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Monday, November 30, 2009

Movies You Watch Over and Over

Once again, EW has taken a crack at creating another list of sorts and once again a miss on the final verdict.

This time around it’s movies that you watch over and over. I don’t know about the rest of you, but by EW saying that you = me then they really don’t know me at all. Granted, I will give them credit for nailing about a third of the list of my personal repeat viewings, they sadly did not encompass a complete listing of the ones I would consider movies I would watch over and over again. Why they chose 17 instead of a round number like 15 or 20 is beyond me.

So, if you want their take, click on the link above. If you want my personal take, and this is not a best of against all others, see below.

First off the six that EW nailed.

The Princess Bride (1987)
Highly quotable and readily available on cable, this is a classic tale of true love. The Fire Swamp, the Pit of Despair, the battle of wits, and what I would give for a holocaust cloak. All these ideas conjures up a true fairy tale world full of giants and pirates and awesome sword play from the guy that brought kick ass light saber duels. Inconceivable, you say about watching it, repeatedly? I don’t think that word means what you think it means. Now watch the damn movie, I mean it. Anybody want a peanut?

Die Hard (1988)
Encore has been running this classic repeatedly over the last month and even though I have the first three on DVD, I must watch it every time I see it on television. I made the bold statement on my Facebook status, recently, that I believed it to be one of the top five all time best action movies, if not number two. In that list I think I put Raiders of the Lost Ark at number one. Regardless of status on any other list, this one agrees with EW that it is highly repeatable. Why? Once again, quotable, perfect premise, and easily accessible. It is timeless because it spawned a gross amount of copycats dubbed the “Die Hard on a blank” films ranging from boats, trains, planes, and even a hockey arena. John McClane is also the everyman who has no problem with speaking his mind during a fight. Go back and watch the fight scene with Alexander Gudunov (RIP) towards the end and you’ll see why McClane is perfect. He literally spouts various things he will do to the bad guy as he is fighting him which just speaks to what we all would be thinking if we were in the same situation. “You mother******, I'm gonna kill you! I'm gonna ******' cook you, and I'm gonna ******* eat you!” You can’t argue with that. I couldn't, even at 13, which is how I was when I saw this in the theater. R rated movies weren't policed as much then.

The Goonies (1985)
The map, the restaurant, the water slide, the ship. A classic Saturday afternoon, rainy day, treat of an adventure that pits kids against booby traps and felon family members. Spielberg and Donner brought together all the elements in a nonstop roller coaster ride of fun. Yes, the dialogue is a bit cheesy and the acting is rather bad from some of the kids but you cannot help but take on the voice of Sloth when you eat ice cream or profess your love for someone else. I will say that while it is readily available on cable, stay away from the commercial laden channels and hope to catch this on movie channels because networks like G4 butcher the hell out of it in terms of editing. If you have never seen the movie before you get the worst possible line of continuity of the plot and those of us with the film and dialogue permanently burned in our brain will find it horrible to try and watch, skipping over classic lines in our mind, while we see the film jump completely over scenes of relevance to the story.

Shawshank Redemption (1994)
It might be the story or it might be Morgan Freeman’s voice that makes me continually watch this when it comes on TNT usually once a week. It clocks in at over two hours on television and despite the length, it normally classifies as a repeat viewing as well as a film that should be on a separate list for movies-I-catch-at-the-same-spot-each-time-I-watch-it. The script is so good that you forget that this was written by Master of Horror, Stephen King. Extra Special scenes of note are the rooftop tarring and beer drinking scene, the reveal of how Andy Dufresne beat the warden, and Red getting paroled.

Back To the Future (1985)
Another gem of repeatable viewing, the original conjures up that era of capitalism and 80s nostalgia. We should all wish to magically wake up to a life of inherited wealth with a brand new truck and other material possessions without having to really work for them. And the move perfectly captures the 80s as well as the 50s which makes it a great placeholder for the Reagan years which include Pepsi Free, the Walkman used in Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan persuasion scene, the De Lorean and the Valtera skateboard used by Mary McFly. Admit it, you tried riding a board while hanging onto the bumper of a car. I did, although it was one of those polypropylene banana boards from the 70s. They were akin to roller skates versus in line skates or Rollerblades if you compared the banana board to the more popular models of skateboard. Christopher Lloyd offers up one of the greatest lines ever in “When this baby hits 88 mph, you’re going to see some serious shit,” which is second only to Biff Tannen’s “Hello, McFly?” which is a paraphrase of the actual dialogue spoken in this film.

Clue (1985)
Anyone who grew up with the board game or better yet video games in the 80s knows that adapting a game is really a bad idea. Adapting a board game is nearly impossible. Although, I am still waiting for that buddy flick, Chutes and Ladders, to be greenlit. That being said, Clue gets the job done, masterfully, in a way that could only be attributed to its cast. Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, Michael McKean and Lesley Anne Warren might not be what you consider A list celebrities but in their own right they are comedy royalty. You have one third of Spinal Tap, Frank N. Furter, Father Jim/Doc Brown, and a staple of Mel Brooks movies in Madeline Khan. (RIP) “I hated her... so... much, It–it... the f–, it–flame... flames... flames on the side of my face, breathing, breath... heaving breaths... heaving...” throw in a pop culture cameos from Howard Hessman, Jeffrey Kramer, go-go goofball dominatrix, Jane Wiedlin and Kellye Nakahara-Wallet that only true Pop Culturists will know as Nurse Kellye and that’s all I’m saying because I’m tired of throwing you too many bones. The multiple endings, the adherence to the game’s plot and good god, Colleen Camp gives reason to multiply view the movie.

Now the rest of the list.

Overboard (1987)
One of my wife’s favorite films and a testament to a successful relationship in Hollywood that has outlasted Tom and Nicole, Burt and Lonnie, Meg and Dennis and is only five years short of beating out Tom and Rita. It’s another pure 80s flick as it follows the premise of a secret that keeps to people together as long as that secret doesn’t get out, much like films where a guy dresses up as a girl or vice versa. Here, Kurt Russell takes in amnesiac Goldie Hawn, who in reality is a rich bitch who hired carpenter Kurt to design a shoe closet for her yacht. After she refuses to pay, he plots revenge to make her feel what it means to have nothing when she falls overboard and washes up with no memory. Pretending to be her husband he brings her to the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest and the two end up in love. It’s a cheesy rom-com that actually makes me laugh and I have to watch it whenever it comes on television.

Secret of My Success (1987)
Another testament to the power of Gordon Gekko’s idea that greed is good. Michael J. Fox shows up again in a film about capitalism as he fakes his way into the corporate world as a mythical executive at his uncle’s company. He accidentally beds his aunt (by marriage), falls in love with his uncle’s mistress, and plots to take over the company before his uncle can let it be taken over by Herman Munster, himself, Fred Gwynne. The soundtrack features Who legend and 80s soundtrack God Roger Daltrey as well as David (St. Elmo’s Fire) Foster. And who can forget the use of the Jaws theme in the pool scene or Yello’s Oh Yeah during the late night room romp?

Dazed and Confused (1993)
Before they were BIGGER stars Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Adam Goldberg, Parker Posey, and Milla Jovovich all take a Slow Ride into the last day of school and into the night for a beer bash. It perfectly encapsulates the mid 70s with the music, the trends, and the fashion. Check ya later! Although toned down on television I find it hard to resist watching Ben Affleck get his comeuppance as O’Bannion the bastard.

