Friday, May 31, 2013

My interview with Cate Colgan last week

Recently, I had the privilege of doing a pre-recorded interview with Cate Colgan, who is one of the most genuinely kind and compassionate people I've ever met, for her radio show, "Let's Not Talk About It" which airs locally on WTAN, 1340AM. The show aired last Friday.

My favorite part is either when Cate invites people to call in during the interview because "we can always talk over it" or when she put it on pause to interview somebody more interesting who called in or when it just kind of... ends, in mid-sentence. I can't choose.

Anyway, here's a link to the program if you'd like to hear it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Hello, this is Mike..."

I was at work on Saturday when a phone solicitor called, a gentleman with a heavy Indian accent.

MIKE: Hello, this is Mike and I'm calling...
ME: Mike?!? Are you kidding me?
MIKE: Yes, this is Mike and...
ME: Hiya Mike! What's your name?
MIKE: Ehhh, Mike. Michael.
ME: Well, which is it? Mike or Michael?
MIKE: You can call me Mike.
ME: Hiya Michael! Where are you from?
MIKE: Seminole, Florida.
ME: Seminole? Awesome! I'm right here in Tampa!
MIKE: The reason I am calling today is to tell you that you were selected at random to receive $100 in free gift vouchers in exchange for...
ME: Seriously? That's great! I'm all out of gift vouchers!
MIKE: Yes. These vouchers are available to you at no cost, in exchange for just trying our company's offer...
ME: Hey Mark, where did you say you were calling from?
MIKE: I'm...I'm from Seminole, Florida.
ME: Seminole? Awesome! I'm right here in Tampa!
MIKE: Yes. The offer...
ME: Seminole and Tampa are soooo close, you know?
MIKE: No cost to you...
ME: Did you go to Seminole High?
MIKE: W-what?
ME: High school. Did you go to Seminole high school? Go Bulldogs!
MIKE: Yes. I am in Seminole.
ME: You must be a proud Bulldog supporter then, huh? Go Bulldogs!
MIKE: Yes.
ME: Do you want to sing the fight song?
MIKE: W-what? No...
ME: You know what? I don't think their mascot is Bulldogs. Why would you say 'Go Bulldogs'?
MIKE: I didn't say that.
ME: Yeah, you did. You were all 'Go Bulldogs' every time you mentioned that you're born and raised in Seminole.
MIKE: I never said anything like that.
ME: Fine, I said it. But you didn't attempt to correct me.
MIKE: I did not understand. I do not understand now.
ME: Marco, I am very disappointed. If I can't trust you to tell me your name and where you're from, how can I trust you to give me the straight info on this offer you're calling about?
MIKE: I'm not from Seminole, I am in Seminole now, for work.
ME: Oh, cool. I get it. That's perfect because I'm not comfortable talking business on the phone. But since you're so close, I can just come over to your office. We can bang out all the details and you can just give me the coupons or whatever.
MIKE: $100 in free gift vouchers in exchange for...
ME: Sure, whatever. The point is, no mailing! You'll be saving your company postage fees! This could get you employee of the month!
MIKE: Well, we don't really... This is not a regular office.
ME: No problem. We can meet at a nearby restaurant and grab some lunch while we bang this out. What's a nearby restaurant?
MIKE: Uhhhh...
ME: Are you close to the Seminole Steak & Shake? Or the Seminole Subway? Or the Seminole Olive Garden? Or the Seminole Appleby's? Which of those is most convenient for you, Malik?

Well, darn the Seminole phone lines. Now I don't know where to go claim my $100 in gift vouchers. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

It's the "thought" that counts.

