Saturday, January 27, 2007

How Not To Suck

How Not To Suck showed up in my mailbox today. Man, if ever anyone needed instructions on how not to suck, it's me of late. Because I do kind of suck. But hopefully, this'll help me out. And hopefully, it'll help out others. It promises as much. From the description:

This book will change how you view yourself and the world you think you know. Admit it, we all suck. This book will make you face your own suckiness and lead you down the path to a suck free life. If not, you'll laugh a lot. Either way, it is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

For real, I've read this book. And I love this book. It is funny as hell. Whether it's rating the relative suckidity of various holidays or railing against drama queens, this book is filled with practical humor that really might make you pause before you go off and act like a royal asshole next time. And then the whole world would be cheerier. Or, if you prefer to keep acting like an asshole (like me), it'll help you pinpoint exactly what's so funny (and upsetting) about your behavior to others.

So have fun. This book does not suck.

Go Gwen!

Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz is on a tear lately. Stop by her blog and see if she'll be in your area for a reading, as she has a lot of them lined up.

I don't think I've ever known a more prolific writer than GJM, and she's excellent, so her stuff finds a home more often than not. She's been getting a lot pubbed lately, and is even in a new book. Nuvein's Cultural Anthology. Gwendolyn's story is "Going to Hell with my Eyes Wide Open." I know this story well, because it's the first one of hers I ever read and I was instantly a fan.

Nuvein is a really cool magazine. (They've also published someone else you know.) Huge to success to them and GJM for this book!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Crossing the Rubicon

Rome is back on HBO, and I don't have to watch another episode of Desperate Housewives this year. Joy.

I was slow to warm to this series, and though I still have problems with most of the casting, I really do like it. Historicals aren't the easiest thing to pull off, especially when the main plot points are well-known. I mean, it wasn't shocking that Julius Caesar got shived in the Senate, you know? And as far as this season goes, I'm quite aware of how things turn out for Octavian and Mark Antony and Cleopatra, as well as Octavian's mom and sister.

But the writers still managed to infuse plenty of drama and suspense into the series and make me tune in every week. Part of that is due to the subplots of Vorenus and Titus Pullo. Because while Vorenus and Titus are also historical figures, they've been fictionalized enough so that I don't know what the hell is going on with them. Like, will Titus end up being Augustus's Praetorian Prefect? He sure as hell should figure into Octavian's rise to power somehow.

Vorenus, I never really cared about him last year, and I still don't this year. Broody little Gaulish grunt. But I'll watch him act all black-hearted and bad-assed anyhow. I suppose it's meant to be compelling. Vorenus always was the "noble" one -- the thinking man who mustered the courage to do the right thing even if it was infringing on him personally. And now he's all despondent and dark, even though he's still reaching for redemption. Still. He bores me. He bores me because he thought he was so noble, which is why he acted right most of the time.

In contrast, Titus just is right and good. His character is an archetype -- the big, somewhat dim, loyal-to-the-death oaf who's entirely too passionate for his own good. In other words -- pure Alpha male, female fantasy fodder. And Ray Stevenson is hot enough to pull it off by seeming to be so unaware of his own appeal. Titus doesn't have to debate doing the right thing, he just acts on instinct and protects his friend, fucks the hot chicks, and fights like a bastard. I mean, yeah, he'll murder a guy in a jealous rage, but he's a Roman, so fuck it.

Making the night even better is how Rome is then followed by the second season of Extras. Ricky Gervais and Ashley Jensen (also lovable on Ugly Betty) are the antithesis of Entourage, even now that Andy Millman has his own sitcom on the BBC. The celeb guests are never wasted, whether it's David Bowie humiliating poor Andy or Orlando Bloom preening and pandering to be considered hotter than Johnny Depp. When Andy gets harassed in his local pub by an over-enthusiastic fan, you can't help but feel for him. But when he later gets so thoroughly eviscerated by Bowie, you can't but laugh as you feel for him. And then when he returns to the local pub and cozies to the creepy fan, it's both a funny and pathetic moment -- and one where most of us realize we'd behave exactly the same way.

And the best part of the whole night is that when these two series finish up for the year, they'll be immediately replaced in April by The Sopranos (more bloodthirsty Italians consumed with power struggles for survival and beset by betrayal -- YAY!) and Entourage -- the glittering, glamorous, feel good industry flipside to the down-to-earth, soulful Extras.

The die has indeed been cast, and Bree and her annoying Wisteria Lane pals can now kiss my ass.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Jackasses get hosed

I've got my new Jackass Number Two DVD and it makes me happy. I would love to write an eloquent essay about the whole Jackass thing, but I'm not eloquent. And they deserve better than that anyhow. It's all best summed up by Knoxville's shirt in one of the segments. It says Fuck Art. Let's Dance.

So there you go.

