More reasons why reality shows suck...

Prediction: In the next five years, there will be a major global conflict sparked by a reality show. And this incident will be point to as the watershed moment:

'Big Brother' racism denied
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Channel 4 attempted to cool an escalating row over alleged bullying of Indian Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty on "Celebrity Big Brother," saying there was no clear evidence of racism.

As the number of complaints to the media regulator topped 19,000 and police probed e-mail threats against housemates, the broadcaster said Shetty had not spoken out about any racism

But there is one upside to this stupid row: Who would have thought we would ever see the names of famed avant garde movie director Ken Russell, third most-talented Jackson Family member Jermaine Jackson, Caucasian-Afroed 70s music star Leo Sayer and aging A-Teamer Dirk Benedict in the same news story?!?

Ken Russell quits Big Brother


American Schadenfreude

I hate "reality shows". It's a position I've made quite clear to any of my friends that will listen, and even a few strangers on the bus who happened to be sitting near me when I read about the latest dumb ass "reality show" idea in the morning newspaper. For years I refused to watch any of them when I first heard of the concept. But I figured if I was going to hate the concept I had to at least watch an episode. So I watched a few episodes of "The Real World" (the first season I think, in New York City) but got real tired, real fast of a bunch of self-absorbed brats playing house. "Survivor", I decided, was an abomination to all mankind and an insult to every kid sitting in the Sudan with flies on his belly and legs the size of pipe cleaners. From what I know of "The Amazing Race", it serves no purpose and has no point (so, let me get this straight: they race. Around the world. For... what?). And all the rest of those cobbled-together, half-assed, half-baked ideas for "reality shows" (Yeah, the world needed more Flava Flav...)? One word: Why? I mean, it's like they're just making up shit now ("Put Phylls Diller and Tone Loc in a bathysphere for six weeks?... Great! Run with it!").

We all know why they do it. It's cheap. It's easy. It's the Anna Nicole Smith. (ba-DUM-bum). Other than the team of chimpanzees that paw at a typewriter for six months to come up with those concepts, you really don't have to lay out any big bucks to get it on the air. The regular people are willing to do it for free just to get their 15 minutes. Maybe down the line they get a five line role on some crappy sitcom. The washed up D-list actors are just happy to be back on television to extend their own 15 minutes. And for the networks, it's just a way to pick up some extra ad revenue money and fill a program schedule.

And then there's the first two episodes of American Idol.

This is my guilty pleasure, my dipping of the toe into the cesspool of popular culture and wading in up to my waist. It's a glorious, hilarious, amazing fucking train wreck of humanity. I don't care about the ones who succeed and get that piece of paper that says they're going to Hollywood. Woop-de-fucking-do. I'll never listen to any of them again anyway, never buy one of their crappy CDs with their wrentched-soul, I've-lived-and-loved-and-lost-and-I'm-only-16 songs. Who cares?

But those first few episodes? The auditions? High-larious. To think that there are that many horrible, abominable wanna-be singers who don't have a clue that they sound like two Tasmanian Devils having sex...

I know a lot of them are trying to go the William Hung route and aquire fame by default. Be purposely bad enough to to score some Regis Philbin points, maybe get a cameo on David Letterman. But you can see right through them. Go do your little performance art somewhere else, Gaston.

No, it's the rest of them, the ones that actually BELIEVE that they have the goods, the ones who sit in their little bedrooms and sing along with their Clay Aiken CDs or style their hair like Kelly Clarkson, the ones who work and practice and chase their little brothers out of the room so they can rehearse and really hit that high note. The ones whose hearts are smashed like piñatas when they're told to hit the bricks...

Those are the ones that make me laugh and make those few episodes of "American Idol" worthwhile.

But is it cruel to laugh at someone who's hopes and dreams are ripped from their chest ninja-style on national television? Is it wrong to find pleasure and humor in watching the life drain from the faces of farmboys, head cheerleaders, ghetto-fabulous city girls and guys who are one high-heel away from stepping out of the closet when they're told by Simon, Paula or Randy that they have absolutely NO BUSINESS trying to form musical tones with their vocal chords?

