Tuesday, March 21, 2006

V for Vendetta

I saw V for Vendetta this weekend and think its phenomenal. The subtle use of symbols, the high octane action scenes and the transformation of a character really solidify this movie as one of the best (as oppose to the worst of 2006). The movie also does a great job of keeping me wondering about what will happen next and weaving many smaller stories into the greater plot. Not to mentioned a Benny Hill homage. Brilliant!

The biggest controversy surrounding the film is it's political bent. It takes place about 10 years in the future. England is now in the grips of a fascist dictator who rose to power when chaos was gripping the world due to America's failed conquest in Iraq. America in the mean time is in the midst of a civil war, but England avoided it due to their... well, who really knows why.

I had no expectation of this movie being anything worth watching. In retrospect, seeing that Alan Moore wrote the graphic novel assures me that this might have a chance. Alan Moore is one of the most compelling writers of the graphic novel genre. His ability to string along a reader through various literary elements is second to none. His work in the Watchmen is a singular, iconic representation of what can be accomplished through the graphic novel medium. On the other hand, Hollywood is notorious for butchering otherwise wonderful comics in an effort to jazz them up a bit. How unfortunate.

So a lot of people got their panties in a twist over the 'political' message. And to that I retort with dinosaurs!

Did you read what the insightful dinosaurs had to say? Did you, huh? Huh? Good. So yeah. In the same spirit that you can't really have unbiased journalism or objective history. What a joke!

Unfortunately, this otherwise moot point of political controversy took away from an otherwise wonderfully crafted film.

I want to talk about Evey's transformation so I must say that in order to talk about this rather intelligently, I'll have to share some information that might spoil the movie.

Evey is the product of culture that's been under siege. She was raised in a government runned facilities after her parents were imprisoned for protesting the government. She has taken up a rather docile and submissive role in stark contrast to her parent's rebelious leanings. She obeys the government because she fears the government.

Evey manages to get herself tangled in V's affairs. V takes her in and she agrees to help him in his crusade. But in the middle of his work she cowers and runs from the scene. She is later captured by the government, tortured and asked to turn V over. This would have been easy enough for her, but she found a note buried away in a hole in her cell. Written on this note is the story of a women who occupied the cell before Evey. Her story isn't fantastical or showy; rather it is one mixed woven with fear then hope and then fear again. Evey realizes that the injustice done to this woman isn't an isolated incident and if she betrays V's location she betrays this young woman. Evey is asked one last time, in a pleading voice by her silhouetted interegator to reveal V's location or she'll be taken out back and shot. With both strength and fear she firmly says "No. Kill me."

With that the man says she's free to go and she realizes soon enough it was V who put her through this. Evey is angry at V for deceiving her, but when she takes a step back she realizes that the 'lie' he created freed her from fears. This is a transformation into an Evey that she likes. This harkens a theme throughout the movie "Artists create lies to show us the truth; politicians create lies to keep us from the truth."

Evey faced death and finally knew what she would die for. In the process she learned how to live. Evey, in struggled breath, runs to the roof for air. It's just started to rain. She basks in the rain and the view of the city. She feels her freedom finally.

This movie moved me in ways that few have. It serves as a reminder to embrace my greatness and that there are battles to be fought. Each age has its battles. And each battle has it heros. And when a hero is called to battle that spirit awakens not just one person but an entire generation. What battles are you fighting? What inspires you?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Barry Bonds is a big fat p-p-pussy!

Two years ago, South Park premiered an episode where Jimmy uses steroids to win the Special Olympics (evil, yes. Hilarious, also yes!) During the celebration Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi were celebrity guests of honor. Below is Jimmy's confessional speech. While the transcript is only part of the hilarity, just imagine the camera flashing to the baseball stars at the appropriate times. With out further ado, I present to you the genius of South Park!
TIMMY: Timmih!

JIMMY: What?

TIMMY: Timmih!

JIMMY: Oh my God. You, you're right, Timmy. You're totally right. Everyone, can I have your attention, please? I'm afraid I have to give back my medal. The truth is, I haven't been playing fair either. I've been using st-steroids. I was willing to do anything to be the best, and the steroids made me blind to the people I was hurting. A good friend even tried to talk me out of it, and I wouldn't listen to him. Taking steroids is just like pretending to be handicapped at the Special Olympics. Because you're taking all the fairness out of the game. But I know now that even if you do win on steroids, you're really not a winner. You're just a p-pussy. You're just a big fat p-p...p...pussy, and if you take steroids, the only decent thing to do is come forward and say, "Remove me from the record books, because I am a big, stinky p-pussy-steroid-taking jackass." That's how I feel about myself, and why I must decline this medal and my place in the history books. And if you'll let me, I'll be back next year. To compete with honor.

MCGUIRE: Hey kid. Good for you for being honest.
So if you haven't heard, there is a soon-to-be-published tell all book about Barry Bond's regiment steroid doping and SI has the scoop. Yeah, we know Giambi admitted to Congress that he used steroids. Palmerio, beloved by many, told Congress he didn't use steroids and then tested positive for Winstrol. And Mark McGuire's muscles are so atrophied that it's saddening to even watch him move.

Why in the world is this one getting so much publicity? Well other than the media being a pack of vultures of course? It obviously isn't new news. I was listening to Colin Cowherd this morning since he always has something interesting to say. (His commentary on Kirby Puckett, the officiating at the SuperBowl and how we crucify great players like ARod are classics.)
"You know that he did steroids. What surprising was the extent. Its like those tell all documentaries for rock bands. Poison, an 80s glam rock band for example. You knew they were having lots of sex. But when I hear they had a special room under the stage for sex during the concert, well that's just mind blowing."
And so here we are again. Probably at the beginning of another long journey in which Congress mounts its high horse threatening baseball to get it's testing in place or well blah, blah, blah, blah!! For God's sake think of the children. Please think of the children.

