Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mad Men's Season Three Finale: A Perfect Pitch

Mad Men’s season three finale is possibly one of the best episodes of the show so far, if just for the great ways they showed how purposefully done everything through the season was.

Of course Joan left the firm because she got married. It made it much more dramatic when she came back and was given purpose again. Plus, with her husband going to Vietnam soon, she’ll likely need the built-in support network.

Of course Duck offered jobs to Peggy and Pete. They were two of the most talented and forward-thinking people in the firm, so it makes sense they'd be asked to join the new version of it. Plus, think of the dynamic between Duck and Peggy next season.

Of course Betty had an affair, even if it was mainly emotional. If Don wouldn't have found out about it, he would never have separated from her (or called her the spoiled brat that the audience has called her for a while now), which he desperately needs to do to be a better person.

Of course Hilton strung Don along and used him. It finally clued Don in on what he made others, at least his business friends, feel like.

Of course Sal got fired. That's going to make all of us so much more worried and hopeful about the possibility of them hiring him for the new incarnation of the firm, because they need him so badly. In the viewer’s eye, that would have to involve Don apologizing for the way he treated Sal the last time the two talked. That may even be possible with what Don may have learned.

Don continues to have one small epiphany after another. Sometimes they take and sometimes they don't. This last episode, it seems he was barraged with them and it looks like they'll all take to some degree. Betty's only epiphany seems to be that she deserves to be with someone who doesn't cheat on her and does share who he is with her, but that just highlights the differences between their two personalities and what they learned this past season. Don has learned he can and needs to be more open. Open in the truth about who he is (both with himself and others), with showing appreciation for others (it's about time he said what he did to Peggy and Pete), and his own limitations (admitting he can't do what others like Pryce and Roger can). However, while Don has learned he needs to be more open and supporting, Betty seems to only have realized she deserves better than what she gets from Don and wants the kind of spoiled life she had before marrying him. In other words, Don learned to accept and give, while Betty learned to fight (harder than before that is) and take (what she feels she deserves, which is a lot). That’s not meant to admonish her feelings because she does deserve better than a man who’ll cheat on her with any woman that’s as different from her as can be. Every woman Don’s been with so far is dark-haired and intellectually stimulating. Betty doesn’t fit either of those descriptions. She, however, is a product of her environment, both past and present.

One of the most dramatic and telling scenes of the finale was the big argument in Don and Betty’s bedroom after he found out about Henry Francis. It’s hard to blame her for saying she’s better than Don now that she knows what kind of family he came from, because it was so perfectly done in the scene by having Don instigate the comment and her so quickly agree to it out of anger. Who hasn’t said something they didn’t mean in the heat of an argument? That’s one of the great ways Mad Men captures people’s attention. The characters are so utterly despicable in so many ways, but they end up being so relatable in just as many ways.

I would say it’s maddening, but Don Draper would verbally beat me down for such a bad pun.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Gastrointestinal Plea to Movie Makers

At this year's SXSW, I managed to see 13 movies on a $70 film pass purchased at the Alamo Drafthouse. Only two of those thirteen were documentaries. However, 11 of those 13 movies contained scenes where at least one person vomited. Can you guess which two movies didn't have vomiting scenes? Yes, the documentaries. Although, even if they did, I'm sure seeing bees upchuck in The Last Beekeeper, the surprisingly enthralling story of three commercial beekeepers dealing with Colony Collapse Disorder, or seeing imaginary puke in the Trust Us, This is All Made Up, a concert film about improv greats TJ Jagodowski & David Pasquesi, wouldn't have elicited nearly the gag response the other movies did. For the record, the full list of movies consists of:

Even though I don't remember a specific vomiting scene in 500 Days, with the track record so far, it's possible I blacked it out because I had witnessed so many regurgitation scenes up to that point. Some movies rightfully called for puking scenes. One such movie is The Snake, the story of a pathetic schemer who thinks about little more than getting laid, or proving he can, so he enrolls in a body-image group to pursue a bulimic girl. The Snake is dark, offensive, funny, and even makes you feel a tinge of sympathy for the lead character more than once. If only the puking wave contained itself to movies like that during the festival. Instead, vomiting scenes appeared in movies that ranged from over-the-top restaurant farce to tense horror movie to introspective character study to low-budget science fiction to "bromantic" (their word, not mine) comedy movie. No genre seemed safe from the torrent of vomit.

