Thursday, September 30, 2010

When Will the Madness End?

This morning I was listening to an NPR segment about the brutal crackdown on homosexuality in Iran that is triggering trade embargoes and could have severe economic consequences for a nation that is daft enough to let an old dusty book dictate national policy toward a segment of its population.  The focus was on a young man for whom the threat of persecution, torture and possible execution was real enough that he exiled himself to Turkey.  How nice, I thought, to live in a more tolerant society, where one can be gay and not feel the Sword of Damocles hanging a half inch above one's neck at all times.

Then this afternoon I drove home to the story of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers freshman whose roommate, Dharun Ravi, was either so offput or so amused by Clementi's homosexual behavior that he saw fit to secretly webcast it for all to see.  Oh yeah, I remembered, I don't live in a more tolerant society. I live in the United States.

Well, thanks to Ravi's invasion of privacy, his roommate is dead.  The 18-year-old Tyler threw himself from the George Washington Bridge.  Was his suicide a result of an unbearable humiliation?  Was this an unstable personality nudged past the breaking point by being outed?  Was Tyler so afraid his family would find out that death seemed the better alternative?  I suppose more of this will come to light as the weeks go by.

What I want to know is, when will this nation grow up enough to realize that homosexuality will exist as a matter of course?, that there is no sin involved, no matter what the Bible or the Koran or any other 'good' book says, and that there is nothing erratic or even that interesting about two people of the same sex getting together, getting intimate, making love, getting married and spending a lifetime together. Or maybe just one wild night, like any straight college freshman might be expected to do in peace.


Monday, September 27, 2010

McBone Mini-Reviews; The McBone Week in Movies

The Town - Ben Affleck is good actor, not a great one.  He is handsome, yet not quite Cary Grant handsome.  He is a skilled director, but not quite the auteur.  So in a way, it is perfectly fitting that an effort written, directed and starring himself culminates in The Town.  As far as crime dramas go, The Town ranks as almost excellent.  It also seems like one of those films that, no matter how entertaining, is doomed to be forgotten (no thanks to an utterly forgettable title) in the ever growing pile of very good crime dramas.

Set in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston and touting that hood's proclivity for turning out bank robbers, the film begins with a heist orchestrated by four townie buds sporting skeleton masks.  The caper goes off without a hitch, except that an alarm gets sounded.  The crisis situation leads the gang to take a precautionary hostage in the form of assistant manager, Claire (played to perfection by Rebecca Hall*) for whom our hero, Doug MacRay develops an instant fascination.  Well, Claire comes through shaken but mostly unscathed and little suspecting that she's being stalked by Ben Affleck.  Meanwhile the crime gets the attention of the FBI and soon crack agent Frawley (Jon Hamm) is on the case.  Frawley doesn't take long to link our quartet to the crime in question.  All he needs is time to build his case, as in just enough time for Doug and Claire strike up a romance!

Part of the problem with The Town is how closely it sticks to formula.  Aflleck, the thug with the heart of gold, sees a better future and wants out.  You've seen it before.  And he tries!  Yet no matter how fast he runs, it's never quite fast enough for his past.  This is a guy with a LOT of monkeys on his back, namely his partner (Jeremy Renner as the gang's loose cannon), a drugged up ex (Blake Lively, slutty and all but unintelligable), his imprisoned father (Chris Cooper, grufflly superb in his 5 minutes) and his de facto crime boss (Pete Postlethwaite as the most terrifying florist you'll ever encounter).  Doug wants nothing more than to book it out of town with his best lady, but it seems like there is always that one last job to do...or else.  Oh, and the last job is worth sticking around for, by the way.  It's a doozy. 

