Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dear Maryland Drivers

Here's a math problem for you: I live about 17 miles from work.  15 of those miles are on a country road with a speed limit of 50 mph.  The other 2 miles are through a small town, with a speed limit of 25mph.  How long should it take me to get to work? If you answered over half an hour every day, because people in Maryland have no concept of 1) the speed limit means you can actually go that fast, and 2) turn lanes are there for a reason, then you win at math.  If you also answered that I will have honked my horn at least three different times and called someone a colorful name for a burlap sack full of a certain body part, you know me too well. 

It is almost certain that if I get caught doing 65 mph on this particular country road, I will get a speeding ticket.  This is supposedly because my going 15 mph over the posted limit causes a situation where I am dangerous to other drivers..  Reckless, if you will.  Why is it, then, that routinely I will end up stuck behind a car doing 35mph?  There will be a line of cars backed up, everyone stuck because it is a one lane road, and there is never an opportunity to legally pass.  Why can they go 15 mph under the speed limit and not be ticketed, and I cannot go 15mph over without fear of ticketing.  I have NEVER seen a car going slow and holding up a line of cars get pulled over, and I bet any of you readers can truthfully say you have never seen that happen either. 

It has been argued to me that these slow drivers are safer.  Is it safe for them to cause a large backup, to the point where someone may be willing to try to illegally pass them just to go a decent speed, even if it is just to get to the legal speed limit, and get where they are going?  Is that slow driver not creating a dangerous situation at that point?  The blame would get put on the person that tries to pass them, but the blame does not lie fully on them. 

Maryland drivers, I have another news flash: when the white lines on the side of the road veer off towards a turnoff for a road, they are called "turning lanes".  That means that you can move your idiot self out of the main roadway and then slow your car down to turn.  Why do you think you can stay in the main road, decelerate, and then turn directly from the road when there is a lane made specifically so someone does not ram every inch of their car up your ass?

Some day, I will finally install rubber bumpers and a cow catcher on my car, and you degenerates, as well as the pedestrians that refuse to use a cross walk, even though there is one every other block, will understand road justice.  If the state makes a law that I have to yield to anyone that is standing at a crosswalk, then fine.  I will stop my car every other block to let you and your mouth-breathing loved ones cross the road as slowly as possible.  But, it you can't be bothered to walk 10 feet to go to the designated spot, all bets are off.  I have places I need to go, and I am apparently the only one who needs to get there on time.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dear Reality Television Viewers

 In 1997, when I was laboring through homework during my freshman year of high school, I would keep the tv on as white noise.  One show I remember watching was a sitcom NBC was showing called Union Square.  It was a terrible Friends clone that the network was desperately trying to make catch fire, but turds rarely ignite.  The plot synopsis for the series goes as follows: Set in a New York diner called Union Square, this sitcom tells the story of a lawyer turned play-writer, an aspiring actress who just got to the Big Apple, an ex-con, an absent-minded waiter, and a neurotic real estate broker.  There has not been that many stereotypes on one set since Judd Nelson did his one man show entitled "Breakfast Pink Say Anything St. Elmo's Please Remember Who I Am".  The most notable actors on this show were the guy that had just quit playing Jimmy Olsen on The Adventures of Lois and Clark, and bizarre bug eyed character actor Jonathan Slavin who played the wacky waiter.  I feel like he wore a helmet in every episode, yet never was seen near a bike. 

You may be asking, at this point, gentle reader, why I have dedicated so many words to a TV show that lasted only 13 episodes and that I never liked.  For one, I remember stupid things like this, and they rattle around in my brain, knocking out memories from my actual life.  Secondly, I write this to illustrate that I would watch all 13 episodes of this show in an endless loop instead of watching one episode of any reality television show currently airing. 

I will not name many reality TV show by name in this letter, because I fear that by uttering its name, I will give it power it neither deserves nor has earned.  From what I can see, the genre falls into three subcategories, and only one even has a remote silver lining to it.  As a whole, the only real result to have come from any of this craze has been to slowly kill scripted television, and put thousands of actors, writers, directors, and behind the scenes people out of work.  It was a cause of the big writer's strike that almost ended scripted television as we know it, and for that, it has earned it's own place in hell.

