Saturday, January 31, 2015

They Hate Us 'Cause They Ain't Us

Thank you North Korean hackers (or whoever)! No matter, 'cause I got to see a (IMHO, really good) first-run movie for free.* (*on Netflix so I guess technically I paid something for it since I pay $30/mo. subscription fee.)

That's right. Netflix is now streaming "The Interview" so I could watch this new movie way before it would otherwise have been available on this site.

I saw "This is the End" only a month ago so I full well knew what to expect with a Rogen/Franco flick and believe me "The Interview" did not detract from my expectations. It was everything I hoped for and more.

I love irreverent "12-year-old" crass humor if it's done right. And that's pretty difficult to achieve. Fart jokes and sexually-explicit rants and digs can easily get either dumb or offensive. Some would say they always are but I digress. Much like the humor of "The Book of Mormon," the jokes in "the Interview" were indeed guttural and low-brow for the most part but they were written and performed with intelligence, wit and irony that comes across only if done by likewise witty and intelligent writers and actors.

Right away the movie delivers us the absolutely genuinely sweet and sour mix that is the chemistry between Seth Rogen and James Franco. These guys are the next big comic duo should they continue making these "buddy" films. In one of the first scenes we see Franco's character as a slightly buffoonish celeb-interview TV show host "live" on-the-air as he talks with his guest Eminem (played by Eminem himself). The crazy antics of Seth Rogen's character in the control room freaking out while Franco's character is near freaking out on the set as Eminem nonchalantly comes out of the closet is pure gold. I actually think this is what would happen "behind-the-scenes" if something like this took place on a show like this IRL.

With this opener, we're introduced to the madness of the non-stop in-jokes that this movie will continue to time-after-time deliver in each of its subsequent scenes. The exquisite jewels of unbelievably quotable lines are cinematic orgasms that had me, literally, rolling on the floor laughing. Here are some of the ones from this initial scene featuring TV show host Dave Skylark (Franco) interviewing recording artist Eminem with Aaron Rappaport (Rogen) in the control room:

Skylark: Wait, wait...let's just back it up a moment. Did you just say that you were gay? Just curious what you meant by that exactly?
Eminem: I mean I'm gay.
Skylark: Ah, I'm just a little confused here 'cause gay can mean a lot of things.
Eminem: I am a homosexual.
Skylark: (scrunched up look on his face) Meaning?...
Eminem: I like men.
Control booth guy: What the fuck just happened?!
Rappaport: Eminem just said he was gay. Four times. That's what the fuck just happened! Holy shit! Eminem's gay on our show! Eminem's gay on our show! (jumps up and down with glee)

Eminem: It's kinda like I been playin' gay peek-a-boo.
Skylark: Gay peek-a-boo, (makes peek-a-boo hands to face gesture)

After a brief control room struggle with Eminem's publicist, Rappaport speaks to Skylark through his earpiece reciting rap lyrics that now seem obviously telling.

Skylark: (to Eminem) What did you mean when you rapped "I said nice rectum. (etc.)"
Eminem: I pretty much been leavin' a bread crumb trail of gayness.
Eminem: But actually, Hector...Hector was real.
Skylark: Hector and his rectum were real?

Chyron on TV monitor now reads "HECTOR'S RECTUM IS REAL"

Staff in control room all burst out in high-fives and screaming "Hector's rectum is real!"

After the show is over, Rappaport and Skylark buddy hug in sheer amazement at their interview gold nugget.

Skylark: What the fuck just happened?!
Rappaport: The real Slim Shady just stood up, that's what the fuck just happened!
Skylark: This is like Spike Lee just said he's white!

This is some funny shit right here. And Eminem was a true sport to be in on this gag. Not to mention Rob Lowe in another fake interview exposing his hideous bald head.

And these examples are just the very beginning.

