Thursday, February 26, 2009

Here's What Happens To Crap Technology 'Round Here

These are the shattered remains of the disk drive from my Dell Inspiron laptop. My D drive started malfunctioning about 3 minutes after the warranty ran out on this $1,500 machine, and I haven't been able to play a DVD since. This is no coincidence. It's called planned obsolescence, a science that the manufacturers of things practice in order to fuck their consumers over and over again while they squeal and feed at troughs filled with our hard earned dollars. For the three years that I've owned my Dell, it worked properly for about 6 months.

So, after this initial malfunction, every other feature of the drive (disk burning, file reading) has incrementally deteriorated. Tonight, while merely trying to play a brand new CD, the drive immediately began to skip. I did not blame the disk. Instead I calmly yanked the drive out of my computer, laid it on the kitchen floor, and smashed it into a million pieces. While the hammer landed over and over with extreme force, I imagined that the head of a Dell executive was my target, and CEO brains, not bits of plastic, were flying about, coating all the surfaces of my kitchen.

Contempt for the consumer is why you see three asshole car companies flailing in desperation and begging for taxpayer money. If you screw your clientele often enough by selling them expensive products of inferior quality, eventually they will catch on. General Motors lost more than 30 billion dollars last year. Meanwhile, I happily drive my gas efficient Honda, which was bought used and has thus far given me no trouble whatsoever.

I'm not sure what to expect when I buy a Mac next month, but it can't be any worse than the experience I had with my Dell, which, like the D drive, is soon to meet the wrath of my hammer.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ted Strickland Chooses Weird Calf Muscles, Appoints Foliglio Judge

This week Ohio Governor Ted Strickland took a stand for weird-looking calf muscles by appointing city of Akron attorney Stephen Foliglio to an opening at the Akron Municipal Court.

If you've not yet had the dubious pleasure of beholding the calves of Judge Foliglio, allow me to describe them for you here. I first became acquainted with Steve's legs in the early 1980s, when he and my father were regular tennis opponents. Steve's very, at times unreasonably short shorts revealed a pair of legs that were nearly devoid of any color or hair. Like rivers on a map, a crisscrossing network of undulating blue lines ran beneath his pale, almost transparent skin. When I asked my dad what these lines where, he answered:

Varicose veins.

They're disgusting
, I said, purposefully in earshot of Steve.

Dad agreed with a visible shudder.

And there's a LOT of them.

Sure are.

And he has almost no hair on his legs!

Try not to look at them, son.

Steve's legs also feature a pair of knees that, in the fertile fantasy land that is his mind, have been aching chronically since early in the Eisenhower administration. Here is just a sampling of feigned knee ailments that have dogged Judge Foliglio over the years:

Torn cartilage
Water on the knee
Partially torn anterior cruciate ligament
Arthritis - rheumatoid, osteoarthritis, and gout
Torn medial collateral ligament
Ruptured patellar tendon
Assorted sprains and strains
Shattered kneecap
Cancer of the knee
Osgood-Schlatter disease

And yet, while astounding, Steve's fake knee pain finishes a distant second to the spectacle that are his calf muscles. To be sure, there is a great deal of variance that occurs in both the size and shape of all human musculature, but the calf muscle of the male homo sapien is generally represented by a visible bulge in the upper part of the calf. However, the phenomenally exaggerated proportions of Judge Foliglio's calf muscles have led some experts to believe that, while in utero (when his famed moustache was already burgeoning), the fetus of the future attorney was exposed to massive doses of gamma radiation. That coupled with his mother's fried bologna-heavy diet is believed to have caused the genetic mutation that would result in a pair of calf muscles up to 12 times the size of those belonging to a normal male.

Governor Strickland, in a sweeping gesture of goodwill, has chosen Foliglio in spite of, or, perhaps because of, his grotesquely misshapen calf muscles. McBone salutes the governor for his progressive stance toward calf deformation and his willingness to look beyond the leg in his judicial appointments.

And to Judge Stephen A. Foliglio we say McBonulations, and, for the love of all that's holy, put some pants on!


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Second Annual McBoner Awards

Every year I watch the Oscars, and every year I come away thinking I'll never watch them again. There is a lot to hate about the Academy Awards, but the main problem I have is that they suck royally. I also might add that it seems rather offensive for rich people to be sashaying around in $5,000 dollar gowns and giving awards to each other when honest working folk are being evicted from their homes left and right. But I digress, and of course I will be glued to the screen tomorrow, as always simultaneously rapt and trying to suppress my gag reflex.

