Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Holidays from Matt Groening and Larry David

Several years ago, I got the opportunity to meet the creators of two of my favorite shows of all time. The Simpsons, created by Matt Groening, and Seinfeld, co-created by Larry David are arguably two of the best shows ever made. They revolutionized the thirty minute sitcom, and paved way for a new path of comedy. The Simpsons and Seinfeld were shows that could be quoted at anytime; they could be related to everyday life. They were more than just shows. They became a part of you.

The Simpsons

In 1990, when the Simpsons first aired my buddy EG suggested that I check it out. I was 12 at the time. I remember sitting in the basement, glued to the TV. The episode was titled “The Call of the Simpsons.” Homer and Bart were starving and lost in the woods.

HOMER:
This is a trap. It's gonna catch us our dinner. Come on, boy. Shh. Just watch.

They patiently wait for their prey. A cute bunny steps into the trap and is catapulted high into the sky until there is a “thud” off screen. My buddy and I burst into laughter. After that, I was hooked.

When my parents asked me how many hours of TV I watched a day, I mimicked Bart Simpson: “6! 7 if there’s anything good on.” I watched hours of the Simpsons; the new episodes and the re-runs. In 7th grade history class, someone taught me how to draw each character; a tool which still comes in handy today when I’m bored. My parents continued to nag me asking how I could spend so much time watching a cartoon.

To further my obsession, I recorded all of the classic Simpsons episodes on one tape. When my Mom accidentally taped it over with Murder, She Wrote, I flipped out. I finally calmed down, forgave my Mom and Angela Lansbury, and convinced myself to start again. After 5 years, I compiled Volumes 1-8, and close to 200 episodes. It gained me mass amounts of popularity as people from college and high school would come over just to watch my homemade tapes.

My parents finally accepted my obsession when Time Magazine voted The Simpsons “The best Show of the 20th century.” I knew it since I was 12 years-old.

(The show has clearly become weaker, but I still re-watch my VHS tapes, and the re-runs on TV, and relive the magic.)

Seinfeld

Seinfeld was one of the shows that brought my father and me closer. Our relationship revolved around sports, but we also had another thing in common; we loved to laugh. The discovery of Seinfeld strengthened our bond. We split our sides over the expressions Soup Nazi, Mulva, Sparing a Square, the Bubble Boy, and These Pretzels are Making Me Thirsty. At social functions, my Dad and I could integrate a Seinfeld reference into almost any conversation. When my Dad met my friends, he immediately earned their respect by slipping in a line about Man Hands or Vandelay Inustries.

It’s still the same routine when I return home. We finish dinner, head to the living room, and watch a re-run of Seinfeld. We know what’s coming, but we still laugh. The show pulls off 3 or 4 sub-plots at the same time, and then smoothly blends them together as one. Seinfeld is pure genius.

So when I got the opportunity to meet Matt Groening and Larry David, I jumped on it immediately.

Matt Groening

It was the Spring of 2003. My friend, T-Bone, had been working as a production assistant for Futurama, also created by Matt Groening. He was able to score me a ticket to a table read for the Simpsons. All the actors sit in a conference room and would read the script aloud.

I arrived early to the conference room and had trouble containing my excitement. I didn’t want to be a stupid fan so I took a deep breath and attempted to stay mellow. T-Bone and the other assistants were setting up craft services (the food!) so I was all alone. I figured I would speak to a few people to pass the time. I spoke to one woman who was a producer on Frasier. Despite her success in the business, one of her dreams was to go to a Simpsons table read. I looked around the room and noticed the age range was from early 20’s to late 60’s. The Simpsons had a lot of fans. I sat next to an older man with graying hair, goatee, and a slight gut; he kind’ve looked like Comic Book Guy.

I said hello, and he nodded back.

ME: Have you ever worked on the Simpsons?

He gave me a half-smile and slight nod before he was called over by someone else.

T-Bone quickly sat next to me and had only one question.

T-BONE: So…..what did you say to Matt Groening?!

My eyes widened, and my jaw fell. I let out a sigh.

I had just met the creator of the Simpsons and asked if he’d ever worked on the show. There was only one thing I could say.

ME: DOH!

(I ran into Matt Groening at a Futarama reading one month later. I apologized and he laughed; he didn’t even remember. He autographed a Futarama script which hangs on my wall as I write this.)


Larry David

It was the fall of 2003. T-Bone, MB, and I all scored tickets to a screening of a movie called Envy. If anyone were to ask you what’s the worst Jack Black and/or Ben Stiller movie of all time, the answer would be Envy. My friends and I wished we hadn’t come. It was painful. We thought about leaving until we looked to our left and noticed Larry David was three seats to the left of me. I later learned he was one of the executive producers.

Envy finally cut us a break and ended. On the way out, my friends and I were chosen to be in a focus group. About a dozen of us were selected, and an interviewer asked us questions about the movie. Most of the people were idiots. I vividly recall a film geek saying: “This is Christopher Walken’s best movie since Pulp Fiction.” I couldn’t hold back. This movie was horrible. I went into a diatribe how this was one of the worst movies I’d ever seen. Within seconds, the focus group agreed with me. In retrospect, I wished I had shut my mouth as Larry David was in earshot of the entire conversation.

***A few fun trivia facts about Envy from IMDB.com***

1) The movie having been shot almost two years before it was released in theaters was in danger of being released straight to video due to poor audience response during test screenings. It was only due to The School of Rock (2003)'s huge success that it finally got a theatrical release.

2) Performed so poorly in US theaters, that it was released straight-to-video in Europe.

3) At the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, during a press conference for Shark Tale (2004), both Jack Black and Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg publicly apologized for Envy (2004).

Back to Larry David

The focus group ended, and Larry David was standing near the exit. I had to speak with him. My friends shook their heads begging I just let him be. He was the creator of Seinfeld. If I didn’t speak to him, I would always regret it.

The good news is that I had a plan. This is what I would say.

ME: I know you must hate it when people come up to you like this, but I’m a big fan, and My Dad absolutely loves you. And he’d be excited to know I got a chance to meet you. Congratulations on your success!

I took a deep breath and approached Larry David. His back was to me so I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and looked confused and paranoid. He stared at me waiting for me to say something, but I froze.

Then I uttered the five words that I’ll never forget.

ME: I KNOW YOU HATE PEOPLE!

He was shocked and so was I. That wasn’t what I had planned to say. There must’ve been three seconds of silence, but it seemed like an eternity. I realized I only had his attention for a brief moment. I could apologize or just go on with my speech. I decided on speech, but it didn’t get any better.

ME: I mean…I love you. My Dad loves you. I love my Dad. My Dad loves me. We love you.

Mr. David was no longer shocked; now he was afraid. I was turning red with trepidation; he was red with confusion; my friends behind me were red with laughter. He finally responded.

LARRY DAVID: I don’t hate people as much as you might think.

I went in to give him a handshake, but it turned into ½ handshake, ½ hug. It was even more awkward. He finally escaped my grasp, and slowly backed away like you would with a crazy person.

I think I wished him good luck, but I really can’t remember. My friends finally pulled me away.

First Matt Groening, and now this.

THE FUNDRAISER


Why do I bring this up now?

Two weeks ago, I held a fundraiser to benefit low-income high school students. One of my projects was a silent auction. I cold called every celebrity I could think of. I spoke to agents, mangers, publicists; just about everyone in the Hollywood scene. Some of the people sent small items while others (Vince Vaughn, Chris Rock, and Adam Sandler) sent nothing.

But the first two people to respond to my query letters were Matt Groening and Larry David. Within three days, packages were sent across the country for the fundraiser. There were autographed DVDs, scripts, and clothing. Mr. Groening and Mr. David helped raise a substantial amount of money for kids in need.

Five years ago, I embarrassed myself in front of two of my idols. But now I have a new story. It’s not quite as funny, but it’s definitely more inspiring. If Matt Groening and Larry David ever read this, I just want to say “thank you” and let you know: "I know you don’t hate people.”

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Match Game: The Ins and Outs of Match.com

I have never been the type of person that shares lots of details about my dating life. My Mother asks me weekly, and I usually avoid the conversation. If I reveal any details, the grand inquisition begins. If I say nothing, there is immediate disappointment. I usually opt for the disappointment.

Last June, my Mother and I had the following dialogue about my love life.

Mom: So…do you have a special friend?

Me: Not right now.

Mom: What about that nice Jewish girl, my friend’s niece…did you ever call her?

Me: Not yet. I’m working on it.

Mom: What about that other girl from the Israel trip? She sounded nice…did you email her?

Me: I’m gonna do it later.

Mom: PAUL…do you like girls?

And the answer is YES. Of course I do (not that there’s anything wrong if you don’t.) But I was tired of being set up. I was tired of J-Date (Read here to understand why: http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2008/08/j-date-202.html) And I was tired of dating girls simply because they were Jewish. As a Jewish man, it is definitely preferred by family that you settle down with a Jewish girl. There are definitely some amazing Jewish girls out there, but why should I limit myself? Why can’t I meet girls from different backgrounds?

I am not a Girlist! I will date any type of girl. I will not discriminate based on ethnicity or religion. The only girls I won’t date are Republicans, Yankees fans, and girls that don’t like the Wonder Years (see my dealbreaker link for more: http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2008/06/deal-breakers.html)

There are two kinds of Jewish men: The ones that date only Jewish girls. And the ones that rebel and do the complete opposite. I am the latter. I will date Asian girls, Latina girls, African-American girls; I even made out with a deaf girl once.

This led me to the inevitable. I scrapped J-Date and moved on to something else. A place with variety. A place where people haven’t heard of the Matzoh Ball Dance. A place where religion didn’t matter. A place where some girls were just looking to have fun.