Just like "This is the End" you find yourself thinking, multiple times throughout the movie, about the viral meme quality of the lines the characters are deftly spewing. Sure, you know the writers are hoping that as they're typing this shit on their laptops but unlike some other comedy flicks where a line of dialog can come across as fake or too manufactured, these lines seem organic as if Rogen and Franco wrote them themselves. But apparently the credit goes to screenwriter Dan Sterling. How many bars did those three have to go to together (or, considering Rogen and Franco's rep, ounces of weed smoked) to get this in sync? Pro'ly too many (much).

I'm not the usually expected demographic for the movie of course. But I freakin' loved it. And to the multitude of detractors online, in print and on TV who say this movie sucked: Haters gonna hate, and ain'ters gonna ain't.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Deposit Return Fiasco

When I moved to Bellagio Apartments in February of 2011, it wasn't an outright new rental for the management company of the complex. I took over the lease from some young Hispanic guy who carried himself off as too good for the place. He seemed to be in a hurry to off-load this place. His furnishings which I saw before I moved in were definitely high end and I think he was over living in what, I later agreed, was the ghetto.

I forget his name now but let's call him Hector. So Hector signed out on his lease and I signed onto the lease he had plus, because I fell for the "avoid a raise in the rent" sales pitch of the female McKinley rep at the time, I signed on an extension of an additional year at a "small increase" in rent to kick in in August of 2011. There was the issue of the deposit, of course. He told me that I could keep it when my future move out day would come. I protested politely saying it was his money but he gave me the distinct impression that he was well over any further dealings with this rental company. He wanted none of it and was willing to forfeit the deposit to me.

Fast forward now to November of last year when I eventually do move out. I drop off my keys and my forwarding address form with Edwin the gay guy in the office. He's a meticulous fellow and I see him take the form and place it carefully in some binder.

December comes along and I haven't heard a word from Bellagio about the deposit. I call them and I get forwarded to a lady named Crystal. She says they never received a forwarding address form from me. I tell her I left it with Edwin. She denies having received it. I give her my current address and my email address so she can keep me appraised of the deposit. She reminds me that the amount of the deposit will be reduced due to prorated rent and utilities owed since my lease was officially ended on the second of November. I'm non-committal and just ask her to process the deposit return as soon as possible. She says that she'll get right to it.

A couple more weeks go by and no word from Bellagio. I call and speak again with Crystal who seems very confused and disorganized. She says that she sent out the Statement of Deposit (or some such name) form to me. This form would have been an acknowledgement of McKinley what monies were due me from the deposit minus any deductions, like pro-rated rent or damages or the like. She again reminded me that the full deposit amount would be reduced by utilities due. I again am non-committal and just request whatever is owed me to be sent to me. She reconfirms my address and is correct. She says that the SOD (Statement of Deposit) will be sent by FedEx and asked if I wanted a confirmation number. I told her I didn't need it. (Since I trusted her and felt it would be a mute issue.)

Well, a week and then two passed. No SOD or check or anything. Not even an email explaining what might have happened even though I gave Crystal my email address on the second call to her.

So now, January 20, I call Bellagio yet again. I ask to speak with the manager and it's Crystal on the line. She says the manager is out but since my issue is a deposit return, she'll be able to help me and transfers me to her office where she picks up again. She looks me up in her system which seems to take an inordinate amount of time and surmised that we've spoken before on this. I agree. I ask her what has been done regarding this and she says the main office is still working on this. Having just perused Florida landlord/tenant related law on various websites, I now have on my computer screen before me the actual wording of the Florida law regarding returns of deposits and I tell Crystal that now I am due not a reduced deposit amount but I am owed the full deposit plus interest since this has been more than 30 days and they have yet to contact me on this. I state that unless I get a check in the next 24 hours I will sue them.

