Category Archives: Uncategorized

Doomsday, Prophecies and Harold Camping

This past Saturday was like any other Saturday. My 4-year-old disrupted my slumber at his usual early hour and insisted on watching The Sunny Side Up Show while I fell back asleep. Eventually, I woke up, made breakfast and went about my day. In the afternoon my son and I sat out front and watched as our small town’s Viking Fest Parade made its way merrily down our street and into town. The end of the world was the furthest thing from my mind.

By this time everyone knows the story of the faux doomsday that was predicted for May 21st, 2011. Harold Camping, an 89-year-old radio show minister, had forecast this date as the unquestioned end of days. It was supposed to be the day of the Rapture, when all righteous Christians would ascend to heaven in God’s affectionate embrace while the rest of us non-Christians were abandoned; forced to suffer months of earthquakes, famine and deep introspection as we tried to figure out how it could be possible that the Bible thumpers had it right.

Instead, nothing happened. Life went on as usual. Harold Camping was wrong.

It’s not surprising that an octogenarian, God-fearing man of the cloth would claim to know the precise arrival of Judgment Day. What is surprising is that anyone took him seriously. My Grandmother is also in her eighties and had she predicted a date for the End Times, we simply would’ve patted her lovingly on the head and insisted she get some rest. But because this aging crackpot is the president of the Family Radio network his claim was considered legitimate by his loyal followers (aka “idiots”).

Some of the articles I came across documenting Camping’s failed prediction mention a few of these dumb asses by name. Robert Fitzpatrick, the leader in the clubhouse for the 2011 Sucker of the Year Award, apparently spent $140K of his life savings to advertise the rapture around New York City. Needless to say he was a little disappointed when Armageddon failed to materialize.

Also disappointed was a man named Jeff Hopkins.  This genius pissed away his retirement money on $4 a gallon gas, filling up his car over and over again so he and his lighted sign could drive back and forth between Long Island and New York City, informing the most cynical metroplex on earth that the end was near.

And those who didn’t have thousands of dollars burning holes in their pockets simply donated what they could afford to Family Radio International to help pay for the organization’s official billboard and painted RV campaign aimed at getting the word out to the non-believers.

We got the word. And we collectively laughed at it.

You’d think Harold Camping’s utter failure as a doomsday prophet (this was his second apocalyptic misfire) would be enough to keep him out of the public eye. Unfortunately, he’s still going strong. After originally being “flabbergasted” by the lack of fire and brimstone this past Saturday, he’s now saying May 21st was a spiritual Judgment Day and that October 21st will be the actual end of humanity. And since judgment has already been passed, there’s no need to inspire people through advertisements to make their peace with God, which is good because something tells me his closest followers are probably out of money at this point.

I only hope this old man lives long enough to see October 21st come and go as uneventfully as May 21st did. His baseless predictions have caused a great deal of pain and suffering, not to the heathens out there like myself, but to the people who looked up to him and trusted his word. While these people are ultimately responsible for their own stupidity, it would be nice to watch Harold Camping fail so publicly one last time. It’s the least he could do.

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Freddy Krueger, Remakes, and New Nightmares

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  Freddy Krueger, remakes, and new Nightmares.

When I was in junior high I became mildly obsessed with the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.  Don’t ask me why.  It’s one of the few parts of my life that I haven’t taken the time to deconstruct.  Plenty of teenagers take a shine to horror films, but my love of A Nightmare on Elm Street went a little beyond merely liking the movies.  I hung Freddy Krueger posters on my bedroom wall, wore Freddy t-shirts, joined the Freddy Fan Club, and even dressed as the finger-knived serial killer for Halloween in the 8th grade.  In hindsight, I’m surprised my mother wasn’t a little more concerned.

The original Nightmare...

And now, twenty-six years after the original was released (and spawned a parade of sequels – each one worse than the previous installment), a remake is set to hit theaters this Friday.  And even though I still feel a warm nostalgia for the first few Nightmare films, I’m okay with the remake and may even want to see it myself.