This is a conversation I had with a friend yesterday (Sunday)...
HER: Hey, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your military service. That's what this weekend is really supposed to be about after all, right?
ME: Well, Veterans Day is actually when we say thanks to those who served in the military. Memorial Day is specifically set aside to honor those who died in service to the country. I was in the army but never really ever came close to seeing combat.
HER: Oh whatever, it's the same thing.
ME" Oh, okay. Thanks then.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Life...and show biz

Here's a little glimpse into what life is like in the glamorous and exciting world of the sports and entertainment industry...
Frequently, circumstances will dictate that you spend a relatively long stretch of time at work. For whatever reason, shows tend to be scheduled in clumps, and of course, always on or around weekends. That means it's not unusual to go a full week or more without a day off. That also means spending long stretches of time with the same people in relatively close quarters under what can be hectic and stressful conditions. As is the case with lots of jobs, this can result in frayed nerves and short tempers where the slightest provocation can cause a huge fight. Of course, it can also result in a loopy state of mind where the smallest, stupidest thing can seem hysterically funny.
Last weekend, we had a run of ice skating shows with Disney characters, seven shows between Thursday night and Sunday afternoon. When we have runs like that, our employer is kind enough to provide us with free meals. Hayden, who is one of our part-time ticket sellers, is an affable, easy-going young man. He was in line getting food Saturday afternoon and was overheard saying, "Aw man, where's the basalmic vinaigrette dressing?". This innoccuous, innocent remark, the expression of mild disappointment at the unavailability of a prefered salad dressing, was seized upon immediately by co-workers and supervisors (I may have been involved to a slight extent as well).
First up were accusations of First World Problems:
"Oh, we're so sorry, sir. Does the selection of condiments for your free mail that you're not even required to clock out for while you sit down in a nice, quiet restaurant setting and eat it in peace fail to please your refined palatte?"
"Q: Do you know what the favorite salad dressing is in the Sudan? A: What is salad?"
"In the Ukraine, a salad is a bowl of snow with a couple of drops of diesel fuel for flavor. Unless your father catches you wasting diesel fuel and then 'salad' is just a term for him holding your ear tightly with one hand while hitting you in the head with a shoe with the other."
Then it was imitations of Hayden at lunch:
"Where's the goddamn basalmic vinaigrette?!?" (A la a pissed-off Harrison Ford)
"You call this a demi-glace, you worthless son of a bitch?"
"Who taught you how to make petit fours, you motherless hack??"
"Hey, where the hell's the goddamn basalmic vinaigrette??" (This last one was done with a "Hillbilly Hayden" accent for some reason. Not sure why; since Hayden doesn't have an accent)
And on and on and on and on and on and on. The more relentlessly it was driven into the ground, the fuinnier it was. For his part, Hayden smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "I just really like their basalmic vinaigrette dressing."
Okay, maybe it's not that funny. And I know it's a stupid way to spend a weekend but it's a lot better than being pissed off the whole time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Let's go shopping!

As announced last week, I have a book for sale. In order to maximize $ales$, I need to make it available in as many places as possible. Naturally, that means I need to sell it via my web site, For that purpose, I built a store. But it seemed kind of stupid to have an entire store dedicated to selling one item (the book) so I padded the inventory a little. In addition to the book, you can also buy...
  1. A bucket of scalding hot water. Long-time readers will remember this item from the ill-fated "Clarketplace" line. It's $1,000.00 because I don't really want people to buy it.
  2. Hash browns. Delicious, lovely hash brown potatoes. Hash browns may not be your favorite thing about a big sloppy breakfast, but they're right behind whatever you think is. I love 'em. They're also way overpriced for the same reason of not wanting people to actually buy them, but if somebody does, for $1,000.00, I will gladly come to their home and make them. Absolutely.
Anyway, that's what's for sale at my store.

Monday, May 20, 2013

What lurks beyond boring brick walls?

"This is a church, there ain't no steeple. Open the door to the left if you wanna see naked people!"
This is a building on Broadway Avenue in Tampa, what 7th Avenue turns into when you take it all the way east out of Ybor City. Definable only as "nondescript", it looks like any one of hundreds of buildings you probably drive past every day without even thinking about it. Probably some kind of offices or a warehouse, right? If you zoom in on the banner, you'd say it's currently a church for Spanish speaking parishioners. And it is... but not completely. There are two doors (unseen in this photo) on the east end of the building (to the right) that do serve as an entrance to the church advertised on that banner. But what lies behind the doors to the left, the shuttered windows directly beneath the banner and the ones to the right of that is the much larger part of the building and populated by other tenants: professional pornographers.