Affleck manages to breathe relatively fresh life into a oft-told tale, and his costars do their part to elevate the film to near excellence.  I want to rave about this movie, and my rating is a good one.  If only The Town weren't so, I don't know, Afflecky4.0 McBones

The Devil's Backbone - Loved Pan's Labyrinth?  You'll love this just as much!  Taking place in an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, Guillermo del Toro uses this setting to spin one of the spookiest ghost stories ever crafted.  As a horror piece, TD'sB is masterful, but del Toro always gives your brain something extra to chew on.  Hit up Netflix, turn off the lights and wait for the one who sighs to come a-calling.  4.5 McBones


*Rebecca Hall meets my 3 criteria for supreme beauty:
1) Long, brown hair
2) Brown eyes
3) Fucked up teeth

Saturday, September 25, 2010

McBone's Resident Tiger Scout

In six months this kid (child #22/30 of McBone Poet Laureate M. Patrick Foliglio) will be able to do the following better than Uncle McGraw:

Tie a knot

Start a fire

Think on his feet

Help old ladies cross the street

Keep a promise

Dowse for water

Rescue a kitten

Steer a canoe

Perform CPR

Respect his mother (wife #3/5 of McBone Poet Laureate M. Patrick Foliglio)

Make a pinewood racer

Tell the truth

Clean a gun

Track a deer

Dig a cathole

Catch a fish

Fix things

Pitch a tent

Sell popcorn

Tame a bear

Wrestle an alligator

Be prepared

Save the day

Survive anything

Want to support our Tiger Scout's local pack and just happen to have a hankerin' for some popcorn? You're in luck!  Ask me how you can help.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Heaven vs Hell

If this is the music they play in Heaven:

then I choose Hell:

Wait up for me, Old Scratch!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Welcome to the Fold, Sioux Falls

According to that indispensable tool of self obsession called Google Analytics, sometime in early September an intrepid South Dakotan, huddled in an undisclosed location in Sioux Falls, made a brave choice and willingly defied the government-imposed embargo on this blog.  The duration of the stay was short, just a dip of the toes in the cool, calming waters of McBone, but one that will no doubt send ripples throughout the state, from the rolling prairies of Murdo to the placid shores of Woonsocket and beyond.

I hate to think what might happen to our champion of freedom should she fall into the clutches of ultra-secretive Chairman M. Michael Rounds and his ruthless gang of toughs.  If you are reading this, Sioux Falls, it may be best to log off, boot down and lie low for a while.  As your state's lone McBoner, you carry a heavy burden, but you've also painted a target on your back.  Be careful!  You're no use to us dead.


Monday, September 20, 2010

McBone Mini-Reviews; The McBone Week in Zombies

Survival of the Dead - I don't want to say his best days are behind him, but George Romero's long creative peak seems to be on a slow downward descent.  That said, I will see any Romero movie you put in front of me, and Survival of the Dead is a decided improvement over his previous ...of the Dead entry, the lackluster Diary of the Dead.  Two feuding families have philosphical differences on how to handle the zombie problem on the island they inhabit.  One patriarch is exiled to the mainland.  On his way back, he makes a few friends who are, conveniently, armed to the teeth.  Without giving away too much, the opposing parties meet, sparks fly and people get eaten.

I love how dependable Romero zombies are, like old friends who show up every few years (and want to eat your intestines).  Slow, lumbering, decaying and dumb, their strength is in numbers.  Oh, one of them will occasionally exhibit some rudimentary intelligence, but ultimately a Romero zombie exists to show us how depraved and despicable humans are as a race.  As long as people are assholes, Romero will have a job.  The Hatfields and McCoys theme of Survival may not be the most current, but it does hearken to some of the dipshit bickering seen daily on Capitol Hill.  Keep 'em coming, George.  Official McBone Rating: 3.0 McBones