This might not seem like much of a revelation, but I’m a guy who joined a Facebook group named “Protesting the remake of Teen Wolf….Long Live Michael J. Fox.”  You see I hate 98.2% of all remakes.  I hate the fact they remade Psycho (worst remake ever?) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (A pasty Johnny Depp is no match for a subtle Gene Wilder).  And I HATE that I live in a world where The Karate Kid can be remade with Jackie Chan and Will Smith’s kid.

SIDE NOTE: Why the hell is Jaden Smith a child actor?  Both his parents are actors.  They’re rich.  Really rich.  They don’t need the money.  So why would they subject this kid to a business that has destroyed the childhood and futures of so many under-aged thespians?  This doesn’t get talked about enough.

So why am I at peace with this particular remake?  It has nothing to do with the genre.  I don’t think horror movies are any less dignified than any other genre.  And I feel some of the most regrettable remakes are those of classic horror films.  As mentioned above, the Psycho remake is, for my money, one of the worst decisions Hollywood has ever made.  I refuse to see Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween because the original is as perfect a horror movie as there is.  And I absolutely detest the fact that an Americanized version of Norway’s Let the Right One In is currently being produced.  It will inevitably be the worst stateside remake of a European classic since Wings of Desire became City of Angels.

Perhaps the reason I’m willing to look past my remake self-righteousness is because a part of me is looking forward to seeing one of film’s most notorious serial killers scary again.  As the years went on, Freddy Krueger became a joke.  Robert Englund’s performance as the grotesquely deceased child molester in the original was pretty terrifying.  But at some point along the way, Freddy started treating every film like it was open mic night at the Chuckle Hut.  Each teen slaughtering was punctuated by corny one-liners.  The only thing missing was a well-timed rim shot and a reminder from Krueger to make sure we tipped our waiters.

Nightmare 2.0

Mercifully, this new version appears to be humorless.  Freddy is back to being a burnt-faced murderer and is played by Jackie Earle Haley, a man who looks so creepy in real life they could’ve shot the film without a makeup artist.

It should also be noted that while the original A Nightmare on Elm Street was a classic, it was far from perfection.  I’ve seen the film more times than I can remember and yet I still have no functioning understanding of what happened at the end.

Did Nancy actually defeat Freddy and get her friends back?  Or was she dreaming her death in the convertible?  And if so, then how did she get resurrected in time for the 3rd movie?  And why did her mom suddenly turn into a doll before she was pulled through that tiny window in the front door?

So I say welcome back Freddy Krueger.  With any luck, some talented future filmmakers will come along and return Indiana Jones and Darth Vader to the respectable characters I remember from my youth as opposed to the bastardizations I’ve been forced to endure in the last decade.

I won’t hold my breath.


Bad Knees, Aging, and AARP Action Heroes

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  Bad knees, aging, and AARP action heroes.

Last week, I was reminded of a fact I don’t often like to consider.  I’m not getting any younger.  As if my graying hair wasn’t enough to drive home this point, I also managed to sprain my MCL during a recent indoor soccer match.  Since then I’ve been hobbling around and sporting a knee brace whenever I’m wearing pants baggy enough to accommodate it.  I suffered this injury after playing for a month with a nagging groin pull.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think my 35-year-old body is trying to tell me something I probably don’t want to hear.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain (so please ignore the previous paragraph).  I have plenty of acquaintances whose aches and pains are far worse than mine.  I know people with bad backs, people with reconstructed knees, and in the last year I’ve even witnessed two different guys tear up their Achilles tendons.  Apparently, I’m not the only one getting older.

Danny Zuko has really let himself go.

I wouldn’t have to worry about all of these physical ailments if I’d chosen a different career path and become a famous Hollywood actor.  These guys don’t age… or at least that’s what we’re led to believe.

