Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tucker "I'm a Christian, But" Carlson

Praise Jesus*
Ladies and Gentlemen, A Christmas Time message from Tucker Carlson:

"I'm a Christian, I've made mistakes myself, I believe fervently in second chances," Carlson said. "But Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did in a heartless and cruel way. And I think, personally, he should've been executed for that. He wasn't, but the idea that the President of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs? Kind of beyond the pale."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Movie Cliché du Jour: The Sneaky Neck Snap

"Don't kill me!"   "Shh... pretend I'm Angelina."   "Oh Hawt..."
Look we like a good neck snapping as much as the next testosterone addled X-Games fan but shit is getting out of hand. You know the move we're talking about... lethal bowflex-bodied, killing machine steals up behind unsuspecting rent-a-thug and with one Fossesque flourish breaks his neck. Rent-a-thug falls to the ground deader than Jeff Bridges' eyes in Tron. Audience nods approvingly. Let's get it on.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Carine Roitfeld: Fashion Goddess

No, not Iggy Pop's sister.
Ever wonder why women's fashion seems to hate women? Parading impossibly skinny models with unobtainable, unhealthy bodies before a female populace who has neither the time nor the genetics to look like a twelve year old boy. Mucking up women's self-esteem so they can push lines of clothes, low rider jeans for example, that look good on about 2% of women and gives the remaining 98% a blooming muffin top. And generally torturing women into spending astronomical percentages of their income trying to keep up with whatever the magazines claim is stylish. Why so mean spirited, fashion industry?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Good Old Days Can Die in a Fire

Holy shit are we White!!!  Free Puppies!!!
It begins with a wistful and nostalgic nod to a "simpler time." A time that was somehow more honest and wholesome than today. Somewhere in the middle the talk turns to taking back the country, which leads inevitably to the big finish wherein the nation's honor needs to be restored. Next thing you know you're an extra in Birth of a Nation, making pointed hats out of your 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. Welcome to the myopic, pernicious lie known as "the good old days." It's easy, it's lazy and it's incredibly predictable. How predictable, you ask? Well here's a fun test you can do at home. Next time you hear someone open a fresh can of the good old days, there are two certainties - 1) they won't ever specify the date, and 2) the can opener in question will invariably be white. In fact, we'll pay five bucks for any confirmed sighting of an eighty year old black man pining for 1947.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Freakonomics Guys Drop Some Science

Yeah, Yeah... quit rubbing it in.
Look Freakonomics guys, lay off. We're doing the best we can. We're underfunded, understaffed and our intern is a relentlessly upbeat Cankdeska Cikana Community College sophomore who won't quit it with the North Dakota fun facts. Like did you know North Dakota grows more sunflowers than any other state? Do you know how hard it is to work with that kind of energy around? To make matters worse, our office is located in an abandoned Urban Outfitters. It's still full of creepy anorexic manikins in shabbily made clothes for teenagers who can't be bothered to dress like crap on their own. We lose a lot of afternoon staging elaborate reenactments of Civil War battles as fought by slacker emo kids - no one ever gets shot, but by the end the North has unfriended the South.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bristol Palin and the Old Canard

What's another way to say aged duck?
So a few words on Ghostwriting. Ghostwriting is the art of writing a speech or book or whatnot so that it sounds like your employer. The greatest compliment you can pay to a ghostwriter is, "that didn't sound like you at all." So whether you're polishing one of Bill Clinton's speeches or Keith Richard's autobiography, all the audience hears is the seamless voice of the purported author. It would have been a failure if, let's say, if Kennedy's inauguration speech had suddenly shift into 50's teen slang:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rowan Somerville's Dark and Stormy Sex Scene

Hubba, Hubba Old Boy
The Literary Review awarded its annual Bad Sex in Fiction award to Rowan Somerville for his novel The Shape of Her. "There's nothing more English than bad sex, so on behalf of a nation, I thank you," said Somerville at the award ceremony. In their minds, the following passage exemplifies why they chose his work:
The wet friction of her, tight around him, the sight of her open, stretched around him, the cleft of her body, it tore a climax out of him with a final lunge. Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Darren Aronofsky and the Great Brunette Obsession

We're not saying that Darren Aronofsky has a type, but it wouldn't kill Juliette Lewis and Shannen Doherty to update their resumes. Someone has to star opposite Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine and clearly it ain't gonna be Gwyneth Paltrow or Cameron Diaz.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Eugene Delgaudio: No Touchy TSA

Did someone say enhanced pat-down?
This twit here is afraid that "the next TSA official that gives you an enhanced pat-down could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission." Eugene Delgaudio made his fears known in an email to the members of the conservative, non-profit Public Advocate of the United States. Apparently, he believes that the TSA's non-discrimination hiring policy is "the federal employee's version of the Gay Bill of Special rights." Therefore (stay with us because the logic gets choppy) the gays must be quitting their jobs in droves for the scintillating opportunity to get secret jollies patting down straight men at airports.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mel Gibson's Revenge

Oy, are you talking to me, Mate?
This may not be a revelation to anyone, but Mel Gibson has been acting a wee bit twitchy lately. It came as a surprise to us because once upon a time Gibson's public persona was that of a charismatic, down to earth family guy. So when he went all antisemitic, abusive psycho on us it took a while to reconcile. Then we started wondering if we'd missed something. Were there any indications that Gibson might have always had some issues? Perhaps a common theme in his filmography that hinted at something darker in Mel's psyche?

Mel Gibson's breakout role came in George Miller's Mad Max. Made on the cheap in 1979, it tells the tale of Max Rockatansky, a cop whose wife and infant are murdered by bikers. The balance of the film is a straight forward revenge fantasy as Max systematically hunts down and punishes those responsible. Even when he is shot in the knee, Max just lashes together a brace and gets back to his killing spree like a good boy. Becoming ever more remorseless and vicious as the movie comes to an end. It's a great role for a young male actor, and it helped propel him towards stardom. What's interesting is how many times Gibson has made movies that retells Max's revenge.

By our count, he's made variations on Mad Max five times in the last thirty years: Lethal Weapon 1-4 1987+, Braveheart 1995, Payback 1999, The Patriot 2000, and Edge of Darkness 2009. In each film, Gibson's character loses his wife and/or children and before the credits roll the folks responsible all stare down the business end of his 9mm, broadsword, epee, musket or sawed-off shotgun. Generally, Gibson's characters give single minded a bad name. They disregard personal safety, the criminal code and common sense in pursuit of vengeance. If you wronged one, he's going to keep on coming until one of you is dead, possibly both. It doesn't always seem to matter to the men Gibson plays.

There's also a creepy vein of sadism that runs through these films. In many of them, Gibson's character is made to suffer and sacrifice horribly. In Mad Max, he gets shot in the knee and in Lethal Weapon 2 he's stabbed in the same leg. In Payback, his toes are smashed with a hammer while in Edge of Darkness, he is dosed with a lethal, slow acting poison. And of course in Braveheart, he is publicly castrated, disemboweled and finally quartered by a team or horses. Kind of the trifecta of shitty ways to go out. When viewed alongside the acknowledged sadism and brutality of The Passion of the Christ, does William Wallace point to some sort of martyr or victim complex? Let's be honest, it ain't easy being a Mel Gibson character. We're not saying Gibson has ever been flogged by a professional dominatrix, but we wouldn't drop our whiskey sours if he had. Where there are screams of pain there's usually fire (thank you DJ Mixed Metaphor). And we didn't even include The Bounty, Hamlet, Apocalyto or Ransom.