A little place called Match.com.

Match.com

The Summer of 2008 was one of the best of my life thanks to Match.com. It was the first time I felt like a player. I am normally the typical nice guy; a hopeless romantic; the protagonist you might see in an 80’s movie. But Match.com allowed me to blossom. It allowed me to meet girls who weren’t looking for anything serious. Girls that just wanted to have fun. And girls that just wanted to have fun with me. I felt like I had super powers; like I was the captain of the football team or a famous musician. I felt really cool!

Since I analyzed J-Date in my other posts, I thought it was only fair to break down the ins and outs of Match.com. The following methods helped me meet lots of cool, attractive, and down-to-Earth women.

And before women roll their eyes, I want to say this in my defense. I am generally a nice guy. I am honest with women and treat them respectfully. I have never cheated on a girlfriend (although I have not had that many to cheat on.) And my ultimate goal is to meet the right girl. But to quote AC Slater: “Why not have fun with the wrong ones until I find the right one?”

The Profile

Match has a pretty similar system as J-Date. You enter your age, location, ethnicity, religion, body type, height, and if you’re a smoker/drinker.

My family thinks I’m 6’ and my friends think I’m 5’ 8”. I usually compromise and list myself as 5” 10.” I could be exaggerating by an inch, but it makes me feel better.

The first thing that I learned is not to list my religion. The first week, when I mentioned I was a Jew, only Jewish girls contacted me. So I changed my Religion response to “No Answer” and everything opened up for me.

About Me

This is where you list your hair color, eye color, interests, education, job, favorite sexual position (just kidding, but that would be cool) income, astrological sign, etc.

But my favorite categories are: Best Feature and Body Art.

Best Feature

I love scrolling through girl’s profiles and seeing them brag about their bodies. Best features include: butt, breasts, legs, and ankles. What’s sexier then a girl with firm ankles?

Body Art

This section gives a girl a chance to talk about her tattoos and piercings. Some guys aren’t into it, but I’m a sucker as long as their bodies are mostly intact. For me, if a girl gets a tattoo, it means she is spontaneous, adventurous, and can make decisions. It also means she’ll probably hook up a lot faster. To quote Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers: “Tattoo on the lower back? Mine as well be a bulls-eye.” And if she’s got a tongue ring—come on, now. That’s a no brainer.

On the flip side, I leave my body art answer empty which makes me more mysterious. On one date, a girl was obsessed to find out if I had a tattoo. Since I didn’t list anything, she was intrigued to discover the truth. This lead to lots of flirting, exploration, and a very fun night.

Turn-Ons and Turn-Offs

This is by far my favorite section to look at. Turn-ons/turn-offs include: Boldness/Assertiveness, dancing, flirting, sarcasm, thrills, candlelight, long hair, money, power, thunderstorms, etc.

(I never understood being turned on or off by thunderstorms. What the hell does the weather have to do with dating? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?)

The two turn-ons I immediately look for are: skinny dipping and erotica. If girls are turned-on by skinny dipping, it means they like to be naked (yes!), enjoy swimming (always nice), and like to be naked (yes again!)

I don’t know what erotica is, but I’m pretty sure it’s a nice way of saying porn. So if a girl writes that she is turned-on by erotica, it means that she likes porn. If she likes porn, it means she likes sex. So by the associative property, if a girl likes erotica, it means that she might have sex with you.

If she leaves the response empty, she could still like porn, so don’t hang your head. If she writes erotica as a turn-off, immediately move on to someone else.

Photos

Pictures are incredibly important. You could be the best writer ever, but if your pictures aren’t up to par, you’re in trouble. Let’s be realistic. Whether it’s online or in person, you’re going to approach people that you find attractive.

My advice is to use the following types of photos:

Photo #1

A picture with you and an animal. Girls loves animals, especially cute and cuddly dogs. It shows that you are sensitive, and it gives them an ice breaker when they write you: “Your dog is so cute…what’s his name?”

Photo #2

A picture with you and kids. It could be a nephew/niece, the basketball team you coach, or the time you volunteered at that school. This will melt their hearts and make you seem like a great guy.

On the flip side, women should be very careful of putting kids in their photos—first off, it may scare the guy off because he’ll think you have a kid. Second, it implies that you are already thinking about family and the future which is also scary.

Photo #3

The funny picture. This could be as simple as a funny pose, your goofy Halloween costume, or the time you were in a dunking tank. It is important to keep it lighthearted and silly; make them laugh; don’t scare them (i.e. if you dressed up as a bloody, beaten up, grizzled Vampire, do not put this in…this applies for both guys and girls.)

Photo #4

The stylish photo. This is a picture of you at your friend’s wedding. You look regale and sophisticated in your suit or tux. You are an accomplished and responsible man. This could be way off, but in that photo, it appears to be true.

Photo #5 and More...

Match allows at least 20 photos. I would choose quality over quantity. Four pictures are perfect, but if you want to add a few more, go with “These are the places I visited” photos. But make sure you’re in it. A nice picture of the Eiffel tower, the Grand Canyon, or In-N-Out Burger doesn’t matter to anyone. But if you’re standing next to it and look good, then you got yourself a photo.

Photo to Avoid

Many girls have told me: “There is nothing worse then pictures of shirtless men on dating sites.” It’s curious because if I see a shirtless woman, it’s awesome, but apparently women don’t feel the same way about us.

Instant Messaging

Match is a little behind the times on this one. While IM is offered, it is hard to use, and most users are not accessible. People rarely respond; well at least every time I tried to contact them. This is one of the few categories where J-Date is better.

Emailing

I have no idea what to write in this message to get a response, so I’ll just be honest. That was my opening line because it was the absolute truth. I really have no idea what to write. If there’s a secret virtual pick up line, I’d love to hear it.

My only advice is get to the point. At first I exchanged 5 or 6 emails. But then the girl would stop responding; this is most likely because somebody else asked her out. I learned my lesson and started asking girls out within the second email. They usually sent back their number. If I passed the phone call test, I actually had a date set up.

The Phone Call Test

This is a preventative tool used by women to make sure that you’re not crazy. I used to be a horrible phone talker until my long distance girlfriend taught me how to speak on the phone. I learned to avoid mumbling and speak clearly. I learned about timing and transition. And I learned how to listen and watch ESPN at the same time (harder then you might think.) But I still never mastered the phone message...

The Phone Message

Leaving a message for a girl is one of the most painful and grueling experiences (remember Mikey from Swingers.) You don’t what to say, how to say it, or when to stop. When you hang up, you always feel stupid and think: “Why did I just say that?” And if they don’t get back to you, you keep thinking: “If I hadn’t left that idiotic message, she would’ve called me back.” But the good thing about Match is that they’ve already agreed to go out with you. They’ll call you back because it’s different then the real world.

In the real world, the girl may give out her number because:

1) She’s too nice.
2) So you’ll leave her alone.
3) She is mildly interested.
4) She is drunk.
5) She feels bad for you.
6) She is interested.
7) She wants a free dinner.

But if it’s 1-5, she’s not calling you back. If it’s 6 or 7, you may stand a chance. But with online dating, these rules don’t apply which is a breath of fresh air.

The Date

Once you’re on the date, it’s up to you. If you really need advice, you can watch Hitch or just read my blog next month.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

As the summer ended so did my subscription to Match.com. The leaves changed color, the air became crisp, and my dating life cooled off. The summer was over.

I actually rejoined Match.com one more time. The day after I forked over the 40 dollar (43 with tax) subscription fee, I met a girl without the aid of the internet. I got her number, and two days later, I left the dreaded phone message.

I waited for her to call me back. One day. Nothing. Two days. Nothing.

On the third day, I thought to myself: “Why did I leave that terrible message? I’m an idiot!”

On the fourth day, she called me back, and I haven’t been on Match since.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Just a Game

DISCLAIMER: This post is not for everyone. Religion is a tricky thing to write about. If I offend you, at least I put in a disclaimer. If I don’t offend you, I will try harder next time.

A Religious Experience

Every week, millions of people come together for a common cause. They hope. They chant. They pray. They believe that there is something out there that is bigger than them.

But there are also the skeptics who ridicule these beliefs. They say that there is no scientific evidence that hope and prayer make a difference. And that faith does not matter.

And they may even say: “You know, it’s just a game!”

For the millions of people that congregate together to watch sports, it is clearly more than just a game. It is a religious experience.

It is a time when people from different faiths, races, cultures, political affiliations, socioeconomic statuses, and haircuts can come together and support the same cause. There is no proof that fans (especially those watching on TV) have an effect on the game. But this doesn’t keep people from yelling at the TV, knocking on wood, holding hands, and finally just hoping and praying. Sports is their religion.

When people ask me about ethnicity and religion, I usually reply like this. “My ethnicity is Judaism and my religion is Boston sports.” The truth is that I spend more time praying when I’m watching a game then when I’m in synagogue. I think of Fenway Park as my sanctuary; not Temple Sinai. My family occasionally gets together for the high holidays, but we always come together for the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics.

“When I was about 18 and my Dad and I couldn’t communicate about anything at all, we could still about baseball. Now that was real.”

-Daniel Stern in City Slickers

Boston sports have a rich history, but it does not stand alone. In fact, most sporting teams (just like religions) have rich traditions whether it’s professional, college, or even high school (see Friday Night Lights.)

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is a staple of Major League Baseball. Adults and kids alike happily ask for peanuts and cracker jacks every single game. It’s like the equivalent of the songs you sing in church/temple/your sanctuary every single week.

At Fenway Park, 35,000+ people sing “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning. The tradition is somewhat new, but those who have taken part can explain it’s quite an experience.