Also seen

Resident Evil: Afterlife - Generally speaking, I prefer zombie movies in which people actually get eaten.  Unless some entrails are being pulled from a gaping abdomen, I usually come away disappointed.  Not this time!  Milla Jovovich is back as Alice (I hope I keep getting to say that for a long time), the ass kickingest zombie killer alive.  I'm not sure how to explain the plot, other than she and a handful of other survivors are holed up in a prison and trying to escape.  Did I mention the prison is under siege by...the living dead?  Oh, and Alice has lost the superpowers she had acquired as a guinea pig for the vile Umbrella Corporation, though you would never know it by the way she makes those dead folks deader. By now the continuity of this franchise is a wreck. More or less it feels like they're just doing whatever tickles their fancies. I don't care, just as long as they keep doing it and Milla is involved.  Ooh, and I almost forgot!  RE 4 is filmed in spectacular 3D.  Watch out you don't get splattered!  3.0 McBones

Seen for the umpteenth time

Spider-Man: Highly competent comic book movie with an annoying villain (Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin).  This series is a delight to watch if only for the luminous Rosemary Harris as Aunt May. 3.5 McBones

Spider-Man 2: Comic book movie nirvana with an awesome villain (Alfred Molina as Dr. Octopus). Sits atop the list of greatest comic adaptations ever. 4.5 McBones


Saturday, September 18, 2010


Hey, Purdue Exponent!  Rape is a major problem on college campuses. We applaud the efforts that go into a student-run newspaper, but this attempt at humor is irresponsible and inexcusable (click to enlarge photo): 
To the artist behind this rendering: grow up or put your pens away. To those responsible for letting a comic like this run: you have exhibited the poorest judgment imaginable.  Take a moment to slap yourselves and then print an apology.

Protest here and here.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

McBone Endorses...

I picked up this strategically placed card while in line for coffee at Comic Con a few months ago.  While I understand the hypocrisy of using a characiture of a Native American on this blog, the Rolly Crump-designed image does make a rather unsubtle point that McBone would like the throw its weight behind.

That's right, getting stoned is maybe not such a bad thing, even if Crump's rhetorical choice wasn't the best. 

That we are wasting taxpayer dollars incarcerating people for marijuana-based drug offenses, and not generating tax dollars by allowing the regulated sale of said substance, is total, utter and complete insanity.  That's why McBone endorses the decriminalization of marijuana once and for all.  C'mon, congress!  I know this country has kind of a prudish side when it comes to the things that make us feel good, but this reefer madness has gone on long enough.

Legalize it.  Regulate it.  Sell it.  Buy it.  Smoke it.

Or bake and eat it, if you prefer.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Curse those Scotch Eggs!

Our friends Craig and Jessica came to town last weekend.  It was nice to see them, of course, but really their timing couldn't have been worse.  There I was, on the eve of my US Open final match against that accursed Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, when up roll C&J, bottles in hand and devilry on their minds.

By now you all know that things didn't go so fabulous for me at Flushing Meadows. Getting to the last round was great, and beating Federer to get there was better.  Ultimately though, I'm still trying to regain the grand slam form that captured the 2008 Australian Open.  Naturally all the drinking didn't help.  Hey, let's see you win three sets of tennis while your head is detonating and some mopheaded Iberian is firing little fuzzy rockets at your grill.  Seriously though, I think I may have survived the hangover, but why the hell did I have to order a double serving of Scotch eggs at the Brewing Company?

Those hard boiled huevos in a cocoon of greasy sausage seemed like a good idea at a time, but when I forced down a final wedge of deep fried doom, I knew I was in deep fried trouble.  Think Nadal was yucking it up like that with his sometimes popular wife and a bunch of hangers on?  I can just see Señor Perfecto downing his egg white omelet and protein shake.  Little shithead.

Afterwards we hopped over the the Knickerbocker for a few games of Big Buck Hunter.  I thought it might work me up, get those gastric juices flowing, maybe even sharpen the old hand-eye coordination.  No dice.  The fools that own the place took the damned game out!  How did we console ourselves?  With shots of Jack and PBR chasers!  Meanwhile a pound of Scotch eggs was congealing in my gut.  You can bet Nadal had already hit the hay by then, the priss.

Bottom line, I was fucked.  I should have called in sick, but I toughed it out.  I guess I can call it a small victory that I took a set from that insufferable Majorcan, but honestly I can only blame myself for having my ass handed to me on a goddam silver platter.