So which came first the abusive chicken or the tortured egg? Mad Max or the revenge theme? Did Mad Max shape the man, or was the man always drawn to gleefully sadistic tales of revenge? Hard to say if you're name's not Mel Colm-Cille Gerard Gibson, and perhaps it's not enough to reveal anything definitive about the man. But we do respect a trend and as a precaution we wouldn't recommend messing with the guy. How's that been working out for you, Oksana?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tea Bagging America until the Money Shot

Judging by his expression, we'd guess Teabaggee.
When did the porn industry become media trendsetters? Entering Borders on Friday afternoon, the cover of Dana Milbank's Tears of a Clown greeted shoppers on the new release shelf. Glenn Beck's scowling mug graced the cover, but it was the subtitle: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America that really caught the eye. It wasn't the first time we'd seen "tea bagging" or "tea baggers" used as an insulting play on the Tea Party but it was the first time we'd seen it displayed proudly in a bookstore.

The whole tea bag thing all began as an unfortunate sign carried at a Tea Party rally, and quickly morphed into a derogatory Internet punchline. For obvious reasons, we expected it to stay there since the traditional use of "tea bagging" is slang for a sex act wherein a man dips his testicles in and out of a partner's mouth à la steeping a cup of tea. As charming as it sounds, it wasn't something we expected to see make the news. Yet MSNBC and CNN have been making "tea bagging" jokes since at least the beginning of the year. Anderson Cooper said with obvious expertise that, "It's hard to talk when you're tea bagging." Thanks for the tip, Anderson. And Rachel Maddow enhanced her standing as a serious journalist while pondering Ana Marie Cox's question, "Who wouldn't want to tea bag John McCain?" Unsatisfied, Maddow later cemented her claim as heir to Walter Cronkite when she said, "Even Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina is getting in on the hot tea-bagging action." Kids... smutty double entendres on the news are funny because they're trained journalists. If you do it, you're just being childish.

However, Tea Bag does not a trend make. For that we need to return to CNN and Wolf Blitzer:

The reason Cafferty cracked up is that a "money shot" is porn industry slang for the conclusion of a pornographic interlude when the male performer ejaculates onto his partner. Nine to five jobs may not be the most glamorous professions, but at least someone doesn't come on your head to let you know it's quitting time. As Stephen Ziplow writes, "the money shot, is the most important element in the movie and that everything else (if necessary) should be sacrificed at its expense." The term has made a somewhat shady migration to the mainstream to refer to any big moment or major payoff. Still, the original connotation tends to overwhelm the senses, so to speak, and makes for unintentional comedy. Take the CNN commenter who yelled out, "there's the money shot" as a freed Chilean miner was reunited with his wife. That's a little awkward. Sure he was down in that cave for sixty-eight days, but where's the staying power? Don't they have baseball in Chile?

Perhaps the media is trying to find a way to connect with its deteriorating viewership. A lot more people appear to be watching porn than the news (28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography per second) so maybe it's a smart move. Perhaps porn is the new lingua franca - a secret, unacknowledged language for our modern, fragmented world. If that is the case, bravo media for innovating but have the courage of your convictions... don't stop at two. There have got to be loads more inappropriate pornographic terms begging to be adapted for family newspapers. As always, Die In a Fire is happy to help get you started:
  • DP - verb. Two people acting in concert to screw a third. Usage: Michelle O'Donnell teamed up with Chris Coons to DP Mike Castle and the GOP in Delaware.
  • Snowball - verb. To regift, to pass on to a second party. Usage: Tom Delay was convicted this week of illegally snowballing almost $200,000 in cash to Texas GOP candidates.
  • Reach Around - noun. An inadequate gift or compensation. Usage: The State of New York gave the wrongly convicted man a reach around of five million dollars to compensate him for the twenty years he lost in jail.
  • Dirty Sanchez - verb. To rub something in a persons face in a taunting manner. Usage: O.J. Simpson dirty sanchezed Nicole Brown's family while announcing he would not rest until her killer was brought to justice.
Oh, and porn industry, you shouldn't feel cheated. You deserve equal time. So why don't you take the vastly overused mainstream expression "jump the shark" and make it something incredibly dirty and degrading. Mazel Tov!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vote Palin: This isn't the Reality TV Envisioned in the Constitution

Democracy Gives Me WINGS!!!
Last time we checked, the U.S. sponsored four different types of elections: state, county, city or district. That's it. Reality TV? Not a category. So no, voting for Bristol Palin on Dancing with the Stars doesn't qualify as participating in the democratic process, you incredible nincompoops. We're looking at you, Ken Flaa, 54, of Mullica Hill, N.J. who said in an AP article this week, "I first voted for Bristol because of Sarah [...] I have been a fan of Sarah Palin since 2008. I feel her, her family and the Tea Party are most aligned with my thinking about government."

Putting aside the fact that you somehow see Sarah Palin's husband and children as aligning with your thinking about government, what the fuck are you talking about? And why is a fifty-four year old man watching Dancing with the Stars in the first place? Was it a hard choice between that and Gossip Girl, or did you DVR Gossip Girl so you could watch Bristol live while your cocoa was still hot? You do understand that a vote for a teenage girl is not a vote for Sarah Palin? You do understand that, right?

And, and this is a very important and, you do understand that Sarah Palin isn't running for anything? Really critical you lock this down: Sarah Palin quit her elected post to do reality TV on TLC and wander the media spouting stupid shit. What stupid shit? Well, like for instance regarding the recent tension along the Korean border she said, "This speaks to a bigger picture here that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policy. But obviously we’ve gotta stand with our North Korean allies.” We'll let that sink in. Reminds us of the time FDR goofed, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of Australia!" (Whispers off) "What?" (Whispers off) "Oh, erm, my B, ... attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan!" Happens to the best of us.

But Ken Flaa isn't alone in his politization of Bristol Palin. Nay, he's part of an angry block of good, honest American Dancing with the Stars viewers who are sick of the corruption and laissez faire attitude on the show. Like Ken, they see voting for Bristol Palin as the first step to the reform so desperately needed on reality TV. Not like those namby-pamby East Coast Dancing with the Stars fans who are all about sequins and foreign dance styles. For god sake, we're in the middle of a recession and Dancing with the Stars budget is through the roof. Once elected, Bristol Palin will have an adult conversation with the entrenched powers at DWTS about cutting back on sets, on costumes, on guest stars until the budget is balanced. And then she'll keep working until Dancing with the Stars until it is once again the reality show that the founding fathers laid out in the Bill of Rights. You betcha.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanks to Byran Fischer We're all Gonna Die in a Fire

What's the broad doin' on my medal?
For twenty-four terrifying hours, fire departments across the country were rocked by the mass resignation of firefighters. Firehouses, dangerously understaffed, were unable to respond to alarms and  fires raged out of control. The cause of the walkout was Byran Fischer, "Director of Issue Analysis" at the American Family Association. Usually, Fischer gets his scripture in a twist over stuff like Ten Commandment monuments and which department stores are dishonoring Christmas, but last week his issue du jour was how America had "feminized the Medal of Honor."

At first, we assumed that meant Congress had begun accessorizing its highest military honor with a sassy blouse, a micro-mini from Forever 21 and oversized Dior sunglasses. We agreed that while fabulous that hardly seemed appropriate for the somber tone usually associated with that type of thing. However, we're assured that Fischer's actual grievance is with the type of valor displayed by recipients. Specifically Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta who "went into the open to pull one comrade to safety and then fought to free a dying pal who was being dragged away by Taliban fighters."

All well and good, according to Fischer but a bit femmy for the CMOH. Couldn't Giunta have killed a few more guys in the process? You know, liven things up a bit? Fischer just wants soldiers to do more killing and less valiantly saving each others lives, which is frankly a little gay. Thusly (getting into the whole Biblical thang) Fischer argued compellingly in his blog that saving lives is feminine while "killing people and breaking things so our families can sleep safely at night" is a virile, manly pursuit. Hence the walkout by firefighters who were sickened to discover that they were not heroic studs after all but actually girly lifesaving tarts.

Fortunately, the crisis was averted suddenly when the firemen realized that many of them actually liked women, had been raised by women and more than a few were currently raising children with women. And when they thought about it there were quite a few things about women that they quite liked and admired. So if saving lives was feminine then so were they thank you very much Byran Fischer. They further agreed that Byran Fischer was a dick and that if his house catches on fire then he can put on a dress and put it out himself.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roy Sekoff: A Face Made for the Internet

 Yoohoo, Christopher Nolan...

