100 Memorable Movie Characters…Part 3

 

“We live in a box of space & time. Movies are windows in its walls. They allow us to enter other minds, not simply in the sense of identifying with the characters, but by seeing the world as another person sees it.”  –  Roger Ebert

 

 

 

My apologies for the slow progress of our little project. I actually had this ready to post last weekend, but ran into some personal issues…sad circumstances that I’d rather not revisit at the moment. I am thankful for the diversion The Manofesto provides during tough times. This space has been a godsend for me thru the years…cathartic, even when the subject matter might not be indicative of that fact. If even one person out there has gotten half as much pleasure out of reading this stuff as I’ve had writing it then it’s all been worth it. Anyway, if you haven’t read Parts 1 & 2 please take some time to catch up. We’ll leave the light on for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

50     Scout Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird)

Her proper given name is Jean Louise Finch, and she’s the precocious daughter of a respected attorney in 1930’s Alabama. Scout also narrates the story, the crux of which is a controversial rape trial wherein her father is defending the accused. Along the way she spends time with her brother Jem & their pal Dill Harris and becomes fascinated with mysterious neighbor Boo Radley. She loves & respects her father, and slowly begins to understand the deeper issues that plague her community. To Kill A Mockingbird won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was adapted into a film just a year later. The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three. Actress Mary Badham was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Scout Finch but lost to Patty Duke for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. Badham was the youngest actress ever nominated for that particular award until Tatum O’Neal took home the trophy a decade later. Badham had a very short acting career that was essentially over by the time she was 14 years old, but I suppose when you star in To Kill A Mockingbird right out of the gate the bar is set rather high. The novel is one of my favorite books of all time, and thankfully the movie stays as faithful to it as one could expect.

 

Quotes

“Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow it was hotter then. Men’s stiff collars wilted by 9am, ladies bathed before noon after their 3pm naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating & sweet talcum. The day was 24 hours long, but it seemed longer. There’s no hurry, for there’s nowhere to go, nothing to buy, and no money to buy it with. Although Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself, that summer I was six years old.”

“Neighbors bring food with death, flowers with sickness, and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch & chain, a knife… and our lives.”

 

 

 

49     Lord Voldemort (The Harry Potter Series)

He Who Must Not Be Named!! This dude is so evil people don’t even want to mention his name, which is pretty heavy stuff. I’m a much bigger fan of the Potter books than the movies, mostly because the books are so massive that the movies necessarily leave a lot of minor characters & subplots on the cutting room floor. Obviously though Voldemort doesn’t have that issue. Thru the course of the series we learn how his life began as Tom Marvolo Riddle, his father abandoned he & his mother, the mother died so Tom ended up in an orphanage, he met Albus Dumbledore who got him into Hogwarts School, and Tom descended into a psychotic murderer who became the most powerful wizard in the world. He is obsessed with becoming immortal, especially after losing his physical body upon killing James & Lily Potter. When you get right down to it the entire Potter story can be boiled down to Good vs. Evil, and Voldemort is basically a fictionalized version of Satan. Good vs. Evil is a staple in literature, movies, & other forms of entertainment, and there is always a Bad Guy. Having said that, I think it is fair to rank the Potter series amongst the best modern fiction out there and Voldemort is one of the most memorable evildoers ever portrayed on film.

 

Quotes

“There is no good and evil. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”

“Welcome, my friends. Thirteen years it’s been, and yet, here you stand before me, as though it were only yesterday. I confess myself… disappointed. Not one of you tried to find me.”

“Shall I divulge how I truly lost my powers? Yes, shall I? It was love. You see, when dear, sweet Lily Potter gave her life for her only son, she provided the ultimate protection. I could not touch him. It was old magic. Something I should have foreseen.”

“I’m going to kill you, Harry Potter. I’m going to destroy you. After tonight, no one will ever again question my powers. After tonight, if they speak of you, they’ll speak only of how you begged for death.”

“I know that many of you will want to fight. Some of you may even think that to fight is wise. But this is folly. Give me Harry Potter. Do this and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave Hogwarts untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded. You have one hour.”

“Harry Potter, I now speak directly to you. On this night, you have allowed your friends to die for you, rather than face me yourself. There is no greater dishonor. Join me in the Forbidden Forest, and confront your fate. If you do not do this, I shall kill every last man, woman and child who tries to conceal you from me.”

 

 

 

48     Jefferson Smith (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)

James Stewart is one of my favorite actors of all time. It’s A Wonderful Life. Harvey. Rear Window. Vertigo. I could go on, but one of the best roles of Stewart’s career is Jefferson Smith, the leader of an organization called The Boy Rangers (because The Boy Scouts refused to allow use of their name). Smith is a good-natured, idealistic, naïve young man who is inexplicably maneuvered into becoming a replacement Senator from an unnamed state. Once in the U.S. Senate others are under the impression that Smith can be manipulated to do their bidding & line their greedy pockets, but the newbie is much more astute & committed to his principles than anyone realizes. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was originally intended to be a sequel to 1936’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, with Gary Cooper reprising his role as Longfellow Deeds, but when that idea fell thru director Frank Capra retooled the story into a vehicle for Stewart, who received his first Academy Award nomination for the role.

 

Quotes

“You’re not gonna have a country that can make these kind of rules work, if you haven’t got men that have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose. It’s a funny thing about men, you know. They all start life being boys. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of these Senators were boys once. And that’s why it seemed like a pretty good idea for me to get boys out of crowded cities and stuffy basements for a couple of months out of the year. And build their bodies and minds for a man-sized job, because those boys are gonna be behind these desks some of these days.”

“I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little lookin’ out for the other fella, too.”

“There’s no compromise with truth. That’s all I got up on this floor to say.”

“Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That’s what you’d see.”

“I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don’t know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for, and he fought for them once, for the only reason any man ever fights for them: Because of one plain simple rule: Love thy neighbor. And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You think I’m licked. You all think I’m licked. Well, I’m not licked, and I’m gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause.”

 

 

 

47     Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)

The term “Baseball Annie” may or may not have originated with Ruth Ann Steinhagen, a 19 year old Chicago woman who became obsessed with infielder Eddie Waitkus and shot him in a hotel room in 1949. That incident inspired the 1952 novel The Natural, which was adapted into a movie starring Robert Redford in 1984. At any rate, a Baseball Annie is a groupie who hooks up with baseball players, and Annie Savoy might be the most well-known (fictional) example. Susan Sarandon’s most famous role before Bull Durham was probably playing Janet Weiss in the 1975 adaptation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, although she has five Academy Award nominations and one Best Actress trophy on her resume. Sarandon gives Annie the perfect blend of sensuality, humor, strength, metaphysicality, & vulnerability. She is almost motherly (in a sexual kind of way of course) to inexperienced rookie pitcher Nuke LaLoosh, while veteran catcher Crash Davis isn’t intimidated at all & calls her out on her BS, which totally turns Annie on. Sarandon was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, but lost to Melanie Griffith for her role in Working Girl.

 

Quotes

“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. There are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance, but it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring, which makes it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career. Makin’ love is like hitting a baseball, you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250, unless he had a lot of RBIs or was a great glove man up the middle.”

“This is the damndest season I’ve ever had; the Durham Bulls can’t lose and I can’t get laid!”

“Baseball may be a religion full of magic, cosmic truth, and the fundamental ontological riddles of our time, but it’s also a job.”

“Women never get lured. They’re too strong and powerful for that.”

“Actually, nobody on this planet ever really chooses each other. I mean, it’s all a question of quantum physics, molecular attraction, and timing. Why, there are laws we don’t understand that bring us together and tear us apart. It’s like pheromones. You get three ants together, they can’t do dick. You get 300 million of them, they can build a cathedral.”

“Cute? Baby ducks are cute, I hate cute! I want to be exotic & mysterious!”

 

 

 

46         Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid)

Who would have ever guessed in 1975 that the owner of Arnold’s Drive-In would go on to become a sage old martial arts master & building maintenance man?? Pat Morita was viewed as a comedic actor because of his work on Happy Days & MASH, so the powers-that-be were reluctant to cast him as Mr. Miyagi, a role that requires a kind of quiet wisdom. Hindsight is 20/20, and we understand now that Morita was perfect for the part, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (won that year by Haing S. Ngor for his role in The Killing Fields) and which he reprised in three sequels.

 

Quotes

 “First learn balance. Balance good, karate good, everything good. Balance bad, might as well pack up, go home.”

“In Okinawa, all Miyagi know two things: fish & karate. Karate come from China, 16th century, called te, ‘hand’. Hundred year later, Miyagi ancestor bring to Okinawa, call karate. ‘empty hand’.”

“Fighting always last answer to problem.”

“Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out of mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important.”

“Man who catch fly with chopsticks accomplish anything.”

 

 

 

45     Vincent Gambini & Mona Lisa Vito (My Cousin Vinny)

Actor Joe Pesci makes his second appearance in our countdown, but in a very different role from the violent lunatic he plays in Goodfellas. Vincent is actually on the other side of the law…a middle-aged attorney who has never tried a case. When his young cousin & a friend are charged with a murder they didn’t commit in Alabama they call upon Cousin Vinny to help. It then becomes a classic fish-out-of-water story because you have very Brooklyn Vinny clashing with the locals of a small southern town. Such tales are dime-a-dozen in Hollywood, but this one is particularly well done, and none of the depicted stereotypes are mean-spirited or small-minded. Vinny proves to be unconventional yet clever, in no small part due to the motivation & assistance provided by his girlfriend Lisa. Until Vinny Marisa Tomei had been best known for her small screen roles on soap opera As the World Turns and Cosby Show spinoff A Different World, but that all changed when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mona Lisa. Since then she has gone on to have a steady & sporadically successful career with a few additional award nominations. My Cousin Vinny is one of my go to movies when I’m in the mood to chill out & need something to simply put a smile on my face, and it holds up quite well after 25+ years.

 

Quotes

“I routinely twist the maximum allowable torquage.” (Lisa)

“You’re in Ala-fuckin’-bama. You come from New York. You killed a good ol’ boy. There is no way this is not goin’ to trial.” (Vinny)

“Imagine you’re a deer. You’re prancin’ along. You get thirsty. You spot a little brook. You put ya little deer lips down to the cool clear water…bam! A fuckin’ bullet rips off part of ya head! Your brains are layin’ on the ground in little bloody pieces! Now, I ask ya, would you give a fuck what kind of pants the son-of-a-bitch who shot you was wearing?!” (Lisa)

“When ya look at the bricks from the right angle, they’re as thin as this playing card. His whole case is an illusion, a magic trick. It has to be an illusion ’cause you’re innocent. Nobody, I mean nobody, pulls the wool over the eyes of a Gambini, especially this one.” (Vinny)

“Well, I hate to bring it up because I know you’ve got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get married as soon as you won your first case. Meanwhile, ten years later, my niece, the daughter of my sister is gettin’ married. My biological clock is tickin’ like this, and the way this case is goin’, I ain’t never gettin’ married!” (Lisa)

“Did you just say you’re a fast cook, that’s it!? Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than on any place on the face of the Earth!? Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove! Were these magic grits? I mean, did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans!?” (Vinny)

“The car that made these two equal-length tire marks had positraction. Can’t make those marks without positraction, which was not available on the ’64 Buick Skylark! You see when the left tire mark goes up on the curb, and the right tire mark stays flat and even? Well, the ’64 Skylark had a solid rear axle. So, when the left tire would go up on the curb, the right tire would tilt out and ride along its edge, but that didn’t happen here, the tire mark stayed flat and even. This car had an independent rear suspension. Now, in the ’60s, there were only two other cars made in America that had positraction, independent rear suspension, & enough power to make these marks: one was the Corvette, which could never be confused with the Buick Skylark. The other had the same body length, height, width, weight, wheelbase, and wheel track as the ’64 Skylark, and that was the 1963 Pontiac Tempest.” (Lisa)

 

 

 

44     Jack Torrance (The Shining)

I’ve been very slow to jump on board the Stephen King train, but over the years I’ve dipped my toe in the pool occasionally. The Shining is King’s 1977 novel about an schoolteacher & aspiring writer and his family who are hired to run a creepy hotel in Colorado. It was adapted for the big screen in 1980, with Jack Nicholson taking on the lead role. Jack Torrance slowly descends into madness, (spoiler alert) eventually attempting to murder both his wife & young son. King famously disliked the film and felt like Nicholson was miscast as Torrance. The author would have preferred a nicer “everyman” sort of actor in the role since it would have made Torrance’s dark turn all the more unsettling, whereas Nicholson was already typecast as unhinged & scary. By 1980 Nicholson had amassed five Oscar nominations, winning Best Actor in 1975 for his role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, so it is understandable that director Stanley Kubrick would jump at the chance to have him star in The Shining. Robert De Niro, Robin Williams (who was unknown at the time), and Harrison Ford were all considered, but King didn’t like any of those choices either so perhaps he’s just impossible to placate.

