Monday, June 18, 2007

Pass That Kid Some Metamucil

While munching on some breakfast Saturday morning, I noticed this story on the front page of the Ann Arbor News:

23-year-old sets record by eating 40 patties at Blimpy Burger

I'm sure you'll be thrilled I'm sharing, but the first thought that popped into my brain when I read that headline was, "That kid won't shit for a month."

I was grateful I'd ordered the blueberry oat bran pancakes for my meal.

He actually ate four 10-patty burgers, but I don't think the process has much effect on the final result. Unfortunately, the photos that ran in the paper aren't online (at least I can't find them), but I'm pretty sure that the smile the dude had on his face when he started that first or second burger wasn't there by the time he pushed himself to finish that fourth one.

That's close to four pounds of ground beef he scarfed down. You'd think trying to digest four pounds of anything would have to hurt. But he wasn't eating sprouts-and-avocado sandwiches on 12-grain bread. Ground beef has a way of, shall we say, sticking around.

And I'm saying this as someone who loves Blimpy Burgers. Krazy Jim's is an Ann Arbor institution. I've taken plenty of visitors there over the years. But I haven't been there since I moved back to Michigan two years ago. Even one of those burgers can weigh you down afterwards, if you're not careful. Smelling the grease on a flannel shirt or sweatshirt can have something of an effect on you, too.

But the new record holder is only 23 years old, so he has youth and metabolism on his side. Eating four pounds of apples over the next week might help the cause, though.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fantastic Four: Rise of My Lack of Interest

Despite my comic book geek DNA, I wasn't exactly dying to see the new Fantastic Four flick. Even though the Silver Surfer - a cool-looking character whose appeal I've never quite understood - is in it.

And as you might expect, the reviews are brutal. Check out this gem from the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter:

Surely the dullest of Hollywood's many comic-book-derived summer movies, "Silver Surfer" is drearier than corn dying in the Iowa sun, slower than molasses in Antarctica, as grim as February in Rockville.

Still, if it's 90 degrees tomorrow, I may feel I have no choice but to seek cool, air-conditioned shelter in a movie theater. Even if it means looking at Jessica Alba (who's so miscast) and her freaky blonde wig and blue contact lenses.

(And I really have to post some new Four-Sentence Movie Reviews.)

At Least Spider-Man Remains Pure

Courtesy of The Movie Blog...

You know, I think I'd pass on that one. Even if Captain Jack was really giving it to Shrek. I think I've already seen enough childbirths at the movies this summer.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"It goes on and on and on and on..."

So I'm four days late on this (and didn't write about every episode this season, as I originally intended), but after the series finale of The Sopranos, one question immediately comes to mind:

Tony Soprano is a Journey fan?

How cool is that? I bet him and Carmela rocked out to Escape in the car when they began dating. Hey, maybe Meadow or A.J. was conceived while listening to Journey! That's what that final scene was supposed to mean!

I know a lot of people hated the final episode - or perhaps more specifically, how it ended. How do I know? Because I spent most of Monday morning avoiding virtually every radio and TV broadcast I could've been exposed to in an attempt to "stay fresh" before I finally watched my recording. Why didn't I just watch the damn thing on Sunday night like everyone else? Well, that's a good question. I'll just let you imagine what I was doing and that will be the story.

Ha! See what I did there? (Actually, I would've finished this Tuesday night if Justin Verlander hadn't thrown a no-hitter for the Detroit Tigers.)

Look, I totally understand why so many people were ticked off. They wanted a definitive ending. They wanted affirmation for their months (years!) of speculation. They wanted resolution. They didn't want a final moment that made many of us wonder if the cable or satellite feed had gone out. (Did anybody else count how long the screen was black and silent until the first credit rolled? I counted seven seconds.) Unfortunately, David Chase crushed those expectations like that Ford Expedition crushed Phil Leotardo's head. (Nice sound effects on that one, by the way.)

Some have said it was a cop-out. That was the exact term used by one of my favorite baseball writers, Buster Olney. He said he was always taught that a story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end, and for Chase not to finish off his masterpiece was a disservice to everyone who followed the show. I admire Olney's work tremendously, and if he's on ESPN to talk baseball, I'll stop what I'm doing to listen. But in this case, I disagree with him.

And I'm sure Chase is feeling pretty good about his decision right now. Would everyone be talking so much about that ending if Tony Soprano had been killed? Or if he packed the family up in a SUV and bolted for Canada? No wonder he's not interested in defending the final episode he created. Chase made sure his series would stay alive in people's minds for years - if not decades - to come.

I'll admit, however, that I'm probably looking at this much more as a writer than as a TV viewer. And very often, the two are difficult for me to separate. I enjoy an ending that makes me think about something long after I watched or read it. I love having discussions with other people over their interpretations of a hazy ending, and hearing how they might have differed from mine.

Of course, I could be a little sensitive because I've tried to take much the same approach into my own creative writing (of which there unfortunately hasn't been much since I started this blogging stuff), and have been on the receiving end of some blistering critiques in fiction workshops because of that. I heard many of the same criticisms: "You didn't know how to end this story." "This was a total cop-out." "I feel like you wasted my time." And if that's how those people felt, that's fine. It's perfectly valid. But my classmates also discussed where they saw the characters going, and that's what I really wanted the reader to do.

Using those types of artistic arguments or saying the finale was like real life because nothing's ever truly resolved will just make some people's eyes roll. As I said, I understand that. Hey, I wasn't so "zen" about the ending when I first watched it, either. But the more I think about it, the more I feel it really was the best way to end the show.