At the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, 110,000 people fill the stadium every home game. 110,000! Fans wear their colors and chant their fight song with pride. Even though the team sucks now, fans still attend because it’s tradition. It’s a part of them.

While I lived in LA, I went to UCLA games and learned the 8 clap; the traditional cheer all the fans know. Unfortunately, I went to a D-III school so this was new to me. But almost every D-1 university takes pride in their rituals, traditions, cheers, and fight songs. And everyone performs them together as one.

Almost all of the stadiums have nuances that make them special. They may not have stained glass windows and altars, but there are green monsters, ivy walls, Lambeau Leaps, perfect blades of grass, parquet floors, banners, statues, and that special feeling in the air.

And those that cannot attend the games find their own sanctuary; their own place where everyone knows the fight song, the chants, the rituals, and the superstitions.



"And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it. And it struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground. Amen."

-Preacher Purl in Hoosiers

Their teams can become a symbol of hope. The underdog overcoming adversity is the equivalent of the biblical tale of David versus Goliath. These teams inspire people. They make them think twice about saying that something is impossible. These teams also account for 2/3 of all Disney movies.

Sports have even adapted religious terms and expressions. When an athlete makes a lucky play, it’s called a “prayer.” In football, a “Hail Mary” is a last-ditch bomb at the end of a game, where a completion is pretty much impossible. After a fan witnesses their first momentous sports event, they are “baptized” into the game.

Sports fans often mutter expressions about God and Jesus Christ although they are not always in the kindest tone. And of course, there are the athletes who merge sports and religion together by thanking their savior for the help.

Sports are also connected to a number of holidays both religious and secular. Easter dinner goes hand in hand with the Elite 8. Christmas Day features the two best NBA match-ups. People fast on Yom Kippur, but also tune it for the MLB playoffs. New Year’s Day is about hangover recovery and the college football bowls. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without the NFL. In fact, the only day without a major televised sport is the day before and after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

CONVERTING

Religious fanatics spend much of their time trying to convert us. Well, so do sports' fans. As a Boston fan, I have actively tried to convert others to join my cause. When I worked at an elementary school in California, I gave kids candy if they wore Boston gear. But the most common conversion usually happens with women.

How to Convert a Girl

Before you try this, you must remember some girls are lost causes. If she is a Daddy’s girl, it means she has already been converted by her father. Her beliefs are deeply implanted and it will take too much time to change them. Another challenge is presented if she actually knows the players and stats of the team she supports. It is also very difficult to convert a girl who roots for your opposite team (i.e. Yankee fan to Red Sox fan.) For me, a Yankee Fan is an immediate deal breaker. (See Deal Breakers for more: http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2008/06/deal-breakers.html)

But the majority of the female population is convertible. It usually works like this. Once the girl likes you, she becomes curious about your passions. Since you love the _______ (fill in the blank), she wants to know more about them. You watch a game together. You explain the rules, the tradition, and the history. You even throw in a few stories how you and your father/brothers/friends bonded over sports, and how much it means to you.

As she learns more, she gets excited. Next, comes the sports gear. You buy her a T-shirt, jersey and/or hat. Now she feels a part of something. She wears her new hat with pride, and without realizing it, may even try converting her friends to join the cause.

Then, you take her to your sanctuary (it could be the stadium, your neighborhood bar, and even a friend’s place where you watch games) to expose her to the excitement. Seeing other people cheer for the same thing is pretty hard to resist. She is now becoming a part of the tradition. If she sees a special game, (a walk-off, a comeback, a no- hitter, etc.) she becomes “baptized” as a fan.

The girl finds herself following the team even when the guy isn’t around. She may not watch the whole game, but she checks the scores, and consciously hopes that her new team does well. She picks a favorite player. Usually it’s based on good looks, and she becomes locked in. When that player is featured in the game, she gets really excited.

Remember: Initially, she only rooted on the team to support her boyfriend, but now it’s a part of her. She is getting into it.

The final step of conversion revolves around “family.” If the girl meets your father/brothers/childhood friends and sees the tradition, history, and bonding, she is officially in. There is now a substantial connection. There is no going back.

The only way to lose a converted fan is after a bad break-up. Men must be careful how they end things if they don’t want their team to lose a fan. If it ends rocky, the girl will resent the man and all of his beliefs. Thus, her passion for the new team will turn into rage. But if the man follows all of the steps above, it might be so ingrained that she still must root for the new team.

“Clearly, it's not just a game! If it was, then obviously I wouldn't care about it this much.”

-Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch

So the next time you hear someone say: “It’s just a game,” remember that it is far more than that. It is a religious experience; it’s about history, tradition, and family.

If you don’t agree with this, I guess that’s OK. But all I ask is that you try to understand. This is why we go crazy for sports. This is why sports have been around forever. This is why sports are important to us.

“And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

-James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams

Monday, October 13, 2008

Little Things That I Think Are Cool

The other day I left a restaurant and was walking home. I was a block from the restaurant when I saw the waiter chasing me down. My negative instincts took over. What, did I not tip him enough? Is he upset with me? What is this guy doing? He finally caught up to me and handed me my jacket which I had forgotten in the restaurant. I thanked him and smiled. What a cool thing to do.

My last post was about little things that annoy me. Sometimes, I complain so much that I forget about things that are cool. I think it’s only fair to focus on the positive as well.

Little Things That I Think Are Cool

1) Finding Money in Your Pocket

This has happened to all of us and it is very cool. You throw on a pair of jeans you haven’t worn in a while. When you dig into the pocket, you find some cash. It may only be a one or a five, but it’s not really about the money. It’s about random luck. It puts you in a good mood. You may even tell your friends about it: “I found 5 bucks in my back pocket today…how cool is that?” Very cool.

2) Your Favorite Song(s) or Movie(s) is on the Radio or TV

It doesn’t matter if you have the CD or DVD, if one of your favorite songs or movies comes on, you are psyched. Sure, you can listen to it anytime, but there’s something special and random about it. I have a copy of Back to the Future on my shelf and can watch it whenever I want. But if I’m flipping the channels and it’s on TV, I’m watching the whole thing right then and there.

3) Hot Girl Smiles at You

One of the greatest feelings in the world is walking down the street, minding your own business, when you suddenly pass a stunning, beautiful woman. Nowadays, most people walk with their head down, and avoid eye contact at all costs. But this time, the gorgeous woman gives you a warm smile. I don’t know if the hot girl realize this, but that smile could make an ordinary guy’s day, week, or even month. The guy will proudly tell his friends about it. He’ll remember it for a long time. It’s sad to say, but it’s true. A hot girl smiling at you is very cool.

4) When People Ask: “Have you been working out?”

This is the coolest. I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman, (the female version could also be: “Have you lost weight?”) this makes you feel damn good. If you have been working out, it’s great knowing that people can tell. If you haven’t, I’d argue that’s even cooler. I remember coming back from Vegas a few months ago. I certainly was not there to work out. But when I came back, I looked tan (it’s also cool when people say: “you look tan.”) I must’ve looked relaxed and fit because several people asked if I’d been working out. I thought it was cool. I should go to Vegas more often.

5) Three Simple Words: “On the House.”

There’s nothing much better then hearing these three words. It usually occurs in a bar, but other places occasionally break it out as well (restaurants, ice cream shops, bowling alleys.) You don’t know what you did to deserve it, but it feels damn good. Maybe they feel bad for you, or the guy behind the counter got laid the night before, but either way, you get something for free. It’s a very cool feeling.

6) Plays of the Week

Men may only identify with this, but women, you should get on board too. Plays of the week show the most unbelievable, thrilling, crazy plays in sports. It’s two minutes of joy and excitement where each play seems to be better then the next. If I’m in a social setting, and the Plays of the Week come on, the conversation is over. POTW must be watched. It automatically puts me in a good mood. Very cool.

7) Finding a Shortcut


Your drive to work/school is the same thing every single day. It’s a mundane routine. Take a left at the Dunkin’ Donuts. Right at the Walgreen’s. Boring. But then one day, it hits you. You wonder what would happen if you took that side road that you pass everyday. You try it and it ends up being a shortcut; you actually save a few minutes and avoid some traffic. You proudly tell your friends about it, but only your close ones, because you don’t want everyone finding out. Every time you make the shortcut you feel a sense of power and pride. It’s definitely a cool feeling.

8) The Head Nod

The head nod is a very subtle, but useful, motion that can be very cool. I need to clarify that I’m not referring to the condescending head nod that the d-bag would use to show he’s better then you. I’m referring to the head nod where a connection had been made.

For example, you’re walking through New York with your Red Sox hat on, and you pass another person doing the same. Instead of talking, you each perform the head nod. A connection has been made. The head nod can also be used on the basketball court. You make a great pass, and your teammate scores. You don't need to say anything to each other. Instead, a pair of head nods conveys the mutual respect. The head nod is also great to avoid conversation. If you see someone from a distance, but don’t want to speak with them, just perform the head nod. The person feels good for being recognized, but you don’t have to waste your time talking to them. If used properly, the head nod is both versatile and very cool.

9) Getting a Random E-Mail or Phone Call from an Old Friend

When you check your email or phone messages, it’s almost always the same people. Your Mom called again to try to set you up with someone; your friend called to complain about her love life; another work email; another spam email from Dr. Mercola on how to increase your size. It’s tiresome. But every once in a while, you get an email or phone call from a friend you haven’t talked to in forever. It’s hard to overcome the excitement. You’ll have so much to talk about. And you feel extra good knowing an old friend from years ago was thinking about you. Because of sites like Facebook, this is becoming more common, and I think it’s cool. Sometimes, people are apprehensive about contacting an old friend, acquaintance, and/or co-worker since it’s so out of the blue. But go for it. I guarantee they’ll think it’s cool.