Seriously, who let this walking Batman villain on television? We're sure the Joker needs a day job too, but cable television pundit? Sorry but this guy creeps us out. Trying hard to imagine any scenario where his grinning melon wouldn't make the hairs on our necks go all upward facing dog. If your car broke down, and this guy got out of the tow truck, you're honestly saying you wouldn't let a little go? Or if this guy was your barista at Starbucks, and he handed you a seasonal Gingerbread Latte while smiling that smile would you drink it? Or would you give it to the homeless guy out front? That's what we thought.

Look, he's just a freaky looking motherfucker, and should stay off TV. It's that simple. Yeah, he's a very accomplished fellow and founded Huffington Post, but based on that photo we're more interested in what he's been huffing lately. Can chardonnay be inhaled? It's those eyes... those crazy, crazy eyes that follow you everywhere. What could MSNBC possibly want to interview him about? Shorting fava bean futures? His new line of Halloween masks? The art of stepping out of the shadows slowly?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Roger Ailes: Nazi Hunter

NPR Nazis, I hate these guys.
Apparently, Simon Wiesenthal and the Jewish Document Center had it wrong. For years, the prevailing theory was that Nazis either adopted new identities in the chaotic aftermath of WWII or else fled to safe havens in South America where they adopted creepy English accents and tortured American method actors. That's where Nazi Hunters devoted their energy as they spent the latter half of the twentieth century trailing these fugitives and building cases against them. But both the hunters and the hunted have gotten older, and most of assumed (falsely) that sixty years after the war that any Nazis that evaded detection must be at death's door.

Thankfully, Roger Ailes, Fox News Chairman is on the case. Don't let the jowls and double chin fool you, Roger is a Nazi Hunter of the first order. Among Nazis, he's refered to only in hushed tones as Der Türkei. Stories of his exploits are used to scare small Nazi children in their beds. In an exclusive interview with Howard Kurtz, Ailes revealed that he has uncovered a sinister enclave of Nazis living and working right here in America. Unwilling to merely survive undetected, these Nazis have, in a bold display of hubris, revealed their "Nazi Attitude," and formed a powerful cabal within National Public Radio. Undoubtedly their sinister plot is to spread the tenets of National Socialism while keeping an eye out for the Ark of the Covenant.

Many questions remain: How did so many Nazis get into the U.S. undetected? How did so many of them get jobs in radio? How does NPR figure into their plot to resume Hitler's diabolical final solution? No doubt, Ailes will be forthcoming with details in the coming days. But in the meantime, even a cursory review of NPR's programs makes one wonder how only Ailes saw through NPR:
  • All Things Considered, Mein Fuhrer
  • The Diane Von Rehm Show
  • Aufzugskabine Talk
  • Talk of the Aryan Nation
  • On Point, Ya Schnell!!!!
We's just so clear now. Thank you, Roger Ailes. We don't know how you developed your acute Naz-dar; perhaps through years of intimate study? Well, it doesn't really matter because we'll all sleep a little sounder knowing that you're vigilantly hunting down the remnants of the most evil political movement in the history of mankind. After all, if they've gained control of public radio what other media outlets could they have their hooks into? Which indeed...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bill Clinton Wants to Give You a Hangover

Call Me, Judd Apatow... Ringy Dingy.
So you're Bill Clinton (we'll give you a second to get into character). Are you feeling randy and neglected? Okay, here's the state of the union: you've been out of office for over a decade. There's just not a lot going on. You saved those girls from North Korea, and that was pretty boss. It's only a matter of time until the Democrats ask you to save the party from that lame Obama, but in the meantime what's a dude to do? The Fam is no help. Hillary is off doing her hoitytoity Secretary of State thing. And natch, Chelsea is a newlywed with no time for her old man. No one asks about your boxers or briefs anymore. Arsenio Hall got canceled, and stupid Conan O'Brien won't let you play sax on his new show even though it would be super sweet. Even Monica's people won't return your people's calls. It's been simply ages since you've gotten jiggy with it.

What's needed is a game changer. Something no ex-president has ever done. Something to put you back on the map, and reestablish your bad boy cred. But what? Its got to be cool but incredibly un-presidential. Maybe try acting? Actors have become presidents, but no president has ever become an actor. It's just not what ex-presidents do. But no president ever misused a cigar before you either. You're Bill Fucking Clinton, and if you want to be in a movie then you'll be in a G.D. movie. And forget classy. None of that prestige picture crap those Weinstein boys produce. What you're thinking about is The Hangover 2. You loved the first movie. Four drunken degenerates lost in Las Vegas with a hooker, her baby and Mike Tyson. Totally been there. Classic Bill. Fuck if the 90s didn't rule all. Plus it's filming in Thailand. What could go wrong? You know they got themselves an island called Phuket? Nothing says dignity of the Office of the President like a cameo in a raunchy sex comedy.

And now, in honor of this historic moment, a very silly list of presidential sequels:

John F. Kennedy in...         In The Line of Fire 2: This Time It's Personal         
Calvin Coolidge...              Born on the Forth of July 2                 
Abraham Lincoln in...        Tyler Perry's Gettysburg Address
Thomas Jefferson in...       Jungle Fever 2: Hot Monticello Nights
Richard Nixon in...            The Jerk 2
Lyndon B. Johnson in...    Platoon 2: Westmoreland's Revenge
Dwight Eisenhower in...   Caddyshack 3: The 19th Hole 
Barack Obama in...           Guess Who's Coming to the State Dinner
Ulysses S. Grant in...         Saw 7: Grant's Tomb
Theodore Roosevelt in...   The Fast and the Furious: Rough Riders
George H. W. Bush in...    Bedtime for Bonzo 2
George W. Bush in...         Dr. Strangelove 2: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and 
                                           Love Manufacturing Evidence as a Pretext for War

Can anyone add to slash improve on this list?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Call of Duty: N-Word Ops

Birth of an Online Nation
We don't know if Microsoft offers groupons to neo-nazis or if violent video games just attract backwards ass clowns, but yesterday was undoubtedly the beginning of their online mardi gras. Albeit a mardi gras with really, really offensive papier mâché floats. Why? Because yesterday marked the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops - a Fat Tuesday of sorts for the virulent, racist doucebags that fritter away their lives playing games on XBox Live.

Perhaps calling it "Black Ops" was Infinity Ward's subtle nod to their racist fan base, because that fan base responded by buying north of five million copies of their new shooter on Tuesday (at sixty bucks a pop so you do the math). By midnight rednecks everywhere were gleefully killing each other and speculating which players sound like Mexicans (bad), which players sound like niggers (worse), and which players sound like faggots (worst). If you do log on be prepared for the following standard question: "Are you a faggot? You sound like a faggot." There's a pretty rigidly established ziggurat of hatred on Xbox Live, and they care enough to degrade you accurately. It's not a new phenomenon; it's been going on for years: new violent shooter comes out, and Xbox Live headsets once again ring with racist and homophobic slurs.

Fortunately, companies like Infinity Ward and Xbox Live hide behind the following legalese: Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB. Which basically translates as: we don't care if the hillbilly's from Deliverance playing online are racist fucks, they have broadband connections and pay the subscription fee. So consider yourself warned ye of faint heart. Theoretically, Xbox Live offers a system for reporting abusive behavior but since they never follow up and there's any diminution in the quantity of racist chatter it feels useless to file complaints. So either you quit playing, or feel like you need a chemical shower for being silently complicit in a cyber Klan rally.