Christmas Vacation (1989)
Out of all the “Vacation” movies, next to the original, this has to be the most successful if not funniest. I guess it’s cheating since it airs like clockwork every Christmas but how could I not enjoy repeated viewings of the true to life struggle of Clark W. Griswold to bring his family the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Effing Kaye? Hallelujah. Holy shit. Where’s the Tylenol?

The Wedding Singer (1998)
Say what you want about Adam Sandler’s credibility as an actor, but don’t deny that The Wedding Singer was a great rom-com of totally tubular proportions. Once again, capturing the 80s it boasts all the great things to poke fun at including Michael Jackson’s Beat It outfit, Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believin’" done by string orchestra, no less, VCRs, Billy Idol, and Culture Club. Round up Sandler’s usual troop of sidekicks and you got a wonderful trip down repeated viewing lane.

Aliens (1986)
Another awesome flick that finds itself among the Encore movie rotation, Aliens takes the shock and awe from the first film about one huge effing bug and multiplies the bad guy quota and includes a bad girl in the queen. Who hasn’t muttered the line, “Get away from her you bitch!” Hell, even Mrs. Weasley has a Ripley moment in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as Bellatrix LeStrange goes after her kids. James Cameron ratchets up the sci-fi and the action and gives us one of the coolest fight scenes between a power cargo loader and a queen alien ever filmed…bring the total number to one. This is another of the movies that belongs on the other list of I catch it at the same place every time.

TRON (1982)
Think of the low lit smoky arcades of the early 80s, the college campus pizzerias with their Donkey Kong and Pac Man games surrounded by geeks, the low tech Disney style special effects and you get one of the cult classics of all time. You also get a much anticipated sequel being released in 2010. Way ahead of its time for 1982 computer generated images, TRON used a blend of true CGI that only accounts for about 20 minutes of actual screen time. The backgrounds and landscapes were matte paintings and Moebius inspired artwork and the actors and other sets were filmed in black and white and then rotoscoped to have that neon technological feel. When the movie shows up on cable every once in awhile I feel compelled to veg out and wish for a light cycle for Christmas.

Back To School (1986)
If for no other reason to re-watch this film I say to you two words, William Zabka. Yes, John Lawrence from Karate Kid is the perfect 80s nemesis. So much so, he did it three times. Besides Back To School and Just One of the Guys, Zabka appears in the most respectable Rodney Dangerfield film of all as a rival college swimmer and boyfriend to be reckoned with, yet his bark becomes so much worse than his bite with BTS. However, Dangerfield makes up for it with his portrayal as a self made millionaire who wants to show his son that you need an education more than money in this world…although it helps when you can pay NASA to do your science homework and Kurt Vonnegut to write your English papers on who else but, Kurt Vonnegut. Throw in Oingo Boingo, Sam Kinison, M Emmet Walsh and the Triple Lindy and you have a film worthy of watching hundreds of times.

Forrest Gump (1994)
Tom Hanks took a lot of missteps in his career. The Man With One Red Shoe, The Money Pit and Bonfire of the Vanities are just a small taste of bad films he made…of which I still love two thirds of that selection. But after all those duds, Hanks emerged as a bonafide A-list actor with hits like Big, Philadelphia and of course Forrest Gump. You can argue that the history is a bigger draw than Hanks simple man with a simple mantra, “Life’s like a box of chocolates…” but he does pull off a performance that demands repeat viewings. Spanning close to four decades of U.S. History the film takes Gump from humble beginnings as a child strapped to metal braces all the way to his adult life as a man with an impressive business portfolio and equally impressive son, pre-The Sixth Sense, Haley Joel Osment. The soundtrack is a great slice of Americana and the ability to splice together present day performances with historical footage of events and people makes Forrest Gump a great movie that can be watched again and again.

Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
With only eight films, one of them being Popeye, and a cult television show under his belt, Robin Williams wasn’t known for his movie work as much as his comedy act and loud Hawaiian shirts. But the “based on a true story” turn as Adrian Cronauer, the Vietnam disc jockey who had trouble with authority, gave Williams much needed gravitas to balance the improvisational style that guided him into such films as Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire and Good Will Hunting. The radio broadcasts, along with the soundtrack, make for a reason to watch over and over again as well as the attraction of looking into the underbelly of the Vietnam War as a hushed up source of misinformation to keep the public on the side of the Government’s interest in staying in the war.

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Once again, you came for the funny and stayed for the family feel from Robin Williams in drag as Euphegenia Doubtfire, the uncanny nanny. Doubtfire is another, “Shh it’s a secret” movie, where the secret identity of Williams’ character sets up the plot and makes for some great comedy as he tries to juggle the ruse along with trying to reunite his broken family. I really should make that separate list because this is another “I always catch it at the same spot” film.

Big Trouble In Little China (1986)
It’s not the greatest movie in the world but it is a classic cult film from John Carpenter. Kurt Russell as Jack Burton adds a side dish of machismo to the main course of Lo Mein in this old world Chinese mythology tale of wizards and curses. The chopsocky fighting scenes are right up there with the 80s Kung Fu exploitation films and Russell’s wit and characterization as a carp out of water in the world of the world beneath the world of China Town gives Carpenter a one two punch on the repeated viewing scale. It’s all in the reflexes.

Halloween (1978)
Besides your annual dose of sugar induced coma from Halloween candy, get your thrills and chills on with the original bogeyman in Michael Myers. John Carpenter provides a simple premise. Jamie Lee Curtis provides the…lungs of a scream queen and Donald Pleasance provides the great misunderstood and not listened to siren of warning against a small town police force who refuse to believe that Michael Myers is on the prowl in Haddonfield. Even though you know who gets killed and how, it’s still a great film to re-watch with the lights off again and again. “You can’t kill the bogeyman.”

Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
It’s a gamble that probably shouldn’t have worked. A Disney film based on an amusement ride about pirates. A Disney film featuring skeletal pirates. A Disney film featuring Johnny Depp as pirate. The obvious connection of those statements is, of course, Disney Film. The underlying one is the whole pirate business. POTC went into the familiar waters of piracy that were screwed up royally by Cutthroat Island and Hook. A Disney movie about pirates looks about as entertaining as a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. Something clicked like the flint of a pistol or lock of a treasure chest. The film tapped into that childhood fantasy of scallywags and treasure chests and life on the open seas so well that no one minded that it was based on a theme park ride. Not too many movies can be so lucky. [read Country Bears and Tower of Tower] Throw into the mix that the studio had trouble buying into Johnny Depp’s Keith Richards Rapscallion combo and the film had all the makings of a huge sinking ship. But it didn’t. It became a huge hit, re launched Depp’s stardom outside of a Tim Burton film and made piracy fun again as long as it wasn’t at the expense of the RIAA. The fact that the film boasts exotic locations, dark themes of undead pirates marauding the Caribbean coast, and a bit of violence not usually found in a Disney film carry the original into two blockbuster sequels, an online game, console games, a revamped amusement ride and third possible sequel means that the original is a force to be reviewed over and over.

Lethal Weapon (1987)
Mel Gibson has made a ton of movies But besides his Mad Max series, one other set of films made him into a household name in the states and that was the Lethal Weapon series. The buddy flick franchise was a huge success launching Gibson’s celebrity cred into the stratosphere. As Martin Riggs, Gibson had that same John McClane quality in that he was a cop that didn’t always play by the rules and was prone to being a little vocal during his fights. The original is still the best and is probably one of the last times you’ll see Gary Busey before he went completely nuts. Repeated viewings are a must for me as I can never get enough “I’m too old for this shit” gruff from Danny Glover and have always wanted to find a reason to say, “Hit em again, Endo!”