 

Quotes

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

“Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

“Here’s Johnny!”

“Wendy, darling, light of my life, I’m not gonna hurt ya. Ya didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just gonna bash your brains in.”

 

 

 

43     Fredo Corleone (The Godfather Trilogy)

Actor John Cazale starred in only five movies before cancer took his life at the young age of 42. Those movies?? The first two Godfather films, The Deer Hunter, The Conversation, & Dog Day Afternoon…all of which were nominated for Best Picture. That’s quite a track record, and it’s unfortunate that we’ll never know what might have been if Cazale lived & had a long career. Fredo is the middle son of the Don of America’s most notorious crime family. Unlike his tough & hotheaded older brother and cool & calculating younger brother Fredo is a little slow and kind of nervous, so he isn’t trusted with any kind of important responsibilities within the organization. In Part II he betrays his brother Michael, who is nearly killed by rival gangster Hyman Roth. When Michael learns of Fredo’s treachery he has him murdered. Despite the fact that Fredo is a bit of a horndog he is a sympathetic character. On a personal level I understand that feeling of being overlooked, disrespected, & thought of as somehow…less…by others. Fredo knows how people view him and he is frustrated by it because he believes he isn’t quite as inept as everyone thinks he is and just needs someone to give him a chance, but on the other hand he is shown to screw up every opportunity he is given by his family.

 

Quotes

“Mike! You don’t come to Las Vegas and talk to a man like Moe Greene like that!”

“You’re my kid brother, and you take care of me? Did you ever think about that? Huh? Did you ever once think about that? Send Fredo off to do this. Send Fredo off to do that! Let Fredo take care of some Mickey Mouse nightclub somewhere! Send Fredo to pick somebody up at the airport! I’m your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says, like dumb! I’m smart, and I want respect!”

 

 

 

42     Riggs & Murtaugh (The Lethal Weapon Series)

The buddy/cop movie formula is tried & true…but also hit & miss. The two cops are usually opposites in every way…one experienced & one less so, one by the book & one more rebellious, one a family man & the other a free-wheeling single, a serious dude vs. a wisecracking smartass. There are variations, but the tension between two individuals who see the world completely different yet are forced to work together toward a common goal is the essence of the story. We don’t remember much about the bad guys or the particular crimes involved…what sticks with the audience is the relationship between the two heroes. Arguably the formula has never worked better than with Lethal Weapon. In four films between 1987 & 1998 Danny Glover portrayed straitlaced Roger Murtaugh, a husband & father who’s been with the LAPD for many years and is on the verge of retirement, while Mel Gibson is Martin Riggs, a younger widowed detective who is grieving his wife’s death and lives on the edge because he may or may not be crazy, suicidal, or both. Thru the years the duo grow from being initially distrustful of each other to becoming brothers from another mother, all while chasing an assortment of criminals. Opinions vary on the strength/weakness of each individual film, but the franchise as a whole is quite enjoyable even more than two decades after the fourth movie was released, and that is due mainly to our affection for Riggs & Murtaugh.

 

Quotes

“What did one shepherd say to the other shepherd? Let’s get the flock out of here.” (Riggs)

“I’m too old for this shit.” (Murtaugh)

“We can’t shoot a dog. People? Okay, but not dogs.” (Riggs)

“My baby is having his baby!” (Murtaugh)

“You have the right to remain unconscious. Anything you say ain’t gonna be much.” (Riggs)

“We both know why I was transferred. Everybody thinks I’m suicidal, in which case, I’m fucked and nobody wants to work with me; or they think I’m faking to draw a psycho pension, in which case, I’m fucked and nobody wants to work with me. Basically, I’m fucked.” (Riggs)

“You’re not trying to draw a psycho pension! You really are crazy!” (Murtaugh)

“Well, what do you wanna hear, man?! Do you wanna hear that sometimes I think about eatin’ a bullet?! HUH!? Well, I do! I even got a special bullet for the occasion with a hollow point, look! Make sure it blows the back of my goddamned head out and do the job right! Every single day I wake up and I think of a reason not to do it! Every single day! You know why I don’t do it?! This is gonna make you laugh! You know why I don’t do it?! The job! Doin’ the job! Now that’s the reason!” (Riggs)

 

 

 

41         Jeff Spicoli (Fast Times at Ridgemont High)

Another tried & true movie formula is the high school flick. Every generation has one or two definitive ones, and in the pre-John Hughes era of the early 80’s it was Fast Times at Ridgemont High. By 1982 Sean Penn had done one episode of Little House on the Prairie and was part of the ensemble in the film Taps, though he was certainly lower on the proverbial depth chart than George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, & probably even Tom Cruise. That changed in a big way with Fast Times, which also featured a group of youngsters…Forest Whitaker, Judge Reinhold, Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anthony Edwards, Nicolas Cage…who would go on to have rather successful Hollywood careers. However it is Penn as Spicoli, a beach bum stoner, that stands above the crowd. Sean Penn has been nominated for Best Actor five times and taken home two Oscars, but he’ll never escape the shadow of a character that he portrayed almost four decades ago. Spicoli’s interactions with teacher Mr. Hand (portrayed by My Favorite Martian’s Ray Walston) are hysterically funny, and he embodies the surfer dude stereotype so perfectly that I would argue he is the model for it.

 

Quotes

“All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

“People on ludes should not drive.”

“Hey bud, what’s your problem?”

“Hola, Mr. Hand.”

“I did battle some humongous waves. But you know, just like I told the guy on ABC, danger is my business.”

“I’ve been thinking about this, Mr. Hand. If I’m here and you’re here, doesn’t that make it our time? Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with a little feast on our time.”

 

 

 

40     Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy, & The Marx Brothers (multiple films)

Stay with me folks…I’ll try not to make this too complicated. I’ve made this a four way tie for several reasons. Actually I debated including any of these acts at all, but in the final analysis I couldn’t justify excluding them. Here’s the thing…we’re discussing movie characters, right?? Well, when it comes right down to it all of these guys portrayed slightly different characters in all of their films, none of which stand out above any others. Their movies are more about the situations they are put in and the zany antics that follow. Having said that, we must also recognize that their stage personas are characters in & of themselves, so essentially they are…in a roundabout way…portraying the same characters in all of their films. Bud Abbot & Lou Costello starred in about three dozen films from 1940-56, and around Halloween I’d much rather watch Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein or Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man than any modern slasher flick. Moe, Larry, Curly (and sometimes Shemp or Curly Joe) made over 200 films from 1930-70. The vast majority of those were “short subjects”, meaning the movie is 40 minutes or less, but The Stooges did star in about two dozen full length features, and when I was growing up in the 70’s & 80’s their stuff was on television with some regularity. Laurel & Hardy teamed together in over 100 movies from the late 1920’s to the mid-40’s. About 1/3 of those were actually silent films & 40 were short subjects, but they did star in a couple dozen full length features. The Marx Brothers…Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, & Gummo (real names: Julius, Adolph, Leonard, Herbert, & Milton)…were NY City kids born to Jewish immigrants from Europe. Gummo never appeared in any of the movies but was part of their Vaudeville act. Zeppo appeared in the first five movies but left performing behind and became an agent. Groucho, Harpo, & Chico are the trio most associated with The Marx Brothers, and they did about a dozen films together. Gabe Kaplan, the star of 70’s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter, was a big Marx Brothers fan and The Sweathogs were allegedly loosely based on the group. I am not including quotes from these acts because they provided far too much material to sift thru and narrow down. In addition, much of their comedy is slapstick & physicality that obviously doesn’t translate to the written page all that well. Suffice to say that the comedic contributions of all four holds up surprisingly well after several decades and has undoubtedly influenced comedians that have come along in the ensuing years.

 

 

 

This feels like an appropriate place to pause. Readability has always been a primary goal here at The Manofesto, so I shall refrain from pushing ahead and wait for another day.

The 2014 Sammy Awards – Part II

SammyAwardWelcome to Part 2 of the 2014 Sammy Awards. Please take a moment to check out Part 1 if you have not already done so.

 

 

 

 

After another brief song & dance by our host Billy Crystal it is time to present our next award. Please welcome an old-fashioned yet still moderately amusing leno tuxcomedian that NBC helped make disappear almost a year ago. Give a warm welcome for the former host of The Tonight Show…Jay Leno!! And the nominees are:

 

 

The DB Cooper Award (For the Person Who Most Needs to Disappear)

 

 

Justin Bieber
I keep nominating him but he just won’t go away. But now not only is Bieber an affront to those with good taste in music, but he has evolved into a menace to society off stage as well. Last January he was arrested for a DUI because he was gooned on pot & pills. Last summer he was charged with vandalism after throwing eggs at a neighbor’s house (what is this guy…8 years old??). Then in September Bieber was arrested in Canada for reckless driving & assault. At this point even Lindsay Lohan is probably like “Dude…chill out. Lay off the booze & drugs. Act like an adult.”

 

 

Carter Bays & Craig Thomas
Bays & Thomas are the creators & executive producers of How I Met Your Mother, which was a pretty great show. Atleast it was good right up until these idiots ruined the ENTIRE series during one final episode. More on that later, but for now I’ll just say that karma is…not very nice. The duo created a spinoff show called How I Met Your Dad, which I had already decided I wouldn’t bother with since I was so disappointed with the HIMYM finale. However, it seems as if the show isn’t going to make it on the air at all. You reap what you sow…morons.

 

 

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
This “lady” is the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee and…frighteningly enough…a U.S. Congresswoman. The problem is that she is an idiot. I will not rehash her stupidity because I realize that a majority of The Manoverse doesn’t care. Suffice to say that almost every time Ms. Schultz (I don’t do obnoxious hyphenated surnames) appears on TV she embarrasses herself, her constituency, & her party. Surely the Democrats can do better.

 

 

Mayor Rob Ford
It’s unfortunate that comedic actor Chris Farley died in 1997 because he would be the perfect choice to play Mayor Ford in an SNL skit or maybe even a parody film. Ford is the former mayor of Toronto (that’s in Canada for those who are spending their first day out of the holler at The Sammy Awards) and is an admitted crackhead & boozehound. Late night TV hosts have had a field day the past few years poking fun at Ford, who still retains a seat on Toronto’s city council. The jokes are funny, but it is kind of sad that such a lost soul can be elected to political office in the 21st century.