So if you feel at all optimistic about race relations, gender politics or gay rights then an hour online will set you straight. It's a good time. There's nothing like a twelve year old spewing racist insults in a thick Kentucky drawl while looming over your digital corpse to make you want to put your head in an oven.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Highway Safety and The Apocalypse

HOV - The Living.
So it's a beautiful shot - lone survivor entering the city of Atlanta on horseback. The charred remains of cars in the traffic jam from hell: the failed exodus from a zombie apocalypse. It just oozes tragic ennui. The director, Frank Darabont, must have wet himself composing this sequence since it became one of the teaser posters for the series. But it's the worst thing about the first episode and mars what is otherwise a meticulously researched show that owes its lineage to the Max Brooks' school of zombies. Why strive for realism, Frank, if you're going to throw it away on one cheap Independence Day style shot?

Here in Washington DC, we have a little thing we like to call rush hour. Perhaps you have it in your city too. It happens twice a day, and can last upwards of five hours both morning and night. It's a soul crushing experience where otherwise reasonable people - the type that religiously change the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors - will accelerate wildly to eighty-eight miles an hour, change two lanes without a blinker and slam on the breaks just to gain three car lengths. And they'll do all this on a cellphone with their precious six month old in the backseat. It's a lawless, near anarchic time of day.

Yet Frank Darabont wants us to believe that should traffic backup during the zombie apocalypse, people would patiently wait their turn to merge while the five inbound lanes sit pristine and unused. That people who will drive in the emergency lane to get home for Dancing With The Stars wouldn't drive on the wrong side of the highway to avoid zombies eating their brains? Give us a fucking break.  Apparently Hollywood hasn't learned anything since Independence Day. Remember the scene where Jeff Goldblum sped from New York to DC while refuges stuck in traffic waited to be turned into crispy Pop Tarts. Is that how Hollywood thinks Americans go out? Stuck in traffic? Forget that shit. Sayonara suckers, see you in hell. We'd be doing eighty-eight on the wrong side of the highway without a moments hesitation. We're happy to take the points on our license, but you'll have to mail us the ticket 'cause we ain't stopping. And we wouldn't be alone. Sorry if that fucks up your shot, Frank Darabont, here's a number you can call to complain:

How's my Driving? 1-800-Die-In-a-Zombie-Apocalypse!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sharron Angle Retires from the Tea Party

I'm Lost, How Do I Get to Main Street From Here?
 Well Sharron Angle lost, and in her concession speech she said the following:
"They may call us the Tea Party, but we know we're Main Street America."
"They" may call us the Tea Party? Who may? Sharon, the Tea Party dubbed itself the Tea Party. It's not a pejorative being slung at you by your enemies. It's the name the Tea Party chose so it's a little late to start acting like it's some insulting term that "they" hung around your neck. Or is it...

Tea Party activists take note. You just got thrown under the bus. Your candidates rode your anger as far as they could, but once they realize it got them attention but not actual votes they will jettison you faster than Stephen Slater deplanes. Brace yourselves for an epic rebranding. Here's how it will work:

First the candidates that lost are going to distance themselves from being identified as Tea Partiers. Perhaps suggesting, as Sharron Angle is, that "Tea Party" is a term invented by the "lame stream media" to tar them with. You may even hear them call themselves "Main Streeters" or something that connotes "middle." Then they'll try to straddle demographics. They'll try to appeal to the Republican base while trying to convince you that they are still your best option even as they become less radicalized. In turn, you will become more frustrated and alienated as you feel your candidates sell you out. Individually and collectively, you will become disillusioned about your disillusionment, lose steam and splinter into even more radicalized sub-groups (see: Democratic Party and their 10,000 ineffective special interests).

About that time the economy will improve, not because the government fixed it but because that's what economy's eventually do all on their lonesome. The economy improves, jobs reappear, and the whole impetus for the Tea Party goes away. At least until the next time there is a recession when Americans will rediscover that their government is broken. And they'll be super angry about it too... until it improves again. You think the government wasn't any less broken from 1994-2008? Sure it was, but we had a nice healthy .COM boom with which to finance our Suburbans. We only care when it interferes with the number of times a week we can eat at Applebees. It's just a cycle... rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

But in the meantime, would you mind not calling Sharon Angle a Tea Partier? She can't for the life of her imagine why anyone would call her that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vince Vaughn: The New Super-Sized Tom Hanks?

Before: On the Hunt.
After: Snoozing in a Tree Digesting a Billy Goat.

We're not the first ones to point it out, but just saw the trailer for Vince Vaughn's new flick The Dilemma, and shit is out of control. The movie looks godawful, but after Couples Retreat it's still a step up because the premise limits the scenes of Vaughn in a swimsuit. Other than that it's unclear why Vaughn would sign up for Ron Howard's follow up to last year's uber-awesome Angels and Demons. Maybe he's hoping to be the new Tom Hanks, and hitch his chuck wagon to Ron Howard who must be running out of Dan Brown novels to bore us with.

Afterall, Tom Hanks is the gold standard for getting work when you're overweight and balding. Take Saving Private Ryan: everyone but Tom Hanks looks appropriately gaunt and haggard like maybe there's a war on. Apparently Tom Hanks' character found the only Denny's in the European Theater and had been rocking the Grand Slam breakfast four times a day since Pearl Harbor. Vince Vaughn loves Saving Private Ryan. Guaranteed, he gets all misty-eyed watching Tom Hanks waddle up the beach at Normandy. Downright inspired, and Vince is probably thinking, "hey, I can waddle every bit as good as Tom Hanks who ain't getting any younger." Ron Howard is just the first, labored step.

Which brings us to the question, what the fuck happened to Vince Vaughn? Cause thinking back on him in Swingers, it's clear to see that he's accumulated some mileage on those tires. Vaughn is forty now; Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. are each five years older than him and have Mexican drug cartels named in their honor yet Vaughn still looks like warm ass by comparison. How is that possible? He's become a celebrity turducken except instead of a duck someone deboned Jon Favereau and jammed him up Vaughn's ass before the deep fat frying. He's just all swolled up... did he lose a bet and have to dry hump a hornet's nest?

Needlessly cruel? Perhaps, but we're not questioning his right to let himself go to hell. This is America, where we are free to eat, drink and wallow in our diminished quality of life. All we're questioning is why we have to watch it on screen. Shouldn't Vaughn be relegated to Lifetime movies by now with the occasional moving comeback appearance on Oprah thrown in every three years? Name one actress that would be allowed to gorge themselves until their jawline vanished like the polar ice cap and still land leading roles. Cause it sure ain't Kirstie Alley playing Vince's love interest, no, it's skinny Jennifer Connelly who is smaller than Michael Cera's range. She weighs less than the Lost Box Set - missionary position with Vaughn would be a death sentence. She would simply fossilize under the enormous, geothermal pressure.

We're not saying there's not a place for fat white guys in movies, there is, it just isn't on top of Jennifer Connelly. What is the deal with forcing us to watch women with gym memberships mate with the Dunkin' Donuts guy? We would have bought Connelly and Vaughn fifteen years ago, but now it just looks like a celluloid mercy fuck gone wrong. And Kevin James, also in The Proposal, somehow landed Winona Ryder as his love interest. Kevin James outweighs Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder combined. It strains credulity, and we're sick of the myth that charming and funny cancels out porcine and rotund.

Look, all we're saying is it ought to be a warning sign when you're cast in a movie with Kevin James and "the fat one" doesn't clear anything up. Will Smith didn't have that problem in Hitch, trust us. So either pull your shit together Vaughn, or else lobby for Kathy Bates as your love interest.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Celebrity Onset Medication Alergy Syndrome (COMAS) - The Noisy Killer

The Face of an Epidemic
Despite all the fundraising to raise awareness and combat disease. All the millions poured into cancer research, diabetes and autism. Why is it that COMAS continues to get so little attention in the mainstream media? Have we become so callous that we overlook this scourge because it only effects a tiny minority? Perhaps they are a minority but this catastrophic epidemic is shattering the lives of celebrities on a daily basis. Can we really standby doing nothing while dozens suffer? Tuesday was our wake up call.

