Hey, Wha’ Happened?

If you watch as much PBS as I do, which you probably shouldn’t, you may have heard that Fred Willard would be hosting a spinoff of Antiques Roadshow in the near future.  Antiques Roadshow was that show about experts appraising estate furniture at convention centers around the country.  Once an episode someone’s grandmother’s candle holder would turn out to have been carved from a unicorn’s horn and be worth six figures.  Remember when your mom turned into a hoarder in 2002?  That was because of Antiques Roadshow.

Fred Willard is really funny.  He was great in Best of Show and A Mighty Wind, easily the funniest person in both films.   His show is titled Market Warriors, and it doesn’t really matter how it’s different from Antiques Roadshow because you probably checked out when I said “PBS” and are skimming this article for bolded words and links.  Tits!  You’re welcome.   Continue reading

The Franchise You Didn’t Know Existed, Part II

Catch up with Part I here.

Previously, we discussed the overarching themes of the 1993 treatise on social order Demolition Man.  Today, we will discuss its companion piece, the justifiably-overlooked Judge Dredd, in which Stallone plays a descendent of his character in the previous film and acts as an agent of the fascist system unwittingly instituted by its protagonist.

At the end of Demolition Man, the forces of rampant Liberalism were cast aside under a cloud of corruption and murder, allowing the more seemingly freedom-loving Libertarians to return to the surface world and take control.  This meant an end to the various well-meaning initiatives put in place by the previous regime, in favor of an improvised order more appealing to the base desires of the populace.  Forced politeness was repealed, and with it the automatic fines for verbal profanity, a measure which was particularly god damn unappealing to anyone who would pay to see an R-rated action movie in 1993.  The ban on meat was also brought to an end, allowing the formerly second-class citizens to partake in as many rat burgers as they wanted.   Continue reading

The Franchise You Didn’t Know Existed, Part I

In 1993 Sylvester Stallone, hot off the success of the years 1995-2009 having not happened yet, made a movie about a near-present-day LAPD detective cryogenically frozen and subsequently thawed thirty years later.  That movie was Demolition Man, and it was a decent action movie.  Two years later, Stallone made another bold cinematic prediction about the future of law enforcement, a movie – nay, film – eponymously based on the comic book series Judge Dredd.  Despite their ostensible similarities – future cop, there’s a conspiracy to solve, diplomacy as a backup option for most confrontations – the movies have very different tones and themes.  Despite this, I have recently come to the conclusion that Judge Dredd and Demolition Man are actually, together, a complete work.  By the end of this journey, so will you.

Demolition Man opens in what citizens of 1992 Los Angeles thought 1996 Los Angeles was going to look like thanks to all the angry minorities who broke stuff over the Rodney King verdict.  Things have gotten so bad that the Hollywood sign is on fire, presumably non-stop.  “This well-known landmark is burning” is ’90s movie shorthand for “things are going really badly right now.”  Its use in popular film culminated in the 1996 masterpiece Independence Day, which ended its first act by systematically destroying every recognizable monument in the United States.  Michael Bay dragged it back out of the closet for 1998’s Armageddon, which didn’t even have the dignity of being the only apocalyptic asteriod movie released that summer, probably because Michael Bay wouldn’t know creativity if it took on the form of Megan Fox and blew him at an after-party. Continue reading

On Enjoyment

Watching movies is insanely easy nowadays.  Re-watching movies, same case.  If you name a movie, unless it’s something super-weird and rare I can probably download a copy of it that would rival a flawless 16mm print put through a projector with a brand new bulb on full power with all the dust removed from the air in the room.  It’ll take an hour to download at the most.  Maybe it’s on Netflix in HD, maybe it’s on Amazon Prime, maybe it’s a BluRay or DVD that I dumped onto my hard drive, or worst-case scenario I had to tell the magical box in the living room to record it as it plays on channel 1205 without me ever having to turn on my TV.  If you like a movie you can watch the hell out of it.

I had a great time seeing Inception a year and a half ago.  Remember Inception?  Leonardo DiCaprio invades people’s dreams, that somehow means a shitload of guns onscreen, Michael Caine is there for some reason, PG-13 mindfuckery…big deal movie.  Summer tentpole.  Everyone loved it when it came out, then as Christmas came around people started pointing out plot holes, vocalizing things they found wrong about it, and questioning the reason for there being so god damn many guns in a movie about dreams within dreams.  It lost its luster for a ton of people.