It was once the hub of a "voyeur dorm" operation fronted by legendary porn star Ron Jeremy. His name is literally plastered on walls all over the place. It's no longer the site of around the clock, internet subscriber-fueled adult activity as it apparently was in the '90s, but it's still very much in use as a filming location and production facility. Sort of like Prince's Paisley Park, his all-in-one music and film production complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota... only for naughty movies.

I know because I visited this building once not long ago to visit a film being shot there. I had helped out with the script, hence my involvement. No, it was not a porno. The building is available for rental now to anybody.

When I arrived, I was met at the door by a caretaker. "Keep it down, they're filming." I said, "I know, that's why I'm here." "No, not your friends. Another film," he said. I walked in past a reception area that featured a couch, and a service counter, behind which was an empty, black-painted wall unit that had once housed about a dozen video monitors. The hallway to my left led to a dank, industrial area with brick walls, concrete floors, a laundry facility and an employee break room with vending machines and a microwave oven. This was where the people I was there to see were setting up, using the location for its resemblance to a prison. The hallway to my right was where various themed rooms were to be found. A school classroom, a doctor's office, all with the appropriate props. The other doors were closed so I couldn't see inside but I was told (very quietly) they just looked mostly like bedrooms. One of those doors opened up shortly after and two dudes, one carrying a small bag of camera equipment, and a woman came out. "We're all done", said the guy carrying the bag to the caretaker. The caretaker glanced inside the room, presumably to make sure nothing had been broken, stolen or, um, soiled while the male actor tucked his shirt in to his pants and the female actor brushed her hair and lit a cigarette.
"Did you guys do it?", I asked, suddenly turning 11-years-old.
"Do it?", the actress replied with a sneer.
"Yeah. You know, make a movie", I said, futilely attempting a smooth recovery, like all along I was curious about the creative process. Excuse me for never having been in a position of encountering porn stars immediately after punching out (so to speak) for the day. She rolled her eyes and made a "tsk" noise. I wanted to say, "I bet you made a lot of noises like that today", but I'm smarter than that so I didn't.
The camera guy said, "yeah, but it was just one scene."
I could have said, "Us too", but instead I asked, "How long does that take?". He replied, "we've only been here about an hour and a half, and that includes various set-ups After edits, we'll have about 15 minutes of usable footage." I nodded my head like 'yeah, that sounds about right (does that sound about right? I really don't know)'. "Is there really a church on the premises?", I asked and the caretaker said, "They're next door. We do our thing and they do theirs. We don't get in each others' way so it's no big deal. Although, we do have a church room. It's got an alter and everything. It's really nice!" "I'll bet!", I said stupidly and went back to the other hallway to watch my group film the jail scene.

Anyway, if you've ever wondered what's going on behind the walls of all those nondescript buildings you pass every day, don't be too surprised when you find out.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A couple of better plans for dealing with Abercrombie and Fitch

By now, you're probably familiar with what clothing manufacturer Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries said about his company's efforts to keep their products off the sub-par bodies of certain people. Oh you aren't? Well, here it is:
“That's why we hire good-looking people in our stores,” Jeffries said. “Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that.” He went on: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” - The Independent, May 8, 2013
Of course, thousands of companies have conducted business by adhering to that exact philosophy since shortly after the day people started buying stuff, but Jeffries was the first dummy to say so outside of a shareholders meeting or a Marx Brothers film, so he's Hitler basically. But cool.

