Archive for October, 2011

The Week 6 NFL Picks

October 15, 2011 Leave a comment
It’s been a long week, kiddos. Good – but long. I began a second career endeavor as a caterer for a little saving money, and the results (I’m happy to report) have been quite positive. I get to go to a Bar Mitzvah tonight – my first in 12 years – which I think deserves a half-hearted Mazel Tov. Despite working in one of the richest areas in the entire country, I’ve found the guests to be pretty delightful; granted, they’re eating and drinking for free so, how anxious and needy could you get in that environment? And yes, I have already dropped a loaded tray of desserts – however, the only casualties were three strawberry tarts, a couple of cheap plates and a small portion of my pride. Not bad!

I’ll keep you guys posted on the catering biz, but in the meantime let’s chat about what the F is going on in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE this weekend …

Falcons over Panthers

Really wanted to pull the trigger on the Panthers in the upset, for the obvious reasons – the Panthers are a feisty 1-4, the Falcons a floundering 2-3 and look destined to miss the playoffs. But despite all the passing yards and explosive Cam Newton plays, the Panthers still aren’t quite sure how to win the close ones, which is precisely what I think will happen here. In unrelated news, I slept four hours last night … mmmm … coffee.

Bengals over Colts

It’s too bad the Broncos aren’t shopping for a QB, because a Brandon Lloyd for Carson Palmer trade would be a potential game-changer for the Bengals right now. But yeah, that wouldn’t make sense in, you know, the real world.

Steelers over Jaguars

This week’s “Game I’m Least Likely to Glance At” at the bar.

Bills over Giants

The Giants blew my 2.5-year suicide run last week against the Seahawks, so this is kind of a revenge pick. Looking back, it was a totally foolish pick, given that everybody and their brother (as my Mom likes to say) had the Giants as well. Always the kiss of death. Silver-lining? I saw the first three quarters of that game in a pro-Giants bar, and it’s always fun to watch obnoxious New York fans get blindsided by a we-didn’t-see-this-coming-at-all type of loss.

(And no, now is it not a good time for a Red Sox-related comeback, New York fans. But thanks for asking.)

Lions over 49ers

The game of the week?! I’m fired up – and Megatron is now my second favorite NFL player to watch, behind Rodgers and ahead of Vick.

Packers over Rams

Amazingly, this Packers team is exceptionally better than last year’s. Yes, they give up a lot of yards on defense – but does it really matter when, time and again, they cause turnovers and become especially inspired inside the Red Zone? So far, the answer is ‘No.’

Eagles over Redskins

I still don’t think I’ve picked an Eagles game correctly. Let’s ride the train, I say.

Raiders over Browns

Unfortunately, we’ll never discover what was under Al Davis’ band-aid. This is probably unarguably a good thing.

Ravens over Texans

Matt Schaub’s last play against the Raiders last week was Favre-esque. I think it’s free-fall time (again) for Houston.

Saints over Bucs

My worst pick of the year so far? Bucs over Niners, week 5. (Final score, 48-3 Niners win.)

Patriots over Cowboys

I’m rooting for a huge fantasy day for Romo, one cold beer per quarter, and minimal distractions during this one. I don’t ask for much …

Bears over Vikings

Only if – and it’s a big ‘if’ – the Bear’s O-line can keep Cutler off the turf. Yikes.

Jets over Dolphins

I’m not sure who came up with this year’s MNF schedule, but I imagine they’re not working for the Mothership (ESPN) anymore. Jesus.

Last week: 9-4 Season: 43-20

Categories: Uncategorized

99% Problems (And a Bitch ‘Aint One?)

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment

This lady is 84 and, by all accounts, mad as hell.

These days, protesting has found a peculiar place in American society. With the advent of Twitter, Facebook and (most unfortunately) 24-hour news networks, a small protest could break out in just about any part of the globe and the general public would have access to the news within 24 hours. (Antarctica and North Korea are the obvious exceptions. If you want to start a stir, don’t begin in the South Pole.) I say ‘access’ because it’s hard to tell what most people are clued into these days; with so many options and such fragmented audiences, every one of us could say we watched or read the “news” last night and not have a goddamn clue what the other was talking about.