Yup, but who gives a fuck? Hey, you lay your dick in the lion's mouth, there's a good chance it'll get bit off. No one forced them to come there. Don't wanna be judged by America, stick to the church choir.

Sure, in the real world of compassion and empathy, I would feel sorry for them, probably give them a pat on the back, maybe put an arm around their shoulder. Tell them a little lie like, "You weren't THAT bad, you know? Stick with it, forget what they say? What do they know?"

But when you're sitting at home after a rough day at work, having had to fight your way on the bus to get there and on the bus to get away from there, coming home to open a mailbox full of bills and having just enough money in your pocket for the cheapest frozen pizza in the market for dinner, but not enough for even a 40oz and you're wondering if they could sell just a single can?...hell, yeah, I'm laughing at SOMEBODY.

And once again, American Idol didn't disappoint. I can't decided who was the most pathetic: the teenage wanna-be rocker kid who finally broke down into tears after being told that his pre-pubescent Metallica voice was ridiculous? The short, plump girl with the green tie who forgot the words to Prince's "Kiss" and sang "...women, not girls, rule my world" over and over for what seemed like 15 minutes? The kid who worked the juggling sticks through his audition, mumble-mouthed his way through a song and fell into his mother's arms sobbing when he was sent from the room without his yellow piece of paper? Was it the slightly-effeminate, sinewy black guy dressed like Apollo Creed who sang some Italian opera? Or was it the very first contestant on the show, a cute, fresh-faced Midwestern girl who described herself as the "No. 1 Jewel fan in the world", only to be told by Jewel, the singer herself (who was a special judge on the show), that she sucked?

Ah, the fun never ends...

Am I wrong for my bouts of schadenfreude? Probably. But I blame their family, their friends and anyone who may have passed them on the street and heard them practicing their warbling and didn't tell them, "No, no, uh-uh, stop, stop right now... no, no, I said stop. Look, it's not happening. No, no, I said STOP. Here, take this list of courses available at the local community college and pick one."

In the meantime, I'll continue to watch the destruction of individual dreams for entertainment purposes. It's the only real "reality" on television.


iGotta Have It...

Damn you, Apple. Damn you to hell, Steve Jobs. I didn't NEED a Mac, but once I got my hands on one I had to have it. I didn't NEED a Mac laptop, but you made it so cool with all of those colors and shit, that when it came time to get one so I'm never away from a Mac, I chose you. I don't NEED an iPod, hell the WORLD didn't need an iPod, but goddamn if everyone on the bus doesn't have those little white wires dripping from their ears and I'm counting pennies to get one and become a Stepford commuter. And now this...

Look, Jobs-y, I have a cell phone. It works fine. I call people, I talk to them, I hang up, I move on. It has a little calendar, makes cute noises when it rings, I can even set it to wake me up in the morning. But now I'm already jonesing for this damn thing and it just came out. What do I need with a phone with maps of the entire United States right at my fingertips? I never go anywhere anyway, and when I do, I usually fly and I figure the pilot knows the directions. But suddenly I want to be able to spot every Target within a 10 mile radius of me.

But this phone... this phone that does everything but grind and brew coffee (wait, does it do that too?). I want this iPhone shit. Damn you Steve Jobs. iMac. iPod. iPhone. If he ever makes iCigarettes, we're all fucked.

Now if I can only get some iMoney...


Putting the BS in BCS...

They're playing the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) title game tonight between THE Ohio State University (for some reason, you gotta say the "THE" when talking about Ohio State and pronounce it with the long "e".) and Florida, and save for an extra letter, a more aptly named championship game there has never been. BS, indeed. I'm watching as they rev up the hype machine on the game in their pre-game show. doing the whole storied-history-great-players-tradition-up-the-ying-yang-frenzied-crowd-annoyingly-perky-cheerleaders-of-the-male-and-female-variety-and-the-painted-faced-morons-whose-entire-vocabulary-seems-to-consist-of-"We're-Number-One!"-and-extending-one-finger-as-if-to-say-"See?-This-is-a-'one',-which-is-us...". It's all that pomp and circumstance college-y crap that only really matters if you actually went to the schools in question.

