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.


Party Crashers, Tiger Woods and the Price of Fame

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  Party crashers, Tiger Woods and the price of fame.

This past holiday weekend is usually one of my favorite times of the year.  In addition to the embarrassing amount of food I consume on Thanksgiving, I get to use my gluttonous behavior as an excuse to sit around for hours while my stomach slowly digests the excessive feast.  And as that simple act of biology takes place, I watch football and look for the Black Friday news stories that illustrate why allowing mobs of overzealous shoppers into your stores at dawn is a horrifically bad idea.

Needless to say I was disappointed this year.  Sure, the Turkey Day smorgasbord took hours and hours to make its journey through my digestive system and there was no shortage of football on TV, but apparently America’s shoppers were on their best behavior.  As far as I could tell, there were no significant reports involving parents engaging in hand-to-hand combat in order to get their hands on a Wii or a Playstation 3.  Nor did I hear any complaints from the wife after she ventured into a shopping mall and a Target on Black Friday.

I suppose this is actually good news.  Perhaps we’ve turned some kind of symbolic corner as a society.  Perhaps we’re on the verge of straightening out our collective priorities and committing to a way of life that isn’t all about rampant consumerism.  As I was pondering the idea of this new world order, I was introduced to the Salahis.

Mr. President... can you make me famous, please?

If you haven’t heard of the world famous Salahis, then you either haven’t checked in with a news outlet in awhile or you just didn’t bother to catch the surname of this newly famous couple.  These two yahoos are better known to the world as the White House party crashers.  These wannabe high rollers somehow managed to outsmart federal agents and infiltrate the Obama Administration’s state dinner thrown in honor of visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Breaches in Presidential security are a very serious matter.  So the fact that this couple managed to just walk in off the street should be very disconcerting for the American public.  However, what should be even more alarming is the media tsunami that’s about to crash upon all of us.

It’s been reported that Tareq and Michaele Salahi once aspired to be cast members on the Bravo reality show The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C. It’s also been reported that the Salahis have a publicist and are shopping “their story” to the highest bidder.  I think we all see where this is going.  As much as I’d like to believe in the concept of journalistic integrity, it’s pretty much inevitable that some network executive will pony up the cash to interview this couple.  I think it’s equally inevitable that they’ll have nothing of any substance to say.

Can’t we stop this from happening?  Isn’t there some subsection of the Patriot Act that allows us to waterboard these bottom-feeders?  Probably not.  That’s why the only hope our nation has right now is Tiger Woods.

The one thing that seemed to bump the Salahis off the front page of CNN’s website was the world’s best golfer crashing his car in the wee hours following Thanksgiving.  While alcohol was said not to be a factor, there’s been much speculation regarding what Tiger was doing driving at such a late hour and how he managed to bounce his very expensive car off a much less expensive fire hydrant.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t dislike Eldrick Woods and I wish nothing but good things for him.  But in this case, I’m asking him to jump on the grenade and do America this one favor as a public service.  If he could just confess to doing something untoward it would really mean a lot to people like me who just can’t stand the thought of these party-crashing weasels becoming the next Balloon Boy family.

And perhaps in confessing to something even remotely newsworthy, Tiger could teach the Salahis and the Hennes and the Jon and Kates of the world a valuable lesson.  Be careful what you wish for.  Because while these oxygen-wasters seem to desperately want to feel the white-hot spotlight shining on them, I don’t think they’re in the least bit prepared for the consequences that come with worldwide fame.

Tiger Woods knows a thing or two about those consequences.  For him, being famous  means he’s never ever alone.  It means there’s always someone watching him, ready to capture his most vulnerable moment and post it on TMZ or YouTube.  It means even something as harmless as an insignificant fender bender is newsworthy and fodder for public debate.

It's not easy being Tiger. I mean, who wants to sign hats?

I’ve never heard Tiger complain, and I’m sure if asked he would rightfully say he was blessed.  Being the best golfer in the world has earned him the admiration of millions of fans and so much money it probably takes a team of highly paid accountants to keep track of it all.  But make no mistake about it, being Tiger Woods isn’t easy.  And why people with no discernable talents keep pursuing this lifestyle is beyond me.

Assuming Tiger’s crash is as it seems, much to do about nothing, the Salahis will probably get their fifteen minutes.  Then, once their lives are put on display and vigorously deconstructed, they’ll probably tire of the attention and slither away into sweet obscurity.  After a few years, perhaps they’ll appreciate their lack of fame and look back at their publicity stunt as a horrible mistake.

So as my weekend came to an end I decided I’m thankful I’m not Tiger Woods.  And thankful I don’t have the last name Salahi.  Hopefully, next year’s post-Thanksgiving news cycle will be a little more traditional, with stories of crazed parents elbowing each other in the face for vibrating Elmo dolls taking center stage.

