Saturday, October 29, 2005

Box Office Poison reviews: George Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck"

I recently had a chance to go and see George Clooney's latest film, "Good Night, and Good Luck."

"Good Night, and Good Luck" chronicles the turbulent times and tales of legendary newsman - and broadcast pioneer - Edward R. Murrow and his infamous battle with Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Communist "witch hunts" of the 1950's. This eloquent film - in all it's black and white beauty - does a fabulous job of exposing the hypocrisy present in Cold War politics - which still, sadly, runs rampant in this day and age - and the dangers faced by the brave media men and women who try and expose them.

In a time of illegal wars - and the "news networks" that whitewash them - this film by Clooney speaks volumes of the dangers of political power abused and misused at the highest levels - in the most "fair and balanced" fashion possible.

In an age where "broadcast journalists" are disgusted by the fact that today's youth prefer to get their "news" from such sources as Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" (a satirical show that speaks more - in volumes and spoofs - than any network news format on the air today), "Good Night, and Good Luck" is a thankful throwback to a time when people in the television industry risked it all - all for the sake of speaking the truth to the masses through the much-maligned medium of television.

The fact that Clooney portrays Murrow "bashing" the very medium he uses to bring down the bad guys is the most fascinating aspect of this very important American film. It's a must-see for every "patriot" who relishes their First Amendment "freedom of speech" rights in this most troubled day and age.


The id Oscar nods go to:

Best Actor - David Strathairn (Edward R. Murrow)
Best Film - "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Best Director - George Clooney
Best Screenplay - George Clooney and Grant Heslov

Box Office Poison is a subsidiary of The id and I - which is a subsidiary of Forbes Magazine and General Electric (Kidding!).

Friday, October 28, 2005

Big Money, No Whammies!

NEW YORK, Oct 25, 2005 -- Infinity Broadcasting Tuesday said "Loveline" host Adam Carolla and former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth will fill the mics vacated by Howard Stern, as well as Penn from "Penn and Teller."

Well, as a shareholder in the company now, I guess I just pulled the lever and won the jackpot on my Sirius Satellite Radio slot machine: Howard Stern will soon move to Sirius in 2006 and will be replaced by ...THREE LEMONS.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Monotony (The Parker Brothers game of LIFE): "Do not pass GO - Do not collect $200"

"What have we done with innocence-? It disappeared with time, it never made much sense. Adolescent resident, wasting another night on planning my revenge - one in ten - Don't wanna be your monkey wrench! One more indecent accident - I'd rather leave than suffer this. I'll never be your monkey wrench..."

So, I guess as some disenchanted semi-youth, past-his-MTV-demographic prime "Generation Xer" that I am, I'm supposed to be all "jazzed" about this new "up-with-people" slogan generated by a bunch of old tired white folks here in town: "Believe in Cleveland."

Yeah, that's gonna get me out of bed in the morning. It's funny that the people that actually come up with this crap - I'm guessing, probably have well-paying jobs. For the rest of us Atari-sucking neverdowells, I'm guessing that to the rest of us Lil ' Rascals - working in a stagnant Wal-Mart slave-driven economy - this "slogan" just sounds like more of a steaming heaping pile of bullshit - one that we've already fallen into one too many times before...

Sure, as a Communications major with a bachelor's degree from a state college, I do all right for myself, making my standard $35,000 - $40,000/year "liberal arts salary" - but that's because I do not work in the "liberal arts" anymore. Primarily, because there are NO liberal arts jobs here in Cleveland that pay above the minimum Wal-Mart/post-apocalyptic Planet of the Apes-type wage.

I am a survivor (not the lame '80's band, nor the semi-equally rancid reality show). So I know what it takes to survive, believe me. The fact that I'm not off fighting some illegal war like a lot of other brave men and women younger than myself should give me pause - and it does - but does that mean we (as a generation and a society) shouldn't want more for ourselves and the kids coming up to bat behind us...?