I'm not going into how reality tv started, whether it was game shows, or when Survivor got huge.  Those all fall under the "Competitive" sub genre, which has been recently choked with people that think good singing is doing that stupid vocal thing every woman since Mariah Carey does where one word in the song is sung in thirteen different pitches.  Suddenly a song that was written to come in at 2 minutes 30 seconds gives Inna Gadda Davita a run for "Longest, Most Annoying Song Ever".  While I hate these shows, I understand why people watch them.  They are basically sports for people that don't care about sports.

The second subcategory, the one I tend to give a free pass to, are the shows that are about making things better.  "The Biggest Loser" gets people off of their lazy asses, and tends to inspire people to at least try to eat sensibly, or exercise, at least until the next commercial break.  I used to like to watch "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" because it was a show made to help people get better.  It was just really annoying that whenever I would watch it with my housemates in college, some jerkoff would be cutting onions all the time the next room over, or someone would inevitably be cleaning the house, kicking up dust and eye irritants.

The third type, the most reprehensible type, and unfortunately the only thing MTV an TLC have deemed worthy to air any longer, are the Darwin shows.  Don't begin to tell me that you watch these shows because they are entertaining.  You watch these because they are a foundation that you can point to and say "My life is horrendous, but at least I didn't have a baby when I was 15" or "I may be a borderline alcoholic that mentally abuses everyone around me, but at least I know people hate me.  Snooki has no idea."   I call these Darwin shows because if people would stop watching these shows, and networks would stop giving these people money, they would die due to natural selection within a week.  These people tend to barely have the intellect not to drown in a light rain, and we make them celebrities.  We have made it ok to exploit children in awful talent shows, because we love hearing the blithering nonsense the spoiled moron will spout.  We give tanned, barely functional douchebags superstar status and millions of dollars from getting drunk and fighting with each other constantly.

Frankly, it says alot about our society that we are willing to let highly trained actors go without work so we can watch "Amish Mafia" on endless repeat.  We are supporting these people financially while we point at them and laugh, all the while thinking we are superior to them.  You might as well pay a hooker so you can throw paint at her for an hour.  They hate that, and they usually charge more for it.  Put more simply, what if you got fired from your job as a doctor because people would rather go see some inbred hick that got pulled out of the backwater?  He doesn't have a medical degree, but he is willing to light his own farts on camera and will lick anything presented to him.   He will never be able to diagnose your raging case of scabies, but he's apparently passable entertainment, and that is all it takes anymore.  Do you like that scenario?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dear David O. Russell

Note to readers- I don't feel like there are any major spoilers revealed in this letter, but if you are really sensitive about that sort of thing, and you still haven't seen Silver Linings Playbook, then ere on the side of caution and don't read this until you've seen this very good movie.

Silver Linings Playbook is one of the better movies I've seen in recent memory.  The Golden Globes and Academy Awards seem to agree, having nominated your script and movie for top awards.  This does not mean that your movie is without fault.  Like any movie, there were technical gaffs, a few lines that fell flat, and a situation or two that rang false.  I am willing to let all of those go.  Well, all of those except for whatever genius you had onset that didn't bother to point of that Nnamde Asomugha and  Michael Vick didn't play for the Eagles in 2008, so no one should be wearing their jerseys in crowd scenes.  That sort of leads me into my point.  Not every single Eagles fan is a slandering, slobbering, medicated degenerate.  Cue all the jokes, har har har, but you really didn't have one single sane person rooting for my beloved Birds. 

The film starts off with De Niro talking about his new dream of opening a cheesesteak restaurant.  This, presumably, is because everyone in Philly either makes cheesesteaks or stabs nuns for a living.  Anyway, De Niro starts bashing Eagles wide receiver Desean Jackson for spiking the ball on the one yard line.   This is alluded to several times throughout the movie, but it is never fully explained.  I saw this movie with my friend Cindyloo, and she didn't understand what you were trying to get at.  This is the play, what would have been D. Jacc's first career touchdown-
The whole point you wanted to make, that De Niro's character tried to make several times, but which you couldn't be bothered to take the minute to elaborate, is that Jackson was a huge thing for the Eagles that year.  The only good wide receiver we had in ten years before him was Terrell Owens, and he ripped out our hearts and spit in the wound.  Everyone was thrilled to see what Jackson could do, and when he was finally given a shot, he acted like a cocky punk and worried more about swagger than the team.  That's what Eagles fans lamented, and that's what you didn't convey, the sense of heartache that we were about to be let down yet again by someone that refuses to live up to their potential.  It was an elegant metaphor that you slightly mauled, like a kindergartner trying to pet a cat "so it can feel it". 