The Academy and I have seen pretty much the same movies, and so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I humbly present to you this year's McBoner Awards:

Wall-E--Best film. Like last year's race, this one was a tough call, and with a more crowded field. Iron Man is an action movie based on a comic book. Of course the Academy lusts solely for drama, but just because Iron Man has style and swagger and a sense of humor doesn't change the fact that it is a superior piece of art. Wall-E, however, happens to be one of the greatest films ever made, a lesson in visual storytelling that blustery, blathering films like Doubt should take a look at. Other nominees are The Visitor and The Wrestler.

Clint Eastwood--Best Actor. There are certain times when an actor and a role are just born for each other. This is one of them. Other worthy nominees are: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), and it absolutely kills me not to give this award to Robert Downy Jr. for Iron Man. It's just that Clint's swearing, snarling Walt Kowalski is better. And this isn't one of those makeup awards that are given out just because Clint is old now and should have won 5 or 6 Oscars in his life. You know, like the one Martin Scorsese won for the pretty good The Departed? Nope, he deserves this McBoner because McBone will never forget Walk Kowalski.

Kate Winslet--Best Actress, in The Reader. Ugh. I have a feeling I should be giving this award to Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married, but the movie didn't come to any of our god-damned theaters. I wasn't blown away by any lead actress performance this year, and I've liked Kate Winslet in other things much better, but she was pretty damned good in The Reader, corny accent and all. She wins by default.

Heath Ledger--Best supporting actor. Everyone went to see this movie for Heath Ledger, so he really was more like the lead actor, but what are you going to do? What he achieved in his last role on earth was craft one of the finest villains in all moviedom, no small task, and so he wins handily over the excellent Josh Brolin in Milk and the creepy-as-hell Jeff Bridges in Iron Man.

Penelope Cruz--Best supporting actress, in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Penelope is a gifted actress in many languages and many genres. She is also, as my partner blogger points out, extremely hot. Though 'volcanic' is terribly overused to describe an actor's performance, here it applies in every sense of the word. This is one for the time capsule. She beats the superb Gwyneth Paltrow from Iron Man by a decent margin. Also excellent were Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, both from The Wrestler.

Jon Favreau--Best director, for Iron Man. Favreau gets the award for creating a seamless film with perfect acting from top to bottom. That's that and no apologies.

Nick Schenk and Dave Johannson--Best screenplay, for Gran Torino. Though it wasn't a perfect screenplay, it was the most shocking and memorable. For that, these two win the prize.

Wall-E and Coraline--Best art direction. Forget Benjamin Button. These two animated masterpieces are a tossup visually, and shouldn't have to compete with each other.

Don't agree with me? Maybe the Alex Awards will be more to your taste:

I am sorry to say that these awards are hampered by the fact that we didn't get to see either Rachel Getting Married or Frozen River because they never made it to our town, where the movie theaters are a disgrace to all filmdom.

Best film: I'm going to have to make it a tie between Wall-E and The Reader. Wall-E is a multigenerational, magical and fearless film with a very timely message about overconsumption and the loss of our humanity. It is a disgrace the academy didn't even nominate it. The Reader was the only one of this year's nominees that touched my emotional core and lingered with me for days after seeing it, its wound palpable inside me. For that and its perplexing and multilayered complexities, I tie it with Wall-E. Other excellent films were The Visitor and Iron Man.

Best Actress: For finding the humanity in a woman who breaks a plethora of moral boundaries, I find Kate Winslet in The Reader this year's best actress. I couldn't do this without mentioning my love Keira Knightley in The Duchess as well, though none of the award ceremonies agree.

Best Actor: This may be a political move, but some stories need telling and Sean Penn's performance as Harvey Milk is timely, heartfelt and beautiful. I also found Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino) Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) to give fantastic performances this year.

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Pure sexual, incorrigible and unstoppable magic. Viola Davis made great use of her short screen time on Doubt and so did Evan Rachel Wood in The Wrestler.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger. What else can I say? He made evil fun, attractive and mesmerizing. Haaz Sleiman from The Visitor and Josh Brolin from Milk also gave complex, brilliant performances.

Best Director: Stephen Daldry for finding the emotional yet never maudlin tone in The Reader. Runners-up are Andrew Stanton for Wall-E and Thomas McCarthy for The Visitor.