Real Genius (1985)
For me, college wasn’t exactly like it was portrayed on film. I didn’t have Val Kilmer for a roommate. There was no weird man living in my closet. I also did not work on some secret government laser project that was a perfect way to cook popcorn. I must have chosen the wrong major. Still, I can’t help but drop the remote every time this film comes on. Resident prick William Atherton brings his Leprechaun looks to Dr. Hathaway and Michelle Meyrink (We miss you on screen) provides just enough quirky weirdness to be kind of hot as Jordan. We are left to admire her modern day replacement in Melanie Lynskey. And even though Val Kilmer was the supposed heart throb moving onto Top Gun and Batman Forever, Gabe Jarret definitely grew out of his geeky phase and became a good looking adult. Though a sequel has been bandied about like a catnip laced toy for us to chew on, nothing takes the place of the original in terms of repeated viewings. It is a moral imperative to watch it over and over.

WarGames (1983)
Those of us who grew up in the stretching shadow of the Cold War and computer technology recognize WarGames as being both highly improbable and scarily plausible. To think how many times we may have came close to nuclear war is unthinkable and probably highly classified. Yet as archaic as the technology is, specifically the phone modem and Joshua’s digitized voice, the elements of tension are still there and Matthew Broderick brings that so-smart-he-could-be-dangerous-if-he-wasn’t-so-impishly-cute-and-innocent persona to screen so well, you want to go ahead and let him accidentally start World War III. Shall we play a game? Sure, repeatedly.

The Lost Boys (1987)
Forget Twilight, everyone wanted to be Kiefer Sutherland’s vampire in the 80s. It’s just so sad that they had to have a Corey based sequel that did a huge disservice to the original. One of the few movies Joel Schumacher didn’t royally bone when he made it, The Lost Boys provides that quintessential 80s blend of bad boys and….alas Coreys. A great soundtrack featuring Foreigner front man Lou Gramm’s “Lost in the Shadows”, INXS’ “Good Times”, and yet again, Roger Daltrey remaking Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” only serves as great side cars to Gerard McMann’s “Cry Little Sister” with its children’s choir rendition of a pseudo set of commandments done A cappella as Kiefer gets impaled on a set of Grandpa’s antlers.

A Christmas Story (1983)
You cannot compile a list of the movies you could watch over and over and not mention the annual classic, A Christmas Story. Why? Because it gets played for 24 straight hours on Christmas Day. Over the past few years I’ve managed to get a complete viewing in by strategically watching parts through the 24 hour period. Usually, I will make the effort to sit and watch it in its entirety at least once. I do own the DVD but there is something about catching it on television on Christmas that makes it all the more special. Next to A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life (Which regrettably got left off of this list due to a 20 film limit), it is probably one the most repeatedly watched holiday movies abound. If you miss it, you deserve to shoot your eye out.

Honorable mention
Apart from not being able to list It’s a Wonderful Life as a favorite movie I love to watch over and over, I was remiss in including only a single John Hughes Film in this list. That’s because it would have comprised a majority of it had I given into temptation. Let’s just say that his films deserve multiple viewings, multiple quoting, and multiple reverence as a dedication to a man we lost in 2009, though he’d been absent from the scene for years.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gratuitous Foodity

I realize that foodity isn’t a word. I needed something to keep in line with my sardonic or wry sense of humor when it comes to titles. There is no naked food here, but we’re going to talk about having huge tips. I SAID TIPS! TIPS! Get your mind out of the gutter.

In one of my previous lives, non Shirley MacLaine styled, I was a bartender and server. I did this for three years before becoming an office drone. I find it fitting that I am writing this right after Thanksgiving as I always hated having to work the holiday buffet scene because it was a huge chaotic disaster and I would rather be home with my family on the holidays.

As a server I always appreciated tips and hoped that my service was worthy of your dollars. As a patron, I identify with the wait staff and usually tip more than most. It was odd, but I never understood the idea of tipping when I was younger and ultimately made a few food service faux pas in my tipping. I just didn’t understand the idea that the people serving me my meal were not paid minimum wage and relied on tips to make a living. It took being one to figure that out. If my daughter comes to me one day and wants to get a job, I’ll tell her to be a server because you will gain an appreciation for those who do the work.

Now, that’s not to say that my veteran status obscures my common sense when it comes to tipping properly. Just because you are a server does not guarantee you a great tip. You do have to actually do the job well. I mean I can understand mistakes and screw ups from the kitchen. How you handle that situation means all the difference in the change on the table or what’s written on that next to last line on the slip.

Case in point. When I was still dating my wife right out of college we use to hang with a group of people that made it a ritual to go out to eat on Tuesday nights. This was usually a discount wing night at a local joint in Latrobe, PA. Anyway, we would sit and enjoy each other’s company along with the good food. It was a sports bar so there was popcorn in a basket on the table. I am prone to munching or drinking what is in front of me with Pavlovian like conditioning and never noticed the contents of the basket before it hit my mouth. Popcorn is one of those foods that you tend to have a preconceived notion of how it will feel while being chewed. Instead of the crunch of the popped corn in my mouth, I felt the soft squishing of something else. Immediately knowing that something was wrong I retrieved the foreign object from my mouth and examined it. It looked whitish yellow like popcorn but it was solid instead of puffed. It appeared to be chewed gum.

It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that someone previous to our group was chewing gum and discarded it into the basket. The wait staff cleared the table and refilled the basket with fresh popcorn on top of the used paper with the now chewed gum sticking to it. Regardless of having gum on it, the fact that they kept the paper in it was disgusting enough to make my mouth curl up. As soon as the server came back, I showed her the offending addition to our popcorn and explained how I found it. “What would you like me to do about it?” I’m sorry but is that even a question? I don’t think a question is even required here. You simply go to the manager, explain it to them and ask to comp the meal. I was livid. All I did say was, “I want you to not do it again. How about that?” We don’t go there anymore and if by some chance we do, I won’t eat the popcorn.

Needless to say, the incident caused me to reevaluate my tip for this person and besides having competent service, she only received 10% from me. And that’s how it goes, from the moment I sit down you are already at 20% for a gratuity. How you end up is totally your call. We usually keep the wait staff busy and sometimes, I admit that, we may ask for a lot but I take care of the ones who take care of us. It comes from being in the trenches and it’s like a fraternity of servers. It’s kind of like that unwritten rule of the road where you see bikers give the low-air-five to other, passing bikers. They call it the biker wave, I think. They don’t even have to know each other. It is just sort of expected. The same comes with tipping another server.

One thing I do not like is the automatically added gratuity. I understand that if you have larger parties you are not only inconveniencing other patrons but stretching your staff in order to provide good service to a larger number of people that might have it spread out, if they were in separate groups. The fact that this is done is sometimes an excuse to let the staff phone in their performance, confident that they will still get a decent tip. In fact there was a story out of my own state where a couple of patrons were arrested and charged with theft for not paying their tip. The stance of the establishment: gratuity was added automatically to checks for parties of six or more. The stance of the penalized patrons: Why should we pay an automatic tip when we had to get our own napkins and cutlery, wait for over an hour for salad and wings and asked the bar to refill sodas. The Consumerist was all over this and eventually the police dropped the charges. Still one must wonder, if it’s mandatory, it’s not really a tip, then is it? It’s a service charge.