 

 

The Duggar Family
We were first introduced to the Duggar family back in 2008 as a part of some stupid reality show. I’ve never watched it, but apparently the hook is that these people have 19 kids. I don’t even want to know why anyone would subject themselves to that kind of insanity. Anyway, I guess a few of the kids have grown up now and are dating and even married. Again…I don’t care, but I suppose someone out there does because we hear about it every time someone in this family makes a move, no matter how insignificant it may be (hint…it’s always insignificant). I am tired of hearing about what they watch or don’t watch on TV, what kind of clothes they will or won’t wear, & all about their sexual morality. Look, I am glad that they are servants of the Lord. Their beliefs are just dandy, but the world doesn’t need to be informed about everything that’s going on in their lives. I despise reality television and am a little suspicious of anyone who would sign up for that kind of gig. In light of their stated religious faith it seems a bit duplicitous.

 

 

Selena Gomez
Is she still dating Bieber?? Who knows & who cares. Anyone with that kind of poor taste in men needs help. Plus she isn’t all that talented at singing or acting. But hey…atleast she is hot, which is something I guess.

 

 

Melissa Harris-Perry
What is it with raging liberals and hyphenated last names?? I suppose it’s a feminazi thing. At any rate, this “journalist” is employed by MSNBC, which tells you all you need to know. I run across a story online atleast a couple of times per week in regards to the latest asinine thing she has said. It seems like MSNBC goes out of their way to hire folks like this who can’t simply report the news with some degree of intelligence. Look at your horrific ratings MSNBC…the proof is in the pudding. No one is buying what you’re selling, and providing a forum for laughably vapid mental midgets like Melissa Harris-Perry to spew her silliness has made you the laughingstock of TV news.

 

 

Jesse Ventura
I always liked Jesse “The Body” Ventura. He was a pro wrestler when I was a kid and then became a rather good wrestling announcer. He even acted a bit. When he ran for Governor of Minnesota in 1998 and won I thought it was pretty cool. But then Ventura left the reservation. He became a talk show host & conspiracy theorist, as well as…much to my surprise…a whackjob liberal. A couple of years ago Ventura sued noted sniper & American hero Chris Kyle for a story Kyle wrote about Ventura in his autobiography. Then in 2013 Kyle was murdered. The honorable thing to do would have been to drop the lawsuit, but Ventura persisted and won the suit in 2014. So now he is seeking to extract nearly $2 million from Kyle’s widow. I don’t know whether the incident occurred or not. All I know is that after Chris Kyle’s tragic death the matter should have been dropped. The financial situations of those involved is unknown to me, but I suspect that Ms. Kyle and her children need that money much more than Ventura. Gov. Ventura is a classic bully & narcissist, and I have lost all respect I ever had for him.

 

 

Gwyneth Paltrow
I was never a huge fan, but I never really minded Paltrow, especially in decent flicks like Seven, Shakespeare in Love, Shallow Hal, & Iron Man. But it is with a heart full of sadness that I have decided to consciously unfan Gwyneth because she is an out-of-touch twit who equates her tough life as a spoiled actress with things that soldiers face during war and believes that President Obama should be given as much power as he wants to do whatever he pleases. I guess they don’t teach kids about The Constitution in Hollywood.

 

 

Rep. John Boehner & Sen. Mitch McConnell
The Republicans may have taken solid control of both houses of Congress after the November elections, but it will be meaningless as long as these two sellouts remain in power. Boehner, the presumed new Speaker of the House, and McConnell, the apparent incoming Senate Majority Leader, don’t have the cahonas to stand up to President Obama and he knows it. The results of the election were a clear mandate by the American people to stop the Obama agenda, but Boehner & McConnell are more concerned with compromising, reaching across the aisle, and protecting their own careers. We’ll see how that works out for them the next time they are up for re-election.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 
Bieber. I am tired of hearing about him. I am tired of having to nominate him for this award year after year. Hey…The Hohan had a quiet enough 2014 that we didn’t biebernominate her this time…maybe Bieber can stay out of the spotlight in 2015.

 

 
To present our next honor The Sammy Awards is pleased to bring back a young man that hosted the show just last year. He is an award winning singer and a timberlakemarginally talented actor. Please welcome back Justin Timberlake!! And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Favorite Radio Show

 

 

 

The Rush Limbaugh Show
I’ve been a Dittohead for over two decades. I agree with most of what Rush says and oftentimes laugh at those who criticize him because they are usually either outright lying or just don’t get Rush’s unique brand of humor and how he intentionally goads the liberal media. Having said all that, I have listened to Rush far less in the past couple of years than I once did. I just get too worked up about what President Hussein Obama has done to our country and I choose to avoid the strife as much as possible. I still tune in occasionally, but I don’t ever see myself getting back into being a hardcore daily listener again.

 

 

Intelligence For Your Life w/John Tesh
Most remember Tesh as the co-host of Entertainment Tonight from 1986-96. However now he hosts a syndicated radio program where he imparts bits of helpful wisdom to parents, spouses, employees, pet owners, students, and those looking to improve their health. Most of the factoids mentioned are from studies, polls, articles, & interviews that Tesh’s researchers track down. He is kind of like a DJ in that he only speaks briefly between songs. I listen to the show on my way to church on Sunday mornings but I believe it airs a few times during the week.

 

 

Soap Box w/ Lilly & Martha
My sister & I had a babysitter when we were kids that got us hooked on soap operas. 35 years later I still watch Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, & The Young and the Restless. Last summer I discovered an online network called TRadioV. All the shows are radio shows that also air on “online” TV. There are several programs on TRadioV, but I instantly became a fan of Soapbox, which is basically two former soap stars talking about soap related news and interviewing various soap opera actors. Unfortunately they haven’t aired a new show since October so I don’t know what’s up with that.

 

 

Metronews Hotline w/Dave Weekley
This is a statewide show here in West Virginia. Weekley has been a news personality at various places in the state for about 30 years. I remember him as a sports anchor at one of the local stations when I was a kid. A couple of years ago he got the dream job that I never knew I always wanted. Hotline airs from 3-6pm each weekday and is the kind of eclectic show that appeals to a wide audience. It covers news, sports, pop culture, finance, and anything else that Dave deems appropriate. He even has a segment called Beer Friday in which he interviews an enthusiast on the subject each week. My favorite daily segment is called In or Out in which Dave, a news reporter, & the show’s producer Coop give a thumbs up or down to various things.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

Hotline. Like I said, I realize when I am listening that it is exactly the kind of thing that, had I been exposed to it as a youngster, I might have said “That seems cool. That’s the kind of job I want.” The show is laid back, as opposed to more sociopolitical programs, and I love the fact that it has such an assortment of subject matter. When it first aired it replaced Sean Hannity on my local radio station and I was rather upset, but hindsight is 20/20 and I am so glad the change occurred. I’m not nearly as into politics as I was a couple of years ago, and I’d much rather listen to an easygoing discussion of sports, pop culture, & a little bit of news. I don’t listen every day and certainly not for the whole three hours, but the little snippets I catch here & there are a pleasant diversion and absolutely better than most of the “music” on the radio.

 

 

 

To present our next award please welcome actor, writer, producer, and one of the most popular stand-up comedians in the world. Give it up for Louis CK!! And thelouisck nominees are:

 

 

 

The Twitter Award for Most Interesting Water Cooler Topic

 

 

 

Minimum Wage
The first minimum wage in the United States was passed into law in 1938 and was 25 cents/hr. There have been incremental increases over time and the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25/hr. Of course the problem is that costs oftentimes rise faster than wages. A gallon of milk in 1938 cost 50 cents/gallon and movie tickets were a quarter. In 2014 those two things cost an average of $3/gallon and $8.50 respectively. Anyway, the minimum wage was a hot topic for debate in 2014. Various states and even some cities have passed their own minimum wage laws. Seattle, WA approved a plan to phase in what will eventually be a minimum wage of $15/hr. That sounds good, but we all know that bean counters & management types always figure out a way to tip the balance sheet in their favor. How many employees will lose their job?? How much will prices be raised for the consumer?? Technology allows some jobs to be done by machines now, so there will be employers that will explore such options rather than pay workers more money. It’s a slippery slope and an interesting discussion.

 

 

The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, Orange is the New Black, Scandal, True Detective, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, American Horror Story, Veep, House of Cards, Revenge
These are all the TV shows that I constantly hear people raving about. I’ve never watched a single episode of any of them. Either I am missing out or I have better taste than the masses. I suppose I just march to the beat of a different drum machine.

 

 

Pot in Colorado & Washington
These two states passed laws in 2013 that legalized marijuana. Those laws went into effect in 2014, making those two states the butt of many comedians’ jokes. I have no idea how it’s going in those places because I live far far away. And I don’t smoke pot (anymore).

 

 

HIMYM Finale
How I Met Your Mother was a really enjoyable sitcom on CBS for 9 seasons. The framing device was a father (narrated by Bob Saget) telling his children (in the future of course) how he met their Mom way back in the day. Hardcore fans debated, deciphered, & dissected every episode in order to figure out which one of Ted’s various girlfriends would ultimately be The One and become The Mother. We finally met her near the end of season 8 (and she was enchanting) and waited anxiously for Ted to meet her in season 9, which he did. And then in a flash forward during the series finale the writers all-too-casually had The Mother die. It turns out that the whole framing device was just Ted trying to work up the courage to ask his teenage kids if they’d be offended if he got back together with his old girlfriend Robin. One of the biggest storylines during the last few seasons was the love story between Robin and notorious womanizer Barney, who eventually married only to all-to-casually get divorced in the finale, with Barney returning to his lecherous ways (and fathering a child with the 31st woman he’d slept with in a single month) and Robin eventually reuniting with widower Ted. The audience was split about 60/40, with the majority hating the last episode. The writers had planned the ending a decade earlier and stubbornly stuck with their plan instead of assessing how the show had evolved. It is one of the biggest blunders in television history and the reason why I will NEVER watch a HIMYM repeat.

 

 

Dying With Dignity
Typically nominees for this award lean toward more lighthearted & superficial subject matter, but in 2014 this was a thing. Why?? Well, back in the fall the world was introduced to 29 year old Brittany Maynard, an Oregon woman with a brain tumor who announced her intention to take a physician prescribed pill that would end her life before she began to suffer debilitating pain & anguish. Maynard became an advocate for “dying with dignity” and was regarded by many as a hero before indeed ending her life on November 1st. Of course the other side of the debate is that ending one’s own life under such circumstances is “playing God”. I can see both sides. My faith & beliefs tell me that it is wrong. However it is far too easy for others to criticize when most of us haven’t had to face such unique circumstances. I’ll just say this. Brittany Maynard made a choice. It isn’t up to me or anyone else to decide whether she was right or wrong. That is between her & The Lord. It is a free country and she did something that was legal where she resided. However, I think we need to be very cautious when referring to that choice as heroic or inspirational. She took the easy way out. I realize that sounds harsh but it isn’t meant to be. It’s human nature. Most folks spend their entire lives looking for the easiest possible way to get things done on a multitude of levels and that’s okay…it just isn’t brave or noble. What would you do in a similar situation?? What would I do?? To be honest I’m not sure I know that answer.

 

 

Kim Kardashian’s Ass
Speaking of superficial. Kardashian is well known for being a useless waste of oxygen. Anyone whose claim to fame is a sex tape and who then goes on to marry & generate offspring with a piece of garbage like Kanye West isn’t a person I’d want to know. Anyhow, I guess Kim was feeling a little ignored so she decided to grab the spotlight again the only way she knows how…by taking her clothes off. A few months ago a now infamous photograph was published in some snooty magazine (they still have those??) that featured KK’s much talked about backside. It was all oiled up and everything!! I’ll give that family credit for one thing…they know how to create publicity and keep that cash rolling in. All I know is that the generations of my grandparents & great-grandparents would be horrified by the type of inelegance that has made the entire Kardashian clan famous for no apparent reason.

