Mr. Bill George Presents

Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

Read This… If You Hate Reading

In Literature on May 20, 2009 at 2:18 AM

You know what? I hate reading. Yeah I said it. And as much as I hate reading, I hate reading about people reading. There was an article in “The Republican,” Springfield’s finest newspaper, today written by some 8th grade overachiever who was singing the praises of reading. First of all, reading ain’t all its cracked up to be. People make the association that just because a kid has his nose in a book that they are far and above kids who… aren’t.

When I see a child, or anybody for that matter, reading a book I think one of three things: 1. The kid has no friends and is crying out for someone to hang out with. 2. The kid is brown nosing or attempting to appear more intellectual. 3. They are following a trend that no one knows how got started (Twilight, Potter, Joel Osteen).

Do we realize how ridiculous this is? Just because someone is reading a book doesn’t mean that they’re going to be the next Niles Bohr, especially if it’s about vampire love triangles (or whatever the hell Twilight is about). Is someone strong just because they are in the gym? Is someone stylish just because they shop at Hollister? Is someone from Alabama just because they listen to Kenny Chesney? No. So kids are certainly not advancing themselves just because they are reading rather than watching TV or anything else.

I (the_skeptic) am known as somewhat of a Renaissance Man. I obtained my knowledge not from the pages of a book but from years of absorbing information from all places. In 3rd grade a teacher was talking about musicians and if anyone in the class knew a famous violin company. I said “Stradivarius,” much to her amazement. And do you know where I heard it? The Three Stooges episode “Disorder in the Court.” But enough about me.

My little overachieving friend at the Republican built her argument on the notion that reading has something for everyone, which it does. But so do video games, and movies, and department stores, so I don’t really see the correlation. If it’s that using your imagination to paint the pictures to go with someone else’s words, spare me. Everyone interprets every piece of art differently. Some people will tell you Will Ferrell is really funny, others won’t. It’s just like reading, some people like 1,000 page novels about wizards and full page articles about how people dress up and wait outside for the book to be released, some people like Dilbert. To each his own.

I will leave you with this my loyal followers (because I clearly can’t say readers after all this). This is my favorite quote of all-time, and it came from a big, burly mechanic on the old TV show Monster Garage.

“I like to spend my time doing the things that people write books about.”

Now that’s the most profound thing I’ve READ in a long time.

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Cheerleaders: Yay or Nay?

In Sports on May 17, 2009 at 8:39 PM

I was at the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Final Game 7 between the World Champion Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic today and something at the game rekindled an internal debate I’ve been struggling with for years now.

Cheerleaders

I’m conflicted over their very existence. I still can’t decide if I am for or against them.

On the one hand, I think to myself: How could any self respecting woman take such a job? The whole concept is degrading. Sports teams hoping to maintain the attention of their main demographic (young men) during timeouts by throwing pretty women in skimpy clothing in front them. And on top of that, have them dance… shall we say, suggestively. It objectifies women and reinforces stereotypes regarding their role in society that should have been broken down decades ago.

But, then I think to myself: It’s a job. And I’m guessing a relatively well paying one. And I am certainly not in the business telling people what they should or shouldn’t do with their lives. If a woman is passionate about dancing (and/or enjoys sports), why not try to be a cheerleader? It’s a high profile gig that I’m sure will serve their dancing careers well down the road. You get lots of press and attention, you do good for the community when not at games etc. And it’s only temporary by its very nature.

So which perspective wins out in the end? I still haven’t decided. My heart says it doesn’t feel right and we should strive for better as a people. While my brain says, why not? Life is far too short to deny these girls a job opportunity and simultaneously take away some dude’s entertainment.

Overall this post solves nothing in terms of me reaching a conclusion on the matter. But I wanted to get my thoughts out there and see how others feel about the issue (or non-issue). Or I could discover I’m all alone on this one  and I just think too much. Sound off below in the comments section.

Cheerleaders

Impressions: Where Did They Go?