He's his own man. And also his own Madame Tussaud's wax figurine.
 Being as that's the case, there's some backlash. You might be familiar with the "#FitchtheHomeless" campaign, which some guy came up with to promote giving homeless people A and F clothing and also get lots of YouTube hits. This campaign's message is simple and direct: 'You don't like not-so-cool people, Hitler Jeffries? Well, we put your clothes on the not-so-coolest people on earth: the homeless! Ha ha ha and fuck you (and also share my hashtag)!'
That might sound great on the surface but there are several problems with it, all laid out here at "Rage Against the Minivan". Basically, the fact that exploiting people perceived as being unattractive for the sake of teaching a lesson to somebody who perceived people as being unattractive is kind of stupid and mean.

So what to do? Shitty, elitist corporate scumbags certainly deserve to be taken down a peg or two, especially when they go out of their way to hurt people's feelings. But we don't want to demean others in the process. Well, as I see it, there are a couple of possible responses:
  1. We do nothing. They don't want me wearing their clothes and I not only don't want to wear their clothing, I also don't want them having my money. That actually seems pretty reasonable (and easy) to me. There's lots of people like me and if A and F (and the other companies that subscribe to the same philosophy but are more subtle in expressing it) can make a go of it without us, so be it. Let the marketplace decide. In the meantime, we'll just keep avoiding each other. Now, if you're one of the young, attractive and cool people whose business they do want and you feel it would be appropriate to not give it to them, I applaud you for making ethics-based choices when it comes to being a consumer and I appreciate your gesture. You're on your way to being a kind, compassionate person who demonstrates empathy for your fellow human beings. Good for you! On the other hand, if you're one of those young, attractive cool people and you feel like you want to just keep on shopping there because "meh", go ahead. Odds are that if there's ever a horrible fire at an A and F store, you and people like you will be the only ones who burn to death inside, drowning in the toxic smoke from all the burning hoodies, low-rise jeans and graphic tees, using the last of your oxygen to scream in vain for help while an overweight lesbian firefighter sits outside eating a tuna sandwich. Hopefully. Sorry, but there are more of us than there are of you and I promise that nobody will miss you snotty, self-absorbed little pricks. Either way, this plan boils down to 'ah, fuck 'em', frankly.
  2. Too passive? Fair enough. Tell you what, me and a bunch of other fat guys will get ourselves all greased up and head over to the mall where we'll try on every non-fitting garment in the place. Not only will the salty stains generated by our swampy armpits and crotches completely devastate their inventory but our mere fat, hot, sweaty, hairy presence clogging their store aisles and just generally hanging out should do wonders for their sales. Maybe some tv cameras will even show up. That would be funny, wouldn't it? 

So what say you? My preference is for the first plan. Not just because it requires less effort and I'm lazy as hell, but because I honestly believe it's the most effective. Either way, at least we're not insulting and demeaning a group of people to show somebody that it's not nice to insult and demean a group of people.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Finally, finally, finally!
"A Ridiculously Inconsistent Treasury" is finished and available for sale!

There's going to be SUCH a party (details to follow soon). In the meantime, to order one or several hundred copies, go to either or the store at

Thank you to everyone who has put up with my madness during this whole process.
Extra special thanks to my band, Amy DeMilo, Keri Ramos and Team Stehlik: Jessie and Pavel.

Oh, there is going to be SUCH a party!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The hero we deserve?

NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman says he is heading back to North Korea with hope of using his influence as a friend of leader Kim Jong-Un, to secure the release of American hostage Kenneth Bae. Why? Because...

"I'll be back over there. I'm going to try to get the guy out," the heavily tattooed Rodman said in between waving to well-wishers. "It's going to be difficult because I think his nationality, because of his background, I think it's a whole different situation," Rodman said, implying that Bae's Korean heritage raised Pyongyang's suspicions.

The player known as "The Worm" said he has not consulted with US officials about his mission, explaining of his relationship with Kim: "I don't do politics. Like I said, he's my friend, that's it." - AFP, May 10, 2013

Besties Forever!
Oh, and also because "We got a black president -- can't go even talk to him. Obama can't do shit."

Okay then.

