Thursday, December 18, 2014

Terrorism Works! "The Interview" Not Being Released By Sony Pictures

Looks like terrorism really is the way to go if you want to thwart someone else's freedoms. Hey, it works! Just look at all the overkill in the destruction of our personal liberties in the aftermath of 9/11. Snatching cell phone records, drones flying all over the place, you can't cross into Canada without a big deal being made of it, and you can pretty much be subject to search without much if any provocation at all. Now, we can't even go out on Christmas day and enjoy a movie, because it makes light of some meat headed idiot in North Korea. If anything I thought we would have reveled in ripping that idiot. Instead, we have shown fear. We (or more to the point, Hollywood) turned away in a staring contest.  

"The Interview" is a comedy about the attempted assassination of South Korea's leader, Kim Jung-Un, by a TV show host and producer. The trailer for it looked pretty funny and anyone that enjoys the comedy of James Franco and Seth Rogen in "Pineapple Express" was probably going to enjoy this film. WAS going to enjoy it. Hackers have vowed to release internal Sony emails that would apparently be very damaging or embarrassing to people in and around the studio. Also, there were threats of violence against theaters that would show the film. 

So, Sony and theaters all over the nation stood up like proud Americans and said "Fuck you, we don't give in to terror in this country!" right? Right? Ummm, wrong. They caved. Sony announced that it has shelved the 42 million dollar film, and as of now, has no plans for a future release. The buzz that has been created would have made a great publicity stunt. The backlash at such a stunt would be tremendous, so I just can't believe that's what is happening. At this point, we pretty much look like scared rabbits. Just a mere anonymous threat has stopped a nationwide release of a comedy film. Sony could really save face and say they are going to move forward with releasing the film. Houses would be packed to see it and it would be a wonderful "Up your ass!" to hackers, terrorists, and anyone that wishes to stifle our way of life. I hope that happens. I just don't expect it.  

This isn't just about giving in to terror, it's about giving in stifling artistic expression. Now, "The Interview" may not be high art, but it is a piece of artistic expression. To stifle that, in the United States, of all places, is beyond disappointing. Once art is compromised by changing it to suit a target audience or if it is withheld from experience, it is just a product. The work and care that went into it means nothing now.  It may as well not exist. 

I would hope that Sony reconsiders this decision at some point and sooner rather than later. I would go out and see it on Christmas Day simply to show that I"m not going to live in fear of a threat. All of us reject fear every day when we get out of bed and start our lives. Going to and from work. Shopping and visiting restaurants. Taking vacations. We get on airplanes. We, the citizens of this nation, have rejected the fear of terrorism (or criminal activity against us) in our daily lives by going about our business. 

The worst possible thing that could have happened in the face of these threats has happened. Capitulation to fear. Honestly, I would have laughed  it off if someone told me a comedy movie would be held from release in the United States of America, because of some threats from an unknown and unseen entity. I can only imagine this further emboldens those thinking of pulling antics like this. This sets a precedent for the future, does it not? What's next? Are we to pull "Naked Gun" from Netflix because it makes fun of the Queen of England? This is the country that stood up to people trying to ban "The Last Temptation of Christ" and we are going to let a goofy Hollywood comedy get pulled from theaters? This is the country that stood for "Death of a President" being released while the president that was depicted as being assassinated was still in office!

This is a sad day for Hollywood (but they have a lot of those don't they?), American movie goers, artistic freedom, and our national image. Sony and theaters all over this country have knelt down before the terrorists. We buckled a little bit today. At least I know we are gonna get a great South Park episode out of this at some point!  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Replacements: They Satisfied.....

Our heroes with their hero.....before the "Tonight Show" appearance.

Well, here I go again....talking 'bout The Replacements. I may as well devote the blog to them, right? I had the chance to see the "new" Replacements twice this past year (Chicago/Louisville) after having not seen them at all for the first 44 years of my life. I had seen Paul Westerberg four or five times, Slim a couple of times and had a near miss with Tommy with Bash & Pop when my transmission went out on the way to Cincinnati. Fucking Pontiac! Still hurts me. 

