Archive for April, 2010

Mein Führer! I can walk! (…and predict the future)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 30, 2010 by Will Link

 Another reason I love film is its ability to predict the future. It makes sense that film would be the art form that predicts the trends in society on a mass level only because it is our most popular visual art form. I’m always amazed when watching an old satirical film at how what in the 1960’s passed for over the top satire is actually what’s happening now.

I was thinking about this a lot the other night while I was watching Dr. Strangelove for millionth time. It is easily one of the greatest and funniest films of all time – and a brutal satire on our government, military and nuclear war in general. In 1964 it must have shocked people as much as it had them nervously laughing in the aisles…after all the Cuban Missile Crisis was very recent history. What’s amazing by watching it today is how the satire is all too real.  I’m sure in the 1960’s our government was run by people equally buffoonish as it is today (there will always be a General like Buck Turgidson in any era)but now those buffoons are more out in the open. How can you not think of Dr. Strangelove when you hear stories about high ranking officials in the SEC viewing up to five hours of porn a day at work? The recent report that in the mid 90’s the Russians thought a missile we were testing might have been an attack but Boris Yeltsin was too drunk to be concerned is right out of Strangelove. Or even better that Yeltsin was found by secret service once outside the White House in his underwear! I mean if Khrushchev was behaving this way we certainly didn’t know about it but it’s clear that Yeltsin was behaving exactly like Premier Kissoff.

Maybe this is more of a times never change than film predicting the future but I have to believe we have grown more and more into a world that Dr. Strangelove predicted. Some other film examples of this? How can you watch A Face in the Crowd and not think of Glenn Beck as a modern day Lonesome Rhodes? In John Waters’ Female Trouble he predicted the rise of the media’s crime obsession and criminals becoming celebrities. Sure you can say it was reflecting what was occurring with the Manson Family but the level of satire Waters used is now tame in comparison of how the media years later covered things like the O.J. trial or when E! airs programs about the 15 Greatest Hollywood Murders. On a less serious note – in 1992 it was a hysterical joke having Buck Henry pitch a sequel to The Graduate in The Player. Well have you looked at the kind of films we are green lighting now? Yesterday Paramount okayed the magic 8 ball film instead of giving the go ahead to Anchorman 2 – which is already a marketable sequel to begin with?!?  Film executives in The Player were actually much more willing to take risks than the executives of today. Again we have the world going beyond what was once considered satire.

But to me no film predicted the future better than Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant 1976 film Network. When it came out I’m sure audiences thought the news would never be reported in a completely editorial bombastic way. They must have assumed we’d always have a Walter Cronkite. Turn on Fox News, MSNBC and even CNN and you will find a dozen people just as “mad” as Howard Beal. It’s really scary how accurately Network predicted the future of television news. The news is as much a form of entertainment now as a typical sitcom with the news departments run by an army of Diana Christensens.  When he wrote the script did Chayefsky really believe it would actually come to this? I ask you…is this famous speech from Network really that much different than a clip from any show on news radio:

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’”

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AMC BS

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 27, 2010 by Will Link

Here’s some bullshit.

In a week and a half Iron Man 2 comes out and I was checking advanced show times because my friends and I were hoping to make it an opening night film. We usually go to the Burbank 16 because it’s cheaper than the Arclight and afterwards there are lots of places in downtown Burbank to walk and grab a bite. As usual I see an evening show time and click on it but instead of coming up 12 bucks it comes up 16. This strikes me as odd because I was pretty sure I clicked on the non IMAX screening. (The IMAX in Burbank is not true IMAX and I refuse to spend 5 bucks more on an inferior product. For real IMAX in LA only go to City Walk or The Bridge)

Confused by this and needing to report back to friends I checked other AMC theaters to see if this was just a website error. All of them said tickets to Iron Man 2 were 16 bucks. The Arclight, Landmark, and Pacific Theaters were all cheaper. One of the reasons I choose AMC is price. I go to about 50 to 60 films a year and that costs about 500 or more dollars a year. This is why I have to throw in a bunch of $6 before noon shows to afford to keep this kind of lifestyle going. Movie theaters are my church. Not going is not an option.