Then I’ll really be thankful.

Author’s Note:  Less than 48 hours after posting this, Tiger Woods released a statement that basically (though not technically) admitted to having an affair.  Needless to say my sympanthy for his “situation” has wained  quite a bit.  But now that he’s revealed his “transgressions” my assumption is that the media will turn all their attention to Tiger and the Salahis will disappear from my television set.


The Simpsons, Familiarity, and Our Fear of Change

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  The Simpsons, familiarity, and our fear of change.

Back in college, my friends and I developed many rituals.  Most of them involved imbibing alcohol.  Songs we would listen to before going out to imbibe alcohol.   Games we would play while imbibing alcohol.  Places we would eat after imbibing alcohol.  There were probably more but I killed too many brain cells to remember them all.

I do, however, have very fond and lucid memories of our longest lasting ritual, which involved a large number of us gathering weekly to watch The Simpsons.  Many in our group were aspiring writers and to us there was no better show on television.  The Simpsons was brilliantly funny, smartly written and it lampooned American norms, values, and institutions.  It was the type of cutting edge entertainment us fresh-faced youngsters hoped to someday create.

homer-simpson-with-doughnut

Hmmmm... familiar donut.

But when I recently stumbled upon a Yahoo article celebrating The Simpsons 20th anniversary, all I could think was: “Holy crap, that show’s been on a long time.  Who’s still watching that thing?”

I checked out about ten years ago and haven’t really looked back.  After all there’s only so many times one can watch Bart’s devilish mischief wreak havoc on Springfield as Lisa righteously fights to power, Homer drinks copious amounts of Duff beer, and Marge quietly groans disapproval.

However, I shouldn’t really be surprised The Simpsons has lasted this long.  After all, if Simpson fans had to watch a new show, they’d have to learn new character names, figure out these characters’ personalities and quirks and even potentially adapt to a different storytelling rhythm.   All this newness might be too much to grasp.  And why put forth that kind of effort when it’s just easier to reflexively laugh whenever Homer says, “D’oh!”

And it’s not just The Simpsons.  Glaciers have migrated significantly in the time Law & Order has been on television and E.R. was only put to rest after Hollywood realized every working actor had already been on the show at least once.

tacobell-kfc

Hmmmm... familiar food.

And it’s not just TV.  Americans simply love stuff we’re already familiar with.  That’s why we have things like chain restaurants, sequels, and Baldwin brothers.  Our thirst for familiarity drives us in almost everything we do.  It’s why we elect politicians with familiar last names, why our cars still run on gasoline and why we settle for subpar health care.  We’re always more inclined to settle for the devil we know as opposed to the devil we don’t, even if that new and improved devil might not be a devil at all.

We collectively fear the unknown.  And because of this, we don’t culturally evolve nearly as quickly as we should.  We’re basically stunted by our own intellectual laziness.  It’s no wonder we’ve chosen to keep an animated sitcom about a dysfunctional family on the air for twenty years yet refuse to let gay couples get married.

We suck.

But as much as I lament The Simpsons continued primetime presence, I guess I should just be happy it hasn’t been replaced by a reality show.  After all, something tells me the geniuses over at FOX probably have a show in development that involves D-level celebrities learning how to dance while trying to find love on a desert island.

God help us if that show lasts twenty years.


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.


College Football

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

The summer came and went so quickly, I hardly had time to break in my new Speedo.  Seems like just yesterday I was laying out the many things I hoped to do before Labor Day.  I did very few of them.  But while the days get shorter and the temperatures get colder, at least there is one bright spot that accompanies the autumn months: Football.

football TV

Are you ready for some flat screen?

The arrival of fall means it’s time to fire up the flat screen and revisit the tradition of ignoring the family on Saturdays and Sundays.  Unfortunately, by the end of September reality kicks in and wives across America let it be known in no uncertain terms that spending an entire weekend firmly planted in the center of the sofa will not be tolerated.  Most of us can get away with one day of gluttonous sports self-indulgence, but certainly not two.

Which leaves most of us men with an arduous decision to make: College football or the NFL?  For me, it’s a no-brainer.  I’ll take the NFL, please.

Now don’t get me wrong, college football is very cute.  There’s lots of pageantry, rivalries and tradition.  And the crowd shots of drunken co-eds on TV make me fondly remember when I was young enough to drink my weight in cheap beer.

The NFL, on the other hand, is simply the cream of the crop.  It’s the best football players, playing the best football in the biggest cities.  But more importantly, the National Football League provides fans with the most exciting time of the sports year… the NFL playoffs.

How does college football thank their faithful followers at the end of a grueling season?  A football-less month followed by roughly three dozen meaningless bowl games and a championship game whose participants are selected by a computer.  Thanks, but no thanks.

