Friday, December 18, 2009

A Little Piece of Wisdom For Luke Wilson

If you're like me, you are slightly amazed at how fat Luke Wilson's face has gotten. Check him out on the At&t commercials that are on every other second now a days.

Now look at him in Bottle Rocket some fifteen years ago. There's an f word or two in there. Fair warning. But it also contains the finest line in any movie on the subject of water sports. And do you remember when Owen Wilson used to be hilarious? And how exactly did an asshole like Bob get such a nice kitchen? Damn it, I love that movie.

Anywho. . .

My point isn't to pile on Luke Wilson for getting a fat face. In fact, I'm all for fat face pride. We should have a parade, damn it. But it's time someone told Luke that long hair (even the slightly shaggy hair that he has in these commercials) makes your face look even fatter than it is. And I figure that someone should be me.

Look Luke, fat faces are something I know a thing or two about. I am a large man. I currently have about forty (read fifty) pounds I could stand to lose. Now, I think I carry it pretty well. Being tall helps. I'm far from being a Newman or a Charlie Weis. That man is the living, breathing definition of the term "pear shaped chode". And even though I probably joke about my own weight too much (it can border on begging for compliments and that just makes everyone feel uncomfortable), I don't think I'm some weight obsessed, bulimic cheerleader. I'm quite apathetic about it, actually.

But the sucky part about the extra weight that I do have, is that ten (read fifteen) of those forty pounds are in my face. Just like it is with you Luke. And that is total bull crap. It's a genetic screw job that has cursed us both. I know lots of people who have bigger guts than I do but still have skinny faces. It really sucks because when your face gets fat, everything changes. If you see an old friend from high school who has put on a few (and everyone who isn't an obnoxious, overachieving asshole has) it only surprises you if the weight shows in their face. Because that's how you identify people. When a person's face changes, they themselves seem to change. And here's the really crappy part. Let's say I were to actually start eating right. You know, eat food that wasn't ordered, prepared, purchased and consumed all while I sat in my car. And let's say I were to actually exercise regularly enough such that I wouldn't sweat uncontrollably while bowling. If I were to do these very achievable, common sense things then it reasons that I would be able to lose much of the extra weight that bothers me. But the shitty thing is that the last tens pounds I would lose, would be those ten pounds on my fat, sweaty head. And those are the only pounds that I actually care about. Again, genetic screw job. Plain and simple.

The good news is, I have and always will have a full head of hair. So suck on that, bald guys.

My point is, I can authoritatively speak when I declare to you, Luke Wilson, this little nugget of truth. Having longer than normal hair makes your fat face look even fatter than it really is. I can't explain the aesthetics of it, but it's an undeniable fact. Now that's not to say that short hair will hide a fat face. Alec Baldwin can trim it as tight as he wants, he still sporting a big fat face. But the shaggy, long hair definitely makes a bad situation worse.

Don't believe me? Look at Russell Crow. Short hair. Long hair. Fat face either way, but the long hair version definitely seems girthier. More jolly. How about Val Kilmer? Short hair. Long hair. Now, he's forty pounds from being Iceman in either one of those pictures. But the short hair version seems more at peace with his reality.(To be fair, Jim Morrison got pretty fat too. Maybe Val is just really committed to that role. Of course, if we was, he'd dead.)

And that's the thing, Luke. There really isn't any wrong with putting on a few undeniable face pounds. Just look at your buddy Vince Vaughn. Check out how ridiculously skinny his face looks in this clip from Swingers. (Again, f words.) Contrast that skinny young fella with every single movie he's done in the last decade. But it works for him. He doesn't make any futile attempts to distract us from the truth. So trim up the hair, Luke. You can make the fat face look work for you.

But you have to own it.

Look man, we all have The Royal Tenenbaums on DVD. We know you used to be a trim faced, handsome devil. But you're not the Bomber anymore. Time to cut that hair. But this time don't do it while listening to Elliott Smith (brutal scene), because you'll just end up slitting your wrists. Again. It's unavoidable really. Beautiful music, but man Elliott Smith is a downer.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

That Fat Fat Beagle.

I've written about Coco before. She was the morbidly obese beagle that my brothers and I had growing up. Last week, I was rummaging around a box of VHS tapes in my parent's basement looking for a particular home movie from a million years ago and I found this little beauty. This is a video my brother Cam and I made that we called "Pud's Greatest Hits". Basically it's our fat dog walking around set to the music of Queen and The Beatles.

