Friday, June 30, 2006

nacho lolita

so, with my jetlag / travel cold combo receding by last week's end, Grace and i decided to revel in our shared love of collecting souvenir admission tickets to places packed to the gills with idle pre-teens by spending that Friday night at the local cinema watching the exploits of Nacho Libre .

we showed up about ten minutes prior to the start of the previews (a heartwarming underdog story involving Marky Mark and 1970s Philadelphia Eagles football? it's like Rudy for cheesesteak lovers) and settled in to the end of a mostly-full row, leaving a two-seat buffer (the negative space everyone in a theater naturally seeks to put between themselves and the presence of stranger elbows...) to my left and one to Grace's right.

a few minutes passed uneventfully before my buffer seating (which was admittedly in excess of the required amount) was halved by the introduction of a new would-be Jack Black viewer to the second empty seat on my left.

White, seemingly in his mid to late -40s, bearded, seated alone, outside of the movie's key demographic.... it rang a bit odd against the senses but not to the point of being a perceptible or bothersome disturbance.

until i noticed him rest, on the seat 'twixt he and i, his coat...

who carries around a wool coat in the summertime?

in the summertime in Houston, humidity capital of the world?

surely the coat couldn't just be for saving a seat in a theater; other means such as "excuse me that seat's taken" are readily available... my "something's awry" meter ticked up one notch.

a few minutes pass and then, with the noise of the impatiently bored crowd chatter increasing, Mr. Beard leans forward from his seat and waves vigorously, cautious but eager in his motions, to someone below.

waving, to flag someone down, to let them know where he was. but waving to whom?

my passive curiosity was unsettlingly answered moments later when our row was entered by, and the seat immediately to my left occupied by, a 12-to-13 year old girl dressed in a Friday-night short denim skirt.

at this point the "awry" meter is going off the charts and the social environment of the moviegoing experience for Grace and me irrevocably changed for the worse; what before to my left had seemed a simple case of "bachelor's night out" had morphed into some discomforting MySpace hook-up.

now, having a real-life version of Steve Buscemi in Ghost World and his young bird sitting near you in a theater is offputting enough but we didn't understand yet just how bad the supplemental movie-going experience was going to be until the previews got underway. i feared some sort of creepy "coat over the laps / disappearing hands" impropriety when the lights dimmed but what grace and i instead endured was the other, more common type of movie disturbance.

the girl.... laughed.... at everything. loud, and long, and clear just like that chimney sweep in Mary Poppins. (or was it some rotund doctor they visited, i can't remember. floating around in the air, laughing incessantly, was there some sort of drug reference going on in that movie? anyways...)

good jokes, bad jokes, things on screen that weren't really proffered as jokes, all of it was indescribably hilarious to her brain. before you dismiss me as a crotchety 29-year-old i will state that, despite the low number of laughs/guffaws/chuckles that actually escape my own lips, i do find and enjoy a lot of humor in the world.... but the mad jester Comedy is going to have to bring the grade-A stuff if he craves my true laugh reactions.

though i internalize most of my humor appreciation, i don't expect other people to conform to my tendencies, neither do i begrudge them their laughs at what they think is amusing. a comedy at a theater full of people like me would suck due to the fact that there'd be little to no ambient laughter echoing after the funny bits, just a bunch of guys smiling a little and thinking to themselves 'hey... that was pretty clever'.

i only ask for a bit of good judgment in discerning what's really, at its core, funny. the junior-higher to my left failed to show she had such judgment; let me try to describe her comedy-view adequately:

there was a preview for an underwhelming-looking animated film entitled Barnyard, where ugly-looking farm animals secretly walk upright and talk just like humans but must hide their
anthropomorphism from the people on the farm. (note: written by the guy whose previous brainchild was Kung Pow: Enter the Fist)

at the end of the trailer we're shown some clips from a sequence in which the animals , barnside and in the midst of partying to previously unforeseen levels of heartiness , use human mannequin arms through the barely-cracked barnyard door to pay for and receive the pizza delivery that they'd presumably ordered over the phone (with money presumably lifted from the farmer's wallet at some point....oh, no admirable animals these...).

but oh no! one of the animals loses his grip on his mannequin arm and it falls to earth at the delivery guy's feet. will this suspicious development cause the animals be found out, their secrets revealed all for the want of some circular cheese-covered dough? (i don't quite recall but i assumed the pizzas didn't have ham or anything on them that would give the film a sadistic fauna-cannibal angle)

no, it seems that the delivery guy's natural reaction to a disembodied plastic arm, which he previously believed to be either a real or prosthetic limb connected to a living person, is joy as he claims it as his new possession, excitedly crowing "whoooooooooo!! alright, i got an arm!" in triumph to the other delivery guy in the car as he walks away from the barn.