In Business on May 16, 2009 at 9:42 AM

“I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong.” – Lemony Snicket

“I want to make an impact here.” Have you ever heard an individual mention that before? How serious was that individual? Were you that individual? We have all said something along those lines or know someone who has said something like that. I have heard it before but never saw any results. I have see the complete opposite as well. Everyone would like to stand out and make a positive impression. I know I do. However, it seems like many people just think that that so-called “positive impression” is going to come out of thin air. They think that there is no such thing as effort.

I really find it amusing that some people think that effort is no longer a necessity when making a positive impression. They are completely wrong. Effort is such a key factor. I believe that you will always at least get back what you put in. We all know that. That is just the way it goes. If you want to get an ‘A’ in one of your classes, then you better put in ‘A’ effort. If you want your marriage to see its 50 year anniversary, you better put in 50 years of effort. If you want to get that $4 per hour raise at work, you better put in that $4 per hour additional effort. There is a trend here.

When it comes to attempting to make a positive impression, do not… absolutely do not wait for opportunities to come to you. If you want to sit there and wait, then plan on waiting there for a long time. You need to create the opportunity to make that good impression. However, if someone wants to acknowledge your potential and hand you the opportunity… there you go. Take it. Take that opportunity and apply your best effort.

When an individual accomplishes a positive impression (i.e. completes a difficult task with ease), the whole idea sometimes becomes forgotten. The drive to continue displaying positive impressions disappears. That becomes a bad trait. You need to continue setting the bar for yourself. Each time you attempt something, you need to think of it as setting the bar at least one notch higher. That becomes important. It shows the ability to continue growing and the ability to continue applying the required effort to become successful at whatever it may be. Always think that “with one positive impression, another needs to follow.” Do not end at the “first” impression.

Movin’ On Up

In Society on May 14, 2009 at 12:34 AM

So, I’m moving. It’s just changing apartments within the same complex but it’s still a big deal. Anytime you relocate all of your Earthly possessions, I consider it a big deal.  This has lead me to reflect on the idea of moving in general and I’ve compiled a list of the top 3 and bottom 3 aspects of the process.

TOP 3:

1. You get a mulligan on your interior decoration decisions – Sick of that poster you put up? Wish you didn’t have to creak your neck to see your TV. Moving gives you the chance to start fresh with a new room layout and a new look.

2. It gives you a chance to clean – Mostly dusting. My computer, TV, and game consoles all need a good wipe down. As does my bureau and other furniture. And I’m not gonna move something that’s dirty obviously. Perfect chance to finally clean everything.

3. Junk is eliminated (only take what you need to the next place) – All that crap in my drawers will finally hit the bricks. You can’t move a full desk, so instead I go through and trash most everything. I follow my patented golden rule (or as I call it, ‘the prime directive’) that anyone who has ever worked with me knows: WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!

BOTTOM 3:

1. It requires (sometimes strenuous) physical labor – I’m not exactly a model of physical fitness, as anyone who goes to Applebees with me can tell. (I can house a Triple Chocolate Meltdown in a minute flat.) So anything that involves, lifting, carrying, stair climbing, walking, moving, kinetic energy of any kind, sorta cramps my style.

2. Stuff gets lost in the shuffle – Whatever happened to my set of weights that I had in my old house in Reading? I still don’t know. It somehow never made it to Maine with us. Which might explain why I’m not into fitness anymore. I paid good money for those weights and I certainly am not gonna do it again!

3. You have to change your mailing address… on… everything… – Kill me now. My bank. Work. Driver’s license. Credit cards. Any and all online accounts. Everything has to change over and, of course, I’ll forget something and either lose mail or get it way too late.

How about you? Anything I missed? Anything about moving that you particularly love or hate? Any good stories? Share them in the comments.

My Genius Idea

In Comedy, Technology on May 12, 2009 at 11:59 PM

So the other night I was struck with what could possibly be a fantastic, albeit ridiculous, idea. It all started when I had knocked back a few with some friends in what can only be described as a colloquial situation. We were sitting around playing the mini-games found within Pokemon Stadium 2 for Nintendo 64 when I felt my proverbial “seal” start to break. So, after the round was over, I made my way to our fetid bathroom.

