Sunday, December 09, 2007

Bee Movie? Try Bee Minus

Like many a culture geek, I was really looking forward to watching No Country for Old Men this weekend. I've heard so many reviews calling it one of the Coen Brother's best, and I've read one Cormac McCarthy novel with loose plans for picking up The Road one of these days, so yeah, I was about as excited as one could be about catching a dry, tense, music-less, murderous cat-and-mouse thriller. Instead, I saw Bee Movie.

My wife was planning on taking a few of her well-behaved students out as a treat (apparently at a certain young age spending time outside of school with one's teacher is considered a treat), she needed an extra chaperone and I was easily bribed with the prospect of free popcorn. The movie, if you're not familiar with its plot (I realize it wasn't heavily advertised, so it may have slipped past your filmic radar), goes a little something like this:

After a fleetingly brief childhood (humor = bees have a short life span!), the bee voiced by Jerry Seinfeld named Barry (Jerry with a bee! Get it?) is startled by the revelation that adult life consists of picking a career track and working in that field until one's death. There must be more to life than that, thinks Barry, so he ventures out of the hive on a pollen-collecting expedition. Along the way, he gets lost, breaks the cardinal bee law against speaking to humans, and learns that some humans have been keeping bees in cages to extract the honey for commercial gain. The only logical solution, of course, is to pursue an idealistic, knee-jerk lawsuit in which fat capitalist pigs (figuratively) are brought to task for exploiting the labor of bees (literally). This is not so much a plea for the equal treatment of all earthly creatures as it is a rallying cry to return the capital and means of production back to the average working man (or bee, in this case). Unsurprisingly, through a series of courtroom shenanigans that would make Sam Waterston blush, the judge rules in favor of the bees (despite it being a jury trial).

While this ruling is all fine and dandy, and certainly not unexpected given the animated children movie genre's unblinking bias in favor of the likeable underdog, it turns out there is a dastardly twist (and yes, more spoilers ensue). Now that the entire honey supply has been rightfully returned to the bees of the world (somehow a New York district court case involving a non-citizen and a vaguely defined defendant has global ramifications), the bees are left with more honey than they know what to do with, so they react in opposition to what bee culture has taught them to do for the past 27 million years: they stop working. Isn't this every anti-Communists' worst nightmare? You return power to the working class and what do they do, they slag off doing the backstroke in a giant pool of honey. Despicable.

The ramifications of this generalized bee laziness is far-reaching: now that bees are no longer pollinating certain types of flowers, all vegetation on earth (not just the flowers dependant on bee pollination, mind you) is slowly withering away to nothing. Through another series of stunts too ludicrous to recount in this here blog, Barry the bee and his humanoid girlfriend manage to heist one of the last few remaining batches of fresh flowers and re-pollinate NYC, thereby averting global vegetative disaster.

The moral of the story, basically, is to not question your lot in life or else you'll risk destroying your entire civilization, and that's just a terrible message to send to kids. That's all I had to say about it. For shame, Jerry, for shame.

And that, in a nutshell, is way more information than I was hoping to share about this movie.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No more working like a bum

Working from home is a pretty sweet deal, especially if you're only in your mid-20's and it's a genuine telecommuting opportunity and not a stressful freelance gig or a scam designed to attract lazy, talentless bums or gullible housewives. That being said, however, the work-from-home lifestyle isn't always the cherry pie on cloud 9 dream you might imagine it to be. So today, on my last day working from my remote "office" before I return to the world of dress pants and styrofoam coffee cups, here is an abbreviated list of the things I will and will not miss about working in my underwear.

Things I will miss:

  • The coffee - Sweet Jesus, I have never gotten as much use out of my Mr. Coffee maker as I have in these past few months. I used to feel that I was rotting away my insides when I subsisted on the watered-down instant Foldgers and off-brand non-dairy creamer my old office offered me on a daily basis. Nowadays I've been spoiling myself with organic coffee beans freshly ground for me from the Hartford Coffee Co. right down the street, with a healthy splash of real half-and-half. I can drink two pots of this delicious black elixir every day if I'm not careful. The downside, of course, is that I have never been as desparately addicted to caffeine as I am now.

