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Mar
15

Uruguay? That’s random!

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The girl who cuts my hair knows I keep an odd travel schedule. She looked at me in the mirror last week and asked, “Got any trips planned?”

“Going to Uruguay on Sunday,” I said.

She scrunched up her face. “Uruguay? That’s random!” This was the same girl who just a couple of months ago said, “Cool” when I told her I was going to Chile.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve mentioned to people that I’m going to Punta del Este for a week. A couple of the responses I’ve gotten:

“I can’t remember if it’s Uruguay or Paraguay. Have fun in…guay.”

“Be careful in Kazakhstan. Will Borat be there?”

I’m not sure what it is about Uruguay. People didn’t see anything odd about me going to Chile. Uruguay, however, really confuses folks.

Door-to-door, my trip looks to be about 22 hours. That’s three flights and one fairly long cab ride. I’m happy to take the trip, but am getting increasingly anxious about leaving the family. (Case in point: my pregnant wife just missed a step going into the garage and fell. She’s fine, but, you see my point).

uruguay

Occasionally, people around me worry that I’m going into parts of the world that aren’t safe for one reason or another. It’s not like I’m going anywhere that’s very dangerous, but just to be on the safe side, I always do a quick safety assessment before I leave. Uruguay is as peaceful as Peoria, near as I can tell. Other places aren’t always as nice, but those are stories for another day.

Of course, it’s impossible to get a real feel for a place without actually being on the ground there. I mean, really, if you weren’t from America and you saw the video below without any context, what would you think of America’s biggest city?


Yep, that’s the crush of people in a near-riot trying to get into the auditions for America’s Next Top Model. I’m not sure whether the above is an indictment of the entertainment industry, the American work ethic, or both. Regardless, it defines the past ten or so years in America: be part of a crowd, get plucked from the crowd, get famous long enough to say you’re famous, and then fade (or fall) back into the crowd. It defines disgusting and it’s one of many reasons we as a people are so messed up. If this is our generation’s version of a bread and soup line, then everyone needs to shut the hell up about the economy. Again, it’s a rant for another day.

For now, it’s off to Uruguay. What I do is not sexy, but it’s work. I’ve done okay with it, and I can’t complain. I may not be producing much of worth, but at least I’m not rioting to be noticed by the producers of a reality TV beauty contest.

At least, I don’t think I am.

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Mar
11

Camouflage and podcasts

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My son is fascinated with the military. A few weeks back, we pulled into Aunt Sue’s, a country meat and three in Pickens County. A convoy of soldiers pulled in behind us. They ate quickly and returned to their weekend mission. As each one walked out, my son looked up from his mac and cheese and waved. To their credit, most of the soldiers waved back.

It’s not uncommon to see convoys around these parts. We saw one just last weekend as we drove down I-26 toward Columbia. Most of the trucks were covered in the typical brown and green camouflage I always associated with the military. Because I’d never thought about it or bothered to do any research, I wrongly assumed all the green/brown combos were holdovers from the Vietnam era. I wondered aloud to a wife who generously feigned interest in my curiosity, “I wonder why most of the vehicles have switched over to desert camouflage. After all, that’s where a majority of our conflicts are being fought these days.” Then I wondered, perhaps a bit more ominously, if the vehicles were remaining in the green and brown for a different reason–maybe a conflict elsewhere in the world or even on American soil.

As I sat down this morning with absolutely nothing about which to write (I am suffering a pretty painful dearth of anecdotes and Otis miscellany), I thought to research and write a bit about military camouflage. Yes, it’s gotten that desperate. As I started to research the subject, I discovered it was both as interesting as I’d hoped and completely boring as you might expect a paper on camouflage to be. I’d answered my question within a matter of minutes (see. U.S. Woodland for a quick answer).

By the time I’d decided what I was writing would be no more than a rehash of a Wikipedia page, I thought, “Man, this would make a great Stuff You Should Know podcast.” No surprise, the website already has a report on the subject.

I made it several years into my digital life before embracing the world of the podcast. I figured I spent enough time reading on and offline. When I went eyes-free (walking, hanging out in dark places, driving, etc), I generally listened to music. As my eyes-free time expanded recently, I started looking for other ways to fill my brain. Audio books were always kind to me. Back in the early days of my relationship with the wife, we lived eight hours apart for nearly a year. Every two weeks, I’d get off work in Jackson, MS at 6pm on a Friday and drive the eight hours to Columbia, MO where she was still in school. Before I left, I’d stop at Blockbuster and rent a few audio books. They were my friends on I-55 for a very long time. I downloaded a few audio books to my iPod at the end of 2008 and they started filling my recent void.