At the last minute they photoshopped the gun out of Ellen Page's hand

Continue reading

If That’s Not Prostitution, Then I’m Not a Sarcastic Ass

Nothing makes me set my phasers to “get off my lawn” quite like MTV.  I’m not going to pretend it’s become suddenly bad during the exact same years I turned from a high school student to a nominal adult.  I accept that it was bad back when I watched it, too, just differently.  The mash of payola-saturated reality shows and ads for teen botox looks to me now probably the same way it looked to my older brother when I was 15 and it was a mash of payola-saturated music video countdowns and ads for dot-com startups.

The problem isn’t the content, it’s what it represents.  MTV is pure, uncut youth arranged into pixels accessible by every cable subscriber in the country.  I’m not talking about “youth” as in young people with jobs starting to make their way into the world.  No, MTV is for people who just learned that there is a word called “youth” and it applies to them.  They probably don’t even say “youth” – they call themselves “tweens” or something like that.  When you’re in that bubble – that zone where MTV actually speaks to you – it’s the most compelling thing on the dial.  It’s a remarkably sharp focus.  All the kids younger than their target think MTV is torture and would rather watch (MTV-owned) Nickelodeon.  The college students (if they’re smart) and twenty-somethings (if they’re not completely stupid) look down on it with the cynicism and disgust it deserves.  Once you get into those upper-twenties, though, it’s that first taste of hating people younger than you.  It hits you like a ton of bricks.

Tonight while I was eating dinner the only thing that looked the least bit watchable was True Life.  True Life is a documentary series that holds the distinction of being one of the few shows on MTV that isn’t trying to sell you something between commercial breaks.  It dates back to when I was passing through the MTV demographic and tends to be at least worth a look if you don’t have any other choice.  Tonight’s episode was “I’m a Sugar Baby.”  I didn’t know what a “Sugar Baby” was so I watched.  Let me save you an hour:

You know prostitution?  That’s the new word for it.  Make a note to yourself.

These women “date” an older man with money that they meet on a dating site specifically for this practice (the practice of prostitution, specifically) in exchange for money.  The money isn’t technically for sex, it’s for “companionship.”  If sex happens, that’s simply a result of the young woman hitting it off with the wrinkly old dentist she met on the internet who is paying for her car.  You know, like it always happens in non-prostitution situations.  If this fiction sounds familiar it’s because it is exactly the line put out by “escort services.”  You might remember escort services from the one that was frequently patronized by New York Attorney Eliot Spitzer.  Did he resign because of all that companionship?  Noooope, it was the money-sex thing. Continue reading

I Got Nothing. Seriously.

My laptop is six years old.  Its speakers don’t work, its battery holds a charge for about two hours if you turn the brightness all the way down, and it’s as fast as about half of the netbooks out there but twice the weight.  I still like it, though – it’s a Dell 700M with a 12-inch screen, which in 2005 was unthinkably small for a primary laptop.  People would come up to me in college and ask me what it was.  That would inevitably be followed by “can you deal with using something that small?”  Fast forward the better part of a decade and like half of the PC laptops people buy are even smaller.  The thing is positively voluptuous now.

Computers age very quickly, but they don’t actually age.  Aging suggests some sort of deterioration in appearance in functionality.  People age and part of that is getting wrinkly skin and not being as good at complex motor functions.  Computers don’t do this, they run the same speed for their entire life.  Cosmetically they can stay unchanged for their entire useful life with some occasional cleaning and proper handling.  They never get any worse than they are when you first unpack them.  They’re never any less computerry.  The only thing that changes is the way we look at them. Continue reading

Getting V-Blasted!

There are two 7-11 stores within walking distance of my office.  The closer one is the good 7-11.  They are a perennial Hot Food Award winner (it’s a thing) and, unlike many, the staff is always pretty cheerful and efficient.  If I haven’t brought lunch to work I’ll usually go in there and get a wrap, an apple if they’re fresh, and some sort of zero-cal flavored water.  I know it’s not good for me, but the only thing you can drink that isn’t bad for you in some way is water and even that can be used wrong.  Let me drink something that tastes vaguely like dragonfruit and green tea with my lunch, I’m not hurting anyone.

The other day my friend and I had to go to The Other 7-11.  The Other 7-11 is right next to a bus depot, has a homeless guy in front of it more often than not, has never to my knowledge won the Hot Food Award, and has a staff that (understandably) doesn’t really care about people skills.  I don’t care for The Other 7-11, but I was hungry and there we were.  When I went to pick out my drink I noticed an odd-looking bottle in the vitamin water fridge.  It was called V-Blast and had a cap that looked like one on a “sport” bottle that squirts out the top.  I like things that squirt and I have a hard time passing up a drink whose name is a double entendre, so I bought it.  I’m serious about that double entendre thing – if there was a hot chocolate brand called Cleveland Steamer I’d drink a box of it every day during the cold season. Continue reading

Vertical Integration and Why You Can’t Call Everyone “Dude”

Earlier today I was reading the Wall Street Journal online.  That’s not atypical, as I generally give it a look when it’s raining and I’m bored enough to want to know what sort of informational roofies Rupert Murdoch is slipping into my parents’ generation’s drinks.  No matter how brutal the sodomy, they never feel the rectal tearing because they’ve been fed a drug dissolved into the appletini of respectability and grown-upness that is “The Journal.”  Between editorials, op-eds, and news items arranged to function as editorials about how Obama is destroying the banks I found a curious item about sunglasses.

