Monday, February 14, 2011

20 Books This Year Project/#4: Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Patton Oswalt

When I was a kid, I loved reading Steve Martin's and Woody Allen's comedy books. Both comedians were skilled authors, as well, and they both were masters of the absurd. In high school, I wrote a one-act play loosely based on a chapter in one of the Woody books. I won a Scholastic Writing Award (well, I came in third, but it was national, and I got 50 bucks for it, so there) for that play, so it can definitely be said that comedy books were very influential in my life.

Patton Oswalt's new book took me back to those times. Surprisingly, we both had a lot in common: small town experiences, big R.E.M. fans, played Dungeons and Dragons. Even though these were his memories, I related to quite a few of them. And, like Allen and Martin, he's certainly absurd. A light, enjoyable read that took me back to a good place, even if his place was hardly enjoyable for him. Grade: B+

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Today, I Dropped Rhymes

For some reason, I thought I was a rapper today. The following lines came out of me. I'd say they varied from the sublime to the ridiculous. If there are any producers out there that want to record my dope rhymes, I am open to discussion.

Went to Uta Hagen and worked on elocution/would be a tough in the movies 'cause they're all Lilliputian.

I keep hos at a distance like a vampire to garlic/I got one foot out the door like Hosni Mubarak.

I write rhymes sublime like Cyrano de Bergerac/I got beats complete like a young Burt Bacharach.*

Got a cigar in my mouth like Bunk from "The Wire"/Had too many drinks like "Grace Under Fire".

Like Cazale in Godfather, taken down by Al Pacino/Knock you out with a bullet 'cause you can't run a casino.

I am tight in the fight like an angry Tipper Gore/I reduce my cholesterol with the help of Lipitor.

On the porch like Larry Storch stone-cold F-trooper/But the best I confess is Hangin' With Mr. Cooper.

Revolution in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen/Would like it even more if they stopped dissin' women.

* was thinking of adding lines about Kerouac and maybe an aerovac, but maybe some other time.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Boy in Trouble is a Temporary Thing (at Least in Sports)

On Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger is going to walk onto the field in Dallas and try to win his third Super Bowl. As a quarterback, he will enter elite company: only four other quarterbacks have won three Super Bowls, and coming up on his 29th birthday, he will have a great shot at joining Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only field generals to win four. It definitely puts him in the argument as the greatest quarterback of all time - despite all of the flashy numbers one can put up, wins is the stat many traditional fans of the game follow to make their argument.

Now, normally, this would be a time for celebration. Roethlisberger is certainly a 0ne-of-a-kind athlete, a quarterback whose size makes him nearly impossible to bring down, and this size gives him the ability to escape dangerous situations and turn them into positives. Which is ironic, considering what he's going through off of the football field.

Getting involved in not one, but two sexual assault cases in the last five years has left Roethlisberger with a black mark on his life, one that may never be removed. It is true that both cases were dismissed, but my friends and relatives in Pennsylvania are torn by the fact that their beloved Steelers have an alleged rapist on their team. Many of them wanted him off of the football team. Whether his staying on the team had to do with the Steelers' belief in his innocence or just a matter of simple wins and losses is not clear, but there is a cloud of doubt hanging over the whole process.

In the last season, Roethlisberger has been in full amends in regard to his image. His teammates have mentioned the change, and he won an award from the local press for his willingness to be interviewed, something he has never come close to winning before in his career. He is now engaged to a local girl, as well. Many people say that he might redeem himself if he wins this Sunday.

I don't fully understand that argument. Nothing on the field should change the fact of what he has been accused of off it. Yes, it is true that he has been a model citizen the past season, and it is quite possible that he has grown up and learned some valuable lessons. For that, he should be commended. But having great athletic ability should not redeem you if your character is not worthy of such praise.

I have lived in two places in my life - Western Pennsylvania and Los Angeles. Both cities have had high-profile sexual assault cases of star athletes in recent years. While Pittsburgh has gone through a state of confusion regarding their star, Los Angeles practically dismissed the fact that Kobe Bryant could have been guilty. In fact, he was lionized in a monstrous tribute of denial, being given a standing ovation for showing up late to a playoff game because of his rape trial, with fans denigrating the accuser and assuming complete innocence because - why? As one You Tube comment states on the Bryant press conference (one in which he never apologizes to the fans), "The only thing kobe ever raped is a big group of black guys called the raptors... 81 times!!!!", in regard to his 81-point game against Toronto.

The point is, while Roethlisberger has handled his situation much better than Bryant (he has apologized to teammates, fans, and the city of Pittsburgh, as a whole), and while I certainly do believe in redemption, the redemption should not come from his exploits on the field. He may win his third Super Bowl tomorrow, but that should have no bearing on how we judge Roethlisberger as a person. The game, in many ways, is irrelevant, and as far as his standing as a public figure in Pittsburgh is concerned, it still should be left a work in progress.

20 Books This Year Project/#3: An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin

Really engaging style, which makes sense, because it's Steve Martin. He's like that. Didn't hurt because I've been on an art kick lately. Last year, I had a large book list, and there was a lot of books on war. This year, there's a lot about art and creation of ideas. Guess that's evolution. The book fizzles a little near the end but definitely worth a read. Grade: B+