So, a month or so back, a bunch of friends on Twitter made some recommendations and I set about downloading. Before long, I had hours of content that got me through several long drives and other eyes-free time. Among the shows I listen to on a regular basis (or at least as regularly as they update):

  • Coverville
  • NPR: Driveway Moments
  • PokerRoad Radio
  • The Ricky Gervais Podcast
  • Stephen Fry’s Podgrams
  • Stuff You Should Know
  • TEDtalks
  • This American Life
  • WNYC’s Radio Lab
  • It’s not enough. I need more. As I strive to spend less time in front of my computer, I have to keep my brain working. Podcasts seem to be the way to do it, at least for now.

    So, here’s where I go all Lazyweb on you and ask, “What are you listening to?”

    Categories : Computers, Entertainment
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    Mar
    04

    Unmoved

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    My first movie memory comes at age six and half. It was the summer of 1980 and I was in the backseat of my dad’s black mid-70s Monte Carlo. I don’t know if the drive-ins were cheaper that theaters or simply my parents’ favorite method of movie watching. All I know is that it was an event. The popcorn, the screaming, the soda, the blood, the candy, and the gore. I loved every second of it and still carry it as one of my favorite memories of childhood. Friday the 13th may not have been a kid’s movie, but it was one of my favorites for years.

    We saw Prom Night a few months later. The next year it was My Bloody Valentine. The year was The Thing. Going to the drive-in with my parents was part of a simpler time. I don’t know how much it cost, but it couldn’t have been too much. My parents didn’t have much money then and movies were almost certainly a luxury.

    I now have a four and half year old son of my own and he already shares my love for movies. He’s not seeing any horror flicks yet (although he really does like Gremlins), but he will go to the movies anytime I want to go. When a new animated film comes out, we are there within a week of the opening.

    My wife and I took the boy to see Coraline the other day. It was a pretty damned good film and I enjoyed it beginning to end. By the time I walked out of the theater, though, I was $42 lighter in the pocket. Tickets for two adults and one child (even for a matinee) came to more than $20. After a couple drinks, a small popcorn, and a bag of candy, I had eclipsed the $40 mark.

    Now, I can afford $40 once or twice a month to go to a movie, but I feel pretty sure there are a lot of people out there who can’t swing that kind of cash. Even in 1980 dollars, this kind of pricing probably would’ve cost my parents $15-$17, which at the time was no small amount of money.

    Of course, the solution is clear. Stop buying snacks at the movies. But then, seriously, apart from watching it on a huge screen, what is the point? Going to the movies, at least for me, is about an event. It’s about doing something as a family. It’s is about getting the tickets, getting the popcorn, finding the seats, and settling in for some time together. It’s not about dropping a ton of dough on something I can literally do for a few pennies at home.

    A recent study from Stanford and UCSC found in a review of popcorn prices that theaters are gouging on popcorn in an attempt make up for the price it costs them to run a movie. This is all well and good. Keep the ticket prices lower so people can afford to get in. Concessions account for 40% of theater chains profits. The logic of it all it sort of what gets in my craw (primarily, because I am guilty of making the logic correct).

    “The logic is that if they’re willing to pay, say, $10 for a bad movie, they would be willing to pay even more for a good movie,” said Wesley Hartmann, associate professor of marketing at the Graduate School of Business. “This is underscored by the fact that they do pay more, even for a bad movie, as is seen in their concession buying. So for the times they’re in the theater seeing good or popular movies, they’re actually getting more quality than they would have needed to show up. That means that, essentially, you could have charged them a higher price for the ticket.”

    So, essentially, what were saying here is that we are paying tons of money to go see largely sub par movies so the theaters can afford to keep showing sub par movies. Now, I’m not talking about Coraline. I enjoyed that movie immensely, but let’s be honest. It’s an exception and an exception by a long shot. I mean, hell, I paid the same amount to see the Underdog live action film. I am part of the problem.