Puking didn't always have the stage-front appearance it has now. It used to be that someone would lean off-camera and the audience would hear the cringe-inducing and all-too-familiar splattering sound of liquids and solids. At least the Irish-made, bad-luck "murder" cover-up movie A Film with Me In It had the decency and understanding to do just that. However, it was the only one out of eleven movies that took that classic tactic to showing someone barf (the most juvenile of words used to describe vomiting). Now, we're regularly treated to seeing what characters ate in reverse. Where did all this vomit come from?

One source could be reality television. Shows like the always classy Rock of Love and even stalwart of reality programming Survivor have shown someone puking so often that it's become an expected feature. With less and less left to exhibit, a new taboo had to be showcased. The bar had to be raised, or lowered, and it was done by using that bar to induce vomiting. Unlike nipples, genitals, and unlicensed products (that are still all clearly identifiable), vomit is shown in all its multi-colored and many-textured glory. Unfortunately, more scripted television and movies have picked up on this trend.

When I told others in line for movies at the SXSW Film Festival about this cinema trend that disgusted and annoyed me, they responded in disbelief. They thought I must have had a bad run of luck or was noticing something that wasn't there. That couldn't have been there. Then, after remembering non-documentary movies they had seen during the festival, they too recalled flinching from the screen multiple times. Bewildered conversations broke out where people discussed how prevalent scenes are now. Each person made a similar scrunched-face of disgust as he or she remembered or described a particular scene.

The sounds and imagined visuals of vomiting evoke an instantaneous and guttural reaction in most people. Having someone puke on camera does nothing to add to the impact of the overall movie. Frankly, I'm frightened of what could happen next if movies and TV feel the need to up the ante even more. The words scatological disaster comes to mind. As a plea to movie makers, and television show creators while I’m at it, remove the special effects finger from your actors’ throats.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hot Topic Makes Watchmen Better

Yes, the headline is a lie, because after seeing this and this, I'm all set to support this action.

Or maybe the headline isn't a lie. Oddly enough, Hot Topic's inappropriate merchandising has made Watchmen all the more relevant. Way to be meta without even trying. Or knowing you were for that matter.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The First List of Awesome and Not Awesome Things

Here, simply put, is the first of what may become many short lists of things I find to be awesome and not awesome.

The first one on the list might be so awesome that it overshadows the rest, but I can't resist.

Super awesome:

I desperately want to hang this in my house. It's so awesome, it hurts my awesome brain to think about it.

Most decidedly not awesome:

They don't taste like crab. If you like the Chesapeake Bay crab seasoning, they're probably great. But yes, it's like sprinkling the bay seasoning directly on your tongue. "We'll make crab chips and then not have them taste like crab at all, but like the seasoning that usually gets in the way of the crab flavor! Yes!"


Once banned and hidden gem with creator in attendance awesome:

Ralph Bakshi appears with his rarely shown film "Street Fight" a.ka. "Coonskin" at the Alamo Ritz.

That same night, Bakshi also appears with his film "Wizards".

I've seen little of "Street Fight" other than a few minutes here or there, but I know its reputation as one of the most inflammatory animated films ever made. Is it an indictment on racism, socioeconomic standards, church, gender roles, and the mafia or does it help support what it supposedly lambastes? Latoya Peterson gives a decent deconstruction of much of the movie here, but I can't wait to hear directly from the man himself.

I can only hope "Wizards" is as awesome as I remember it being. I'm sure Bakshi will have something to say about how the movie continues to resonate today with propaganda and wartime thinking.

Nostalgic awesome:

Cherry Certs. A gift from my younger days. They were my thing. People would buy them for me whenever they saw them. If you go up to a friend who smokes and hold your hand out, he may know to automatically give you a cigarette or a light for one. If someone came up to me with his hand out, I put a Cherry Certs in it. It's just the way things were. Until they weren't anymore, which leads to the next item.

Only in Canada makes it not awesome:

Before now, I had resigned to the fact that I would never again taste the tangy, delicious flavor of Cherry Certs again. They had been missing from my life for almost a decade now. However, through random sources, I heard Cadbury (yes, the same company that makes the Cadbury Creme Egg) was making Cherry Certs again, but they were only available in Canada. I had to have a friend in Canada mail them to me recently. It was worth it.

About time and swear it'll be awesome someday. If I stop procrastinating. Maybe:


Besides writing this blog post, I want to finally finish some screenplays I had on the backburner for a while now and a two-act play I started writing last year. Maybe I'll work more on a vampire novel I began writing a couple years ago. I don't normally read stories about vampires, let alone write anything about them, so I wanted to see what I could do. One of the most disturbing things I've ever written. Those who've read it said they wanted more. About time I got off my butt to get some sketches written too. Or is it skits? I never know if I should call them skits or sketches. I should probably find that out. Do you think there are people who care enough to correct me though? Scratch that. I know there are. To those people: I'll call them whatever I damn well please and you'll love me for it. Yes, you will.

