Thursday, October 20, 2011

Best Movie, Science Fiction

This category gets a short shift in any awards ceremony. The old people who vote still probably do so by pen and then send the ballot via snail mail. They are not hip to technology. They, in fact, still use the word hip to describe something those newfangled gadgets the kids are playing with nowadays. There have occasionally been some sci-fi movies that garnered respect, Avatar, obviously comes to mind. (Side rant: Avatar was stupid. It was yet another example of the great white man coming in to save the nature-loving savages from their evil enemy, other greedy white people. The only difference is that this time, it was in 3-D with day-glo colors. James Cameron and his ego can go bite it.) But mostly, they are ignored.

A goods sci-fi movie has the same things any good movie in any genre should have: good plot, good script, good actors. However, it also needs good science and good internal logic. Inception had neither. If you think about that movie for more than a minute, you need a Tylenol. Lots of summer blockbusters are fun to watch, but don’t even try to be anything other than eye candy. I’m okay with that. But the best sci-fi movies create more than two hours of entertainment. They create worlds. They create a whole new way of seeing reality.

So, here are my top five. I am ignoring the obvious, standard choices such as Blade Runner and Alien mostly because they didn’t resonate with me.

1. The Matrix. Obvious, yes, but still worthy. I remember going to see this in the theater with a work buddy and having literally no idea what I was about to witness. I thought it was going to be a fun ride. It was so much more. The sequels may have been awful, but that original is a shining example of how to think big.

2. Dark City. This is my dark horse contender. It is deliriously weird, but creates a fascinating world where everything can change at a moment’s notice. It’s just cool. I know that isn’t exactly a Roger Ebert worthy review, but I don’t want to spoil any part of it for those who haven’t seen it. So go see it.

3. Serenity. My love of all things Whedon-esque is well documented. This movie, a love note to all the fans of the cancelled TV series, Firefly, was a fantastic way to bid farewell to our intrepid crew. I think it works as a stand-alone movie too though. It’s funny and sad and cool and fun and it even has a Buffy-Bot. What more could you possibly want out of a film?

4. The Abyss. Sure, Terminator is probably the best of Cameron, but Linda Hamilton’s Minnie Mouse voice drives me to distraction. Plus, I can never get my head around the chicken/egg conundrum of how John Conner had to send his dad to knock his mom up. I much prefer The Abyss. The ending sort of sucked (What happened to decompression?) but the very real fear of being trapped under the ocean and dying a slow, cold, wet death really hit home for me.

5. The Star Wars Trilogy. The original series, not the second set of movies and not any of the special edition versions George Lucas keeps releasing. Nope, I am talking about Luke, Vader, Leia, Han, Chewie, C-3PO, and R2-D2. These movies are part of my DNA. I still get my dad Star Wars related gifts and always will.

I may have very basic tastes and my geek cred might be in jeopardy, but the list stands.

Friday, October 14, 2011


I’ve hijacked my wife’s blog to use it as my own soapbox.

Consider this your fair warning – I recognize my wife is the superior talent when it comes to communication, be it verbal or written. I attempt here not to duplicate or replace, but simply borrow an established medium to vent.

Those of you who are regular followers of the blog are aware, I’m sure, that we have just moved into the home that we will, by the grace of God, finish raising our family in. We’re done. No more moves. No more real estate transactions, ever. I’ve said more than once in the past month that I’ll burn this fucker down before I pack another box.

But this isn’t about that. This is about me confronting my issues, and confessing to the cyber world my shortcomings. The entirety of that list is enormous, but there’s one that surpasses all others.

I hate stupid people. Not the normal, average, every day stupid people, but that segment of the population that really makes me question whether or not Darwin was wrong. The ones that really make you think, “How the hell do these people reproduce?” These are not the folks who stop at yield signs, nor are they the folks who use the 10 items or fewer lane to check out 45 items. These aren’t the morons who try to talk on cell phones in elevators, or the ignorant assholes who can’t seem to park between the white lines. I’m even willing to forgive those idiots who can’t merge onto the highway (it’s really simple, if you can’t figure it out, you probably shouldn’t be driving).

No, the ones who have me currently wishing for the ability to use the force to choke the living shit out of them, are the folks who answer the phones at my TV/Internet provider. It shouldn’t be all that difficult. I call, they answer, the issue gets resolved. Under no circumstances should it take 3 fucking weeks, 18 phone calls, 3 supervisors, 4 tech visits, 2 routers, and 4 set top boxes in order for me to watch a simple football game as I surf the web, and use the fucking DVR I am paying an arm and a leg for in order to record something for later viewing. Jimminy freakin Christmas!

I realize that this is, as my lovely wife would phrase it, a first world problem. There are many people throughout the world who don’t have enough to eat, a roof over their heads, or the freedom to make choices to try and enrich their lives. But none of them are reading this, and I can’t solve their problems today – cause I‘m too busy trying to figure out how to make my fucking TV work properly.

