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Mike Reyes, aka Mr. Controversy, has considered himself a writer ever since he was a child. He wrote for various school publications from about 1995 until 2006, and currently runs both The Bookish Kind and Mr. Controversy, which is an offshoot of the regular column he wrote in High School. He's also authored several short stories such as "The Devil's Comedian", "The Devil v. George W. Bush", and most recently "Wait Until Tomorrow". He resides in New Jersey. Any inquiries for reprinting, writing services, or general contact, should be forwarded to: michaelreyes72@hotmail.com

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Monday, January 25, 2010

The Monday GAAAH! (1/22/10)

Yes my friends, it’s finally back. After a long absence, The Monday GAAAH has returned, and not a moment too soon. Let the week of GAAAH commence.

- The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien went out with an amazing bang on Friday. Sources say that Jay Leno was so floored, he couldn't Jay-walk until hours after.

- Jimmy Fallon: I know we have our disagreements on how funny you are, but I have to commend you on your tribute to Conan on Friday night. Well played sir, well played.

- Can we end the Pants on the Ground fad before it kicks itself into William Hung Overdrive? (Note: That's all in capitals because it's the latest in the line of Punk Rock band titles I've been creating.) I'm really sick of hearing about the latest contestant fad from American Idol. THIS ISN'T NEWS!

- Kate Gosselin...hair extensions and a crappy new reality show where you take on different jobs each week don't make up for a shitty personality. Though I would laugh if you became a hooker for a week, because that's so meta it's mindblowing.

- And while we're on the Reality TV bandwagon, let's keep things rolling with some commentary on The Bachelor/The Bachelorette. Let me tell you, that is the dream job for anyone who wants to get paid to get laid and not feel like a common street whore. Honestly, this is just legalized and publicized prostitution; with a little bit of a spit in the face of marriage.

- Speaking of legalized and publicized prostitution, Jersey Shore's cast has been asking for a rate increase in order for the old crew to come back to MTV. You know what I'd do if I was at MTV? I'd tell them to fuck off and that they either take a minor (but reasonable) increase of compensation, or I'll hire a new group of Guidos and Guidettes. They're a dime a dozen, and all you have to do for a casting call is spend a weekend in a Seaside Heights bar. Boom, there's your audition.

- The Democrats need to toughen up for 2010. It's good to see Obama getting the band back together and bringing in David Plouffe back into the fray. All they need is some sort of cabinet position for James Carville and we'll have a fine enough midterm election...cajun style.

- Mike Huckabee...please run again in 2012. If Obama has to face a Republican Waterloo, I'd rather it be at the hands of someone who seems like a nice guy and could get the job done than at the hands of say a former nude model or a former beauty pageant who just LOVES to Teabag.

- I'm glad to see 24 back on the air, but the season premiere has me left with middling feelings. On one hand, I'm glad to see the return of Jack Bauer, Chloe O'Brian, and CTU; but I'm afraid that the way they've handled Jack ever since season 5 has been weak tea. On the plus side, Cole Ortiz is the first Jack Bauer clone since Curtis Manning that's felt awesome enough to do the job. Also, the premiere did feel like they were starting in the middle of a season arc as opposed to starting with all the pieces in starting formation. There's enough of a shake up to make things interesting, all we need now is more competent CTU leadership and Starbuck Dana Walsh in a bikini and we'll be set for a greenlight on season 9. (Which should be set in London, and should be the final season.)

- Post this in your Status Message if you read Mr. Controversy, and are sick and tired of people using their status messages for silly little status message spam/chain mail.

- My Futile Box Office Predictions for the weekend are:

1. Avatar
2. Legion
3. When In Rome
Lovable Loser: Edge of Darkness (Mel Gibson looks good in it, but I have a feeling it's not going to be wheeling in the box office cash Taken did last year. It might, but I doubt it.)

- Avatar was pretty good. The story was lifted from Pocahontas and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, but it was still fun to watch. I give it two more weekends to break the records Titanic set.

- Jay Leno...still hate you.

- Freebird.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Review: "Worst Case" by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the fine folks at Hachette Book Group. I'm not getting paid for this, I just do it out of the enjoyment of reading. If you're interested

When we last saw Detective Michael Bennett, he chased an educated maniac, got into a bit of a fight, and crashed a plane, thus saving the lives of plenty of New York's finest blue bloods. A year later, a new perpetrator has risen, and his M.O. is the same...to give the rich of the city that never sleeps a scare that they'll never forget. Only this time, the killer isn't targeting the rich and the privileged...he's targeting their children.