I've written about not knowing what to expect out of this "reunion" of Paul and Tommy with my "man crush" drummer Josh Freese taking his seat on the throne and Dave Minehan taking over for Bob and Slim on guitar. I then wrote about how my expectations were exceeded by them playing live again. I won't rehash it. I do want to say, now that the announced dates have all been played, that I believe the best thing to ever happen to The Replacements was them "breaking up" some 20+ years ago. They had hit a wall. They weren't going to be a commercial success, Tommy needed some freedom and was growing as an artist and Paul needed to find out if he was really going to be the "voice of a generation". Which he was. It just wasn't the generation that was hanging out at the mall. He was the voice of the loner. The misfits. Those that were awkward in many different ways socially. He was a voice for those that felt alone, even in a crowd. A voice for those that really CARED about the music during an era that changed rock and roll forever. He wrote real alternative music, not the contrived bullshit that became it's own marketable genre off of his and others backs. How the hell can alternative music be played on a mainstream radio station? The point was missed....badly. 

A kick ass version of "Valentine", Dave and Josh really let it go.

All that has gone to history now and Paul and Tommy have concluded a journey that has lasted more than a year. They have toured all around the country and played before audiences of 20,000 plus. They didn't have to spend time in shitty hotels and in a van for days on end. It didn't have to become a burden for them personally. I love going to club shows. They are definitely more personal than a festival, but Paul and Tommy had been there and done that. It was time for them to get paid and do it in a comfortable setting on their terms. Bringing in veterans like Freese and Minehan was the right thing to do and it really started to show in the last few gigs they played, particularly on back to back weekends at the Austin City Limits Festival. 

If these are the last two shows they ever play, they sure the hell went out on a high note. I have watched both shows, via the magic of a You Tube downloader and DVD creating software. I have to say that they may have sounded tighter at other shows, but they were more like THE Replacements than in any other show I've heard or seen. At times they were a mess. At times they were brilliant. At times they were funny. At times they played with raw emotion. At times they looked like they didn't know what the hell was gonna happen next. They appeared to be totally in their element. Paul Westerberg looked like he was finally in his own skin being who he was born to be. I am probably dead wrong about this, but from a fans perspective it really looked like Freese and especially Minehan had finally reached the status of real band members. I sensed a look of reservation in earlier shows. In Austin they really cut loose and played their asses off! This was a real band. Freese and Minehan can now take their place along with Chris, Bob, Slim, and yes, even Steve. We can call them Josh and Dave now. They are no long replacements for Replacements. They are Replacements. This version of the band wasn't just rehashing the old favorites, this was a band hitting on all cylinders in only the way The Replacements could and in only a way a Replacements fan can really understand. 

They didn't phone anything in. They weren't the Rolling Stones playing "Satisfaction" for the hundred millionth time, oh so perfectly, but without passion or attitude! The songs were given life and vitality. They still hold up, they are still relevant, and they still can give this fan a chill. Especially when they are played the way they were created. Ragged glory. Warts and all. Hearing Paul sing "Unsatisfied" with Dave playing with the slide just got to me. I didn't hear it from the perspective of my youth anymore. It didn't lose anything for me. It was fresh and alive again. I hear it as a 45 year old man that can look back on some of his life and still feel "unsatisfied". It's fucking art and not everyone likes it and not everyone understands it, but it's a fulfilling reward if you do. 

If this is the last song they ever play, it was a fitting end. Paul put it to bed in way that may only make sense to him.....he trashed his guitar and walked off the stage, with Tommy smiling in the background. 

 I just don't know if they had stayed together another 5 or 10 years if they would be where they are right now. There were too many swings and misses that wouldn't have happened to shape them into who they are now. We missed them though. Apparently, Tommy and Paul missed each other. What came out of that two decade long drought was an awesome year of seeing these two "alternative/punk" legends reach back into their souls and pull out the music that made them who they are and along with two fresh members, taking their fans, not for a walk down memory lane, but for a full fledged flight of redemption and affirmation. We were right. This was and IS a great fucking band. A real band. I don't see them as Paul, Tommy and two other guys. This is The Replacements. I can only hope they will continue to play once in awhile and possibly record some new music. If not, I think the comeback was all anyone could have ever hoped for. I'll take it and not beg for anything else.

"....and if I don't see you there, in a long long while.
I'll try to find you, left of the dial."
"Left of the Dial" - The Replacements

Some other shit I have written about The Replacements....

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Louisville and Kentucky: Get Over It Already

I'm guessing this is going to rub some people the wrong way, but if I cared, I wouldn't write it. It's too long for a Facebook post, so I'll just put it down here; Can we now, finally dispense with the notion that either the University of Louisville or University of Kentucky somehow is recruiting better kids than the other for their sports programs? 