10) The Lunch Special & Happy Hour

When I lived in Spain, there was something called the Menu Del Dia. You got an appetizer, lunch entree, dessert, and a bottle of wine for chump change. You left full, drunk, and happy. The lunch special in the States isn’t nearly as cool, but it’s up there. Not every restaurant does it so when you find a good one; it puts a smile on your face. The most common lunch special is at Chinese food restaurants. I stopped eating Chinese food for dinner because of the lunch special. Why would you spend $15 for dinner when you could get the same thing for $5 at lunch? It makes no sense. Lunch specials are the coolest, and I recommend you take advantage of them.

Happy hour is lunch special-esque. Who doesn’t like discounted alcohol? Buy one; get one free. Sweet! The happy hour has saved me hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars. If you’re an avid dater, the happy hour is quite the blessing.

11) People That Let You Cut in Line

You’re waiting in line to buy one thing. You have exact change and know the purchase could be made in under 30 seconds. Unfortunately, the person in front of you has a cart of goods, and could take15 minutes to finish. It’s an agonizing feeling. You want to say something, but know you can’t. Then suddenly, the person in front of you lets you go. It’s very cool and you thank them a million times. That person should be commended.

On the flip side, if they don’t let you go, that person is very annoying, and should be punished in some way. But I’ll write about that when I do my “People Who Annoy Me” post.

12) School/Work is Cancelled

When you were a kid, there was nothing better than waking up to a huge snow storm. You and your brothers/sisters huddled around the TV to see which schools were closed. When your school flashed across the screen, it was absolute joy. It meant you could go back to sleep, or venture outside for sledding, snow angels, and snowball fights. The coolest!

It rarely happens as an adult, but every once in a while, work gets cancelled. It could be due to the weather, a natural disaster, or an error in the work schedule. Who cares? As long as nobody gets hurt, it’s all good. Since it happens so rarely, when work is cancelled, you take advantage of that day. You cherish it. And you remember it for a long time.

Homer Simpson states it best when it comes to days off:

Marge: Work called. They said if you don’t come in on Friday, then don’t bother coming in on Monday.

Homer: Woohoo! Four day weekend!

13) When People Comment on My Blog

Thanks to those who have; I think it’s the coolest!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Little Things That Annoy Me

This afternoon I was on HOLD with the cable company. I expected someone to pick up after 5 or 10 minutes. Nothing. So I waited another 30 minutes. Still nothing. At this point, I had to make a decision. Hang up and call later, or stay on for the long haul. I elected to sit and wait as I had nothing to do anyways.

But after a period of time, I reached my limit. I was on hold for 1 hour, 47 minutes, and 14 seconds. I memorized all the service announcements as well as the hideous hold music. I just couldn’t take it anymore. The worst part is that I’ll have to call back and wait again. I took a picture of my cell phone's “hold time" for evidence. Maybe I’ll send it in with a complaint letter and get a few months of cable for free.

After I hung up, I was angry, annoyed, and stressed. It ruined my day. I wish I could let things slide off my back, but stupid things like this really piss me off. Then, I started thinking of all the little things that annoy me.

Here is that list (I didn’t include 'people that annoy me' because that’s a different post entirely.)

Little Things that Annoy Me

1) Pennies & Loose Change

When the register flashes $4.03, and all I have is a $5 bill, my heart sinks. Now I have to carry around loose change for the rest of the day. The change then jingles wherever I go which is incredibly annoying. Most of the time it ends up lying in my change bin on my desk for the next several years. It is a complete waste.

As far as pennies, they are completely unnecessary. Sure, they are good to throw into a fountain, find for good luck, or put on the train tracks, but besides that, they are useless. They are inconvenient, occasionally rusty, and quite annoying. I tip my hat to the storekeepers who accept a dollar on a charge that’s really $1 and 3 cents. They should be applauded and rewarded for their attempt to eliminate the penny as well as loose change.

2) No Free Refills

First off, I never understood why people would order a more expensive large soda, when they could just refill the small ones for free. It makes no sense. But what is worse are basic restaurants/pizza places/fast food joints that don’t allow for free refills. You will rarely find them, but when they pop out, you will be very annoyed. Many times, it’s not even advertised that they don’t provide free refills. Four sodas later, and your bill is fattened by $12 dollars. What the hell? I have very little respect for restaurants that have ignored our rights to free refills.

3) Pens Not Working

You’re on the phone. You just want to jot down an important message. You take out your pen. It works for a second before it fades away. What the hell? It just worked in a minute ago. Then you bend, twist, and shake the pen hoping something will happen. Many times this works, but by the end you’re very annoyed. At least you fixed it. Then mid-way through writing, it dies again. We can put a man on the moon, but we don’t know how to make pens that consistently work. This is a travesty.

4) Broken Earphones

Without hyperbole, this is one of the worst things ever! You’re ready to go for a jog, or you’re on a long ride somewhere. You slip on your earphones, turn on your ipod, and sound only comes from one ear. You convince yourself it’s not that bad, but after a few minutes, you start to go nuts. Then you realize if you shift the right side and lift the ipod over your head, sound comes out from both earphones. But if you move slightly, it messes up again. I’ve done this many a time, and it drives me crazy. After a while, I give up, and usually end up breaking the earphones completely.

Dear Earphones,

Don’t tease me by allowing only side to function. Either work, or don’t work. Thank you.

5) Frozen Internet


You’re on the internet looking up sports, e-mail or the latest news (just kidding—you’re obviously looking at porn) and all of a sudden the computer screen flashes “the page cannot be displayed.” You have no idea why the connection was lost. It is a complete mystery. In many ways, it’s like traffic. It pisses you off, but if you knew why, you’d at least feel a little more satisfied.

You unplug the modem, router, etc., wait 20 seconds, and put it back in. You hope that helps. Doesn’t the internet realize you were in the middle of something important, and you don’t have time for this? All you want to do is watch one more porn scene. Is that too much to ask for? So annoying.

6) Scalding Hot Water

You’re at the sink to wash your hands. You turn on the left handle hoping to bathe your hands in some nice luke-warm water. All of a sudden, scalding water sprays out, and you burn the hell out of your hands. It's illogical, painful, and annoying all at the same time.

This has happened to me at a friend’s house and at the occasional restaurant. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. And why is scalding hot water even an option for a sink? Are germs so thick now that only boiling hot water can defeat them? Are people making spaghetti in their bathroom sinks? It makes no sense. I hate it. Annoying!

7) Sand

I love the ocean. I love the beach. But I hate sand. I know it’s a contradiction. I love the laying on the soft sand; it is so relaxing. But my main beef with sand is that it doesn’t know when to quit. It is so damn clingy (no pun intended.)

You’ve had a great time at the beach and now you’re back home. But sand doesn’t want to say goodbye. It ends up in your car, in your backpack, in your shoes, all over your clothes, and body. And now it’s in your bathroom and bed. It’s everywhere! Sand is annoying because it doesn’t know its role. It belongs at the beach and nowhere else.

8) Shaving

When I was a kid, I always wanted to shave. My dad would let me put tons of shaving cream on my face until I looked like Santa Claus. He gave me a razor without the blade and let me pretend to shave. I thought it was the coolest.

Now that I’m older, I realized I was very wrong. Fortunately, I don’t need to shave everyday, but if I had to, I would be a dead man. I either have very sensitive skin, or I’m an awful shaver, because I cut myself every time. There’s always these little nicks. It doesn’t hurt much, but then I have all these little marks on my face. I think nobody will notice until 4or 5 people come up to me and ask why I have those little red bumps on my neck. Leave me alone. I hate shaving.

9) CD’s & DVD’s

I have a love/hate relationship with CD’s and DVD’s. Yes, they are more convenient then cassettes and work much better. But there’s just one thing. One scratch and they’re useless. You have to care for these things more then a child (at least a scratch on a kid will heal.) I have VHS tapes and audio cassettes that still work after 20 years. 20 years! I have a DVD that I bought last month that no longer works. You do the math! Annoying.

10) Stains

You just bought a new shirt or pants or a dress. You look good. You feel good. Then, a stain arrives. Maybe it was a spill, an out-of-control noodle smothered in marinara sauce, or perhaps it was just an unsolved mystery. Either way, your perfect shirt is now permanently covered in a stain. You try all the latest detergents, and magic stain removers, but it doesn’t disappear. As a result, you can never wear that article of clothing ever again. That annoying stain has ruined everything!

11) Mail

When I was younger, I was psyched to get mail. Maybe it was a letter from Ed McMahon’s Million dollar sweepstakes, a check from Nana, or one of those 20 CD’s for a penny deals. But as I’ve gotten older, I learned no mail is good mail. Because it’s all bills. I cringe when I open my mailbox. Bill. Bill. Court date, Summons, etc. And you’re not gonna get a real letter; nobody does that anymore. Nothing good can come from the mail. It’s quite annoying!

12) Walkie-Talkie Phones

Who invented these things? These have got to be one of the most annoying communication devices of all time. If you’re in the armed forces or possibly on a movie set, it’s cool, but anywhere else is unacceptable. EVERY TIME someone wants to speak, they click on a button which creates a high-pitched ringing noise. So over the course of one conversation, they will ring that button at least 25-30 times.

The worst part is that these people are completely oblivious. They don’t seem to realize that constant ringing and shouting into their phone is annoying. In fact, I think they think it’s cool. But the truth is they are annoying and so are their walkie-talkie phones.

13) Car Alarms & Horns

This is an easy one. I owned a car alarm for 5 years. When I parked my car on the street, the alarm would go off almost every morning. Another car would drive by prompting my alarm to screech for 3 minutes. It would serenade the neighborhood with the standard 6 beat beeping sound. I’ve heard it so many times, I know it by heart.