For instance, I listen to NPR every weekday, and until August I had never heard of Casey Anthony. (Thank you, NPR.) Until Friday, I was unaware that there was a woman named Amanda Knox, nor did I feel any animosity towards the country of Italy. Again, I felt informed – but it turned out I probably would have failed a current events test, and would have succeeded only marginally in NPR’s own “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”

This is a problem, and it’s the problem at the heart of the Occupy protests taking place all over the country. One thing that’s interesting about the protests (among a million others) is that the stats used to back up the Occupy protests aren’t new. Hell, I distinctly remember my political science teacher explaining that around (at that time) 40% of American wealth was owned by just 1% of the public. I was shocked, appalled and complacent all at once. I sat in my desk tossing around the figure in my head. Like the woman above, I felt mad as hell. Unlike her, I wasn’t sure what exactly to do about. As it turned out, I did nothing.

So I guess the question is, why are the Occupy protests happening now? Well, in my (amateur, but original – to me anyways) opinion, the reason is fragmentation. There are a hundred ways to slice this thing but, unfortunately, its been simplified in to two sides: Left and Right. Right and Left.

Why? Because we’re all watching, reading and listening to wildly different news stories, opinions and criticisms – all of which claim to be reporting facts. So, how can we tell whose right? Well, it’s the people we’re listening to, obviously, because we gravitate towards the opinions we want to hear.

This leaves us with some pretty sharp and hostile opinions about one another. Over the last few days, I’ve read some pretty condescending things about the Occupy protesters; that they don’t have jobs, that they’re rich kids complaining, that they’re costing taxpayers money, etc. Yes – these are probably all true to some (small) degree – just like you can find Tea Party members scooting around on Medicaid-sponsored wheelchairs at rallies, and so-called patriots that are pro-war but anti-paying for it.

Yup, we’re all hypocrites and, of course, we’re all entitled to our own opinion; fuck, isn’t that what makes America great? (Well, that and hamburgers. And football.) But what we’ve done – with the help of news organizations, social media and especially politicians – is effectively whittle every issue down to Left and Right, Black and White. (The latter of which is figurative, in this case.)

Yeah – you can knock the 99% movement, but at least bring something to the conversation. Don’t generalize every protester down to some rich white kid bitching about having to work; maybe that kid with the sign can’t afford his (fucking absurd) college loan payment because most jobs available these days for anyone without a business degree pay around $10 an hour. And while it’s true some of us live outside of our means, what about those families protesting after they were laid off from work, lost their job and then their house? Are they spoiled? Were they living outside their means? Not at the time – they’re victims of circumstance, just like every other person on this planet.

Amidst all the animosity, I think people on the outside (and, let’s admit it, some on the inside) are missing the point of the entire Occupy movement. The fact is – the American dream is dead a whole lot different from what it was a generation ago. We’ve been scared off from buying homes (values are still basically plummeting), we no longer have jobs job security, and the middle class is dwindling. This isn’t because people aren’t trying – it’s because the system is now designed in a way that keeps it from being open to everyone. This should make everyone mad;  finally it is. So, let’s address the problem by being loud as fuck – this is a pretty tried and true strategy, and there’s no reason to think it won’t make at least some – albeit small – difference.

Anyways, this brings me back to that moment in college where I sat in my desk, wondering how I would make a difference in shortening the American wealth disparity before ultimately getting distracted by the next hot girl that walked by topic. Admittedly, I haven’t even been to the Occupy San Diego protests, but I fully support the movement, and hopefully I’ll find time over the next couple of days (in between two jobs) to make a cameo.

Then again, maybe I’m on the other side – the complacent side of the 99% that chooses to press on in the giant, universal cog rather than stand up (and shout) for real change, hoping for that illusive imaginary  ‘big break’ that will catapult me into the upper class.

It’s like I said earlier – we’re all hypocrites.

Now, on to the stuff that really matters …

This is the part of my blog where I ask myself questions (because no one else will):

Dude – where were your football picks last week? And furthermore, where the hell have you been?

Last week saw the end of my 2.5-year suicide pick streak, broken (like millions others) by the Seattle upset over the fackin’ New York Giants. On the bright side, I went 9-4 and I’m off to one of the best starts I’ve had picking games in a while.

As to where I’ve been, well, if there’s one thing I learned in my creative writing classes, it’s that if you write a blog about a bunch of Indie movies no one has seen before, let that fucker sit and stew for a good 11 days before returning. Your readers will be on the EDGE OF THEIR SEATS when you decide – at your own accord – to blog again. Yup – that’s the one thing I learned from college.

But I do promise the 10 of you who read this to have the NFL picks up on Saturday.