Worst Case is the latest in the Bennett series that James Patterson collaborates with Michael Ledwidge on writing, and though the series is in early days this installment is, so far, the most packed with action. Within the first part of the book, the body count escalates rather quickly and sharply thanks to our antagonist. His methods are simple but brutal: abduct the children of the rich in order to quiz them on statistics dealing with Third World Nations. His "exams" come at a cost though...too many wrong answers, and the victim is dead. This is something Bennett and his new (temporary) partner Emily Parker learn the hard way, their tempers escalating with each victim unsuccessfully recovered. Also, we see the beginnings of a possible relationship between Michael and his housekeeper Mary Catherine...that is, if Emily doesn't get to him first.

The Bennett series has hit its stride with this entry, as it is even more fast pace and even more exciting than last year's Run For Your Life. I have to say, I enjoyed this book more than I'd expected. The antagonist was more entertaining and a little more sympathetic than The Teacher. (Though I'll confess, I was hoping there'd be some sort of connection to The Teacher at the end. Maybe in future books it'll be revealed that "The Teacher" was teaching his lessons to so many others in order to propagate his gospel. Just a thought.) In fact, all of the characters seemed to be interacting better than before. Maybe it's because the story was more galvanized this time around, but damn did they pull off quite the caper in this book.

My only complaint would be with the Antagonist's methods. While it's interesting to see a bad guy with a good intention, the whole "classroom" setting feels just a little bit too much like something out of the Jigsaw playbook. Not to mention, why have someone who teaches the world a lesson when we had a killer in the last book who went as far as to call himself "The Teacher". If he were explained as a copycat killer, I could understand, otherwise I'm left to question if the American Federation of Teachers is really nothing more than a group of psychopaths disguised as educators. Whatever the case, they can score another win for Patterson and Ledwidge, because I'm officially invested in the Detective Michael Bennett saga. I eagerly await the next installment of the saga.

I'm currently reading: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Friday Video - 01/22/10

This clip (especially the moment at 02:36 - 03:30) reminds me of a Robin Williams that wasn't a slave to Disney. It also makes me think of just how much NBC has screwed the pooch on this decision. Lastly, it shows how much of a class act Conan is about this whole situation. Tonight's the final bow, people. Let's have fun on television one last time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Fair Amount of Shit (a review on Extraordinary Measures)

I've once again bugged the overlords at Pajiba.com in hopes of gracing their website once more. This time it's with a movie review of the film Extraordinary Measures. Enjoy.

Extraordinary Measures is the first theatrical film from CBS Films.
At least it’s the first one that I know of, especially the first one with the star power that it’s attracted and the opening it’s receiving. In that first sentence alone, you know all you need to know about this movie: it’s practically got “made for TV” written all over it. It’s clocked in at 105 minutes, at a non-offensive PG rating, and has melodrama after melodrama piled on top of each other. Sprinkle in a fair amount of usages of the word “shit” and a couple funny moments, and you’ve got something that’s specifically targeted to people who loved The Blind Side. (One of the reviews they’re pimping out even say so.) All of that aside, it’s not the worst film you’ll see this year. It is actually, surprisingly watchable.

The film was inspired by the true story of John Crowley (Brendan Fraser, trying on his new niche of playing ‘The Dad’), a pharmaceutical executive who hooked up with researcher Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford, playing a mixture of Han Solo, Dr. House, and Indiana Jones) in order to develop treatment for Pompe Disease. Pompe is a rare genetic disorder that causes the body to improperly process certain sugars, thus causing them to store in the patient’s body structure and eventually cause decay and death. Think of it as similar to, but not quite Multiple Sclorosis. Two of the Crowley family’s young children are afflicted with the disease, and his research into the matter causes him to meet the good doctor and begin the journey this movie depicts.

And depict it it does.
As a matter of fact it depicts the shit out of it. Just when one adversity has been dealt with, someone either says something funny or gets shouty and another adversity pops up in its place. We go through the gamut in this film: asshole executives, greedy investors, Mother Nature on her period, and even just plain old marital strife. (Side note: Why is it that Keri Russell is hotter now than she ever was as a teen pop sensation?) Everything that can be thrown at the protagonist is thrown at them, and they somehow overcome it all. At times it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a movie, it feels like you’re jumping hurdles.