I am a college educated man, with a degree in engineering, and pretty well versed in most things technological. I actually have a soft spot in my heart for tech support folks - throughout my career, I’ve had some sort of Customer Service responsibility in just about every job I’ve had. During one fateful late night support call, I actually had to utter the words “Is the CD in the drive?” I get it – people are stupid, and when I was on the other end of the line, it was always the moron calling in who couldn’t find his ass with both hands and a map.

But really – where the fuck do they find these people? Isn’t unemployment still at 9.something percent? Why the hell are the people at my internet provider still employed? Are there no better qualified people out there? There has to be – it’s statistically impossible for all the unemployed folks to be stupider than these guys. How fucking hard is it to get dispatch on the other line and find out when the tech will be at my house? You’ve got e-mail, instant messaging, chat, text messaging, a multi-line phone system, and can’t get through to an internal department? Jezzus – please tell me you are sterile.

Also, when I get transferred to another department, why the hell do I have to re-verify my name, account number, address where the service is installed, e-mail address, and alternate phone number to contact me in case we are disconnected? I’ve seen CRM systems from the other side – they not only know all that, but my shoe size, what I’ve had for breakfast and the last time I got laid. Don’t make me fucking go through the entire script again – use the information in the system – it’s not like we’re passing Post-It notes around with a name scribbled on it.

And I sure as shit should not have to describe the problem I am currently experiencing. If the first fucker didn’t note the problem with enough detail, then go ask him – I’m tired of reciting the same facts over and over again. I’m not lying, you’re not fucking Matlock, and this isn’t a murder case. My freaking cable’s out – fix it.

And goddamn it, you can see that this the 15th time I’ve called in the past three weeks – don’t you think the previous 14 people had me unplug the box, wait 15 seconds, and plug it back in? Or do you just assume that the previous idiots didn’t know what they were doing either? I’m sure you were listening when I told you that I have three other boxes, my original and two replacements that you have already sent – and it still doesn’t work. What makes you think that the box that you send out is going to work? What part of “DON’T SEND ME ANOTHER BOX” did you not understand? Please, don’t have kids – just buy a dog instead.

In the end, it turned out to be crossed wires. Literally – wires plugged into the wrong hole. Why it took 4 visits, 18 phone calls, 4 set box boxes, 2 routers, 3 supervisors and 3 weeks to figure this out, I don’t know. But I do know that all the time I invested in this first world problem of mine is time I will never get back. Let that be a lesson to you all –when all else fails, unplug all the wires and start over.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Jessie's Girl

I have a friend, let’s call her Etsy, that is really, really into 80’s rockers. Her Top Five starts with Tommy Lee and goes downhill from there. Tommy Lee. A man I wouldn’t touch with a HAZMAT suit, who is probably a case study in STD’s, and is the textbook definition of “skeevy.” If a guy looks like a coked out death zombie with bad hair and who hasn’t bathed since Reagan was in office, Etsy will gleefully throw her panties at him.

Etsy just went to see Rick Springfield. She gleefully posted pictures of herself rubbing his sweaty back. (I hope there is a shot for that.) Now, let’s do a little math. Jessie’s Girl came out in 1981. Giving old Rick the benefit of the doubt that the girl in question (never named, because let’s face it, the fact that she is Jessie’s is what makes her desirable, not any actual quality she possesses in her own right) was of legal age and you add the full thirty years since that song came out, then if I do my math right, Jessie’s girl is getting ready to turn 50. Do you feel old yet?

What I wonder is this - what do those aging rockers see when they look into the current crowd? Back in their heyday, their fans were bra-less teenagers and come hither 20-somethings. Now? Not so much. There isn’t a bra in the world that could help most of his current fans pass the pencil test. That goes for all the aging rockers out there. I went to see Duran Duran back in college. Even back in those dark ages, we thought they were retro - and they are still touring! Can you imagine night after night after night after night having to sing the same songs, with the same level of enthusiasm, all while watching your audience creep toward middle age right along with you? That’s got to be a level of hell created solely for musicians.

For nostalgia purposes, let’s discuss New Kids On The Block. I wasn’t into them, but many of my friends were. They were only a few years older, so their concerts must have looked like all-you-could-shag buffets. What did it look like this past summer? I can’t imagine they gained a new crop of teenage fans, so it’s those same women who had their posters on the wall all those years ago, relieving their high school years singing along to all the worlds. That buffet must look pretty damn unappetizing.

So, do you think they rockers play make believe? Do you think they still send out security to find the youngest, prettiest girls to send back to their dressing rooms? The ones who still think sleeping with Rick Springfield would be a notch on their bedpost and not an immediate appointment to a clinic? I know half of them must be married by now, with kids, and the only thing they find interesting in their fans pants is their wallets. But the other half, the ones with the plastic faces that barely move who still struggle into leather pants and vests? How much longer can Rick look out into the crowd and sing about Jessie’s girl without said girl being hauled up onstage in a wheelchair?

It’s a sad, sad fate to be an aging rocker. Sadder still to be Etsy, the girl whose love for them will never, ever die.