Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Top Ten Chick Flick Themes

For the record, I didn't write this, but I laughed out loud today reading it while my students were working quietly. They all thought I was retarded.

This comes from espn.com's Page 2, which is all editorial stuff, and the author is a guy named Bill Simmons, who is one of my favorite humor writers right now. This is part of a longer article about how awfully bad "Fever Pitch" was. He was classifying it as a "chick flick" when he went into a rant about "the 10 generic themes that invariably show up in any chick flick." And here they are (enjoy!):

"1. You can't meet the man of your dreams in a bar or at a party. It only happens either if he randomly shows up in your office, if he made some sort of bet about you, if he saved your life or if you happen to be impersonating someone else at the time.

"2. If you're approaching 30 and you're still single, it's only because you're working too hard, not because there's something wrong with you. Just make sure you find a potential husband as fast as possible, even if it means destroying someone else's life or committing some kind of crime.

"3. In your search for love, always target schoolteachers, bartenders, widowers, or anyone who was once successful before hitting a stretch of bad luck. This way, when they finally turn their lives around or come into some money, they'll erroneously think that you were the reason.

"4. If you're dating someone who is passionate about something, he will absolutely give that up for you because all men change once they fall in love. Especially if you have a nice apartment.

"5. You can have only three friends: A smart friend who's pretty in a quirky way, a calculating beauty who's morally corrupt and an overweight girl who doesn't say much. You can only hang out with these people all at once. If there's anyone in your life who doesn't fit one of those three categories, get rid of them.

"6. Your boyfriend's friends only get in the way. The sooner you can destroy them, the better.

"7. If you become pregnant, don't worry – you won't actually have the baby. It's just a temporary dilemma so you can break up for a month and he'll realize that he can't live without you – mainly because you pushed away his friends and ruined his life.

"8. If you're breaking up with the guy to prove a point, immediately find the best-looking guy in your office and invite him over to dinner, then hope the other guy shows up. When he shows up, he won't do anything vengeful like get drunk and hook up with the nearest bimbo. He'll simply stop shaving and showering until one of his friends goes over to his house to snap some sense into him.

"9. When you finally get back together, make sure it happens in the goofiest place possible – whether it's a baseball stadium, the top of a skyscraper, the launching of a space shuttle or wherever.

"10. Either you will end up living happily ever after, or you will find a deep friendship with a gay man that will end up being just as satisfying."

I've seen my fair share of chick flicks, so as a guy, this was extremely fun for me to read! And, I know many of you are waiting for my next installment of "The Best of Forgotten Television," and I promise you, it'll be posted within 48 hours! I'd do it tonight, but I'm going to be busy watching "The Notebook."

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday

***

Quote of the Day:

A student, after I just told her and two of her friends to change seats because the three of them were being too noisy together: "Why do we have to move?"
Me, justifying my decision: "Because, you guys are a rough threesome today."

I'm an idiot, but it's not as bad as when one of my high school teachers messed up "Huck Finn."

Think about it.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tater Tot Surprise



I've never really understood the concept of "casserole." Even in childhood, when my mother would concoct a creamy amalgam of pasty fluid and large odorless chunks of meat/mushrooms/mutant fusion of the two, I left the table confused and oddly unsatiated. Food with nothing but unknown ingredients has the same effect on me as an unchartered haunted house (I'm curious about what's inside, but I don't have the gumption to find out what exactly lurks within). So, when I received my daily tray lunch from the cafeteria this morning, my jaw dropped to the floor hard enough to register on a seismic scale.

The "crap du jour" on my plate up there is called Tator Tot Casserole, but I have affectionately nicknamed it "Squirrel Waste in a Light Mushroom Gravy." Problem number one with this dish is the fact that it includes both onions AND mushrooms, which turn me into a vomiteur. If there are two foods that I hate more than this, I haven't tried them yet (perhaps mud and rotting snail carcasses are edible?). Problem number two is the obvious aesthetic issue we have with our Tot mixture. I've never seen anything that looked less appetizing than this meal (except maybe Anna Nicole Smith at her fattest). If you're going to make something disgusting, you might as well make it pretty. Lunch today failed. It failed horribly...

