatsoever. Never, however, have your commercials appetized me in any way, and even if they did--as I've already established--you have no locations around here, so it would just end up giving business to Five Guys or another burger joint within range.

But do you sell gyros? That's what I want to know. Can I show up and order a delicious gyro, with tender lamb and beef and shredded lettuce and tomatoes and creamy tzatziki sauce wrapped inside a thick, warm pita? Will you give it to me with cajun fries and coleslaw, with a Boston Creme donut for dessert? And at three in the morning. After I've been up all night playing Magic: The Gathering and hanging out in my friend's hot tub, I'm usually craving that kind of a meal, so if I make the trek at three in the morning to wherever my closest Jack in the Box location is, will you serve me my gyro, fries, coleslaw and donut? With a frosty mug of Hank's Premium Wishniak Black Cherry soda, one of my favorite black cherry sodas around? Could you do that for me? Would you?

Of course not! And I'd be silly to expect you to. I can hardly imagine that any of those items are on your menu, but even if they were, showing up in the middle of the fucking night surely isn't going to get me any of them, right? Obviously. You're closed--it's part of your whole thing, being open for some hours and closed for some others. That's the way in which you operate your business! If I showed up at closing time and demanded a bowl of chili topped with bean sprouts, you'd tell me to take a hike! So what the fuck is up with your stupid new commercial where you demand things from a fast food joint that doesn't do the things you want?

You pull up to the drive-thru of a McDonalds or something of that ilk, and demand breakfast all day, knowing full well that they only serve until 10:30am. When they inform you of what you already know, you force them to admit that Jack in the Box is the only place around who will serve breakfast all day, like a real man. Guess what, Jack in the Box? I don't care!

Just like I don't get pissy (and boy, does Jack get pissy) when you won't serve me a side of collard greens with my New York Strip steak, you shouldn't be allowed to get pissy when you can't have breakfast after you know damn well breakfast is over. It doesn't matter why it's over, it just is. That's the way in which they do business. I understand that you're just advertising the fact that you happen to have breakfast all day, but do it a little less snarky, eh? No one expects to have breakfast all day from a fast food joint. If they want that, they'll go to a diner, or to a Waffle House, or fry a goddamn egg at home.

Big fucking deal, you've got greaseball bacon sandwiches at 7pm. I'm ecstatic, and you know what? Fuck McDonalds for not having that. I'll never go there again. You've won my heart, Jack in the Box. You showed me what fast food can be. What it aspires to be. McDonalds is a failed dream with its 99.999% worldwide market saturation because it doesn't have hashbrowns at noon.

Fuck you, Jack in the Box. For being a dick for no reason, and for clogging up my television with pointless commercials from a thousand miles away. Also, your Qdoba franchise sucks ass compared to Chipotle, so suck on that too.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The right to arm beers

If you're reading this, there's a good chance you already saw tonight's Colbert Report and I don't really need to do news reporting on the subject, but sometimes (most times), something shocks me so horrendously that it makes me climb out of bed in the middle of the night, open up my laptop and get on here to spit some fire.

Tonight, it was a story that Stephen Colbert was covering--a follow-up to a story he first reported on a year ago when little known Tennessee State Senator Doug Jackson proposed a bill to allow the concealed carrying of firearms in bars and other establishments that sell alcohol. But why the follow up? Surely such a ridiculous and, frankly, dangerous bill was dead in the water before it even hit the Senate floor. It could never ever have even gotten close to making it in--WHAT? IT PASSED??

Yes! You proud gun owners of Tennessee (and also Arizona, as it turns out), feel free to lock 'n' load before you start knockin' back the brews, because it is now COMPLETELY LEGAL TO CARRY A LOADED WEAPON IN A BAR. In a bill sponsored by (among enough others to override a veto) the NRA and Democratic Senator Doug Jackson--oooooh yes, you read that right: staunch pro-life, pro-business, gun advocate Democratic State Senator Jackson--the Tennessee Senate has now officially made their state the most INSANE AND DANGEROUS PLACE YOU CAN POSSIBLY LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

And I'm just fine with that.

Because good luck finding my ass in Tennessee, ever. This law does not apply to me. At first, I was so angry that I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Who could this man possibly be working for, short of Satan himself, that he could ever dream that drunken assholes should be allowed firearms out in a place of public communion? As much gun violence as we already have in the U.S. (hint: leaps and bounds more per capita than any other non-drug cartel-related country in the world) the last thing you'd think you would want to do is give legal right to hammered rednecks to flash their piece at the ol' Coyote Ugly. Of course, that's exactly what the NRA is here to do. They've got to protect our inalienable right to heft around hand-cannons at all times, just in case we see some terrorism going down! That's what the Second Amendment is all about! So in their virulent fight against terror, they certainly supported H.R. 2159: The Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2009... right?

I'm getting tired of being shocked and appalled.

Really though, I'm happy for them! Congratulations, Tennessee! You got what you apparently wanted, and I'm sure I'll get plenty of what I want out of this too: a big ol' boatload of dead, dumb hicks. Perhaps Jackson really is a secret liberal just yearning to break out of his paleoconservative shell--he obviously supports Darwinism. Let's thin out that herd, what do you say?

