26 June 2005

Paint and Pleasure

Went to a bachelor party in Alabama. Played paintball with eleven guys. Crazy shit. There's nothing like shooting your friends (and people you just met) in the face with paint pellets. They sting when they hit, which inspires you not to get hit.

The downside is that after spending six hours Saturday running, ducking, crouching in the woods, my body is stiff and achy and I've got a big blister on my trigger finger.

Whatever. I had a blast. I'd played paintball once before -- at another bachelor party -- and I had fun then, too. I should do it more often.

(Another downside: The blushing bridegroom specifically requested no strippers or titty bars. WTF? He's a great guy and one of the best friends I've made in Louisville, but he totally missed the point with his bachelor party.)

23 June 2005

The Supremes Give Away Your Private Property

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has ruled that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private economic development.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

No potential for abuse there!

19 June 2005

Cub Reporter

Big excitement in my 'hood yesterday. I was standing on the back porch watching my wife paint when we heard a loud bang.

"That sounded like a car hit something," says me.

"Better make sure it wasn't your car that got hit," says she.

I ran out front. The Altima was untouched (other than by bird shit, but that's par for the course). But I could see the accident up the street a bit, so I went back in the house, got the camera and called 911. The accident had already been reported, so I was free to go rubberneck.

The accident happened where my street curves. Most people who drive it know where the bend is and adjust their speed accordingly, but some folks don't. For example, the drunk who wiped out in that same spot last December.

As I got to the current wreck -- or "the scene," as we law enforcement professionals like to call them -- I saw two guys running away. I assumed that these were the culprits. The scene itself was pretty impressive: three vehicles mashed together. One, a pick-up truck, was pushed off the curb and onto the sidewalk. The truck had been pushed into a Monte Carlo parked in front of it. Both of these vehicles belonged to the same family, which sucks for them.The vehicle that caused the crash was a Lincoln Town Car. The crowd that had gathered was describing two black males who fled the scene. The guys that I thought were the culprits were in fact area residents who were chasing the actual culprits. I also discovered that the Lincoln had sideswiped two other vehicles on its way to the "real" crash.

Eventually, one lone cop and an EMS vehicle showed up. And soon after, one of the dudes that fled returned. The small crowd started yelling at the cop to get the guy. She had her hand on his wrist but he broke free and ran off. This was turning into an episode of COPS.

Meanwhile, an EMS tech walked over to the Lincoln and opened the driver's door. A little package fell out. "That looks like crack!" she yelped. "Don't touch it -- it's evidence!"

I took a picture of the crack, too:After about 10 minutes, the squad car returned with the guy who had fled, come back and then fled again. Can you charge somebody with leaving the scene of an accident twice for the same accident?

About 10 minutes after that, a second cop car rolled up with the other chap in custody. It seems that the neighborhood vigilantes has caught up with the guy and somehow restrained him until the real cops showed up. One of the neighborhood protectors was a stocky little redneck wearing a White Zombie t-shirt and a mohawk. Turns out his brother's car was the first car sideswiped. No wonder he gave chase.

You think the suspects are all paid up on their car insurance?

The whole incident was pretty exciting and after the happy ending (bad guys caught, wrecked vehicles cleaned up, no damage to anything I own), it made me glad to know that when the shit hits the fan, the people in my neighborhood look out for each other.

Also, I'm glad our house isn't directly on the curve in the street.

But wait, there's more...

When I got back to the house, I pitched in and helped my wife paint the back porch. She was tired and took a nap. I decided to go on a bike ride. I was donning my helmet when suddenly, all of a sudden, I heard a bunch of vehicles flying down my street. I went outside to investigate.

I saw nothing amiss on the street itself, but a did see thick plumes of black smoke off in the distance. Only it wasn't the distance, it was more like, two blocks away. As I was already wearing the helmet, I decided to ride my bike towards where all the commotion was. When I got in the alley behind the house, it was full of smoke and the smell of something burning.

When I got to the scene, I saw three fire trucks, one ambulance and two cop cars had the street blocked. An apartment building had suffered some major damage, but it looked like the firefighters had everything under control. I considered getting the camera, but thought better of it because the emergency personnel probably wouldn't have allowed me to get too close. I went for my bike trip instead.

When I got back about 90 minutes later, I rode over to see if they were done. Three of the four local TV stations (including the one at which I work) had crews there, but everything was pretty much over and done with.