 

 

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
For about 6 weeks last summer one couldn’t peruse The Internet for longer than five minutes without seeing a video of someone accepting the Ice Bucket Challenge. The setup was simple…shoot a video of yourself having a frigid container of ice water poured over your head and then publically challenge a few friends to do the same. It was to raise awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which by all accounts is a horrifying & debilitating disease that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle amid concerns about cancer, AIDS, whatever weird version of the flu is freaking everyone out at the moment, & a dozen other maladies. Those who did the “fun” part of the challenge were also supposed to send a donation to the ALS Association, which did see contributions of over $40 million in just a month compared to less than $20 million during the entirety of 2013. In other words it worked. Using social media to get people involved by doing something silly & pretty easy is pure genius. There were some folks that had an issue with the idea that people were having fun with the challenge and forgetting about the reason behind it, and I am sure there were many people who dumped water on their head but didn’t bother to write a check. However, the proof is in the pudding and the whole thing obviously worked…atleast in the short term.

 

 

Clooney & Pitt Marry
No…not to each other. The ladies’ favorite bachelor George Clooney married some Lebanese babe this past autumn, while Brad Pitt finally made an honest woman out of Angelina Jolie in August after they’d lived in sin for a decade and adopted an entire litter of those children that Sally Struthers used to cry about on television.

 

 

Late Night TV Changes
Citizens of The Manoverse know that their humble Potentate of Profundity loves late night talk shows. Unfortunately 2014 saw the landscape change dramatically and I am not sure it was for the better. Jimmy Fallon replaced Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, while SNL alum Seth Meyers took Fallon’s old 12:30am spot on Late Night. Sure Leno was kind of old-fashioned, but I still thought he was funny. The masses rave about Fallon, but I have been disappointed. I really enjoyed him on Late Night, but his version of Tonight seems narcissistic. I can’t imagine that many of the celebrities that come on the show are interested in playing some silly game when they are there to be interviewed about & promote their latest project. Not only did Fallon not tone down his act for the 11:30pm time slot…he’s actually become more hyper & turned the volume up to 11. Meanwhile Meyers is…okay. He’s more of a traditional late night host, but unfortunately that translates into him being kind of forgettable and only mildly amusing. Call me old school, but the more laid back show with customary interviews focusing on the guests should be at 11:30, while the wackier program that colors outside the lines should be on later. I also don’t care for Meyers’ sidekick…fellow SNL refugee Fred Armisen. I don’t get Fred’s shtick at all and don’t find him the least bit funny. I watched Meyers for the first couple of months he was on but got bored and decided to check out CBS’ Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I had decided years ago that Ferguson wasn’t my cup of tea, but it turns out I was wrong. I am so mad at myself for not discovering his brilliance until less than a year before he too left his gig. Some British dude I have never heard of will take over the Late Late Show this spring, and since I learn from my mistakes I suppose I’ll give the new guy an chance. David Letterman is still around but he has already announced his impending retirement. Stephen Colbert is getting that gig, which doesn’t impress me since I have never really cared for Colbert. I think I see the day coming when I won’t have much of a reason to stay up past 11pm, which kind of makes me sad.

 

 

Bill Cosby
Who knew that lovable Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable…Fat Albert…the guy who made us all crave Jello Pudding Pops…was a total perv?? Well okay…nothing has been proven and it never will be because the things that allegedly occurred happened far enough in the past that statutes of limitations have all run out. However, I am one who believes that where there is smoke there is fire. We could shrug off one or two allegations, but in the latter few months of 2014 several women came forward and accused Cosby of drugging & raping them. So far Cosby has said very little. It is doubtful he ever will, although I have this terrible feeling that if he does decide to speak out Oprah will somehow be involved. At any rate, the damage is done. Bill Cosby’s reputation as a legendary comedian and America’s favorite TV Dad has been irrevocably damaged, which also makes me sad.

 

 

The Latte Salute
To say that I am not President Obama’s biggest fan would be a huge understatement. A few months ago he proved (for the thousandth time to those paying attention) what kind of man he is. Upon exiting Marine One after it had landed in New York the President saluted the serviceman standing beside the helicopter’s stair. However, the hand that he saluted with also held a cup of coffee (or possibly hot tea) and the Commander-in-Chief strutted by the young soldier as if he was gum under the Presidential shoes. The incident quickly went viral and reactions fell predictably among party lines. Conservatives saw it as additional confirmation of the person we believe Obama to be, while liberals were quick to draw (idiotic) comparisons between The Latte Salute and former President George W. Bush saluting a soldier with one hand while holding his dog in the other. In the grand scheme of life it doesn’t really matter, but the whole situation got some major play online and on TV for several days.

 

 

JK Rowling Pontificates
I, like millions of others, loved the Harry Potter books. I enjoyed the movies too…just not as much as the books. Fictional characters have a way of becoming living, breathing entities to fans, as if they really exist(ed). Santa Claus, Sherlock Holmes, Deputy Barney Fife, Huckleberry Finn, Batman, Mr. Spock…the world would be a better place if these were real people, but atleast we have the pleasure of enjoying their make-believe adventures. Harry Potter, along with his pals Hermione Granger & Ron Weasley, can be counted amongst these types of beloved characters. Universal Studios spent hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the world that author JK Rowling created to life in the form of a state-of-the-art theme park. Fans know the books and they know the movies. The problem is that Rowling won’t shut up and move forward. She continues to ponder what she should have done differently even though absolutely no one wants to hear it. Last February she caused an uproar amongst Potter fans by saying that Harry & Hermione should have ended up together instead of Hermione & Ron. That’s like saying that Darth Vader shouldn’t have been Luke Skywalker’s father or that Marty McFly should have never made it back to 1985. It’s heresy. Yes these are fictional characters…but they’re real to us dammit!! It isn’t the first time Rowling has added unnecessary context to something that wasn’t broken. Several years ago she tried to kiss the tushies of the PC crowd by saying that Professor Dumbledore was gay, even though neither the books nor movies come close to going there. So why say these things?? Please Ms. Rowling…just be quiet and let us enjoy this wonderful thing you produced that has been treasured by millions for many years.

 

 

Common Core
Common Core is an educational initiative that aims to define what exactly schoolchildren should know and when they should know it. Personally I thought we had all that ironed out decades ago, but apparently some bureaucrats got bored and decided to re-invent the wheel. The problem is that when government gets involved in things they tend to become completely screwed up. I don’t have any kids (that I know of) so I’m not exactly sure what all the issues are, but my perception is that Common Core has made both teaching & learning far more complex than necessary. Parents don’t like it, teachers don’t like it, students don’t like it. Some states have already opted out of it. It sounds like something that sounded good in theory but in practice doesn’t work as intended. I could be wrong. I don’t know.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 
The Ice Bucket Challenge. It was fun. It was goofy. It gave people the opportunity to do two things they love…be on camera and challenge others. More ibcimportantly, it achieved its stated goals of raising money for & awareness about ALS. Many took the opportunity amid the irreverent silliness to talk about their personal experiences with the disease, and anyone who took the time to hear or read those stories couldn’t help but be touched. I don’t know what the future holds for the ALS Association. I suspect their fundraising won’t be quite as robust in 2015, which is unfortunate. Something like the Ice Bucket Challenge can’t really be effectively repeated although I am sure some will try. We’ll just have to hope & pray about the future, but we can atleast look back at those few weeks in the summer of 2014 and be happy that an impact was made.

 

 

 

 

This seems like the appropriate place to take another break. Please stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of the 2014 Sammy Awards!!

A Few Book Recommendations for Baseball Fans

Sometimes I surprise myself by the predilections that I develop seemingly out of the mist. I have always fancied myself somewhat of a renaissance man who is interested in a wide range of subjects, which I generally consider a positive though I have noticed over the years that truly successful people seem to have tunnel vision and a laser focus on their vocation of choice. At any rate, this “variety is the spice of life” attitude spreads to the bookshelves in The Bachelor Palace as well, where one can find biographies of Founding Fathers alongside the Harry Potter series, books about agricultural science & history on the same shelf as Hemingway, and Shakespeare sharing space with The Hunger Games.

 

bballAt any rate I have…somewhat to my bewilderment…amassed quite a collection of baseball biographies. This is surprising to me because my feelings about baseball have been tepid at best for quite awhile, although as simple as it sounds and as trivial as it may seem to some I think the success thus far of the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates has me on the verge of falling in deep like with our national pastime once again. However, I also think it wise to look a bit deeper because you see my bookshelves are not filled with recent biographies about contemporary players like Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, John Smoltz, or RA Dickey. Cheating scandals & rampant drug use still cause me to be a bit jaded about the modern game of baseball. Instead what you’ll find lining the walls of The Bachelor Palace are tomes about hallowed names of yesteryear…Ruth, Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Maris, Musial.

If I could hope in the ol’ DeLorean and go back in time I think one of the places I might like to visit would be the world of baseball during its golden age. I’d like to catch some games at places like Ebbets Field or The Polo Grounds, see teams like The Gashouse Gang & The Whiz Kids, and watch Hall of Famers like Dizzy Dean, Pie Traynor, & Pee Wee Reese. Why?? That’s an excellent question that I may address more in depth at some other time. For now it will suffice to say that our collective bromance with this bygone era and the quintessential American game that helped define it seems eternal and that’s okay with me.

Which is all a longwinded precursor to me endorsing three excellent baseball biographies that I have read in years past and that are likely to be enjoyed by any baseball fan. There will be sequels on this particular topic, but I think it best to just whet your appetite right now with a few recommendations:

 

Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero

Unfortunately one of the most beloved Pittsburgh Pirates of all time died in a tragic plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 when I was just 2 months old. However, growing up as a Pirates fan and living just a couple of hours from Pittsburgh means that I have heard a lot about Roberto Clemente my entire life. The Pirates organization has done an excellent job of keeping his memory alive over the past 40 years and recognizing what a truly special talent he was. However, one need not be a Pirates fan to enjoy this first-rate biography about Clemente written by David rcMaraniss, whose biography about Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi called When Pride Still Mattered is still one of the best books of any genre I have ever read. That combined with my admiration for what I’d always heard about Clemente were what prompted me to purchase this book about 5 years ago. This is a well written & engrossing story that is reverent & respectful yet honest about its subject. Clemente was somewhat neurotic & sensitive and felt the weight of being a black latino superstar. He was often treated shabbily by the press but could give as good as he got. In other words Clemente was a flawed human being just like the rest of us. That being said, his nobility & kindness shines through as well. And the author doesn’t shortchange the baseball aspect of things. I sometimes feel as though Roberto Clemente is overlooked in discussions about the greats of the game, with only long time Pirates fans willing to reserve for him his proper place among the baseball immortals. The fact is that not only should Clemente rank right up there with the best that ever played game, but he could have been even better if not for various physical ailments that plagued him throughout life. This is a book that should be read not only by anyone who calls themselves a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, but also by everyone who loves the game of baseball.

 

Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig

When I was in college I had the opportunity to take a class about sports movies. Yes that really is a thing…and it was gehrigawesome. We watched Knute Rocke: All American (with future President Ronald Reagan as The Gipper), The Natural, and Rocky…among others. But I think my favorite may have been Pride of the Yankees starring Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig. Most people know two things about Gehrig. They know that he was baseball’s “Iron Man”, having played in 2130 consecutive games between 1925 & 1939 (a record that stood for 56 years until Cal Ripken Jr. broke it in 1995), and they know that he died at age 37 from the debilitating muscle disease that now bears his name. But there is so much more to Gehrig and this book tells the story well. Many who have seen Pride of the Yankees may attribute the perception we have of Gehrig as a soft spoken, humble, down-to-earth guy to Gary Cooper’s wide-eyed, aw shucks, boy-next-door portrayal, but what the reader of Luckiest Man begins to understand is that Cooper’s portrayal was an extremely accurate representation of who Gehrig truly was. That’s not to say that Gehrig was perfect. He was a timid momma’s boy that didn’t mesh all that well with outgoing & gregarious teammate Babe Ruth and was caught in the middle of a lifelong tug-of-war between his mother and his wife that many more…forceful…men might have put the kibosh on pretty quick. But hey…we all have our issues, right?? The best endorsement I can give this book is that I am a lifelong hater of everything NY Yankees and because of the movie and this book I actually respect Lou Gehrig. You will too.