Also, I think my racquet was messed up.


Pictured top: me uncharacteristically whiffing at a ball during my US Open defeat.
Pictured bottom: that vile cup of mayonnaise is positioned dangerously close to the last Scotch egg.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

McBone Mini-Reviews; The McBone Week in Movies

Machete: Mexploitation master Robert Rodriguez is back with a triumph of decapitations, nudity, drugs and illegal immigrants all rolled into one 'big, mean burrito' of a movie.  Actually, the mean burrito is Machete, an ex-federale with a face not even a mother could love.  Machete wields his weapon of choice with uncanny efficiency, but a botched attempt at a kidnapping rescue gets his wife and daughter killed at the hands of drug lord Torrez.  Machete is left for dead in a burning house with his own blade in his guts.  How he survives and ends up in Texas is never explained.  What's important is that he's going get another shot at Torrez.  First, he has to navigate a minefield of stereotypes en route to the final showdown.  And the casting of those stereotypes is where the genius of Machete shines through:

Steven Seagal as Torrez - Seagal's Spanish accent is just terrible, and it's delightful to see the bloated actor mocking himself and the martial arts moves that made him a star.  As Torrez, he is evil incarnate.  He wants your kids high, sure, but mostly he wants Machete dead.  Woe to those who fail him!

Robert DeNiro as Senator McLaughlin - DeNiro eats up the role as a fake Texan lapdog politician spewing over-the-top platitudes about illegal immigrants, whom he compares to an infestation of cockroaches in a campaign video.

Jeff Fahey as Booth - Perfectly tanned and sporting a graying mullet, Booth is the senator's sleazy right hand with a yen for his own daughter.

Don Johnson (in his 'introductory' role) as Von - Johnson savors every word ('I'll have him dancing the bolero at the end of a rope') as the redneck vigilante border guard from hell.

Michelle Rodriguez as Luz/She - Rodriguez runs a taco stand by day and a revolutionary organization by night.  Her alliance with Machete is what finally triggers la revolución!

Jessica Alba as Sartana - The jingoistic cop is all too eager to switch sides (we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!!!) once she gets a load of Machete.

Cheech Marin as Padre - Cheech is Machete's brother, a priest who deals in lead, not mercy.

Lindsay Lohan as April: In possibly the most inspired bit of casting, Lohan spends the entirety of the film either naked (watch her take a refreshing dip in the pool) or in a nun's habit, but it's what she has under the habit that counts.

Danny Trejo as Machete - The most unlikely of stars takes the leading role and runs with it.  Sneering every monosyllabic word he is afforded, Trejo kills and kills and, when he's not being bedded by every woman he sees, kills some more.  You'll be amazed at what this guy can do with a bone scraper and 60 feet of human intestine.

To what end, all the absurdity?  Yes, Rodriguez is flipping the bird at the border warring that dominates the headlines and, yes, he's flipping it mostly at you, Arizona.  It's easy to get worked up about this stuff one way or another and in fact the politicians and newspapers make sure we are worked up about it most of the time.  Critics say the film tries too hard to make a political point.  I say thank you, Machete, for giving us a chance to laugh at the comedy. Official McBone Rating: 4.5 McBones

Also seen 

The Prestige: Christopher Nolan can spin a good yarn, I'll give him that.  The Prestige is no exception.  Somehow, though, seeing self-indulgent 19th century magicians go at each other in the name of the greatest trick becomes ponderous, pointless and way overwrought.  Certainly well-crafted and mostly well-played (the exceptions are a rather hammy Hugh Jackman and his facial expressions and Scarlett Johanssen's semi-English accent), The Prestige's final trick is so carefully manipulated that it ultimately leaves you feeling cheated.  2.5 McBones


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Present Tense, the Inaugural Issue

As a PhD student, my sometimes popular wife has more free time than she knows what to do with.  Well, finally last summer she and seven other Purdue slobs decided to turn off their PlayStations and do something constructive with their lives.  After kicking around a few ideas (mah jongg club, conservative think tank, madrigal choir), they opted to start an online journal.  One year of weekly meetings and 20 million soy lattes later, this unlikely collection of roustabouts, rogues and ne'er-do-wells is ready to go public with the inaugural issue of Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society. 