Tuesday morning as details began to surface about Charlie Sheen's tragic brush with disaster, we couldn't help but shudder at the thought of what might have been. Apparently, around 1am, Charlie Sheen was subdued by police in New York at his thousand dollar a night Plaza Hotel suite. He was, in no particular order: drunk, ranting, buck naked, and busily destroying his hotel suite like a roadie for Zeppelin. Did we forget anything? Oh right, there was a woman locked in his closet. The woman was naked. The woman was also described by the police as a "semi-pro." Now thank god, his wife and children were staying in another room at the hotel, but what a close call! What if they'd been locked in the closet with the naked semi-pro too? Think on that as you pin your breast cancer awareness ribbon to your smug little lapel.

Sheen's spokesperson, shortly before boarding a flight to Hell, told reporters that his client was hospitalized after suffering "an adverse allergic reaction to some medication." Of course, it all made sense. COMAS strikes again. The scourge fo the jet set. The obvious question is why are so many celebrities violently allergic to medication? We never hear about Chuck Shean the accountant from Cleveland going berserk at the Holiday Inn outside Toledo. We never hear about Walt, the beloved president of the Elks Lodge, renting a room at a Motel Six, stripping naked, slathering his belly with peanut butter and putting his head through a television. No, it's always a celebrity. But why?

What makes celebrities so uncommonly allergic to prescription medication? We need to think like House. What is the common vector? One doesn't see outbreaks in closed populaces without some common factor at play. Is it genetic? No, some celebrities may be inbred but not with each other. Environmental? Some weird bacteria in the $55 Bling H2O bottled water. Or viral? No, then carpenters and makeup artists who come in contact with celebrities would have similar allergic reactions. It's too complex a question. We need a team working around the clock. We need a dedicated lobby in Washington. We need a cure now! How many more blackeyes must Kim Kardasian suffer at the altar of Botox? Brittany Murphy, Michael Jackson, Heath many more?!

That is why, as a first step, Die in a Fire declares March 17th, 2011 COMAS Awareness Day. We will be hosting the first COMAS 10K Stumble for the Cure. Runners will be required to washdown a fistful of Ativan with a bottle of chardonay before the race. That way we can say we've all wobbled ten kilometers in Charlie Sheen's shoes. We've already chosen a tasteful off-vomit color for our lapel ribons and livestrong bracelets so come on America! Together we can stagger for a brighter day for all celebrities.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fancypants Chefs Can Die in a Fire

Sorry, I ordered a Burger.
Chefs, what is with the damn ramekins of ketchup? Has Top Chef got you pining to be taken seriously as an artist? Got you wanting to stretch your cheffy legs, and whip up gastronomical miracles? Great. Good for you. But cold shower moment: if you offer burgers on your menu then you're not that fancy. Stop lying to yourselves. Ground beef on a bun is the international symbol for low rent. Dressing them up a little and serving condiments in little metallic spittoons isn't fooling anyone into thinking they're dining at Le Cirque. It just reminds us what pretentious jerks are running the restaurant. Also ordering a cheeseburger and fries is a good indication that we're not looking to be wowed. Nothing wrong with being wowed. Enjoy being wowed, but there's a time and a place for it. Sometimes a simple cheeseburger and fries is all a feller is looking for. So bring us the bottle and leave us in peace. Spare your waitstaff the ignominy of making three trips until we've built a ketchup fortress of solitude around our plate.

And stop trying to "improve" standards. You know exactly what we're talking about. If you're looking to create a signature dish then do it on your own time. Keep your hands off our Eggs Benedict. Sunday brunch is no the time to be fucking with a man's expectations. Sunday brunch doesn't need your "interpretation." And what is with the faux-Jazz terms anyway? You're a cook not Thelonious Monk. You're a recession away from working at Sizzler. If we're out to brunch, and order Eggs Benedict then there had best be two poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, Canadian bacon and an English muffin on our plate. No brioche. No red peppers. No crab meat. No creative flourishes. Nothing, nada. If you want to improve it then call it something else. Call it Eggs "Insert Name of Chef Here". That way we know to avoid it.

We give things names for a reason, Chefs. That way, when you ask a carpenter to install a new "door" at your restaurant, you don't come back five hours later to find a nice bay window instead and a carpenter who felt inspired! It just leads to anarchy. So the next time someone orders a Club Sandwich, think twice before you serve them a lobster fennel salad instead. Maybe, just maybe, they used the words Club Sandwich for a reason.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Glass House Award: Meghan McCain

Hi, I'm Meghan. Have You Met My Resume?
Breaking news: McCain is scared of Christine O'Donnell's candidacy. It made The Washington Post on Monday. Apparently, McCain was on ABC's This Week and the subject of O'Donnell came up. He said that O'Donnell was a "nutjob" and that her candidacy scares him because O'Donnell "has no real history, no real success in any kind of business." A Republican Senator taking shots at a Republican candidate? Wow, no wonder The Post ran it on A4. That is serious news.

Sorry, what? Meghan McCain was on This Week and said that about O'Donnell? Are you fucking with us? Really? The twenty-six year old tartlet of John McCain doesn't think that O'Donnell has a legitimate place in politics because she is inexperienced? Have we got that about right? That it's just so scary to Ms. McCain that someone with so little experience is being catapulted into the national spotlight. We get that. Would you feel better, Megs, if she first wrote a blog about her famous Daddy? Would that qualify as enough "history" to deserve a voice on the national stage? Perhaps if she spun it out to book length and gave it some coy, hipsterish title like Dirty Sexy Politics? Could she run for public office then?

For Meghan McCain to say that with a straight face, without a hint of irony or self-awareness... well that's just next gen hypocrisy. But this is what we've come to... the Paris Hilton of politics vetting the curriculum vitae of Senate candidates on national TV. Exactly when did This Week hire the casting director from Entertainment Tonight? Maybe the show could book Miley Cyrus to offer her thoughts on the Pakistan insurgency. Or go all out and schedule an entire week of political insights from children of successful people. And Washington Post, no more burying these important news stories on A4. We're weeks away from a pivotal mid-term election so the next time Meghan McCain has a thought - front page all the way. Above the fold where it belongs. After that you can get back to contemplating why Howard Kurtz jumped ship for The Daily Beast.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stop the Ground Zero Brooks Brothers!!!

The American Flags are a Nice Touch.
Paying a visit to Ground Zero this past weekend, we came upon a horrifying sight. A sight that made our blood run cold. Steady yourselves. There is a Brooks Brothers at Ground Zero. 1 Liberty Plaza to be exact. It's not in development. It's not a proposal on the table. We're talking an open for business Brooks Brothers plying it's foul trade openly and without shame. That there wasn't a boisterous protest being staged leads us to the reasonable conclusion that Brooks Brothers is part of some vast conspiracy. First they bomb us, then they sell us Luxury All-Cotton Non-Iron Regular Fit Royal Oxford Dress Shirts.

It's as if they think we've forgotten 9/11. Nine years ago, nineteen heterosexual men hijacked four airplanes with the firm intent of waging war on the United States. They attacked having been promised a whole passel of virgins in the afterlife. Virgins, Virgins, Virgins. This craven and horrific act, committed in pursuit of the heterosexual agenda, remains an open wound in our national psyche. And now, they think we're going to sit idly by while heterosexual men shop openly at a Brooks Brothers on Liberty Plaza? Not in our America, buddy. No men's fashion at Ground Zero! It is an outrage! Nay, a desecration! But it doesn't end there. That move to convert a Burlington Coat Factory into a mosque? Just a cover-up. We've obtained secret documents that paint a very different picture. There was never going to be any mosque. The mosque is just a ruse to distract us from the Burlington Coat Factory selling reasonably priced men's overcoats so close to Ground Zero.