Best Screenplay: Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter for Wall-E. It's not easy to hypnotize today's audiences with a half-hour scene where no dialogue takes place. Runner up: Pam Brady and Andrew Fleming for Hamlet 2.

Best Art Direction: I couldn't leave my beloved James McAvoy entirely out of this business, so my vote goes to Wanted for one of the coolest looking films ever. Coraline in spite of making little use of its 3D capabilities is also a visual feast, as is Wall-E, of course.

nwb and AHA

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What Life on Planet X Will Be Like When I am King

One of my life goals is to discover and colonize Planet X. As Planet X's conqueror, I will naturally be its first king, and as king, there are a few ground rules that I will want to lay out. There's no time like the present, so I might as well say my piece right here and now, lest there be misunderstandings in the future.

On Planet X there will be no mayonnaise. Mayonnaise production or consumption will be punishable by death-ray disintegration. The following substances will also be forbidden: Twinkies, candy corn, tuna-noodle casserole, thousand island dressing, tartar sauce, creamed corn and crack cocaine.

I will not tolerate fax machines on Planet X. Office machines in general will be frowned upon, as will offices and any kind of office related work, but fax machines shall be banned in perpetuity.

Don't even think about trying to establish a two-party political system on my planet. On the sovereign planet of X, all bow to King Nate and his Interstellar Space-Queen, Alex.

When invading Qwiblons from neighboring solar system ZR-571 try to conquer Planet X, I will use diplomacy to reach an accord with their overlord, Delvok. I will then vaporize his ship as it peacefully tries to exit our atmosphere.

Live chickens and baseball cards will be the official currency of Planet X.

My rule will be gentle but firm; the cost of treason on Planet X is your head.

On Planet X, Pluto will be recognized as a planet once more.

Anyone caught listening to Panic at the Disco on Planet X will be tossed into the Pit of Unhappiness where endless pain awaits.

All couples must surrender their firstborns, who will undergo a series of rigorous tests to determine their worthiness of becoming my successor. Thousands of innocents will perish in the Trials before I ultimately choose my daughter, N'alex, as heir apparent.

The living brain of Richard Nixon will be kept on Planet X for safekeeping and observation.

My vast palace shall be built in the city of Stabbonia. None of the following shall be permitted within the confines of the city:

Space Zombies
Galactic Nebulords
Fifty-Foot Lesbians

Mind you this is just a framework for life on Planet X. If you don't think you can adhere to these guidelines, perhaps you don't belong on my fair planet. For those who can, ready your ships and follow me, your king, to Planet X!


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's Time for Pee-wee Herman to Regain His Rightful Place in American Culture, For Crying out Loud!

Life can be so unfair.

-Pee-wee Herman, from Pee-wee's Big Adventure, 1985.

How apropos, though little could Pee-wee Herman or any of us have known just how unfair life could be, or how far Pee-wee would fall. Don't get me wrong: I don't condone what Pee-wee was doing in that adult theater, and he'll be the first to tell you that he should never have been in the theater in the first place. Really, though, don't we as a culture react a little strongly to sex scandals? I mean, should Bill Clinton have had his entire second term stalled because of sex? Should Pee-wee have had his career reduced to occasional supporting roles and cameos?

Often when I tell people that I count Pee-wee Herman as one of my heroes, they sort of chortle and think that I just have to be joking. They'll scoff and say things like, that sicko? but what they don't remember is that, in his heyday, Pee-wee was a cutting edge superstar who, aside from making high quality entertainment, sought to tear down some of the truly useless boundaries that define our culture. Pee-wee is male, but wears healthy amounts of lipstick and rouge. He is a man; he wears a suit, but the suit doesn't quite fit, and he has more toys than any child you'll ever meet. In his chef d'ouvre, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, he is a homeowner, yes, but there is no car parked in the garage; the film revolves around his search for his stolen bike.

And then there is the matter of his sexuality. Pee-wee is careful most of the time to avoid romantic entanglements (except in the endlessly disappointing Big Top Pee-wee), but that doesn't mean his work is puritanical. His syndicated, award-winning children's show is full of innuendo, which is easy enough to ignore, but it's harder to ignore the chesty Miss Yvonne flitting about and affecting all of the playhouse, man, woman and puppet alike. Or how about Tito the Lifeguard--tanned, topless and ripped--walking around the playhouse in little more than pair of swimming trunks and a whistle? And let's not forget the original comedy show that spawned the tamer Saturday morning series:

Is this kind of stuff good for kids? Of course it is! Why? Because media that makes us think about things in a different way is important. Pee-wee is ambiguous; his playhouse is chaotic and diverse. Sounds kind of like life, doesn't it? Pee-wee is not content teaching us how to add two plus two like that stupid purple dinosaur, because in his world there is no simple arithmetic, no pigeon-holing, no absolutes. Pee-wee tried his damnedest to bring us something weekly that wasn't run of the mill, and he succeeded. For that we owe him a dept of gratitude.