first off........what? mannequin arms are a prized commodity among pizza delivery guys?

secondly....when has pizza delivery ever been a two-man operation?

the punchline to this scene, the scene used to end the trailer and give you lasting impressions of the movie to intrigue you until its release for viewing, makes no sense. it is not comedy. it was a completely random reaction. no substance, nothing.

maybe the trailer failed to capture the intricate "delivery guy's quest for a mannequin arm" subplot that serves as the centering backdrop to the gag; if so, shame be to the trailer editors, we were all unjustly cheated. regardless, what was shown on screen during the trailer was unworthy of praise by laughter in any form or quantity.

Junior High, naturally, found it to be an aggressive assault on her funny bone.

further exacerbating the laugh riot, at the end of the trailer the pizza delivery wingman apparently validates the first delivery guy's elation at finding the mannequin arm prize by leaning out the car window, wagging his fingers in some fashion, and rejoicingly singing (and i quote): "deedly-deedly-deedly-deedly" in some kind of grim Bill S. Preston / Ted Theodore Logan mockery.

this , of course, prompted from Junior High the first of many demonstrations over the next couple of hours of a rarer variation of movie disturbance: the "repeat what you just heard the movie say" or "plainly state to someone else nearby what actions just took place onscreen".

Junior High swivels to face Friendly Uncle and , through her hysterics, apes Pizza Wingman's celebration. what effect this had on Uncle Overcoat i'm not sure but it was at this point that all hope was extinguished for me that A) grace and i would know a moment's peace during the movie and B) that this guy was just her dad. it may have been a while since i was that age, and for the record i was never a girl, but i'm pretty sure that that age for girls is prime "embarrassed to be seen with the parents" territory, not "leaning heads in close together in a public place while clasping hands and laughing".

from that point on and throughout the movie we were served with a constant artillery run of laugh bombs from Junior High punctuated by spastic limb movements and "he got run over by the bull!" points of clarity.

because i liked the smooth combination of Jack Black, Napoleon-Dynamite goofy vibe, interesting filmwork in capturing Mexico's vistas, and Danny Elfman / Beck music (this is my mini-review by the way), i was still able to enjoy the movie though i believe that grace's fatigue (she had spent extra time at the airport that day due to missed connections, general airline snafus, etc.) made the ceaseless peripheral braying a little too much to bear for her to leave any room for enjoyment of the film's finer moments.

the movie ended and we left; i'm not sure what happened to Lonely Bachelor and the Justin Timberlake Fan Club Member (bah, that's probably too dated a reference, who do the kids like these days....) but hopefully she comes to her senses and starts hanging around with guys her own age and renting DVDs at home in lieu of weekend rendezvous with creepy older men.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

that band, the one with chris cornell and the Rage guitarist....

there's a hole in my brain right where the name of that band, the one with Chris Cornell from Soundgarden and the bald guitarist from Rage Against the Machine (the one that goes wicky-wicky-wick on his guitar in every song), would ordinarily go.

i liked a lot of Soundgarden's songs, they could write some pretty interesting minor chord progressions, and Chris can belt it out, but was not really much of a Rage fan, no axe to grind against them, just not a fan.

for reasons unconnected to that history, i'm just not a fan of that Band Whose Name I Cannot Recall. whenever i hear one of their songs, which are fairly prevalent over the radio, i feel lethargic and uninspired. i'm sure there's a lot of talent in the group, but the product of that talent in this case happens to be droning vanilla mush.

if the fate of the world depended on my being able to remember The Band's name, we would all be doomed.

someone might post a comment with The Band's name. i will read it, say 'oh yeah that's their name' just as i've done a thousand times when they say it on the radio, and then the name will drop into that black hole in my brain and be lost again. it is futile.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

not deadbeat, just worldly

i haven't posted since june 5th but i doggedly assert to you now that i haven't gone the path of the deadbeat blogger, i've just been on a trip with the company to Amsterdam and Crete.

of course that only accounts for the time between last Thursday night and this recent Monday afternoon so the rest of the absence before that remains largely unexplained.

i'm still here and have a story from that timeframe, it just involves pictures that i was waiting to receive and post. plus i'll have the recap of my first European adventure sometime after i shake off this jetlag/travel cold combo.

rest assured i'll quickly return to my rock-solid one-post-per-week rhythm soon.