Go ahead and chuckle because, well, it's funny. But what if Rodman gets the job done? Clint Eastwood became a mayor, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura became governors, Al Franken became a senator and Ronald Reagan was elected president twice. Who's to say that Dennis Rodman can't be a diplomat? I'm not saying Rodman persuaded Kim to not follow through with his plans for testing his nuclear weapons when he visited him back in March, but those tests haven't happened.

This might have been a factor, too.
 Maybe a pierced-and-tattooed, attention-seeking former NBA all-star with a penchant for crossdressing and snatching rebounds like nobody's business is ideally suited to the role of modern hero. After all, he's as "out there" as any celebrity in recent history and we already know every detail of his backstory. As such, I'd guess that makes him immune to the scrutiny and ridicule you risk enduring if you're someone like Charles Ramsey.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Passing judgment on people for fun and profit!

(A preemptive disclaimer: I'm sure I've mentioned this before but because of jobs I've done and other circumstances that have absolutely nothing to do with talent, skill, physical attractiveness or anything else of merit on my part, I have met famous people. This is not the point of the following story and I only mention it to illustrate what is the point of the story, which will be made self-evident. Hopefully.)

The other day it was announced that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be retiring the number 99, last worn by former defensive tackle Warren Sapp. For those who don't follow sports, this is the ultimate honor a team can bestow on one of their players.

Sapp played nine seasons for the Buccaneers and during that time, he rubbed more than a few people the wrong way. Around here (Tampa and the surrounding Tampa Bay area), it's actually difficult to find someone who doesn't have at least a second-hand account of an unpleasant interaction of some kind with him. Whether it was a refused autograph request, a run-in at a local nightspot or something else, you'll find no shortage of locals who are eager to dismiss him as a rude, surly jerk.
Here's the thing though: I've met Sapp four or five different times and he was never anything but personable and friendly with me, just like any normal person. Granted, that's not a huge sample size but 100% of the times I've dealt with him, he has never acted like a jerk in any way. I don't care about what other people say, I like Warren Sapp; he's always been nice to me.

Vince Naimoli used to own the Tampa Bay Rays (née Devil Rays), our major league baseball team. You will find about as many people who have nasty things to say about Naimoli as you will Sapp. He hasn't owned the team for over five years but there are those who would argue that his brusque manner and inept public relations efforts are responsible for the team's current attendance woes.
Here's the thing though: I worked for the Rays for over two years, including every home game during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, and every single time I encountered Mr. Naimoli, he was perfectly pleasant. If he wasn't in a huge hurry, he'd usually stop and want to chat about how the University of South Florida baseball team was doing. I don't care about what other people say, I like Mr. Naimoli; he's always been nice to me.

When people want to talk about the terrible, ill-tempered attitudes of Sapp and/or Naimoli, I can't participate. Sorry, but I make every effort to judge people, "famous" or otherwise, as individuals, based solely on my own personal experience. For me to say something nasty about either of these guys would simply be unfair. I'm not casting doubt on anybody else's experiences, it's just that I don't share them. "So you're saying you don't believe me when I say that Warren Sapp set my neighbor's house on fire and Vince Naimoli stole cotton candy from blind little leaguers?" No, not at all. What I'm saying is that for whatever reason, I don't share those experiences and for me to say otherwise wouldn't be right. How can I call somebody a jerk if they don't exhibit any jerk-like behavior in my presence?

That's a courtesy that I consistently try to extend to everyone I meet, with degrees of so-called fame or celebrity not being a factor and I feel good about it. Simply out, if you're nice to me, I will consider you a nice person and defend you as such to those who might say otherwise. Of course, vice-versa applies as well, although when it comes to the broad scope of things, I seem to encounter more nice people than assholes for some reason.

