Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stuff I'll Always Watch

Going through the many choices of crap on digital TV to clog up my optic nerves, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect upon some of my favorite stuff to watch. This list is in no particular order, but each one is dear to my craven little heart.

1) Nazis, Neo-Nazis, & Assorted Knuckle-Dragging Thugs: There seems to be a surfeit of documentaries & speculative shows on that perverted Austrian midget and his legions of jackbooted thugs. While it can get tiring to see the same shit about the Waffen SS, or Eichmann, every now and then there will be something different like the extent of Hitler's drug addictions. Then again I can never get tired of seeing what troglodytes racists can be no matter if they're Klansmen or Aryan Supremacists.

2) Goodfellas (but only on Lifetime): Ah, the Holy Trinity of mob movie goodness - DeNiro, Pesci, and Scorcese. How can you lose? From any number of points, "Goodfellas" is a masterpiece, and it would be criminal to see it in anything less than letterboxed and uninterrupted. I have the special edition DVD with commentary by the real Henry Hill and the Federal Agent that arrested him. What the hell this magnum opus is doing on Lifetime is beyond me. Seriously - How the blessed fuck is seeing "Now go shine my fuckin' shoes" empowering to women? Bad enough that you have to watch something like this in anything less than the original film aspect ratio, but to have all the profanity and violence neutered? Why not show it on some holy roller channel? It's like a big road accident in slow motion - with commercial breaks. You have to watch the bodies go splat. And no matter how many times the same travesty is on TV, you have to watch to see the cinematic equivalent when a nearsighted mohel (on crank) performs a bris. And let me ask one more time - how is "Goodfellas" a chick flick?

3) Discovery Health Channel's (& The Learning Channel's) Freakshow: Yeah, I said it - freakshow. I mean no disrespect to people who are genuinely trying to make a better life out of what shitty cards fate had handed to them, but when Discovery Health Channel has a special called "Trash Can of Skin," you're forced to watch out of morbid curiosity. That particular gem was about an English lady who had rapidly lost a massive amount of weight after stomach reduction surgery. Unfortunately here skin was so distended, all elasticity has gone and thus a wide tract of skin had to be removed in a groundbreaking surgical procedure. The leftover skin filled up a trash can (thus the title). You think that's bad, you should see "Half Man, Half Tree." And before you think I'm being particularly morbid, which are you more inclined to watch, "Valerie's Circumferential Body Lift Odyssey," or "Trash Can of Skin?" I thought so. What's worse is that Discovery Health Channel made "Trash Can of Skin" more appealing to wider audiences by making it part of its "Medical Incredibles" series with an equally touchy feely title.

4) The Godfather Epic: It's a little known fact that there's a shitload of footage that even the most devoted fans haven't seen, like Don Vito Corleone going with his sons to visit his old consigliere Genco at his death bed. Or seeing a young Hyman Rothstein start work with Vito Corleone, or even little bits like seeing more wedded bliss between Carlo and Connie or seeing Anthony showing an interest in his father's work only to be harshly rebuked by his mother Kay. Now you may wonder why this footage hasn't seen a proper restoration and home video release. It kinda sorta did a long time ago as "The Godfather Epic." The first two movies (there wasn't much cut out of the 3rd) were re-edited chronologically to start with young Vito Antonio Andolini and end off with Don Michael Corleone at the end of "Godfather, Part II." It was shown on NBC a long time ago, and while legitimate copies of "The Godfather Epic" have disappeared, it's sometimes on Bravo once in a blue moon. Actually, I kind of suspect that being the greedy fucker that he is, Francis Ford Coppola is holding out for participation in a grand restoration of "The Godfather Epic" until Paramount throws him a shitload of dough. Some people will say that the movies are fine the way they are, but having read the original novel by Mario Puzo, I want to see something closer to what Mr. Puzo wrote instead of Coppola's interpretation.

5) Godzilla, Gamera, Ultraman, and other Kaiju Goodness: Maybe it's having grown up watching "Kaiju" (giant monster) movies & shows, but good lord, I love watching cheesy giant rubbery monster movies. OK, I doubt if there is a giant rubbery monster movie that isn't cheesy, but as far as I'm concerned, the cheesier, the better, and keep the property damage cranked up high.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is Football Messed Up, or Is It Just Me?

I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a Washington Redskins fan. I haven't always followed pro football, and I lost interest about the same time as when Coach Joe Gibbs left the team the first time in the late '90s. Coincidentally they really stank right about the same time, but there was something wonderful about them.

I guess you had to be there.

Unfortunately, pro football has become even more of a behemoth, and if it seems like the bone-jarring plays have become a lot more painful, they have. According to this report on CNN, The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy did a comprehensive study based on brain tissue samples (posthumously, I hope) from NFL veterans. Michael Vick is ineligible for this study as he has no fucking brain (nor does he have a soul).