And of course all of this is ignoring the fact that Pee-wee is a brilliant comic. Only a genius could come up with something like this:

Surely such genius deserves a second chance, and there is reason to be excited. IMDB describes Pee-wee's Playhouse, the Movie as 'in production,' and slated for release in 2011. I don't know if the movie will ever be made, but, if we never see Pee-wee again, what a shame that such a talent was wasted on something as petty as masturbation.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Didn't already think Ken Starr was the biggest horse's ass in all of American jurisprudence? Guess what:

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Against gay marriage? Piss off and die.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why, Sports Gods, Why?

The Sports Gods are mighty and all powerful. That may sound funny coming from an atheist, but my religious beliefs do not necessarily apply to sports. For the Sports Gods are real. I have felt them. I feel their wrath every day. Yes, I call it wrath. The Sports Gods are cruel. Every day they seek to punish fans from Northeast Ohio.

Allow me to illustrate:

Which are the teams most despised by Cleveland fans?

The New York Yankees - 26 championships, 39 pennants
The Boston Celtics - 17 championships
The Pittsburgh Steelers - 6 championships

These loathsome franchises have won a combined 49 titles. Now let's look at a bit of Cleveland lore:

The Cleveland Indians - 2 championships, 5 pennants
The Cleveland Cavaliers - 0 championships
The Cleveland Browns - 4 AAFC championships, 4 NFL championships

That's 10 titles. Ten. The Cleveland Indians were founded in 1901. The Browns have existed since 1946. Even the new kids on the block, the Cavaliers, have been around for almost 40 years. Add it all up and that equals 10 championships in 210 seasons of Cleveland sports. And you know what? That's not even the worst of it. Here's some even more depressing 'recent' history.

1964 was the last year a Cleveland team won a major championship (no, the dynasty the now-defunct Cleveland Crunch enjoyed in the '90s does NOT count). So, in the 45 years that lay between then and now, here's how those other rotten teams have fared:

Yankees - 6 championships, 10 pennants since 1964.

When the Cleveland Indians finally shed the status of laughingstock, which they carried in shame for 35 seasons of horrible baseball, when they finally emerged as one of baseball's elite team, reaching the World Series in 1995 and 1997, and when it was really looking like the 90s would be the Decade of the Indians, it was the god-damned Yankees who won 4 titles. None of this would matter if the Indians had managed to close out a ninth-inning lead with one out in game seven of the '97 series. They didn't, and so it's 61 years and counting for the the Tribe.

Celtics - 10 championships since 1964.

We are currently experiencing the golden era of Cavaliers basketball. When the Cavs won the rights to draft native son LeBron James in 2003, we knew the tides had turned. The Celtics had been horrible for years. The Cavs reached the finals in just the 4th season of the James era, only to be swept in 4 games. Even so, 2007-08 looked even more promising. The team was older, more mature, and so what happened? The Celtics acquired two Hall-of-Famers in the offseason. The Cavs saw two of their best players hold out for larger contracts and then get injured during the season. Naturally the Celtics beat the Cavs in seven games in the second round of the playoffs before going on to win the NBA finals and, most nauseatingly, their 17th title. And so it's 39 years and counting for the Cavaliers.

Steelers - 6 championships since 1964.

The Browns were a huge underdog when they beat the Colts to win the 1964 NFL championship, their eighth title. Since then? Zip. While Browns fan continue to hype the vaunted history of the franchise, those glory years are buried somewhere deep in the 1950s. And of course we continue to ignore the fact that this history doesn't even really belong to the Browns, but to that team in Baltimore (which, incidentally, won a championship in 2000). Anyhow, 2007 was supposedly a renaissance for the Browns, a season in which they won 10 games behind a dynamic and high-powered offense. Browns fans are among the most loyal of any in professional sports. They are also among the most desperate. Those ten wins (without a playoff appearance or a win against Pittsburgh) turned into wild offseason expectations, with some even making Super Bowl predictions. Well, here I am trying to think back, and I'm not sure I can remember the Browns winning a single game in 2008. In the meantime the Steelers have won 6 Super Bowls, including their most recent contest last week against the Cardinals. For the Browns? Try 45 years and counting.