Yet somehow Ford and Fraser somehow emerge from this picture better off than they did from the last entries of their respective action adventure franchises.
We see the Harrison Ford we’ve come to know, love, and wish would come back so he didn’t have to face off against UFOs. We also get to see part of the Brendan Fraser that was so loved in Gods and Monsters, as well as the smile we were so used to from The Mummy. Make no mistake about it, when the film plays “the emotional card” (and at some points, “the funny card”) it plays it to the best of its abilities. It’s just that when it plays “the melodramatic card”, which it does frequently, it really falters.

Extraordinary Measures is an inspirational film with a positive message.
Then again, so was The Blind Side, and you’ll never get me to see that. The only reason I saw this film was because my father had scored free screening passes to a local screening. How did he do that? He ate at the local Chinese buffet for lunch that day, which as we all know is teeming with the elderly. My father fell victim to a shrewdly targeted market research experiment that bet good money that those who flocked to The Blind Side for counter programming that wasn’t as loud as Sherlock Holmes, as visually stimulating as Avatar, or as liberal as Up in the Air; would pay their hard earned Social Security funds to see this picture.

As if that wasn’t enough of an indication as to what barrel of fish they were trying to shoot at with this film, they attached the trailer to the Jennifer Lopez disaster “comeback” film The Back-Up Plan. Sure on the outside, the two films don’t seem like they have that much in common, but there’s two very big common denominators: they were both made by CBS Films and they both would have been more fiscally responsible ventures had they been slated to premiere on CBS. This could have been a highly rated “Hallmark Hall of Fame” telecast, instead of a destined to underperform box office bomb. One that I cannot with good conscience recommend spending money on.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Oh NBC, you think you have the biggest pair of brass balls don’t you? You keep Heroes on the air, you tried to bring Trauma (to out-Bruckheimer CBS) and Mercy (to out-vagina ABC) into the medical drama fold, and now you’ve managed to become more ungrateful than the Fox network (which is no easy feat) by pulling one of the stupidest stunts since Kirk Cameron’s Circus of Jesus. You’re fucking up your late night line up, just so Jay Leno can stay on the air.

Last year, when The Jay Leno Show was announced, I wasn’t the only person who had a bad feeling. I’m also not the only person who’s bitching about Jay Leno being kowtowed to by the NBC suits either. (I point you all to Chez Pazienza’s Deus Ex Malcontent for some prime examples of well thought, well researched criticism on the matter. He’s worked in the network business so for cutting insight mixed in with your snark, he’s the guy to go to in this matter. I’m afraid I’ll just be bringing the snark this time.)

When first brought onto The Tonight Show, Jay Leno was at the top of his game. The sad thing is that he never excelled past that point throughout the rest of his career. It’s not that I hate Jay Leno, on the contrary. For a middle of the road non-offensive comedian, he beats the pants of off most “clean comedy” shows out there. He gets to be a little ribald, and he definitely bites the hand that feeds, but he’s still very safe. (One thing I will give him though is Jaywalking. I love that segment to death, as it only proves my point that we’re just two decades away from Luke Wilson saving our asses with water and robots to dig us out of our filth.) In short, he’s everything NBC would have wanted from a host of The Tonight Show.

Which is why it was kind of puzzling when they eventually gave Conan O’Brien his own turn at bat on The Tonight Show. Conan was definitely not the white bread, middle of the road guy Leno was. Conan’s always been about the absurd, the outlandish, and the awkward laughs you get from things like robot pimps, talking dog puppets, or masturbating bears. Sure, in 12:35-Land that type of thing swings just as well. But in 11:35-Land? Grammy and Gramps are still watching, and they don’t like masturbating bears. Still, Conan’s promotion in Late Night television was assured, and (at least in my opinion) after a couple flop sweating shows in the beginning, Conan’s gotten himself back on track for Late Night awesomeness. And somehow, NBC feels justified to be shitting all over it by pushing him back to 12:05.

The obvious reasons are there for everyone to see: Jay Leno is a name and putting him in his old timeslot seems to be a surefire way of regaining the magic. Conan is still kind of floundering in his timeslot, and since the “wait and see” approach isn’t fashionable anymore, they need to push him back towards his old timeslot and hopefully reclaim some magic there too. Jimmy Fallon is a no-talent assclown who probably relies on his writers to stay afloat, so why not push him to the Carson Daly slot. They only really need one of those types anyway, and if it’s a Jimmy/Carson cage match, Jimmy’s gonna win.