  • The commute - What commute? My morning routine essentially consists of me rolling out of bed, throwing on some pants (optional), switching on my computer, and voila!, I'm at work. Not for one second do I miss being stuck on the interstate hell that is I-71, where I would typically curse until I was hoarse before I even showed up to work. It made me a very angry, irritable person. If you met me today you'd swear I was gellin' like Magellan.

  • Robin & Co. - Is there a better source for mindless national news in the morning? I think not!

  • The music - While iPods are essential to getting through the day at a stiflingly quiet office, wearing the earbuds all the time can make you appear stand-offish and jumpy, because you never know when someone (i.e., your manager) might be creeping up behind you. At the home HQ it's a non-stop-rockathon coming out of my speakers. I can sing along to Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" all day on repeat without getting curious looks from my co-workers (I recently rediscovered my love of Biz after watching an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia during my lunch break, which leads me to my next point...)

  • The lunch hour - Nothing's more depressing than your typical corporate lunch (half) hour: grabbing a soggy brown-bag lunch from the communal fridge and scurrying back to your cubicle to scarf it down like a mole man while reading Google News, or worse, eating with co-workers in the break room that invariably smells like microwaved broccoli. The Well Respected Bistro regularly served up oven-cooked meals or panini-style sandwiches fresh from the George Foreman Grill, complimented with an endless stream of snacks and beverages, which were regularly consumed on the couch while watching TV shows on DVD (e.g., the IASIP episode where Dennis and Dee are celebrating their newfound unemployment by drinking tallboys on the stoop of their apartment, singing Biz Markie, before deciding to apply for welfare: "Hello, I'm a recovering crack head, and this is my retarded sister that I take care of. I'd like some welfare, please.")

Things I will not miss:

  • The cats - Cats jumping on my laptop when I'm trying to type; cats getting into hissing fights when I'm trying to talk on the phone; me turning into the sort of guy who complains about cats.

  • The sloth - It's a very humbling experience when you're signing for a package delivery in your sweatpants and robe at 1:00 p.m., and you realize that the UPS guy probably thinks you're the most slovenly, lazy, and unhygenic person on his entire delivery route.

  • The construction - The house next to mine has been undergoing daily construction work for the past few months, and while the sounds of constant hammering and chiseling can be irritating, it's the sleazy workers singing T.I. and Lil John loudly and poorly that really gets to me. No discernable progress has been made on the house.

  • The space - I'm looking forward to having a dining room that functions as a dining room, instead of an office/dining room that is overrun with books and papers from work. It'll be really nice to leave work at work when 5:00 hits.

  • The isolation - I mean, c'mon, look at me: I'm a sweatpants-wearing, cat-talking, caffeine-addicted, '90s rap-singing hermit who's developed strong personal opinions about morning cable news personalities and construction workers. I think you'd agree that getting out more on a regular basis would be good for me.

In any case, what's done is done. I dropped off all my old work belongings to the sullen UPS Store employee who only listens to '80s synth pop, and I get to start over in a brand new company on Monday. In the meantime, I'm unemployed and looking forward to Thanksgiving in St. Louis.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Despite what you may have been thinking, I am in fact still alive and kicking, both in the real world and on cyberspace. As it turns out (not too surprisingly) I am not too adept at this whole computer business, because in a recent attempt to upgrade my blogger template I not only deleted all of my links and other personalized categories, but I am somehow operating back on the "classic" version of Blogger. Technology, you have bested me once again! That will teach me to think twice before messing with you, technology!