It's also largely for this reason that I'm glad time travel doesn't exist. Because if it did, I'm pretty sure there would be three lines at the time travel depot:
  • One: Go back and experience great historical moments firsthand in order to develop an in-depth understanding of why the world is the way it is now.
  • Two: Go forward and find out the results of sporting contests to come back and bet on them.
  • Three: Go back and kill Hitler 
Line One would be basically empty except for the people who got bored while waiting in lines Two and Three which would be jam-packed around the clock. And of course, I'd be in the Hitler line, but based on my experiences listed above, I'd be afraid the whole time that it wouldn't work out as intended.
"Hello. My name is Clark Brooks. You killed millions of innocent people. Prepare to die."
"But... but... I made cookies!"
"Cookies?!? Who cares? You're a monster of pure hatred and evil, guilty of genocide on an almost unimaginable scale! The last thing I want is one of your damned cookies, Hitler!"
"What did I ever do to you?"
"Me? Nothing directly... but... Do I smell oatmeal raisin?"
"Just out of the oven, mein friend!"
"Well, shit." 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Special Mothers Day offer for you!

"We love you! Where's our food?"
 It's almost Mothers Day and you know what that means: it's time for predatory companies that exist for the sole purpose of feeding off of people who get panicky about participating in made-up "holidays" that exist for the sole purpose of separating panicky people from their hard-earned money.
Don't get me wrong; mothers absolutely deserve to be honored. If anything, setting aside one measly day out of the whole year is insultingly inadequate. The one day thing is strictly a shoddy excuse for parasitic profiteers to cash in.
Well, I'm here to cash in!
Sure, you could order some flowers. I'll bet your mom would take a lot of comfort and satisfaction in knowing that she raised someone who is incapable of coming up with an original thought. Plus, I'm sure she's a huge fan of watching dead things rot.
You could also order some candy-coated strawberries from Shari's Berries. There's no doubt that they're delicious... and available at any number of local bakeries near you that don't have an 800 number and a computerized shipping department.
Then there's Daryl's Barrels (your mom might make you some pickels!) and Roger's Personal Massagers, two companies I totally made up.
But why mess with the rest when you can go straight to the best; Clark's Marks! Here's how it works:
  • You give me $20
  • I scribble on your mom with a Sharpie
That's it! More creative than some dumb old flowers! Less permanent than a tacky tattoo! Just check out some examples...

This one is called The Rocky Balboa. It looks like mom went 15 rounds with Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang! Hey, mom, eye of the tiger! Ha ha ha!

Remember the Little Rascals? Mom might. If so, she might enjoy The Petey! How should I know?

I call this one The Ziggy Stardust. Wham! Bam! Thank you, mom!

This one is The Ultimate Warrior or The John Randle or The Gene Simmons or The Batman. It's literally nothing but me scribbling on some poor woman's face. I don't feel good about it. It's still $20 though.
So go to the internet, click on this blog post right here and enter the special coupon code of "RIPOFF" in the box below. Then send me $20. I'll take care of the rest. Don't worry about sending me your mom's address; I'll find her.

Monday, May 06, 2013

We need to talk

We all engage in idle chit-chat, often every day, often several times a day. Nobody really wants to get involved in someone else's personal matters when they say, "Hi, how are you?" It's just a polite way to acknowledge someone else's existence. Everybody knows that. This is not to moan about how we've all lost touch with each other and how much better the world would be if we all took better care of each other. Geez, what would we do if they replied, "Thank God you asked! I have these polyps on my genitals and I haven't been able to talk to anyone about it!" We'd freak out, that's what. Plus, all that added empathy would wear us out. We'd all be a whole lot busier and we wouldn't be happy about it.
Still, maybe we have let things slide a little too far. What we should say, if we're interested in being honest is, "Hello, I want you to know that I see you occupying this same general chunk of space at the same time as me. I do not find this circumstance unpleasant. In fact, it's nice to know you are not dead and that I am not alone in the universe." And then the other guy says, "Yes, I agree." This is really all that needs to be said, although you could add the person's name if you know it. But that is not what happened to me the other day. This is:

"Hey, how are you?"
"Not much. How about you?"
"Pretty good, thanks."

Then we both just kept going. Neither one of us thrown off enough to bother to correct or even address it.

"How are you?"
"Not much."

Obviously, we each had presumptively loaded some dialogue into our brains and that encounter was supposed to either go like this:

"Hey, how are you?"
"Not bad. How about you?"
"Pretty good, thanks."