Perhaps the biggest reason for NBC’s shake up is that they signed a two year contract with Jay for his little show, and its failure had lead their affiliates to revolt against their decision making “prowess. By signing The Jay Leno Show to a two year contract, NBC had robbed itself of five hours of scripted/reality programming a week, and robbed the local affiliates of ratings towards their local newscasts. Which ultimately equates to the simple truth that everyone arrived at in the beginning of this matter: NBC’s decision to milk the Jay Leno cash cow dry was the stupidest fucking idea they had had since cancelling Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. But much like the fans of Heroes, they didn’t care about that nagging feeling in the back of their heads that said “This is going to suck” or “This can only go so far”. They bypassed all fears of failure, and dove headfirst into the cement.

The one person I have the most sympathy for in this whole affair is, naturally, Conan O’Brien. A lot of people, myself included, are worried that he’s going to get screwed over by the fact that NBC just can’t quit Jay Leno. Today’s supposed to be the day they renew talks, and I think it’s a testament to Conan’s classy nature that he’s still around for talks. If I were him, I’d have pulled a Letterman and walked if they’d screwed with my timeslot. Hell, they want Leno so much why not just give him The Tonight Show back and let Conan either take his old slot or move onto another network that’ll treat him better. (Fox would probably want to jump in on this, if they weren’t so happy with their Seinfeld reruns and Wanda Sykes on Saturdays.) I don’t see why Comedy Central wouldn’t be open to taking Conan on for the 12 Midnight slot, at least there it’d be an upgrade as opposed to a forced demotion.

And while we’re on the subject of solutions, why not put Jay Leno’s Circlejerk Extravaganza online as a Web Only show? You’d still be paying him, he’d still be online, and you’d be open to keep Conan happy. Whether you like it or not NBC, it’s not your job to keep Leno happy. (That ship sailed after he “retired” from The Tonight Show.) Indeed, your job is to keep Conan O’Brien happy now, because he’s carrying the Late Night banner in his very hands. How you haven’t come to realize that fact yet makes me think you’re not all that bright up there. Honestly, do you really want another Letterman on your hands? You’ve already made that mistake, so it’s nigh impossible to claim ignorance on it this time. Give Leno a Web Only version of The Jay Leno Show, move it to weekends; and put your major marketing muscle behind The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien like you should have in the first place. (Does anyone else remember how inescapable Jay’s chin was before his show went on air? I couldn’t go to the movies all last summer without seeing that smirking mug.)

Oh, and just one more note, specifically directed to Jimmy Fallon: your job should have gone to me, or at the very least, Andy Samberg. (Whom I’ve come to very much appreciate over the past year or so.) We’re two of the funniest people ever to have crossed the threshold of 30 Rock, and we could kick your ass in a laugh off. Just saying. (Sorry for the harsh words a long time ago, Andy. I fully retract them and wish you nothing but the best. Oh, and the Digital Shorts thing has totally done a 180 in my eyes. Good on you, my man. What say you and I do the Host/Sidekick routine and bring The Edge of Night with Andy Samberg and Mike Reyes into reality?)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy Friday Video - 1/8/2010

You probably know Bill Bailey from his short part in the Edgar Wright action comedy Hot Fuzz. What most of you wouldn't know is he's a pretty successful comedian in his own right. What even more of you (myself included) wouldn't know is that he's a pretty awesome pianist, and can speak French. This week, for your Happy Friday video, behold the awesomeness of Bill Bailey as he turns the Doctor Who theme into a Belgian Jazz masterpiece of comedy.

Chartreuse, or “Please Support My Vague Message in the Name of Change!"

Just when you thought it was safe to log onto Facebook again, another fad of undetermined origin started up again. It was the Pokemon pictures all over again. Only this time, there was no picture involved, oh no. It was just one word. A color, to be specific. That’s all you were seeing on Facebook last night, as numerous women began to put up cute little messages of vagueness. Blue was represented, Gold made an appearance, not to mention Brown with Lace popped in to see how things were going. Tan and Cream joined the party, but left because their child Mocha had a headache. At the end of the evening, Green was envious, Red was jealous, and Yellow wasn’t sure why she hooked up with Purple but knew it was not meant to be. Confused? Well, so were the rest of us, mostly men, when we looked at these color statuses.

Why am I singling out men? Simple…it was mostly women’s statuses that were being dominated by these color keywords. Why colors? Not so simple…but I’ll explain. Apparently, last night’s flash of color was a drive for awareness. Awareness on what, you might be asking. Well, it was for awareness of Breast Cancer, can’t you tell? There’s a whole month dedicated to fighting it…maybe you’ve heard of it? (October, anyone?) No? Well here, let me lay out the thinking here:

Mention random color > Someone asks, “What do you mean, random color?” > You tell them, “Oh, it’s my bra color.” > “Why are you mentioning your bra color?” > “To raise awareness for Breast Cancer.” > Profit, success.

