Like: Manny Ramirez, who was apparently breast fed up to and including the age of four.

March 25, 2009

Manny Ramirez was apparently breast fed up to and including age four. I just learned this.

One could say “this explains a lot” and it might be true, but rather than make a pejorative claim and I am simply going to file it away into the list of hilarious and entertaining events that I was privvy to in the life of Manny Ramirez.

There isn’t a single baseball player I like/have liked more than Manny Ramirez. His seasons in Boston were easily the most entertaining, fascinating, and awe inspiring thing I have ever seen. There’s a lot of more qualified people to talk on the subject, but I’m not some simpleton baseball fan who adores limelight figures and doesn’t “get it.” I love baseball. I know baseball. I love the stat revolution. And I love Manny.

He is a near perfect hitter with no holes in his game. He hits at any count. He hits any part of the plate. He can hit opposite field. He hits for average. He hits for power. He has been stunningly consistent.  Hell, HE sets up pitchers to get what he wants.  The only other player who comes up in conversations about “setting up” pitchers are pete rose and shoeless Joe. Yet, he doesn’t blink twice after a backwards K. He just keeps moving like a shark. His talent is a seeming anomaly.

I both like and detest the phrase “Manny Being Manny.” In someways it’s a perfect explanation for the stunningly bizarre range of behavior. It explains the unexplainable. But it’s ubiquity has afforded a kind of de facto accreditation for anything that happens to the guy. It’s almost stopped us from trying to figure out this guy. Why is he worth figuring out? To highlight:

-He has been a hitting freak forever, and a near legend for his ability when playing high school baseball in NYC.

-He frequently watched hitting film buck naked in the Cleveland clubhouse.

-He accepted the contract with Boston on the condition that they hire Frank Mancini… the clubhouse guy who set up the pitching machine for him… seriously. This is absolutely hilarious. Frank declined because he lives in Cleveland and is, you know, a clubhouse guy.

-He took frequent piss breaks in the green monster

-Coming back from a brief injury he had a stint in AAA pawtucket. He loved it there and wanted to keep playing there. Once he even supposedly requested a trade there (!)

-He once dove to cut off a throw from Johnny Damon in center… he was about 20 feet from him.

-He is oddly shy.

-He and Julian Taverez had the same exact nickname… for each other… “Rambo”

-He wears an impossibly baggy uniform.

-He would go months without depositing paychecks. We’re talking practically millions.

-He sold/helped sell his/some dude’s grill on Ebay.

-He is oddly punctual during the season (compared to his off season) and is often found asleep in the clubhouse when people get there.

-He made a great running catch, then ran up on the wall, high fived a fan, then threw it back to first to get a double play. This actually happened.

-Again, Manny was breast fed up until the age of four.

I could go on, in fact this is just scratching the surface, but you still get the idea.

So why do I like Manny so much? These just seem like distractions and news stories, but really they’re just details about an enigmatic figure. People give him crap for not playing the game “the right way.” I hate that. Really, everyone is supposed to play the game hard-nosed and gritty? Give me a break. It’s about contrast. It’s about stylistic discrepancy and awesomeness. I look back at my favorite red sox players, Oil Can Boyd. Bill Spaceman Lee. El Tiante. Pedro Martinez. Manny Ramirez. They were all eccentric, dominating performers. They had a bit of a screw loose. They were somewhat mystical.  They had fun. They played a game and somehow transcended it. That’s what I love.

It’s a game. An incredible game, but a game nonetheless. Manny seems like one of the only people who is not afraid to treat it like one. Sure he gets paid millions of dollars, but we pay millions of dollars to see him. I don’t care about about his contract disputes. He’s angling for money. Everyone does that. It’s not a public service. It’s a game. And Manny is better at hitting than anyone else on the planet. (he’s freak performance the last 2 months in LA can attest). So I abandon the complaints. Manny is simply the most fun.

And that’s what I like best. I can’t help it. I just do.