Monday, June 05, 2006

bestest president ever

so Fox News' Neil Cavuto, on his daily show, today posed the question:

"Will the world remember George W. Bush as a great president?"

.....i'm going to stick my neck out here and predict "no".

politics aside (and for the record, some internet quiz i took told me i'm some particular type of centrist, thank you), GWB has screwed up way too much to be considered "good", let alone great.

feel free to come back in twenty years or so (is that the right amount of time passed for people to start remembering old presidents?) and post chiding comments if time and history prove me wrong.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fun with numbers - the Space City Ice Station way!

so i, from time to time, like to supplement my weekly league hockey activities with a separate night spent at my rink's pick-up hockey session, where backchecking and defense are myths and the goalies typically are made to work harder than James Brown on tour. mostly i attend these for practice, to work on my skill set; other times it's just for fun or to satisfy the hockey jones in those weeks when it can't be sated by one league game alone.

normally these games go off without a hitch; i call ahead to put my name on the goalie list, head out there in the evening, suit up, make some saves, miss some saves, drink some water, suit down, drive home, shower, sleep, alarm clock, snooze, snooze, snooze, get up and go to work.

this week's pickup, however, did come with a hitch thanks to the rink personnel playing fast and loose with their math.

let's put down some numbers here:

1 - the number of goalies that can, within the rules of hockey, defend a net at one time

2 - the number of nets in a hockey game setup, one on each end of the rink

4 - the maximum number of goalie spots per pick-up session, as shown on the sign-up sheet and stated on the rink's website

90 - number of minutes of gametime per pick-up session

if we take the number of gametime minutes (90) multiplied by the number of goalies on the ice at one time (2) we arrive at 180 total goalie gametime minutes per session.

if the maximum number of goalies (4) show up, two goalies are assigned to each net and each goalie plays for 180 / 4 = 45 minutes and sits for 45 (the remainder of the 90-minute pickup session). usually in this case the goalie will play for 15 minutes , sit for 15 minutes while the other goalie plays, and repeat until the session is over.

this 50/50 split between playing and sitting is what i refer to as the 'maximum rest/play threshold ratio': playing time must equal or exceed the amount of time spent at rest.

my personal opinion is that 3 is the optimal number of goalies per session as it creates a 2:1 ratio of gameplay to rest; play for 20 minutes, sit for 10.

now...... when i showed up to the rink for pickup this week, it was to my chagrin that i saw a total of 8 goalies signed up for the night's session in a baffling disregard of the rink's own stated rules.

applying our earlier formula: 180 gametime minutes / 8 = 22.5 minutes of gameplay for each goalie with (90 - 22.5) = 67.50 minutes spent sitting on the bench.

this results in a goalie spending three minutes at rest for every minute that he plays. in a word, unacceptable (made even more unacceptable by the fact that we were told the session started at 10 pm but an earlier league game did not finish until 10:30)

considering the high-schoolish, part-time status of most rink employees i figured it must have been some boneheaded mistake by a teen who could care less to properly count for $6.50 an hour.

however, one of the goalies (a friend i met through a goalie message board who recently moved from Minnesota to Houston) sent an inquiring letter to the rink's manager the next day and received this in response:

"I knew we had quite a few goal tenders trying to sign up, but certainly didn't expect them all to show up. That is the problem we've had in the past, which set us up for last night. It has not been unheard of for 4 guys to call in and none show up to play. I knew we had a full roster of high-end skaters, so we gambled on the goalie side, and obviously got bit. We started working on how to solve this last night, and will announce a new policy in the next day or two. I expect we will have some type of reservation charge to hold a spot at least, if not simply charge a fee for goalies to play"

so the rink decided to risk having a good number of goalies come out for an unhealthy portion of gameplay-to-rest to benefit some "high-end skaters"? not hard to see which position is the red-headed stepchild in this hockey family.

as far as goalies signing up and then not showing, i could understand some type of informal blacklist for repeat offenders but i have to this day not found any precedent for making goalies pay to play pick-up.

Fact #1: for hockey players, shooting on a goalie, even a terrible one, is infinitely more challenging and entertaining than shooting on an empty net or jersey tied to the top of the crossbar.

Fact #2: goalies are generally given a free ride at pick-up sessions because A) they have had to buy all of the expensive equipment and B) because of Fact #1, a pick-up session with goalies attracts more paying players than one without goalies.

in short, we generate revenue for the rink by showing up and drawing larger groups of paying players; our compensation has always been a pass on the pick-up fee.

if they do come out with a pay-to-play policy for goalies i'm curious to see how well it goes over. i feel the growing need to unite the community of goalies to boycott.... "A Day Without a Goalie"