The results from this study are redefining the level of long-term impact of a concussion. Severe damage has a name - Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Depression, sleep disorders, mental fatigue and worse have plagued players long after their retirement.

This is utterly tragic, and it surely points to a gross lack of player protection. In essence, The NFL is not looking out for its players in the best way possible. While this is sad, as an ardent MMA fan, I have serious questions about "legitimate" sports versus "barbaric" sports as dear old John McCain described the UFC. Actually, that racist motherfucker called it something along the lines of "human cockfighting." Certainly MMA is hard to understand if you're a pinhead, and it could easily be dismissed as a fad or not worthy of mainstream media, but while MMA fighters run the risk of getting knocked out cold, medical suspensions prohibit them from fighting until after a careful and long period. Last weekend, Andrei Arlovski got knocked out by Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction: Day of Reckoning, and it will be at least a few months before either Mssrs. Arlovski or Emelianenko will be allowed to fight by state controlled athletic commissions.

In the context of the NFL, those guys would have to suck it up, walk it off, and get back on the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible. Maybe not within the same game, but damned soon. There's a word for that kind of business practice: IRRE-FUCKING-SPONSIBLE.

I certainly hope that the NFL allows for greater care for the well-being of their players, but I also hope that the Redskins will win another Super Bowl trophy in the next couple years.

On a related note, how the fuck is American Football a legitimate sport, and there's slim to no chance that the UFC or some other MMA organization will have the mainstream appeal of a Madison Square Garden event? Shit, even World Wrestling Entertainment was at the Garden.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Super Mariusz!

This is Mariusz Pudzianowski (his official site while impressive is in Polish, and his English language site is buggy and needs updating).

He is a 5-time World's Strongest Man title winner. For those of you not familiar with Strongman competitions, think of practical application of bodybuilding. Sure those guys look big & diesel, but what can they do? Lift cars & refrigerators. Toss beer kegs over a wall. Lift & carry cannonballs and place them on stands. Oh yeah, this sort of thing is timed against other competitors. It's some pretty freaky stuff, and Mariusz retired from competition in 2008 with more titles than anyone. This is not a man to be trifled with.

In the summer of 2008, my girlfriend and I adopted our second guinea pig. While our first guinea cavy (as they are properly known) Saku is more skittish & cautious, our second cavy is fearless. He has dominated our apartment going wherever he pleases. He is bigger & more muscular than Saku and when the time came to name him, I could think of only one suitable moniker: Mariusz.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Note to PBS: Evolve or Die

I used to love and respect PBS across the board no matter where I lived. There would be a slice of life that regular television simply wasn't addressing, or the commercial viability of such gems like "Masterpiece Theatre," or "Nature" were not nearly as good as Fonzie jumping the shark. Pretty sad, eh?

While I am indebted to PBS for giving me my first exposure to "Doctor Who," Joseph Campbell, and series like "Sesame Street," "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood," "Cosmos," "I, Claudius," "The Inspector Lynley Mysteries," and "Monty Python's Flying Circus," the quality of programming on PBS nationwide has plummeted.

There isn't one blessed thing on PBS that you can't find elsewhere on the Internet, satellite, or cable TV. NOT ONE FUCKING THING. "Doctor Who" (or at least the current iteration) happily resides on BBC America. I've seen "Cosmos" on one of the Discovery channels, and "Monty Python" has it's own YouTube channel. Who the Hell wouldn't want the Ministry of Silly Walks on demand?

It is a buyer's market for television programming, and while the quality of programming has arguably increased and broadened in scope, PBS shuffles out the same goddamn shit every time they try and hit you up for money during a membership drive. While PBS used to have membership drives a couple times a year, they're practically begging for dough at least 6 - 7 times a year. Either the accountants at PBS collectively have one of the worst cases of Alzheimer's Syndrome on record, or they're about as adept at managing money as Bernard Madoff. I don't know which is worse.

I've been fortunate to see the wonderful work that stations like WETA, WNET, and WGBH do or at least have done. When stations play the same stuff like Doo-Wop Music Tributes, Andre Rieu, The Irish Tenors, and touchy-feely Dr. Wayne Dyer mystical wooga wooga seminars every time they want my money, I tend to think that these stations are not for me. With all due honesty, I'd rather suck down the business end of a loaded Desert Eagle .50 cal and pull the trigger than watch any of that horseshit. It's obviously intended to appeal to the baby boomer generation while ignoring the fact that the generations after them have money as well. Moreso than money, My generation has a notoriously short attention span. If you don't appeal to us in a short order, or if you piss us off, we're likely to change the channel FOREVER.

I would love to think that PBS is going to straighten the fuck up and fly right, but I'd also like to think that George Bush will apologize for the past 8 years.