    Add to all of this the fact I am a one-year Netflix devotee, and I am really conflicted. I pay less than $15 a month for unlimited Netflix movies. I can watch those with homemade popcorn on either of my two HDTVs. Compare that to $42 to go see Hotel For Dogs and you’ll understand why I’m not sure how to proceed.

    I want my son to enjoy the same things about the movies that I do. I want to support the people who make good films. I have friends in just about every facet of the industry. They work hard and deserve to get paid. That said, I don’t want to support the part of the industry that has to gouge people to put out really terrible cinema.

    I have several ideas on how to get around it, but I’d be curious to know what you and/or your family is doing.

    Oh, and happy birthday to my friend and film guru Absinthe who would almost certainly say I’m being cheap and should get over myself.

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    Feb
    04

    Spread this

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    Yesterday, somebody I know told me, “One of my friends just sent me an e-mail saying the Greenville Police are now writing tickets, even if you are going less than 5 miles per hour over the speed limit!”

    I called “hoax” almost immediately. And it was, but one that had spread so quickly that two local TV stations had to do stories saying the e-mail hoax was, in fact, a hoax.

    What’s a little depressing about a hoax like that is that it took somewhere between little and no talent to launch. I appreciate a good hoax as much as anybody else, but it’s just lazy.

    I don’t mind people using the viral nature of the internet, as long as they are using a little talent in the original product. Here are three viral videos from YouTube. Of the three, you probably have seen one or two. If not, watch them all. You may not necessarily enjoy the content, but you can at least recognize the talent of the people behind it.

    #1–I’m pretty sure my wife won’t mind, but I’ve developed a small and surprisingly quick crush on Molly Lewis. I just saw this video this morning, but…well, a songwriting girl with a knack for the funny just hits me in the right spot.


    Molly Lewis’ Roadtrip

    #2–Naturally7 doing the viral video thing in a Paris subway makes me happy. I saw this video many months ago, but I still think it’s a great example of blatant viral video production that has enough talent behind it that I can look past the fact it is purely a marketing vehicle.

    #3–This one is the latest, but since it’s fairly freaking genius, I thought I’d include it anyway. It’s RevoLucian’s Christian Bale Remix. This is not at all my kind of music, but the talent it took to put it together cannot be denied. Oh, and as Bale’s on-set rant was certainly NSFW, so is the remix.

    ‘Deep dish is pizza like Olive Garden is Italian’ -Anthony Bourdain on Chicago pie

    I don’t think I’ve made any secret about my admiration for Anthony Bourdain. His ability to mix snark with cerebral endears me to his writing both in print and on television. He does what I’d like to do, he does it well, and he does it without much apology. There’s a lot to admire there. The quote at the top is fairly classic Bourdain. He takes a staple of Chicago identity and reduces it to its essence. And again, he does it without pulling the punch.

    So, as is my wont, I tossed the quote out to friends and Twitter followers. My buddy Chilly asked, “If you were hosting Anthony Bourdain for the day in G-Vegas, do you know where you’d take him?” And the meme was born.

    The idea behind this is pretty simple. Bourdain won’t be going most places. They don’t interest him or don’t make for good TV. Still, we live in these towns and they are interesting to us. That’s why we stick around.

    So, here’s…

    When Tony comes to town: Greenville, SC

    Segment 1: Henry’s Smokehouse

    BBQ is like pizza. If you’re from one place, everybody from every other place else does it wrong. I’ve lived just about everywhere BBQ is a big thing. I never lived in Texas, but half my family is from there, so I consider myself qualified. Of all the places I’ve lived that value regional BBQ, I actually like Carolina BBQ the least. (Come on, I’ve lived in Missouri and Mississippi). Still, of all the BBQ shacks in the Carolinas, I’ve yet to find one I like better than Henry’s Smokehouse in Greenville.

    When I had people from all over the country come visit me for Bradoween 5, I hired Henry’s to cater. People sat in my garage sweating their ass off, drinking real sweet tea and eating Henry’s. Some of those folks still talk fondly about that. I think Bourdain would, as well.

    Segment 2: Karrie’s Kafe

    Karrie’s Kafe is basically a deli. It’s moved since I started eating there, but the proprietor is still behind the counter and is still one of the best local cooks. Karrie may not have a fancy joint (she currently operates out of a strip mall) but her food is top notch. It’s hard to find better soups in town, and I don’t expect to ever find a better chicken salad–anywhere.