When I was a kid, I really, really liked Darryl Strawberry. He was the Mets' ace slugger. I use to, and my sister can attest to this, sit in front of the TV and time my swing with Darryl's. In had it all down. The little waggle of his bat at the beginning, chewing gum, the big kick that always led of a swing, the deep golfer swing, the swooping follow through, everything! I had it. Granted I was seven and the Mets had just won the World Series the year before so I was in the right place at the right time rooting for the best. But I never really thought about beating my wife and taking copious amounts of cocaine. Well, not when I was seven. That came much later. I must have been eight, eight and a half. When I did find out about what Darryl did, the only thing I thought to myself was "Huh.... What a fuck up." (Same goes for video games, btw. I've never once wanted to pick of flamethrower and torch a host of innocent bystanders despite my penchant towards games like GTA3. Well, not very often at least.)

More often than not, great people have great flaws. Anyone remember Bill Clinton. Granted his wife's pussy is colder than a blizzard in the Antartic, but... he's still suppose to be a shining example of what an American man is. Kirby Puckett. Another legend from the early 90s era of baseball just passed away of a stroke. He was an inspiration on the field and off. His conduct was impeccable towards the fans and his work in the community was unparalleled. But he beat the women in his life and had terrible mood swings. Also his weight was getting the better of him.

So let's think of the children, shall we? The children's first and foremost role models are the people in the community. Their parents, their coaches, teachers et al. These people play a pivotal and daily part in their lives. At least I hope they do. Instead, I'm doing double takes when ever a hoochie mama eleven year old trots by in the mall. (I swear there's something in the water!) DO NOT LET YOUR TELEVISION BABYSIT YOUR CHILDREN!!! They risk being as fucked up as me. I'm not saying it rests on just one teacher. Or just one school. Or one parent. That's not a community. A community promotes a set of higher values through their actions first. Like, I don't know, hmmm... encouraging a winning coach to look the other way when his players are engaging in questionable activities. Never happened I bet.

The circus that's going to happen in Congress and in the front office of Major League Baseball is going to detestable. I suggest you sit it out. In the end, baseball will weather the storm. Somehow. I don't think baseball will ever really be able to recapture the glory it once had for me in the late eighties and early nineties or for the nation like it was in the from the 20s to the 60s. The greatest American athletes just aren't training themselves to be baseball players. They're increasingly moving towards football, basketball and curling (on the up and up, I tell you). So baseball will never be America's pastime again. It's simply a dying sport. On the other hand, check out the World Baseball Classic to see some real national vigor. The Dominicans, Venezuelans and Japanese really love this sport. But I digress. Baseball has survived gambling, a world war and racial segregation. It's history is rich and complex as much as the game.

This hasn't killed baseball and the kids will be fine as an icon for this black eye in baseball. He currently holds the lead for most home runs in a season at 73.

Single Season Home Run Records
Year to Break Previous
Barry Bonds
(he had a .863 Slugging which is monstrous!)
Mark McGuire
Roger Marris
Babe Ruth606
(broke his own record of 59...
and before this it's all Ruth)

Also considering he stands to possibly set the record for most home runs in a career. He's already number three and only seven away from surpassing number two on the list, Babe Ruth. Who was no role model himself (from Wikipedia):
For someone who performed larger-than-life heroics on the field, Ruth was very often less than the ideal role model in his behavior and personality. He drank too much, his speech was splattered with profanities, chased women while a married man, drove cars recklessly, was frequently childishly rebellious with a disregard for rules and authority figures, and sometimes had a quick temper with players, umpires, and even fans. Yet despite all of his well-publicized faults, millions of people adored him. He was generous with his time and money, and set up numerous charities, many directed toward children. On a number of occasions after games, Ruth, not wanting to disappoint any fans, would stand for hours signing autographs.
I don't know if it's a good or bad thing that he used steroids. I understand the drive to be competitive and to be so competitive that you sacrifice your body and health. It's actually a quality we admire in our heroes. He was a really good baseball player before steroids. When I watched him play for the Pirates in the early nineties, he was five weapon player: base runner, contact hitter, home runs, fielder and good arm. He had a 40-40 (HR and Stolen Bases) in '96 and was the first player to reach 400 HR and 400 SB in '98. Then when he went all roids on us, his slugging went through the roof and his base running and defense took a back seat.

But this option isn't available to all people in major league baseball. Rules are rules. Some make sense. Others don't. But they're there to keep a level playing field. Take for example, the corked bat. Illegal for many, many years. But does it make sense? No. The amount of weight you lose in order to speed up your swing takes away just as much power as you gained in the swing speed. (It a momentum thing.) You can't grease the ball. That makes sense. You're not allowed to use the gun in the gun circle (Don't worry about this one if you haven't seen Upright Citizen's Brigade).

Does this mean I want to see a league full of super mutant athletes? No! That's why we have curling. Personally, I think we should have a well educated group of athletes deciding if they want to sacrifice their testicles for a moment of glory. The unfortunate realization I'm having is most kids will choose this option. Then baseball will totally self destruct. Its good and bad, I know.

This whole affair sucks, not only for baseball, but as reflection of America's obsessive culture of competition. We basically said we are willing to sacrifice our testicles for greatness. Which is what all men do when they strive for greatness. It is our source of power after all. All too often we are asked the question "Do we want a long lif
e of mediocrity or a short but glorious life." Alas, we'll have to just start to change the notions of greatness and escalate heroes we really yearn to follow in to the darkness. Politicians, CEOs, athletes have all failed us. I guess this new era, with new dreams beckons a new hero.