To wit, a comparison: The 2007 red sox team had a hard-nosed, workhorse demeanor who cranked out an efficient title. It was near perfect baseball from a perfectly constructed team. Meanwhile, the 04 team was a bunch of “idiots” who magically came down from 0-3 in the ALCS and won that fucker. They went on to deliver the first world series title in over 80 years. Yet, with that crazy fucking roster of nincumpoops they had no business doing so.

Which team was more fun?


Don’t Like: Me this morning, “Man I’ve been eating awful lately, I should totally eat healthy today. [Later]… Ooooh Donuts!”

March 18, 2009

How delcious! It’s not like I bought them or anything. Some one else did, I just ate them. St. Patty’s krispy kreme if you must know! Haha. I just watched someone who said, “GOD I CAN’T EAT A WHOLE DONUT, WHY DID PEOPLE BRING THIS IN?” go up eat five consecutive munchkins over the course of about 15 minutes. Now if you excuse me, I have to go drink some pints of guinness. … I’m kidding, it’s 10 am. OR AM I?


Love: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe

March 13, 2009

“Scott Pilgrim is one of my favorite comics.” Lots of people say that. That’s because it’s awesome.

Scott Pilgrim is 23 year old living in Toronto. He meets Ramona Flowers and is smitten. Author Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic is almost perfectly observed: tiny bits of interaction, nuance, dating intricacy, and wholesale anxiety. Perhaps the most wonderful part is that there’s a wonderful casualness to the style and the world. Most of scenes are simply hanging out, but rather than reflect significant boredom, there is instead a focus on just the kinds of things that make hanging out with your friends so exciting and fun.  Scott Pilgrim is perfect realism… except when it’s the exact opposite. O’Malley mixes the aforementioned realism with vivid fantasy tones and video game logic.  In order to date Ramona, Scott must defeat her 7 evil ex-boyfriends. Expect expansive fight scenes, traveling through the mystic void of “subspace”, people who go to “vegan school”, item rewards, robots, stat bonuses, and plenty of metaphysical indie rock. It’s a stunning amalgamation really.

The world is populated with wonderful characters, but Scott and Ramona a truly something remarkable. Scott is a perfect central figure. He is intensely like-able and funny, yet a ball of walking anxiety, stupidity, fear, and forgetfulness. He’s not exactly a simpleton, but there is something intensely “regular” about him. And it goes far beyond the “lovable loser” routine. Scott transcends it. Truth is, I can’t think of a similar central character off the top of my head. That in and of itself is wonderful. Ramona meanwhile transcends her own cliche. Nothing seems more inane right now than the recent influx of “magic pixie girls.” It’s a new cliche, flighty wonderful women who make your boring personality and existence more tolerable because they are so adventurous and spontaneous. At first Ramona may seem to be a perfect example. She’s a rollerblading delivery girl (even in winter), she dyes her hair every other day, she’s got some serious martial arts skills, and actually travels through subspace! But Ramona is anything but an empty shell of surface things that make a woman’s “personality.” That’s what a lot of males writing women don’t seem to get. Personality is suplemented by details (wheras their male character seem like empty templates of longing). Ramona has so many layers. Her complexity and distance are earned. She is marked by a sense of grief. Her “running” from people is not a sign of dejecting the screenwriter, but a reaction to her past. She is someone more mature than who she was, but not sure how to be the person she wants to be. My word, it seems as if O’Malley *GASP* knows an actual woman who is actual person! You know, instead of the crazy version of magic pixie girl they see as their desire from the outside looking in. Nowhere are Ramona’s layers more evident than in the most recent book (Volume 5). It’s a revelation to me. O’Malley has transcended the magic pixie girl. Good show old chap!