    Karrie, who moved from her first location after a battle with the “neighbors” would also be a good person to talk about the changing culture in Greenville.

    Segment 3: The Steak House Cafeteria

    This place is actually well out of town, but the drive to Walhalla from Greenville would provide a good look at the Clemson campus. Now, I am normally suspicious of any place with “cafeteria” in the name. The Steak House is different, primarily because it has some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. My friend Nick Nygro introduced me to the place about ten years ago. It is a traditional “meat and three” joint on the main drag through Walhalla, SC up in Oconee County. Bourdain couldn’t get out of South Carolina without doing a Meat and Three segment, and the Steak House would be my first choice. Plus, it’s not too far from the Chattooga River (home to the movie Deliverance and some great white water).

    Segment 4: Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe

    Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe does not have a long history in Greenville, but you wouldn’t know it. The place is around a year old and is already establishing itself as the go-to place for acoustic music lover. Greenville has a great tradition in music from Piedmont Blues to Blue Ridge bluegrass. Smiley’s caters to that stuff, as well as folk, alt-country, and anything else that can be played on an acoustic guitar. Its chef, Smiley, is actually a foodie and serves up more than bar food. I go for the beer and music, but would show up even if the place went dry. I like the place for Bourdain because it represents a lot about how new Greenville and old Greenville are coexisting and even getting together. Once a thriving textile mill town, Greenville fell on hard times before establishing itself as a center for technology, the automotive industry, and even retirement. Smiley’s sits in old Greenville, but in a part that is on its way back up. The little arts district sits on the perimeter of a beautiful park (the waterfalls and landscaping would make for great b-roll). The hippie vibe at Smiley’s might be a bit much for the punk rock Bourdain, but I think he could get around it.

    On warm nights, the owners, chef, and even customers sit on the back deck and play music. Enough music from the royalty free catalogs get played that TV crews could get by with some good sound without having to pay out the nose.

    Back-ups: If any of the above places fall through or don’t fit into the production schedule, the following joints could fill out the time:

  • Portofino’s–Family style Italian that has the best garlic knots I’ve ever eaten.
  • McBee’s–Urban meat and three owned by Mary McBee. Some of the best fried okra in town.
  • Carolina Drive-In–One of, and the best, Greek owned diners in town. Owner is best talker and old-school diner man in town. No place better for a greasy hamburger and conversation.
  • Horizon Records/Bohemian Cafe followed by Handlebar–Both of these places would’ve been in the top list, the TV production team has real trouble with the cost of music licensing and all of the above three places are all about music. Horizon is a locally owned music store that attaches to the Bohemian Cafe. They bring in great acts for short afternoon gigs. The Handlebar is, by far, the best live music joint in town and its owner John Jeter would make for a good interview. Oh, and frankly, the food ain’t so bad there either.
  • ***

    Feel free to participate. I went the above route based on the people behind the businesses, the stories behind the businesses, and the fact Bourdain is less about eating fancy, and more about eating well in places that give a feel for the culture and people of the city.

    I like the idea of filling out an entire hour-long show on your own blog, but you can drop one or two ideas for your town in the comments here or, if you are a Twitter person, put one there with the #bourdainmeme tag and When Tony comes to town: City name.

    I was a kid when Springfield, Missouri’s Rock 99 changed its format to adult contemporary. I sat in my younger brother’s room and looked at what we called a jam box. Even then, at an age when everything is a surprise (and hence, nothing is), I remember sitting on the carpet and thinking, “This can’t be happening.”

    Looking back, it was own personal Day the Music Died. It was the equivalent of losing a pet. For kids of all ages, at least in that era, the constancy of a favorite radio station was like loyal best friend who was there even when nobody else was. Cold war, nuke drills, Commie fears, it was all just white noise that happened when a thunderstorm knocked Rock 99 off the air.

    I naively called the main number for the station to see if it was it was all a big goof. I don’t recall the outcome. I just remember that one day of tuning in and feeling all things good sucked out of the room.

    I had not thought about that day in a long time, both because it wasn’t really a life-changing event and because I didn’t have to. These days, I am a satellite radio subscriber. I have had XM on my DirecTV for many years and in the family vehicle for the past year. I considered it to be the best thing that had happened to my radio listening experience since those early days of Rock 99. One station in particular, X-Country (pronounced “Cross Country”) held the #1 spot on my listening dial. The alt-country format was true to the genre. It had all the bands I liked and introduced me to quite a few more.