Last year I saw a lot of stuff on Facebook, some of it on my own page, about how Louisville's athletes were "thugs" and dope heads. The insinuation was that Louisville's athletic program condoned and accepted this behavior. That's just ridiculous. Why? Because UK has had plenty of trouble out of their athletes also. With the recent, alleged rape of a girl by a red shirt freshman on the UK football team, I think any perceived "upper hand" when it comes to smack talk on thuggery can be tossed out the window. 

Let's be real for a moment, so try to take off  your blue and red glasses and think like a rational adult. Every major D-1 program is basically recruiting the same kids. Every program wants the best players available. Every programs fans, want the best players they can get and we all have easily forgiven the "sins" of our own players and coaches while beating down the opposition. The off field actions are the responsibility of the players as human beings. Second and sometimes third chances are warranted when dealing with young people. Who wants to see any young person kicked to the curb? That has probably happened to some of them enough in the environments that they have grown up in.  

These are young people and young people do stupid things sometimes. With the emergence of the internet and social media, this stuff gets way blown up and there is little room for overall perspective. The players lives are on full display and we sit in judgement before they are even professionals.

I thought UK coach Mark Stoops was brilliant in the way he handled the questions on the rape at his press conference. Basically saying, you do the best you can to teach and mentor, but young people are still young people and they can't be baby sat all the time. 

I blame Stoops and UK for that alleged rape no more than I would blame Pitino and Louisville for having a couple of athletes that loved to smoke pot (big shocker kids smoking weed). 

Haven't we come to a point where (beyond the friendly banter, teasing, and razzing) we can actually enjoy our own teams success and not need the other to fail? Both Louisville and Kentucky are nationally recognized and while we don't have to be fans of one anothers programs, would it hurt to stop being disingenuous and "holier than thou" when it comes to discussing them? There is some fun in the gamesmanship for sure, but some of the BS is just outright hate and is that where you wanna be when Jesus comes back? 

I will step off the soap box. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The "Ice Bucket Challenge" for ALS: Why I'm Not Participating

This isn't going to start out as a popular notion, but I hope you stick with me on it; I am not participating in the ALS "Ice Bucket" Challenge. I have been challenged a couple of times and I will make a donation to show that I'm not a bad sport. I just have a few reasons why I won't do this and what I will do in the spirit of this "pop culture" charity meme.

While I hate that anyone gets a crippling disease like ALS, I only know two names of people that have (or have had) it and nobody that I know personally. Lou Gehrig and Stephen Hawking. I don't know anyone with ALS ever. It's not personal to me. Yes, I know that I don't have to be effected to care, but nor do I have to dump ice water on my head to show that I care or to what I believe is to get OUT of actually giving MORE money to the charity. 

Nobody gave a shit about donating to ALS before it became a celebrity phenomenon (see the chart below). The numbers are incredible in how much has been given this year as opposed to last and I'm not saying it's a bad thing. It is not. I would love to see ALS eliminated, or at least for there to be better ways to help those that live with the disease. I just want to donate my money to charities and/or research that are more personal to me and more pressing for humanity. At any given time in the USA, about 30,000 people have ALS. About 20,000 people, with more than half being children, starve to death every day on our planet. Every day, 1,500 Americans die of cancer. Around 29 million Americans have diabetes. 600,000 people in the US die of heart disease every year. More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimers. Again, I'm not diminishing ALS or any contribution towards its treatment or eradication, but I wanted to show that there are some major problem areas that are a far more pressing concern for American's and humanity.

I am absolutely not having a go at anyone that gives or even does the ice bucket thing. Having more people that care about the condition of other humans is a great thing, no matter the reason and/or gimmick to perpetuate that sense of caring. Like the "Live Strong" bracelet and pink ribbons for breast cancer, gimmicks work in raising money. Hopefully this ice bucket meme will lead to the fall of ALS, but I believe in the long run it will be just a blip on the radar for ALS donations. As you can see on the chart above, donations are up in a spectacular way (again, not a bad thing), but I am wondering what that will look like next year or the year after. Will the donations continue or will they fall off as people become bored of seeing people dump water on their heads?

In the spirit of having said all that, I lay down a challenge to anyone reading this blog;

Over the course of your next four paychecks (or couple of months), find a single charity, a couple of charities, four different charities, or identify family/friends that are needy and donate something to them. It doesn't have to be money. It could be time. Canned goods. Clothing. Whatever can help another person out.

 If you are strapped for money and don't have a great deal to spare, give a couple of bucks to a homeless guy or buy a needy person a value meal.  Go through your clothes or your kids clothes and take them to a local church or charitable organization that helps the poor. Find a friend or family that you know is in real need and take them some groceries. Call a friend that may be in need that doesn't involve money and give them 10 or 15 minutes of your time...or take them out for coffee and let them know you care. 