But even with all of that superficial crap, the thing that pisses me off the most about college football and the championship game in general is that, in actuality, it mean nothing. Zip. Nada. Bupkis. Hundreds of schools play an entire season and it all comes down to a vote, a bunch of fat sportswriters or a bunch of fat coaches, depending on which poll you hold dearest. It's the most ridiculous, anti-climactic event in sports, and I've seen Wrestlemania IV!

Before anyone accuses me of not understanding the college game or how the entire Rube Goldberg system of the BCS, just know that I wrote sports for a big city newspaper for about eight years. I've been to college game, I've been to the Super Bowl, I've been to a baseball All-Star game and see three of the Chicago Bulls six NBA championships. I've seen some of our greatest athletes butt nekkid, so don't tell me I don't know sports inside and out (so to speak). But this college football, ahem, championship is a load of crap. Excuse me, THE crap.

I cannot, in all of my years displaying an interest in sports, seen ONE college football season end without WEEKS of controversy. OK, there may have been one or two season where the champ went through the season in such a dominating fashion and landed atop both polls (It used to be the UPI and AP polls for the two respective news services) that no one could say squat about their not deserving the title.

But other than those blips on the radar? A lot of blah blah blahing about who had the stronger schedule, who got cheated, who got slighted because they play in a weaker conference. I mean, who the fuck needs that? Why would a fan invest their time, their effort and their SOUL into a sport whose outcome is only slightly less debated that a presidential election? What's the fucking point? You fucking VOTE for who the best team is? They don't have to run through the gauntlet and play the next best team with an undefeated record?

I mean, if the New York Yankees go undefeated for an entire season and the San Diego Padres do likewise, what sense would it make to let the St. Louis Cardinals play in the World Series just because they only lost one game but were a "stronger" team? They'd be pouring Starbucks by the gallon into the San Diego harbor in protest... or something, I dunno. No other sports winds up a season like this. Hell, even college basketball manages to whittle down a field of 62 teams to one final champion. Are they always the best team in the land? Hell no. But for that year, that tournament, they beat whomever was thrown into their path, head to head, mano y mano (or in the case of the women's tournament (wo-mano y wo-mano) with no real controversy, save for a questionable call or two. But college football? Oh, nooooo, we're SPECIAL! We're too GOOD for regular old playoffs and having a REAL champion, we like to stick our fucking finger in a fucking pie, pull out a fucking plum and name THAT as the college football champion.

Sorry if I seem anal retentive on this (and I'm NOT) but even Miss America pageants have a more accurate title selection process ("So now, between Miss Utah and Miss West Virginia, the 2007 Miss American winner is... this woman over here in the third row! Get up here, beeyotch!").



The Handwriting on the Wall

I usually don’t pay much attention to graffiti. Most of it is pretty boring nowadays; just some kid trying to let the world know he exists by scrawling his initials in some ornate style. Every once in a while someone will attempt actual graffiti art, but those efforts are few and far between. Usually it’s just initials and gang scrawling as more and more youths turn to more creative forms of expression like vandalism and murder.

But I saw this message scribbled on the back door of a church that I pass while walking through the alley to my apartment. I have no idea what it means, but I like it.

“Fuck Sports Watch Self” with a little “Peace” thrown in on the side like an afterthought. What the hell does it mean? On the surface it seems to be saying that sporting events, whether televised or not, pale in comparison to your actual human existence, so pay attention to your own life, not that of Terrell Owens. Oh, and while you’re at it, be kind to each other.

Or it could be a threat: Hey, you! Stop watching that football game and watch your back, dude, ’cause I’m coming for you, dig? And in a final touch of irony, I bid you peace. Ha ha ha, sucka!

Does the fact that it’s on a church door mean anything? That it’s done in silver paint? Is “Peace” a general wish for the world or just the tagger’s streetname? What the hell does this mean? Something? Nothing? And why am I always looking for a sign?


Lost in Translation...