Duuh! It’s so obvious. You couldn’t figure this out on your own? No? Well congratulations, you’re one of the millions who didn’t get the joke, and I seriously think this is a joke.

I could only imagine the girls last night thinking to themselves, “Oh isn’t this fun? We’re being mysterious, and we’re helping a cause while doing it! Girl power!” Bullshit. All this does is serve to further confuse men with the games that women play. I’m not a woman hater by any standards. I love women. I’ve dated a couple, and plan to continue to date them. I’m friends with a lot of them, I live with the one who co-created me, and I plan on one day marrying one. However, as a man, I’m not only allowed, I’m also required by natural law to point out the confusing, double talking nature of some of the practices women engage in. It balances out because I’m sure someone over at Jezebel is writing her one hundredth article about how men objectify women. (I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, as a matter of fact I’m a fan of anyone calling anyone else out on bullshit. It’s just that it’s one of their stocks in trade. They do it well, I do this well; nobody gets hurt, we all love each other and eat at the Sushi Bar. Also that last link wasn’t a mistake, I’m calling Kate Gosselin a man. The way Jon acted like a little bitch all of the time only proves it.)

This isn’t to say all that played along were being vapid and shallow. Once things like this gain momentum, everyone tends to get involved, and some women probably thought it was fun that this was going on and merely wanted to represent, while supposedly servicing a good cause. This sort of thing, when done right, is called a “Call to Action”. It’s that part of a sales pitch where you ask the audience to actually do/buy what it is you’re supporting/selling. Now Calls to Action are fine and everything, but how the Hell are you helping a cause when nobody knows what the action your calling for is? You really want to make a dent in the collective subconscious of Facebook? You seriously want people to pay attention to your cause? Mention your damn cause! I’ll tell you what I got out of last night’s little online flash mob: conversations on breasts, bra color preferences, and even the preference on whether to wear a bra or not. Only one conversation I had with anyone last night dealt with breast cancer’s correlation to bra color, and that was when I asked one of my friends, “…how does posting a color as a vague status message really help breast cancer? Is it just me or is that pointless?” Turns out, she thought it was pointless too.

What’s more confusing is that I KNOW there’s some guys out there who guessed that women were talking about their bra colors. Some guys cracked the code before everyone else. And do you know what probably happened to these guys? They were called out on being “perverts”. Nevermind that they were right, there’s a bigger issue at hand…they were thinking of women’s breasts in an unsolicited manner, and that’s a no-no. Unless they’re fishing for compliments, then go right ahead and think away. Nevermind that in the creators of this fad’s intentions this would be the perfect time to say, “Why yes, I’m wearing a blue bra and as a matter of fact I only drew attention to this fact because I hate the fuck out of breast cancer”. Nope, this is a time to yet again call a guy out for thinking about your boobs. Again, I know not all women are like this, but you know some of them are and you know that some poor guy caught Hell last night because he was trying to be funny, and instead was made to look like an ass.
I’d like to close with an analogy that helps solidify the message I’m trying to drive home here.

Ladies, I’d like you to picture the following scenario:

Your man looks you right in the eye and says the word, “White”. He says nothing else, just looks at you and says “White”. What do you think? What are his intentions? You might think he’s asking you to marry him, but are you seriously going to react to that assumption? What do you do after that point? Do you ask him, “Are you asking me to marry you?” and set off a chain reaction that basically sours the evening, and possibly the relationship, because he thinks you’ve seen too many romantic comedies? Do you cry and say, “Yes!”, making it look like you assume that he is in fact proposing to you, when in fact he could just be answering the earlier question of, “Which bra looks better? The red or the white”?