I thought I'd throw this baby up on Youtube. This is a viral sensation waiting to happen! Right? Hey, if it's a hit, I can go to the Youtube convention and meet the "Leave Britney Alone" guy, the drugged out kid leaving the dentist and the news lady that fell smashing grapes. One can only dream.

It was cut together with two VCR's in 1995. So it's quite choppy. But it does capture the essence of the finest dog to ever live. ( I realize by saying that, I'm indirectly insulting your dog. Sorry. But Coco really is better. Live with it.)


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The #9 Thing That Just Needs To Go Away

About a month ago I spewed out a mishmash of whining I called "Things that just need to go away." I figured I'd go back and turn this into an ongoing feature. After all, what's the use of having a blog if you can't use it to bitch about trivial crap? Right?

Now, these are things that I don't necessarily hate. They have just run their course and they need to politely go away. You're done. It's over. You had your time. But it's time to leave.

So, if you'll indulge me, I now happily continue the list of things that just need to go away.

#9 - Commercials with chirpy, happy indie music that features cutesy poo female vocals.

Let me illustrate what exactly I'm talking about.

Wow. Toyota is really laying it on thick here. It's pretty clear, they aren't trying to appeal to anyone outside of their loyal customer base with this sucker. No F150 driving good old boy is going to be sold on the virtues of a hybrid with babies dressed like bumble bees and flowers that bloom as the Prius drives by. That A Capella female chorus is so pleasant and yet so unnerving. It's hard to put my finger on why exactly I dislike it. It features nice voices singing a pretty little tune
in perfect harmony. It's relentlessly upbeat. And as much as it irritates me, it beats most music featured in commercials. For one thing, it isn't by the Black Eyed Peas. That's a huge plus right there. Sure it's cheesy, but that's not why I don't like it. I like lots of cheesy music.

But for some reason, this song makes my skin crawl.

I think this kind of music is a little like drinking Tampico fruit punch. You know the stuff. Sold in one gallon milk jugs for a buck and enjoyed at little league soccer halftimes all across our great land. And it tastes good. Which is to say it tastes as good as sugar and red die can taste. But there's no depth to it. It's so damn sweet that after half a cup, your throat starts to sting and you have the shakes. Such is our happy female glee chorus. Upon first gulp, it's enjoyable. And you think you really like it. But after a thirty second ad, your done with it for the rest of the week. But it's not done with you. You can't make it through an episode of "Community" without being assaulted by its ferocious sprightliness three or four times. Soon, its chipper enthusiasm breaks down your resistance causing your brains to melt and drip out of your ear and onto your couch cushion.

Now this wouldn't be a big deal if this kind of hipster, sing songy, music box schlock was limited to Prius ads. But these damn things are everywhere. Target. Amazon. Motorola. Apple (of course). Even Lagoon has jumped on this trend. I couldn't find the commercial, but picture that song played over slow motion shots of smiling children on Jet Star II. (By the way. That girl is a poster child for the "Utah girl" look.) Lagoon?! The place synonymous among all Utahns with
rat tails from Magna, the smell of axle grease, fat women wearing tank tops and the biggest carp on the planet? (I said carp.) There is a beer can floating in the moat around the Tidal Wave that has been there since the 70's. It's a pull top for hell sakes! They stopped making those before I was born. And I'm old! But when I went to Lagoon this summer, there it was, bobbing up and down amongst those mutant carp underneath the fake pirate ship.

But I guess Lagoon gets to be all hip and cool too.

I blame this all on Juno. In fact, my feelings about this music are identical to how I feel about that movie. It's appeal is obvious but limited. And when it overstays its welcome, it turns annoying fast. Now that I think of it, there are two other commercials that feature remixed Juno songs that totally fit this category. So let's throw those on the heap. This thing and this thing also need to go the hell away.

Now don't dismiss this criticism as some kind of chauvinist display of testosterone on my part. Some sort of "if it ain't Metallica, it sucks!" kind of thing. I have quite a love of happy, poppy music. Again, I don't hate these particular songs. But I have a very low tolerance for it. I am, however, all for that childish sounding, bouncy piano. Check out this song by The Zombies circa 1968. A Rose For Emily. Love that song. You want one with a female vocalist? How about More Adventurous by Rilo Kiley? That's a damn fine song. So it isn't that I reject all happy, girly music out right.