Tangent: There’s a movie coming out. Edgar Wright is doing it. Just going off Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, you may think that’s not exactly a perfect choice. But Spaced is the closest thing in tone to Scott Pilgrim I’ve ever seen. It IS perfect. Most of the casting is complete home runs. I have two big worries: 1) Scott Pilgrim is played by Michael Cera. Don’t get me wrong, I love Michael Cera. But the dude kind has his own style of delivery… And he seems nothing like Scott Pilgrim. So I’m worried. Hopeful, but fearful. 2) Looking over the casting… it seems like they’re cramming 4 books into one movie, maybe even 5 or the whole story (there are 6 stories). This seems like a huge, huge mistake. The four or five action sequences alone could take up so much running time that it wouldn’t leave room for the minor scenes of the story. And That’s what makes Scott Pilgrim so wonderful. I’m absolutely terrified. If anything it seems like it should be broken up episodically into 3, or at least certainly 2 movies (There is a great natural break at the end of the third book). Don’t get me wrong. I love everyone involved. I’m just scared as hell.


Don’t Like: Anthony Lane, and his review of WATCHMEN in The New Yorker (Spoilers)

March 7, 2009

Said review:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2009/03/09/090309crci_cinema_lane

Anthony Lane’s review of Watchmen will possibly receive a lot of ire. The probable quality of most of those complaints will be inarticulate, awful, and possibly violent. What else can one expect from a fan base full of what he refers to as Wagnerian Ardor. But does he deserve said ire? Why would people specifically target Lane when there have been plenty of mixed reviews for Watchmen out there? I cannot say for sure, but I know there is a reason I have singled out his review.

When it comes to critics, the most common complaint of populist moviegoers is something akin to “they’re snotty.” It is an inane response, a joyful celebration of both stupidity and futility. On the other hand, nobody likes to be marginalized or belittled, even if the commentary may be accurate. In going over Lane’s review of Watchmen again and again, the problem is that I cannot understand or see the film from his perspective. It is an indignant perspective, a dismissive perspective, and perspective that (much to my chagrin in using the word) defines “snotty.”

The initial problem is that Lane intentionally sets himself up to be the pariah, never mincing his words about fans of the superhero genre; he derides their intelligence, values, and juvenility. Can comic book fans be those things? Of course. But to so callously lump the stereotyped fan-boy with the litany of people who just so happen to read/have read some superhero comics is folly. Not to mention that there are a host of excitable moviegoers who read the comic in anticipation for the release of the film. Many of those moviegoers subsequently found the novel to have some worth. Ultimately, I find what Lane assessment of the audience, and any critical proclamation of this nature, to be solipsistic. It singularly benefits him. It directly antagonizes the reader (even if they dislike the film as well). It is helpful and enlightening to absolutely no one.

Even the world of Watchmen seems to irk Mr. Lane. He laments the “bevy of brutes” on display; not to mention Nite Owl’s inherent Batman similarities (he calls “plagiaristic,” a falsehood), one hero’s shampoo-sounding nickname, Dr. Manhattans glowing “pornographic” phallus, Ozymandias’ boyish looks and qualities (somehow presented as criticism of itself?), and a complete misunderstanding of just what the heck was going on with The Comedian. These complaints are wholly tangential, but are somehow presented as evidence of Watchmen’s inane qualities. The observations are not useful criticism, they are a comedy routine. Which I suppose is fine in some forums, but as funny as it could possibly be it is wholly pointless to have a running commentary on the merits of character appearance in a five paragraph review in The New Yorker, especially when said comments serve no purpose in building to a specific point. This is even odder because these surface details that he observes have inescapable conclusions.

In a world where superhero movies are the most popular thing on the planet, how is a movie about their subversive id, selfishness, peculiar dress, and eccentric nature wholly without merit? No matter how banal the may seem? It seems like logical fallacy. Even if you find the philosophy beneath you, the superhero movie is entering a retrospective or deconstructionist phase (started 30 years ago in comics themselves). And Watchmen is important because it is about our very attraction to superheroes in the first place. We are a certainly a culture addicted to them. While the heroes themselves may provide some kind of commentary on the world, the real commentary deals with our desperation to be like them, to reek vengeance on the amoral of the world, or to be larger than life, or special. Watchmen is about the extremes of these behaviors and it goes to amazing depths to get to the heart of the dangerous reflexive relationship between them, even while it has no problem being hypocritical in doing so (more on that later).