Look, we're not saying all men attacked us on September 11th, but we didn't hear Brooks Brothers or Abercrombie and Fitch condemn the attacks either. That tacit approval gave well appointed comfort to straight guys everywhere and therefore makes them guilty by association in our book. It's time for Brooks Brothers and all the other purveyors of fine men's fashions to voluntarily shut up shop and withdraw to a more respectful distance. Take your tainted business and move straight uptown. Saks and Barney's are in Midtown. What's wrong with Midtown? Do the right thing, Brooks Brothers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Virus Theory of the November Elections

Vote O'Donnell! (Yeah, we said it)
Folks, there's a lot of batshit crazy loose in the territories. Well, to be honest it's always there, lurking under the surface, but the nation's immune system is more compromised than Mexico's police force. Its weakened condition is due to a rare confluence of events: bad economy, shifting demographics, ten years of war, hot button social issues and a political system incentivized to fail. As a result, America's ability to fight off political extremism is limited. That's right, political flu season has arrived America.

The initial symptoms were well documented: rage, rabid political extremism, loss of higher cognitive function, and a severe allergic reaction to logic, facts or common sense. It was also confined to certain population segments, which led to a certain complacency and the assumption that the whole thing would burn itself out. But during the primaries we began to see a new symptom: the tendency to vote for whomever was promising the most outlandish solutions to a problem. It was as if someone rounded up homeless paranoid schizophrenics, cleaned them up and encouraged them to rant into a microphone. What once made people give someone a wide birth on a city sidewalk was suddenly getting them nominated for the Senate. A sure sign of a of a full blown, political pandemic.

The general consensus seems to be that should any of the infected get elected to the House or Senate that it would be a disaster. We disagree. It would be a disaster if they all got elected, but it would also be a disaster if none were. Allow us to elaborate.

Crazy ideas are like viruses; they're extremely contagious and tend to spread out of control. Particularly when times are hard as previously discussed. Like any body, the United States needs time to develop antibodies but in the meantime we're looking at serious collateral damage. Right now, Christine O'Donnell and her ilk, in the abstract, sounds good to a lot of people who have been exposed. The candidates have staked out crazy positions, labeled their scapegoats and proposed hardline solutions that will punish the un-American among us. It's appealing on some level to unleash O'Donnell or Sharron Angle on the Senate because no one that voted for her stopped to imagine them on the Senate Appropriations or Foreign Relations Committees. Stop now, and imagine it. We'll include a soothing visual to help calm you down after:

Focus on the duckies... so cute.
We're sorry we had to do that, but don't you feel your immune system is a little bit stronger now? Majority Whip Sharron Angle! Dirty pool, but can't you feel those white blood cells multiply? It's tough love, but it's the only way. That's why we're rooting for Christine O'Donnell in November. Rooting big. We won't start to feel safe until we see Senator O'Donnell crack one of her big, loony smiles on the Senate floor. It's not that we're admirers of O'Donnell. Her pro-witch, anti-masturbation stance conflicts with our pleasuring ourselves in ruby slippers fetish. But it's no longer realistic to just let this thing run its course. Pro-active, CDC style measures need to be implemented. We need a vaccine.

What is a flu vaccine? It's where you take a small, relatively harmless strand of the virus and inject it into the healthy body. The body's immune system reacts by developing antibodies so that when the real thing comes along the body is already mobilized. Christine O'Donnell is our vaccine. We don't want all the crazies elected, but we do want one.

On her own, Christine O'Donnell will be harmless, embarrassing and will remind people what happens when you elect contentious incompetents to high office. Her lunacy, and ineffectual dimwittedness will be center stage and as people react with horror to having elected her, the government and nation will develop antibodies. Now, we know that having her roaming the corridors of power is an unappatizing thought. And yes there's the possibility of her doing a little damage, but on her own it will be limited and she will make the thought of anymore of her brethren getting in patently absurd, but it's either inject a little now or risk coming down with the plague later.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Extreme Makeover: High Fructose Corn Syrup Edition

Don't Call Me Syrup, Baby...
Aging celebrity bad boy, High Fructose Corn Syrup is in the market for a makeover. Only a few years ago, his appeal was nearly ubiquitous and like a caloric Jude Law it was tough to go anywhere without seeing High Fructose Corn Syrup's name. His fan base was huge and ravenous for any taste. And his influence on their fashion, style and pants size was impossible to miss.

But High Fructose ran upon hard times. He was still in the game, but his status as an A-Lister was in jeopardy with the Starbucks set. High Fructose could see the writing on the wall when he was dropped from some of his most enduring franchises. Bye-Bye Gatorade. Bye-Bye Ocean Spray. Bye-Bye Wheat Thins. Things were getting serious, and it was time to take action. But, what to do? What to do?

Normal people might do a little soul searching. Take personal responsibility for the toxic behavior that turned people off. Maybe do some image rehabilitation - a little charity work, a little giving back. Or... you could follow the time honored tradition of troubled celebrities and point fingers, offer a tepid apology and return defiantly to wallowing in your dysfunction (see also: Lindsey Lohan, Charlie Sheen, Corey Haim). Obviously, high Fructose went with Plan B.

It's not High Fructose's fault. It's yours. Cue the folksy ad spots. But that's not enough. People are mocking your ads on Youtube. You need to think really outside the box. We refuse to change, so what can we change? How about the name? It's not that High Fructose Corn Syrup is bad for people, it's that people associate High Fructose Corn Syrup with bad things. Aren't Americans needlessly judgmental, bigoted jerks; it's not that they actually care about their children's health. And all this talk, well, it's akin to hate speech to call it High Fructose Corn Syrup. The only solution is to change the name.

So the only question is what to rename yourself. It's got to be something with pizazz. Something that says good health and long life. Something that says, America we will not make you morbidly obese or give your kids diabetes." Like Super Corn Energizing Sauce. Rejuvenating Corn Elixir would work too. Corgasm? Too obvious? Fine, but let's not rush into anything. Wait, Corn Sugar? You want to go with Corn Sugar?  Well, okay... That doesn't really sound good for you. We like corn, but sugar? Well we have heard that "natural" sugar is more healthful than processed sugar, and corn is natural, right? At least it's not High Fructose Corn Syrup. That stuff'll kill you, and it's a relief to be free of it. Maybe we'll celebrate with a large, corn sugar infused Coke at the movies. We want to see the new one staring that girl, Linda Motan. You know the one we mean, she looks a lot like Lindsey Lohan but without the messed up personal life. We're stupid.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tom Brokaw Gives The Greatest Generation an STD

Wasn't Guatemala One of the Beaches at Normandy?
Greatest Generation just rolled off the tongue, didn't it Tom? You just had to go and play myth-maker, and make preposterously hyperbolic statements like, "the Greatest Generation that any society has ever produced" who "fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do." Unlike the thirty million men who died in WWI for the chance to be Europe's Next Top Model? But seriously, why couldn't you treat them like real people instead of a Madison Avenue slogan? People who lived in a contentious, complex era whose motivations were equally complex. Some were great, some were good, and some purposefully infected Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea in the 1940s. Whoa, wait, what was that last thing? Now we have questions. That doesn't sound all Greatest Generation-y, Tom. That sounds more like the experiments Mengele was running at Auschwitz.

Do the revelations of what was done in Guatemala define that generation, or mean they were Nazi-esque? No, of course not. We're not that cavalier. It doesn't define them anymore than Tuskegee, Guadalcanal, Omaha Beach or Jim Crow define them. No one thing defines a generation, and no three word definition describes millions of people. That's the problem with constructing overly simplistic narratives and trying to shoehorn an entire generation into it. How would you like if someone concocted an overly simplistic, three word definition for your profession like "the lamestream media"? How you're all biased, East Coast, liberal elitists and then interpret your every action through that prism? Yeah...

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Lingerie Football League and Other Stuff We Wish We Were Making Up

Fourth and 99 for the Suffragettes
Despite sounding like a Paul Verhoeven sci-fi epic, The Lingerie Football League is not an ironic nod to our dystopian future but an actual, practicing "sports" league.The brainchild of Mitch Mortaza begins its second season this week with the motto: "True Fantasy Football" (we wish we were making that up). The season will begin on a somber, ceremonial note as a copy of Title 9 is shot out of a cannon. Mötley Crüe will sing Girls, Girls, Girls in lieu of the National Anthem while players duct tape Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm to a goal post and force them to watch the game a la Alex in A Clockwork Orange. With team names like the Los Angeles Temptation and the San Diego Seduction, what could go wrong? Grab your kids for a family outing that little Susie won't soon forget.