Now she's hammerin' and hawin' and all a-fluster. I tell her that if she gets on the line with someone who can authorize the payout, I'll wait on hold. Twenty five minutes of hold later she comes on and says the matter is confusing. She asks if I am a transfer. I assume she means a transfer of lease and I fill her in on the transaction that took place between me and "Hector" and Bellagio in February of 2011. But she means a transfer from one apartment within the complex to another. I tell her no. She says that they have information in our systems that the deposit was due to a Shaquita something or other. I told her I took over the lease from a single dude who's name I'd forgotten. I tell her "Why is there such a fuss about who was the original leaseholder?" The fact of the matter is I took over the lease and I had a legal, physical copy of the lease which clearly indicates that I had a deposit on file with McKinley and they acknowledged it. I told her it's silly to hem and haw so much over a $99 deposit. I suggested as a customer courtesy that they just cut me a check for that amount and we can be done with this. She says she's really confused since it was assumed that the amount of the deposit was $300. I tell her it isn't, it's $99. She put me on hold again to confer with her accounting person at the main office in Michigan. After a few minutes, Crystal got back on with me and said that she'd be FedEx over-nighting the check for $99.47 to me. (I don't know where the 47 cents comes in but at this point I wasn't arguing.)

The next day comes and goes but not without me eerily hearing a sound of a truck on the property around 12:30 pm. I look out my window and it's a FedEx truck parked across the parking lot in front of the building next to mine. It, like I guess all the buildings in this complex, has an apartment 208. Is FedEx delivering an important overnight delivery to the wrong address?

So here I am, the evening of the day after and still no deposit. What's more, when I did actually pull out the Bellagio lease contract from storage, I discovered that they actually owe me over $157.

I guess I'll be going to court.

EDIT: At 9:15 am today (Thursday, January 22) a UPS guy knocks at my door at the very same time that I'm reviewing this post. Lo and behold, he hands me an envelope. Inside, an Amscot money order for $99.47 from Bellagio. Well, whadya know.

The Waiting Game

On a night like tonight where I'm feeling mighty low and really don't give a shit if I live or die, one thing keeps me going...I have this burning desire to just outlive my father.

I can't die before him.

My feelings for my father have always...yes, ALWAYS been negative. I've always known I was a disappointment to him for various reasons and I've always felt like he was a stupid, loser bully who strutted around like they owned the world and treated people like shit. I never loved him.

Oh when I was a kid I kissed him goodnight before going to bed and we said our I love yous but neither of us meant it, surely. His wet, beer-scented, clammy kisses were disgusting. He smelled of sweat, cheap aftershave, stale beer and cigarette smoke. His bristly mustache didn't tickle, it scratched and pricked my tender boy lips. We kissed goodnight until I was well into puberty. I felt absolutely no desire for him, but was that feeling mutual? Or did he constantly fantasize about fucking his first born baby boy in the ass?

He's 74 now. It's just a matter of time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fuck You Candy Crush!

Move over beer and pasta, there's a new addiction monkey climbing up on my back...

It's none other than Candy Crush Saga, an app that's been on Facebook forever and other smartphones for quite a while, but only available for Windows phones as of a month ago.

So I saw it was a Top Gaming App in the Windows Phone App Store and, of course, it was free so I, why not. Soon after downloading and checking it out, I could see the attraction immediately.

So many of my Facebook friends have been dealing with this addiction for a few years now. I remember getting their pleas for new "enablers" to join them in the glucose-rush nirvana they were spending countless hours in while I thought "What tools! How could they waste their time with such nonsense?" Now I see how.

In case you've been under a rock, like I've been until now, this is another in the myriad parade of "match three" sliding puzzle games that have been around forever. I remember the days of Bejeweled, Jewel Quest and Big Kahuna on the Pogo (and similar sites) web-based casual game site in the early aughts.

They were fun little time-filler games and the graphics and sounds were impressive for free games of the day. Of course they were just the newest iterations of a genre arguably begun by the grand-daddy of drop and match games: Tetris.

Back in the day, on my black and white screen (actually, green and grey) Game Boy, with its mesmerizing Russian folk dance music, I'd spend many a sleepless night spinning all manner of blocky shapes as they fell from above, faster and faster. The "match three" jewel grid games of the aughties were not as spell-binding, but they were amusing nevertheless.