Whoa, there’s way fewer typos in this post than previous ones … you didn’t get your computer fixed, did you?

I sure did. Much thanks go out to Tim (the roommate) for knowing how to build computers. Sorry I drank all your “Thank You” beers.

What happened to the Whitney Challenge?

Despite our efforts, Whitney was inexplicably extended for a full season by NBC! There’s no goddamn way I’m watching that show until May. I tapped out. So did Tim. It’s over. Deal with it. (Slams head against the wall repeatedly.)

Until Saturday…

Categories: Uncategorized

Let’s Go to the (Indie) Movies

October 1, 2011 Leave a comment

"The Pill" is one of the main featured films playing at the San Diego Film Festival this weekend.

Over the last three days, and with the help of some great friends (Thanks Ilhem!), I’ve officially crossed something off something on my bucket list that I’ve always wanted to do: shoot a buffalo attend a movie festival.

OK, so the San Diego Film Festival isn’t Tribeca or Sundance, but it’s certainly leaps and bounds ahead of the short film festival I attended in Burlington a couple years back. The film festival experience is about what I expected; a pretty even amount of old white folks, hipsters and Indie-types, with a few filmmakers, actors and reporters sprinkled in to make the entire thing exceptionally more self-important. (Or maybe I just felt “more important” for being there. Actually, this is a more likely scenario.)

So far, as we hit Day 4 of the Festival, I’ve seen three movies, all of which I’d characterize as “not bad”, and 2 out of 3 were very unique and were clearly done on a minimal budget. Here are a few things I’ve observed and experienced at the San Diego Film Festival, in no particular order …

1. The Acting Quality

I’ve seen my share of Indie films over the years (What up, Netflix! Or whatever you’re calling yourself these days.), and for the most part acting can be divided into three tiers – usually within the same movie.

First, there’s the lead, who is usually head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the film, especially if there are no “famous people” or identifiable names (January Jones, excluded) in the film. In the second film I saw last night, “Rid of Me” – an avant-garde film that doubled as a black comedy and an art piece (and featured the dude from Everclear in a recurring cameo) – lead Katie O’Grady was in basically every scene. If she was mediocre, this film would be terrible. Instead, she played a believable and completely-relatable housewife-turned punk, before finding a happy medium between the two in the end. Anything less from O’Grady and this artsy dark film would’ve been borderline unwatchable.

The second tier of Indie actors are usually new or first-time actors testing out the waters, with mixed results. Going back to “Rid of Me”, this movie featured a pretty extensive supporting cast whose acting chops bordered on cartoonish, though I have a feeling that this was the intention of the director. That being said, I also think that a few of these actors may have found the gig via Craigslist, and made the most (“Most” is being graded on a curve, here.) with the limited roles they were given.

The last tier of Indie film actors consist of borderline famous people and friends of the directors and the producers. (Notable actors I’ve seen so far: Uncle Rico from “Napoleon Dynamite”, Veta from “My Girl” and the aforementioned front man from Everclear. (I also recognized another 10 or so actors who I’ve absolutely seen before but couldn’t for the life of me place, aka That Guy!) They’re usually good for a line or two when they’re not getting edited out of the movie completely. I hope to somehow make my way into this tier someday. (Wanted: Film School Friends.)

2. The Style

Style is especially prevalent to the laymen’s eye (such as my own) when it comes to Indie films. If you’re making a film that follows a familiar story arc (“Unicorn City” was a rom-com about gamers, and “The Pill” was a quirky take on romance – yeah, we’re not breaking new ground here, but there’s a reason the same types of movies are popular.), but your budget is small, you don’t want to make a film that’s essentially a shittier version of a Hollywood-style movie. In order to make the film feel “different,” you have to make it look different.

“Rid of Me” was the most stylistic of the three, using deep organic music (and, it should be noted, a shitload of Regina Spektor songs to identify “happy times”) and not-so-subtle zoom-ins to set the ambient tones. In the other two films, there was a lack of camera movement, but plenty of close-ups made for a more intimate vibe. And it should be noted that all three films appeared to be filmed digitally. However, I didn’t see any of the “risky” and forward-thinking qualities of some of my favorite recent Indie films, “500 Days of Summer” and “The Wackness.” (Though the former also used plenty of Regina Spektor, albeit it in to promote very different emotions. I should have asked about this in the Q & A but, I really had to piss.)