Of course there are minor nitpicky things I can take with the review. It’s littered with inaccuracy, which has been a disturbing trend in Lane’s work. For what it is worth (and it is worth something) Dr. Manhattan is not a radioactive being. It is even the crux of the plot. He is not radioactive in the slightest, but the commentary lies in the popular perspective that he is indeed radioactive. His identity is synonymous with fear. Fear of nuclear war, of god, or even of death itself. The worst offense is that Lane seems to take a peculiar delight in spoiling the end of the film. Make no mistake, the film is a noir-ish mystery (he even says so) and casually tossing in the ending of a mystery (without even discussing its merits!) reeks of reader-directed sadism. Yes, we live in a spoiler paranoid culture and I have problems with that too, but it is a reality that every reviewer has to respect. We like the surprise of the mystery, even if one deems that mystery to be lame. That is how we universally watch films; even we The New Yorker readers. To deny that and to intently spoil, is nothing but 100% nihilistically glee, akin to the greatest contrarians, the malcontents, The Joker(s), and The Comedian(s). Again, solipsistic.

The only interesting comment I found in the piece concerned of Snyder’s “arousal” by vengeance/violence and the ensuing counter-productive qualities. It is a fair criticism that possibly subverts the intention of Watchmen all together. After all, the sociopath Rorshach is the most popular character. Our attraction to his violence is indicative our zeitgeist. Lane vehemently dismisses the whole relationship as juvenile and without purpose. One could argue it is anything but. Alan Moore acknowledges the hypocrisy and states that it is meant as an indictment of vigilantism and the psychology needed to behave that way. Snyder seconds the opinion, even if he overtly glorifies the violence. Snyder’s contradiction could be the real crux of Lane’s argument, but instead it is presented as a statement against the plot-level heroism of the characters; the gray meta-audience-intricacies are left hanging. Lane instead provides even more focus on his visceral dislike of the level of the violence itself. An indictment of the level of violence may certainly be valid, but it is wholly uninteresting in the context of other questions Lane seems to be dancing around; Watchmen certainly has more interesting things going on. It is a shame because second guessing the amount of the violence is more indicative of the kind of reviews one comes across on religious family-oriented websites.

I acknowledge that all this discourse as a matter of semantics. Maybe Watchmen is simply not meant for Anthony Lane. He is just one man, right? But I can’t help but come back to the Lane’s inherent distaste and disdain for the film, the world of the film, and the audience of the film. What is the job of a film reviewer? Is it to be entertaining? Possibly. But should not he/she be diplomatic in his/her mission? What is a critic supposed to be? Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure the reader who likes said movie should never feel insulted for having liked it. A good reviewer will establish his/her thinking, point to specifics, and then reach out to you. They make you ask questions, maybe even doubt your assumptions. We’re supposed to feel as the critic has engaged us in conversation, not assaulted our intelligence. And Watchmen is not a throwaway horror film or a juvenile sex comedy where you can get away with the “snark as review” approach. If anything The New Yorker IS the publication that shoehorns in the discourse no matter how unnecessary. So why does Watchmen get the contempt, the triviality, and the comedy routine? This is one of the most celebrated graphic novels of all time. It is a landmark achievement. There is some consensus on this. Or are we all banal idiots? I am convinced at this point that the stance of Mr. Lane comes from nothing but a lack of care and effort on his part. Is it really so hard to even engage with us, the ardent Wagnerians?