My point: context is everything. A single word out of context is something you give a psychic. We’re all human here, Alice; and as such we need to be given a little more than a word. This isn’t “Name That Tune”, it’s “Fighting Breast Cancer With Awareness”. And as we all know, awareness begins with being aware of what you’re supposed to be aware about. Until our species becomes a race of mind reading psychics who do not need to overtly lay out our intentions when it comes to getting something done, I think it’s best we all just lay it on the line. Ditch the veil of secrecy, shitcan the metaphors, and get rid of the double talk. You want me to pay attention to something? Grab my attention. But if you’re going to grab my attention, could you please go with more than one cryptic word designed to stimulate conversation? It’s manipulative, and it doesn’t look very good. We’re trying to fight a battle against an evil enemy here, not decipher the fucking DaVinci Code. I’m not Robert Langdon, I’m not some emo sparkling vampire who reads girls’ minds, and I’m sure as hell not Patrick Stewart (though that would be kinda cool). I’m a person, just like you. A person who hates the fuck out of breast cancer.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book Review: "Stop This Man!" by Peter Rabe

Disclaimer: This was a book given to me as a review copy by the fine folks over at Hard Case Crime. I'm not getting paid for this, but if you're into Noir storytelling (both modern and classic), then I highly recommend visiting their website and checking out their selection of novels.

I've always had a thing for black and white, and I've always had a love for a good Film Noir story. I trace it all back to the fact that I loved Who Framed Roger Rabbit as a kid. I loved that movie so much, I'd watch my VHS copy constantly over the many years of my childhood. There was always something about a detective attempting to take down a system bigger than themselves that got me excited. As I grew up, I became more exposed to classic films and eventually learned that Roger Rabbit was scratching the surface of the genre. Film Noir wasn't always as clear cut or as happily ever after as killing Judge Doom. Sometimes, Judge Doom won; and in other cases you were reading about Judge Doom as he evaded the authorities and continued his life of back alley crime, always aware that the hammer could come down on him in a heartbeat if he wasn't careful.

It's that second type of story that's being told in the book Stop This Man! Anthony "Tony" Catell, is a career criminal who's just been released from prison for the second time. What some would see as an lesson learned, Tony sees as an opportunity to get back on the horse one last time and press his luck. This leads to his involvement in what he thinks is a simple heist, but turns out to be a much more complicated ordeal. Tasked to steal a gold ingot from a university science lab in Detroit, Catell encounters minimal interference and makes off with the loot. Unfortunately for all involved, the gold was easy to steal because it was irradiated due to an accident in the lab. Irradiated to the point that it's lethal to be around for too long. Soon people start to die, and it's up to Tony to evade capture as he high tails it to Los Angeles in order to fence the loot, get his fair share, and walk away for good. Unfortunately for him, the road to the City of Angels is paved with demonic pitfalls and even more devilish obstacles.

I absolutely loved this book. I couldn't help but see it come to life as I'd flip through the pages, absorbing the tale of one man's greed and just what lengths he'd go to satisfy it. Tony Catell is a bad ass. He kicks, grabs, and busts any ass in his way; just like any main character in a well written noir should. Whether you like him or hate him, the lengths he goes to in order to get the job done are quite perilous, as well as quite impressive. Just as his protagonist deftly navigates through the dames and heavies that populate this post atomic backdrop of sin, Peter Rabe navigates his way through prose with every punch, every kiss, and every grift . This novel is a genuine product of its era, and this is what makes it such a joy to read. Written in an era where post modern shortcuts and in-jokes didn't exist just yet, it's a simple black and white read. Good guys are good, bad guys are bad, and you ultimately choose which side you're on within the opening moments of the book. No matter who you root for though, this novel unfolds like a lost classic from the vaults of a major Hollywood studio, and doesn't rest until the final word.

First published in 1955, Stop This Man! made its return in August of 2009 after 45 years of being out of print. This isn't something new for Hard Case Crime, as they have multiple titles finding their way to print for the first time in years, alongside titles that are seeing print for the first time ever. It's this blend of the past and the present that makes Hard Case Crime a really cool publisher to look out for. Contemporary authors like Stephen King and Max Allen Collins join the ranks of Donald Westlake, Mickey Spillane, and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (or A.C. Doyle as he's credited) to make a most unique publishing imprint. I was surprised that Charles Ardai, the man who founded this enterprise, is only ten years older than me. A former Dot Com millionaire, he cashed out of Juno after a merger and used his capital to form the company that stands today. I can't wait to read another Hard Case novel, because there's quite a few I'm dying to crack open. If you've got an insatiable craving for seedy, sinful mysteries with hard nosed detectives searching for the truth, or tales of mugs making their way cross country to earn a lousy buck; this is the place to be.

I'm currently reading: Worst Case by James Patterson with Michael Ledwidge

Monday, January 4, 2010

Jersey Whores, or “Where’s Jordan McDeere When You Need Her?”

"What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.” – Leonardo DiCaprio, from the Inception trailer.