So, Sports Gods, I humbly ask: what have we done to upset you? Cleveland is as hard-working a town as you'll find, and we have a lot to be proud of. We have a world-class symphony orchestra, an incredible art museum, the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. But let's face it: above all we love our sports. We treat our players like heroes and we pay through the nose to watch them lose year after year after year. Why, though, even in the best of times, must we finish no better than second place? All we want is a winner, so we can slough off this loser mentality that, having little else to boast of, we wear like a badge of honor. I'm sick of our suffering ways, and I'm ready for them to end right now.

I know you work in mysterious ways, and I know its presumptuous, and even dangerous, to ask. I know that at a whim, you'll twist an ankle or cause a franchise to move to Baltimore. But on behalf of all Clevelanders, I'm pleading for a sign, one sign. What is it you demand of us? We'll gladly pray, meditate, genuflect, wander the desert, flagellate ourselves, even sacrifice a small (or large) animal. Name the price and we'll pay without complaint. Just give us a winner, Sports Gods. Please end this unbearable 45-year drought.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Frost/Nixon; A McBone Mini-Review

Why, why, oh why do I find Richard Nixon so intriguing? Or is enchanting the word? I'm no Republican (aside from one bizarre month last summer), and I'm not huge fan of politicians in general. You couldn't pay me to cast a vote for the scoundrel, so I guess I don't really know the reason he constantly occupies my thoughts. Perhaps it's his legendary sex appeal, everything from the perspiration to the baggy eyes to the sagging, hound-dog visage. Or it could be that patented Nixonian brand of paranoia about everything from hippies to rock n' roll to the media that manifested itself in a full-fledged enemies list. I suppose all that stuff has something to do with it, but I think the real reason I adore him is that he's simply the most notorious villain in the history of American politics. The subterfuge, the scheming. George Bush tried his damndest to usurp that title, but he was just too stupid. I like bad guys. Intelligent, piano playing bad guys are even better, and you could easily slap any number of these labels on our 37th president.

So, it follows that Frost/Nixon, the latest effort from sometimes good director Ron Howard, was one of the most anticipated movies of the year for me. And let me put your doubts to rest now: Frost/Nixon is not only a good film. It is unquestionably the greatest Richard Nixon film of all time.

Perhaps I'm biased. Of course I'm biased. Few people know that I keep the living brain of Nixon in a jar in the secret laboratory under my house. But even so, I can say objectively that Frank Langella's career-defining portrayal of Nixon is spellbinding from start to finish.

The premise is simple. British TV personality, David Frost, wants to boost his career by interviewing the disgraced former president. Nixon sees an interview with the popular but fluffy Frost as a chance to endear himself to the people and insert himself back into politics (and, tapping his mercenary side, there's also the matter of a few hundred thousand dollars). Now, along the way we get some nonsense from Frost's cohorts about wanting to, "give Nixon the trial he never had," and while Rebecca Hall looks great decorating scenes as Frost's main squeeze, the real point of this film is to watch Langella, who not coincidentally played Dracula (and Skeletor) once upon a time, disappear into the role of the ultimate slimeball politician, who, even in humiliation, can seduce his audience and his would-be hardball interviewer with ostensibly boring, strangely mesmerizing tales of heroism in his handling of China, Russia and the invasion of Cambodia. Langella is a dynamo all the way, culminating with a drunken, late night phone call to Frost on the eve of his Watergate interview. Here Langella ceases to be an actor. He's not channeling Nixon; he is Nixon, in all his jowl flapping glory.

I won't spoil the Watergate talks for you, but rest assured that when Frost finally applies the heat, Langella answers with a squirming, sweating vision of a broken man. It's more than Oscar-worthy; it's the reason why Langella is a top candidate for this year's McBone Award for Best Actor.

And yes, I know I'm fawning here. Tribute must be paid as well to Michael Sheen. He is excellent as David Frost, whose smiling veneer just barely conceals a man who is outmatched and knows his career is on the line.

Oh, and I should point out that the scenes with Kevin Bacon as Nixon's personal lapdog, Jack Brennan, are also quite entertaining.

Official McBone Rating: 5.0 McBones.