Rarely am I made to feel as if I am a philistine. It is certainly not a good feeling. There is something parental and authoritative about it, as if you are chided for your natural inclinations and lifestyle. No. I have to stand pat on this. I am qualified to be conversed with on an equal level. I have a bachelor’s degree in film (production, screenwriting, and cinema studies). I could have a conversation about Tarkovsky and “sculpting in time” if Mr. Lane would like? Or perhaps the merits Lynchian subtexts? The reflexive nature of watching television and its effect on our personalities? I could discuss cultural semantics of post-modern literature. Would these be of more interest? Is it a more worthy conversation? Is Watchmen below me then as he seems to insist?

See, I happened to think the political satire had merit. For this, I am apparently a “leering nineteen-year-old who believes that America is ruled by the military-industrial complex, and whose deepest fear—deeper even than that of meeting a woman who requests intelligent conversation—is that the Warren Commission may have been right all along.” There are so many ways to respond to this: the legitimacy of the problems with military-industrial complex, my complete lack of interest in JFK assassination, or my insistence of my mature relationships with intelligent females (and beautiful too, which Mr. Lane leaves an insinuation of implausibility). Should I have a sense of humor about this? Perhaps. But Mr. Lane is so declarative in his assertion that he does not even seem to even care about veracity. The quote above is said by the kind of a man who is sickened by my interests. I am stereotyped. I am something so neatly packed into pathetic-ness. Therefore, I can conveniently be dismissed. No matter who I may really be, I am automatically part of Mr. Lane’s oppositional Wagnerians.

This is not what I expect from The New Yorker.

Make no mistake, some intellectuals find Watchmen rather interesting: a metaphysical blue entity who plays the role of god, who sees the world through string theory and quantum mechanics (contrary to Mr. Lane’s belief the science that applies to his state of being is anything but junk), the Swiftian pursuit of the greater good, the deconstruction and sociopaths of vigilantism, the plight of American pseudo-fascism, and even the alternatives to our iconic history. But does it all have to be dressed up in an “overblown” and violent world where hyper-kinetic action is modus operandi? Of course it does. What other world could a superhero movie exist in? The biggest problem is that Mr. Lane cannot seem to come to grips with the fact that most Watchmen’s commentary lies in its own hypocrisy: it is both of and transcendent to the world it portrays. In the comic book world, Superheroes could literally tear humans apart, so why haven’t they? Watchmen is the answer to its own question. And to lament the conventions of a superhero movie is like lamenting over someone being killed in a horror movie.

This taps into a frequent problem I find with Mr. Lane. As intelligent and inclined toward thematic motifs as he clearly is, he often showcases a profound lack of genre understanding. I see it again and again, creating a pattern of problematic posturing. Is genre something that every reviewer should intrinsically understand? It is one of the reasons I have been gravitating to some of the more thoughtful reviewers on the internet (they do exist). And I constantly find myself being drawn back to the great Roger Ebert, who has no inclination toward liking superhero movies, but seems to have no qualms with dealing with a film in the context of his own world. And the Watchmen world is complicated and worth effort, so much so that Ebert even published a second review after feeling a responsibility to see the movie a second time and truly absorb it. Yes, the man with the populist “thumbs up” TV show (and therefore appears to be the antithesis of The New Yorker in some ways) is the one who took the time and the care to engage us (the reader) in a conversation. He is not some Ain’t It Cool News fanboy inclined to love the film from the get go, but instead the man often respected by film enthusiasts and the general public alike. This is not a coincidence.

Forgive the metaphor… Maybe Anthony Lane has simply become the Dr. Manhattan of film criticism; content with seeing movies on his own quantum level. We mortals are not privy to it. The way we see movies are trivial. Some of us may even be Ozymandias, the “world’s smartest man” who is no more significant to him as the world’s smartest termite. We see action movies for action. We see superhero movies for superheroes (only we don’t confuse “comic” for “superhero” while doing so). We watch giant robots fight each other because we think that is neat. We care about movies that most Americans will see and have some kind of response to them besides indignation. We might even be able to have an intelligent conversation about it. We really might be Ozymandias, our love of populist genre movies deforms the high art of cinema, just as he “deforms humanity.” Anthony Lane makes it clear he will take no part of that deformity. Maybe he recognizes the quantum analytical level of our film world as nothing but silly human affairs and nonsense. Perhaps then, as Dr. Manahattan, he should simply leave that world alone, and let us deal with it on our own.