When I did work for large corporations in Cleveland, before they went boom or bust or relocated to Jacksonville, I usually ended my day by rushing out of those offices screaming like Charlton Heston in Public Square: "It's a madhouse! A MADHOUSE!!!" - only to be scooped up in a net by Dr. Zeus and friends for another day of fun and folly anyway.

When I tried to pursue a "job in writing" I would only find myself repeating myself over and over again in a freelance fashion, writing about how, say, McCarthy's Ale House (the Mos Eisley spacesport for journalists) was the best bar in Cleveland ...for the 15th time in a row. "Please stop by and say 'hello' - and we might let you fawn over us while you buy us a beer!" (Okay, aw shucks, I like McCarthy's Ale House, too - but it gets a little old after a while. If you want, stop by Ray's Place some time, you can buy me a beer, and ...I'll ...tell you ...all ...about it. Oh, nevermind! Yes, I'm a hypocrite - there, I said it - happy now???)

"Welcome to The Giggling Iguana, fellow Clevelander! May I tell you about our fabulous lunch specials today or perhaps tantalize your tastebuds with our wide array of amazing appetizers-? Or perhaps, just a job application..."

Seriously, I don't know what the solution for this town is - But unlike the "people in power" I'm certainly not going to piss in your face and tell you it's raining.

I know I don't want to end up working behind a customer service window asking Cool Cleveland's Peter Chakerian: "So, how much starch would you like in your sweater vest today, sir-?" While, in turn, said Chakerian hands me his late video rentals saying: "Thanks for the recommendations, McV. 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes 2: Massacre at Heinz Field' and 'Pitfall Harry and The Masonic Temple of Doom' were great rentals! And, hey, here's a gold brick for your trouble..."

"Don't mock people with Master's degrees, kids. We all make bad choices in life." -- Marge to Bart and Lisa ("The Simpsons")

I certainly don't regret my college experience - it was a fun-filled "3-hour tour" that turned into a 5-year "Love Boat" excursion, complete with shuffle-board and the sudsy such. But I don't know how I could justify telling any youngin's to pursue a liberal arts degree in a field they are truly passionate about - when a Syracuse graduate with a degree in journalism ends up working at Starbucks for $8/hour ...while trying to pay off a $100,000 student loan - and trying to "survive" in the process.

Do I tell these kids that you just have to "pay your dues." That's hard to (due) in my "Caddyshack" world where I make farely shallow, sarcastic remarks about Dick Feagler while, in return, he pats me on the head like Rodney Dangerfield and states: "Ah, McVetta ...cute kid." And then rolls his big fish eyes back into his head while remarking: "So, tell me ...what time are you due back in Boy's Town...?"

Maybe that's why I have never gone back to Bowling Green to get a Master's degree in Pop Culture while music from Dinosaur Jr. washes over me like a wave from the shores of "Dawson's Creek" (Well, that - and a sucky G.P.A.).

That's why I have (thankfully) tried to take matters into my own hands. I watch "Mad Money w/Jim Cramer" every chance I get and invest until it hurts in Sirius Satellite Radio (SIRI) in hopes of one day the rebels and myself topple The Clear Channel Empire.

So when fellow CSU college alum, Pete Chakerian, tells me, "Chris, you can do Chuck Klosterman better than he can do himself..." (Um, insert sarcastic innuendo here!), I try and find publishers for my non-sensical rantings. Does that mean I'll succeed-? Who knows! But I'm going to try, at the very least.

So, ironic as it is, while doing a search for book publishers, I stumbled across an article from a reporter with The Akron Beacon Journal about people who self-publish their own books in a slim chance to get some notice - (and it was a damn good article!).

So now what do I do-? Write "Scientology for Dummies (tm)" or "How Chris McVetta Got His Groove Back" in my free time-? Sure, why not - Oprah's Book Club, here I come! Or not.