In addition to being a poor blog technician, it also turns out that I am an unreliable blogger to boot (as any long-term reader can attest to). Where have I been for the past month or so with regular updates into my exciting, jet-setting life (just returned from spending an extended weekend in a garage in San Diego!) or my unnecessary picks for early favorites on season 4 of Project Runway (the fat guy!)? I have been on the job prowl, looking high and low for a new source of steady income. Despite my utmost faith in my own capabilities (I would hire me, anyway), it was a rather trying time and I felt all knotted up inside as I was fearing the worst and waiting an answer. I was, so to speak, creatively constipated. I am happy to report that this blockage has been successfully cleared and I will be starting my new job the Monday after Thanksgiving. Relief flowed through me like a carafe of coffee and a big bowl of bran cereal in the morning. Before you know it I will be starting my new job in a new company in this new town, and I will be pouring my spare energies back into this shanty blog with renewed vigor (this last part is pure speculation). While working from home certainly has its perks, I'm looking forward to rejoining the real world. I think even my cats are beginning to worry that I've been talking to them too much.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Skeezy Politicians Pulling on Tween Heartstrings

Has anyone else noticed political advertisers' bizarre obsession with filtering their messages through the unassailably smug guise of well-spoken children? These kids, all of whom are so preternaturally cognizant of the issues of the world at large that they might as well be ripped from the pages of a Don DeLillo novel, are popping up everywhere, and it's high time we put them on "time out."

Okay, I can concede the effectiveness of some of these commercials, such as the "Parents talk to your kids about [choose one: safe sex/drugs/the military]." Not only do those speak to the value of making informed decisions in life, but they also bear an important civic message regarding involved parenting. However, the motivation behind the following "Divided We Fail" commercial seems a little more suspect:

Sure, it's a simple enough premise. Politicians should live up to their promises. Politicians should put the interests of The People first. The People, in turn, will vote for the most principled public officials. Sounds great, doesn't it? But who's naive enough to think that such a rosy, do-gooder paradigm is somehow analagous to our American politcal realities? That's right: children. Dirty, mischevious, pimple-pocked children. The biggest punchline of the whole commercial is the idea that there might someday be a "youth vote" that could influence elections. Come on! We've been fed that line since Humphrey ran for office, and it didn't make a difference then and it ain't gonna make a difference now. Leave it to a group of bored and malicious retired people to attack our facilities of reason by taunting us with children.

Worse yet, the cowardly Democratic majority in Congress decided to bait a 12-year-old innocent from Maryland to publicize their latest health care proposal while simultaneously taking swipes at the already feebled president. Please, Speaker Pelosi, I'm generally in favor of what your party stands for, but must you make me cringe so?

While the above examples have all been matters of poor taste, the CDC's latest bird flu commercial borders on the absurd. "Hey, Dad?" a curious chap asks his actor-father. "I know bird flu is quite rare in humans, but could that change if the virus changes? I guess it would be prudent to be prepared." This has to be a joke. Right? Wrong. Sadly, it appears that the U.S. Government's Center for Disease Control is either:

[a] so out of touch with reality as to assume that there is a growing concern among America's youth regarding a potentially deadly interspecies infection, and that these morbid children are both relentlessly pestering their uninformed parents regarding the possible doomsday scenarios while using words like "prudent" in their everyday conversations; or

[b] they're fucking with us.

I think we both know what the real answer is.

The moral of this blog entry: never trust children or the liver-spotted fiends who set them up. Since when has sex and advertising ever failed me?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blog pays homage to Simpsons' homage to popular culture

There's no question that The Simpsons is the absolute greatest thing to emerge from American popular culture in the last two decades, at least. As such, any pop culture junkie should get a huge kick out of (or at least some temporary satisfaction) this lengthy blog post that details scene-by-scene comparisons of parodies played out in the animated sitcom and the movies they're sending up. I'm surprised at how many Hitchcock nods there are, although Kubrick, Coppola, and De Mille all have their moments. The Raiders of the Lost Ark clip is quite nice, too.

While there have been innumerable spoofs and parodies in the Simpsons over the years (as this OCD index makes clear), one of my favorites that always comes to mind is the episode that spoofs Glengarry, Glenn Ross where Marge gets into real estate and Lionel Hutz tells ol' Gil (a recurring Jack Lemmon parody) that "cubicles are for closers." Later on in the same episode, Marge discovers the Flanders all lying motionless in what appears to be pools of blood in the "haunted" house she sold them. Rod comes out muttering "red room," which, if I have to point you in the direction of that reference, then you're just not as pathetic of a pop culture obsessive as I am.

By the way, did anyone catch the 19th season premiere last night? Lionel Richie surprisingly cracked me up.