I have read The New Yorker for what feels like my entire life and I’ve loved my experience. I also recognize that letter writing is often purposeless, at once cathartic and destructive to the letter-writer himself; but I felt it necessary at this point. Anthony Lane is intelligent for sure, but I’ve never once felt like he has watched a single movie with us. I have been talked at, but I have never had that conversation. It fills me with unquantifiable sadness.

Sadness because is indicative of my greatest fear. The New Yorker is a publication that prides itself on true reporting, journalistic integrity, and understand that the truth of liberal politics has nothing to do with posturing or contrarianism, but the merits of understanding. It is in other words, a cultural beacon. And the greatest fear as a reader of The New Yorker is that there is some veracity to what all the infantile opponents always say: it is “elitist,” “condescending,” “biased,” and “pompous.” I am filled with unquantifiable sad, because in the case of Mr. Lane’s review, it was true.

and remember we’re offiicial at www.stuffilikeandstuffidontlike.com


Like: That Zach Snyder Nailed “WATCHMEN”

March 6, 2009

I will keep this brief. (til a 2nd post)

WATCHMEN is nerely impossible to adapt. Zach Snyder did as great a job as possible. I saw a midnight screening last night and the audience ate it up. Lacking eloquence on purpose: Every actor was great. I knew Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earle Haley would be fantastic and they hit their marks perfectly. Jackie did this wondeful thing where he kind of kept the stubborn little boy aspect of Rorshach completely in tact. Patrick Wilson was incredible. He’s the ethos and empathy of the piece and carries us with him. But Billy Crudrup and Matthew Goode surprised the hell out of me. They simply nailed it. Especially Crudrup. Even Malin Ackerman was fine (or didn’t bring anyone down). In a weird way, she fit the naivety of the role quite well.

Some may have issues with a few of the changes, but I think they streamlined the whole plot very well.

It actually felt like a damn movie.

Cheers Zach:

And remember, we’re offical at www.stuffilikeandstuffidontlike.com yay!


Like: The Geek Heirarchy

March 5, 2009

Warning. Do not try to read this. Click on link below.

geekchartbig

THE GEEK HEIRARCHY CLICK HERE FOR BIG VERSION YOU CAN ACTUALLY READ

What is the most wonderful thing about the Geek heirarchy? It’s unflagging accuracy. There isn’t a single thing I can find wrong with it in the way of discourse. It’s a wonderful achievement in the annals of fanboy and geek semantics. It also belittles your potential interests! Either way. Just great stuff.

It’s also completely hilarious.

Props go to K. for alerting me to this many moons ago.

and remember, we’re official: www.stuffilikeandstuffidontlike.com YAY!


Hate With The Passion Of A Thousand Suns: That For Some Reason I’m Too Dim To Figure Out My Favorite Website No Longer Can Be Displayed At My Work

March 3, 2009

I fury knows no bounds. I am seething rage.

Look. I don’t abuse my internet privleges at work. I check emails. It check out favorite sites (the onion, espn, etc) when I take breaks.

My particular favorite site is a movie site called www.chud.com.  It stands for Cinematic Happenings Under Development and is a reference to the old (awesome) horror movie.

And for some reason. It’s not fucking working anymore. On any server.

Granted the site is so filled with ads and nonsense I’m sure that my updated browsers think it’s an attack site of some sort. And it’s not “blocked by websense” which I inadvertently get sometimes when I click emailed blind(er) links. But this is just uncalled for. It’s a movie/video game website with a bit of snark, intelligence, and similar test.

In the words of Belle and Sebastian, “Fuck this shit.”

remember, we’re official! http://www.stuffilikeandstuffidontlike.com/