I’m unapologetically from the Jersey Shore, and I unapologetically love the Jersey Shore. As such, I unapologetically hate Bennys, Guidos, and Guidettes. Whatever you want to call the high maintenance, non Jersey citizens from parts up North who are fixated on their hair, their abs, and popped collars, I hate them with a fucking passion. They swarm in during the prime summer months and snatch up the alcohol, the beaches, the boardwalks, and the women. It’s no surprise why I frequent the beach with my friends at night more than during the day; and it’s not because I’m a vampire. It’s because I don’t want to be killed by the clouds of Axe, Lacoste, and whatever douchebag colognes these douchebag douchebags start to wear, douchebag. In fact, if there’s anything I hate more than Bennys, it’s Reality Television.

MSN decided to shoot their mouth off once more and run a story about how Seaside Heights is basically trying to distance themselves from the “phenomenon” that is Jersey Shore, their latest abomination in Reality Television. Interestingly enough, they make a statement that basically says that while they allowed them to film in Seaside, they didn't approve of their show per se. This could be true, but honestly it's MTV and it's a reality show. Did they think it was going to be about sunshine and puppies with modest, church going folk? No. This is MTV, and they're a classy bunch.

It didn't always used to be that way though. When MTV premiered The Real World in 1992, nobody had any idea it would spark the trend that would light the fire that would create the monster that is Reality Television. In the show’s infant years, it would be praised as a look into the reality of the twenty-somethings of the era, as well as tackling issues that were not yet widely covered in the media landscape of American culture. (One of the most prominent examples being that of the late Pedro Zamora, who would break ground by being one of the first openly gay men with AIDS to be featured on a television show at all.) Sure, The Real World eventually devolved into everything Reality Television represents nowadays, but for a brief moment in time it was exactly as it claimed...reality, on television.

It wasn’t until the introduction of Survivor in 2000 that the major American broadcast networks really started to successfully milk the reality machine, so much that it rapidly turned into a nightmare of Chayefskyian proportions through the course of the Aughts. (One could only imagine what television would be like now if the competing Game Show craze were the one to survive. Regis Philbin can only be on television for so many hours in a day, people!) Reality TV went from penetrating reality to stupid human trick showcase, and naturally every wave of devolution that occurs starts right at the point of origin. After The Real World you had Road Rules in 1995, followed by Fear in 2000, and then eventually The Osbournes in 2002. Right there, you have the progenitors for pretty much every reality trend that’s lived to this day. The Real World begot Survivor, Road Rules begot The Amazing Race, Fear begot Ghost Hunters, and The Osbournes begot any show with second rate celebrities pretending to be relevant and quirky. Thanks to MTV, the face of modern Reality Television was defined, and it was as ugly as Jenny McCarthy’s medical degree.

If the most resilient parasite is an idea, then the idea of Reality Television has to be the most damaging parasite to our modern discourse. This vapid idiocy has promoted a cult of personality where you don’t even have to do anything to be famous! You don’t need a skill, or a talent, or a gimmick, all you need is some indecent exposure and/or an extreme want for attention (which is almost always inversely correlated to the subject’s IQ) and you’re in. What’s Kim Kardashian known for, besides being a Bruce Jenner ejaculation? What are Spencer and Heidi known for, other than just being stupid wastes of space? What’s Paris Hilton’s stock in trade, besides idiocy and bedroom antics? These people have nothing in their lives worth filming, but since we’ve become a nation who lives vicariously through E! Entertainment, Us Weekly, and People Magazine; it’s basically become accepted that Reality shows are much more fun when you cast the stupid people. These people have become idols and role models to the unintelligent masses who want to become rich and famous without having to bat an eye. They want it all and they want it so bad they’ll stoop to any level, sleep with any stooge, and do whatever substance is put in front of them so they can become the next success story.

(image respectfully stolen from here.)

And it’s not always the contestants that cash in on it either. After the incident where Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi was punched out at The Beachcomber Bar; the manager, Mike Carbone, was quoted as saying, "some people are like, 'Oh, my God, look how dumb this makes New Jersey look,' but it's not even a show about New Jersey. It's about people who come down to the Jersey shore.” I think Mr. Carbone is trying to score some brownie points with New Jersey, while at the same time you damn well know he’s going to advertise that his bar was the place it all went down. Which is sadly going to be something us Jerseyians are going to have to deal with, because so many Shore businesses are going to capitalize on the Jersey Shore viewers in order to boost profits over the Summer. That's right, Mr. Carbone; go ahead and make some money off the dumb people, while drawing more of the ones who don't understand mockery over to your place of business.