Chris Rock once joked that, "they don't grade fathers. But if your daughter winds up a stripper, you fucked up." Well, we don't have daughters, but if we did somehow we'd rather they wound up at a strip club than playing football in their underwear. At least stripping is honest... seedy and sad, but honest. If you're at a strip club, whether as employee or customer, there's no pretending why. No, you're not a dancer and no, you're not a patron of the arts. Stop lying to yourselves. We don't like this trend of Hooter-izing innocuous activities. No, you're not at Hooters for the wings. And no, you're not at a football game, you're watching grown women run around in their underwear. We can't believe we're saying this, but...have some moral integrity and go to a strip club.

At least Mike Wise will be happy...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Does Hollywood Pay Osama Bin Laden Residuals?

Gimme five points on the back end, Infidel!
If there isn't a P.O. Box in Kandahar stuffed with uncashed checks then Osama should seriously think of switching agencies. CAA would make certain that the self-styled "Cecile B. DeMille of Tora Bora" was getting a taste. He is after all the creative visionary behind much of the last decade. Bruckheimer? Abrams? A couple of hacks that have been riding Osama's coattails all the way to the bank. Seen it a million times in Hollywood: one guy comes up with a fresh take and then the imitators get rich packaging and repackaging the idea until it's a stale cliche. That's how we felt watching the premier of The Event last week - just another riff on the Bin Laden zeitgeist.

Film has long served as the coal mine canary for American paranoia and fear. Not because it is some sensitive touchstone that reflects the culture back to itself. No, it's mostly because capitalizing on people's fear is an easy buck, and Hollywood doesn't like to think that hard. In the 1950s, during the dawn of the Space and Atomic Age, audiences were either bombarded by gruesome things falling from the sky (The Thing, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Blob) or else menaced by a revolving carousel of giant irradiated monsters (Them, Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla). Out went supernatural and in came super-science as the source of all that scared the bejusus out of Americans. The plots remained essentially unchanged, but Hollywood gave the bogeyman's back story a ripped-from-the-headlines makeover.

The Sixties saw horror make a nascent shift from rubber-suited monsters to people themselves as monsters. Evil children were a major motif: Village of the Damned, Rosemary's Baby, Psycho. Psycho wasn't about a child, but it was a nasty little postcard from Hitchcock on the danger of being a bad mother - raise 'em right or they'll embalm you, dress in your Sunday best and kill Janet Leigh in a shower. Sorry Boomers, but you basically scared the shit out of everybody. Imagine if you will... a small, peaceful farming community until a half million unwashed, shambling creatures descended on it. Are we describing Night of the Living Dead or Woodstock?

By the late Sixties/early Seventies things were finally turning good and bloody courtesy of Vietnam. Apparently, if you televise combat footage at dinnertime for ten straight years the country may come out hungry for entrails. Lesson learned, and lesson exploited. Formally bloodless genres like the western and the gangster flick got painted red in The Wild Bunch and Bonnie and Clyde. Sonny Corleone kissed his clean, quick death goodbye in favor of being swiss-cheesed at a toll booth. While over in horror, guys such as combat photographer Tom Savini were treating us to gore-fests like Dawn of the Dead, highlighted by his famed zombie head-shot montage. Youth also made a comeback in the late 70s, but less as the monsters and more as the catch of the day. Responding to the sexual permissiveness of the decade, Hollywood took Savini's technical innovations and combined it with Little Red Ridding Hood to give birth to the slasher. The medieval version, mind you, where Little Red wanders of the "path" and gets eaten by the "wolf" for being a "slut." Countless teenagers were sacrificed on the altar of Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers and their merry band of crazies to teach America that in the era of AIDS that Sex = Death.

Frankly, the 90s saw horror enter a bit of a wasteland. The Cold War was over, the economy began to hum and American life enjoyed a short, uncontentious period that left Hollywood unsure how to proceed. The best they could muster were prestige projects like The Silence of the Lambs, self-referential irony like Scream or else gimmicky snot-fests like Blair Witch. Articles speculated that horror might be dead as a genre, and there wasn't much on the horizon to indicate otherwise. But deep in the bowels of Tora Bora, a plucky polygamist named Osama Bin Laden was cooking up a fresh batch of holy shit! And on September 11th, Bin Laden reminded Americans how much they need to be scared to death. The brilliant PR firm of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove hyped the hell out of the project, and Hollywood has been recycling his script ever since.

Well it's been a good run fellas, but it's getting old and we're ready for something new. Torture Porn? Been there. Cities CGI'd out of existence? Seen that. Biological agents? Yawn. We'd argue that The Human Centipede, 2012 and 28 Weeks Later effectively signaled the exhaustion of those three topics. But the single most overused device in Hollywood's arsenal is hi-jinks on a plane. Please knock it off. It was fine for a while but enough, find something else. No more passengers getting sucked off a disintegrating planes. No more cockpit takeovers. No more snakes or vanishing children. And find another way to kick off a sci-fi series on television. It was cool when LOST started with a plane crash, but then Abrams went back to the well for the premiere of Fringe and a mysterious planeload of dead passengers. The final straw came on Monday when NBC debuted it's new we-want to be LOST show The Event, and the whole thing comes full circle. The episode was about a group of "detainees" at a secret facility and a plane being used as a missile. Hmm. Even the passengers didn't seem all that alarmed...a little shrieking and that was it. Like maybe they'd seen it all somewhere before... scary.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Columbine of Inappropriate Metaphors

Which is Tower Two?
In her recent article, "My September 11th in New York" Ines Sainz discussed her fractious visit to the New York Jets locker room, and how the media's reaction has "set the women's movement back by fifty years."  Delusional sense of her impact on the gender politics aside, did she just liken her locker room encounter to ground zero? Not to soft peddle sexual harassment, but that is a mighty bold statement, Ms. Sainz. Is there the possibility that perhaps you've overplayed your hand just a smidge? We think this is an excellent opportunity to address proportional metaphors or similes. We thought we'd made ourselves clear last week when David Haye compared his boxing match to a gang rape, but apparently the fine points of our argument slipped past some people.

Metaphors are wonderful things. We're all for a nice, palate cleansing metaphor. When used well, a metaphor can make a difficult concept comprehensible by relating it to something that the reader knows well. So comparing your love to a summer's day is a fine way to giving the abstract (love) a concrete form (summer's day). Fun! Try comparing your love to some stuff while we wait. It's easy, and for the most part uncontroversial! Try comparing your love to a bird in flight, a bird in the hand, or Larry Bird's jumper if you can make it work: my love is a baseline jumper with the D draped all over me! The applications are endless. But, and this is a big but, there needs to be a sense of proportion in a metaphor. Don't compare your love to the firebombing of Dresden. We don't care how beautiful she is, the sentence, "my love is hotter than the raging inferno that consumed Dresden" is only going to skeeze out your paramour, and get you on an NSA watch list.

So let's say you get harassed by some millionaires in a locker room (not condoning millionaire harassment in any form). As you come to terms with your experience, as you grasp for the words to convey what occurred... perhaps you should shy away from comparing it to to a commercial jet laden with aviation fuel slamming into a skyscraper. And especially not on the tenth anniversary of said tragedy. Actually don't compare it to anything. Never, ever. No matter how personally difficult it may have been. "My personal 9/11" is just not a phrase we want skipping about the lexicon. Let's just agree now that it's off-limits. We understand that it might not be a big deal in Mexico, but 9/11 no es bueno. And making use of it as a metaphor to your personal crisis isn't going to win you any allies.