So I called AMC and ask an admittedly friendly young man what gives. He explained to me that Iron Man 2 is screening in both (fake) IMAX and a new format it seems AMC is using called ETX. “What the fuck is ETX?” I ask him. He goes on to explain it’s a new format with a bigger screen, better sound and blah blah blah. All I hear is “we are raping you!” I ask him if Iron Man 2 will screen normal and he said “not in its opening weeks” which is probably because it’s the only movie people will want to see in its opening weeks.

First I have to pay more for fake IMAX, then for 3D, now for ETX??? Fuck you…I refuse. Better sound quality – was the sound really bad before? Is this extra 4 bucks going to make my experience that much better? Will the theater owner suck on my balls while I watch the movie? Movie theaters are pricing people out. You can get bleacher seats at Yankee Stadium cheaper. Look, I pay when the ticket price goes from $11 to $12 – I’m not happy but I pay. But all these new formats are just clever ways to bilk us out of cash. I don’t need your ETX and while we’re on the subject I don’t need your paying extra for assigned seat. I looking at you Arclight – go fuck yourself!

All I need is a good movie. That’s it. If the Burbank 16 prices me out on opening nights, I’ll go to the less technologically advanced 6 or even 8. Guess what people of the San Fernando Valley, the Sherman Oaks 5 might be a joke theater but I can see an evening show there for $8.75 and enjoy it just as much. As long as the sound doesn’t cut out and the image is in focus, I’m fine. A movie screen is still about 100x the size of a television no matter where you go.

Fuck you ETX! I don’t even want to know what you are.

“…Turn to the Left”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 27, 2010 by Will Link

The most important thing in all our lives that I know the least about is fashion. No it’s not important in terms of things like food and shelter but it is important in the way that we have to think about it every day. Every morning we all make a decision on what to wear for that day and in theory it can change the course of that day or even lives. Yesterday for example I wore my Conan O’Brien nationwide tour t-shirt. At Aroma many people came up to me asking how the show was, including a few attractive women…all of whom were then greeted by their meathead boyfriends. Point is something I wore helped me meet new people and when I put that shirt on I made a decision to stand out from the crowd.

That of course doesn’t mean I understand fashion or how to dress. Unless you show up in sneakers for a wedding or a t-shirt for a job interview I don’t think I’ve ever really criticized someone for a fashion decision. I hate that red carpet fashion show where a man with silver hair, a woman who looks like an alien, the fattest of all the Kardashian’s and the Crypt Keeper criticize celebrities for bad fashion choices. The first reason is I usually don’t think the people look that bad. I see them rip Tina Fey for a fashion choice and all I think is how she’s a comedian not a model but still looks pretty damn good. The second reason is, if the stars don’t look their best who are these dumb asses to say. Fashion is more subjective than most arts because it is so linked to the human body and what we are attracted to. In fact I’ve been attracted to some very unfashionable women in my time and I think the fact they were unfashionable was part of the appeal. Maybe that was because they didn’t give a shit or maybe that was because I felt off the hook to wear ill fitting jeans and an old Yankees shirt in their presence.

But it’s true…every day we are secretly judged by what we are wearing. I notice this at work. My job requires me to sit in a cold, dark room with a bunch of dudes all day. Because of this I usually wear said Yankees shirt and an oversized ripped gray hooded sweatshirt. I don’t care about how I look in this environment and have the attitude of “why would I waste an outfit on this crowd?” Occasionally however I have a meeting to go to or a date with a young lady after work. It is on those days I tend to shave and wear a nicer ensemble.  That’s when people bring up how I look, usually with them saying “you look good today” which only makes me feel like I must be a mess every other day. But they are right – I am a mess and I didn’t realize that they noticed.