    When the XM-Sirius merger was announced, I didn’t worry much. I figured XM would absorb Sirius’ programming, separate the chaff, and put Howard Stern somewhere all the time. So, imagine my surprise when I turned on X-Country a few days ago and the display read “Outlaw Country.”

    “This is not going to be good,” I thought.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of all the outlaw country artists. Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash…all of them gave the alt-country scene a foundation on which to build. Without the outlaw country artists, there would be no Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, Robbie Fulks, or any of their contemporaries. I get that and appreciate it. That said, alt-country and outlaw country are different sub-genres of music and deserve two different places on the satellite radio dial. I mean, it’s satellite radio for the love of all that’s holy.

    I gave it a chance. Within a couple of days of listening to Outlaw Country on XM-Sirius, I knew it was a lost cause. It felt like the Rock 99 format change all over again. Outlaw Country played the occasional alt-country tune, but more often than not I heard Travis Tritt, Rosanne Cash’s “Seven Year Ache,” and a blathering former professional wrestler turned radio personality named Hillbilly Jim talking about how he knows the Kentucky Headhunters.

    It’s obvious the Sirius programmers put a lot more emphasis on personalities than music programming. Satellite radio’s main appeal was being able to listen to a lot of music without all the talk. The new format on the X-Country/Outlaw Country forces the listener to endure endless rambling by a bunch of guys who probably wouldn’t know Jay Farrar if he was sitting in the same booth with them.

    After giving Outlaw Country a chance, I discovered I was not alone in my disappointment. Internet petitions had cropped up with thousands of digital signatures. E-mail addresses of the programmers were getting hammered. XM’s own forums were on fire. XM’s customer service reps were given scripts from which to read when handling the irate customers.

    As one person wrote to XM, “You have no understanding of what X Country meant for its fans.”

    It seems silly that people could be so dedicated to a format, but I–for better or worse–completely understand how sad and frustrated listeners are.

    Another listener who was basing his car purchase on XM-ready vehicles wrote, “XM has changed its programming and we’ve lost one of my favorite channels, X Country. It’s been replaced by DJ’s who talk too much, don’t play the same kind of music, and use way too much foul language. As a result I plan on canceling my XM subscription and it will no longer play a role in my car purchasing decisions.”

    One guy summed it up pretty well when he wrote to XM, “You’ve made a mockery of the music, the artists, and the fans as you’ve replaced X Country with Outlaw and then tried to pass it off as if it was ok. It’s not ok and it shows a complete lack of respect for your customers.”

    The main programmer for Outlaw Country responded as diplomatically as he could under fire. He wrote, in part, “I definitely understand the strong connection and feeling of loss you and many other XM listeners have for X Country…but we each have a somewhat different approach to programming. I’m sorry that you’re having such an bad initial reaction to Outlaw Country, but I think if you spend a little time with the channel you’ll hear many of the same artists championed by X Country.”

    Methinks Program Director Jeremy Tepper oversold that last bit pretty significantly.

    The shame of it, and there is a lot of it to go around, is that the merger did a lot of things right. My metal friends love them some Hair Nation and Liquid Metal. My wife’s pop stations are better. XM-Sirius also has an entire station dedicated to the Grateful Dead (not to mention Jimmy Buffett and Bruce Springsteen). I even went back to Rock 99 times with Classic Vinyl. Still, I miss X-Country more than I can say.

    I related this story to a friend of mine last night. In turn, he told me that when a new mall opened near his mother’s house, she was aghast the mall did not have a Panera Bread. She wrote Panera Bread and asked, “How could you not open a location here?”

    A few months later, my friend asked his mother, “So did they open a Panera Bread?”

    Her answer, “No.”

    His implication was pretty clear. It’s ridiculous of me to think because I and a few thousand other people are unhappy with the format change that XM-Sirius will change its strategy as it relates to one channel. I knew that already, but when somebody steals your dog, it’s really hard to say, “Well, he was a good dog. I’ll miss him.” You go and get the dog back.

    X-Country’s tagline was “In twang we trust.”

    I guess not, XM. I guess not.