The saddest thing is that school lunches are typically parodied on television and in movies, and today's experience did not erase any stereotypes. Where do these lunch ladies come from? Are they amateur chefs whose only experience is cooking for jails and mininum security prisons? I have no idea, but this meal upset me enough write about it. Now go eat something, but make sure you know what it is before it gets in your mouth!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Under-Developed Brain of Jermaine

The things he said just made me so... ANGRY!!!

First, let me catch you up to speed: In the NBA's most recent ten years, there has been an influx of players opting to skip college and go directly to the big league. The commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, wants to put an age limit of 20 on players' eligibility to be drafted by a professional team. Like all debates, there are two convincing sides, and to be honest, I've gotta side with The Commish if only for the reason that it would put some more star power into college hoops, but a lot of people believe that if the players can play on that grander stage, let 'em do it!

A lot of these players are household names (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, etc...), so it's going to be hard to justify any kind of change, but Indiana Pacers star forward Jermaine O'Neal (also a college-skipper), naturally feels very strongly against an age limit. He's entitled to this opinion, however he came off sounding like a complete idiot, which is an ailment cured by most college educations. Hmm. Fancy that.

Here's a direct quote: "There were seven high school players in the All-Star Game, so why we even talking an age limit?" Let me point out one particular part of this sentence: "Why we even talking an age limit." Well, I've got an "are" and an "about" that I'd just LOVE to stick into that phrase, but who am I to take artistic liberties? How difficult is it to take this man seriously when he can't even speak correctly? Am I supposed to go, "Ah, yes! The uneducated man with cornrows has a point!" The saddest thing about this whole article is that O'Neal is claiming that an age limit is racist! At first I thought that was a typo, because I'm well aware that we live in agist society in which a person's number of years on this earth very much affects the respect he or she gets. But how in the foggy blue hell is an age limit racism???

Let's give O'Neal the podium to answer this question (again, this is a direct quote): "As a black guy, you kind of think [race is] the reason why it's coming up."

Touche, Jermaine. Touche.

he doesn't even provide a reason for this claim! Go on, check it out yourself! Regardless of how I feel about the issue of raising the age limit for potential NBA players, I'd like the person arguing against me to make intelligent points. I'm almost mad at espn.com for running such an asinine story. So in protest of such idiocy, here's my intelligent point, my "rebuttal," if you will: Mr. O'Neal, go to college, learn how to provide arguments that support your purpose and take some speech and grammar classes. Then, once you've graduated, come back and argue with me. In the meantime, go make 100 million dollars and quit your griping.

Moron.

PS--Go Bulls! :)

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Best of Forgotten Television, Pt. 1

It was hard to be a child of the early 90s and not be a complete pop culture freak. My generation was really the first to trade sandlot baseball and jungle gyms for television and Nintendo. I can’t tell you how many childhood summer nights were spent in front of the idiot box soaking in hours of televisionary entertainment. Even as an adult, I can’t seem to get enough TV, and you know… why should I have to? If there are fun things available to watch, dammit, I’m going to watch them! I can’t even remember a time when there wasn’t at least SOMETHING to watch on the tube. I mean, we’ve got some pretty good watchin’ these days, but as a kid, the programming was absolutely STELLAR.

I bring all of this up because I recently found myself pondering the conclusions to my favorite shows. How did “Full House” end? Remember “The Wonder Years” with Fred Savage? And what about “Boy Meets World,” with Savage’s little brother Ben? I wanted to know what happened to all of these shows. There was no recollection in my memory as to whether a show was cancelled and stopped on a dime, or if it was given a proper burial, so to speak. So, I did some research and realized that I had seen most of these final episodes, but I didn’t always realize that those particular ones were the dramatic finales. Other times I had just forgotten. To remedy all of your respective curiosities, I present you—right here, right now—with my Top 5 Favorite Final Episodes for Early Nineties Television Shows, as well as a few Wild Cards that would send you into permanent insanity if I didn’t tell you about them. Sit back, grab a bowl of popcorn and the remote control (or “TV Box” as one friend so unforgettably called it), and enjoy these grand finales!