We’re only a month into 2010 and already the multiplexes are overrun with blockbuster action flicks featuring stars that can aptly be described as long in the tooth.  Denzel Washington is kicking ass and securing the future of mankind (or something like that) in The Book of Eli. Jackie Chan is a world-class spy who is kicking ass and getting overwhelmed by children (who says Hollywood can’t come up with an original idea?) in The Spy Next Door.  And come February a bald, doughy John Travolta will be kicking ass and thwarting terrorists in From Paris with Love.

All three actors are fifty-five years old.  That’s a full five years past the age requirement to join AARP.

"Boy, this whip sure is getting heavy."

I should have known the rules of Hollywood action movies had changed after I sat through Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  I could write a thousand words about what was wrong with that movie if I hadn’t erased it from my brain Men in Black style.  But the one thing I do vaguely remember was that Indiana Jones seemed so old I was worried he might break a hip at some point during all of that swashbuckling.

And let’s not forget about Rambo.  Sylvester Stallone continues to pump out action movies despite being old enough to collect Social Security.  At least he’s smart enough to pump himself full of enough HGH that he only seems mildly ridiculous for making these films.

None of this should really surprise me.  People are still paying top dollar to watch rockers like the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and KISS prance around the stage in heavy makeup, leather pants and sleeveless shirts.

Maybe the reason our culture loves watching old men engage in young men activities is because we’re unable to accept our own aging and our own mortality.  So if we go to the movies and see a bloated Danny Zuko beat the living crap out of enemy combatants, we begin to collectively believe all that stuff about age only being a number and fifty-five being the new thirty-five.  And if that’s the case, there’s no reason we won’t also be able to kick ass and take names well into our fifties and sixties.

Call me old fashioned, but I firmly believe that if you’re old enough to receive senior discounts, you’re too old to be an action star or a spandex-clad rocker.  That’s not to say people over fifty shouldn’t lead rich, active lives.  They absolutely should.  I just don’t want to watch them jujitsu bad guys or play guitar in assless leather chaps.

We all get old, our bodies break down, and eventually we’re all going to die.  I know it sucks, but that’s just the way it goes.  And I have the aching knee to prove it.


The Internet, Cable Companies, and the Future of Television

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  The internet, cable companies and the future of television.

This past Saturday morning I watched a college football game involving my beloved alma mater, Syracuse University.  I didn’t watch this game on my television (it wasn’t available locally), but rather on my computer.  And it was a delightful experience.  Well, not so much watching the Orangemen play.  They stink.  But watching a live, out-of-market sporting event via ESPN360?   That was really a treat.

espn360

So many sporting events, so little time.

Not only was I able to watch the SU game (and several other college football games) live and for free, but whenever my two-year-old desperately needed my attention I could pause the game or simply go back and replay any part I may have missed while I was putting on a Curious George DVD.  After all, my viewing experience wouldn’t have been complete if I didn’t see every single touchdown the guys in the orange helmets gave up.   And if watching West Virginia cruise to a lopsided 34-13 win wasn’t enough fun the first time, I could rewatch the entire game on the site later in the week.

As I sat through another Syracuse loss,  I found myself wondering if there has ever been an invention as thoroughly enjoyable as the internet.   Sure, the wheel is nice, but really how hard was it to find a circular rock?

As a society I don’t think we bow down before the awesomeness that is the internet nearly enough.  I mean, why aren’t people out there writing poems about its greatness or erecting monuments to honor how much better it’s made our lives?  Probably because all the poets and sculptors are on the internet looking at Wikipedia, IMDB, and free porn.

And if watching a live sports broadcast online wasn’t enough to make me happier than an AIG executive on bonus check day, it’s looking more and more like the internet will eventually lead to the downfall of my arch nemesis, the cable company.

The internet has already revolutionized the way we do everything and it is very clearly the future of television.  I boldly predict in the coming years that people (particularly the younger, tech savvy crowd) will start forsaking their overpriced cable packages and simply start connecting their computers to their TVs.  Why pay hundreds of dollars a month when most of the shows you’re already watching are available for online consumption via network websites, ITunes and/or Hulu?