This whole story was ridiculous. The establishment wasted tax payer money and police resources over $16.00 in “gratuity” for a table that had to do most of the work themselves. If anything, the students should have complained to the manager and asked to not pay the tip, citing poor service. But the owner used poor judgment in calling the cops. Some things you just accept and move on.

I was in the same situation a couple years back. One Mother's Day we took my M-I-L to a restaurant for dinner. It was a nice Italian restaurant and quite frankly, I'll never go back. The service wasn't all that spectacular and being a holiday buffet, I usually do not tip above and beyond the usual clearing of dishes and a drink refill. We actually didn't see our server all that much and plates did begin to pile up at the table. Anyway, when we got the bill, my wife and I picked it up as a treat for her Mom. I added a customary 18% on for somewhat competent service, not my full 20%.

When we got home, I was unloading my pockets and saw the slip which had a mandatory gratuity of 18% added on for the holiday buffet. Once again, if it's mandatory, it's not really a tip, then is it? I called to ask them to refund my additional 18% due to my mistake stating the issues we had. While I admit that it was my own fault for not paying attention to the slip, I think that it should have been refunded. The manager pretty much told me they wouldn't. I really didn't want to go the route of a charge back from my bank so I just accepted it and moved on. But the restaurant loses out because we'll never go back. What establishments need to realize is that sites like The Consumerist are pretty good at getting the word out about stuff worse than this and have been able to affect businesses. First off, though, you should take your complaints to the management. If you feel that is not satisfying your complaint then by all means do what it takes. Sometimes, the establishment or idiot employees make it easy by posting their despicable practices on YouTube, like what happened at a Dominoes Pizza location in North Carolina.

So, next time you are out think about what it takes to be a server and think about what that means to you in terms of service. Tip accordingly and fair.

Monday, November 23, 2009

H1-N-Wand: Wave Bye Bye to Swine Flu

Remember when I said that we didn’t have any really useful inventions this century. I was wrong. Here we have, right in time for Christmas and the rest of the flu season, The H1N1 Destroying UV Wand. For $70 + S&H, Hammacher and Schlemmer will send you this space age wonder that will ensure the destruction of 99.98% of the H1N1 virus after five seconds of exposure at ¾” above any surface. ANY SURFACE! That means that tawdry affair you had with the waitress last night in the bathroom of your favorite dive will not yield any harmful side effects….at least from Swine Flu. Any itching or burning sensation you may feel is not from the usage of this product or from Swine Flu. Chances are, it’s another species of living creature. Just think of it. “Hey Rover? Come here boy! You look a little infected.”

Unlike liquid disinfectants that can destroy electronic equipment, the H1-N-Wand, as I now call it, can destroy harmful evil Satanic microorganisms on keyboards and other gadgets that you could not live without, like your iPhone, PSP, and Swatch. Also capable of killing MRSA, mold, and dust mites, the UV-C light penetrates viral and bacterial membranes and destroys their DNA, rendering the microorganisms incapable of reproduction and survival. Killing an entire species has never been so fun. Let the kids try. But watch it around grandma. We want her home for the holidays.

Now, if you want to use it on your ceiling, you are out of luck. The light automatically shuts off if the light is turned upward. This prevents you from pointing it towards your eyes and burning your retinas. It also keeps you from accidentally signaling advanced alien races to our presence in the galaxy, as the light is so powerful, it can be seen a galaxy away. Besides, everyone knows that germs can’t walk on the ceiling so there’s no need to worry.

We’re so sure you can sanitize everything in your home with the H1-N-Wand that we made sure the battery lasts a full 90 minutes after an eight hour charge. After a full day at work, you can spend an hour and a half taking out bacteria and still have time to cook dinner. But, you won’t even notice the time flying by as you kill those blood thirsty, liberal agenda, baby killing bacteria, bent on world domination. This technology is so advanced you no longer have to wash your hands. You can simply wave the wand over your hands. Just think of that healthy glow you’ll see. People will think you were cosmetically irradiated. We’ll never tell.

But wait, there's more. Just so you don’t feel like we forgot anything, make sure you order two H1 N Wands so that you can use one to clean the other after you use it. Call now and place your rush order…..or go buy some bleach. But hey, what’s $3.00 at any store, within five minutes from your home, when you can annihilate all the germs in the world, reducing the chance you’ll ever need that immune system you’ve worked your whole life to build up? You don’t need it. You have the wand.

I know what I want for Christmas. A little common sense in the world.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon Over My Dead Body

Shhh. Don’t tell my wife the new Twilight movie is out. Actually, she already knows and has known for months. Much to my dismay.

I’m not going to get into every little issue I have with the whole saga. Simply put, I’m not a fan but can appreciate its existence in the genre of sappy teen romance novels. Although, with New Moon opening up November 20th I have only this to say. Michael Corvin makes Jacob Black look like Teen Wolf….Too. That’s right. I pulled out a Jason Bateman reference for that one. Hell, I give Jon Gries more props as a werewolf. Go figure that one out. I’ll give you a hint. Jacob’s nards haven’t dropped enough yet to compare with Jon Gries’ characterization. Oh, I know Entertainment Weekly is just chomping at the slipper to churn out a list of best Werewolves on screen. It will most likely feature an over ranked Taylor Lautner near the top of the list. In fact I almost cringe at the obligatory connections between Lautner’s portrayal and accompanying clips and or tributes with Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” The folks at EW having been failing miserably at capturing a good list of anything lately. In my ranking you have, in no particular order, Lon Chaney, Jr., Seth Green, Jon Gries, MJF, Bill Stone, Jack Nicholson, Scott Speedman, David Naughton, and even Everett McGill from Silver Bullet above Jacob Black. He might make the list but I c

Ok, all of this goofy emo sparkly vampire crap aside, let’s get right to the point of this post. Going to see New Moon. Yeah, I admit, I will probably have to go watch it in the theater. My wife, who hates to go to the movies, will most likely insist on it. However, I will give her props, she won’t go see it the first few weeks which gives me time to cowboy up before having to firmly remove my manhood and stow it in her purse. She’s got Vampire Bill from the Sookie Stackhouse novels to keep her going for awhile.

You know, not to belabor a point but it is so ironic that my wife used to criticize me for watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was while we were first dating circa Season Four. She caught me watching it one night and went into this whole geek/nerd/dork diatribe. Yeah….then she started watching it and was fawning all over Spike. Still, she has moved beyond William the Bloody for Edward the Shimmering and now Jacob the Furry.

Back to the point. Apart from not really caring for the subject matter, I treat the cinema like a church. When I go, I want dead center seating, up out of the way of people and absolute quiet. I want to be able to detach my consciousness from everyday life and just be in the moment. There is nothing more infuriating then the following. If this is you, resign yourself from the human race and go live with the animals.