Maybe it will work, and maybe it won't. If not, I'll just go back to spending my days with the rest of the "Lost" gang on Mystery Island trying to decipher these clues of this life. At least I can go to my death bed like Ricky Roma knowing I TRIED to do something different - and if this helps anyone else out there in the meantime, well be it, Jedi. (I Want To Believe - but not some Cigarette Smoking Man corporate guy crap!)

Good night, and good luck!

"One in ten - One last thing before I quit. I never wanted any more than I could fit into my head. I still remember every single word you said - and all the shit that somehow came along with it. Still there's one thing that comforts me - since I was always caged and now I'm free. Don't wanna be your monkey wrench..."

Friday, October 14, 2005

In Action Id Comics # 65, we review Harvey Pekar's "The Quitter" (Oh, forget it ...I give up! Sooo, who's on Conan O'Brien-???)

"If only you could do something useful with that mind of yours - You're like Lex Luthor!" -- Jerry to Kramer on "Seinfeld."

Meanwhile, at "The Daily Futile" (3rd-tier Metropolisp's only daily newspaper!), the editor-in-chief, Very White, begins his staff meeting...

Very White (chomping on his trademark cigar): "Great Caesar's Ghost! The mayor of Cleveland gets caught taking kickbacks from Wal-Mart - in the form of tacky polyester leisure suits - and we get scooped on it by a (shudders) free news and arts weekly! What AM I paying you people for-?!?"

Lois Lame (typing merrily away on her Fisher-Price (tm) word processor): "Um, how many 'P's' in 'pulitzer,' Chief...?"

Clark Cant Cut It (adjusting his glasses - made by Superhero Lenscrafters in only one hour): "Um, excuse me, Very White, but many of the local bloggers are doing a lot of great work exposing great injustices - maybe we could just steal some story ideas from them-?"

Very White: "At last! A reporter with an ORIGINAL idea! Good work, Cant Cut It! Finally, somebody's thinking around here!

Clark Cant Cut It: "I mean, sufferin' succotash, as writers we all steal things on a subconscious level at times - but anything else would just be sad and pathetic, right-?"

Lois Lame (to Clark Cant Cut It): "Great stories don't find good reporters, Clark. GOOD REPORTERS find great stories - Got that, Smallville-?"

Suddenly, a white dog wearing a red cape named "Krypto McSuperdog" comes flying through the window of The Daily Futile...

Very White: "Sweet Mother of Troy! Who let that dog fly in through the open window-??? What am I running around here - The Weekly World News!"

Krypto McSuperdog: "Arf! Arf!"

Clark Cant Cut It (leaning down to talk to his faithful mutt): "What's that, boy-? You hear somebody's Life Alert medical bracelet going off in town-?"

Krypto McSuperdog: "Arf! Arf! Arf!"

Clark Cant Cut It: "Great Scott! Auntie Jane has fallen down a well on her way to the Death Cab for Cutie concert-??? We've got to help her, boy!"

Krypto McSuperdog: "Arf! Arf!"

Clark Cant Cut It (removing his glasses that the nice salesperson at Lenscrafters said made him look "sophisticated"): "I'll just use my heat vision to cause a distraction by starting those stack of yellow newspapers in the corner on fire. Heck, nobody's subscribing to them anyway..."

As Very White and Lois Lame are easily distracted from their own self-importance - and, oh yeah, to put out the fire in the corner too - Clark Cant Cut It races to the nearest broom closet with his faithful companion by his side.

Clark Cant Cut It (ripping off his clothes faster than Bill O'Reilly on speakerphone): "Maybe lazy journalist-by-day, Clark Cant Cut It - or, hey, even Marty Sullivan - are not able to help Auntie Jane ...but Super Blog CAN!!! Now ...Up, up and malaise!"


So I went to the book signing this week for Harvey Pekar's newest Vertigo graphic novel, "The Quitter." It was kind of a surreal feeling, having worked at The Free Times with Harvey for a brief time after college, kind of like when Marty McFly first encounters the younger version of his father, George McFly, for the first time in "Back to the Future."