Emergency helicopter rescue worker to Lionel: There's too much weight. You'll have to let go of your People's Choice Awards!
Lionel Richie (half in the ocean): You let go of yours first!
EHRW: I don't have any!

Well, I can't remember exactly what Lionel Richie said in response, but believe me, it got a good chuckle out of me.

I should never start jokes if I can't remember the punchline...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fast Food Geography

With all the talk about mass consumer globalization occurring in the world these days, you would think that at the very least one would expect to find a predictably regular assortment of fast food chains in whichever principality or township you may reside. Alas, such is not the case.

Take, for instance, the case of Wendy's:

For much of the past four years, Wendy's restaurants have been a staple in my white collar working-man's lunch half-hour. Not because it's the best alternative, by any means, but because it's always been right around the corner from wherever I was working. In East Lansing? Just head to Trowbridge. In Mason? Just a short jaunt down Mason-Montgomery, my good man, you can't miss it. Almost invariably, the Wendy's restaurant will be located across the street from a BP so you can fuel up on your way to lunch. You know what we call that in the biz? Convenience. Would I waste my time sitting through another red light just to head to a McDonald's and get a superior-tasting, properly-shaped burger? Not on your life, bub. I'm a busy man. Got things to do. I don't have all day to spend my time dawdling over one mystery beef patty versus another.

But as luck would have it, I move to St. Louis only to find that Wendy's, the internationally renowned fast-food restuarant, does not exist in this fair Missouri city. It's official. It's dead. Deceased. Gone. Vamonos, muchacos. Packed up it's wagon and headed back east. So what's a boy to do get his pre-processed burger fix? McDonald's and Burger Kings are also suspiciously absent from the little part of the city I've explored so far, as they were in Cincinnati, and I'm not about to go headed off into the hellish backwoods of southern Illinois just to get some highway beef.

Therefore, I present to you some advertised alternatives that have largely been off the radar in some of the other towns I've lived in:

1. Rally's. Have you ever eaten at a Rally's? Neither have I, and I'm not about to get started. Their advertising slogan, which is just about the most god-awful marketing campaign I've ever been exposed to, boils down to this: "Rally's - You Gotta Eat!" Yes, that's true, Rally's, I do "got" to eat, but do I hafta eat Rally's? It's like they might as well be saying, "Rally's - Better Than Starving!" And quite frankly, that's a claim I'm not ready to test. Their commercials are equally confusing - showcasing something about skateboarders, BMX bikers, and shit burgers - followed by the ignominious catchphrase, "You Gotta Eat!" I suppose if you are still living in some '90s fantasy about becoming a pro on the Xtreme sports circuit, Rally's fast-food is about all you can afford on your pithy stoner income, and after all, you gotta eat something to maintain that active lifestyle. Pass.

2. Sonic's. Now here's a slogan I can work with: "Sonic's got 'em, other's don't." Aside from the deliberately poor grammar, which I suppose is an attempt to reach out and identify with their apparently illiterate consumer base, this slogan speaks to a unique advantage at dining at a Sonic's over competing fast-food joints. Sure, their fries are junk, but who needs fries when you can order a side of tator tots to go with your remarkably hearty and delicious bacon cheeseburger? You heard me right: tots. And you can forget about ordering a plain Coke when you have 11 different syrup flavors that you can have mixed in. Don't feel like a Coke? Try a cherry-flavored limeade, or a peach smoothie - allegedly made with real fruit! Sonic's, you're moving up in my good book. The whole eating-in-your-car schtick is a little outdated, and probably bad for the environment, but it'll have to do in a city without other big contenders.

3. Jack in a Box. I can't even wrap my head around how many Jack in the Boxes there are in this town. Everywhere you turn: Jack in the Box. Sorry, Jack, but you're still associated with E. Coli in my mind. I'm working up the courage to try you. Slowly.