3.) The Atmosphere

I wouldn’t describe the lobby atmosphere of the San Diego Film Festival as “electric” by any means, but it definitely was interesting. There was a small red carpet with sponsor GQ being promoted around basically every corner. I witnessed a few interviews taking place, but I couldn’t tell you who they were or what they were doing there. There was also a GQ Lounge which I was promptly told to leave. (Psh not sure what that was about – I had a button-up on and everything.) But probably the coolest part was seeing some of the actors and directors just sort of kicking it inside and outside the theater, promoting the fruits of their labor. And each and every actor I (briefly) spoke with seemed genuinely appreciative of the good words. It kind of reminded me of being a kid and asking a minor league player for their autograph. There’s a sense that, even if this is as good as it gets for these people, it’s still really impressive and, at the very least, they thoroughly entertained people for one evening, anyways. And, um,  how many people can say they starred in a movie?

As far as the experience in the theater, it definitely felt like a more intimate setting than your typical movie theater atmosphere. (With the exception of the time I saw “Final Destination 3” in a predominantly African-American theater in Downtown St. Louis. That crowd fucking rocked.)  Passes for the festival are kind of pricey, so the crowd definitely loved the cinema and really did want to be there. (i.e. very little talking, no mid-movie texting, minimal bathroom breaks.) We did encounter some odd people, notably the woman who asked my roommate and I whether we were “staying sober” as soon as we sat down,  to which I replied, “Not by choice.” That one still has me befuddled. Otherwise, I didn’t see anything else too out of the ordinary.

4.) Thinking Critically

OK, admittedly I had a tough time grading these movies fairly. When you enter a film at the SD Film Festival, you’re given a slip with numbers 1 through 5, with 1 being “poor” and 5 being “superb.” 4 means “excellent – I have given all three films a ‘4’ when I walked out of the theater. I’d break them down for you now, but, seeing as how you haven’t even heard of these films and will likely never see them, I’ll spare you (and me) the work. That being said, you can check out the trailers below, with my grades for the three films next to them:

Unicorn City – B

The Pill  – B+

Rid of Me – B

Also, here are the Week 4 Quick Picks – and please don’t talk to me about the 2011 Red Sox ever again.

Bears over Panthers – Meh.

Bills over Bengals – Love the resurgence of the Bills. 10-6 seems totally reasonable with a win in Cincy.

Titans over Browns – CJ will have more rushing yards Sunday than he’s had all year. (98 … not a typo.)

Lions over Cowboys – If the Lions didn’t have the same name and same uniform as, ya’ know, the Lions, would we even think this game would be close?

Texans over Steelers – I’m walking alongside the Texans bandwagon but refusing a ride. That being said, they’re front 7 matches up tremendously with the Steelers’ bruised and battered O-line.

Saints over Jaguars – Did the NFL schedule-makers decide to just throw all of the shitty match-ups into one terrible week, or am I crazy?

Vikings over Chiefs – I mean, really.

Eagles over Niners – I’ve yet to pick an Eagles game correctly this year. Just sayin’.

Rams over Redskins – Make-or-break game for the STL.

Giants over Cardinals – Remember when Arizona was in the NFC East all those years? That was dumb, am I right? AM I RIGHT?!

Seahawks over Falcons – Dude, what happened to the Falcons? And welcome back, Sydney Rice! (To my fantasy team – I realize this is confusing out of context.)

Packers over Broncos (Suicide Pick) – If you think I forgot about Super Bowl XXXII, you don’t know me very well

Patriots over Raiders – Feels like the Raiders are ripe for the upset, until you remember that the Pats NEVER lose two in a row. Plus, they probably have a pretty terrible taste in their mouth after last week, like when you wake up from a night of drinking and realized you smoked a cigarette the night before. The Raiders will be the Patriots metaphorical mouthwash.

Chargers over Dolphins – Another SD blackout. I’ll spare you the story of how much the Chargers fucked my Pack-Bears viewing schedule last week. Just know that it doesn’t get much worse than anticipating your NFL team on TV, only to be greeted with an infomercial for Lipitor. No, seriously.

Jets over Ravens – I just have this feeling that Flacco will throw some pretty timely picks, and the overrated Jets will do just enough for a close (and ugly) win in Baltimore. And yes, the Orioles have made me bitter about that city – for the week, anyways.

Bucs over Colts – Remember that 2003 Monday Night game when the Colts came back on the Bucs from 21 points down in something like 5 minutes to win the game? Yeah, that’s not going to happen Monday.

Last Week: 12-4 Season: 34-16