Present Tense is, in its own words, "a peer-reviewed, blind-refereed, online journal dedicated to exploring contemporary social, cultural, political and economic issues through a rhetorical lens."  Having poked around the site, McBone has a few words of its own to describe this new phenomenon, words like fresh, boss and bitchin'.

Already loaded with insightful articles and reviews, Present Tense is guaranteed* to increase your knowledge of rhetoric 100 fold on your very first visit.  While you're there, why not make yourself comfortable and read an article or two?  Got something you've been dying to say on the topic of rhetoric?  You've got a friend in Present Tense.  All you need to know about submitting an article or video of your own is there in plain old, rhetorically sound English.

Congrats to the entire Present Tense team and good luck in this worthy endeavor.  Had he lived, I'm sure Cicero would be proud.


*void in Hawaii

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Day of School, A Recap

My little niece began kindergarten today.  I can't believe our little girl is so grown up!  The day was eventful to be sure.  Here's a recap:

7:45 - Picked up by bus.  Finds suitable seating.  Orders dweeby kid to 'make like a tree.'

8:30 - Confronted by bully demanding milk money.  Breaks bully's face.

8:32 - Surrenders brass knuckles at metal detector.

8:35 - Enters classroom.  Empties mayonnaise packets into teacher's coffee.

8:45 - Answers 'that's my name, don't wear it out' during roll call.

8:51 - Learns how to make 'cootie catcher' from new friend.  Fails to catch cooties.

9:00 - Bout of ennui during sing along.

9:01 - Samples crayon.  Enjoys taste but not texture.

9:24 - Climbs up on desk.  Demands Mumia be freed.

9:30 - Draws pentagram with fingerpaint.

9:42 - Probes nasal cavities.

9:48 - Contracts head lice from neighboring kid.

9:49 - Transmits head lice to neighboring kid.

10:05 - Colors outside the lines.

10:07 - Impromptu poem employs the word 'fart.'

10:10 - Sent to the corner to think about it.

10:30 - Recites poem during snack time.  Multiple noses spray milk.

10:31 - Sent to principal's office.

10:40 - Denounces principal as 'philistine.'

10:45 - Yawns during paddling.

10:53 - Escorted to exit by security.  Tells guards to take their mother$%@*ing hands off her.

10:54 - Smashes trophy case with elbow, pulls fire alarm, laughs maniacally, vows revenge.

An auspicious debut like this has us all wondering what's in store for little sister on her own first day of school.


Monday, September 6, 2010

McBone Mini-Reviews; The McBone Week in Movies

Get Low: Before I go ahead and call Get Low the best movie of the year (and I will), let me first admit several biases I took into the film:

1) Hermits (one of several subcategories of Old Men with Beards) are awesome.

2) Robert Duvall is awesome (cases in point: To Kill a Mockingbird, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I and II, Lonesome Dove).

3) Bill Murray is awesome (Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation).

3) Sissy Spacek, perhaps the most underrated actor of her day, is awesome (Badlands, Carrie, Coal Miner's Daughter, Affliction).

With all that talent gathered, expectations entering the cineplex were high.  To date, I call Get Low the best movie of the year.  Generally, critics have been flattering.  That they haven't been positively beaming is baffling to me.