But I stand by statement that these damn commercials need to just go the hell away.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"What Is It You Really Want?"

"Real estate."

A Charlie Brown Christmas. We've all seen it. But it's possible that you haven't really watched it in a few years. Maybe ever. I, like most people, associate this little gem with the background noise of the holiday season. There are a few clips that are immortal. Charlie Brown's sad little tree. Linus' recital of Luke. The cheesy looped dancing. And that dreary but somehow joyful jazz theme. The fact that kids waving their hands somehow transforms a tree. And doesn't Charlie Brown's bald head look incredibly cold under that hat? But I realize that this special has been reduced to shortened clips and highlights and it really is a shame.

It deserves to be appreciated in its entirety.

There are two main elements that set this cartoon apart. One is Vince Guaraldi's music. "Christmas Time is Here" is strangely melancholy. You would think a children’s choir singing about Christmas would sound all chipper and happy but this song has a beautifully sad tone. And to be honest, there always seems to be a hint of sadness to Christmas. Whether it's that another year has gone by and not much has changed or it's the cold dark weather. I don't know, but this song captures it perfectly. It makes me want to walk slowly with my head down. (Hey, where the f*%k are my hard-boiled eggs?)

The other defining characteristic is the voice acting. The director Bill Melendez went against the wishes of Warner Brothers studio and cast actual children to read the parts. The studio also wanted a laugh track, which would have ruined the whole thing. Many of the children were too young to read and had to be fed their lines in short increments. You can often hear where they have cut and pasted together different takes into one line of dialogue. Especially with Sally. But you can't recreate that childish cadence without using an actual five year old. But it is these obvious flaws that give this TV special has an undeniable creditability. The seven year old voice of Christopher Shea gives Linus the perfect tone as he recites from the New Testament. He isn't preachy or sanctimonious. Only heartfelt and deeply sincere.

When something becomes iconic (and this most certainly is), it's value and depth can lose a part of its initial impact. It runs the risk of becoming cliche. Because of this and the fact that it's a children's cartoon, it's easy to overlook something as profound as A Charlie Brown Christmas.

That's right, I said profound.

I may be overstating it, but I can't think of another well known piece of culture that better illustrates the conflict between materialism and Christianity that is inherent with the Christmas holiday. It's a bit of a strange paradox to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, (born not so subtly in a stable) by buying a bunch tacky crap (symbolized in "Charlie Brown" beautifully by the fake Christmas trees). This special features a wonderful blend of anti consumerism and heartfelt religion. Those two things aren't associated with each other as much as they should be.

Maybe there is another TV Special or book or movie that captures that conflict as well. But I can't think of it. "A Christmas Carol", "It's A Wonderful Life" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (the Chuck Jones cartoon, not that Jim Carrey abomination) all illustrate the perils of consumerism. But they don't directly reference Christ. In fact I can't think of a more articulate depiction of the hollowness of materialism (a pretty broad and well covered idea) than "A Charlie Brown's Christmas". Again, I'm sure there are better works of art that illustrate this theme more effectively. But there's something about this 25 minute, simple, little cartoon that just nails it for me.

Charlie Brown feels bad. But he doesn't know why. He is surrounded by the self centered (Santa, just send money. Tens and twenties.) and the culturally uncouth (Beethoven was indeed never on bubble gum cards). Of course, they are children. So we should probably cut them some slack. Still, he feels alienated and disconnected. He then sees himself in a sad little twig of a tree only for the tree (him) to be rejected by everyone else. Linus then quotes Luke (notice how he drops his security blanket when he says "fear not") centering the meaning of the holiday season on Christ and His grace. Charlie Brown then sees the value in the little tree (again, himself) and with a renewed self confidence he tries to improve it. But he fails. It is the new found selflessness of his friends and, dare I say it, the grace of God that ultimately transforms the tree from a bare lonely stick to a glorious Christmas Tree. It's very simple. But it gets me.

(Did I just equate a bunch of kids waving their arms around a tree to the grace of God? I think I did. I'm going with it.)

So here it is, in all its glory. Take a little time and watch it as if you have never seen it before. I promise, you'll come away with some new insight.

a charlie brown christmas

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