That's the first list. It's a short one. Future ones could be longer and might have much less text. In other words, more pretty pictures. I enjoy the pretty pictures.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I've was buried in a cave-in.

That's my excuse for not having updated this in a while. True or not, I'm sticking to it.

My last blog entry was mainly about Scan Sound's 1-Bud and the possibility of hearing what stereo truly sounds like for the first time. At the end of that entry, I said how the 1-Bud better be worth all the emotion and hype I put into it. It actually arrived only a few days after I wrote about it, and I immediately tried it out.

Was it worth the purchase and the psychological and emotional investment?

Yes. Yes, it was.

First, I listened to a random piece of music on my computer using my regular headphones set-up, which consists of cutting the right earbud off of a regular set of headphones to create my own de facto 1-Bud. This is a practice I've done for years, so it obviously sounded like I expected it to. Then, I plugged the 1-Bud in my computer and in my ear, played the same piece of music from before again, and waited to see what the difference was. I'm not ashamed to say I became misty-eyed. It's an odd sensation that's hard to describe. Try walking around all day with one eye shut. Then, open both eyes and follow the exact same path as before. The difference should be impressive. If you only have one eye now, grow another eye and see how different that is. Hey, if you could grow another eye this whole time, why haven't you?

Back on track, hearing what amounts to stereo for the first time blew me away. I proceeded to try many different types of audio, from music to audio books to movies, switching out my old MacGyverized headphones for the 1-Bud's each time. For a while, I sat at my computer, staring off into space with a dream-like grin glued on my face. It's not just me that hears and is impressed by the stereo sound in one ear.

I've let others (more like forced on them) listen to MP3s on my portable XM radio. One person's most immediate reaction was a simple, "Holy shit." To those that have full hearing in both ears, the 1-Bud may be nothing more than a way for them to listen to music safely while running or riding their bikes. To others, the 1-Bud may allow them to freely listen to music or other types of audio at work and not worry about missing anything going on around them. To myself and anyone else with limited hearing, the 1-Bud allows us to listen in a new way. Who wouldn't want that opportunity?

. . .

I'll try to have future posts up more regularly. Hopefully, on a weekly basis, at minimum. They'll be about everything from reviews of movies, books, comics, and music to goofier posts just meant to amuse to ones full of snark for snark's sake to one's trying to fight away the snark to more serious ones like the one here about the 1-Bud.

Maybe one day I'll be writing for more than just myself.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A sEARious article

I know. That's a horrible title, but bear with me.

I have to share this. As some people who might read this know, I'm deaf in my left ear. I was born this way and had a few constructive surgeries when I was younger to create the look of an ear on my left side because I was born without a left ear on the outside too. I've grown used to it, but have looked into finishing the surgery procedure. It doesn't look bad and people say they don't notice it right away, but it doesn't look exactly like an ear. I'm missing the upper part of the ear and the ear lobe is a little thicker than the right on the bottom, so it looks a bit asymmetrical to me sometimes. I've also looked into getting a BAHA implant. I've even had little fantasies about what's it's like to stand in a doctor's office and have him turn some magical device on that enabled me to hear out of my left side. Yes, I said side and not ear because that's how the BAHA works.

Being deaf in one ear isn't a hindrance to my everyday life, but there are little quirks I have to deal with on a regular basis. As a performer, I can sometimes find myself standing on specific areas of the stage when a scene starts so I can hear everything going on. So far, I don't know of many times it has affected a scene, negatively or positively (it is improv, so I'd hope it could be spun the right way for a laugh, a good character moment, or even some strong foreshadowing). It's also a running joke with me that I say, "One day, I want to know what stereo really sounds like."

It looks like I may finally have that happen thanks to the 1-Bud.

From the website's description:

"Our newest Earbud is a black colored single Earbud that will really benefit those who must listen to audio in one ear only. Those who are hearing impaired and others who must hear and communicate with those that surround them will all benefit from this dramatic technological breakthrough in audio technology.

. . .

This new Earbud can also be plugged into Stereo devices such as Desktop Computers, Laptop Computers, iPods, MP-3 Players, Stereo Televisions, Treadmill Entertainment Systems, Automobile Entertainment Systems, etc., and will sum the Left and Right Channel so that you can hear both channels in a single Earphone."