About two years ago (not coincidentally when I started doing a lot of online dating which I may or may not do again) I became a little more self conscious of how I dressed. I didn’t know what to do about it. Clearly when I bought clothing (which was rare) I didn’t make the best choices. Mostly I’d buy t-shirts with a Dawn of the Dead logo and order jeans off a website. In the past I would let a girlfriend pick some clothing for me but I wasn’t dating anyone at the time. I needed help and I didn’t trust myself. I also knew I needed a woman to make these choices since it was women I hoped to impress. In stepped my good friend Amy Haffner.  Amy is one of the many many friends I made by hanging out at my local karaoke bar Sardo’s. She also happens to be a wardrobe stylist/costumer. Score for me and being a friend with no money I was able to retain her brilliant services for the low price of buying her lunch. What I liked was that she worked with in my already, all be it barely, existing style. This wasn’t a makeover – this was taking things I seemed to like and showing me how to judge which ones looked best and why. That day we picked out God knows how many new shirts and jeans and although I still have a long way to go fashion wise I take it far more seriously than before. Now I try on everything even when I know a medium will probably be just fine because Amy told me every places cuts are different. Sure, maybe you knew that but I didn’t. I thought a medium was a medium was a medium.  I have bought stuff in the past year without her help and although for the most part I think I’ve made better choices because of her, I know if she was with me I’d make the best choices. Recently I needed to get new frames for my glasses. This was a decision I could not be trusted with so once again I called Amy. I knew I wanted thicker frames and with her help we narrowed down which of the choices looked best on me. I love my new frames and have gotten lots of compliments.

Basically what I’m saying is this: I claim to not give a shit about fashion but really that’s impossible. We all give a shit about fashion, we just don’t realize it. What other day to day choices do we make without realizing it? That what I’m saying. That and if you can…have Amy Haffner pick out your clothes.

“Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 25, 2010 by Will Link

Last night Ale in the Valley and  I went to the first of two Los Angeles shows for the Conan O’Brien “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour” and it was even more fun than I thought it would be! (And I had the bar raised pretty damn high) It was a night of nonstop laughs and pure enthusiasm. Here was a man just looking to have a wacky good time doing what he wants and hopefully get the audience in on the fun, which of course he did. Actually it reminded me of the old Andy Kauffman footage I used to see when he played venues like Carnegie Hall – a kind of variety show with sing- a-longs, surprise guests, great music and of course comedy.

Some of the highlights: Old friends like the Masturbating Bear, who due to possibly being the “intellectual property” of NBC is now the Self Pleasuring Panda, and a taped message from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Conan brought back one of my all time favorite bits, the Walker Texas Ranger clips shown without context. To pull the leaver (now a handle) he has special guests Aziz Ansari, Jack Mcbrayer, Jonah Hill and the guest that almost made Ale leap from the mezzanine in ecstasy – Jon Hamm.

Besides a great opening monologue which discussed how this show was occurring only yards away from his old studio at NBC Universal ( “Sit back and enjoy an incredibly awkward show,”  he said. “Listen very carefully,” as he pointed in the direction of the NBC-Universal lot. “Bad ideas are being greenlit.”), there were great comic bits by Andy Richter and Deon Cole. The Legally Prohibited Band (formally The Tonight Show Band, formally the Max Weinberg 7…minus Max) was amazing with many of them racing into the audience to play. Overall the show was music heavy with Conan playing songs such as “I Will Survive” but changing the lyrics often to fit his current situation. The musical highlight involved surprise guest Jim Carrey. Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxPEVe5Ih2M

Our faces hurt from laughing and smiling for two straight hours. If you are a Conan fan this is a must. I heard a rumor that they might put out a DVD of the tour and I hope they do so everyone can get a chance to see this show.

Conan comes back to television in November and it can’t happen soon enough. He’ll be on TBS at 11pm which I think is a good move. He is given complete freedom, less ratings pressure, owns his show and has the same budget he did for The Tonight Show. Also he will reach more people than if he went to Fox (the thing with Fox was the affiliates didn’t want a late night talk show so they would have put him on FX). Wherever he is, it doesn’t matter. To me he is easily the funniest man on TV and right now he’s also the funniest man on tour!