But Candy Crush is on a whole new level. There are just so many things that make you feel like playing this game. Again and again and again. Like the penalty/reward psychological factor.

You have a limited number of "lives" that only renew once you've waited in a penalty box for a certain amount of time, or, if you can get one of your Facebook friends to "give" you a life in the Facebook version of the game. (By now, my friends seeing my plea for Candy Crush lives in their feed are likely thinking "What is this? Does Michael think it's 2013? He needs to get a life, IRL, the tool!") The reward, once you "get the hook up" and can play again, is the massive board-sweeping power-up matches that rack up massive pointage accompanied by gleeful bleeps and blithers of the many video-gamey point-making sounds. Not to mention the sexy, smooth, congratulatory voice of that guy that says either "Sweet, Tasty, Delicious, or Divine" depending on your point accrual success making you feel you have some candy matching skills when in actual fact the game is pretty much based on luck.

The game's theme music, so far (I'm only at around Level 23 or so right now) seems to be one of two happy, little ditties either of which you'll be humming in your head for days on end. The graphics are very colorful and happy. And the little animations and characters are sweetly rendered and, well, happy. Fuck, everything about this game is just so fucking happy! Until you fail a level. The sad music is so sad. You let the little girl down and she's crying now. Damn, little girl, I'm sorry I'm such a fuck up and can't get you your fucking candy! I want to give you diabetes, sweet little girl!

(BTW, in addition to the game-playing addiction this app causes, I've noticed a definite craving for kiddie-style penny candy when playing. I even went to 7-11 tonite to get some and munched on them while playing. Oh, and they're not "penny" candy anymore. Not at 7-11 anyway where a 4.25 oz. bag cost $1.29!)

The company that makes this app has literally earned billions (yes, that's billions with a B) of dollars on this one game. Well goody, goody gumdrops for them, the assholes (heavy jealousy feelings here). But they'll get nothing from me. No matter how much I need more lives and that little heart cries. No matter how much I fail to complete a level because of one fucking square with jelly in it that I could just smack with the lollipop tool. No matter how much I make that little girl cry.

Oh hell, it's only a couple of bucks...


Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Wheezes Of War

Cue "Flight of the Valkyries"
It all started with a single little cough. Kinda like a mini-Mookie cough. Probably, I thought, because of the same reasons she coughs, the bad air systems here at work. But then it was followed a few minutes later by another, slightly stronger one. And I felt it. I was coming down with something.

I don't usually get sick so when I do, I notice it really fast. And I get a little anxious. I hate being sick. Well, who doesn't right? I looked at the clock: 5:45 am. I'd just finished giving Kaopectate to Greg B. who had been dealing with a flu for the past few days. Had I just got it from him? But that was just a few minutes ago. Can it work that fast?

Never mind where it came from, it was in me. I knew it. As the shift wore down to a close I had the inkling that I'd be calling Charmaine in a few hours. I was already achy and warm. When I got home I was already tired to begin with so I planned to just go right to bed. I woke up around noon hacking away. It was getting worse. Though I was drawn to just staying in bed I knew the symptoms could, and likely would, get worse yet so I drove over to Winn-Dixie and picked up some non-alcohol cough syrup, cough drops and ibuprofen. The war had begun and I was collecting ammo.

I called out on Charmaine's voicemail and she got back to me within a few minutes. The usual fakey concerned, non-committal voice. Well she learned one thing in management training I guess.  Ironically, I just happened to have a 2-liter of Canada Dry Diet Ginger Ale, the beverage for sick people as ginger ale was treated in our house growing up. I poured a big glass of that on ice and after popping a couple of Ibuprofen and sipping a couple teaspoons of cough syrup, I went back to bed.