  1. You sit behind me and use my chair as a personal knee and or foot rest. Leave me the hell alone and stop breathing while you are at it.
  2. You see a darkened theater as an excuse to text someone. Put the phone away. I don’t that damn glow from your screen interfering with my vegetative state.
  3. You leave your ringer on and in turn answer the phone when it does ring. You have ample warnings and at least a half hour of previews, commercials, PSA clips and theater produced dos and don’ts to turn it off. If you don’t want to turn it off, fine, put it on vibrate if you think you are so important. And don’t answer it and carry on a conversation. If you accidentally leave your ringer or phone on, immediately do whatever it is that makes your call go to voice mail and then rectify the problem.
  4. You’re the guy who thinks he’s going to be funny and shout something at the screen. This isn’t Seinfeld, this isn’t MST3k, this is a theater and should be treated as such.
  5. Kids, I know it’s hard but STFU. I admit I’ve been just as bad but I’m old and cranky now and I’ve seen the error of my ways. Sit down, shut up, and pull up your damn pants.
  6. Pick up your damn garbage. I nearly stepped out of my Nike’s.
  7. This one is for the ushers and attendants. Don’t be walking in during the film to go check on something. Nothing used to burn me up more than to have some red vested slack come be bopping in and cross IN FRONT OF THE SCREEN to go check on a thermostat or something. It’ll keep. Unless the bloody theater is on fire, nothing bad is going to happen.
  8. You, down in front. Lose the sombrero, asshole.
  9. Don’t whisper something about the film like trivia or potential plot points. I only did this once for bragging rights. I whispered to a friend of mine once, “You watch. Bruce Willis is actually dead.” Ruined the whole damn thing for her.
  10. You sit next to me in a theater of about three people. Go find your own space. Unless it gets crowded I maintain the empty seat between rule. Which is why if I have to sit at the end of the aisle, I always take the first seat inward. That gives me the option to move to the aisle when everything is settled.
  11. As a bonus, I used to love getting popcorn and drinks and candy when I would go to the movies. The prices are now way too expensive. However, if you got the money to buy the food, at least have the manners to not crumple bags and crunch and munch on chips or candy during quiet moments. Wait for an explosion. And don’t do that stupid thing with the straw when it rubs on the lid making that screeching noise.

Like I said, my wife is no big fan of movie theaters and the prospect of having to sit up close and personal with a bunch of teeny boppers, exhibiting more than three of the above bad habits, is about as fun as a root canal done by a guy with a lazy eye and a degree from a Central American Dental Academy. She would probably be happy waiting for it to come to OnDemand or DVD.

Going to see the new Twilight movie ought to be less fun for me. I really disliked the first one. And I’m not even talking about the plot as much as I am talking about how bad the film was overall. The conceptualization of how the action takes place…like the sped up running and sparkle motion really let me down in the 21st century realm of movie making. New film, new director, better execution, maybe. Granted that still doesn’t make up for the piss poor vampire world series taking place. WTF (Mandatory Internet Slang quota reached twice, now) was that all about? My wife is convinced that if I read the books I’ll appreciate the subject matter more. I doubt that. She’s already read me passages from the last book and I really don’t feel any urge to go and read the first ones.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mengagement Rings

The 21st century, ahhhh, you can just smell the progress. We have devices as big as a stamp to play hundreds of our favorite songs but can’t get rid of the crap that is on the radio. We have cars that run on both gasoline and electrical power yet they don’t fly yet. A lot of inventions over the last ten years and a lot of conventions tested like legal marriage between members of the opposite sex or what Carrie Prejean loves to call “opposite marriage.” It just goes to show as smart as we’ve become, we’ve still allowed stupid people to open their mouth on television….but then again if stupid people weren’t allowed to talk, I wouldn’t have a blog. I mean that from a standpoint of authorship…not subject matter.

But I am way off on my point, here. It seems that jewelers are trying to push the idea of an engagement ring for men or as I call it the Mengagement Ring. In essence, instead of just forking over thousands of dollars for a solitaire diamond for your intended bride to be you can also buy yourself one. I’m sure somewhere in all this, there is a level playing field where the fiancée is paying for this mengagement ring but still consider that it is most likely a plain band and not weighted down with a huge rock. Those are called class rings after all.

Wow, if this isn’t a great way to bastardize marriage then I call your attention to the pre-engagement ring. Yes, we have a ring called a promise ring that signifies your intent to be in a monogamous relationship with the intent to not marry but get engaged at a later date. Well, why not just go the extra step and have a promise-to-ring? The premise is simple. You go out to a bar and find a lovely lady and after a few drinks you go back to her place and spend the night. Then, at 6:50 AM you scurry to put your pants on and leave without waking her up, only leaving a little ring on her pillow that says, “I promise to call you.”

It’s not that I dislike the practice of committing yourself to someone, but do we really need a piece of metal to enforce it? After all, isn’t marriage an idea, a vow. It isn’t a physical object that can be distilled into a monetary amount such as two month’s salary. If it is, then don’t marry someone who is unemployed. I, myself, did not follow the standard convention in picking out a ring and my intended bride was happy with that. I wanted to at least traditional and buy her a ring and she picked it out, price tag and all. She was practical. She would rather me spend my two month’s salary more responsibly and would rather get something that she wasn’t afraid to wear.

Yet behind that she didn’t need a ring to ensure my commitment to our relationship. The ring is a thing. Our love was not represented by that. So, to say, nowadays, that you can get his loyalty by slapping a ring on that finger is just as ridiculous as getting one that signifies a commitment to eventually ask you to marry him as well. This is simply the jewelry industry looking at the white space and finding a way to take more money out of your pocket.

Not to mention the poor bastard that has to wear it like a dog collar. Oh to be a fly on the wall when the fiancé who sports a mengagement ring walks into his favorite bar and gets flack from his friends. “So, when’s the dress fitting? You get the ring, she gets the balls, huh?” Let’s face it. As far as outdated traditions go, in today’s world, the act of giving a man a ring to signify an engagement is just as bad as not giving a woman one. And how do we ask a man to marry him. Do you take him to the Olive Garden and put the ring into his salad, hoping he won’t choke on it? Let me tell you something. A run of the mill guy will probably chew on it first. He may even swallow it before realizing what it is. Put it in his beer? It’s gone. We aren’t that perceptive. Have the Jumbotron announce it during the football game he shelled out hundreds of dollars to go see? You’ll probably get a good shot of him trying to hail the nachos guy or beating up the poor bastard who bravely sat in the home section wearing the visitors’ jersey.

If you’re doing this out of paranoia that he might cheat on you and that this mengagement ring is an ironclad symbol of his commitment, you probably would have done better to spend the money on hiring a private detective to find out if he’s been cheating on you. Chances are if you have mounting evidence that your fiancé is cheating on you, a ring isn’t going to stop it. Hell, sometimes a wedding ring doesn’t stop it. A swift kick to curb will at least end it for you.

And what is the protocol should the engagement end? If you bought it does that mean we have to give it back? I can see the Customer Disservice Representatives at Cash4Gold trying to appraise a mengagement ring and scamming the seller for a good 20% of its real value.

Don’t fall for this cheap ploy by jewelers and save the money for something better. I have a few ideas.

  1. LCD HD Television
  2. Tickets for a Major League Sporting Event
  3. Pay Per View UFC or other MMA Ticket and Beer and Wings for him and his buddies (You could call it a Man Shower but that would be nasty)
  4. A year of NFL Network or other Sporting Channel
  5. Pick up a couple of truck payments
  6. PS3, Wii, Xbox
  7. Pay for a professional lawn service to take care of the yard once or twice
  8. New grill
  9. New Power Tool ( Hey you want a diamond ring, we want a diamond blade)
  10. Take him out for a nice dinner, a movie, and whatever else you can think of to celebrate your engagement.

So, get in the pit and try to love someone. Just don't spend stupid money.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TWC Becomes MTV

On August 1st, 1981 television and music was changed forever. MTV debuted with The Buggles, Video Killed the Radio Star. That’s probably one of the most well known answers to a trivia question if not the most overly asked. You might as well say, “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” Since the dawn of music television network, viewers and musicians made the declaration “I Want My MTV!” Soon, they got their wish and soon after, that wish was destroyed.