Always Double Down

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 22, 2010 by Will Link

  There are two kinds of people who will go out and try the new KFC Double Down “sandwich.” First there are the people who are too curious/disgusted by the idea of a “sandwich” in which chicken is the bread. They will try it for the kitsch factor. The second group are the people who look at it and go “finally what I’ve always dreamed of!” They kind of scare me. I fall into the first category. I have not tried this ridiculous thing but I will. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. I work in television. Every day I am bombarded with commercials. Most times I’m able to be dismissive of Madison Aves siren song – except for fast food commercials. I don’t eat a ton of fast food except in a pinch and the occasional In and Out, but about two years ago all I saw were commercials for Wendy’s Baconator. Two patties and six strips of bacon covered in cheese. Plus it had a really funny name. Eventually I had to try it. Then I had another. A few weeks after I had my third and then that was it – out of my system for good. I haven’t had one since. It’s the same thing with the Double Down; the ads are just getting to me.
  2. Although it can’t be the healthiest food in the world it’s far from the worst. There are ten items on the Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Burger King menus combined that are worse for you (including three salads). I’ve also been told ironically the grilled Double Down is more unhealthy than the fried simply because of all the sodium they pack into it.
  3. I keep putting “sandwich” in quotes because sandwiches have bread. That said, is this monstrosity much different than a chicken cordon bleu? The chicken cordon bleu is breaded chicken, ham and cheese. The Double Down is fried chicken, bacon (still pork) and cheese. Look, I’d much rather have a well prepared cordon bleu but couldn’t this be considered the poor man’s chicken cordon bleu. Aren’t we more outraged that it’s being called a sandwich than the actual ingredients.
  4. How can I not try something this ridiculous!?

Well, here are a few reasons why I shouldn’t:

  1. I hate KFC. My uncle works for them in a high position so I could in theory have gotten lots of free KFC over the years. Problem is every time I eat it I get indigestion. I don’t know why but every time. (I have the same issue with IHOP) Back on Long Island I skipped the KFC and would always get Pudgies chicken. It tasted far better and was a healthier. In LA I choose El Pollo Loco for my fast food chicken. If regular KFC makes me ill…what the hell will the Double Down do?
  2. Just because there are things that are worse for you doesn’t mean the Double Down is good for you. It’s still a fried disgusting mess, despite how it might taste.
  3.  I think I like having bread instead of chicken holding my sandwich together. Call me crazy but I’m a traditionalist. And psychologically I would feel weird eating the “chicken for bread” sandwich.
  4. How can I try something this ridiculous!?

In the end I will try it and if my heart holds up, I’ll report back to all of you. This will happen soon I’m sure.  Probably right after I see the next commercial.

R.I.P. Matt and Trey

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 21, 2010 by Will Link

 Over the past two decades I truly believe the best social satire has come from the minds of Matt Stone and Trey Parker.  Although they have made many films and television shows, the crown jewel of their comedy career of course is South Park. It’s always been a shockingly topical cartoon which produces the timeliest satire with the best fart and dick jokes in the business. In fact the fart and dick jokes are usually what helps bring out the satire. Who could forget their episode on the eve of the 2004 election in which the kids had to decide between a turd sandwich and a giant douche for the school mascot? And this is another point – they are the most fair and balanced comedy in the business. Their show often makes real points about society but never seems to lean left or right, it always leans towards logic. They have ripped Glenn Beck just as bad as they have ripped Michael Moore. They have destroyed Al Gore as much as George Bush. Like I said, fair and balanced. Speaking of which (he said in a sarcastic tone)…from Fox News:    

A radical Islamic website is warning the creators of “South Park” that they could face violent retribution for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode broadcast on Comedy Central last week. RevolutionMuslim.com posted the warning following the 200th episode of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “South Park,” which included a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad disguised in a bear suit. The Web posting also included a graphic photo of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 after making a documentary on violence against Muslim women.