What happened from then on is what you might expect to happen, I prepped, aimed and let loose my swollen bladder. But as I coated the inside of the bowl with my lemon stream I was stricken with said genius idea.

Now picture a product, a product that is thin, adhesive on one side, battery powered (maybe solar though, gotta go green after all), waterproof, touch sensitive, and that contours to one half of the inside of your toilet bowl. Now the device is segmented into 8-10 touch sensitive columns, all programmed with a different musical note to play whenever the touch-sensitive pad is “interacted” with. Basically what I’m getting at is a touch sensitive abomination of a keyboard that you stick in your toilet bowl and piss on for entertainment. Wouldn’t that be great?

At first thought I was amazed that my mind had percolated such an idea and wondered why I hadn’t seen anything like it. Surely this is something that would be seen on the shelves of your local Spencers.

However, upon further thought, I started to see the flaws inherent in the idea. It is possible that such a device would promote excessive splattering, be seen as ridiculous, and/or would leave customers dissatisfied when they had to change the batteries (not if it was solar powered though!)?

No product is without its flaws, however, and knowing that I can say that I would feel confident in my purchase of a “Pee-Board” (patent pending) for use in my bathroom. Now would you readers (women urinators excluded sadly) feel a sense of glee if whenever you peed you made sweet, beautiful melodies? Or would you shake your head in maturity?

Be A Society Hero

In Music, Video Games on May 11, 2009 at 10:32 PM

I have a headache, and do you know why? I don’t know what the word “hero” means anymore. No, this isn’t a long, political filibuster about the way things were in the good ole days; it is a call to action for all of us to just say no… to rhythm based video games.

Wait, did I really just try to put down the multi-zillion dollar industry that has been created by the game Guitar Hero? You’re damn right I did.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning the whole organization but I am saying enough is enough. Do you people realize how close we were to getting a Guitar Hero: Prince? (Prince had the dignity to decline and say kids would turn out as well adjusted individuals if they played actual instruments.) But I guess it makes sense, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith was a huge hit, the only thing it was missing in my mind was unlockable wheelchairs and walkers for Steven Tyler to use as he shuffled around stage. But enough about my dislike for Aerosmith, I’ll try and spell out it out for you a little more clearly.

Since 2005 when Guitar Hero burst onto the scene there have been 8 games that have come out with 3 more due out this year. Not including the Rock Band franchise which people still pretend is somehow different or more advanced than Guitar Hero, that’s around 1.6 games every year. That’s faster than MADDEN people! I do believe that the fine folks who program these games know that they are running out of room to make these games because in the 2009 lineup is a game called Band Hero. Probably up after that is Group of People in Close Proximity Making Noise Hero, or is that just another name for Aerosmith? Burned.

Basically what I’m driving at is that our whole media industry is far too consumed with reproducing something until its returns are so diminished that it ends up in the bargain bin at Dollar Tree. Don’t believe me? Toy Story 3 is in the works (I know it’s in 3D MrBillGeorge, relax), a new Beverly Hills Cop, a new Jurassic Park, a new Rambo for God’s sake, he (*spoilers*) DIED in the first book. Somewhere the carnage must end.

But there is in fact no end in sight. Activision is coming out with DJ Hero, which I’m absolutely sure will spawn a line of niche games in this vein. Maraca Hero, Slide-Whistle Hero, Nails on a Chalkboard Hero: Aerosmith, Triangle Hero and people will probably eat it up.

I put it to you America, play these games, but don’t discuss that Buddy Rich style drumming got you through ‘Hot For Teacher’ on drums. Be a society hero, go out, socialize, bang on a real drum or two, you just might find that not everything needs a USB port to be worthwhile.

Please Disable My OLAA Credit Card Account

In Business, Politics on May 10, 2009 at 9:00 PM

Dear American Express, CitiBank, Wells Fargo etc,

This is your Official Notification to AUTOMATICALLY DECLINE any charge I authorize that would cause my account to go OVER-LIMIT.