 

Joe DiMaggio : The Hero’s Life

dimaggio08_1_41Another Yankee?? Hmmm…maybe it’s just the modern day Yankees that I hate. If I had been around 60 years ago I might actually be a Yankee fan. Anyway, I remember when this biography came out about 13 years ago it was pretty controversial. Joltin’ Joe had always been a national treasure…a hero to Italian Americans, the apple of every girl’s eye, and the envy of every red-blooded male because of his graceful athletic skill and later his marriage to goddess Marilyn Monroe. Even in retirement he became the folksy pitchman for Mr. Coffee in the 1970’s & 80’s. But author Richard Ben Cramer lays waste to the DiMaggio mythos and exposes our hero as being yet another very flawed individual (I’m sensing a theme). The DiMaggio we read about here is an often petty, usually vain, sometimes bitter, frequently materialistic, largely unhappy man with an overinflated ego and a suspicious nature that had a negative impact on most of his personal relationships. The Hero’s Life is a stark reminder that just because someone can run fast, hit hard, or handle a ball with deft skill doesn’t mean they are a nice person. I suppose with guys like Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Kobe Bryant, & Alex Rodriguez around we are all well aware of that fact, but it is interesting to realize that such phonies have been around for many many decades and fascinating to compare & contrast how joe-dimaggiotechnology doesn’t allow such individuals to hide their hypocrisy too well these days, whereas in DiMaggio’s time he & a complicit media were quite successful in creating a graceful, classy, refined image. Some may think Cramer’s book to be harsh or even malicious, but I generally found it to be insightful & fair. It is most definitely a page turner and a must read for every baseball fan.

The Old Man & The Sea

I like a good novella. It’s longer than a short story, and just a wee bit lengthier than a novelette, but much shorter than a novel. I’ve never had an issue devouring an interesting 500+ page book (for example, the Harry Potter series, which I love), but I have found that, as the years advance, I sometimes appreciate a briefer journey.

 

The diminutive length (it comes in at under 100 pages) of Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece The Old Man & The Sea belies its greatness. Whether one chooses to just enjoy it as a good yarn or embraces a deeper message full of symbolism and implied significance doesn’t really matter. I first read the story as a teenager in junior high school. The allegorical imagery had to be explained to me back then, and I vaguely recall not being much into all that mumbo jumbo. But I still enjoyed the tale. Decades later I understand that stuff. I get it. And it just makes for a richer, more gratifying experience.

 

Santiago is a simple man…a very poor man, atleast by societal standards. He is a fisherman in 1950’s Cuba. As we meet him Santiago has gone 84 days without catching a single fish and has lost his young apprentice Manolin because the boy’s father thinks the old man is bad luck. However, the boy shows a sincere devotion to his mentor, looking in on him, bringing him food, and helping him gather up his supplies before and after a day on the ocean. Finally Santiago makes a bold decision. On that 85th day he ventures far out to sea…way further than anyone else, and certainly beyond the point that a single elderly fellow in a small skiff with no help really should. However, his gamble seems to pay off when he snags a mammoth marlin that he estimates to be 1500+ pounds. Unfortunately the fish won’t go down without a fight and pulls Santiago in his little boat even further out into the middle of the ocean. Then it becomes a 3 day battle of wills between the patient, determined, wise fisherman and his epic catch.

 

Most folks in Santiago’s position would give up. Either the long dry spell would stop them dead in their tracks, or the unenviable task of trying to haul in such a huge fish alone would prompt an all too common “Ehhh…it’s not worth the hassle” response. The Old Man not only won’t give up, but he approaches the task with an amazing display of composure, quiet determination, and judicious skill. He simply does what must be done. He does not surrender, believing that “Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

 

We often talk of heroes. In our modern world we tend to put all kinds of people on a decidedly undeserved pedestal. We revere vacuous, morally corrupt celebrities, spoiled, overpaid athletes, and all of The Pretty People. But we overlook the folks who simply get up each morning, put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, and keep life moving forward with the products they make, the services they provide, and the seemingly menial tasks they complete. Millions of people every single day execute mundane jobs to the best of their ability, and unlike Santiago’s favorite baseball player Joe DiMaggio, there aren’t masses of people watching and cheering them on. But they do it anyway. Maybe that’s true heroism. Perseverance is indeed a vastly underappreciated quality.

 

I suppose the sea is like life itself…deep, immense, beautiful, occasionally scary, and with a whole host of surprises…both good & bad…lurking below the surface. Like Santiago we all need to venture out a little further than usual sometimes, and it helps if we are equipped with the proper tools, have amassed a good amount of knowledge & wisdom, and have the ability to ply our trade with deft skill. Sometimes we are rewarded with an impressive catch, and other times evil with reach up and bite us like the sharks Santiago encounters on his journey homeward. Either way we must face the struggle with dignity, courage, patience, optimism, and intelligence.

 

I was never much into fishing. My Dad would take me every once in a while when I was a kid, but truth be told I preferred to be home watching TV or reading a book. I guess I just don’t have the patient temperament necessary. If I had to make a living fishing I would probably starve, and I definitely wouldn’t be able to deal with an 84 day slump or endure a three day contest against a fish seven times my size, and that’s not even taking into consideration the sharks. I don’t even like to watch the scarier parts of Jaws for God’s sake. But I think it’s pretty obvious that Hemingway meant The Old Man & The Sea to be about a lot more than fishing, and in that he succeeded. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s a splendidly entertaining story too.

 

 

 

The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Olympics. Reality television shows like Survivor, The Bachelorette, American Idol, & The Amazing Race. Orwell’s 1984. Huxley’s Brave New World. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Greek & Roman Mythology. 24 Hour news channels who don’t even try to hide their political ideology. American Gladiators. Movies such as Star Wars, The Truman Show, Blade Runner, and The Running Man. All of these would seem to contribute bits & pieces of inspiration to The Hunger Games Trilogy.

I was a bit hesitant to give The Hunger Games a whirl. It is officially classified as “young adult fiction”, and given the fact that I am an educated 30-something with refined taste & somewhat high standards rather than a pre-pubescent teenager easily taken in by hunky heartthrobs, werewolves & vampires, and angsty love triangles I was understandably trepidatious. However, the premise won me over and I am glad it did.

The trilogy consists of three solidly lengthy but not drawn out novels…The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay…written by Suzanne Collins, a middle-aged woman from Connecticut who, much like Harry Potter creator JK Rowling, had achieved nothing notable in her literary career before penning what has become a sensationally popular phenomenon.

The Hunger Games is set in Panem, a dystopian version of North America in which the nations we know & love have been destroyed, although exactly how that occurred is never really explored (I smell a “prequel”). At any rate, Panem…atleast most of it…isn’t a futuristic society of technological wonder. No, it is more primitive, more…colonial. The nation is divided into 12 districts all controlled by the dictatorial folks in The Capitol and lead by malevolent President Coriolanus Snow, whose creepiness factor makes our modern day politicians look like a collection of fine citizens from Mayberry. We are told that a quarter century before there was an uprising among the districts against The Capitol that was squashed like a bug, and that as punishment for that unsuccessful mutiny The Hunger Games was created. The games are an annual televised event in which two teenagers, one male and one female, from each district are chosen at random as “tributes”. These 24 tributes are dropped into The Arena, where they are expected to fight to the death until only one is left standing as The Victor. And this is considered big time entertainment in Panem.

The poorest of the districts is 12, a coal mining region reminiscent of what we know as Appalachia. That is where we meet our young heroine Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old girl who spends her time hunting illegally to support her fragile mother and younger sister after her father was killed in a mining accident. Her best friend & hunting buddy is Gale Hawthorne, who also lost his father in the same tragedy and takes care of his mother & younger siblings. Then there is Peeta Mellark, the local baker’s son who comes from what passes for an upper middle class background in District 12. These three form the requisite triumvirate, although to be honest the romance aspect of the story isn’t nearly as distracting as I originally feared it might be.

The Hunger Games has Katniss & Peeta being chosen as tributes and fighting in the 74th games. Catching Fire finds Panem on the cusp of another revolution, thanks to a perceived act of defiance by our two protagonists at the end of the first book. That insolence lands them back in The Arena fighting an all-star group of past victors. Mockingjay shows The Districts in full scale war against The Capitol, with Katniss as the reluctant figurehead of the rebellion.

Though the two stories bear little more that superficial resemblance to one another I cannot help but draw comparisons between this trilogy and the wildly popular Harry Potter series. Both are supposedly aimed at the younger demographic, yet neither hesitates to take the reader down a dark & violent path. Stylistically, Rowling writes on a much deeper level. Potter may be “young adult” fiction, but the multi-layered storytelling is on par with some of our most beloved classic literature. Conversely, The Hunger Games books, all written in the first person through the eyes of Katniss, never quite reaches the profound gravitas that transcends greatness and segues into sublime singularity. Whereas one gets the feeling that Rowling’s aim was to write some really good books and that the ensuing pop culture obsession that was thrust upon her was a pleasant byproduct, The Hunger Games feels like Collins had a movie deal on her mind from the very beginning and purposely hoped to manufacture a sensation to match the likes of Potter, Twilight, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. That’s not meant to be as much of a criticism as it is an astute observation.

All three books are intensely absorbing, real page turners that are hard to put down. Their shortcomings are likely directly related to the target audience. There are several spots where I felt like plot points weren’t fully explored, where important happenings were glossed over to appease the short attention spans of young readers. At times the author seems to be on the threshold of making some keen observations about society, politics, and war, but stops short and pulls back so as not to bog the action down with philosophical insight. Each book could have easily been another hundred pages and more thoroughly covered key elements of the story without becoming tedious. However, these flaws are the minor irritations of a nerdy bookworm who has no qualms about tackling an 800 page novel if the story is good enough. In all likelihood these books as they are were a smart choice by the author. At the end of the day we have a gripping premise, interesting characters, and a story that keeps the reader on the edge of our seat and wanting to see what happens next. That’s a pretty good recipe for some great books in my humble opinion.

I must admit that the only reason I even heard of the books is because the first movie is coming out soon. At first I was dismissive due to the inevitable association with Twilight…books that I’ve never read & movies that I’ve not seen and likely never will. Like I said, the whole vampire/werewolf thing just doesn’t frost my cupcake. But the political overtones and the somewhat realistic vibe…the idea that this really could happen to our world…was enough for me to take a flyer. I am looking forward to the movies because as mentioned I believe they were the intended end game all along. Whereas the Potter movies are good but cannot hold a candle to the books, I have a feeling that the Hunger Games movies will surpass the books’ achievements. The violence, action, and high body count are tailor made for the entertainment appetite of 21st Century America.

The Sammy Awards 2011 – Episode III: Revenge of the Phantom Fellowship

Welcome back to the exciting conclusion of the 2011 Sammy Awards. Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to leave comments on who you would have nominated, your thoughts on the winners & losers, and ideas you’d like to see incorporated into next year’s show.