But is this really what they wanted? Restaurant owners across the state have fought this bill tooth and nail, knowing full well what is in store. "We are going to ban any person from entering into the venue if they have a firearm in their possession," said Drew Mischke, owner of the Mercy Lounge in Nashville. "We have the right to refuse service to anyone as any business does, and it is our policy that while it is not illegal to carry a weapon into a place that serves alcohol, as the business we can choose whom we do and do not want in our establishment. And we will not allow someone in the establishment if they have a weapon on them." Good luck with that one, Drew. I hope your bouncers have bulletproof vests, because that's one argument that is going to start at the door and end in the obits.

So let me offer my condolences in advance, to the families all of the rowdy biker dudes, the waitresses having shitty days, the asshole bartenders with snarky comebacks, the drunken frat guys who were hitting on the wrong bleach-blonde, toothless, Waffle House waitress, the cops who come to break the whole thing up, and of course, all of the many innocent bystanders. I truly am sorry that your children will grow up parentless, your spouses will be widowed, and your dogs will be forever on your front porch, waiting in earnest for you to come home. But you can't say we didn't warn you. It's either time to get the hell out of your crazy alternate-reality state, or to buy a bigger, better gun than anyone you know and make sure you can empty your clip first. If all goes well, maybe you'll have a few less electoral votes come 2012. Let's pass these laws in a few more red states and maybe we can really clean house next election!

Wait... OH MY GOD! THAT'S EXACTLY IT! SENATOR JACKSON, YOU ARE A GENIUS! I should have guessed all along! What a plan! And all the while convincing them that you too are a psychotic right-wing wack-job that cares about a completely antiquated "right" that they hold so dear to their hearts! YOU DESERVE SOME KIND OF AWARD!

Give this man a beer! And a shotgun.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Mighty Boosh

A few months ago, Adult Swim picked up one of my absolute favorite TV shows in existence, BBC Three's The Mighty Boosh. It's a sitcom of sorts, starring Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding as Howard Moon and Vince Noir, two British zookeepers who can't seem to keep themselves out of trouble (or other dimensions). Along with their roommates, a shaman named Naboo and his animal familiar, Bollo the gorilla and a cast of characters played primarily by Fielding and Barrat (as well as appearances by Snuff Box stars Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry), they stumble into hilarious hijinks of a sort that only the British could muster.

The problem with being a Mighty Boosh fan here in the United States is that, until Cartoon Network snagged up the rights early this year, there was no way to watch the show. I'd originally seen it on the internet, but in the two years that have since passed, all of their videos had been wiped from YouTube (even the cleverly re-named "Maightee Bewsh" videos that trucked on through BBC's purging of the site). Needless to say, since the show starting airing here in February, I've spent every Sunday night at 1am tucked away in bed with the telly tuned to channel 50. And tonight was the airing of the classic episode that way more people apparently know about than I had thought (though they all seemed to think it was just an internet meme): "The Legend of Old Gregg."

A phenomenal episode, and probably my favorite, about a merman with a mangina who is obsessed with Howard and loves to drink Bailey's Irish Creme out of a shoe. Wait... you say you watched the episode and don't remember the Baileys part? You don't remember how he paints water colors of Baileys? Of Baileys A Little Bit Closer? Of As Close as You Can Get to Baileys Without Gettin' Your Eyes Wet? You have no idea what I'm talking about?

That's because in this country, we've got to jam as many commercials into the middle of a television program as we possibly can. Unlike BBC Three where The Mighty Boosh was originally aired, where commercials are only played in between shows, we've got to shoehorn a couple extra fuckers in. But how do we fit them? We cut out three minutes of content, that's how! No big deal! Let's just axe some jokes, maybe a side plotline on every one of these episodes. Sure, it'll make some transitions awkward and people who are actual fans of the show will be pissed as hell, but who's counting? We just made another twenty grand for hocking Arby's Roastburgers! Whatever the fuck they are.

Television in this country kills me. An hour-long episode of Lost is really... can you guess? Forty-four minutes long. A QUARTER OF THE SHOW ISN'T SHOW AT ALL, IT'S JUST ADVERTISEMENTS THAT NO ONE IS WATCHING ANYWAY--WE ALL CHANGE THE CHANNEL AND SEE WHO'S GETTING KICKED OFF DANCING WITH THE STARS ON COMMERCIAL BREAKS! Only channels like HBO and Showtime retain any semblance of honor and vision with their programming, not snipping it up into little pieces for the sake of advertising--and that's only because you have to pay for those channels outright. But the Brits and the Germans and the Kiwis (read: all of the foreign television I've watched) can manage it standard channels, so why can't we? The entire approach to television here is horrible, with our little ads playing in the corners, taking up half the screen just to tell you what's on next because they can't take fifteen seconds to set up a placard at the top of the hour to update you on the schedule (the way BBC does) because it will waste valuable ad time. Those placards on BBC channels are so wonderful, like a palate cleanser during a multi-course meal. No music, no animation, usually just a plain screen with a soothing British voice telling you what will be on for the next hour.