17 June 2005

Scheduling Conflict

Corrosion of Conformity is coming to Louisville. That's awesome. I love me some COC.

Better still: Fu Manchu is opening. I, too, love the Fu. I saw them play here last December (in between High On Fire and Clutch) and they were fantastic.

Better yet: Alabama Thunderpussy is also on the bill. I don't know much about them, but with a name like that, they have to be good, right?

Also on the bill will be Supagroup, who are also unknown to me. Regardless, it's gonna be a long night with four acts on the bill, but for a Fu Manchu/COC one-two punch, I'm willing to make the sacrifice.

But here's the kicker. The big COC/Fu/Thunderpussy/Supa hoedown is on the same day as the rescheduled Killers show. I wouldn't mind seeing the Killers, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna miss Corrosion of Conformity playing live about two miles from my house.

But it's actually kind of cool that there are two concerts that I want to see on the same day in the same town.

12 June 2005

Scott Raab is a Fucking Hack

The late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson has a lot to answer for. By personifying and popularizing the concept of gonzo journalism, he inadvertently gave license to innumerable no-talent "writers" to submit glorified diary entries instead of actual reporting.

There's nothing more irritating than to read a magazine article that is ostensibly about one thing, only to find out it's about the writer instead. Case in point: the June 2005 edition of Esquire. "3 Star Wars Movies & All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: The Ewan McGregor Story, by Scott Raab" trumpets the cover copy. The reader assumes that somewhere within the periodical will be a feature about actor Ewan McGregor. And there is, but just barely. The problem is, to get to the bits about McGregor sprinkled throughout the article, the reader has to wade through a bunch of painfully self-aware horseshit perpetuated by the piece's author, Scott Raab.

The article, titled "Me and Obi-Wan at the Zoo" (there's your first clue -- he mentions himself in the fucking title and it's grammatically incorrect, to boot), begins with Raab describing, in the first person, naturally, how he's spent weeks prepping for the interview with McGregor and how hard it's been to track him down. "I've got a bad feeling about this," is Raab's opening sentence. You're not the only one, Scott. "I see the son of a bitch on Leno, pitching Robots on his way to Tatooine or wherever the fuck," Raab writes, portraying himself as a hard-boiled, blue collar working stiff just trying to make a living interviewing these sissy boy movie stars. Raab is one hardcore motherfucker, bitches!

Why does Raab feel the need to insert himself into the story? Does he feel that his presence in the piece gives it versimilitude? The only thing his masturbatory nonsense does is make the reader think, "Hey, Mr. Dipshit Fuckwad Writer Asshole, I wanna read about Obi-Wan Kenobi, not your sorry ass, so can it."

It gets better. In the second paragraph, Raab is making phone calls to Yoda. That's right, Yoda, a fictional character with the voice of Miss Piggy, played by a puppet. Chatting with a fictional character is not only an unoriginal and totally hackneyed device, but in Raab's ham fists – complete with a charmless take on Yoda’s garbled syntax, of course -- it's also utterly devoid of humor. Naturally, this device is sprinkled throughout the article, so as to remind the reader that the writer couldn't be bothered to be original, or in the very least, competent.

Eventually, Raab catches up with McGregor for a photo shoot, and then again at the London Zoo. Raab dutifully reports that he feels feverish, he's brought a tuna sandwich and that he is wearing new pants that are too big and keep falling down. But trooper that he is, Raab manages to talk to McGregor for a bit before he grows faint. Things become a blur as McGregor helps his pal Raab into a cab and sends him back to his hotel. Raab chats with Yoda some more, a couple of lame quotes from McGregor, and we're done.

Now, nobody ever said that writing a puff piece on a movie star should be handled in the exact same tone and style as one would use when covering the UN for the Washington Post, but Jesus. Does Raab actually think he's, like, clever and shit? That he's a witty scribe? That readers are thinking, "Enough about this McGregor character -- what did Scott have for lunch?" At best, he comes off as smarmy and lazy; at worst, a solipsistic asshole. Raab is certainly not the only freelance hack who thinks that every assignment is ultimately about himself -- try reading an issue of Entertainment Weekly -- but he's one of the most persistent, egregious offenders. One wonders what his editors must think when he submits his latest potboiler. "Gee, I'm so glad we paid him thousands of dollars, flew him all over the world and gave him that cushy expense account so he could write about his fucking pants."