 

To present our next award please welcome the 99th most followed celebrity on Twitter, Academy award winning actor Tom Hanks. And the nominees are:

The Twitter Award for Best Water Cooler Topic

Tablet Computers & iPhone4GS

First we had desktops. Then laptops became ubiquitous. Now it seems we are heading toward a society where everyone surfs The Net, listens to music, and watches movies on an iPad, Kindle Fire, or any of the other similar devices that flooded the market in 2011. The other big techie toy this year was the new iPhone, which doesn’t seem like that much of an upgrade from the previous model. No worries though…they’ll come out with something else in a few months.

 

The Return of Beavis & Butt-Head

When I was in college in the early 90’s one of our favorite shows was MTV’s animated ode to slackers, created by Mike Judge before he wrote the cult classic film Office Space. This year, after a 14 year absence, the boys returned to television and it’s as if they never left, only now instead of making fun of music videos (which MTV doesn’t even show anymore), our two favorite idiots critique drivel like Jersey Shore, 16 & Pregnant, and Teen Mom. And you know what?? It’s still really funny.

 

Death of Amy Winehouse

On July 23rd this lush keeled over & croaked due to alcohol poisoning. Shocker. I couldn’t identify one of her songs if my life depended on it because I have taste & class. But apparently she did have her following and they were sad for about 5 minutes until something else grabbed their short attention spans.

 

Jerry Lewis & MDA Part Ways

Jerry Lewis hadn’t been relevant as an entertainer since The Nixon Administration, but until 2011 he still continued to be welcomed into our living rooms every Labor Day as host for the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Toward the end of 2010 MDA announced that the normally 21.5 hour show would be scaled back to just a 6 hour broadcast on Sunday night. Then in May of this year it was proclaimed by the organization that 2011 would be Jerry’s last as host but that he would remain as their national chairman and would continue to close each telethon with his signature tearjerker tune You’ll Never Walk Alone. But in August, just a few weeks before Labor Day, MDA announced that Lewis was finished as both host & chairman, effective immediately. It is still a mystery whether he was fired or quit for some reason. The local station in my hometown that had always carried the event in its entirety decided not to do so at all this year, so I didn’t even get to see the stripped down version. Oh sure I could have tuned in online, but that’s just not the same. And neither will future Labor Day Weekends be without Jerry Lewis. It’s a shame that a treasured piece of Americana had to end with such a whimper.

 

The End of Oprah

On May 25, 2011 Satan’s Minion ended her talk show of 25 years, leaving millions of bored housewives, gays & lesbians, and unemployed, unfulfilled losers of all shapes & sizes curled up in the fetal position wondering what they were going to do with their lives. Hey now…don’t cry…you’ve still got Dr. Phil!!

 

The “New” Facebook

A few months ago Facebook users by the millions flipped the hell out when the site implemented a number of pretty radical changes like a “ticker” and a revamped news feed. I’m a big fan of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, and Zuckerberg & his crew just seemed to be tinkering with something that didn’t need changed. However, eventually everyone got over their displeasure and continued to enjoy the site. Now Facebook is rolling out another new deal called Timeline. I took the opportunity to switch over to Timeline a couple of months ago and, unlike the previous changes, I rather like it and will be surprised if it incites much rage.

 

Hanks Williams Jr. Booted From Monday Night Football

A version of Hank Williams Jr.’s song All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight had been used as the theme song for Monday Night Football since 1991. That all changed after an October 3rd interview the singer gave on Fox News in which he likened President Obama playing golf with Speaker of the House John Boehner to Hitler playing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The liberal drive by media…including the pantywaists at ESPN…predictably got their knickers in a twist because NO ONE is allowed to criticize their boy Barack Hussein Obama. ESPN made the decision to stop utilizing the tune altogether, and Bocephus called them out on their BS in his own inimitable way.

 

Kim Kardashian Marriage/Divorce

Do I really have to go into this?? I hate wasting even one iota of effort writing about this mind numbingly idiotic twit. We already know that she is a useless waste of space whose only redeeming quality is a fine caboose & a great rack and that her entire family is just as maddeningly unnecessary to humanity as she is. After years of toying with poor Dolphins RB Reggie Bush and leading Cowboys receiver Miles Austin on for about 5 minutes she moved on in 2011 to another semi-famous, quasi-rich athlete, New Jersey Nets bench warmer Kris Humphries. Within 6 months they were engaged and by August had a multimillion dollar wedding that, if my information is correct, she & her family were paid handsomely for so it could be broadcast on television. Unfortunately wedded bliss wasn’t in the cards and 72 days later Ms. Kardashian filed for divorce. And sadly, the tabloids, the entertainment TV shows, and the empty headed masses ate it up. Here’s an idea…go read a book, play with your kids (in the family sense, not in the Penn St. way), and get right with God. Quit paying any attention to this slut.

 

PA Teacher Writes Scathing Blog

30 year old  Natalie Munroe, a Doylestown, Pennsylvania (about 30 miles north of Philly) English teacher was suspended back in February after some parents discovered her blog. The issue stemmed from Ms. Munroe’s blatantly honest comments about what she’d really like to write on her students’ report cards for their parents’ perusal…things like “I hear the trash company is hiring”, “I called out sick a couple of days just to avoid your son”, “rude, belligerent, argumentative fuck”, “Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?”, “Shy isn’t cute in 11th grade; it’s annoying. Must learn to advocate for himself instead of having Mommy do it.”, and “Am concerned that your kid is going to come in one day and open fire on the school. (Wish I was kidding.)”. Now I’m not a teacher, and maybe her opinions aren’t necessarily socially acceptable, but I’d be willing to be she was spot on in her observations. Munroe eventually got her job back, and I assume she’s just keeping her opinions to herself nowadays, helping the system to mass produce worker drones willing to work for minimum wage to supplement their Welfare.

 

Angry Birds

Apparently it’s some sort of game. I’ve heard it’s rather addictive. I’ve never played it and most likely never will.

 

 

The Homeless Guy with the Golden Voice

Right after New Year’s a newspaper reporter recorded an interview with a homeless man wandering the mean streets of Columbus, OH. That man, 54 year old Ted Williams, just so happened to have a deep, booming voice made for radio, which was in fact his career of choice before drug & alcohol abuse and legal problems derailed his life in the late 1980’s. A video of that interview was posted on YouTube and went viral, making Williams an overnight sensation. He appeared on talk shows and received a plethora of job offers, most notably from MSNBC, Kraft Foods, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Unfortunately the sudden fame caused Williams to fall off the wagon. Dr. Phil got involved and sent him to rehab, but he pulled a Lohan & left after less than 2 weeks. The job offers began to disappear. Fortunately though, Ted Williams eventually went back in to rehab and to my knowledge is now gainfully employed and off the streets. God speed to him in all his future endeavors.

 

The End of Harry Potter

After 7 books and 8 films the Harry Potter phenomenon came to a close in 2011 with the release of the final movie. The great thing about books & movies though is that we can continue to enjoy them for many years to come, and new generations have the opportunity to do the same if they so choose. All great things must come to an end, but what a ride it was.

 

Cancellation of All My Children & One Life to Live

When I was a young lad in elementary school my sister & I had a babysitter that got us hooked on soap operas…specifically Days of Our Lives & General Hospital. As I grew older I got interested in other soaps like Guiding Light, Another World, & As the World Turns. Then a few years back I added One Life to Live to the rotation. AW was cancelled in 1999. GL got the axe in 2009 and ATWT ended in 2010. In 2011 ABC announced that it was cancelling 2 out of its 3 soaps…All My Children & One Life to Live. I never really got into AMC, but I realize it was extremely popular, mainly due to star Susan Lucci. That show left the air on September 23, 2011, with OLTL scheduled to end on January 13, 2012. Millions of fans have expressed outrage, but it’s just a different world nowadays. Women, the original target audience for soaps, are in the workforce and not home during the day to watch TV. The Internet draws peoples’ attention away from television as well. And unfortunately suits & bean counters have discovered that producing talk shows is cheaper than soap operas. Ah well…atleast I still have DOOL & GH…for now.

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

Ted Williams. I must admit that this choice is slanted in favor of my own personal interests. I refuse to honor that horrible piece of garbage Kim Kardashian, and neither will I bestow an award on Hell’s favorite talk show hostess. Williams’ story both touched me and brought out my usual cynicism. Oh sure he must shoulder the blame for his own failures like drug & alcohol abuse and his various arrests. However, I’m all for second chances. I think we all knew that the overnight notoriety & media attention was likely to cause a backslide, which it did. But it seems as if, once the spotlight dimmed a bit, Mr. Williams started making the right decisions to get his life back on the right path. Hopefully the turnaround will continue and 2012 will hold good things for him & his family.

 

 

 

Unlike Charles Barkley, the titular “honoree” for which this award is named will not be presenting it, because there is no way on God’s green Earth your humble Potentate of Profundity would let that disgusting cow sully these proceedings. Instead, we go in the opposite direction by welcoming three of the world’s most beautiful women: Jessica Alba, Eva Longoria, & Mandy Moore. And the nominees are:

The Rosie O’Donnell Memorial Just Go Away Award

The Entire Kardashian Family

These people disgust me. I truly believe it has gotten to the point that they are an actively negative force in American culture. My heart weeps for the millions of teenage girls who watch this hogwash and are in any way influenced by these evil, repulsive harlots. Even poor Bruce Jenner…a former Olympic hero for God’s sake…has been sucked into the void and just mindlessly does whatever his control freak of a wife commands. It’s sickening and needs to be stopped.

Lindsay Lohan

Okay, so she finally got naked for Playboy. But she even managed to screw that up by not showing us anything we hadn’t already seen. I just cannot stand even the mere mention of her name at this point. Only in Hollywood would a crack whore still receive endless opportunities to make millions of dollars and remain famous. It’s sort of disheartening for the masses in flyover country who rarely get a second chance if they make even one tiny mistake.

 

Michael Moore

What a revolting slob!! And he’s a liberal wackjob to boot. I don’t think he actually did anything noteworthy this year except make an appearance at the stupid Occupy Wall Street protest, which is ironic since he is a multimillionaire himself. At any rate, occasionally he’ll ruin a perfectly good late night show by showing up, spewing his uninformed hate, and making me want to vomit.

 

Lady Gaga

Here’s the sad thing about this chic…she’s actually quite lovely and can really sing. But I guess one has to have a gimmick these days, do wacky stuff to grab attention, and sing songs filled with lewd & suggestive lyrics. Whatever happened to class??

 

Skip Bayless

I really dig my ESPN sports talk shows, but this pompous know-it-all has absolutely ruined First Take for me to the point where it’s not even watchable anymore. For some reason the powers-that-be retooled the show so that it pretty much revolves around Bayless arguing the stories du jour with a revolving cast of “opponents”. The folks in Bristol have totally beaten the formula to death, but atleast other shows like Mike & Mike, Around the Horn, & Pardon the Interruption pull it off in such a way that I am not immediately tempted to hurl an object at my TV screen. Not only is Bayless arrogant & self-absorbed, but he’s usually so wrong about his opinions that it’s laughable. And he is the absolute #1 offender in regard to shoving Tim Tebow down America’s throat. I would love to see the statistics, but I would bet anything that Bayless and his posse have talked about Tebow on every single show for the past 6 months. Give it a rest already!!

 

The “Ladies” of The View

Without a doubt one of the more torturous exercises in futility is watching these twits sit around a table and attempt to intelligently discuss the “hot topics” of the day. Whoopi, Joy, Barbara, & the short fat chic who is so superfluous that I don‘t even remember her name are clueless, spiteful, and arrogant. Honestly watching Full House reruns seems like Shakespeare in comparison. And as much as I dig token conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck she is just so overmatched against the 4 other big mouthed morons that the poor gal hasn’t got a chance. I beg of ABC…PLEASE cancel this drivel, or atleast sell it to Oprah’s “network”…same difference.