Apparently designer sunglasses are bullshit.  My faith in the fashion accessories industry is shaken to its core. Continue reading

It’s Not Exactly Good For You When It’s Fresh, Either

Is there some state regulation mandating that any vending machine or coffee dispenser put in an auto shop must be ancient?  Any time I have to take my car in I end up seeing a coffee pot powered by coal and a soda machine that probably had a “bottles-to-cans” conversion performed some time during the Carter administration.  Despite looking like a prop from The Grapes of Wrath I’ve always had faith that the sugar water cans inside at least get changed out every quarter or so.

As usually happens when I have faith in something, a minor incident has shattered the whole thing.  I had to take my car in for its legally-mandated state inspection, which is always my one Libertarian day a year.  John Galt wouldn’t get his car inspected by the government to see if its turn signals worked, he’d rather just get rear-ended in the name of principle and pontificate on it for seven pages like every Ayn Rand character.

The inspector was finishing up another job, so the store gave me the gift of about 20 minutes of Me Time.  The TV wasn’t working and my smartphone’s battery was just ready to quit, so like a good American I went for Plan C – gorging myself on artificial sweeteners when I’m neither hungry nor thirsty.  So I strolled over to the machine, took a look at my choices, and saw…this:

2005.  This can has been there since I was a sophomore in college.  I don’t even remember who won that Super Bowl.  Pepsi doesn’t even have that logo anymore!  That can predates an entire corporate re-branding that happened years ago!  And I know what you’re thinking – “that’s just the display soda, the real soda in the machine is from 2009 at the earliest.” We’ll never know because the button was too busy being old and having an arrow painted on it to actually work.  My guess is the spring went on strike due to unhygenic working conditions.  So I didn’t get to see what decade the Pepsi can came from; it’ll be Schroedinger’s Can forever.

From now on I think I’ll bring a bottled water when I get my car inspected.

“Oh, I should totally post this on my blog. Yea, I have one, it’s no big deal.”

A blog is the ultimate act of vanity.  I should know, I used to have one.  You write an entry, you post it, send up a flare in your social media circles so that your friends are now aware that a brick of thought-hash has made its way from your brain to your keyboard or touchscreen or voice input device, then you wait.  You try to pretend you’ve moved on with your day but if you’re writing something for your blog then most likely the valuable part of your day is gone.  The meat is consumed – blogging is simply chewing on the marrow of one’s own existence.

Sure, every once in a while you hit one with a purpose.  The one where Amy Adams cooks her way through a five-pound cook book had purpose.  So much purpose dripped from its unrested slices that it was collected in a tupperware and turned into a Nora Ephron movie.  And said movie of course included a scene where her friends all “informed” her of how popular her little site was.  As if she didn’t know.  “Who, me?”  Yes, you.  Don’t try to pretend you weren’t watching StatCounter, damn you.  Nobody’s that spunky.  She, this person avatar-embodied in Amy Adams, made abso-darn-lutely sure that the movie version of this period in her life – her shining moment – had a footnote making it clear that this was all a surprise.  She never imagined this billboard to her overgrown life-consuming hobby, a distraction from her job answering telephones for some enterprise I can’t remember (Ink cartridges?  Sure, ink cartridges.).  Never once spent the better part of a bowel movement contemplating how her uptight friend (Cindy?  Sure, Cindy.) would never see her the same again once this momentous effort of hers became public.

You may have Nora Ephron fooled, Amy Adams, but you don’t fool me.  I know what you were thinking when you wrote that blog and when you submitted that post and when you made that bowel movement.  “I just read it, it’s great!”  Yea, that’s the stuff.  Like crack, only it doesn’t disable your spawn.

So here I am, chasing that high.  I used to chase it, years ago until it got lost in a haze of alcohol and near-failure.  I’m back where I should be – clear-headed and world-aware enough to know that there is something wrong with every god damned thing I lay my eyes on.  And I’m going to let you all in on it.

Welcome back to Fantastic Manliness, you bastards.