I may get a little teary-eyed at the thought of the 1-Bud after getting so frustrated the other day when I failed to find mono headphones at any local stores. I also read about the tinniness that mono headphones can have and that some may even damage machines. The 1-Bud seems like the perfect solution. Just ordered two of them for a total of $23.90, including shipping cost. They should arrive in a few days.

Ok, this really better be worth it, because I feel ridiculous about how much I'm affected by something like this.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'll Sing When I'm Old.

Hi there.

I've been busy seeing SXSW movies the last few days. I've seen IBID, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, The Promotion, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Run, Fatboy, Run. All of them have been quite good.

The most surprisingly good one out of the bunch so far is The Promotion. I actually went into it thinking I wouldn't like it, and in fact, I only saw it because I couldn't get into another movie. What I thought was supposed to be a wacky, slapstick farce turned out to be a slower, more thoughtful and developed comedy with dramatic undertones. Instead of having John C. Reilly (Richard) simply be Sean William Scott's (Doug's) foil, he was a fully-rounded individual. It was almost like watching two movies in one because of the attention and care that was given to each character. Elements were introduced that could normally lead to some biting, black comedy in another movie led to some serious moments with real repercussions in The Promotion. The movie made me laugh, but not at the expense of the characters.

Here's are some quick reviews about the other movies I've seen so far.

IBID is a surreal movie. Not sure what else to say other than that and it doesn't exactly clear up the more you think about it. That's not a negative thing here either. Harold and Kumar had more satire about race and politics than the first movie, as you'd expect it would for a movie with Guantanamo Bay in the title. It's also damn funny. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was hilarious and had characters that weren't simply good or bad, which is a staple of Judd Apatow-produced movies. Like Harold and Kumar Escape, I'll likely see Forgetting Sarah Marshall again to catch any jokes I didn't hear the first time because they were drowned out by laughter from the audience from the previous joke. Run, Fatboy, Run is funny and touching. It's a perfect movie for Simon Pegg who gets to play the charming schlub and David Schwimmer makes a nice directing debut.

Something I noticed about a lot of comedies that have come out in the last few years is a Robert Altman-like sensibility to dialogue. I say like because they don't copy his style directly, but movies like Harold and Kuman Escape and Forgetting Sarah Marshall had many moments where someone would quietly say a line as he or she walked off camera or quietly said something under his or her breath that wasn't given much or any attention in the middle of a scene. If you heard what was said, it was a bonus laugh or character moment for you. If you didn't, there's no great loss to the movie's overall structure. I'm a big fan of the off-camera comments or on-camera mumble talk that happens, and it's interesting to see a noticeable resurgence in this style.

Speaking of transferred styles, David Schwimmer mentioned in the Q&A session after Run, Fatboy, Run that the major difference he noticed between making American comedies and British comedies is that British comedies tend to undercut any serious moments with a joke. He said they tried to emulate that style in the movie, and I think they pulled it off quite well. There were a few moments that had their heart-wrenching or tender moments popped with a quick and well-timed punchline. If you liked About a Boy but wanted a bit more cursing and thought Hugh Grant wasn't relatable enough and are a fan of any of Simon Pegg's previous work, this is a movie you'll enjoy. Otherwise, I don't know you. I just don't know you at all.

I'm going to the Young@Heart film at The Paramount on Saturday, which is the reason for my subject title. Young@Heart is a choir made up of senior citizens who sing rock songs, both classic and new.

Here are some Young@Heart videos.

Young@Heart trailer
Staying Alive/I Will Survive
I Wanna Be Sedated
Road to Nowhere
Forever Young

The last one is a tearjerker because it's dedicated to one of the choir members who passed away the night before they sang it. If you don't get at least a little misty-eyed watching it, I worry for your soul. Your black, black soul.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A few comments about things and items and stuff.

This is going to be an odd first post (the introductory one shouldn't count). However, it's what I have ready, so it's what you get. It's not laziness, it's efficiency. That's a regular declaration in my administration.

Do you brush your teeth in the bathroom at work? If so, stop. It annoys us who are trying to take a shit.

I feel like I have a huge pocket of gas stuck in my stomach and I can't get it out. It's annoying and a bit monstrous when I burp.

I tried a stress test on the treadmill at my work's gym earlier this week and had to stop because I thought I was going to throw up. Running up an ever-increasing incline at a regularly-increasing speed is not my thing. Or at least, it wasn't. I've added a slightly modified version of it to my workout schedule so I can build that up. Or make it so I don't feel like there's cold puke sitting in my chest when I'm finishing it.