Car alarms are more overprotective than a Jewish mother. They need to relax. We’ve all had the relaxing dinner outside or a peaceful walk destroyed by the errant car alarm. They need to be eliminated. On a side note, my car was never stolen or broken into. Maybe it was because nobody wanted to have a car with such a sensitive and annoying alarm system.

The car horn was created for 2 reasons; safety and possibly to pick up chicks. It was not made so you can let out your anger and frustration. Slamming your horn for 30 second bursts, or machine-gunning (beeping over and over again quickly) does nothing for anyone, anywhere, anyhow. If you are a culprit, you need to stop. It is annoying, unacceptable, and useless. You guys should be ashamed of yourself.

(I’d like to add sirens on the list. We know there’s an emergency, but do they have to be so damn loud? We can hear you! Tone it down just a little. Although sirens mean well, they are still very annoying.)

14) Stubbing Your Toe & Biting Your Tongue

Stubbing your toe always happens when you least expect it. You’re usually in a good mood. Maybe you’re walking through the living room. Then BOOM! You slam your toe into that random coffee table which definitely wasn’t there a minute ago. Then you agonize in pain (a la Peter Griffin) for five minutes. The first moment of a stubbed toe goes down as one of the worst pains ever. In anger, you might even punch/kick that stupid coffee table for getting in your way.

Biting your tongue creeps up on you as well. You’re enjoying that delicious piece of steak when BAM! You bite down on your own tongue by mistake. You’re in horrible pain, but for some reason, you don’t tell anyone. You pretend it didn’t happen. Usually, people at the table can sense something is wrong. And then you make the face so they know you bit your tongue.

The good thing is your appetite has short-term amnesia. So at least a few minutes later, you are back chomping on that steak again.

15) Having to Pee in the Middle of the Night

You’re relaxed. You are in a deep sleep. Maybe you’re even having a magical dream. Then you feel it. You have to go to the bathroom. You try to ignore it, but your body keeps reminding you that it’s time. If you ignore it long enough, your dreams even change. You start looking for a bathroom in your sleep. But you can’t go.

It’s the eternal struggle. Do you disrupt your perfect slumber to use the bathroom? For most adults, the answer is yes.

You will yourself out of bed. It’s dark and you’re groggy. You may even bump into some furniture on the way to the can. And sometimes when you return to bed, you can’t even fall back asleep. And even if you do, it’s not nearly as peaceful as before.

Little kids are the only ones that have mastered what to do in this situation. They sleep and go to the bathroom at the same time. It’s a brilliant compromise as long as you don’t mind excessively cleaning your sheets and clothes.

My Apologies

Yes, I wish my list was shorter. The worst part is that I have several more to add for another time. But I don’t want to be the guy that complains too much.

That’s really annoying!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

15 SECONDS OF FAME

I need to take this time to congratulate some of my friends. Although I’m still struggling to find my way through Hollywood, my friends are starting to “make it.” I’m seeing their names in the newspaper, on the internet, on movie posters, and on buses and billboards! A former co-worker/friend recently directed a John Cusack movie. My old roommate, who squeezed in 4 hours a day to play Halo and NBA Live, also managed to write and sell a few scripts. I’d like to take credit for helping him, but I think I only served as a distraction. His first movie came out this weekend. One of my basketball buddies/acquaintances now writes for the Office and will be penning the new Ghostbusters movie.

The list goes on.

So what does it take to make it in the entertainment industry?

I’ve argued that making it in the biz is like being popular in high school. If you’re really good looking, really rich, or really weird, then you’re all set. Unfortunately, I am only moderate in each of these categories. That just does not suffice in Hollywood.

I figured the next best way to “make it” was to live each day like it was the E! True Hollywood story: do a lot of drugs, go to jail, become a born again religious fanatic, etc. All these people become famous. Their life spiraled out of control before they finally “made it.” Or they “made it” and then their life fell apart. But my life is actually kind’ve mundane. You couldn’t make an E! True Hollywood story based on my life; what would they say? “All was fine in his life until the infamous 7th grade bike trip. He fell down three times and had to take the van home. He cried that day. Little did he know that soon he would propel himself into a star!”

I even moved to Hollywood to try to “make it” the old fashioned way. I wrote screenplays. I was so proud of my work. My family and friends were too. Everyone was so encouraging! Then Hollywood sharks read my screenplays. They, mostly 22 year-old agent’s assistants, shredded my hopes and dreams with rejection letters and “soft passes.” Those that were supportive offered this brilliant advice: “Keep writing.”

I ignored them.

I stopped writing for a while. Instead, I worked as a production assistant, casting assistant, editing assistant, assistant assistant, but still nothing. I did improv comedy, stand-up comedy, and although it’s embarrassing to admit, I even worked on the show Touched By An Angel for four days.

I spun the wheel on the Price is Right, made people eat worms on Fear Factor, and kicked Tobey Maguire’s butt in basketball on the set of Spider-Man. But I still felt empty. Although I was having fun and gathering memorable experiences, I still hadn’t progressed in the entertainment industry.

After a long hiatus from my computer and Final Draft, I began writing again. I revised a college comedy script, and submitted it to a number of people. I was confident in my work. And I changed my attitude. I ignored criticism and didn't take anything personally. Nothing was going to slow me down this time. And I changed my mindset too. All I had to do was convince one big shot to believe in me. I was going to “make it” no matter what.

I got “the call” in the late Summer of 2007. Most people don’t know this, including most of my friends, but I was famous for about fifteen seconds. I was the talk of the town. I was the hottest writer in Hollywood. I had finally “made it.”

Here are my fifteen seconds of fame:

August, 2007

(To protect my anonymity, I’ll be known as PAUL SHERMAN.)


My friends and I were driving from Boston to Montreal for yet another bachelor party. The music blasted as we debated over Montreal’s best strip club (I said Karma Sutra.) My phone vibrated in my pocket and I casually picked it up. I looked at the number; it was a 310 (Hollywood) and I didn’t recognize it.

I asked my friends to quiet down and lower the music. On the other end of the line was a woman who sounded hot.

WOMAN: Paul, I have Doug Johnson on the line for you.

In Hollywood, IMPORTANT people never make the call. That’s why they have assistants. Important people are above making phone calls, checking e-mails, ordering food. One may also conjecture that important people have assistants because they may not know how to use the phone or type an e-mail (see John McCain.)

My heart skipped a beat when I heard the name Doug Johnson. Doug is a pretty successful manager who recently produced my friend’s movie. We met a few times over the years, and he even tried to sell one of my screenplays. Once he became important, he started ignoring me.

I sent Doug my latest script eight times. He lost it. His assistant lost it. He lost it again. You get the point. I was a nobody so he didn’t have time for me.

UNTIL NOW!

He was psyched to get me on the line.

DOUG JOHNSON: Sherman, what’s up dude?! Your script is killing, man.

I could barely muster up a word. I had been waiting for this call my entire life.

DOUG JOHNSON: Everyone wants to be attached to this thing. How was the meeting with Jack Black and those producers?

My heart dropped. Holy shit! Nobody ever called me. I’m an hour away from Montreal. Maybe I can go straight to the airport and fly out. Jack Black! This is crazy.

ME: Nobody ever told me about the meeting. Don’t worry. I’ll do whatever it takes.

DOUG JOHNSON: Sherman…stop joking around.

ME: Doug, nobody told me. But I’m sure we can work something out.

DOUG JOHNSON: You missed the Jack Black meeting? Are you serious?

ME: It’s OK. I’ll fly out today. Anything you want.

DOUG JOHNSON: Come on DAN…stop being an idiot.

DAN??? My heart froze. My jaw dropped. I felt nauseous.

ME: Dan? This is PAUL.

DOUG JOHNSON: Oh, shit.

Doug shouted at his assistant.

DOUG JOHNSON: GLORIA! You called the WRONG Sherman.

Doug turned his attention back to me. He was casual in his tone not realizing he had just ruined my life.

DOUG JOHNSON: Sorry about that Paul…how are you?

I wanted to yell and scream at him, but I was in shock. I mustered up a few harmless words.

ME: I’m ok. Did you ever read MY script?

DOUG JOHNSON: Gotta go. Keep writing. See ya.

Click!

I’ve been horribly rejected before, but this has to be the worst feeling I’ve ever felt. Add up the Sox choke jobs in 86 and 2003, the Patriots loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, my first serious girlfriend dumping me, finding out my good college buddy was hooking up with my first big crush, my 5th grade girlfriend crying after I kissed her on the cheek, getting sick from drinking for the first time, breaking my collar bone in 3 places, and getting kneed hard in the groin, and then multiply it by a 100. That’s how I felt. It was painful.

THIRTEEN MONTHS LATER: Present Day

I still haven’t sold a screenplay. I still haven’t “made it.” And I still get nauseous when I tell this story. But the good news is that I’m still writing. I write my blog for me, my friends, and whoever else wants to read it. And I actually enjoy writing again. Part of me hopes someone important reads my blog and offers me a big money deal. But I’m not sitting around and waiting for it. And if I ever do get “the call,” I’ll definitely make sure that they have the right person on the phone.