    Comments (24)

    Rush Limbaugh is a genius.

    I’ll let that sink in for a moment. There.

    Rush Limbaugh is almost single-handedly responsible for teaching a generation of partisans how to think about politics. It’s actually pretty easy.

    Step 1: Never speak ill of your own. He learned this one from Reagan. It’s a winning strategy.

    Step 2: Defend your own against everything. Do this by pointing at the other side and saying, “But he did it, too! Look! He did it before! So, you can’t criticize my guy for it! Eighteen wrongs make me right!” This gets the issue on a cyclical track that accomplishes nothing other than providing more fodder for the next day’s show…which is exactly what you want.

    Step 3: Refuse to consider your opponent’s opinion because it is your opponent’s opinion. If all else fails, return to Step 2.

    A lot of people might be surprised to know that I used to lean more right than left. Now that I lean a little more left than right, in the mind of the Ditto Heads, I might as well be burning flags, sleeping with Jane Fonda, and carrying on an unholy relationship with Mike Farrell.

    It’s exhausting, really. There is no discourse and there won’t be. Rush made it possible (or, impossible, really), and for that he should be very proud.

    I was reading a story on the election the other day, because, in terms of politics, reading is about all I do these days. I don’t watch cable news coverage and I don’t watch the polls. I read and don’t write about it, because, if I’m being frank, I’m not going to convince anybody of anything. The partisan followers on both sides have devolved and I don’t have the energy to debate reality with people who don’t want to talk.

    That’s not the point, though. The point is what I saw in the sidebar of the article.

    There is so much wrong with this Time Magazine ad that I barely know where to begin. I can’t decide if I was more offended by blatant marking based on the idea of tragedy or that the deaths of Tupac, Princess Diana, and Cobain were what made the 90s tragic. ["I mean, those were the years of Slick Willie's administration!" chirped the Ditto Heads.]

    My friend G-Rob and I spent about five minutes coming up with a list of decades that were far more tragic that the 90s. In a Top Ten list out of the last century, the 90s came in around #7. Make your own list and see what you come up with.

    The point is this…when Time Fucking Magazine is marketing its product based on the idea that tragedy is a good selling point, I am ready to give up. And if the 90s gets the nod for the ad spot, Pricess Di’s picture instead of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building just makes me want to cry.

    It’s a fire sale on tragedy. Find something to hate. Find someone to fight. Find something as tragic as the Nirvana front man stepping off the buckshot ledge. If you’re lucky, Lindsay Lohan might end up being straight after all and give you something to care about. In the meantime, I’m going to ask Rush if this decade is a tragic one or not.

    My guess is he’ll be able to tell me sometime in early November.

    Later…

    I ran across this column which pretty much sums up why this year’s election is as useless as the last.

    Sep
    24

    Igor’s bumper sticker

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    Around these parts, an Obama bumper sticker will get you a funny look and your car keyed. I saw one today when I picked up my kid from his 4K program. It’s like seeing a nun in a whorehouse (or maybe vice versa, although I think the latter is far more likely).

    After three weeks of solid work, I promised the boy we would spend some time together today. We went for lunch, to a movie, and then out for ice cream. We went to see Igor, a movie the kid enjoyed and I thought was fair at best. Frankly, in terms of movies that appeal to both kids and adults, I’ve not been impressed with much I’ve seen in the past two or three years. That said, Igor in the movie theater here is a lot like an Obama bumper sticker.

    How you ask?

    Well, here’s the basic premise: The kingdom of Malaria is a land filled with peaceful, if not entirely prosperous farmers. The king finds a way to cast a perpetual cloud over the nation, destroying all the crops and putting the people in constant darkness. He convinces his people that this development is in their best interest. Thus is established a society in which evil (but rather stupid) scientists are the nation’s heroes, their dutiful pawns (all named Igor) do most of the heavy lifting, and prosperity and acclaim can only be achieved through being the most evil bastard in the kingdom. All the while, the people of the kingdom await a American Gladiators-style live reality show to determine which evil scientist’s invention is truly the most evil and destructive. Whoever is the most evil has the best chance of taking over the Malaria throne.

    Because it’s Hollywood and ostensibly a kid’s movie, I’ll let you figure out how it ends. The premise alone, though, is one I find nearly depressing. What’s more, I’ve seen that movie before. I think it plays on CNN every night of the week.