I know I should track the running balance on my credit card accounts and every charge I make…“to the penny,” but my day to day life is sometimes hectic and complicated and I have moments where it is either inconvenient or downright impossible to manage all my work and personal responsibilities and relationships…and the drama of my daily life.

Since you regard the crossing of my credit-limit line, “even by 1 cent”, to be such an egregious offense that you would punish me with an immediate fine and then double or triple the interest rate on my past balance, I want you to know that you have my attention and I also take this seriously.

On a Side Note: As an industry, I commend you for convincing our politicians and lawmakers that they should extend such legal “jurisdiction and punishment powers” to your industry. Most of our courts, judges and arbitrators do not posses this degree of power (which can easily financially ruin an American Family) without some sort of an administrative process. A process where the accused has an opportunity to present some facts and circumstances and have his future intentions and past behavior in the community mitigate the punishment. The “Judge, Jury and Sentencing Authority” you have over all Americans holding your credit cards is an impressive testimony to your influence and control over our politicians and government.

But I digress…I’m not sure if you have checked-in with your IT Department recently, but I wanted to let you know that you now have the technological ability to deny any charge to my account that would cause me to inadvertently commit the egregious offense of exceeding my credit-limit. Actually, I find it surprising you have not been providing this customer service option and service already since you consider this such a capital consumer offense. Hmmm…I wonder why?

Anyway, please excuse my lack of knowledge as to which Federal Law I should cite as the reference for your requirement to honor my request and I hope you will agree that it makes a lot of sense that I would choose to have you decline any charge that would cause my account to go over-limit rather than pay an additional over-limit fee and have my interest rate increased on my previous balance that we both agreed would be paid…but at a lower rate.

I do appreciate your concern that I not be embarrassed or inconvenienced at check-out with a disapproved charge but I would rather deal with that embarrassment and situation than pay you an extra $ 3,000 in interest over the next year for the $ 24 pair of pants I was trying to purchase.

Honestly, I believe Federal Law should dictate that banks require Card Holders to specifically opt-in to activate an Over-Limit Authorized Account (OLAA) and agree to the fines and the doubling and tripling of the interest rate. Quite logically and fairly…the same Federal Law would also dictate that banks cannot disqualify activation of a credit card account or terminate a credit card account solely because a Card Holder does not opt-in to an OLAA Account.

But then…who am I to be promoting such logic, common sense and fairness? As we all know, our Senators and Congressmen (and women) are always looking after our best interests and if what I just suggested made any sense whatsoever…it surely would have been done a long, long time ago.

So again, please disable my Over-Limit Authorized Account (OLAA).

Sincerely,

Rick MacDonald

Two Thumbs Beamed Way Up

In Film on May 9, 2009 at 6:58 PM

First let me acquaint you with my level of Trekkery so you know where I stood going into this rekindling of the franchise. (Side note: I just made up the word Trekkery and now realize how dangerously close it comes to sounding like ‘treachery’…) I have seen all the films. I watched the next gen television series occasionally but my knowledge is essentially entirely film based. Of the originals, I really enjoyed 2 (The Wrath of Khan) and 6 (The Undiscovered Country). Most of the others I remember seeing as a kid and thinking they were boring.

So going in I probably knew a good bit more than the average person. But my fandom remained in the realm of casual. Never have I considered myself to be a Trekkie by any stretch of the imagination.

Then I saw J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek.

All I can say is, “Wow.” Sure, there were a few dodgy moments in the story and a few things I scratched my head over. But it succeeds… nay, excels, in so many areas that those plot points (read: holes) are quickly overshadowed.

I’ve known since Mission: Impossible III that Abrams was gifted behind the camera and he has outdone himself once again. He is one of those directors I find myself completely in tune with. His vision, his pacing. Everything. In my book, he does it all just right.

And it doesn’t hurt that he has oodles of cash at his back. The special effects in this film are second to none. The U.S.S. Enterprise is breathtaking. The bridge is gorgeous. And on and on.