Note to Scott Raab: No one gives two shits about you or your tuna sandwich. Seriously. How about the next time you get a plum assignment from a national magazine, just for shits and giggles, you actually do some real work and write about something besides yourself? Instead of phoning it in? Think you could pull that off, Dr. Pulitzer? After all, you should be stockpiling all your literary pretentions for your crappy novel.

07 June 2005

The Autograph Hounds

David Sedaris was in Louisville last night for a free reading/book signing at Carmichael’s. I can’t remember when or why I discovered Sedaris's writings, but I did, and I’ve been a big fan ever since. Putting it bluntly, his shit cracks me up.

So I ventured down to Frankfort Avenue for the big hoedown, and it was indeed a hoedown: There must’ve been 300 people milling about the store, with an additional 100 or so crammed inside. All the available seats in the store were, naturally, long gone by the time I made it there, but I managed to find a perch on the steps leading directly into the store.

A lone clerk from Carmichael’s was posted in front, and it was her unfortunate duty to act as a sentry so that nobody could enter. As it happened, there would be standing room for the reading, so at 7 p.m., they let 20 people into the store. Due to my fortunate positioning, I was the first one in, so I got to see Sedaris read “Baby Einstein” from his latest book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. After the reading, he told a few well-rehearsed anecdotes and then answered questions from the audience (these were also answered with well-rehearsed anecdotes).

Then came the signing.

The signing was well publicized. Carmichael’s had signs posted six weeks in advance of the event, and they partnered with several local businesses, including the public radio stations, that in turn publicized the event as well. The key component of the promotion was that to get Sedaris’s autograph, one had to purchase one of his books from Carmichael’s so that one could get a “ticket.” These tickets were grouped by letter of the alphabet and after the reading and a short intermission, Group A would line up and have their books signed, then Group B and so on. (I was in Group P.)

As I stood at my post by the front door waiting to get in, a steady stream of people approached the Carmichael's clerk and demanded to be let in, assuming that their ticket granted them a seat inside. It was kind of amusing watching each and every one of 'em get shot down as the clerk patiently explained that the tickets were for the signing afterwards, not the reading. None of them totally lost their shit, but several did walk off in a huff.

Better still -- and by "better," I mean, "even more annoyingly," -- there were those who hadn't even bothered to buy their books for signing. Talk about literally waiting until the last minute. These nitwits didn't even get tickets, as they had run out. They were told that they could have their books signed, but they'd have to wait until Groups A-Z were done.

So anyhoo, there were a few hundred people gathered at the intersection of Frankfort and Bayley avenues, all waiting for David Sedaris to sign their books.

I got home just after midnight. But hey, I got my copies of Naked and Dress Your Family autographed!

I shudder to think what would happen if Chuck Palahniuk gave a reading.

01 June 2005

Hell on Wheels

While I am an enthusiastic patron of the cinematic arts, I haven’t seen a movie in the theater since I saw Super Size Me in Chicago back in 2004. The reason? My overall misanthropy coupled with the rapid decline in manners and common courtesy in the general moviegoing population often made going to the movies an unpleasant experience for me, what with the cell phones, chair kicking, screaming, multiple popcorn runs, etc. I genuinely envy people who can tune all those distractions out and just enjoy the flick, because God knows I can’t do it. So rather than sit and fume, I am perfectly happy to wait for the DVD.

But I decided to lift my self-imposed ban and check out an advance – and more importantly, free -- screening of Lords of Dogtown because I’m a huge fan of Dogtown and Z-Boys, a documentary about the legendary Zephyr crew, who were largely responsible for launching skateboarding both as a sport and lifestyle back in the mid 1970s.

Fortunately, the crowd at the theater was reasonably well behaved, but unfortunately, Lords of Dogtown doesn’t hold a candle to its documentary forefather, having as it does a condensed, ABC Afterschool Special feel.

Plus, it’s somewhat disingenuous that the movie, which focuses on the trio of Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta, was written by Peralta, whom once again has made a movie about his youth (Peralta wrote and directed Dogtown and Z-Boys). It was pretty cool the first time, but now it seems a little self-indulgent. Peralta comes off as the most sympathetic and level-headed of the skaters in Lords -- a coincidence, I'm sure.

In other words, Lords of Dogtown is a virtual remake of Dogtown and Z-Boys that manages to cheese up the subject matter while omitting the rest of the Zephyr team to focus on Alva, Adams and Peralta. It's all a bit superfluous.

But again: free movie.