Friday, August 31, 2007


I got a $12 haircut yesterday and it looks like $10. That's the last time I go bargain hunting for a haircut at a barber shop from a mute, brute dame in a muscle shirt. Hey, Barber Lady, you know how I told you I would call you when I needed to set up my next appointment? Well guess what: I lied.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I could sit on a tombstone and produce baby ghosts

The boys over at Better Chatter are dedicating this week to pay tribute to the high art and crude humor created by Blaxploitation cinema. On Tuesday, Josh took it upon himself to bring the picture Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son-in-Law back into my awareness. This movie, without a doubt, is one of the crowning achievements of the American film industry. Petey Wheatstraw had it all: poorly choreographed kung fu action, devils in red jogging suits, a deliciously funky soundtrack, easily misconstrued social commentary, rows of buxom ebony bombshells waiting in assembly line formation for the pleasure of the infallible and portly Rudy Ray Moore, and above all else, watermelon gags. This is the plow and field of an American teenager's fertile imagination.

For a small taste here's the opening segment, from Petey's miraculous birth to his coming of age as a disciplined kung fu avenger. Careful viewers will note that this segment features one watermelon for every three minutes of action. It all makes very little sense from the outset, but the thrill is undeniable:

And here we have a clip from the following scene. Now you may notice that this scene appears to have absolutley nothing to do with the preceding nine minutes of the film, but these apparent incongruencies are only further evidence of Dolemite's directorial joie de vivre. And yes, these are exactly the sort of ass and titty jokes that the juvenile mind thrives on. Mr. Moore, you were far too ahead of your time:

And, why the hell not, a fight scene with demons. The look on Rudy's face as they enter is priceless:

I would be selling this film short if I said that it was only its "kitsch" value that gave Petey Wheatstraw its appeal, as if it was merely some gimmicky cultural artefact that I could appreciate from my suburban perspective. No, dear friends, the enjoyment I received from this movie was very real. Pure, unadulterated enjoyment. The kind of enjoyment you can only get from watching a mustachioed man in green Fruit of the Looms kicking some demon ass because said demons were interrupting his private moments with a scantily clad lover. Sure, there are elements working against this film, it was created outside the Hollywood mainstream without the benefit of experienced studio hands or the budget for acting lessons, but it's precisely because of the way it overcomes these limitations with its spontaneity, gusto, and creativity that makes this a classic. You might even say that Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son-in-Law is a triumph of the American dream. Or not, whatever. Your call.

But I could really go for a slice of watermelon right about now.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Loyalty and Justice

So, were there any big news stories today? I don't recall.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I went to a house party this weekend. Weird, I know. But hold onto your saddle, Tonto, because it gets weirder. For instance:

1. Dress code - the hosts of this party insisted that the gentlemen in attendance don white apparel. Now, not being a Panamanian diplomat by profession, I am severely limited in my options in white garb. Looking through my still unpacked wardrobe, I found that my options basically consisted of ratty white undershirts, which might work if I had a physique like Brando, or a white button-downed collar shirt, which, when "dressed down" with some casual jeans and sneakers, gives one the unmistakable air of a Jerry Seinfeld clone or a frat boy during rush season. Knowing me, it's no secret that I fell under the former category. Women, in case you were wondering, were expected to wear navy.

2. Age - at only 25, I was easily one of the oldest guests in attendance. It occurred to me that when I lived in Cincinnati, most everyone I would acquaint myself with were either in their late 20s or early 30s, and I felt comfortable in that age range. I shared similar interests with this demographic: early '90s Brit rock, not staying out too late on weeknights, managing pre-tax contributions to your 401(k), vague concerns over the health of one's prostate, Sam Waterston, local news, etc. The crowd at this party was almost exclusively fresh out of college, filled with nubile ideals of changing the world and fully-stocked liquor cabinets. "I remember when I was that age," I remember thinking. Then I thought, "Man, I am not old enough to be starting my thoughts like that."

3. Music - Sublime. Really? Still? C'mon, you're just kidding, right? No, you're not? Sorry, I'm just an asshole. Here I am just harping on the one negative in a sea of Kanye. But to be fair, I missed most of the music as I spent a large part of the night outside near the beer pong table.

Final thoughts: it wasn't half bad. Nice people, nice place. Yeah, I might do it again.

As long as it's on a weekend.

Resurrecting the Well Respected Blogger

After spending nearly a year and a month on the lam, I think it's about time to resurrect the Well Respected Blog. Take that, Internet.