    If there was one bright spot in an otherwise okay movie, it was the character Scamper (Steve Buscemi), an existentialist rabbit-ish invention that has been created with the special power of being immortal. I think the joke speaks for itself. If it doesn’t, I suspect I know what bumper sticker is on your car.

    Jul
    17

    Tom Green goes home

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    It was the middle of the morning or middle of the night. Describing the actual time is pointless. It was simply one of those moments in Vegas when the sun isn’t up and people aren’t hungover and mean yet. I was on the way to my room, a junior suite at the Palms, a place where the view is great, the room is average, and the housekeeping staff gives new meaning to the phrase “minimal effort.”

    I was sharing an elevator with a guy who looked like Eminem and a girl who I could only define by her heels that laced around her ankles. She was used up and wearing shoes that not only looked out of style, but uncomfortably so.

    “You know,” the guy said, and then paused for one second, long enough for me to know what he was about to say. “You look a lot like Tom Green.”

    Vegas is a place where celebrity is the theme. Celebs go there. Non-celebs go there to feel like celebs. It’s a perfect, hollow, shallow place where nothing means anything. For the time you’re there, it’s meant to feel real. Millions are spent to make sure you and everybody else spend millions more and feel like a superstar while you do.

    I saw my share of famous and semi-famous folks while I was out there–Charles Barkley, Jason Alexander, Ben Affleck, Ray Ramano, Matt Damon, Scott Ian, Sully Urna, Chuck Liddell, Dita Von Teese, Marlon Shirley, Don Cheadle, not to mention every famous poker person you’ve ever heard of. I don’t get excited by famous people. My old job and my current line of work put me in the same circles with celebrities ona regular basis. The only one that was even vaguely interesting to me was Shirley. He ended up at a poker table with me and a couple of fairly well known players. Before the end of the night, people were asking for Shirley’s autograph and taking pictures of our table. Why was Shirley so interesting? This video should explain it.

    The sum of the whole three-week trip however was defined by the last night as I rode up to my room for the last time. It was at least the fifth time someone had told me I look like Tom Green.

    “I get that a lot,” I said and bid the two partiers goodnight.

    I’ve been to Vegas too many times now. It was a long time ago that I figured out that no matter how rich or poor you are, the feeling of celebrity lasts only as long as you are in town with money in your pocket. Getting repeatedly mistaken for a b-list celebrity used to be annoying. It has since become a perfect way for me to remember who I really am.

    My car service was waiting for me when I got into Greenville last night. I picked up my own bag and pulled it to the curb where my driver was waiting for me. She was tan and the most beautiful woman I’d seen in weeks. In the back seat sat a little man with the biggest smile I’d ever seen.

    “Did you bring me a surprise, Daddy?” he asked.

    I climbed in and kissed the driver as long as I could. And then we went home.

    I woke up at sunrise feeling as rested as I have in a month. My wife, son, and dog were all still asleep. I laid under the spinning fan as the new day’s light came through the window and listened to my wife breathe. The dog moved over and then snuggled up against me. On the child monitor, I could hear my son quietly rustling in his bed. Nothing that happens in Vegas could make me wake up feeling as calm as I did today.

    As has become pretty normal in my world, my life is in a bit of flux following the big trip. I’ve come home with a month’s worth of dirty clothes, a long queue of undone work, and way too many things about which to think. Over the past several weeks, I’ve bored a few friends with the realities of my life. It’s become too common a conversation, and I owe those friends more than a little gratitutde for listening to me think out loud.

    Now, it’s time to hunker down and think for real. Now, at 7:39am, I have no idea where any of this is going to go. I only know that being home couldn’t feel better than it does. Here, I can go to sleep with a gorgeous woman every night and I can be a hero to someone I idolize.

    I wonder if Tom Green has such a good life.

    Categories : Entertainment, Family, Travel
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    This afternoon, my wife and I took the boy on an afternoon drive through the mountains. Along the way, we happened by the place where we got married eight years ago next week. The sign leading to the chapel looked like this.

    I realized immediately that I had stumbled onto a gold mine — Owen Wilson’s secret wedding in Carolina mountains. A couple long lens shots and an ambush interview later and I’m expecting People Magazine to be paying me big come Monday.

    Categories : Carolinas, Entertainment
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