WOPR

The BCS Championship computer.

The BCS isn’t a playoff system.  It’s political trickery that’s perennially packaged and sold to the public as if it were a playoff system.  It’s the kind of thing that’s usually created in a Capitol Hill committee room.  It’s toothless, watered down, and has the fingerprints of lobbyists all over it.  In the case of the BCS, the people lobbying in favor of an antiquated bowl system are the commissioners of major conferences and schools that reside in those conferences.

The BCS is actually very similar to health care in this country, as it currently exists.  The vast majority of people would like to see it changed, but unfortunately, there’s too much money to be made by the people running the system.  Insurance companies want to maximize profits and are willing to provide a sub par product in order to do that.  Sounds like college football to me.

Some BCS supporters claim the regular season acts as a playoff.  I find this allegation as hollow and empty as the claim that the United States has the best health care in the world.  It’s an insane argument that could only be made by someone whose alma mater is not regularly left out of the championship equation.  You’ll certainly never hear it come from the mouths of Utah alumni.

Is establishing a better playoff system in college football as important as reinventing the broken health care system that leaves almost 50 million Americans without coverage?  Of course not.  I just happen to think these two problems are cut from the same cloth.  They’re both dysfunctional arrangements that have been institutionalized for as long as anyone can remember and they both continue to disappoint those not born into a certain type of privilege.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get on my high horse and prepare for a professional football season that’ll focus primarily on gambling odds, prima donna wide receivers and an aging QB who turns the question of his retirement into a running soap opera.

Go Giants!


The Moon Landing

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  The moon landing.

If you happen to be near any hippies this week, chances are they’re downright giddy about the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.  Mention the historic three days of peace, love and music and said hippie will probably regale you with tales of free love, good weed and the unforgettable experience of crapping in a mud hole.

As much as I love music, I was more interested in the other 40th anniversary that took place this summer: the moon landing.  On July 20th, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, planted the American flag and brought a nation together at a time when it was most divided.  The United States beat the hated Russians in the race to lunar supremacy and provided the astronaut imagery that would be vital in launching MTV twelve years later.

Apollo11 TV

Boy, TV sucked back then.

Of course, the cultural significance of the Apollo 11 moon landing has as much to do with television as it did with the scientific ingenuity that allowed man to walk on the lunar surface.  On that memorable Sunday night, the entire nation (and the world for that matter) gathered around their TVs to watch mere mortals conquer a celestial body for the first time.

The moon landing was an awe-inspiring moment in mankind’s history that was collectively shared by the entire globe.  And such an event will never be seen again.

That’s not to say mankind won’t continue to reach for the stars and achieve the impossible.  (After all, we did manage to conquer erectile dysfunction.)  It’s just that celebrating these future achievements will be more fragmented and less communal than in decades past.

In the late ‘60s, the boob tube was still a relatively new invention.  There was no cable, no DVDs, no computers, no internet and certainly no DVRs.  In 1969, if you missed the breathtaking imagery of Neil Armstrong going where no man had gone before, that was it.  You missed it.

Apollo-11-moon-landing-4

Crap! I forgot to set my Tivo.

However, if the moon landing happened today, would we drop everything in order to gather around and share the historic moment?  Probably not.  Countless millions would Tivo the broadcast rather than watch it live.  Millions more would view the streaming video on their computers and handheld devices.  And some would skip it altogether, choosing to view the footage on YouTube the next morning.

Sure, small groups of space nerds would throw Apollo 11 parties that would inevitably include astronomy trivia and giant, moon shaped Cinnabons.  But, as a whole, our population would feel no sense of urgency to be in front of our TVs at the actual time the landing took place.

Now some might point to the global interest in President Obama’s inauguration as an event that disproves my theory.  And while many people gathered around their televisions en masse in January to witness the swearing in of the first African-American President, his historic inaugural address was, as I explained, an event consumed in a variety of forms over many different media outlets.

I’d also argue that despite Obama’s groundbreaking victory, his inauguration was somewhat less unifying to our country than the moon landing.  After all, there’s been no shortage of news clips this summer illustrating that some in the United States are clearly not comfortable with a POTUS of color.

I guess the “birthers” are the moon landing conspiracy theorists of their time.  Both groups are certainly similar in that they’re made up or idiots and morons.

Inevitably, times of tragedy will still draw us all to our TVs and create unified national memories – September 11th being the obvious example.   But I think it’s safe to say the days of the shared cultural experience on par with the moon landing are as long gone as bell bottoms and love-ins.

This development isn’t the end of the world, just an example of how technology, while making our world community smaller in some ways,  is also pulling it apart in others.

As an old Hippie might say:  Bummer, man.