The premise of the story is simple and based on true events.  An old hermit (Duvall), in a fit of affability, wants to throw a living funeral for himself.  The town undertaker (Murray) is nearly broke and sees an opportunity to cash in.  Along the way, we learn the hermit has a dark secret (what self respecting hermit doesn't?) involving Sissy Spacek and a portrait of an old flame he keeps by his bedside.  That's all I'm saying about plot.  The point of Get Low is to provide an excuse (and a flawless script) for gifted actors to do their respective things on the way to revealing the secret.  Duvall is perfection as the wheezing, bearded recluse, Felix Bush.  Murray, a borderline sleazeball who keeps a flask handy, is a used car salesman before there were used cars; watch him show off a collection of coffins like a fleet of dressed up Ford Pintos.  Spacek timidly navigates much of the film (in a good way), until old memories finally get her guns a-blazin'.  And hand the McBoner for best supporting actor to Bill Cobbs for his part as the preacher who knows the secret.  Felix wants him to lead the service, and it's a joy to watch these lumpy, grizzled old buzzards go at it.  Tying the characters together is the somewhat innocuous Lucas Black, who gets the uneviable job of playing the straight man among eccentrics.  I tip my hat to him not being too vanilla as the undertaker's assistant.

Well, all of this hubbub leads to the preemptive funeral, complete with a raffle (the prize is Felix's property), a bluegrass band and throngs of townsfolk.  The 'climax,' which fails to deliver the shock we may have been waiting for as an audience, is not so much a letdown as a natural conclusion, an overdue answer that shuts the door on one life and opens another.

Get Low features some of the best sets I've laid eyes on in a movie.  Never for one moment did this rustic Tennessee town and wilderness look anything but authentic.  Credit director Aaron Schneider for populating it with pros working in rare form.  Official McBone Rating: 5.0 McBonesGet Low easily merits a McBone Must See.

Also seen

Mrs. Henderson Presents: No one (with the possible exception of Maggie Smith) plays a snob with more gusto than Judi Dench.  Snobby, however, should not be confused with stuffy.  In Mrs. Henderson Presents Dame Judi, in diametric opposition to the role she played to stuffy perfection in Pride and Prejudice, is a vivacious snob who is immediately bored with her recently acquired status of widow.  To combat ennui, she buys a theater and hires Bob Hoskins to produce a stage show.  When their collaborative efforts sputter, Mrs. Henderson suggests that the ladies, like at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, shed a few superfluous garments.  Voila!  The show is a smash, especially among G.I.s.  World War II is raging, and the show is sweet refuge for horny soldiers.  Mrs H. Presents is a worthy comedy with 'delicious' (if slightly hammy) chemistry between its two leads.  The backdrop of war gives the film a welcome gravity, but the intrusion of melodrama surrounding Kelly Reilly (the show's star performer) and an amorous private undermines an otherwise delightful film.  Extra credit for having the guts to show not just breasts, but the male member as well.  3.0 McBones.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day of Validation

Today my sometimes popular wife emerged from the common rabble of PhD students to become a certified PhD candidate.  Though it may sound like mincing words, the line between the two groups is clearly demarcated by a rigorous and gut-wrenching set of exams called the prelims.  The dreaded 24-hour preliminary exams are known for their unforgiving cruelty and their ability to turn even the most confident intellectual into a quivering, whimpering, huddled mass.  Those who pass are free to begin work on their doctoral thesis.  Those who fail are duly punished.

McBone salutes my wife for having earned the decisive (if rather unenthusiastic) grade of 'Pass.'

Her path to greatness will be littered with many artifacts, and this nondescript piece of paper will be coveted by her most ardent and deep-pocketed of ebay savvy fans (as a bonus, the page comes with an authentic P. Ryan Schneider signature).

Later in the day I accepted a FedEx package from a surly delivery guy who spent a pleasant two-minute exchange bitching about his extended workday, part of which included my shipment of this book:

Jam-packed with a year and a half's worth of blood, sweat, tears, elbow grease, gumption and barf, this 400-page text is the satisfying culmination of my wine education.  A special thanks goes to Christian Butzke for trusting an unknown writer to corral his lecture series into book form.  For a song ($108.95 plus tax and shipping, while supplies last), you can have your very own copy of Wine Appreciation.