Not wanting to sit on their laurels and wait for someone to move the cheese, MTV branched out into more original programming by adding shows to their schedule. One of which was a game show for the collegiate crowd called Remote Control, which as I write this I am just finding out that the host, Ken Ober has died at age 52. Remote Control was a pop culture trivia game show with a quirky sense of humor that featured a few now familiar faces in their pre-celebrity-due-paying years. Adam Sandler showed off his goofy pre SNL characters like The Stud Boy. Colin Quinn, also pre SNL was the sidekick and announcer and Kari Wurher was the Vanna White in Ken’s Mom’s basement.

Also, who could forget Downtown Julie Brown, wubba wubba, wubba, as the host of Club MTV? The dance show was styled after American Bandstand set to the hottest music of the moment. Often, a pubescent male viewer would hope for just the right shot from the sky cam or floor cam to show a glint of forbidden skin on the female dancers or at least I did, at that age.

And long before Jeff Probst held tribal councils, roommates were kicking each other out of the house on one of the first successful reality shows, The Real World. Forget Richard Hatch and Jeri Manthey, who could forget Puck and Eric Nies?

But somewhere around the new millennium, MTV started to develop more and more reality and other crap shows and played less and less music videos and great shows like 120 Minutes and Headbanger's Ball. By the year 2000 there was up to eight hours of music videos being played on the network whereas by 2008, an average of three hours of music videos were being shown, yet each year they showcased the best of the best with the Video Music Awards. You have to wonder if, somewhere, Adam Curry is chomping on his gums, muttering "Damn Kids" while adjusting his long blonde 80's hair toupee to keep the liver spots covered on his forehead?

The reason I bring all of this up is that MTV was a niche network, much like its sister channel VH1. However, they stopped being what they originally were and became something else. The trend isn’t lost on other networks. For instance, The Weather Channel (guess what they show) has always been a niche network.

I remember the early days where you really couldn’t do much more than give the forecast and the current conditions. And to that end, how much can the weather really change in the course of an hour? But still, over time, TWC began to expand its horizons and offer other programming like Storm Stories and Weather Center. But regardless of what the evening block held for prime time, you could always count on Local on the 8's. Sometimes, intentions aside, TWC can be the butt of jokes, as a sort of NPR of television almost taking itself too seriously.

I used to make such jokes at the expense of my wife who loved watching The Weather Channel. I would ask how she could be so addicted to a channel that pretty much repeats itself every ten minutes? Then I began watching like a weather zombie. Must see extended forecast. Every eight minutes we would be tuned in waiting for the trippy music as if we were watching a Joy of Painting marathon with the soporific tones of light jazz playing in the background. Although, I did get a kick out of hearing "Classical Gas" accompanying the Doppler Radar. When we would go on vacation you could tell how our week was going to go based on the availability and ease of locating The Weather Channel on the hotel room television. Sometimes we’d spend more time watching the weather on television instead of enjoying it up close and personal.

It would get so bad that we would become such idiots as to say, “What’s up with Jim Cantore’s hair? Is he going bald or just thinking that it’s a good look, regardless?” or “Mish Michaels is pretty sexy but that outfit isn’t good for her.” My personal favorite was Paul Kocin. My wife would always know when Winter was in full force because the Extreme Weather correspondent, Paul, was showing up in the rotation or meteorologists.

But like MTV, The Weather Channel kind of jumped the shark and started playing movies with a weather themed plot. The first one was The Perfect Storm. Now, you could not be more appropriate than kicking off your new direction with this film that is based in meteorological reality. However, one has to wonder how they are going to keep finding good movies to show which will keep in line with the topic of weather. Already announced are Twister (tornadoes), understandable, and March of the Penguins (snow), um OK. Then it kind of breaks down into a ridiculous mess with Deep Blue Sea and Misery. Misery has little to do with Snow as say maybe Avalanche does and Deep Blue Sea is not so much about tropical storms as it is psychopathic killer sharks eating Samuel Jackson and sparing L.L. Cool J. While I can see perhaps lining up Hard Rain for floods and even The River would be a good choice, I just hope they don’t decide to choose The Day After Tomorrow for a sense of reality surrounding global climate change. Of course, they probably will, though. In that case you might as well get ready for The Core to be shown as well.

To this end, I can see other niche networks deciding to play more movies that are themed in their offering. Perhaps HGTV will show The Money Pit or Mouse Hunt. G4 could actually get back to showing video game related content and put the Fred Savage classic, The Wizard on or even the technology reality based Hackers, because everyone knows that the hardest thing to hack is a Gibson. How about The Food Network showing Simply Irresistible or at least Ratatouille? That would be good. In a couple of years they could show Julie and Julia, although I would refrain from getting the rights to Titus based on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, although one should really know what temperature you need to have your oven on in order to properly cook your enemies into a pie.

All kidding aside, I miss the good old days when television was a landscape of 57 channels and nothin’ on instead of today’s format of 900 channels and all the same thing is on. I yearn to escape the doldrums of regular broadcast television’s lame ass programming for a little bit of jazz and current conditions and possibly even a music video once in awhile, but alas, I find myself mired in Another Shot At Hepatitis C With Skanky Ho or Washed Up Music Artist or watching Batman and Robin because the character of Mr. Freeze represents the real possibility of global cooling. Where’s the remote? Let's see if the test pattern is still around.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Worst Facebook Friend Ever

This is an open apology to all my friends on Facebook. I admit that our friendship has not always been one of reciprocation. For the most part I like being a part of the fb community and try to hold up my end of the bargain but alas I am not. I can try to blame it all on my work. Not the work I do but the place where I do it. We aren’t allowed cool things like fb or YouTube and just the mere mention of a lottery number or fantasy football site sends the huge Websense page flashing across our screen like we are a huge scumbag that is looking at porn. We’re not, Big Brother. But to say that I don’t have time at home to catch up is also a lie because as my wife often puts it, I am married to my laptop and my wife and daughter are just unused icons on the desktop of my life. I know that’s not true and for the life of me I can’t justify that I am actually doing work, that is part of a job, while I am propped up in my recliner with butt perfectly aligned with the worn indentation of said chair. But let’s get to the mea culpas.You send me plants for my L’il Green Patch and I eventually get around to accepting them and for that I am sorry as much to you as the rainforest. You offer me wire taps and punching bags to further my ascension to Mafia King and what do I do? Send you another stupid nine of diamonds. You offer me tons of cool gifts for my pad and they eventually get plopped on a counter somewhere but all I can do is nail you with a water balloon and that happens ever so rarely, anymore. I thank you for the duck, sheep, goat, and even that elephant that is on my farm but I apologize for not chasing the foxes away and for sending you yet another red gazing ball which makes six you’ve received from me this week. You poke and poke and poke me over and over and I don’t even acknowledge that sheep you threw. I like it, it’s soft, and this one isn’t lost like the one you asked me for help with on your farm.

You’ve probably been wondering why I haven’t joined your causes and groups and all I can say is that I still have 36 gifts to accept from Willy’s Sweet Shop. I really am a supporter of sleeping, the dislike button, and things that begin with the letter Zed but I just haven’t been able to think a fifth favorite cereal and candy bar that I like for my top five list. I promise I’ll get to them right after I try and figure out which cartoon character is which in this quiz I forgot to take.