The most astounding thing about Abrams is how he can take a franchise as seemingly stuffy and uninviting to the general public as Star Trek, and turn it into the most accessible, thrilling, fun blockbuster in years and not compromise its integrity or hardcore appeal.

Most of that success has to do with the superb casting. When dealing with such well known characters, casting young versions can be nearly impossible. But every single role is filled seamlessly. I was stunned.

This is one of those rare circumstances in which I cannot wait for sequels to be made, assuming that Abrams and the entire cast is on board (pun intended). Now that the franchise has been reestablished with such vigor and glory, I demand more. With this director, this ensemble and those special effects, the potential is limitless.

X-Men: Bore-igins… ZING!

In Film on May 7, 2009 at 12:54 PM

Okay, it wasn’t boring. But I did find X-Men Origins: Wolverine underwhelming. So much so that I really do not feel like spending the time necessary to write a full review. So (like most of the storylines in the movie itself) I’ll keep this short and underdeveloped:

THE GOOD:

-Hugh Jackman still makes a great Logan and does the character justice. Unfortunately the writers do him no favors.

-Liev Schreiber steps up and plays a convincing Sabertooth.

-The action scenes work pretty well. They don’t fall into the usual trap of super fast cutting.

-Seeing Wolverine fight through American history during the opening credits was badass.

THE BAD:

-I feel like nothing was accomplished after 107 minutes. Which is the major flaw with an origins movie to begin with. When you’ve already seen the ‘After’ picture, the ‘Before’ loses its drama.

-Feels stagnated. It never flows. The film feels like a collection of scenes and set pieces rather than a cohesive experience.

-Uses every action movie cliche in the book.

THE UGLY:

-The final boss. My God, he freaked me right the hell out.

-I know there were multiple easter eggs at the end of the credits and mine was totally lame. I feel robbed. Damn you West Springfield!

-Sound off with your take in the comments below!

Revisiting ‘The Departed’

In Film on May 5, 2009 at 5:06 PM

With a few exceptions, I usually keep the time between film viewings at a year minimum. That way it maintains some level of freshness. For this first ‘revisiting’ post I watched The Departed for the first time in full since I saw it in theaters in 2006.

It won the Oscar that year for Best Picture as well as Best Editing and Best Director. While the Picture category was admittedly weak that year, the editing and directing ones were not. The sweep was credited to the fact that, while The Departed was a solid movie, it was done by a man long overdue for some gold: Martin Scorsese.

Sentimentality for Marty aside: this movie deserved none of its accolades and was generally overrated. (And yes, I was regrettably part of that hype machine.)

Right off the bat, the first 20 minutes is a nightmare. We jump forward and back through time, music is added haphazardly, and I dare you to try to count the number of shot inconsistencies. We go from a shot behind Nicholson with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, to a head-on medium shot- cigarette: gone. Leo is leaning forward in his chair during a close up, cut wide, he’s laying back. It’s incredibly aggravating. Then, right when you think the story is off and running, the title card is slapped onto the screen twenty minutes too late. The whole thing can only be described as jarring.

After that, the movie actually begins to flow better. The trade off being, instead of being distracted by the editing, now your distracted by everyone’s atrocious attempts at Boston accents. First of all, not everyone who works in Boston is from Boston. Secondly, not everyone from Boston has such thick accents. And Matt Damon… really? You are from Boston. Therefore, however you naturally speak is a Boston accent. Why force it?

Don’t get me wrong, the story is riveting and the script is superb. My gripes here are with execution only. And the parts that are done right are really, really great. (i.e. Damon calling Leo on Queenan’s phone. The surprising finale. Etc.) And the performances (accents notwithstanding) are solid. Leo carries the whole damn thing and both Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg shine in their bit parts.

But the cutting (or lack thereof given its unnecessary 151 minute runtime), the music cues, Damon’s love interest; they all bring down what could have been an instant classic. Instead, it remains “that Boston cop movie” that everyone loves to remember fondly and talk glowingly about, but won’t stop while flipping past it on TNT.

WORTH REVISITING?: Not as good as remembered, but not a waste of time either. Just plain ‘meh.’