I kept waiting for the space-time continuum to violently rip open in anger and suck me into the stratosphere, a black hole for psuedo-journalists or a Phantom Zone for hackneyed writers and scribbling wannabes like myself (Oh, wait - I'm already there: It's called ..."the blogosphere!!!").

But it never happened. And Harvey began his Pekar press conference to a modest group of fans, a bit uncomfortable at first and complete with his patented Pekar "trademark twitches." He started out squirming like Gollum under a heatlamp, but he sooned warmed up under the spotlight - and to the local Cleveland crowd nicely.

Some significant news Harvey announced was that he was bringing back his American Spendor series for DC Comics (the parent company of Vertigo).

When asked by a member of the crowd if he would ever return to David Letterman's show, Pekar cackled impishly: "Yeah, sure, I'd do it! For the money ...but I guarantee you that he (Dave) doesn't want me back on his show again." When pressed further for more info on this tantalizing tidbit, Harvey informed the crowd that whenever his people called "The Late Show" about Pekar's return to late night, the producers would only say one of two things: "No comment" or "Dave's not in the mood tonight."

Other than that, and a semi-awkward "meet and greet" with Harvey Pekar, I ran home - like Indiana Jones greedily grasping my prized "gold monkey" - with an autographed copy of "The Quitter."

I read it from beginning to end that night (after "Lost" of course!). And I have to say that "The Quitter" is absolutely brilliant in it's simple semi-self-loathing complexity! The black and white (with many shades of gray) artwork by Dean Haspiel and Lee Loughridge popped off the page in breathtaking fashion that pulled the reader right back into Cold War era Cleveland.

Sure, from a kid groomed on comic books, it was a bit of stretch for myself - someone not used to being grounded in realism, with an active imagination that often runs rampant the Road Runner on ACME crack. I kept waiting for Harvey Pekar to find that green power ring and fly off into outer space wearing some funky green and black tights... but that's not his thing - and lucky for us, the readers.

No, it's not the Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics of the 1970's (drawn in demigod detail by comics' legend, Neal Adams) and fighting the injustices of racism, corporate corruption, social unrest and "The Man." Nor is it the dark and gritty "realism" of Batman: Year One by Frank Miller that "revamped the camp" of the Batman mythology (Sorry, Adam West! You were, um, Bat-groovy in your own way, I guess. Anyone who can shout the line: "Confess to your crimes, you hateful hussy!" with a straight face to Julie Newmar in a Catwoman suit has this square's admiration 'till the end of time).

But if you want to get to know Harvey Pekar, his work, and a slice of his not-so-peculiar world, then I suggest you run out and read "The Quitter." If nothing else, it cements a piece of Cleveland, Ohio, into the space-time continuum of underground pop culture history in glorious graphic detail...

Now, if DC Comics would only give me a call - and give me the greenlight to re-write The Atom! A six-inch superhero with an addiction to Hoegaarden beer bordering on the alcoholic - all the while battling "modern day" villains that would make the wacky weirdoes on "nip/tuck" look like freaking Betty Boop! Or not.

In the meantime, just like Wile E. Coyote, I guess it's back to the drawing board for me...

Arf! Arf!

The Id and I - "If web blogs were cereals, we'd be The King Vitamin of cyber-space!"

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Weezer and The Foo Fighters at CSU...? Then Rodney McDangerfield sez: "Hey, everybody, I'm going Back to School!"

"All my life, I've been searching for something. Something never comes, never leads to nothing. Nothing satisfies, but I'm getting close - Closer to the prize at the end of the rope. All night long, I dream of the day - When it comes around, then it's taken away. Leaves me with the feeling that I feel the most - The feeling comes to life when I see your ghost..."

I never really got excited about "journalism" in any way, shape or form. There are only fond scattered memories of a simpler time as my tenure as Sports Editor at The Cleveland State University Cauldron student newspaper. I never got into it, like so many others did, for "a career." To me, it was more about belonging to something ...anything. It was, to me, more about saying something that mattered in a socially relevant, if not satirical, manner - back in a time when we didn't even know who or what The Onion or The Daily Show was...