I have sent my blog to Doug Johnson. I never heard from him. But something tells me if this gets passed along to him, he would probably check it out. Of course, I’m sure he’d probably confuse me with someone else anyway.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Top 10 Reasons Why Tom Brady's Season-Ending Injury is Not So Bad

I woke up Sunday morning, and for the first time in years, I was not excited for the opening week of the NFL. I had a massive hangover, but it wasn’t from drinking; it was still lingering from the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss 7 months earlier. Amazingly enough, I was still in denial. To understand better, check out “The Day After” at: http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2008/02/day-after.html

I feel awful admitting this, but I thought about skipping the game. It was a beautiful day out, and who cared about week 1 anyway? Who cared about the regular season? The Patriots proved emphatically that the regular season does not matter. Despite going 16-0 last year, the Patriots did not win the Super Bowl. I tried comparing this with another sports team, and I came up with nothing. The Mariners set the MLB record for wins (116 wins) in 2001, and then lost to the Yankees in the playoffs. But the Patriots were undefeated; they were perfect!

I guess it would be like the Harlem Globetrotters losing to the Washington Generals after winning 2,495 straight times (this actually happened in 1971.) In a way, the Patriots “almost perfect” season ruined the mystique of the game for me. It would be like hooking up with that perfect “dream girl” and then finding out that she’s not that hot (without her clothes), and she’s a terrible kisser. And when you see her again, it’s just not the same, and you don’t know how to act around her. In a completely bizarre way, that’s how I felt about the Patriots this year.

Despite all of this, I agreed to watch part of the game with my buddy PA. We both felt guilty for not being enthused about the start of the season. I enjoyed my tasty buffalo wings as the Patriots and Chiefs traded turnovers and punts. Mid-way into my fifth wing, #12 went down. Tom Brady clutched his knee in pain. All of New England and its fans watched in silence. Then, my buddy and I looked at each other and unanimously declared: “The season’s over!”

Brady painfully limped off the field. His backup, Matt Cassel, came in and did a decent job. He played well enough to help the Patriots win their 20th regular season game in a row. Cassel now hopes to join Tom Brady and Kurt Warner as the only backups to lead his respective team to a Super Bowl win.

The next 24 hours I received countless phone calls, texts, and e-mails from Boston friends who were on the edge. Some couldn’t sleep; some felt nauseous; others contemplated the meaning of life. Why was this happening? What did the Patriots and its fans do to deserve this?

Some might argue that the Patriots made a deal with the devil. After winning 3 Super Bowls in 4 years, things have unraveled mightily for the Pats. The Patriots were caught cheating, and Belichick was given the stiffest fine in league history. Neutral fans began turning on the Patriots for their unbelievable success and borderline conduct. And finally, after going 18-0, the Patriots blew their chance at history by choking to the New York (of all places) Giants. Now Brady is out for the year, and it seems like their legacy is over.

But before Patriots’ fans hurl themselves off the Prudential, they need to think about this. Tom Brady being out for the year is not such a terrible thing. I know it sounds crazy, but his season-ending injury actually has me excited about the Patriots again.

Here are my Top 10 Reasons Why Tom Brady’s Season-Ending Injury is Not So Bad:

#10 Low Expectations

Does anyone remember when the Patriots won in 2001-02? It was so pure. It was such a great feeling! And most of it was because their fans never expected them to be there in the first place. It’s storytelling at its best: the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team, George Mason’s Final Four run in 2005-06, the Cleveland Indians from Major League…a team overcomes adversity to be one of the best. The 2008 Patriots now have a chance to join that list.

#9 Is Bill Belichick the Best?

Belichick has a chance to cement his place as the best coach in NFL history. It will be interesting to see how his team plays with unknown backup, Matt Cassel. If Belichick can win without Brady or stealing signals, there is no doubt that he is the best coach of all time.

#8 Tickets

Tickets to Patriots’ game are nearly impossible to get. Now that Brady’s out, it will be much easier to check out Gillette Stadium.

#7 Will Randy Moss Go Crazy?

It will be fun to see if Randy Moss goes back to his old self without Brady at the reigns. Will he catch 23 TDs again? No way! Will he run over another cop with his car like he did in Minnesota? I hope not. It will be interesting to monitor how Moss and other teammates handle the season without Tommy boy.

#6 Red Sox Nation

The Red Sox have been playing great. With the Patriots’ season in doubt, fans can focus solely on the Sox and root them on in October.

#5 Underdogs


The Patriots always played better in the underdog role. Most teams will underestimate them without Brady. This will also give guys like Rodney Harrison incentive to pull out the “no respect” line.

#4 Don’t Hate

People may stop hating the Patriots. They may even start rooting for them again. As I recall, people rooted for them before they became the best team of the 21st century. Nobody hates an underdog, and without Brady, that’s exactly what they are.

#3 Gisele

Brady’s supermodel girlfriend is super hot. Now he can spend more time with Gisele and give her the support and encouragement she needs. Brady can also hang out with Bridget Moynahan and his baby boy. But they’re not as hot as Gisele.

#2 Unpredictability

The Patriots won the first 18 games last year and blew out most of their opponents. They were so efficient in manhandling the competition that many of the contests were over by halftime. Many of the games were actually boring. Their winning was machine-like; it was too easy, and it was the same thing every week. As the streak continued, Patriots’ fans felt relieved after each victory instead of happy and joyful (it reminded me of Yankee fans who are the worst.) It wasn’t that fun. This year will be completely different; fans will have to watch the games because they don’t know what’s going to happen. And fans will no longer take winning for granted.

Plus, Matt Cassel’s future is completely unknown. Will he be the next Tom Brady or the next Scott Zolak? Only time will tell.

#1 Free Time

If the Patriots implode and fail to make to make the playoffs, just think of all the extra free time you’ll have. Instead of wasting Sunday afternoons in a smelly, crowded bar, you can take a bike ride, go apple picking, read a book, volunteer at a soup kitchen, paint a picture, spend time with your in-laws, clean your house, write a poem...

You can finally live your life! There’s so much to do besides watch football!

Ahhhhh……Who am I kidding?

Without football, life sucks!

Get better Tommy B…we’ll miss you!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Fantasy Football Chronicles

FANTASY FOOTBALL

This is my 13th glorious year participating in fantasy football. I’ve been a member of the VFL (Virtual Fantasy League) since ‘95. We’re so old school that back in the day we would record our own stats via the newspaper instead of the internet.

Some members take Fantasy Football to another level; one player (GM) creates a monthly statistical chart on Excel and sends it to the league. Another member (RW) writes a Fantasy week-in-review (which inspired me to start my blog.) My brother doesn't write much, but his weekly mood is directly correlated with his team’s performance that week (you should see him on Thanksgiving.) Some members root against their own home team if it benefits their fantasy team. A certain member (ME) can’t concentrate on dates because he keeps wondering how his players are doing.

Overall, we all become obsessed. Despite losing year in and year out, I really believe this is the year for me. And it’s not about the money; it’s about the pride! It’s about investing an absurd amount of time into something I have no control over and proving to my friends and siblings that I am awesome!

THE BIRTH OF THE BLOG

Before the existence of The Corner, I wrote weekly thoughts for my fantasy league. I wrote about fantasy football, other sports, dating, movies, and TV. Since only a small group received them, I thought it was time to officially publish a few excerpts from last year.

The Two-Headed Running Back (November 15, 2007)

Within 2 years, I’m guaranteeing that every team will have 2 backs. The impact on fantasy football will be huge. I feel like any back could be inserted on a team and he'll do fine. Look at the following names: Keith, Watson, Chatman, Sammy Morris, Maurice Morris, Grant....they all replaced starting backs and tore everything up. And then the coach starts thinking…I can run 2 guys (this scrub and the normal starter) and they’ll both stay healthy and have the same effect. And don’t forget about injuries. Mr.Peterson (Vikings) is human; he's not a machine. My predictions: LT will get banged up, Turner will replace him, and rush for 150 yards and 2 TDs his 1st game. So when you draft in the 1st round next year, who are you gonna pick besides Brady and Moss??? I don’t know.

EPILOGUE: Brady and Moss went in the 1st round of both my fantasy drafts. The season just began, but I think you’ll see a very similar trend this year. Backups definitely made a name for themselves in ‘07: Michael Turner is now starting for the Atlanta Falcons (he rushed for 220 yards and 2 TDs today), and Ryan Grant is the main man for the Green Bay Packers.

Cool Girl (November 22, 2007)

I met a very cool girl. We hung out in bed and had a nice talk while I followed fantasy football on the computer. Here's our dialogue from that Sunday afternoon.

Cool Girl: So then I started working in a school. I really enjoyed it because...

Me: Donald Driver is the worst. He hasn't caught a touchdown in 7 weeks.

Cool Girl: I've traveled everywhere. I really liked...

Me: What is wrong with Willie Parker? Why is he rated in the top 5 every week if he never scores a touchdown or even catches a pass? I hate him. You were saying...

Cool Girl: My family is cool. I'm closest with...

Me: Brandon Jacobs is hurt again. What a pussy!

Even though I was a complete jerk, she was very patient with me. She even gave me a pound when Dwayne Bowe and Antonio Gates scored. I think she had a good time that day, and she told me she'd gimme a call soon. I haven't heard from her, but I think it's because she's busy with the holidays.

EPILOGUE: We dated for a few months. She did end up dumping me, but it wasn’t related to fantasy football as far as I know. Here’s the link that explains what happened: http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2008/01/back-on-scene.html

For this season, I’m gonna try to be a better listener, and not be so obsessed with fantasy football; we’ll see how that goes.

Dating Steps (October 17, 2007)

When you date a girl, each date should be a new step. 1st date: Maybe a kiss. 2nd date: Makeout Session. 3rd date: Benign Sleepover. And so on and so forth. But it's BS if you go back a step. You can't have a benign sleepover and then the next date only a kiss on the cheek. That's breaking the rules. Don't girls know this? It's killing me.

EPILOGUE: This will inspire a new post which will discuss “The Bases” and “Hook-up Rules.”

Sign of a Bad Date (October 17, 2007)

You know you're on a bad date, when in the middle, you're wondering what porn you should watch that night.