On the other hand, I'm in the best shape I've ever been in. Yesterday, I had my body fat checked and it's at 12 to 13 percent. Add to it that I have no problem with saying I look damn good right now. I lost a little weight and put on quite a bit of muscle. I'd put up a picture, but don't want to be accused of MySpace-picture asshattery. I could never be accused of Hotti boy wannabeness though. For one, and most importantly, I'm not a douche. Second, I'm not orange. Third, I don't look like Sonic the Hedgehog's cousin. Fourth, I don't make my lips look like a tight asshole when my picture is taken. And fifth, my beard looks like a real beard, not something Prince would say looks too stylized and gay.

SXSW starts today. I have 22 movies on my list that I want to see and am taking a few days off next week to do so. If anyone wants to see it, I'll gladly supply it. Some very cool stuff coming here. Also, the Mess with Texas Party is happening again this year. While there are going to be some amazingly cool bands and comedians there this year, I'm annoyed that they changed the venue and length of show from last year. This year, it's in a nearby city park for one day and we have to buy the shitty beer if want to drink it. Last year, it was in a club on their indoor and outdoor stages, took place over two days, and the show was sponsored by Dewar's Scotch with free drinks until the scotch ran out, which it never did. Free shows are awesome. Free shows with people you want to see, both musicians and comedians are even more awesome. Free shows with people you want to see, both musicians and comedians, out of the possible rain and cold with free alcohol is almost beyond calculable awesome.

Finally, this is awesome.
I love the reviews though. This is probably the best one.

“My family was planning a vacation to Europe, so I purchased this item to teach my twins about what to expect at the airport and hopefully, alleviate some of their anxiety. We also downloaded the actual TSA security checklist from the American Airlines website and then proceeded with our demonstration. Well, first we had to round up a Barbie and a few Bratz dolls to play the other family members, so that cost us a few extra bucks at the Dollar General and it is aggravating that the manufacturer did not make this product ‘family-friendly.’ Of course, since the Playmobil Dad could not remove his shoes or other clothing items, unlike the Barbie, the Playmobil security agent became suspicious and after waving her wand wildly a few dozen times, called her supervisor to whisk the Dad into a special body-cavity search room, (which incidentally led to quite an embarrassing and interesting discussion with my twin daughters about personal hygiene and a slight adjustment to the rules we had them memorize about touching by strangers). But worst of all, since the suitcase did not actually open, the baggage inspector made a call to the FBI and ATF bomb squads which then segregated the family's suitcase (which, by the way, was the only suitcase they provided for our educational family experience) and according to the advanced TSA regulations, had to blow it up, (since they could not otherwise mutilate the luggage, break off the locks and put one of those nice little advisory stickers on it), which we had to simulate out in the backyard with a few M-80s and other fireworks. The girls started crying. They became so hysterical by the whole experience that we could not even get them in the car when the time came to actually take our trip, and so we had to cancel the whole thing at the last minute, losing over $7,000 in airfare and hotel charges that we could not recoup do to the last minute cancellations. We've now spent an additional $3,000 to pay for the girls therapy and medication over the past year since this incident occurred, and the psychologists have told us that this will affect them for life, so much for their college fund and our retirement. Then, to top it all off, when we tried to use to Playmobil phone to call the company to ask for reimbursement, as you might expect, of course the damn thing didn't even work; neither did our efforts to e-mail them using the computer screen on the baggage checkpoint; and our real-life efforts to contact them to obtain reimbursement have also likewise been ignored. Worse yet, we had the product tested and found out that it was positive for both lead paint and toxic chemicals, having been manufactured in China by workers holding formerly American jobs, so now we all have cancer and have been given only another year or so to live. My advice - educating your kids about airport security with this toy may actually be more harmful to them than just packing them in the damn luggage with some bottled water and hoping they survive.”

Let's teach kids to pat other kids down.

Wait, that doesn't sound right.

An introduction

Hi. I'm Justin Davis, and I'm the President of Omaha. No, I don't live in Nebraska. I've never even been to Nebraska. No, I can't explain where my title comes from. Actually, I could, but it's not a great explanation if you weren't there when the position was created. Let's just say that my role as the President of Omaha came from a slip of the tongue and then an extended period afterward among friends where everyone helped me justify the ridiculous thing I said. The rest of the story is lost to the fog of yesteryear, but what is left now is my appointment to President of Omaha and a faint memory of my campaign slogan, which was a simple call-to-arms in my name.

Davis! Whoooo!

Welcome to not Omaha. I hope to be a good president.