"Hey, what's up?"
"Not much. How about you?"
"Same here, thanks."

Neither one of us cared enough to prepare to be spontaneous beforehand nor did we care enough to correct ourselves afterward. The fact that we had each rendered the other's pre-formatted responses inane didn't matter. As it turned out, we didn't have a conversation, we just tossed some words that translated into utter nonsense at each other's general direction and went on our individual ways, neither richer nor poorer as a result. It might as well have played out like this:

"Hey, banana crisper?"
"Tornado muffin. Roller chicken?"
"Mango beetle fart."

This was literally the least two human beings could do in terms of having a verbal encounter. I suppose we could have just grunted at each other, but that would be considered rude... even though it would have actually made more sense.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Film Follies of 1915

A co-worker recently expressed interest in seeing the entire list of the 100 greatest movies of all time as selected by the American Film Institute. I guess because I'm one of the more sophisticated (old), erudite (elderly), experienced (damn near eligible for the senior discount at Golden Corral) and venerable ("hey, what was life like before they invented television?") people in the office, he asked me about some of the movies on the list. Shamefully, while I'm familiar with almost every one, I've probably only sat down and actually watched about a third of them.
One that he asked about was #44 on the list, "The Birth of a Nation".
"Ooh. That one's very controversial."
"I'm not sure. It's one of the many I haven't seen. Racism, I think."
"Well, it's one of the older movies on the list. It's a silent film that came out in 1915."
"That's true. Society has changed a lot since then. It's possible that what we find offensive now was just the way things were back then."

We took a look on line and learned some stuff. For instance, here's the movie's poster. 

Oh my, a masked warrior on horseback! What a classic icon of rugged American heroism. Not unlike...

But wait a minute; go back to the first one. What's it say down there in the corner...?
Oh shit!
Our further research revealed that in spite of it being a commercial success and the first motion picture to be screened at the White House (under President Woodrow Wilson), it was the subject of protests and banned in several cities because of its portrayal of black men (played by white actors in black face make-up) as ignorant, savage brutes as well as other general racist fucked-upedness (the real-life Ku Klux Klan used it as a recruiting tool and it was blamed/credited for a resurgence in Klan activity at the time). And that was in 1915! Think about that. You really have to question how offensive something had to be to get people to protest racism back in 1915: "Look, we're down with not letting them use our bathrooms or vote or date white women or play baseball or eat in restaurants or ride public transportation or stay in hotels or have access to good paying jobs, medical care and education. That all makes perfect, reasonable sense to us because it's 1915 and we're not even ready to treat the Irish or Italians like human beings. But Jesus, this! There's stuff that happens in this movie that just crosses the line. I mean, we're all racists here but come on!"

Still, it's on the AFI list. There must be some merit to it. Maybe just getting a 190 minute movie made in 1915 qualifies. At any rate, I suggested he start with "Tootsie".

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

I think I'm losing my edge

On my drive home the other day, I saw a group of kids on bikes waiting for a gap in traffic so they could cross the street. Between them and the street was a massive mud puddle, the result of a rain shower earlier that day. I slowed down and seeing that traffic was clear, swerved briefly into the other lane to make sure I didn't hit the puddle with my truck and splash muddy water on the kids. I did all of those things subconsciously. It never even occurred to me to speed through that puddle, a fact I realized when I looked in the rear-view mirror in time to see the car behind me absolutely drown those little fuckers. I mean a wall of water easily eight feet high delivered with such force as to knock one of them down, his bike falling awkwardly on top of him. All of them, doused head to toe, swore curses at the driver as he sped off.
This is the kind of missed opportunity that troubles me deeply; all I've got going for me is the entertainment value generated by my poor behavior and ill-informed decision-making. Granted, if I had hit that puddle like that, I would have discovered a pothole three-feet-deep and would have broken an axle or two, but that would be fair. The point is, how am I going to maintain any level of credibility on this blog if I'm not even good at being bad?