Of course, live television – like sporting events and news coverage – isn’t being streamed online as much as I’d like, but it’s coming along.  As mentioned above, ESPN and other outlets are broadcasting more and more sports online and when historic events are unfolding, CNN and other cable news networks usually carry their coverage live on their websites as they did for the Obama Inauguration and Michael Jackson’s death.

Unfortunately, this media revolution won’t be able to kill the cable companies overnight.  After all, a high percentage of internet users have their service provided by these dinosaurs.  But technology is evolving faster than Joan Rivers’ face and wireless internet is no doubt the avenue by which most of us will connect in the future.  No more coaxial cable, no more clunky, oversized modems and, of course, no more cable companies.

cable burn

Burn in hell cable!!!

And as the cable companies die a slow, painful death (think Drew Barrymore in the beginning of Scream), will anyone really care?  Will any of us shed a tear for Comcast or Time Warner or even offer our condolences?  Of course not.  And why would we?  Cable companies have always operated like the schoolyard bully and I suspect they have a lower approval rating than Congress.

In most markets, cable companies have virtual monopolies where customers are forced to play ball or strap satellite dishes to their roofs.  (That is, assuming these customers have landlords or homeowners associations that allow such eyesores.)  They play games with channel lineups, taking away popular networks and adding them to pricier, specialized tiers.  They have horrific customer service and are unrepentant when their cherished consumers are disappointed, dissatisfied and/or disgruntled.

Cable companies suck.  And I have yet to meet someone who disagrees with this sentiment.

So in the coming weeks as I settle in to watch the only college football team I’ve ever cheered for get their asses handed to them via the internet, I can at least take solace in the fact that I’m not just watching Syracuse lose a football game, I’m also watching the beginning of the end of cable television.

And that makes us all winners, no matter what team we cheer for.


KISS, Reunion Tours & the Death of Rock and Roll

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  KISS, reunion tours & the death of Rock and Roll.

The other day I was minding my own business and losing myself in the fast-paced world of IReports when an animated ad informed me that KISS would be blessing Seattle with its presence in mid-November.  Just so there’s no confusion, I’m not talking about a KISS cover band or a group made up of KISS offspring.  I’m talking about freakin’ KISS.  That’s right, the costumed, hard rock band whose debut album dropped in the year of my birth (1974), is back on the road.  And they aren’t playing the local Indian Casino either.  They’re playing the 16,000 plus seat Key Arena.

gene-simmons

Gene, Gene the blood-spitting machine.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Wait.  Aren’t those guys dead?”  Well, not yet.  Their careers were on life support for a little while, but then in ’96 the two founding members – Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons – decided there might be more money in kicking it old school.  So KISS put the make-up back on, reconciled with the two original members they’d kicked out, and started a reunion tour, which apparently has never ended.

And they’re not the only rock stars with graying hair putting on high-priced reunion tours.  In 2008 the list of top grossing tours was overrun by acts whose best work is far, far behind them; Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, the Police, Neil Diamond, and the Eagles.

I thought the Eagles hated each other’s guts.  Now they’re on tour ever three years.  Apparently time (and money) heal all wounds.

What’s truly sad isn’t that these musical giants can still pack ‘em in, it’s that lesser acts – the ones you’re too embarrassed to admit you loved as a kid – are still touring.  Just drive by your nearest casino and read the large, animated sign.  You can’t miss it.  It’s the one right next to the highway distracting the drivers who are flying by at 70 mph.

As I cruised past the Emerald Queen Casino sign on I-5 south of Seattle this week I was brought up-to-date on the parade of has-beens that are making their way to the northwest in the next couple months.

Three Dog Night.  Kansas.  Air Supply.  Blue Oyster Cult.

Blue Oyster Cult?  Really?  The only reason anyone under thirty knows who these guys are, is because of a Saturday Night Live sketch.  And if this band didn’t fear the reaper, then why are they still hanging around?