5. Home Improvement.

This particular series took the Easy Road Out with its series finale by integrating the two biggest Series Finale Clich├ęs of all time: a family changing location and/or a wedding. For this particular show, Jill gets offered a job in Indiana that she decides to take after spending so much time in school studying to be a psychologist. Tim plays the Great Husband role in this one and decides to quit Tool Time. If I am recalling this correctly, I’m pretty sure that Heidi actually gets knocked up by somebody (Pamela Anderson was definitely the hotter Tool Time Babe—I remember the one episode when she came back and got into a little scrum with Heidi. In my head, I still think of how wonderful the fighting Budweiser girls commercial could have been with those two cast as the lead wet hair-pullers).

Al gets married to the ugly broad from “A League of Their Own” in Tim’s back yard. And he does this after spending so many seasons dating that hot, conservative blonde (What ever happened to her? Someone please tell me!). I’ll never quite understand that, but… que sera sera! The highlight of this show, and this is the thing that makes the "Home Improvement" finale so wonderful, is that they tear down Wilson’s fence to make room for all the wedding guests. We still don't get to see his face, but it was a delicious teaser! The episode ends with Tim and Jill’s house on a huge semi truck being transported to Indiana, where they planned to spend their new life together.

Naturally, the producers of the show didn’t want this highly successful sitcom to end, and as a lure to keep Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson on the show, they offered them contracts in the Millions of Dollars Per Episode range (2 mil for Allen, 1 for Richardson). Al Borland (who cares what his real name is, right?) ended up hosting the new “Family Fued” show, which of course dooms him to either death or obesity, as proven by previous hosts of the show. It’s his prerogative, I suppose. Brother’s gotta work, right?

The other thing that always bothered me was the disappearance of Jonathon Taylor Thomas once the show completed. In his heyday, girls were riding his jock like a pre-pubescent Elvis, but he has since dropped off the face of the earth. My sisters wallpapered their bedrooms with Tiger Beat and Teen Dream pictures of this kid, then POOF! He’s gone just like that! I always heard he was gay, but I never got wind of that rumor’s truthfulness. It’s amazing how a show like that can produce NO great young actors. The Taylor parents made it out alive, why not the kids? In any event, I always enjoyed this show, and I’m glad it was given a proper conclusion, because as we’ll see later, some really great shows were not given the same liberties.

What SHOULD have happened: Tim dies on the very last episode of Tool Time via very nasty accident involving a jet engine and a mustache trimmer. This leaves Jill alone and confused, leading her into the arms of Al, who finally loses his virginity. Jill loses self-esteem and morality from this encounter and begins sleeping with the entire neighborhood, most notably Wilson and the doctor across the street Tim was always trying to beat in the Christmas decoration contest. Brad ends up playing soccer in England and marrying that weird sporty Spice Girl that looks like she wants to rape timid men. Randy admits his homosexuality and joins a traveling production of “The Lion King” musical. Mark goes uber-goth and eats babies. The end.

4. The Wonder Years

This finale was weird in that it didn’t deal with hardly any issues until the last 120 seconds of the episode. Otherwise, it was a pretty normal show in which Kevin and Whinny were STILL BEING DEVELOPED AS CHARACTERS! I would think a final episode of a show that ran six seasons would not worry about such things, but alas, I am but a meager consumer with no girth in the television business whatsoever. I’m over it.

In this episode, Kevin is working far away from home at a pool place where Whinny also happens to be working, although the two of them are no longer dating (how convenient, right?). Kevin desires a re-kindling of the romantic flames, but Whinny is porking one of the lifeguards (David Hasselhoff). (Not really). Kevin eventually spies on Whinny and sees her flirting with said lifeguard stud and subsequently calls her a “slutty whore that was conceived before marriage,” or something similar (I’m paraphrasing). She gets angry, he gets fired for making a scene, and he hits the road to hitchhike with no money because he lost it all in a poker game the night before (author’s note: kids playing poker for real money is a BAD IDEA, but that’s a whole other column).