If you think the person who walked into that door was Tony's killer, and that's the last thing he saw, then that's how the series ended for you. If you think it was Tony's daughter, Meadow (which I'm not sure it was because of the look on Tony's face), and the Soprano family simply had dinner that evening, that could've happened, too.

But I think Chase was going for something bigger. He wanted us to feel as tense and suspicious as Tony was in that moment. And the use of "Don't Stop Believin'" served to echo those feelings of anticipation and dread. The song starts out quietly with just vocals and piano, only to slowly build by adding guitars, and then after the line "it goes on and on and on and on," the bass and drums kick in for the full chorus. The high-pitched build-up was very reminiscent of the scene with "Sister Christian" in Boogie Nights.

Who was that strange guy sitting at the counter? Why did he look back at their booth? What will he do when he comes out of the bathroom? "Strangers... waiting," as another lyric from the song goes. Tony may have looked up when the door opened because he was expecting Meadow. But he was also keeping an eye on whoever else walked in. Because he will always have to keep an eye on who walks in the room. He will always be looking up when a door opens. It doesn't matter if Phil Leotardo's dead. Someone else will come along, as happened throughout the series. "Hiding... somewhere in the night." It won't stop.

As Paulie Walnuts might say, students are gonna write disserations on this $#!+. Yeah, that's right. About The Sopranos and Journey. It was brilliant. But David Chase doesn't even need my applause. He's sitting in a comfortable armchair somewhere, reveling in the knowledge that his show's place in TV immortality is assured.

Friday, June 08, 2007

I'm Feelin' Thankful For the Small Things Today...

Today at Fried Rice Thoughts, we're celebrating the celebration of champions. It was on this day 34 years ago that my mother pushed me out of her womb and into this world. Given that the last two movies I've seen - Knocked Up and Waitress - largely centered around childbirth, I'm especially grateful for what she went through to get me here.

As I get older and more grumpy, I say that I don't like to make a big deal about birthdays. But this morning, I've already been the recipient of some tremendous gifts and kindnesses. I'm touched and extremely grateful.

And thanks to Mis Hooz's thoughtfulness and generosity, I will most certainly not be asking:

(courtesy of 609 Design and The Tony Kornheiser Show)

Be good today, everyone. But enjoy an adult beverage while you're at it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Buy Him Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack...

I think I'll be busy vomiting my displeasure about the Detroit Pistons over at Sweaty Men Endeavors today, as well as working on something for Bless You Boys (Did I leave anything out to plug?), but for those who have taken the trouble to stop by, I'll try my best to provide entertainment. It's sports-related, but so funny and surreal that I think it'll fit anywhere.

If you didn't see this on TV at some point over the weekend, I'll give you a quick recap. Phillip Wellman, a manager for the minor league (Double-A) Mississippi Braves became unhinged in an argument (apparently over ball-and-strike calls) with umpires on Friday night. Most guys just get in the umpire's face, say the magic swear words that get them ejected, and then unload everything on their mind. Wellman took it a little further than that. Either that, or he'd been holding something in for a long time.

Check out this video. You might actually be seeing a man lose his mind. I'm still trying to figure out what he was trying to say by "crawling through the trenches" and using the rosin bag as a hand grenade. When I'm not giggling about it, that is.

I didn't think we'd ever see a guy top Joe Mikulik's explosion last summer. If I never do anything sportswriting-related again, I'll always remember my first assignment at a Detroit Tigers game. Afterwards, I was in the Tigers clubhouse to get some quotes, and a bunch of players were giggling in front of a huge flat-screen, watching Mikulik absolutely lose it. (Amazingly, the dude still has a job with the Asheville Tourists.) That was a good night for me.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Every Little $100 I Don't Spend On Concert Tickets is Magic?

I thought I was past the days where the results of a sporting event affected my mood for more than an hour after a game had ended, but I'm in a foul mood this morning about both the Pistons' loss to the Cavaliers and the Tigers' loss to the Indians. (I didn't have the energy or inclination to type out 900 words on that one.) This morning, Detroit is Cleveland's sports servant, and that really pisses me off.

So before I take out my anger on some defenseless, inanimate object, I'll try to console myself with the relief that I didn't spend $100 on tickets to see The Police in concert. I was really excited for the band's reunion, but according to Stewart Copeland, the tour's not off to a very good start. Or is there a different way to interpret a forum posting titled, "OUR FIRST DISASTER GIG"?

They're just two shows in, folks. Any band is sure to have some coughs and sputters to work out as it gets going, but usually gets tighter as a tour progresses. Surely, The Police will be no exception. But for now, it's just fun to read Copeland's blistering self-criticism. Candor: You gotta love it.

[...] we are professionals so we soon get sorted, but the groove is eluding us. We crash through MESSAGE and then go strait into SYNCHRONICITY. But there is just something wrong. We just can’t get on the good foot. We shamble through the song and hit the big ending. Last night Sting did a big leap for the cut-off hit, and he makes the same move tonight, but he gets the footwork just a little bit wrong and doesn’t quite achieve lift-off. The mighty Sting momentarily looks like a petulant pansy instead of the god of rock. Never Mind. Next song is going to be great…

But it isn’t. We get to the end of the first verse and I snap into the chorus groove – and Sting doesn’t. He’s still in the verse. We’ll have to listen to the tapes tomorrow to see who screwed up, but we are so off kilter that Sting counts us in to begin the song again. This is ubeLIEVably lame. We are the mighty Police and we are totally at sea.

Dude should've punched Sting, just for the hell of it. At least the fans are much more forgiving. (Naturally.)

I will now return to my regularly scheduled seething.