Look, I guess I can’t blame the musicians.  If someone’s willing to pay them to do the thing they love to do, they should cash those checks.  The fact that there’s still an audience for this stuff is what has me scratching my head.  Are there people out there who think it’s really worth paying fifty bucks to hear the silver-haired members of Kansas belt out a subpar rendition of “Carry on Wayward Son”?  I mean, is there really no other way for baby boomers to spend a Saturday evening?

As a musical genre, Rock and Roll will live forever.  It will carry on in some distorted form or another until the cockroaches retake the earth.  But as a cultural concept, Rock and Roll is as dead as Kurt Cobain.  Because at its core, Rock and Roll wasn’t just about music, it was a movement that represented cultural rebellion in the form or sex, drugs, and disenfranchised youth.  It was supposed to titillate teenagers and scare parents.  But when AARP members start leading the charge, the rebellion is clearly over.

Consider this…

Elvis Presley’s pelvis used to scare the shit out of parents and work kids into a frenzy.  Now the song “Viva Las Vegas” is being used to sell boner medication.

The Who used to sing about their “generation” and hoped they’d die before they got old.  Now they’re cashing the checks CBS sends them for licensing their music to the CSI franchise.

Kiss Coffee2

Myrtle Beach Rock City!

KISS used to sing songs about banging groupies while trying to find new merchandise to slap their likenesses on.  Okay, they’re basically still doing the same thing.  They just have reality shows and coffee shops to help them push the product.

The only true Rock and Roll icons left are the ones who died before they had a chance to sellout.  But something tells me if Sid Vicious were alive today, he’d be more than happy to play the Lucky Eagle Casino.  Provided, of course, they paid the acts in high-quality heroin.


Soccer

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  Soccer.

Without question, the most popular sport in the world is football.  Not American football, but rather the sport we here in the States refer to as soccer.  Anyone who’s ever seen footage of disappointed soccer fans rioting in the streets after a loss knows this to be true.

The world’s love of soccer is a source of amusement amongst us here in the U. S. of A.  We consistently look down our noses at our global counterparts and wonder how civilized, reasonable people could enjoy a sport that involves little scoring and players who regularly drop to the ground and roll around as if they’ve been hit by a sniper’s bullet.

Qwest-sounders2

Holy crap! Americans watching... soccer?

Despite playing soccer as a lad, and having a better than average understanding of the sport, I’ve nevertheless understood some of the animosity toward the beautiful game.

First of all, it’s a bit pretentious to refer to it as “the beautiful game.”  It’s a sport not the Mona Lisa.

Secondly, it doesn’t exactly translate well to television.  It’s slowly paced and doesn’t have strategically placed breaks in the action for networks to fill with erectile dysfunction ads.  And if there’s one thing Americans won’t tolerate it’s a sport or sport-like product that can’t be easily hyped, commercialized and consumed by mass audiences.

Despite these flaws, I’ve recently found myself more interested in soccer than I have been in years.  This spring my newly adopted hometown of Seattle joined Major League Soccer.  And with no established rooting interest in the MLS, it was easy for a carpetbagger like myself to adopt this new franchise as my own.

But after attending the inaugural game and watching subsequent games on TV, something unexpected happened.  Not only have the Seattle Sounders become a remarkably good team by expansion standards but for the first time in my life, I’m watching soccer… and truly enjoying it.

And while it started with the Sounders, I’ve also found myself watching English Premier League matches, European cup competitions and World Cup Qualifying.  I’m even considering playing soccer again, provided my legs are still capable of that much running.

So why have I embraced a sport I’ve had little interest in for such a long period of time?

Perhaps it’s all part of Barack Obama’s fiendish plan to socialize our country.  Perhaps some toxic additive has been put into our drinking water and it’s slowly turning our brains into Euro-mush.  If I find myself – a non-smoker and avid fan of daily showers – buying cigarettes and bathing less, I’ll know something sinister is afoot.  And if I start using the metric system and traveling by train, I’ll know the days of free market capitalism are numbered.

sounders-fans

This could be me in a few years.