If you have the means, then stroke out a few checks to a charity that may be relevant to your life, grab a card off the Angel Tree this Christmas, send money to people researching renewable energy or rain forest preservation, sponsor a family......anything you want. Anything that you care about that could make even the smallest impact. And yes, your giving to ALS is a part of that, but there is much more we could do for others that doesn't involve doing it because it's the flavor of the month. 

Just give something back. Your time. Your presence. Your voice. Your money. I am linking in a website that lists a lot of charities and their grades on how they use the money donated. You can find something that may be meaningful to you, click that link and find out how to give. 

I will be first up to show I'm not going to be a hypocrite. I will donate to ALS, because I want my friend (B.K.M.) to know that I am not waving off his challenge without acknowledgment. I think that his taking the Ice Bucket Challenge has covered me. He suffered so I wouldn't have to. My family will do our usual Angel Tree thing also. In addition, I will donate from each of my next four paychecks to the following charities, each of which strike a chord with me for one reason or another;

Sending my first donation out today in honor of my late "Uncle Richard".

(in my youngest daughter's name)

So there it is! The gauntlet has been thrown down. I challenge anyone reading this to make even what you would consider to be the smallest of a difference in the world. A lot of small differences can make for big change! Will you accept THAT challenge?

"Everything'd be great. Everything'd be good.
If everybody gave, like everybody could."
Jim James (My Morning Jacket)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Louisville Purge: A Journal

On August 15th, 2014, from 8 pm to 6:30 am local time, Louisville, Kentucky was brought to its' knees by threats of mayhem. Facebook, local sports message boards, and Instagram were all a flutter with concern and fear over the impending doom of "The Purge". My Space was also abuzz, as all 7 people left on that site were discussing how to deal with what was to come, in between sharing audio of their band garage rehearsals. Apparently, "The Purge" is a movie about there being a night, once a year, where people are free to do as they please. No law. No rules. So, if you wanted to go into a McDonald's with no shoes and no could....and get service! If you didn't want to tip your pizza guy....hey, fair game! Seat belts? Forget about into a damn tree if you want. Tear the tags off your mattress? Do what you gotta do! Order red wine with fish.

My family was pretty upset about this, so we decided we would take action as a family and "hole up" in our basement. Since this could very well be our last night on the earth, I decided I would keep a journal. Perhaps in the future, this journal would be read in classrooms all over the world as an inspiring story of how one family was able to ride out the chaos of the very first year that "The Purge" was instituted in our formerly meek and fair city. 

I warn you: some of the events depicted in my journal are not for the faint of heart. It's a hard hitting and often challenging look at what happens when a family of four and a Cocker Spaniel are forced to spend hours together on a Friday night.

Journal Entry: 8/16/2014 

7:30 PM
My family and I are almost finished boarding up the windows. We have preemptively set both of our cars on fire, hoping this will lead would be "purgers" to believe our property had already been destroyed and our home invaded with possible physical casualties. My wife has gathered up our food rations for the evening and I have pulled together some necessities. For the sake of time, I will list them all together and not worry about writing down who brought what.

Ordered Dominos pizza and cinnamon sticks
3 two-liter bottles of Dr. Pepper
Bottled Water
1 bag of Funyuns
Granola Snacks
A pipe
4 Slim Jims
6 pack of Yoo Hoo
pistol with 5 bullets (in case our fortress is breached)
1 box of Little Debbie Star Crunches
1/4 oz of Sour Diesel

7:45 PM
I encourage my children to call their "Nanna" and "Grammy", as they will likely never see them again and wanted them to have a fond fair well memory. I have a 200 count box of  3 inch carpentry nails and will use every last one of them to secure the two doors that lead into the basement, along with the small window.

7:59 PM
We are in. I asked the children to pray to the god of their choice that we be spared.

8:15 PM
I hear the doorbell ring upstairs. There is furious knocking. Has it started? Are people trying to get in to hurt us or are people seeking shelter? The knocking continues. It sounds thunderous as it tortures us. Someone up there is really angry. 

8:20 PM
The profuse banging on the door has stopped. I hear a very clear voice scream "Thanks a lot you asshole!!!" I am sure it was someone wanting to take refuge. I pray they survive and begin to weep because I could offer no shelter. 

8:25 PM
My wife has to pee. Seriously? She always does this sort of thing. 10 minutes into a road trip....pull over. 25 minutes into Louisville's first purge and she has to go. I console her, but can't help but resent that she should have went before I nailed the doors. Not having proper restroom facilities was something I did not prepare for. I will make a note of it.