Just like with Bill Murray in "Ghostbusters," to me journalism wasn't so much a science as it was "a dodge or a hustle" to vent my creative musings to a larger audience for my own selfish gratification ...and, hey, get paid to do so.

So when I returned to my alma mater, Cleveland State, last night to attend the Foo Fighters in concert, a flood of old feelings washed over me again that I haven't felt for some time. Oh, sure, they've reappeared in other shapes and forms, like The Free Times or The Second City, but there's just something special - something you can never forget - about your first true love...

I've gone on to slip in and out of the realm of Cleveland journalism over the years, taking each tiny victory whenever I was fortunate enough to grasp the opportunity. But The Cauldron was always the best and brightest memory for me shining brightly in a foggy Cleveland landscape - free of petty politics, corporate greed and the need for the constant flow of advertising dollars - no matter what the cost.

Actually, we had our petty politics, like any dysfunctional family would in a "bunker mentality" situation. But also, like any family, we pulled together and set aside our squabbling when it mattered most.

In a town where most "media personalities" have more DUI's than Emmys (Hey, we all falter at times, nobody's perfect), it's been hard to find a source for inspiration and guidance. Oh, sure, when I was an Editorial Assistant at The Free Times, I came in contact with some great talent at that time. But even though my primary duty was translating Harvey Pekar's "chicken scratches" written in a #2 pencil from paper to page, I never had much contact with him. He would stop in during office parties once in a while to scarf some free food, grumble something, and then be on his way - but a Master Yoda to me he was not... nor was it his responsibility to do so. I'm sure, in his own way, he is a nice enough guy (and "American Spendor" was an awesome movie).

And as for myself-? Well, I get no respect! (But, in truth, I've hardly earned it).

So walking through the old campus tonight (built with concrete, more concrete, and love) I couldn't help but feeling teleported back to that age of magic. I guess old feelings never die, they just lie dormant in the back of your brain until something triggers them back tonight. As a rush of adrenaline raced through my veins, it took everything in my power not to race up the steps of the Viking Hall dormitories and start pounding on the doors: "Hey, everybody, come on out - I'm reviewing tonight's concert for a newspaper and I need your help - and, oh yeah - bring Jell-O shots!"

To which the startled tenants would most likely respond: "Get lost, you weirdo, before we call the cops!"

That's the spirit!!! (Sigh) The reality is, I don't know how Jane Scott did this for all those years. I'm only in my thirties now, and at times, I feel like saying: "I need your help, Luke. I'm getting too old for this sort of thing..."

But enough boring Episode I prequel babble: on to the concert! I have to say that Weezer was fantastic - and I didn't even go to see them, but those crazy kids put on a helluva show! "The Sweater Song," "Buddy Holly" and "Beverly Hills" are all enjoyable enough songs - and "Hash Pipe" (my favorite) got the crowd lathered into a frenzy as the opening appetizer for the upcoming Foo Fighter feast.

Dave Grohl is fantastic - a stage presence to be reckoned with, unlike the bullshit and self-pretence of, say, U2's Bono (a tip of the hat to rock journalist, Peter Chakerian, for that one). The entire Foo clan was electric, positively charged, and ready to bring the goods - they did and they delivered, much to the delight of their fans.

"Many years ago, on June 19th, 1969, my mom brought a baby into this world in Warren, Ohio," Grohl screached to the Buckeye crowd. "And she brought me into this world to ROCK YOUR FUCKING ASSES OFF!!!"

I have to say that The Foo Fighters concert at Cleveland State was probably one of the best concerts I have seen in my limited lifetime - it rocked the galaxy. And when they played, "Everlong," set to a lightshow that dazzled the senses and would make Spielberg envious, I have to say I must have felt like what my favorite uncle, Dick Feagler, felt like the first time he heard "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - live and in person! (Sorry, Uncle Dick!)