But I will say that even though Number Two made me laugh just as hard as the series and first flick did, there was a bit more of an edge to it. There was supposed to be more of an edge to it, because clearly they wanted to top the first one. But it's not just from the stunts getting more severe and the pranks getting more brutal. It's been four years since the last movie was made, and four years in a body that's got 30 years of hardcore wear and tear on it is pretty substantial. Even the baby of the crew, Bam Margera, is getting a bit old-er. Ehren McGhehey's hair is thinning and his front tooth was missing for most of the skits. When they'd show the guys naked -- which was a lot (the Dickhouse logo isn't a rainbow for nothing, kids) -- you'd see the gnarly aftermath splotched and scraped all over their flesh. It was those brief moments when I'd think that Pontius didn't have it so bad drinking the horse semen. Puke and it's over. But how long did Bam, Johnny, and Ryan suffer after taking those crowd-dispersing pellets?

I won't go so far as to say that it seemed like Knoxville has a death wish. Quite the contrary, it kind of seems like he's overwhelmed with trying to fit everything into his life all at once. After the first movie, he was criticized a little, with people saying that he left radical shit to Steve-O and the others.

I don't really think that was a fair criticism, as his shtick has always been a bit offbeat from the rest of the crew. He did the riot-testing and shooting himself shit and was better with the off-the-cuff quips while pulling pranks. (I mean, really, I still grin when I think about him saying, "I hit a dog," when he returned the destroyed rental car.) And as the ringleader, it always was kind of his thing to help goad everyone else into being a jackass, too. And it's his over-the-top, shotgun cackle that works as a laugh-track for the bits. Someone's howling in pain -- sometimes Knoxville himself is -- but then there's that contagious laugh, and then everyone else is laughing like a lunatic, too.

They may be all busted up, but they're having the time of their lives.

But maybe Knoxville took some of that criticism to heart and decided to risk life and limb -- repeatedly -- for this second venture. Don't get me wrong -- he's crazy as a shithouse rat, alright. But he's not stupid, either. He is also an emerging movie star, if anyone can ever find a role to mesh his electric charisma with his edgy sensibilities. (Johnny -- call me! I'm writing something for you! For real!) And the most worry we ever see etched across his face isn't when he's waiting to be charged by a yak, but during the end credits, when he's laying on the ground with a bloodied scratch across his face and someone comments that his face is fucked up. And in yet another instance, he literally gets shot, but points to his face and asks if it's alright and then says he's fine as long as his face is unscathed. Vain? Perhaps a bit. But pretty funny, too. And considering he reportedly makes 5 mill a picture, not so irrational a concern.

I think he does have the capacity to make a career out of acting. I mentioned in another post that he showed promise in the little-seen The Ringer. He was just a little TOO flattened out into a "nice guy" in that role, but he still made it work. Maybe it is a matter of pride that he felt compelled to go back and do another round of Jackass.

They closed out the first flick with a spoof of all the guys being old men, still hobbling down the street, Steve-O in his leopard thong and Knoxville in his Chuck Taylors, with explosions going off and jackassy shit going on. But four years later -- and four years older -- they did come back and do it all over again, and did it bigger and badder. And I have a feeling it wasn't to prove anything, but just because no matter what else they do, they all know that Jackass will be the best time of their lives. Even if the bruises last longer, and the cuts go deeper, and the falls are taken harder. They still cackle like maniacs through it all.

But this news today pleases me anyhow. I don't really care about Madge and what she's up to. But just like I'm glad to see Knoxville get some other work that probably pays the bills more than Jackass, I'm also glad to see the same for Pontius, Steve-O, Preston, and Wee Man. (who I guess is also on that new reality show about becoming a cop.) It's nice to think of Steve-O getting a paycheck that doesn't involve puking up his guts or impaling himself with a fishing hook. Even if it probably won't be as funny.

Damn. I guess I did write that essay. But at least it wasn't eloquent. Fuck eloquent. Let's Dance.

Delurk week

I learned from my pal Jason Shaffner that it's national delurking week.

It blows my mind that we only have 52 weeks a year and we've pissed one away over something like that. But, you know. When in Rome...

So to both of you lurkers out there reading, I highly encourage you to say "hello" to me this week, even though odds are I'll have nothing useful to comment upon.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

So, kids. How were your holidays? Mine were strange. Manic. Some bad shit happened, but also plenty to be grateful for. I got some nice gifts, and though I won't bore you with an enumerated list of merchandise, I do want to share my favorite one. Behold the splendor:

I laughed so hard when I opened it up. And I'll tell you, I never breathed a word to anyone that it was my "it" item of the year. One of my witty, clever friends sent it to me and it just made the tail-end of my 2006.

I hope we all have some good laughs like that in this upcoming year.

I'd wanted to do an end-of-year wrap up with some of my favorite things from 2006, but I never really got around to it. My job tends to keep me pretty busy in the month of January, but hopefully I'll be able to check in and fill you in on some of my latest idiotic obsessions that I should probably keep quiet about. (Case in point -- I've been watching "The Ringer" on a semi-daily basis on Cinemax and have decided that Johnny Knoxville isn't just a glorious Jackass, he's also becoming a decent actor. Oh, have I mentioned that I drink profusely over the holidays? Impaired judgment and all, you know. Anyhow.) Farrelly brothers movies aside, if it's quiet here for a while, I apologize. But I'm around, and I'll be back to spew some not-so-well reasoned blatherings at some point.