8:45 PM
My youngest wants to know where the Dominos pizza and cinnamon sticks are. I'm not sure. The delivery guy never did show up. 

9:00 PM
I am elected "President" of our group. The vote went as follows:  Me: 1  My Wife: 1  My Oldest Daughter: 1  My Youngest Daughter: 1  The Dog: Abstained
As the elder (and biggest) of our group, I ceased control.

9:15 PM
I have begun to ration the food. We have some Funyuns and Dr. Pepper. My youngest decides to entertain us by singing "Happy". 

9:25 PM
I wish I had brought duct tape. She really needs to shut up. The dog is barking continuously. I'm on the brink of insanity. It's a madhouse.....A MADHOUSE!!!!

9:28 PM
I slide into the closet with my sour diesel and pipe. Reach into my pocket. Seriously? I didn't bring a lighter. 

9:35 PM
We have decided to watch a movie to take our minds off the fact that everyone has to pee worse than a Russian race horse. Despite having to pee, they are continuing to drink Dr. Pepper at what I can only assume is a record pace.

9:40 PM
By democratic vote, we will be watching "Grown Ups: Part 2". Voting as follows- Big Lebowski: 1, The Notebook: 1, Grown Ups Part 2: 2, Hotel for Dogs: 1

9:50 PM
I pull rank and take "Grown Ups: Part 2" out of the DVD player. A man can only handle so much before he breaks. It's time to teach these kids about life. I put in "The Purge".

10:15 PM
I wonder why the hell they never delivered that pizza. 

10:25 PM
The movie has terrified my youngest. She is squirting tears....for fear. My wife is looking at our bank account and questioning why there are so many purchases from Amazon. The oldest is trying to break out of the window. The movie has convinced her that the purge is a good idea. She has already broken my skull bong. I fear for my lava lamp. It's getting intense. And would someone shut that fucking dog up?! I am on the cusp of declaring martial law and imposing a state of emergency. It's possible that I may have to go to my Jose Canseco model Louisville Slugger mini-bat to restore order. 

10:35 PM
The police scanner said that a local Circle K was just hit. Details were not clear, but at least one jar of pickles, a pack of condoms, and a Bargain Mart were stolen along with the entire contents of the "Take a Penny, Leave a Penny" tray. Savages. 

10:40 PM
We finally relent. Everyone has to pee really bad and my youngest might have to go number 2. We'll have to use my JK Rowling autographed trash can. It's shaped like Ron Weasley. With the mouth being the trash receptacle.  Awwwkwaaarrrd!

10:50 PM
Some musings; Star Crunches suck. Just realized this is the longest amount of time I have ever spent in the proximity of these people. Will Ben Affleck make a good Batman? There has to be a lighter here somewhere. 

11:00 PM
Finally, everyone is settling down to go to sleep. I will sit up and guard us. As the man of the house, I must be vigilant. I will write an entry every hour on the hour to give an update and to stay awake. I must be strong for the family.

12:00 Midnight
Geez....I really wish I had that lighter. 

7:00 AM
OK, I guess it's over. I toughed it out and stayed up all night for the sake of the family. Time to remove the nails and go out into the world. 

7:01 AM
Shit. I hammered these nails in flush. Must create a plan of action.

7:03 AM
I was able to burst through the window. I pushed the dog out and command her to go to the neighbors house for help. 

7:04 AM
I'm not entirely sure that the dog understands what I'm asking for. She is just looking back in at us. I now realize that every last episode of "Lassie" was bullshit. 

7:05 AM
For some reason, nobody mentioned that each of them had a cell phone. We call 911 and they said they will dispatch the fire department.

9:30 AM
Fire department arrives. They are bursting through the door. Thank goodness. The Ron Weasley trash can is getting a little "loud".

9:35 AM
The fire chief says the city will send me a bill for $500. I call bullshit and will obviously be hiring an attorney. I pay taxes and they are public servants. 

9:45 AM
This is my final entry. We survived. Perhaps the toughest night of my life. I will go into the neighborhood and survey the damage. Is it bad to hope that the guy down the street was overrun by hoodlums? He has a really nice hosta plant that I would love to put into our landscape. My final message is this: keep hope alive. Prepare and survive. If I can do it, so can you. My family is putting the pieces back together. We will rebuild. Now, I gotta call Dominos and give them a piece of my mind!

11:00 AM
An update:  I thought I would share a few pictures of the damage that was brought upon my property.