Sleep was sporadic. I was wheezing pretty well by now and started to really feel the chills of fever. Also, I felt weak to the point where I started imagining in a half-dream state that my body was having trouble keeping up with even pumping my blood at a capable rate and I felt like I was palpitating. Not sure if this was real, I was in a semi-conscious state but it was uncomfortable enough it made me get up a couple hours later. I had one prolonged sneeze attack but it lasted only a minute and didn't repeat, thankfully.

Despite the fact people usually lose their appetite when fighting the flu, I was actually ravenous. I nuked not only a leftover roast beef on egg noodle dish but also a rosemary-lemon chicken thigh with Spanish rice. (Damn I'm a good cook. No really...damn it. It's part of the reason I'm so fat, damn it!) The symptoms were all in the chest and joints. I didn't feel any stomach issues and I could breathe through an unblocked nose just fine, so taste wasn't affected.

I watched a movie on Netflix but towards the end of this hour and a half flick I was feeling very weak and achy and dove into bed as soon as it was done. Before I did, though, I popped a couple of Benedryl to insure I'd sleep better.

It was around 4:30 am when I awoke feeling much better. My coughs had not progressed beyond an occasional rasp here and there and I was less feverish. Or so it seemed. I sat on my porch with the last of my ginger ale and watched silently, in the dark, as my next door neighbor left his apartment, walked down the stairs and drove away in his dingy white '90s Dodge Neon. A car he sets an alarm to. I kid you not. Isn't this exactly what I spoofed as a Bellagio neighbor trope?

After about a half hour on the porch I got bored and sat in the living room with another leftover: red beans and rice with BBQ chicken and watched Renetto's Daily Affirmation BS via YouTube on the Samsung TV. I was catching up so it was yesterdays vlog and it was all about addiction, not just Andrea's but his as well. He defined the acronym H.A.L.T. and it took me back to my days in "program." I do admit that the H.A.L.T. model has actually helped me and it's an easy reminder to be proactive and prepared for triggers since you know they're gonna happen.

I made the, in hindsight, slight mistake of having a glass of iced coffee with my meal. This stimulated something inside me and before long, I was pooping out an icky brown sewage into the toilet. Took a hot shower (well, as hot as it gets which isn't very hot at all actually) dressed in my red sleeveless biker shirt and red OP longboard swim trunks (hey, they're comfortable and supportive so why not wear them around the house) and went back to bed. Yes, again. My energy levels were very short-lived.

I got up again around 1 pm? I don't know. Time is immaterial when you sleep and wake in an endless repeating cycle like this. Ric had called and texted the day before but it was during one of my sleep periods so I ignored it. He saw my Steam status as online (I was playing Dishonored a game I'd written off too early it seems back when I originally bought it. On second run, it seems pretty cool) and called me to play Civ. I agreed and we played for a few (yeah right, a few...try 9) hours but I had to bow out by 10:00 pm, I was achy and tired again.

I popped another pair of Benny hot pink tablets, slugged a good measure of syrup (was I down half a bottle already?) and slid under my oh-so-familiar covers. Slept pretty soundly 'till about 6:00 am and you'd think all this rest would bring me out of all this? On the contrary, I woke feeling like I'd lost ground on the battlefield. The coughs were deeper and more painful, my ears were ringing and my joints were uncomfortable in almost any position.

This fucking war has just begun.

Friday, January 02, 2015

I Don't Remember How I Got Here

The second act of "The Book of Mormon" starts out with Elder Price, appearing onstage looking absolutely elated as he excitedly glances around. Behind him, a huge backdrop is revealed showing a jumping orca, tourist trap signs, a roller coaster, palm trees and The Magic Kingdom's Cinderella's Castle. Oh, and a sign for Putt-Putt Golf.

Of course, we, the ACTUAL Orlando audience erupt in applause and hoots of laughter.

Elder Price's initial awe is soon replaced by confusion though as he admits he can't recall how he arrived here, in his dream city. He slowly becomes aware that he is, in fact, dreaming.

As he starts to stumble around in befuddlement, I start to wonder how many of us in this audience here at the brand-spanking new Dr. Philip's Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando wonder the same did we get here?