A car picks him up, and guess who’s in the back seat? That’s right! Norm from “Cheers!” And he looks suspiciously like Whinny Cooper (again: how convenient)! The two begin arguing, and eventually the old couple driving gets sick of it and tosses them out of the moving vehicle. Still livid, the two strew their belongings into the road, which of course brings a large truck to run it all over. This, naturally, is followed by rain, which somehow leads to the two of them making out in an abandoned stable a few dozen feet off of the road (is it me, or does this all feel extremely Dadaistic?).

Here’s where the finality of it all kicks in: Suddenly, Kevin and Whinny are back home for the fourth of July, so Kevin runs through what happens to the rest of his family over the years. The dickhead Dad (that guy always scared me) has a heart attack and dies, so Wayne (also a large male genital) takes over the family furniture business and eventually moves out of the basement. Mom works her way to a career as a board executive and becomes all successful, and the sister, Karen, ends up having her baby. Paul goes to Harvard, continuing his journey to become the Ultimate Nerd (think Ultimate Warrior—same face paint and ribbons on arms, but a weaker physique and trifocals with lenses like the Hubble Telescope). Whinny moves to France to study art history for EIGHT YEARS, and Kevin waits for her like a good little boy. She eventually comes home, the two of them knock boots, and Kevin Jr. pops out nine months later. The point of the EXTREMELY brief monologue is that you grow up, and things really do change, but you’ll “always remember The Wonder Years.”

I personally felt like the “summing it all up” thing at the end was cheap, but I loved the last line of the series. I remember watching the first episode recently and thinking, “This is some of the most tastefully done television ever,” and it was nice to see the last line of the last episode mirror that sentiment. If anyone is unfamiliar with this series, it’s a must-watch. It makes you feel good, reminisce, laugh, cry, and even poop a little. Great characters, great vibe, great show.

Fred Savage ended up playing Number 3 on one of the Austin Powers movies (think The Mole), but other than that, I can’t think of one major show any of those guys were on. Some used to say that Paul grew up to be Marilyn Manson, and though that would be hilariously ironic, it’s not true (nor is Manson the kid from “Mr. Belvidere,” by the way). I’ve sat here and moaned about how the show ended, but I can’t think of a more tasteful way to end things (as if my “Home Improvement” suggestions were even in the same zip code as “tasteful”). Sometimes they just get the plot stuff right. Everyone ends up as they should. If only real life could be that way!

***Next Entry: My second and third favorite show finales of the early 90s! Don’t touch that dial!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Orange You Glad I Said "Orgasm?"

Right now, at this very instant, every single person in the entire Midwest is experiencing an enormous, simultaneous orgasm over the University of Illinois Fightin’ Illini basketball team. One out of every one people has worn an orange shirt at LEAST once a week for the last four months, and people as far away as Chicago (a city with nothing in common with Champaign-Urbana but a non-alliterative “Ch” at the beginning of their names) are sporting supportive gear bearing the giant capital “I” of everyone’s newest favorite collegiate team. This is amazing, this pride we have for a team that’s never made it to a championship game before this year. I am truly in awe of all the “life-long” (so to speak) die-hard Illini fans that exist in this state. It’s truly encouraging. Truly.

See, we learn about this sort of thing in fourth grade social studies class. It’s called “riding the bandwagon,” and it’s what sports fans have done since the inception of peer pressure sometime in the 1940s. We see all this orange not because these people are life-long Illini fans, but because they think, “Hey, I’m from Illinois and I need a life purpose, so I suppose I’ll root for this team that is winning, since it gives me confidence that MY team is the best team, even though I never previously rooted for them before this particular successful season.” My problem does not lie in the fact that these people have decided to root for the U of I; au contraire, I think it’s great that a stellar ball team can fill its gym to the brim for every game, no matter where they are. What I take issue with is the people who never cared until there was a buzz about how well things were going.