Answer me this: why would you call the show “Jersey Shore” if it isn’t about the Jersey Shore? Why not call it, “Guido’s Paradise”, or “The Invasion of the Jersey Shore”, or maybe even the often quoted, “Bennys Go Home”? Honestly Mr. Carbone, wouldn’t you taking offense to a show being called “Carbone is a Douchebag”, and it’s a show about ins and outs of The Beachcomber Bar? Just because it’s not thematically about the Jersey Shore doesn’t mean they’re off the hook. Titles are supposed to encapsulate the feeling of the show and its content. If it’s not about the Jersey Shore, change the title.

Not to mention the title “Jersey Shore” is an even bigger misnomer when you realize, are you ready for a shock here? I mean seriously, are you ready for a big assed shock so shocking it’ll sock you in the face like a gym teacher? Ok, here it is…only one of the cast members is actually…wait for it…from New Jersey! Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola is the only “guidette” who is actually from Jersey. (Don’t believe me? Check the Wiki and hate them even more.) Really MTV? Is it THAT hard to find a guidette in New Jersey? Are we really at the level of an I Am Legend style apocalypse that guidettes are so hard to find that we have to import them all from out of state? Seriously, this just shows that naming the show “Jersey Shore” is a deceptive practice because it’s not only not about the Jersey Shore, it only features one cast member from New Jersey and she doesn’t even live on the Shore! (Last I checked, Hazlet isn’t on the shore.) It’s about unintelligent, undignified twenty-somethings from New York who are transplanted to the Jersey Shore; and in the process raise havoc amongst the locals. (How about, “They Came to the Jersey Shore!”? That’s a nice alternate title, seeing as it plays up the horror these idiots are met with when the weather warms up.)

Authenticity aside, another question that begs to be asked is how do shows like this draw such huge numbers, besides the fact that there’s a good number of stupid people on the other end of the receiver? How do people like me not only know about this but end up watching some of it and talking about it? Simple: good old fashioned Schadenfreude. With any reality show you have three groups of viewers: the ones who watch and wish they were on the screen, the ones who watch and admit it’s a ‘guilty pleasure’, and the ones who merely watch for their daily dose of ‘Well, at least my life isn’t like THAT!’. In the case of “Jersey Shore”, we watch because we love to laugh at the guidos when they claim it takes them 30 minutes to do their hair, and we love to laugh at the guidettes when they get punched out. (Quick side note: Some may say that it’s crass to derive humor from physical assault, but it’s so hard to agree with them when you know they’re probably thinking to themselves, “Bitch had it coming”. Snookie’s no angel, and seeing her laid out was probably a laugh and a half for some.) At the end of the day, their success is partially derived from the world watching them and forming their fingers into an L on their forehead while laughing at them with the other finger pointed directly at their tan lines. This makes the show useless, because if we did it in front of their faces, they’d probably get the hint and knock it the fuck off.

Which leads me to a great big suggestion for this upcoming summer, for anyone who lives on the Jersey Shore and is tired of these dipshits: I suggest we fight back. All that are against the Guido/Guidette scourge should take the battle to the boardwalks this summer. If you see one of them, laugh. Point and laugh. Ridicule the fuck out of these douchey poseurs and make them wish they never spiked their hair up that morning. Ask them if their half Oompa Loompa. Point out the ridiculous tan line they have going across their scalp. Make them wait in line behind you for funnel cake, and order the most complicated thing on the menu. Laugh whenever one of their stupid little nicknames is dropped into conversation. You say you’re “The Situation”, eh? Well meet, “The Neutralizer”, asshole; I outrank your ass!

They might be a source of income, and I wouldn’t say we should drive them away completely. But what I would suggest is that we make them play by our rules and turn the dimwitted fools into more model beachgoers. It’s true, you pay a lot of money into our beaches and our amusements, and you are a vital part of the economy of the Jersey Shore. But this does not give you the right to act like a complete fucktard devoid of manners, pride, and shame. This doesn’t give you license to act like you “own the beach”. If you don’t like it, stay in New York and frequent the clubs and beaches so flooded with your own kind, you decided to escape to our welcoming arms. You can play, you can pay, but don’t be gay about it, assjacks. Wise the fuck up. Otherwise, you’re giving this part of the country a black eye, and as one of the most prevalent stereotypes of Jersey would dictate, we know where to hide our bodies.

One last thing: MTV, you suck even more at this Guido Chronicle project because someone else has beaten you to the punch. PLUS, they remembered to be creative (and accurate) with the title.