“We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show,” the posting reads. “This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”

Reaching by phone early Tuesday, Abu Talhah al Amrikee, the author of the post, said he wrote the entry to “raise awareness.” He said the grisly photograph of van Gogh was meant to “explain the severity” of what Parker and Stone did by mocking Muhammad.“It’s not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome,” al Amrikee said, referring to the possibility that Parker and Stone could be murdered for mocking Muhammad.

*Not mentioned here is the fact that the website listed their home addresses and work address.

So basically Matt and Trey are going to die.

I don’t really think they will be killed by Islamic extremists but this is clearly a threat and should not be taken lightly. Anytime you put this kind of message out to a group of radicals, be it Muslims, members of the Tea Party, whoever, you’re pointing them towards violence.  I saw the episode in question and it played like a celebration of all things South Park, including brining back an idea put forth in the brilliant two part episode “Cartoon Wars” in which they were actually forbidden to show and image of Muhammad (never mind in 2001 they had already shown Muhammad along with Jesus and other religious figures). “Cartoon Wars” was an episode that tackled both the uproar over a Danish cartoon depicting Muhammad and how formulaic Family Guy is. Last week’s episode never showed Muhammad but had him in the back of a U-Haul truck and in a bear outfit, satirizing the idea of how ridiculous it is they can’t show him. This was just part of a jam packed 200th episode. Part two airs tonight and I wonder if it wasn’t too late to cram some of this real life story into the episode.

The question becomes what should Matt and Trey do? Well the answer is simple – they should do what they always do and if they had planned on satirizing Muhammad or the Islamic faith they must continue to do so, consequences be damned. I am sure that is exactly what they will do. In the history of their careers I have never heard them apologize for anything and that’s one of the reasons I respect them so much. Is it really worth risking their lives for a poorly animated cartoon?  Yes. It’s their life’s work and no one should be able to stop them from doing it, not in America. We should not bend to threats otherwise (and yes I really am typing this) the terrorists win. In this country the terrorists already won the day they forced us to take our shoes off when boarding a plane. Vague threats from extremists shouldn’t stop any form of speech, especially satire.

Here’s the part where I go on to make horrible generalizations on the Muslim faith. When it comes to religion I have problems with all of them and the way they are run. All of them have waged wars because of faith and I could write a post ripping all of them to shreds. That said it seems like Islam is the faith that really can’t take a joke. Yeah, the Vatican comes out and rips Dogma or The Da Vinci Code but Kevin Smith and Dan Brown are still alive (the irony about Dogma to me was that the film is extremely pro faith). There might be protest but not the threat of violence that comes when you offend the Muslim world.  This is not new. Look at Salman Rushdie. Theo van Gogh made art that was critical of the treatment of Muslim women, a topic quite frankly that should be questioned, and he lost his life. We are told to respect other faiths, but I’ve never really believed that should always be the case. If your faith gives women fewer rights than men, how can I really respect you? Same thing with this South Park issue.  I know I’m over simplifying it and not all Muslim nations are as strict with these issues. You can say that this is a small fraction of an otherwise peaceful people, and you’re probably right, but like I said I think the world would be a safer place if this religion could learn to take a joke.

That’s the lesson everyone should learn from Matt and Trey.

UPDATE: Comedy Central once again are a bunch of pussies. If you watched the show last night there was a lot of bleeps that I thought were part of the joke. I was wrong.

 http://www.deadline.com/2010/04/south-park-defies-muslim-extremists-but-prophet-muhammad-gets-censored/

Dead By Cubicle UPDATE

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 20, 2010 by Will Link

Jarrod’s gotten some online press for his Twitter page and although I hate plugging a Twitter page, Jarrod (along with Conan O’Brien) have shown me sometimes the worst of things can be put to great use.

Check out the article, and then follow him on Twitter so that I can ride his coattails:

http://www.asylum.com/2010/04/20/dead-by-cubicle-its-the-office-meets-oz-140-character/