Often times, I've contemplated that very same question myself.

So obviously, I went to the New Year's Eve showing of "The Book of Mormon" and aside from the above hilarious scene, the musical was indeed a really nice treat. Great melodies, great acting and superb dancing and singing skills displayed all 'round. But was it the funniest musical comedy I'd ever seen? Was it the best? Um, not really.

Let's face it. It is what it is. The product of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of "South Park." And, as to be expected, the sight gags, the jokes and spirit of the show was pure South Park-ian. Now I'm no snob or prude. I love a good belly laughing, rolling on the floor guttural or low-brow joke as much as the next person. But a certain part of me did cringe a little during certain numbers that frankly I do think may be a bit much for musical theater.

I know I'm not the only one to feel this way. I saw at least one couple walk out before the end of the performance. Perhaps they were offended at the jabs this show took at religion? I don't know. For me, that wasn't a concern so much. It was, for me, a little like having a blue comedy act at a theme park. Not the most appropriate venue. Like as if there was a costumed character act in one of the Disney World theaters where Mickey says "You know how I make Minnie scream when I make love? I call her on the phone and describe it to her!" Pat-um Pum - Tsssh. (rimshot)

But I successfully squelched these slightly squeamish feelings and let myself go. 'Cause this show ain't for those too rigid or buckled down. It ripped apart polite society and got down to brass tacks really fast. Fuck the fact that we were actually in the family vacation center of the world, this show was NOT for any fuckin' kiddies! And if you were in town to visit the Holyland Experience theme best not see this.

The first act began with a medley introducing the audience to the culture of Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) ultra-organized proselytization in a way many are already familiar with...a ring of the front doorbell. ("Hello") Okay enough little ditty but it did nothing to introduce us to the main characters to help us formulate feelings towards who they were. This lack of empathy for the characters, IMHO, would run throughout and it diminished some of the impact of many of the events in the show.

If character development had been more successful, we may have been more sympathetic to nagging truths like why the young elders felt compelled to stay within the Church despite clearly expressed negatives like a ridiculous historical mythology, a fostering of a self-centered, entitled, competitive attitude ("You And Me (But Mostly Me)")("All-American Prophet") and a peer-pressure imposed compartmentalization and squelching of emotions and individual diversity ("Turn It Off")

And let's not leave out the trump card for many-a-religion, the threat of everlasting pain and suffering for non-conformers ("Spooky Mormon Hell Dream")

But of course this is High Parody so no one should expect that REAL Mormon youths struggle quite so honestly and frankly as these characterizations. Or that Africa is that bad. Right?

I guess in a way this last statement hits home as to what I felt the show really lacked...sympathy for some of the real suffering hinted at in the jokes.

There ARE gay Mormon boys who live a painful life for fear of stigmatization and isolation from those they love, never mind the whole "burning in Hell" bullshit.

There IS a Western white elitist mentality, especially encouraged by organized religion, that treats Black Africans as mere savages to be converted rather than fellow humans needing real life-changing, here-and-now help.

There IS a severe AIDS crisis among African blacks and a lack of scientific education which would help reduce its rampant spread.

Should we sit in our comfy theater seats in a glitzy $386 million complex laughing at these REAL WORLD issues? Silly religious dogma riddled with lies, dangerously backward church officials striving to oppress whatever they wish weren't real, warlord atrocities, unchecked continent spanning poverty, blind racism, the ongoing AIDS pandemic, forced genital mutilation, tribal genocide, dysentery, factional warfare...

Oh, wait a minute. Now I get it!

The world seems so much easier if you BELIEVE you live in someplace like, well, Orlando, a city of make-believe where nothing bad ever happens. ("I Believe") But, excepting for the coincidence that this musical is performing in the real-life Orlando, we actually live in a REAL world. One in which all those bad things, ARE happening.

And making shit up ("Making Things Up Again") isn't going fix a fucking thing in the long term.

Especially if you have maggots in your scrotum.