So, I guess, it's times like these you learn to live again. Nothing can bring back the past to the present - life doesn't work that way. And even though a flood of great memories make me yearn (did I just say "yearn"?!?) for days gone by - days when the catchphrase "C-Ya! Get Rocked!" was all the rage on my former college campus - you can't relive the past. You can only keep it close - to keep you warm in fond remembrance of those rare brief snipets in time.

And, with that, I'll leave you with this passing quote that a great man once uttered:

"Shakespeare for everybody!"

Goodnight, Cleveland!

"And I wonder... When I sing along with you - If everything could ever feel this real forever-? If anything could ever be this good again-? The only thing I'll ever ask of you - You've got to promise not to stop when I say ...when."

Monday, October 03, 2005

"Choke" - Not just a novel by Chuck Palahniuk anymore, Tribe fans!

"Summer has come and passed. The innocent can never last. Wake me up when September ends..."

First of all, let me just this say this: Eric Wedge and the Cleveland Indians' corporate marketing team can spin this whatever way they want to (and will) - but this team choked when everything was on the line. It's just that simple. They had their destiny grasped firmly in their hands - until they dropped it like a fly ball to Grady Sizemore in centerfield.

Aaron Boone can't bunt - and the Indians "manufacture runs" like Yugo manufactures cars.

My autographed Ben Broussard ball sitting up on my mantle was beginning to BLEED this weekend after all the vulgarities being screamed at it by angry Tribe houseguests. Sorry, Ben, it was nice meeting you - you were a cool guy - but I have to wonder if you will be around in the spring (or deserve to be, quite frankly). Maybe I should have autographed a baseball for him... it would be worth about as much on eBay right now.

Yes, the Indians have "progressed" this year - but they only have gone from "choking" after being one game behind the Twins last year, to choking in the final week of the season this season. That's progress, huh-?

As much as I predicted the White Sox would choke, the Cleveland Indians turned around and collapsed even harder in the most embarrassing, inexcusable manner possible - let's not sugarcoat it, because that's exactly what happened this week - and everyone knows it. Ironic, huh-?

"I don't know much. But I do know talent when my producers tell me about it." - Krusty the Clown ("The Simpsons")

That being said, it was - and is - great to have an actual baseball team to cheer about again this summer in Cleveland! I cringe when I think about those damn Yankees and whiny "woe is me" Red Sox fans in the playoffs - no, FOX, not everyone wants to see that matchup in the postseason - there is life here in middle america, too.

This team is exciting to watch, talentwise. Travis Hafner is the new Thome. Grady Sizmore is the new Lofton. Victor Martinez is the new Sandy Alomar. Jhonny Peralta is - well, nobody will ever replace Omar Vizquel - but Peralta is as good as a replacement as you could hope for, I guess. And Coco Crisp-? Who is this crazy wildcard who came out of nowhere-??? Who cares, we're cuckoo for Coco Crisp here in Cleveland! And Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia are going to be a potent (and nasty) 1-2 pitching punch to beat.

I'm still not completely sold on Ronny Belliard - despite some amazing defensive plays. Kevin Millwood will most likely have his bags packed after Larry Dolan holds out his empty pockets like that Monopoly guy on the "Pay $15 poor tax" Community Chest card...

It's not guaranteed that this team will only get better, either. Bob Wickman may not return - and things change. This year was our shot at the postseason and The Cleveland Indians did not capitalize on it - but that's life here in The Plum ...sometimes it's the pits.

I choose not to sit and sulk in the Cleveland corner anymore - I had a chance to throw out the opening pitch at Jacob's Field this summer and those are the kind of memories I want to hang on to of the greatest moments of my life.

You can choose to do likewise, my friends. You can choose your own destiny, Cleveland, so which is it: Ziggy or Superman-?

So, thanks for a great baseball season, Indians, even it resulted in another bitter end. But it's not my bitter end, nor should it be yours...