You almost invert the movie Invincible.  That movie did a great job showing why we love the Eagles, and how there are real people beneath the bluster and all the stories of pelting Santa with snowballs.  Overall though, that movie was too treacly and ended up feel like the Disney movie it was.  Your movie, well, it wasn't treacly.  It had some real human emotion.  Lots of it, in fact.  So much, that every person that is ever seen in Eagles gear exhibits some disorder out of the DSM IV.  Bradley Cooper is bipolar, and his married friend seems to be so as well.  De Niro is almost cripplingly OCD and has severe rage issues.  The brother has some sort of dissociative disorder, or perhaps he is just poorly realized, poorly written, and underutilized.  I wouldn't think it was the latter though, since you are a genius filmmaker and never wrong, especially when you told George Clooney all he would ever amount to was being a TV actor.  Oh, and every Eagles fan in the parking lot outside of the game was either racist or ready to fight at the drop of a hat.  Way to make sure you weren't painting with broad strokes there, Davey. 

The biggest mistake you made was making a movie about Eagles fans where a pivotal tension point revolves around a game that any Eagles fan worth their salt remembers the exact frigging score of the game, even though it happened five years ago because the game was that awesome.  You also made a movie set in the Philly suburbs in the fall of 2008 and mention the Phillies winning the World Series ONCE, and that was IN PASSING.  That is akin to the old joke, "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"  People in Phillly were very excited about the Eagles that season, but not nearly half as thrillled as the first sports title we had seen in 26 years from the Phillies.  It seems ridiculous to me that you could almost emit that. 

Philadelphia sports fans have a very long memory for glory and for spite, Mr. Russell.  Luckily, you made an otherwise very good film, and we won't completely fault you.  You didn't make the film for just us, but I think it might have been better served had you kept us in mind more. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dear New Year's

You have joined Valentine's Day, Facebook, High School Reunions, and the Catholic Church as one of the top ways to make people miserable and feel guilty about the way they have lived their lives.  Nothing makes someone feel worse about the fact that they already don't fit into the pants they were given for Christmas like hearing how "fortunate" and "grateful" all your acquaintances are about their great jobs/significant others/houses/kids/rocket sleds/vacations that happened over the past year. 

I spend a good deal of my time, money, and dwindling patience finding things that take my mind off of how unhappy I am.  I do not need you promising me a "fresh start" each and every year, therefore reminding me that I cried in front of my fourth grade class when we watched "My Girl" and that's all they remember me for all these years later.  If I was going to take the time to say "Golly, it's January!  I can take this time to get into shape and stop yelling at people at restaurants!  This is going to be the best year ever!" then I would have done it by now.  On December 19th, I told a woman at Walmart that cut in line in front of me that maybe she shouldn't be in such a hurry to buy more cookies.  I don't think that twelve days later I am going to be into peace, love and understanding just because my Modern Family page a day calendar has run out.  

I have an understanding that there will not be some big party, I will not get that kiss at midnight, and that this year is going to be shockingly similar to last year.  I have come to terms with that, because I have taken the small victories.  I am in better shape already on January first this year than I have been since high school.  Pitchers and catchers will report to Florida in two and a half months, and there will be 162 Phillies games for me to enjoy.  I'll play golf sometime this year, perhaps even well at times, and sooner or later I'll see someone who is genuinely happy to see me.  I don't need Hollywood showing some ensemble cast or every commercial on TV telling me now is the chance to change my life.  If it is going to change, it'll do it regardless of what I do, and regardless of whether or not I like it. 

Maybe January 1, 2014 will roll around and my life will be amazing.  If that happens, I will roll with it.  If it doesn't I will roll with that too.  Just don't try to get my hopes up and don't make me regret the good things I have to lust after the things that I don't.