My current pet peeve: Those now-annoying Dunkin Donuts commercials. OK, it was kinda cool at first the way they created these indie-band sounding jingles for their commercials that used the inanities of everyday life as lyrics for the song. My personal favorite was the soccer mom who had to drive her kids to “ballet, oboe…and don’t forget… KARATEEEEEEEEEEE!!!… YA!” Supid? Yeah, but hey, it’s a freakin’ TV commercial. Whaddya want?

But in the latest one they just flat-out lie and I can’t get past it no matter how many times they run it. You’ve probably seen it, the one with the people waiting in line for coffee at the supposed-to-be-Starbucks-but-not-really shop, scratching their heads at the confusing product names on the menu and trying to determine how they’re supposed to order their overpriced drinks since all of the names are in French or Italian. “Mocha, chino, grande frappe, avec moi,” they sing (sort of) as they complain about the fact that ordering in a foreign language sucks. “My mouth can’t say these words/is it French/or is it Italian?/Perhaps Fre-talian”

The kicker comes when some “smart” dude who had the intelligence, foresight and no-nonsense attitude to go to Dunkin Donuts cruises past the window, happily sipping on his tasty beverage while the lemmings inside the fancy coffee shop stand in line like sheep to slaughter. Then the voice over announcer intones:

“Dunkin Donut Lattes… you order them in English…”

OK, if I’m not mistaken, latte comes from the phrase “café latte” which is an ITALIAN phrase indicating coffee with a lot of milk in it. So other than the words “Dunkin” and “Donuts”, there is nothing “English” about it… and I’m not too sure about “Dunkin”.

I’m sorry, but when you’re trying hard to be hipper-than-thou, at least get your shit together and know the difference between English and Italian.

That would be the No. 1 thing that disturbed me today, but while looking for the Dunkin Donuts website I ran across this little bit of web flotsom that knocked me for a little loop... Fucking Dunkin Donuts has a fucking blog! A blog with the simplisticly ridiculous name of "Dunkin Donut Talk", with small news items about Dunkin Donuts, recipies utilizing Dunkin Donuts products, comments from people about Dunkin Donuts products and advertising, etc. What the fuck?...

I'm pretty sure it's sponsored and maintained by Dunkin Donuts themselves - some web geek sitting in a back room slurping down all the free coffee and powdered donuts he wants - but they go out of their way to make it as "blog-y" looking as possible. And while it's pretty obvious that this is some corporate attempt at tapping into web culture, and slip in some free advertising as well, the strange part is that people are actually coming to the site and leaving comments. Who can care that much about donuts?


My First Brush with Greatness of 2007...

I walked past Tammy Duckworth today. Walked right past her as she was heading toward the elevators in the building where I work and I was heading outside to find an ATM. I should have said something, dammit. I mean, she fought in that stupid war despite how midmanaged she might have thought (or does think) it was. Doing the job she agreed to do and all that. Lost both her legs when her helicopter got shot down. Picked herself up, dusted herself off and ran for Congress. Almost fucking won, too. Became a living, breathing contradiction to all of those conservatives (most of whom have never served in the military) who like to repeat that stereotype that “liberals”(read: Democrats) don’t serve in the military, that it’s the domain of God-fearing, America-Love-It-or-Leave-It Republicans. Stuck it in their face and joined a slew of other Democrats who got out of that battle and said "Something's gotta change." I mean, she served more years in the military than probaby the three Bush, Cheney, Rove, Limbaugh and Rumsfeld combined. At least I KNOW she has more combat time than all of them combined. Yup, Tammy Duckworth walking right past me and I didn’t say a word. She was actually smiling at someone behind me who was holding the elevator door for her, smiling that kind of la-dee-da type of smile, as if to say, “Hey, it’s just another day, gotta work through it.” Walking past me on her prosthetic legs, crutches, just going to work as if there was nothing special about her. Damn, she should have won.

I should have said “Thanks” or “Sorry you lost” or “You rock!” Instead, I walked past and out the building, unsure if I should bother her and acknowledge her. Man, I’m an idiot.