On the off chance that we're still being opaque, Ines, here's a starter list of metaphors to avoid (we hope it helps):
  • "We're watching the Killing Fields of Bowl Games."
  • "This is the Hiroshima of overcooked burgers."
  • "My heart is the broken hull of the Arizona."
  • "This club is quieter than Anne Frank's attic."
  • "That idea is the magic bullet from Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle."
 Feel free to expand on the list...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who Does Ben Affleck Think He Is?

What Happened to Affleck-ageddon?
What is your major malfunction F. Scott FitzGerald? We were promised "no second acts in American lives." Direct quote. You said it, F. Scott, so you explain the whole Ben Affleck situation to us. We thought the book closed on the Ben Affleck experience, but now The Town is trying to pry the book from our cold, dead hands. What if he turns out to be talented?

Let us catch you up. Come take a stroll down Ben Affleck memory lane. Bland pretty boy with an early career of supporting roles in middling dramas and a few leads in horrific movies like Reindeer Games, Phantoms and Forces of Nature. Inexplicably kept getting roles in Kevin Smith movies due, we think, to the fact Smith wanted a good looking dude to hang out with him. Won an Oscar for Best Publicity Stunt by a Weinstein for Good Will Hunting. Torpedoed the Jack Ryan franchise. Got Bruckheimer-ed twice for his trouble: Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. And gradually became better known for being one of J.Lo's concubines than his acting. By 2002, he was well on the way to becoming the male Catherine Zeta Jones...he was A-List but no one was really sure why...maybe just for being pretty.

Now, being the male Catherine Zeta Jones isn't the worst gig in the world (apart from pleasuring a flesh and bone Montgomery Burns) so no one felt bad for Affleck. He had a long, complacent career ahead of him. The universe had dealt fairly with the situation. Underdog Matt Damon had gained our grudging affection for somehow becoming a movie star despite resembling a garden gnome. And Casey Affleck seemed poised for his big reveal as the actual talent in the family. We were at peace. But then 2003-2004 arrived.

2003-04 saw Affleck break the record for consecutive career ending decisions previously held by Richard Nixon. Affleck stretched the record to five with Daredevil, Gigli, Paycheck, Jersey Girl and Surviving Christmas. In that order. We'll put that five film run up against any career flame-out in history. You can't accidentally make five films that bad in succession. It's not possible, and you certainly can't come back from it. Just how bad are those five films? Well they've managed to rack up a combined twenty-five stars on IMDB. On a ten star scale, mind you. Gigil, with a 2.4, ranks just behind It's Pat on IMDB's list of the 100 worst films of all time. How bad are they? Well, it's been scientifically proven* that the most non-judgmental time is between two and five am on Saturday night. At 3 a.m. on a Saturday night, remote in one hand and a bowl of Ramen in the other, most guys will happily watch Office Space for the three hundredth time. It's the booty call of cable movies. But no one scrolls down their cable listings and pauses when they get to Daredevil or Paycheck...not even at 3 a.m. That's how bad those movies are. They're not even watchable pre-hangover.

*It has not been scientifically proven.

And like that, we were free of Affleck forever. His career was over. Sure he popped up now and again in cameo roles, and supporting parts. He was passable in Hollywoodland, which sold eleven tickets and critics gave him condescendingly positive reviews using phrases like "pleasantly surprised" and "doesn't totally suck the air out every scene" as if that's supposed to be a compliment. Collectively we judged him a washed up, talentless pretty boy. That was the agreed upon narrative: Oscar winner to punchline. We had judged Ben Affleck, and judged him harshly with the callous spite that the ordinary reserve for the famous. We were fat, self-satisfied and happy about it. 

The first sign of real trouble was Gone Baby Gone. It was good. We liked it though it pained us slightly to admit it. And it confused us because, you know, we'd put a lot of time into judging Ben already. Commence Operation: Tap Dance. Sure, we rationalized, it was pretty good but that was because Ben wasn't in it. Gone Baby Gone just confirmed that Casey Affleck was a talented actor covering for his brother. Sure, that's it. The fact that Ben directed was an inconvenient, but dismissible truth like a drunk guy hitting a half court shot at halftime of an NBA game. Never going to happen twice. Whew, problem solved.

But then the trailer for The Town looked pretty good, and we felt our ulcer start to act up. It couldn't be. It was just an illusion created by snappy editing. We would go and we would unmask Mr. Jennifer Gardner's latest film as the farce it had to be. We would confirm our mean spirited conclusions about his career. Well... that didn't happen. Apparently, we loved the movie. Well acted, well paced, with appropriately scaled ambitions given its genre. And Ben Affleck appeared to be a movie star. If we'd never seen the guy before we might say we were developing a small man-crush on him (call us Ben!). We feel a little ill. That wasn't how it was supposed to go down. And the ramifications are severe. If you can't write off Ben Affleck then who the hell can you write off? Picture all the people you thought were out of your life forever. What if they realize they can attempt an Affleck? Think about it. Paris Hilton sure is.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Briquettes of the Week

1. William Tyler Black
Great, Kid! Don't Get Cocky.
It's always sad to see a Jedi tempted by the dark side of the Force. In William's case, he was spotted "choking the wookie" in an aisle at Toys R Us and wiping off his hand on a plastic lightsaber. We always kinda suspected Brooklyn Decker was secretly working for the Empire; shame on you, Sports Illustrated. The young Jedi appeared contrite today, and said he just felt the Force penetrating and binding him to all living things. Just got out of hand. When asked for comment, Master Yoda reportedly replied, "Jerking off? Heh. Public masturbation? Heh. A Jedi craves not these things." No word yet whether Darth Mauls-Himself will be copping a plea.

2. Clinton Portis and The 53 Packages

Gather round for Story Time!!!
Clinton Portis called into the Mike Wise radio show this week to tell a classic tale of greed and lust; sort of an Arabian Nights thing but with jockstraps. It went a little like this...
Once upon a time, a sports reporter named Ines Sainz learned of a cave of wonders. She overheard that this cave was filled with treasures so rare that no woman could lay her eyes upon them without being overcome by desire to possess at least one. Such was the varied splendor of the cave's bounties. Determined to see for herself, the brave sports reporter waited until after a mighty battle and crept into the cave. Inside were fifty three warriors and each one guarded a magnificent package. Some were large and some were small, but each was greater than any package she had ever seen. Such is the special nature of these warriors' packages, Clinton explained, and she could not help but become transfixed by their wonderousness. Transfixed and in their thrall, she became careless and so the warriors noticed her and began to harass the poor sports reporter for invading their cave. They chased her from the cave hurling taunts at her. She did not manage to steal any of the packages, but she dreams of them to this day.
It was a ripping good yarn, but apparently the Redskins and NFL didn't appreciate Clinton's storytelling. The Bard of Landover was forced to issue an apology for spinning his tale of adventure and daring-do. Probably because they don't want word leaking out in advance of his upcoming anthology 1001 Athletes' Nights and Other Tail, which will include such modern classics as: The Running Back and the $3000 Champagne Room Bill, The Golfer and the Three Blackberries, The Second Baseman Battles the HGH Monster and Wilt the Stilt Versus the 10,000 Nice Ladies.

3. Jessica Gamble

Our final Briquette this weeks comes from Cincinnati, Ohio. Jessica teaches us two valuable lessons today. One, don't encourage your two-year-old daughter's nascent pot habit, and two, don't make cell phone videos of your two-year-old daughter's nascent pot habit. Sadly that appears to be two lessons more than she's bestowed upon her daughter. Look, we get that most children's television seems made by stoners for stoners. Don't tell us someone came up with a pineapple under the sea while sipping mineral water. And what is up with those square pants, man? We mean...they're so fucking square. Makes you think.... Actually makes us think that good parenting isn't teaching joint etiquette. We're as progressive as the next childless doofus, but we're pretty sure that "don't Bogart the joint" is not on the SATs. We prefer our recreational drug users the old fashioned way: potty-trained white dudes majoring in Women's Studies. Party foul, Jessica... party foul.