 

Justin Beiber

I couldn’t name one of his songs if I had two guns pointed at my head, but every soccer mom and 12 year old girl in America seems to love him. I’m sick & tired of hearing his name and seeing him on my TV. Plus he needs a haircut.

 

Reality TV

The ironic thing about reality television is that there is hardly anything real about it. Anyone who watches The Bachelor/Bachelorette and thinks it is an accurate representation of dating & falling in love needs to just hurl themselves off the nearest tall building immediately. The same criticism can be made of craptastic stupidity like The Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, Wife Swap, Teen Mom, and just about every reality show on TV. I know these shows are cheaper to produce, which is why they have grown exponentially in the past decade, but I miss the days when some talented writers would get together with some talented actors and make a fictional show that allowed people to e-s-c-a-p-e reality and be entertained for 30-60 minutes.

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

You saw this coming didn’t you?? Yes, I’m sure you did. For the 2nd straight year we have a tie!! This year it is an 8 way tie. ALL of these wastes-of-space need to stop taking up valuable oxygen & other resources immediately. I can think of no better way to immediately improve this great nation.

 

 

 

To present our final award of the evening, please welcome the melodious & soothing voice of TV new personality Harry Smith. And the nominees are:

Biggest U.S. News Story

Shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

On January 8 an assassination attempt on 3 term Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords captured the attention of the entire nation. Giffords was speaking to constituents outside a Safeway grocery store when some nutjob opened fire, injuring more than a dozen people and killing 6, including a nine year old little girl. Predictably liberals in Washington DC seized the opportunity to begin furthering their gun control agenda, but that poppycock fell on deaf ears and the tragedy became bigger than politics. Giffords continues to recover, but still has some communication issues and has lost some of her eyesight.

 

Race for the Republican Nomination

Incumbent President Obama is, unsurprisingly, going to be unopposed for his own party’s nomination in 2012. However, the fight for the right to face Obama in the general election got in to full swing in 2011, with nearly a dozen Republicans battling it out as we head into primary season early next year. No single candidate has really taken control of the contest, with several of the contestants having their turn in the spotlight, and a few have already fallen by the wayside. Unfortunately I don’t think the conservative base will be all that enamored with whoever ends up with the nomination because none of them seem to really be what we were hoping for.

 

Unemployment

Nearly ¾ of the way thru President Obama’s first (and hopefully only) term the unemployment rate still hovers around 9%. In comparison unemployment under George W. Bush was below 8%, Reagan, Clinton, & Bush ‘41 just above 7%, and even Jimmy Carter…usually considered one of the 20th Centuries worst Presidents…only 7.5%. Obama can no longer realistically blame W. for the poor economy, and the American people know it.

 

End of the Space Shuttle Program

The three decades old space shuttle program came to a close with the final mission of Atlantis in July. Now if an American wants to go to space they have to catch a ride with the Russians. Somewhere JFK is rolling over in his grave (if he is really dead that is). I guess NASA has some new ideas in the hopper, which is fine. Until those plans materialize though the lack of an active space exploration program further diminishes the concept of American exceptionalism, which I’m sure puts a smile on the faces of the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

Fast & Furious

A 2001 film starring Vin Diesel & Paul Walker. No…wait…that’s not it. Apparently this was some sort of gun running operation by the U.S. ATF. I don’t know. The movie never interested me so when this story was dubbed with that name I pretty much decided not to pay attention right from the very beginning.

 

NY Legalizes Gay Marriage

On July 24 New York passed legislation allowing same sex marriage. My Bible tells me that this behavior is vile, against nature, and an abomination. Your mileage may vary, and we will just have to agree to disagree.

 

Death of Steve Jobs

Nerds nationwide mourned the untimely passing of the founder of Apple Computers on October 5th (my birthday) due to pancreatic cancer. I am not all that technologically savvy, but I know enough to realize that Jobs belongs on the Mount Rushmore of the modern computer age.

 

Hurricane Irene

Near the end of August Irene made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Its path of destruction, mostly from flooding, extended clear up into the New York/New Jersey area, causing 56 deaths and $7 billion in damage.

 

10th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

America marked the decade anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks with modest ceremonies in New York, DC, and Shanksville, PA, as well as the requisite reflective coverage on television. So much has been said & written about that horrible day 10 years ago that I cannot add anything new. Just know that, for the victims & their families, we will n-e-v-e-r forget.

 

Deadly Tornado Hits Joplin, MO

On May 22 the small town of Joplin, about 70 miles west of Springfield, was hit with an F5 tornado that killed 160 people, injured nearly 1000, and did nearly $3 billion in damage. It was the costliest tornado in the history of the United States.

 

Occupy Wall St. Movement

Class warfare has been an effective tool for liberals in this country for centuries. Some people hate anyone who has more than them. That hatred reached a new peak in the fall of 2011 when a group of protesters decided to stage a massive sit-in at a park near New York City’s Wall Street, the financial epicenter of the nation. To my knowledge the protests…which have spawned numerous similar demonstrations nationwide…continue to this day. This kind of crap is the direct result of media & pop culture romanticization of the 1960’s. Instead of trying to learn from the wealthy and duplicate their success there is a whole new generation of dirty hippies that just want to sit around whining, bitching, and moaning about “big business” while they ignore the real problem, which is “big government”.

 

End of the War in Iraq

The nearly decade long Iraq conflict that began on the heels of 9/11 and the War on Terrorism came to an official close on December 5, 2011. I happen to believe that at one time there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Saddam Hussein had some connection to Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. However, I also would have preferred a much shorter American involvement. The objectives seemed unclear at times and the lack of an effective exit strategy was troubling. The Middle East will always be a hot spot for strife, and I do not believe any amount of military involvement or attempts to spread democracy will ever bring total peace.

 

Casey Anthony Trial

Caylee Anthony, the 2 year old daughter of Casey, went missing in the summer of 2008 and was found dead a few months later. This past summer the mother went on trial for killing her child. Casey appears to be a mentally unstable woman who got knocked up before she was ready and, as the theory goes, murdered her daughter so she’d have the freedom to go back to being a drunken party girl ho. Unfortunately for the millions who became emotionally invested in the trial like it was OJ Part 2, the prosecutors were inept and Anthony’s defense team used annoying little techniques like lack of evidence, burden of proof, and reasonable doubt to get her acquitted. Soccer Moms everywhere were so outraged that they…they…they put their porch lights on!! As if that was going to help anything.

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

The Republicans. I choose this story because, unlike other stories that have come & gone, this one has been a constant for most of the year and has been woven into the fabric of our daily lives. It is also significant because all the ups & downs, missteps, debates, and speechifying that has occurred over all these months will…eventually…lead to someone being nominated to run for President in 2012. That election may be one of the most important turning points in our nation’s history. 2011 has seen folks like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Mitt Romey, Ron Paul, & Rick Perry become household names, even if each has had their weaknesses & foibles exposed for the entire world to pass judgment on. That’s American politics. It’s not perfect, but it’s still the best system in the world.

 

 

 

 

actresses Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Russell, Betty Garrett (Laverne & Shirley), Anne Francis (Forbidden Planet), Peggy Rea (The Dukes of Hazzard, Grace Under Fire)…former Secretary of State Warren Christopher…Apple Computers founder Steve Jobs…director Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network)…George Ballas (inventor of the Weed Eater)…“Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian…Frank Buckles (the last surviving WW1 veteran)…fitness guru Jack Lalanne…Indy 500 Champion Dan Wheldon…golf legend Seve Ballesteros…saxophonist Clarence Clemons…boxer Joe Frazier…former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Chuck Tanner…former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro…blues musician Pinetop Perkins…alleged singer Amy Winehouse…producers Sherwood Schwartz (The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island) & Gil Cates (Academy Awards Show)…former First Lady Betty Ford…retired MLB pitcher Mike Flanagan…Jimmy Kimmel’s Uncle Frank Potenza…baseball broadcaster Ernie Johnson…former NY Governor Hugh Carey…Dolores Hope (widow of Bob Hope)…Big East Conference founder Dave Gavitt…singer Dobie Gray (Drift Away)…Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis…pollster George Gallup…cartoonist Bil Keane (The Family Circus)…journalists Andy Rooney & Christopher Hitchins…retired football players Orlando Brown, Bubba Smith, Mike Heimerdinger, Kent Hull, and Chester McGlockton…actors Michael Gough (Batman), Jeff Conaway (Taxi), Edward Hardwicke (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Jackie Cooper (Our Gang, Superman), Peter Falk (Columbo), James Arness (Gunsmoke), GD Spradlin (The Godfather Part II, One on One, North Dallas Forty, Apocalypse Now), Roberts Blossom (Home Alone, Doc Hollywood), Cliff Robertson (PT109, Spider-Man), Charles Napier (The Blues Brothers), and Harry Morgan (M*A*S*H, The Glenn Miller Story)…wrestling legends Sir Oliver Humperdink & “Macho Man” Randy Savage…baseball Hall of Famers Duke Snider, Ron Santo, and Harmon Killebrew…retired NBA players Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Lorenzo Charles, and Walt Hazzard…NFL Hall of Famers Andy Robustelli, John Henry Johnson, John Mackey, and Lee Roy Selmon

The Harry Potter Series

I envy author JK Rowling. She has stated more than once that the idea for Harry Potter just came to her as she was riding a train back in 1990. Five years later she was a clinically depressed single mother living on welfare when the first book was published. Less than a decade after that she was a billionaire. If that isn’t a rags to riches story I don’t know what is. Someone somewhere once said something to the effect that “everyone has a book inside of them”, and I have long believed that to be true for myself. I’ve always felt like there was a great idea right on the cusp of forming in my brain but it never quite has. I so want to someday have that Rowling moment, to just be driving along in my truck or traipsing through WalMart and have that awesome character or story come busting through into my consciousness. I am not even concerned with becoming wealthy or famous…I just think it would be very cool to create something that scores of people enjoy and that would last beyond my lifetime.

 

That definition of success certainly fits the accomplishment of Rowling and her boy wizard. The Potter series encompasses 7 novels which have been made into 8 films, with both the books & movies setting multiple records within their respective industries and making billions of dollars. My focus here is obviously the books, and I don’t think I’d be stepping out on too much of a limb to assume that children and adults will still be reading and be thoroughly enthralled by them a century from now, just as modern readers still enjoy the works of authors like Dickens, Twain, Tolkien, Bradbury and many others whose greatest achievements came long long ago. I wouldn’t go so far as to classify Potter as classic literature, but it probably comes as close as anything that has been published in the last few decades.

 

For the benefit of those unfamiliar and as a refresher for those whose mind may be more feeble than they care to admit, Harry Potter is, at the outset, an 11 year old boy living with his abusive aunt & uncle because his parents died when he was a baby. We find out that Harry isn’t your normal, average, run-of-the-mill pre-teen…he is a wizard. And he isn’t even your normal, average, run-of-the-mill wizard…he is The Boy Who Lived. Harry’s parents didn’t just die, they were murdered by Lord Voldemort, the most evil wizard in all of wizardry, sort of a cross between Darth Vader, Adolph Hitler, and Biff Tannen from Back to the Future. Harry is whisked away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, where he spends the next seven years coming of age, having various adventures, and battling Voldemort, who eventually resurfaces after lying dormant for about a dozen years.