EPILOGUE: Thanks to the internet this statement could also read: You know you’re on a bad date, when in the middle, you’re wondering what adult website you should peruse that night.

Dealbreaker (November 1, 2007)

Would you date a girl knowing she was once a pornstar or at least performed some sexual activities on film/cable (Skinimax, for example?) Yes, she is clean. And yes, her career in that industry is officially over. I think I could do it, but my worst fear would be that my Dad recognized her. That would be really awkward and uncomfortable.

EPILOGUE: For a list of more Dealbreakers, click on http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2008/06/deal-breakers.html

Yankee Fans (October 24, 2007)

Please stop using the defense that since you have 26 championships, you're better than every team. That's like me, as a Celtics fan, going up to all the Spurs fans and telling them they suck because we have 16, and you have 4. If you think about it, in the past 25+ years, the Yankees have won 4, and we (the Red Sox) have won 2. Unless you're 50+, please shut the hell up. And it's funny—I ran this by my NY friends, and they didn't get it. New Yorkers!

EPILOGUE: The Yankees (despite a payroll of nearly a quarter billion dollars) are close to being eliminated from playoff contention for the first time in 15 years. The fans are in denial and have pretty much closed up shop. I haven’t heard much from them at all. The Celtics have since won their 17th Championship. I am happy. :)

Yankees Suck Chants (October 24, 2007)

I don't get the “Yankees Suck” chants much anymore especially when no Yankees or Yankees fans are around. At first, I laugh and then I feel very uncomfortable.

EPILOGUE: For those that don’t know, the “Yankees Suck” chant has become a strange Boston tradition. It occurs when a group of Bostonians consume alcohol and the game is on. When they are tired of rooting for their team (the Sox, Patriots or Celtics), they rank on the team that has tormented them for years: The Yankees. “Yankees Suck!” chants tend to break out when the Red Sox play them, but sometimes they occur spontaneously for no reason at all.

Fortunately, I have not seen/heard as many chants lately. Some have moved on to “Beat L.A!” chants. Most fans have less animosity towards the Yankees because they have had a very mediocre season, and haven’t won the World Series since 2000.

GOLF (October 17, 2007)

Golf is not a sport if your least athletic friends are the best at it.

EPILOGUE: I still stand by this. Click on http://thecorner33.blogspot.com/2008/08/2008-summer-olympics-let-games-end.html where I dissect “What is a Sport?” in further detail.

Fred Claus, D- (November 8, 2007)

Every once in a while, a friend (in this case, it was my buddy JM) drags you into a movie you have no desire to see. You know it’s gonna be bad, but then you think, maybe, just maybe, this could be a gem. Fred Claus did not fit into that category. This movie was so bad, it may have even ended that friendship...T-Money (Vince Vaughn) does his shtick, but instead of hitting on beautiful babies, he is hanging out with elves and Santa Claus. At one point he urges the elves to have fun and “make bad decisions.” If you’d like to follow this advice, definitely see this movie.

EPILOGUE: This movie is TERRIBLE and I’m still embarrassed I saw it in the theatre! I am still friends with JM, but his movie choosing privleges have been suspended for 2 years.

How I Met Your Mother (October 10, 2007)

Watch this show, it's hilarious. The Wonder Years represents my life growing up, but this show is definitely kind’ve like my life now.

EPILOGUE: It’s a brand new season of HIMYM! Other shows to watch for this fall: The Office and Entourage ( which starts tonight!) I tried watching 90210, and it was a little painful. But if the sister, and adopted brother hook up, things could get interesting. After several recommendations, I’m gonna try to watch: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Weeds. And of course, if there’s nothing else on, I can watch re-runs of the Simpsons (old school), Family Guy, and Seinfeld.

And if that gets old, I’ll just spend my free time obsessing over fantasy football…

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2008 Summer Olympics: Let the Games End

The Olympics are officially over. I may be in the minority on this, but the Summer Games just didn’t do it for me. Yes, I watched a few events (swimming, track and field, basketball) and was mildly entertained. But for the most part, I usually changed the channel after 3-5 minutes. Everything was fine until I decided to express my opinion out loud to a few friends and strangers.

“Wow! The Olympics are really BORING!” You should’ve seen the looks I received. It was like I was burning the American flag. Could I be more un-patriotic? But I didn’t apologize. Besides a few side stories, the Olympics were actually pretty boring.

The Four Year Hiatus

The Olympics don’t really have an excuse either. They have four years to prepare for the games. Just imagine if the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Championship, etc. was played every four years. What would that mean? For starters, people would go crazy for it. Also, the New York Yankees could only attempt to buy a championship twice a decade. Even if you compare it to TV shows, it’s the same thing. When the Sopranos smugly took a year long hiatus, viewers expected perfection (and rightfully so) when it returned. What if it was a four year wait? Imagine if the next episode of Lost wasn’t until 2012. You’d lose your mind in anticipation. And when it arrived, it would be an incredible moment.

International Real World

Most people know the Olympics are every four years. But it’s not advertised until a month before the games begin. My idea to promote the Olympics is actually pretty basic. Why not have a reality show (an International Real World if you will) that follows the athletes (from around the world) as they train for the huge event? Just put them in a house together, and we can see how they train, what they eat, who hooks up with who, etc.

So when the games begin, we actually know more than just who Michael Phelps is. And if you want to spice things up, the show could mix in reality stars from The Hills, and other crappy shows that people watch. At least we’d know who some of the key players were, and there would be some added drama.

The following people are mad at me right now because they love the Olympics:

#1 WOMEN

Women love the Olympics because they can finally see sports on TV that they used to play. Women have to deal with men and their love of baseball, basketball, and football their whole lives. But every four years, women get a chance to brag about sports they know. Women can watch swimming, track and field, and gymnastics and live vicariously through their own athletic heroes. The tides finally turn as women even get to explain the rules to the men.

Women also love the Oprah-Winfrey type stories. You know those stories. It goes something like this. Athlete A has promised her mailman a gold medal because he only has one leg. And then there’s a ten minute cry-session about their relationship. A beautiful human interest story; women love that.

Women also love the Olympics because everybody wins in the end. It doesn’t matter who gets the most medals because, in the end, everybody’s a winner just for being there.

#2 PEOPLE WHO HAVE ATTENDED THE OLYMPICS

These people have a special tie to the games. You’ll notice that many people from ATL love the Olympics because they were a part of them just 12 years ago. Watching the Olympics on TV brings back those great memories. The Olympics are a lot like soccer and hockey in that respect—boring on TV, but lots of fun in person.

#3 NON-TRADITONAL ATHLETES

People that run iron-mans, triathlons, and marathons get to see the best at their craft perform in the Olympics. These are arguably the best athletes in the world and the Summer Games is a great forum for them to show off.

As far as some of the other sports, America is very narrow-minded. Growing up, your choices are mainly basketball, baseball, or football. Yes, there are other sports, but most kids don’t grow up and say they want to be a handball player when they grow up.

The Olympics gives these people a chance to be recognized. Since I couldn’t think of a better euphemism, these are called the “reject sports.” These include ping-pong, trampoline jumping, artistic gymnastics (doing flips with a hula-hoop), archery, handball, badminton, shooting, and canoeing.

How do you fall into one of these sports? Usually, their childhood went something like this: After missing your 20th lay-up, the coach comes over, pats you on the back, and gently suggests that you try the trampoline (“It bounces up and down…that could be fun for you.”) You can’t throw a football…“How about ping-pong?” You keep striking out in baseball…“Badminton is really fun…why don’t you try that?

These athletes resent the rejection, but soon learn that they are truly gifted in an underappreciated sport. You can taunt them because their sport involves a shuttlecock, or their game is usually played in someone’s basements, (ping-pong.) but they’ll kick your ass at the drop of a hat and prove they’re amazing athletes.

The Olympics provides almost all of the “reject sports.” Every four years, the non-traditional athletes have something to root for. These people are finally recognized for their trampoline jumping ability, talent with a hula-hoop, or wicked good ping-pong skills.

#4 "REAL" AMERICANS

The Olympics is another venue where Americans can prove its dominance over the rest of the world. Forget about our ailing economy, pitiful administration, weak health care system, and the never-ending war in Iraq—we still got the athletes! And the Olympics give us a chance to prove it. Now chug your beer, slam the horn on your pickup truck, and fire off a few rounds of your shotgun. U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!

Why are the Olympics so Boring?

There’s no real winner. The Olympics is like “little league” for the greatest athletes. As long as you try your best and have fun, that’s all that matters. That’s great when you’re 9 years-old, but come on. I want to see a clear winner and a clear loser. If I asked you what country won the Olympics, you wouldn’t have a response. Is it the country with the most medals? Most golds? Best flag? There’s no winner.

And what is riding on the games? NOTHING! When the U.S softball team lost to Japan, what happened? A few women cried?! There are no stakes!

Here are a few ideas to make the games more exciting:

Gambling

There needs to be more riding on the games then just a gold medal. So to solve this problem, a basic bet needs to be arranged amongst all of the countries involved. For example, each country could bet a territory or region. “If we lose this event, Italy will gain control over Montana.” “And if we win it?” The U.S. will take over a small village in Italy.” That would be awesome; I love small villages in Italy!

If that’s too intense, there’s other ways to incorporate gambling into the mix. Even in the Super Bowl, the Governors of each region will wager their hometown’s traditional food (Super Bowl XXIX: New England’s clam chowder vs. New York’s fresh bagels.) Why can’t the Olympics do the same? The US could wager its homemade apple pie for China’s famous dumplings. Imagine the deliciousness and excitement.