I am really sorry that you all got hit with a bug last year after one of my other friends get hit with an email virus which sent me a message like something to me in the vein of “You always did look good naked.” I accidentally opened it because knowing them, this would have been funny. It wasn’t and everyone on my friends list got nailed and my computer was screwed up most of December. I swear it won’t happen again.

And I also apologize for bombarding you with these stupid blog posts, my shirt designs, and links from consumerist and YouTube. You are actually sending me quality gifts for my restaurant, mafia, island, castle, mob, amusement park, flair board, green patch, aquarium, YoVille pad, sweet shop, Farkle game and various farms. I guess I am a horrible friend. Good thing you have lots of them to balance me out. Thanks for being there. Here’s to good friends. If I could send you all a gift or poke or whatever I would but fb seems to only let me choose so many and I always forget who I missed the first time around. How about I promise to like everything you say on your status update? Deal? Ok. Good. I’m glad we had this chat. I only wish we could have done it on fb but I always seem to be offline.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Head In the Gutter

I’m sitting on my roof. I look out at the world around me, searching for something, some sign of hope. I am in dire need of help and so far I see none in sight. This is bad.

It all started not too long ago. I was doing just fine. I was outside, enjoying the warm weather on this sunny November weekend. But something happened. A wind of change blew in and threw my future into a tailspin.

Now, I’m moving towards the edge of my roof and looking over at the ground, contemplating my options. I could do it. I could just take a step and this would all be over. But something in me hesitates. Maybe it’s some common sense kicking into gear. Perhaps I should try to get some help before I resort to this step.

Soon, I hear silence. The once deafening noise in my head has been replaced with tranquil thoughts. I know my course of action. I walk back to the top to the highest point of my roof. I fill my lungs with air and cry out. As my words cut through the air, a voice calls back. It is my wife. She comes around to the front of the house and looks up at me. She helps me. She offers an unconditional hand to a husband in need. She steadies me. She encourages me that it will be ok. I reach the ground and I know everything is going to be ok. I look at her and smile. I thank her for her help and she says, “Is it finished?”

“Yes!” I exclaim. “The gutters are clean. I guess that sudden gust of wind must have knocked the ladder over. If you hadn’t stopped running the lawn mower you probably wouldn’t have been able to hear me call.” She laughs and thinks about how it would have been funny to see me panic at being stuck on the roof. I tell her I wouldn’t have been there long. “I was actually thinking about trying to shimmy down by the porch but would have probably broke my leg.” She looks at me in puzzlement. “You’re a dumb ass. The last thing I need is to haul you to the hospital because you fell off the roof. Now, get back to work on the rest of the yard.”

“Yes, dear.”

What, did you think I was talking about something else? Nope, I was just on the roof with my head in the gutter.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Remember Remember the 6th of November

I haven't lost my coconuts. I meant that number 6 in the title. Yesterday was, duh, November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day or as you kids today call him, that guy from V from Vendetta. Anyway, I had my Facebook status set to the rhyme of Guy Fawkes as I always like to be either A: Obscure in my pop culture referencing nature or B: Relative to the actual events of the time I post it. This being November 5th, I was sort of both, I guess.

But now, it's November 6th or as I call it, my anniversary. Five years ago, today, I wore down my then fiancee enough to say "I do." Since then, she's been saying "I DOH!" So, for today's status update I did a little rhyme all my own.

Remember, Remember, the 6th of November
of wedding bells and tying of knot.
Here's to 5 kiddo. You'd surely be a widow,

if ever, our anniversary, I forgot.

Please, please no applause needed. Kidding.

So, people have asked me what I plan on doing for our anniversary. Well, I've never been one to keep up with traditions like this. We made a pact early on in our marriage to not go crazy for days like this or Valentine's Day. Neither one of us have the energy for it. I think we've only done two or three things for either of those days in our entire tenure as a couple.

The first was Valentine's Day of 1999. My wife was still a student at Seton Hill University and I was just some old college grad that hung around with these kids. However, they were willing to play ball with me in one endeavor. I asked one of the group that we used to run with to help me in a plot to surprise my girl. She would be busy until later in the evening so I had plenty of time to gather up my stuff and spring my plan into action.

I stowed away in one of the parlor's outside of Cecilian Hall and set up a table and chairs, complete with table cloth, candles, flatware, silverware, and my trusty boom box. Then I went and placed a to go order with a local restaurant that she and I liked. I went and picked up the food and brought it back, all with the blessing of security, thanks to one of our group of friends. My wife came into the parlor and was taken back. She was always a bit shy around me even after months of dating. She could never look me in the eye. Now, I have that problem, usually because I'm trouble. Still we had a nice romantic dinner for two in a beautifully designed space, complete with candlelight and mood music.

Skip ahead a few years...more like our first Valentine's Day in our home. My wife sprung the surprise on me by doing up our family room with candles and music, complete with takeout Chinese food for dinner. Trust me, this is just fine by me. I thought it was an awesome form of reciprocation.

As for our anniversary we really don't do that much. The most we ever did was go out to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and then spent the night at the Holiday Inn next Shadyside UPMC Hospital which was real nice. That time we had the help of my Mother-in-Law and her partner in crime at work to arrange for the reservation through our travel department at work. It's nice to have friends in high places. It was a pretty spectacular room.

But being a milestone like number five, we thought we would indulge a little bit. However, having a two year old makes it a little hard to get away for a night. We can only rely on babysitters so much and we have been burning the candle at both ends with help since we are trying to save up some money for the holidays by taking on extra work.

Still, I figure we can at least go out for an evening and make it home for bath time. That's why we plan on recreating our honeymoon for our fifth anniversary. My wife is going to be deathly ill with a cold and I'm going to attempt to smuggle duty free whiskey across the Canadian border into the U.S. We're already half way there. My wife's had strep throat and been under the weather for a few weeks now.

To give a small explanation of what I'm talking about, let's step in the way back machine and travel to 2004. Monday, November 8th to be exact. After out wedding we loaded up the best damn car on the planet, my 1997 Chevy Cavalier, and drove from Pittsburgh to Niagara Falls. I booked us a room at the Embassy Suites overlooking the falls. They must have been hard up for guests because they were nice enough to upgrade us to the Jr. something suite complete with free valet parking. We also got free buffet breakfast at the KEG restaurant and complimentary manager's reception cocktails in the afternoon. It was rather posh for a couple of goofs like us who were used to the Gazebo Inn in Myrtle Beach for $99.00 a night.

We had a two room suite with living room and nice huge bathroom with a door that opened above the jacuzzi tub so that you could look out the big ass window and see the falls. Not to mention I loved the shower in that place. It was the kinds with it's own room and you just walked into it and it had jets in the walls. Besides the electric fireplace in the room we had a nice big television and one of the coolest channels, the falls' view channel.

Well, after our first night there, my wife got extremely sick and congested and spent most of our stay in the other room among a pile of tissues. I was already to go out and gamble our wedding reception haul away at the casinos but we ended up spending most of our time in our hotel asking around for a pharmacy in the area. In all, we had a pretty decent time and I ended up winning about $50 on Spanish 21.

On our way home we came all the way through to Buffalo and forgot to stop and exchange our money. So, I had to drive back into Canada and stop at the Duty Free store right over the border. Picked up a few items of interest and then headed home.