 

In the course of 7 books we meet a whole host of interesting characters from Rowling’s fertile imagination, but only a few are what can be called featured players. Of course there is Harry, who evolves from a sheepish young boy into a courageous, valiant hero & leader. Then there are his two best pals, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. Hermione is an intelligent, precocious, ultra driven, somewhat annoying muggle child, meaning neither of her parents are wizards. Ron is the classic sidekick…loyal & brave, yet somewhat clumsy & unaccomplished…the very essence of mediocrity. This triumvirate forms the centerpiece of the action for all of the books. Their mentor is Hogwarts’ headmaster, Professor Albus Dumbledore, a wise & gentle soul akin to Star Wars’ Yoda or Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There is also Rubeus Hagrid, a half giant that serves as the groundskeeper for Hogwarts (a little like Schneider from One Day at a Time) and becomes a trusted confidante to our young heroes-in-training, and Professor Severus Snape, the triumvirate’s nemesis reminiscent of teacher Dick Vernon in The Breakfast Club or Dean of Students Mr. Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, only a lot more bitter and pissed off for reasons we learn about in the last few volumes.

 

Rowling, much like her fantasy predecessors JRR Tolkien & CS Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia), masterfully creates a whole other world filled with unique characters and memorable images, but she doesn’t stop there. Harry Potter isn’t all style and no substance. Just like the famed works of Tolkien & Lewis, there is a lot of meat on the bones here, much much more than just fancy window dressing. Sure Harry Potter might be cloaked in a world of magic, potions, and spells that makes it palatable to adolescents, but underneath it all is an epic plot and a level of quality writing that easily surpasses most of what is considered modern “popular fiction”. Don’t be fooled…these books may be marketed as children’s literature, but once one gets past the first two books the tone becomes progressively darker and more mature.

 

I did not begin reading Harry Potter until I believe after the fourth book was published. First of all I thought it was for kids and that as a nearly 30 year old man I wouldn’t be the slightest bit interested. Secondly, I had some serious concerns relating to God & faith vs. the occult.

 

Let’s face it, the literary device that is the whole framework for the series is sorcery and other pagan imagery, which The Bible is very clear in warning against. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says “there shall not be found among you anyone…who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead, for all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord.” Sorcery is one of the works of the flesh that we are warned against in the 5th chapter of Galatians. Lots of space in the Scriptures is dedicated to differentiating between darkness & light and telling us that we are to be the light in the world. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 says “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.” 1 John 1:5 tells us that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” Romans 13:12 advises to “cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” The Gospel of John says in the 3rd chapter that “Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

 

I understand that there are many Christians who choose to stay away from or even actively campaign against things like Halloween, Harry Potter, Santa Claus, and a host of other pop culture & entertainment influences, and I appreciate their viewpoint. Some feel that such things, while harmless on the surface, serve as a sort of gateway into dabbling in much more serious & sinister activities that pull people away from God and into the abyss of darkness & sin. I am sure that isn’t an unheard of circumstance. However, as usual, I tend to look at things a bit differently. It has always been my opinion that if something as simple as a movie or rock n’ roll music or buying the occasional lottery ticket can so easily sway a person and drag them into a life of debauchery then maybe their faith wasn’t very strong to begin with. Discernment grows as one’s relationship with Christ deepens, and personally I don’t see these books as a threat. I may be wrong, I may be right, or I may be crazy.

 

Actually I see a lot of Christian undertones in Harry Potter. I see themes like good vs. evil, sacrifice, friendship, love, life & death, and standing up to fight for what is right. To the extent that the books deal with darkness & light, darkness is ultimately defeated. Good triumphs over evil. I still struggle with the debate, just as most Christians battle a variety of issues. It’s just that in the grand scheme of life I think there are bigger nits to pick and at the end of the day I don’t feel that my enjoyment of an extremely well written series of books threatens my faith. Your mileage may vary, and that’s okay.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t atleast mention the films that have been made based on the books. Honestly I think I have only seen half of them. As is usually the case, the books are far superior to the movies. Most of the books are 500-900 pages long, so when the movies were made lots of things got left out. There are entire characters & subplots that are interesting parts of the books but never appear in the movies. That doesn’t mean they are bad movies, it just means that one shouldn’t skip the immensely pleasurable experience of reading the books.

 

Most Harry Potter fans would probably agree that these stories will be enjoyed for many generations to come. I suppose at some point that would qualify it as classic literature. But for now let us avoid labels and just enjoy a fun reading experience.

 

 

 

 

100 Favorite Movies…..24 & 25

Sequels, though not uncommon throughout the history of film, really hit their stride in the 1970’s with the success of follow-ups to movies like The Godfather & Jaws and the insatiable urge to turn huge profits into even more money. These days it seems like a sequel is oftentimes inevitable, regardless of whether or not the quality of the original deems it obligatory. It is a hit or miss proposition, but Hollywood appears to be creatively bankrupt to the point that more often than not the powers-that-be prefer to squeeze a few more dollars out a known entity rather than roll the dice on a new idea. Anyway, there are three types of sequels. Sometimes only one additional movie is made to tie up any loose ends from the first, or maybe it is just that the second film bombs so badly that no sane person would green light a third. Examples would be 48 Hours and Another 48 Hours, Analyze This and Analyze That, Fletch and Fletch Lives, Grumpy/Grumpier Old Men, Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2, Weekend at Bernies 1 & 2, & American Graffiti and More American Graffiti. A much more common modus operandi is the trilogy, which is of course three films. Everyone knows about trilogies. Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Back to the Future 1,2,&3, The Santa Clause 1,2,&3, and The Austin Powers Trilogy (International Man of Mystery, The Spy Who Shagged Me, & Goldmember) are among the best in my humble opinion. And then there is the ultimate in avarice and indolence, the series, which I define as four or more films. At some point these usually become a complete joke, which in turn leads to even more movies in an effort to somehow right the ship and recover some semblance of dignity. The four Batman movies from the late 80’s early 90’s (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin) suffered from an ever changing lineup of directors and leading men. The original Die Hard and the third entry, Die Hard With A Vengeance, were excellent, while Die Hard 2 was subpar and Live Free or Die Hard (the fourth film) was fun but forgettable. The Harry Potter series has thus far been pretty decent, but the movies aren’t nearly as good as the books. The Halloween series should have never made it past Halloween II. Parts 3-6 were horrible, H20 and Resurrection too little too late. And of course Rocky and its sequel were legendarily awesome but someone somewhere actually thought the four films that followed were a good idea (they weren’t). I won’t even get into the absurdity of horror franchises like the eleven Friday the 13th films or the eight Nightmare on Elm Street flicks.

At any rate, I go into all that as an explanation regarding my process when looking at these types of films and how I choose to fit my favorites into this Top 100. In a perfect world I would treat each the same, applying a set of rules that applied to all. But I have found this to be very difficult. If there are two films, maybe I like one and not the other (Caddyshack is appropriately celebrated…Caddyshack 2 not so much). Maybe I like both (Father of the Bride 1&2). I tend to keep trilogies together, as they generally have a “big picture” that is hard to ignore, regardless of whether their individual parts may vary in quality (Star Wars, Back to the Future). But even this isn’t always the case (Oceans’ Eleven and 13 are great…Ocean’s Twelve isn’t). Series are almost the opposite of a trilogy in that, generally, one must look at each individual piece and it is next to impossible to like all the parts (Star Trek) to the point that they can be viewed as a whole…but sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (Lethal Weapon). I felt it necessary to clarify my thoughts on these matters because I am aware of the inconsistencies inherent in the choices I have made.

Since today’s intro is longer than usual, and in an effort to stay within the confines of the theme, we will only look at the next two entries instead of five, as they are what inspired me to write this detailed preface in the first place.

 

 

 


25 The Lethal Weapon Series

It is pure coincidence that I happen to be writing about Lethal Weapon right when Mel Gibson is going through his latest public embarrassment. I have learned to separate my personal opinions about the lives of Hollywood stars from my enjoyment of their work. This became necessary over the years, as I am a hardcore conservative and the vast majority of folks we see on our televisions and on the big screen are so out of touch with average America’s principles that if I let it interfere with my entertainment I’d never have any fun. So anyway…there are four films in the Lethal Weapon canon, released between 1987 and 1998. The concept is your typical odd couple story, with Danny Glover playing Murtaugh, a curmudgeonly family man on the verge of retirement from the police force, and Gibson playing his new partner Riggs, a younger, crazier cop who has LWnothing to lose after the tragic death of his wife. Throughout the series we see the relationship between the two men grow, from distrust and antagonism to being best friends and brothers-in-arms. Each film provides a different big case for the duo to solve with the requisite bad guy steering some sort of nefarious plot. I am typically not a big fan of guns, car chases, and explosions simply because there are too many movies with only those things and no plot or character development. Lethal Weapon is an exception. Not only do we cheer for Riggs & Murtaugh, but throughout the series we get to know Roger’s wife and three kids, some supporting characters at the police department, a reformed whistleblower turned private investigator played by the always enjoyable Joe Pesci (introduced in Lethal Weapon 2 and present in the two films after), and a lady cop played by the lovely Renee Russo who flirts with Riggs in Part 3 and is having his baby in Part 4. The details of each caper aren’t really important. I even get the details of the various plots mixed up sometimes, forgetting which event happened in which movie. But it’s all good. Lethal Weapon is the rare action flick that also allows us to get to know our heroes and their loved ones, which is what separates it from the pack. Admittedly the first film is the best (it is even…if one is willing to really stretch the definition…a Christmas movie) and there has been much debate as to whether the fourth was one too many, but I prefer to look at the series as a whole because even the declining quality of the last two does not mean they were bad. Fans have been clamoring for a fifth installment for several years, but both stars have said no. I think it is likely that the franchise will be rebooted at some point, either as a total remake or with younger actors playing new characters who have some sort of minimal interaction with Riggs & Murtaugh to justify using the Lethal Weapon name. If/when that day comes I suppose I will check it out, but I can’t imagine it getting any better than the original.


24  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I have to give a shout out to my friend The Owl for turning me into a Trekkie. I was somewhat familiar with Trek, but when we were in college he really made me appreciate how cool the concept was. This was right in the midst of the popularity of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the early 1990’s. I became a fan of that show first and then went back and got into the original series and the movies. I suppose that is sort of an odd, backward way of becoming a Trekkie, but that was my experience. There were six films made starring the original crew of The Enterprise we first met in the 1960’s television show (Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, Uhura, and Sulu). Three of those six appear in this list. The Wrath of Khan is almost unanimously the favorite amongst fans. 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture had k2 khanreunited the cast and fans were ecstatic after a ten year absence following the abrupt cancellation of the TV show. But let’s face it…The Motion Picture was not that great of a movie. The second installment rights the ship to say the least. From opening with the infamous no-win Kobayashi Maru test to the heartbreaking death of Spock, Wrath of Khan is a total immersion experience for Trekkies. In between those bookend events we get the antics of very pissed off supervillain Khan Noonien Singh who was cryogenically frozen in the 20th century, reanimated by Kirk and friends in an episode of the TV show, and banished to a desolate planet after he tried to stage a coup of the Enterprise. Khan and Kirk engage in a battle with distinct Moby Dick overtones when Khan tries to steal the technology for The Genesis Project, a terraforming device able to create new and inhabitable planets. Genesis is the brainchild of Kirk’s former lover and what turns out to be his heretofore unknown son. Wrath of Khan is not your typical action flick. There is a story, there are grand themes about vengeance and death, and there is some real depth and a range of emotions from the characters. There is even some humor provided by the always sardonic Dr. McCoy. Because The Motion Picture bombed the studio stepped in, removing Trek creator Gene Roddenberry from the helm of this movie and restricting the budget significantly. I am sure those were hotly debated controversies at the time, but no one can argue with the results.

And let me take this opportunity to say that I have seen the 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise and enjoyed it very much. Because of its newness it will not be making an appearance on this list, but I anticipate that it will likely make the cut in 5 or so years when I do this all again.