Props

Why not use props in certain events? Maybe drop a snapping turtle into the pool. Perhaps a bear is chasing people on the track. Or a gymnast must do a triple flip over a crater of lava. This might seem absurd, but if Michael Phelps was swimming and there was a shark on his tale, everyone in the world would tune in for it. “If he wins this event, it will be a record 8th gold.” “And if he doesn’t?” “He’ll be eaten by that shark.” I’d be glued to my seat.

Cheerleaders

What happened to cheerleaders? Imagine if the best looking women in the WORLD were at the summer games? The entertainment value, and amount of (male) viewers would go through the roof. Just because these women are beautiful, doesn’t mean they’re not great athletes. They should get their opportunities to shine as well.

What the hell is a sport?

This brings me to the confusing “what is a sport?” debate. Ping-Pong and Handball are Olympics sports but car racing and golf (both widely popular and supported) are not. So what’s a sport? I pulled some relevant dialogue from one of my favorite movies, Big, to see if that would help.

Josh: I’m much better at video hockey.
Paul: That’s not a sport.
Josh: It requires hand and eye coordination.
Paul: It’s not a sport if you don’t sweat.
Josh: What about golf? It’s a sport and you don’t sweat.
Paul: It’s not a sport if you let a machine do all the work.
Josh: What about car racing?
Paul: Shut up, Baskin.

If you want to have a never-ending conversation, continue this discussion with your friends. You’ll realize that there’s no way to define a sport, and you’ll soon hate each other for it. I don’t know what a sport is, but if the Olympics included these events, I’d watch ‘em:

In the first Olympiad, there was actually a tug-of-war. Let me repeat that: a TUG-OF-WAR. How cool is that! Unfortunately, it was allegedly removed from competition because athletes were complaining of rope burn.

Other great sports that should be included in the Olympics are:

Capture the Flag: I still remember playing at my camp for color war. They split the entire camp in two and we had a vicious battle. I was 9 years-old and vividly recall competing against teenagers. I also remember skinning my knee. Even though it bled profusely, and I cried my eyes out, I eventually retuned to action. I became a man that day and I remember thinking: Capture the Flag is the best!

Dodge Ball: People have many different beliefs, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: Dodge Ball is awesome! Whether you’re a kid or an adult, dodge ball is one of the most action-packed, intense, enjoyable sports of all-time. When your gym teacher or camp counselor announced the sport of the day was Dodge Ball, everybody cheered (well, except for the geeky kid who was about to get destroyed.) Great sport!

Kickball: This is clearly a sport. I still remember my days in elementary school as one of the best kickers in the game. It elevated me to top popularity (though it has since declined steadily.) I deserved a chance to earn a gold medal for my kickball skills.

Tag: How idiotic would it be if this was an Olympic event. Imagine people training their whole lives for such a simple game. It would be fun seeing athletes take such a stupid game so seriously.

Elimination Newcomb: Created at Camp Tel Noar in the summer of 1995, elimination newcomb soon became one of the most popular sports in camp history. Newcomb was like volleyball, but instead of hitting the ball in the air, you could catch it and throw it back. “Elimination-style” meant that if you dropped a ball or threw it in the net, you would be “eliminated.” The last one remaining would usually receive candy (such as the green Slimer goo which was popular circa 1995.) The Olympic version would be the same, but instead of candy, the winner would get a medal.

Fly’s up (500): Remember the game where someone would throw/kick a ball high into the air, and then 10-20 people would try to catch it? It was like a Hail Mary in football over and over again. Usually, someone would make a sick catch after it deflected off of fingers, arms and even heads. There would be 3-5 injuries/game. Kids would get carried off in pain, but they usually came back for more. I would definitely tune in for this. Make it an Olympic event!

Frisbee Games: Frisbee Golf or Ultimate Frisbee takes a lot of skill and athleticism. Let’s get these competitors recognized. The petition starts now: Frisbee Games for the 2012 Olympics!

Other games that just barely missed the cut: Golf, billiards, air hockey, beer pong, flip cup, whiffle ball, and sandcastle building.

The One Big Story: Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps needs to be congratulated for earning 8 gold medals and bypassing Mark Spitz as the greatest swimmer of all-time. At first I felt bad for Spitz, but then I realized he has something that Phelps will NEVER have…a really cool 70’s moustache.

Phelps was the only athlete I followed throughout the games. He was so successful that even I tuned in. Why? The Tiger Woods Rule. When one athlete is so dominant in a sport (especially if it’s individual) you can’t help but root for him/her. You want to see history. Phelps now fits into the elite category of Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, and Air Bud.

See you in London in 2012

I hope the International Olympic Committee reads my post and considers my suggestions on how to improve the games. Four summers from now, if we see cheerleaders rooting on the U.S in a game of Dodge Ball for the right to take over Barcelona, you’ll know they read The Corner.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tropic Thunder


Tropic Thunder is crude, over-the-top, absurd, crass, inappropriate and uneven, but it is funny as hell. It’s the first comedy of the summer where I laughed my butt off.

The Big 3

When I first heard of Tropic Thunder, all I could think of was Three Amigos with Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Marin Short. It’s not a re-make, but it basically has the same plot. A group of actors are mistakenly thrown into a real war situation. While Three Amigos was cute and had a few funny moments, (“In-famous is when you’re MORE than famous. This man El Guapo, he’s not just famous, he’s IN-famous! ”) Tropic Thunder is hilarious. This time the three stars are played by Robert Downey Jr., Ben Stiller, and Jack Black. The big 3 work well together; they each have their own style, and in the end, they provide us with the top comedy of the summer.

Tropic Thunder sets things off the right way by spoofing generic Hollywood movies. Do not miss the trailers or you will miss 10 laugh-out-loud minutes. There’s even an advertisement for “Booty Sweat”—a Red Bull-like drink brought to you by the fictional rapper, Alpa Chino. The comedic energy comes at you so quickly that by the time the real movie begins, you can’t wait to watch it.

One of the reasons Tropic Thunder is so enjoyable is because the movie within the movie is actually interesting. The action scenes are fun and feel like they’re part of a real war film. There are a few scenes that lack laughs, but at least they keep the story moving along.

Stiller plays the main character, but he shares plenty of screen time with the big 3. In many of his films, Stiller tries way too hard to entertain us. But in Tropic Thunder, he is busy directing so he allows the actors to step up and carry the load. He has the ideal cast to let everyone do their schtick. Downey Jr. is as funny as he seems in the previews, Jack Black’s physical humor provides some of the biggest laughs in the film, (look for the scene where he’s tied to a tree half-naked.) and Stiller has some choice lines. All of it makes for a grotesque and hilarious comedy.

That’s Offensive

Apparently, people were protesting Tropic Thunder because it was deemed offensive towards those with special needs. Are you kidding me? If you’re gonna protest a movie, protest Eddie Murphy newest bomb, Meet Dave. That movie is offensive. Why can’t Eddie Murphy make good movies anymore? Classics like Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, and Coming to America have been replaced by Norbit, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, and Meet Dave. Now that’s what I call offensive.

In Tropic Thunder’s case, some are upset because one of Ben Stiller’s character’s is a special boy named Simple Jack; he is simple and he is hilarious. The joke isn’t on those with special needs. The joke is on the Hollywood actors and movies that cover the subject and fail miserably—think Cuba Gooding Jr. in Radio. I’m a pretty sensitive guy, and I wasn’t offended. I actually loved the character and could not stop laughing. Comedy is pretty simple in that way: if something crosses the line and makes you laugh, it’s funny. If something crosses the line and it doesn’t make you laugh, it’s offensive. I laughed so it clearly wasn’t offensive.

Finally, There are Straight Men

There are five actors/soldiers in the movie. Besides the Big 3, there is Brandon Jackson as the rapper Alpa Chino and Knocked Up’s Jay Baruchel as the skinny, geeky guy. These guys do a nice job of playing it straight so Downey Jr., Black, and Stiller can use their own unique over-the-top style humor whenever they want. It keeps things fresh and makes room for more antics from the Big 3. It also helps that the characters aren’t complete idiots. They slowly figure out that something isn’t right with the “movie” they are in. This prevents Tropic Thunder from resorting on the same gag again and again. As a result, the film uses a variety of jokes and dialogue to keep the laughs coming.

Inside Hollywood Jokes

Tom Cruise plays the big Hollywood producer. I didn’t realize it was him until the credits came up. He is a bit excessive as the stereotypical, money-hungry, unethical movie mogul. His antics provide a few laughs, but aren’t anything special. Considering Cruise is a top-billed actor, it is cool that he played the part and it wasn’t publicized at all.

Nick Nolte has a small but memorable role as the war vet in which the “movie” is based on. He makes the most of his part, and is yet another funny character to add to the mix.

Matthew McConaughey plays a bit part as Stiller’s agent. He plays a nice guy version of Ari gold from Entourage. There are some inside comedic bits about the Hollywood scene, but overall his character doesn’t add much. But he does offer the ladies someone to look at during the few scenes that aren’t funny.

Tropic Thunder continues its satire on Hollywood until the very end. It pokes fun at several movies including Apocalypse Now (and Heart of Darkness.) The deeper Stiller’s character falls into madness, the funnier he is.

Conclusion

I was surprised how much I liked Tropic Thunder. I’m not a huge Ben Stiller fan especially when he plays quirky characters (Zoolander, Dodgeball), but this movie was very entertaining. The movie gives us tons of comedy, action, and even a story.

It definitely hits high on the movie scale because I still laugh when I see the previews on TV. I plan on seeing the movie again and am looking forward to re-watching it on cable countless times. It’s a bold prediction, but it may even break my top 150 favorite movies. It’s got stiff competition so we’ll see…but it’s definitely the best comedy of the summer of 2008.