This weekend, liquor aside, I think we'll head down to the new Casino in Pittsburgh and have a nice dinner but my wife will probably be chasing hers with some Robitussin. Should be a fun time in the steel town tonight.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dead Guy In A DirectTV Ad

I very rarely watch commercials anymore. Any regular reader knows of my love/hate relationship with my DVR. When I am watching the tube, I spend most of time fast forwarding through ads to get to the rest of the program I recorded months ago and haven’t watched or I am pretending to ignore the screen all together in an effort to not divulge my secret addiction to Sprout. I am mesmerized by the repetitive nature of the programming and wonder who the hell watches children’s programming at 4:00 in the morning? My two year old is already taking control and knows that I can call on Caillou or Dragon Tales at any time of the day just by pushing that big long button at the top of the remote.

But, back to commercials. On occasion, I will slow my forward momentum to catch a quick trailer for a new movie or video game. It was on one of these fast forward furloughs that I caught the latest DirectTV commercial featuring David Spade and a somewhat alive Chris Farley. We all know how DirectTV runs their ads. They take a popular movie and intercut new footage with one of the actors who breaks the fourth wall during the scene to schlep the service. Usually, a body double is used to continue the action of the real movie in order to seemingly splice together a pop culture moment with a crummy commercial. What alarmed me was that the scene, with David Spade selling his soul to the satellite service, was the “Fat Guy In a Little Coat” bit from Tommy Boy.

I shouldn’t be shocked. DirectTV isn’t the first company to sell their product using a dead star in its pitch. After all, aptly named Dirt Devil used Dead Astaire to sell a mop in 1996 and Dirt Devil wasn’t even the first to use a dead celebrity to sell something. Five years earlier, Natalie Cole did it with her album, Unforgettable… with Love. Granted she was paying tribute to Nat King Cole with the album, but the videos creeped me out because it looked so much like she was using her father’s celebrity to sell the album. And even earlier, Hank Williams Jr. did a duet with dear old dad Hank Sr. in 1989, which also featured a music video of Father and Son together. So why has the ad touched off a bit of a media buzz over good or poor taste? Call it timing.

First off, according to an interview with David Spade, both he and the family of the late comedian were approached about the commercial and the family gave their blessing. Second all, what exactly are people up in arms about? From a lot of the net chatter people are creeped out by the timing and intent of the advertisement. A few folks pose have been asking, “Is it TOO SOON?” and “Did Spade sell out his friend?”

Too soon for what? Chris Farley died 12 years ago. How long is the statute of limitations on using a dead goofball comedian in a television ad? It can’t be that we are somehow more endeared to Farley, now, then when he was alive. I loved Tommy Boy and Farley on SNL was the third renaissance of the 35 year old show, but it’s not like Chris Farley was John Candy or Jackie Gleason. So, why go with the adage of “It’s too soon” to explain disgust?

To that end, DirectTV’s series of ads has tread upon this ground before with a commercial featuring Craig T. Nelson reprising his role from Poltergeist. The commercial shows footage from the movie with the late Heather O’Rourke in the iconic “They’re Here” scene. O’Rourke died in 1988 and people still found it creepy. Going back to through DirectTV’s ads we can find another instance of a deceased character used to sell the service. I say it was way too soon to use the Queen Xenomorph in a commercial. I still can’t go near an airlock without breaking down into a sobbing mess. Sorry, I just can’t get away from that bitch.

I have another opinion on the ick factor with the Farley ad. It isn’t that it’s too soon, it’s that this year has been wrought with the death of pop culture icons. 2009 has seen the death of at over 20 distinct fixtures from the world of pop culture in Michael Jackson, John Hughes, Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett, Patrick Swayze, Soupy Sales, David Carradine, Lou Albano, Mary Travers, Henry Gibson, Dom DeLuise, Les Lye, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and Ted Kennedy. Dredging up the memory of another dead celebrity just seems to be in poor taste this year. Like I said, equating Chris Farley to say Soupy Sales or Henry Gibson is a bit of a stretch but realize that Chris Farley made his mark in the entertainment world and now the generation that grew up and identifies with him as a peer is now the same generation that is owning a home and paying for satellite service. He’s as much as an influence their lives as say Michael Jackson was on my generation and Soupy Sales was on my parents’.

The other problem with the advert is the content. I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with a fat guy in a little coat, but Chris Farley isn’t the one pitching DirectTV, David Spade is. Granted, I don’t think you can go through a lot of Tommy Boy and find a David Spade specific moment that doesn’t get overshadowed by Farley’s Tommy Boy Foolery. “Fat Guy In a Little Coat” is as much Farley’s moment as “They’re Here” was Heather O’Rourke’s. Those are the things that you remember from those films, not David Spade’s reaction to Farley ripping the back out of Richard’s coat. It was simply a poor choice in scenes.

I can think of two scenes that would have served to highlight Spade’s character, one was the hotel scene where he gets caught watching a skinny dipper at the pool. That’s not exactly a good sell for DirectTV unless you are selling their adult programming. The other, which I think would have been more appropriate, would have been the scene where Richard is discovered to be wearing a toupee after an engine fan revs up and blows his off his head. At that moment, David Spade could have broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience with that bald head and flapping toupee and it would have been chuckle worthy. After his pitch, he reattaches the rug and goes directly back into the original footage. That would have been more acceptable because it was a scene directly involving his character.

The bottom line is that both Farley’s family and Spade gave consent to the commercial, although I can’t imagine what consent Spade had to give over the use of the footage. He was Farley’s dear friend but I don’t think he has anything to do with the actor’s estate. It might have been him consenting to appear in the commercial. Who knows?

So, in my book, the spot was a little creepy for the subject matter but not worthy of the national attention it has received. After all, the number one movie at the box office over Halloween weekend was a movie about a dead celebrity and it wasn’t fictional. Apparently, it wasn’t too soon for the audience to shell out over 20 million to see the final rehearsals of Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Prices Might Be Cheaper Now Than On Black Friday

This information is based on one example and current to 11/03/2009.

I get regular email alerts from Black Friday.Info on sale ads for the coming holiday season and with Halloween over, the frequency of alerts is starting to increase. Since I am always in the market for a cheap deal on anything from a good power tool to a man cave LCD HDTV I thought I would check out what was recently posted for Sears.

If you scroll down to teh television section you will see that BlackFriday.Info lists the Sony Bravia 46" LCD HDTV Model # KDL46V5100 at $1239.99 for Black Friday, which for any of you in a coma is the day after Thanksgiving. Just thought I’d clarify for those playing at home. Now, the description of the television is hyperlinked so if you click on it you get redirected to the product on Sears' website. Because of the sale, you have to click on Add to Cart to see the price. Once you do that you'll see that the television is listed at $1039.99, discounted down from $1599.99 through 11/07/09. If you think that's cool, go to MySimon and do a search on the model number and you can find it $40 cheaper on JR through 11/06/2009 with rebate.

So, what does this mean? For the frugal shopper, it can mean a great deal. If you always wanted to see what the hype was about when it comes to getting up at 4 AM for door buster prices and the random trampling of grandmas in order to snag that cheap DVD player you might want to consider staying in bed and working off that tryptophan kick.

Do some research on Black Friday sales and even subscribe to some alerts if your inbox can handle it. Make up your list, check the sale price for Black Friday against the current price of those big ticket items you think will be drastically discounted during the sale. Also check at different retailers and places that do the work for you like My Simon. You might just find that it’s on sale now for even less. The difference alone between the sale price now and the sale price on Black Friday is $200. Just think what you could spend that extra $200 on between now and Christmas. With the economy like it is, every little bit helps.

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