Interestingly enough, the Illini craze is what got me thinking about this whole problem, but it’s the half-assed Chicago Bulls fans that have really busted my bubble. The city of Chicago has always been a huge fan of basketball, and we were undoubtedly spoiled for a number of years because we had the single most amazing basketball player ever on our home floor every single night. I mean, with Steve Kerr out there, how could you NOT be fan? The Bulls became Huns, mercilessly overpowering other teams like they were the Romans. They’d eat competition like Tic Tacs, chewing them up, swallowing them, and ending up with delightfully fresh breath to boot. There was even one season where we set the record for most wins in a season by posting a 72-10 record! Nobody’s ever going to come close to touching that! Ever!!! For me, growing up with successful Bulls teams was just the way things were, and by the time I was 16, Jordan and his Disciples had taken down six championships. At that point in my life, I would have promised my first-born son to the devil in exchange for Bulls playoffs tickets, only because I grew up in the area, and I LOVED THAT TEAM.

But those of you that follow basketball know that the Bulls became immediately asinine the year after Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, and Phil Jackson left the team (Writing that down on paper makes my heart hurt. I may have just had a mild stroke. Yup, there goes my motor skills… ssomenoe c all ann amubulsaacne). Suddenly, Bulls games weren’t selling out any more. People stopped watching the games. Our team’s chances of making the playoffs ANY time soon were about as probable as Ashlee Simpson tripping and falling face first into talent (which, by the way, she’d still probably find a way to screw up). In fact, most Bulls fans couldn’t name five guys that played for the team between then and now.

I can name thirty, maybe more.

This year, the Bulls are bound for the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, and suddenly, tickets are amazingly hard to come by (of course). At the start of the season, Dale and I figured that we’d have our veritable pick of litter when it came to getting tickets, but alas, we were incorrect. Fair-weather fans snatched up all the good seats, and now the best we can find are standing room only at the most unentertaining of games. The only reason this has happened is because most people only want to root for their “favorite” teams when they are doing well. The rest of the time, they forget.

We saw the same thing last April around World Series time when everybody in the whole WORLD got on the wagon for the Boston Red Sox. Don’t tell me that those players were just so damn likeable that they instantly gained a magnanimous number of fans. Johnny Damon looks like what would happen if Jesus mated with a Cro-Magnon woman, Curt Schilling is the kind of narcissistic dillwad who would fall and drown in a pond after staring too intently at his own reflection in the water, and Pedro Martinez brought a midget into the clubhouse, making all of his teammates rub its head for good luck (that’s actually true). What the hell, Pedro? You’re telling me that THIS is a team that earned itself a world full of peers?

I suppose I can complain about this until I’m blue in the fingers, and truth be told, I’m mostly just bitter that I wasn’t preemptive enough to get better Bulls tickets. But, the fact still remains: fair-weather bandwagon riders (speaking of this—doesn’t a ride in a wagon sound lovely in this fair weather we’ve been having lately?) taint the value of the game by pretending that they care, when we all know for a fact they won’t be sticking around through the team’s hard times. Next year, without Deron Williams, Luther Head, Jack Ingram and others, the Illini are going to be pretty not good. It’s probably fairly safe on my behalf to suggest that all these orange t-shirts will be on a rack in a Salvation Army somewhere, because no one’s going to care about them anymore. There are fans that will still love U of I basketball (big ups to Dave, John, and Bub) the same way that I stuck with Bulls through the rough times, but most of the hype we see now will have died like John Paul Two (that's my second irreverant Roman Catholic joke this article. I'm going to end this now to avoid getting dealt Christianity's feared "Go to Hell Free" card).

The people of the Midwest may love this big, collective orgasm right now, but one thing simply can’t be ignored: orgasms may feel amazing and wonderful, but what we fail to remember is that they are also very, very short-lived (except for the pig, which has orgasms that last up to a half an hour. Note to self: I want to die and come back as a ham).