Or perhaps, now that I’m in my mid-thirties, my subconscious is desperately trying to find some way of reconnecting with my youth.  And since the Star Wars prequels sucked and I couldn’t possibly bring myself to drink Milwaukee’s Best again, soccer has become that connection.

Watching the sport has certainly reminded me of playing the game as a teenager.  During those glory days the Corcoran High varsity squad lost the vast majority of our games and had a jackass for a coach.

On the bright side, I was far skinnier back then and as healthy as I was naive.  I assume this is really what my subconscious is trying to get at; telling me I need more exercise.

Regardless of the reason, I’m enjoying soccer again.  It may ultimately be a fad – kind of like that time I experimented with hockey in college – but if it’s not, I look forward to my inevitable future as a drunken soccer hooligan.  If I end up setting your car on fire, I apologize ahead of time.


Subway

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  Subway (the sandwich place, not the mode of public transportation)

In just about every town in America, small mom and pop businesses have been replaced by corporate stores and eateries.  And while we’ve collectively contributed to the downfall of these establishments, we’ve also developed a selective dislike for some of the multinational retailers that’ve taken their place.

Without a doubt, one of the most loathed of these franchises is Starbucks.  But why is that exactly?  Is it because of the overpriced espresso drinks?  The pretentious jazz music?  The mood lighting?  The most common gripe I’ve heard about the coffee-grinding juggernaut is its ubiquitous nature.  Their stores are seemingly everywhere and, in many cities (Seattle being one of them), you can often find more than one on the same block.  Which is convenient if you really want a latte but are too lazy to cross the street.

subway_store

One of Subway's 30,000 locations.

But if Starbucks’ overabundance of locations is indeed what leads people to curse the coffee giant, why don’t these same people direct a similar level of disgust toward an even more ubiquitous chain: Subway.

I’d be willing to bet a kidney there are actually far more Subway locations than Starbucks stores.  In fact, I challenge you to find a strip mall that doesn’t have a Subway.

Go ahead, my kidney and I will wait.

(Waiting… Waiting… Waiting… That’s what I thought.)

This past year, Subway became the #1 franchise in America surpassing the thirty-thousand restaurant mark.  They’ve even managed to bump the mighty McDonalds down to second place despite their lack of deep fryers and playgrounds.

In some regards this development makes perfect sense.  Subway is one of the simpler and more inexpensive franchises to get off the ground.  The restaurants don’t require a great deal of space or a great deal of culinary skill.  Their employees don’t even need to know how to cook.  With the bar set so low, I’m convinced even Levi Johnston could open a Subway.

In addition to the plentiful amount of locations, Subway also boasts a marketing presence that is as powerful as any major brand.  Their recent commercials have been consistently drilling the five-dollar footlong jingle into our skulls and, before that, Subway spent the better part of the decade making sure every man, woman and child alive was familiar with their formerly super-sized spokesperson Jared Fogle.  Most American sixth-graders are probably unable to name a single U.S. Senator, but my guess is they’d have no problem picking Jared and his giant pants out of a police lineup.

And while Subway may seem like a simple, non-threatening alternative to fast food, I’m convinced the company has but one  goal: world domination.  It might seem like a strange premise, but something more sinister has to be afoot.  No one likes submarine sandwiches enough to require thirty-thousand locations.

jaredfromsubway

Jared Fogle = dark overlord?

I’m not sure what they’re up to exactly, but something tells me they won’t stop expanding until the entire planet subsists on a steady diet of Subway sandwiches and Baked Lays.  By the time we realize their fiendish plot, it’ll be too late.   We’ll be purchasing our footlong Italian BMTs with currency that has Jared’s face on it – Fogle bucks – and saluting a flag that looks like a giant pair of trousers.

Call me crazy now.  But when all of this comes to fruition, I’ll be here to say, “I told you so.”

So the next time you turn your nose up at a dimly lit Starbucks that’s playing Miles Davis, just remember they won’t be your dark overlords in the not too distant future.  That honor will belong to another food chain.

All hail Subway!