I dream of some day being a part of the BBC. Their dedication to simple, no-frills, all-quality programming. Their hilarious and ground-breaking low budget television like The Mighty Boosh, Snuff Box and Spaced. With my experience in radio and TV, I hope that someday I can work for the British Broadcasting Corporation and really make a difference in what television is. But the best part of it all will be the fact that working for the BBC means I won't be living here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Brüno ****

When I heard a few years ago that Sacha Baron Cohen would be making a Brüno movie, I was unbelievably excited. But having recently seen Borat, I was confused as to why he would have made them in the order in which he did. As funny as Brüno no doubt would be, Borat would almost surely appeal to a broader audience and make more money. It seemed like that would be the best bet--to better introduce America to the creator of Da Ali G Show with Brüno, and lead up into a smash-hit like Borat.

But it turns out Cohen knew exactly what he was doing, because at the theatre last night, the funniest joke that came out of Brüno was the one Cohen played on the audience. Borat had been a rallying point for frat guys the nation over, with quotable quips for them to repeat à la Anchorman or Talladega Nights. So naturally, excited for what the creator of such a classic would be bringing to the table next, these same frat guys in their white baseball caps and American Eagle jeans showed up to the theatre this weekend. They were not happy with the result.

It turns out mysogyny and racism is a little bit easier to swallow than anything about being gay. Not that we didn't know that already. I've heard about a lot of people who walked out of the movie, but last night everyone stayed seated until the end--but as the credits started to roll, lots of disgusted folks started to stand up and bitch loudly. From the back of the theatre I heard "I didn't know it was going to be that gay," from one young man. His friend responded, "Yeah, I guess I don't have to see this ever again."

That was the moment that I realized Cohen's genius; how he managed to pull the wool over so many people's eyes to get them into one of the most ridiculous movies they'd ever been to--and one they most assuredly would have never gone to see if they'd had any kind of guess as to just how "gay it was going to be." Brüno was admittedly not as uproariously hilarious as its Kazakhstani predecesor--its humor depended far more upon the uncomfort it created as its main character pushed peoples' buttons. If you weren't homophobic, the movie was hilarious (if not depressing), to see what people would do and say to the main character just because he was a little flamboyant. Okay, maybe a lot flamboyant. The shame of the matter is that all he does is provide a mirror, or maybe a magnifying glass, that focuses in on exactly what this country truly Stands For. Guess what? It's not Freedom or Justice or any of those other words we find on bumperstickers on the backs of Ford F-350s with giant smokestacks mounted in their beds. It's Ignorance and Intolerance and Hate. And goddamn if we ain't proud of it.

You might say that Cohen pushes so hard that he would has to get a response. Yes, but if there was no response to be had, the character of Brüno wouldn't be able to exist at all. Try filming this movie in Iceland, where the majority of the populace voted for Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, a lesbian politician and now the first openly gay head of government in the entire world. It would have been a lot harder to pull off. There would still be people made uncomfortable by his antics, but the general climate of fear and hatred would have been vastly declined. Again, Sacha Baron Cohen only has produced a comedy in the most outward sense of the world: It makes you laugh. Because really, there is nothing funny about Brüno and what it says about us. And somehow, that is the funniest part of all.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A.J. Jacobs - The Year of Living Biblically ***

I picked up A.J. Jacobs' second book during a big anti-religion tear a few months ago, where I had just read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, found a Book of Mormon in my crazy aunt's house, and basically lost all faith in everything around me. I'm still not sure where I stand on the whole thing, but what I had hoped to find in Jacobs' The Year of Living Bibically was another indictment of the ridiculous and often horrifying practices we find at the root of so much religion. An outing of the violence and racism and sexism that we take for granted, just because that's what The Good Book says.

There was a little of that, as we follow the Esquire editor through his year of growing beards and wearing tassels, seeing him point out the crazy little things that religion expects of us. Things that we know damn well don't mean a thing, that don't satisfy a maker up on high, but that we do out of respect or reverence or just plain tradition. But that's where it stopped. In fact, in the end the relatively agnostic Jacobs was turned into, at the least, a theist of some sort. And it wasn't after some kind of life-altering epiphany about God(s)/ess--he basically admitted that it was a wearing down, a becoming comfortable in the idea of a higher power. My hope for a fire-and-brimstone denunciation of Christianity in all its forms were dashed.

But I'm a big enough man to admit that I was wrong. It was my expectations of the book that were let down, not the book itself. It's extremely well written and personal. I felt like Jacobs' confidant as I read it, not someone who is just basically paying him to go have hair-brained ideas by buying his books (even though technically that's exactly what I'm doing--and holy hell am I jealous of him for that). In fact, as it seems (unless he's too busy by now) he might even read this review somehow. He's got a thing for scouring the internet, looking after what people have thought of his books.

He's a human, all in all. And maybe that's what I've got against him. I was hoping for an anger-fueled machine like Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, and what I got was a normal guy looking for some answers, not a fired-up atheist motherfucker with a bone to pick. Even though that's what I totally wanted at the time. Looking back, I think I appreciate the book more. It's a journey, told over the course of a long year in learning. We should all be so open as to do such. Or at least read about it and take in what we can from those who do.