A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

23 June 2007

The Best of the Rest...AFI's Top 100 American Films

To borrow a quote from number 31 on the list: 'Movies...the stuff that dreams are made of." Or perhaps it should be the other way around...regardless, the American Film Institute (AFI) just released the list of their idea of what the "Top 100 Movies of All Times" are. Well, at least until they ask 1500 other "above-average movie-goers" to voice their opinion next year when they release the list all over again.

Now, to be fair, according to the article I read from Roger Ebert, he states this voting body was comprised of "1500 filmmakers, critics and historians". Which begs the question - if they are picking "above-average movie-goers" what exactly does this "above-average" refer to? Their IQ, their net worth, the fact they've seen more movies than the "ordinary movie-goer" sees in one year? Well, I personally don't see many first-run movies per year, but this list isn't about "new" films anyway, so I figure that wasn't what they meant...but I'd also figure you'd have to have seen more than a movie or two during your life in order to be qualified to vote. I mean, catching those "films" they show on the Sci-Fi channel, like "Mansquito"...well, I'd venture to say they could do 100 such lists as these, and I doubt that "little gem" would show up on any.

Now, I do some "Top Ten" picking at my interactive comedy website, HumorMeOnline (yes, if I'm nothing else, I'm a master of the segue) and I realize you can give 15, 150 or 1500 people the same exact list of entries to pick from and you will probably never get the same ten picked twice. What I'm trying to say here is that there will always be people who look at this list and go "What??? My Fair Lady didn't make the list!?" Well, that person would be me...but I digress. You are never going to satisfy the majority when the minority are at the helm.

Mr. Ebert did make a comment which I couldn't, in 100 percent certainty, understand completely. I would figure he meant that when he was a teenager and saw (number one ranked) "Citizen Kane" for the first time, his eyes were opened to a whole other world of movies out there...movies that stand the test of time. These are the movies that make you think and have something to say thanks to great writers, actors who portray their characters brilliantly, and cinematography and direction that leave you in awe. Or, at the very least, something you can watch over and over again and see something new each time you do...or when you watch it years later...a whole different layer to appreciate is revealed.

Now, I haven't seen all the films on this list and some I could have easily knocked off...oh, say, "Titanic", and replaced with others...such as "V for Vendetta" and "Pan's Labyrinth" (which isn't an American film). Yes, "Titanic" did wow you with the effects...but I must admit...the entire time...I was rather hoping Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) would just hurry up and drown already. Furthermore I think that if there HAD to be a Titanic-based film on the list, "A Night to Remember" (1958), would be my choice...altho I doubt it would even have make my list. Plus, again, it's not American and wouldn't qualify...so it's a moot point. And if I were to pick a Bruce Willis film (and I do like Bruce Willis as an actor...I think he's highly underrated) it wouldn't have been The Sixth Sense...it would have been "Twelve Monkeys"...altho he also managed to show here with "Pulp Fiction", which I still adore as a film.

I am also very glad to see that "Sullivan's Travels" made this list. I don't know how many other times in the past that it has, but I can count the number of people I know who have seen this film on one hand...and possibly one finger. "Bringing Up Baby", an over-the-top screwball comedy from 1938 made it...and while I adore Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn both, I cannot help wondering why 1936's "My Man Godfrey", equally as madcap, but better in my opinion, didn't. In fact, I had to watch "Bringing Up Baby" a few times before I could really appreciate it...and even now, I appreciate "My Man Godfrey" more.

And "Some Like It Hot", voted AFI's #1 "Funniest American Movies of All Time" in 2000, had a pitiful showing on this list, coming in 22nd. That movie only gets better each and every time I watch it...and I am rightfully embarrassed telling you how many times that has been. Even "It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Graduate" should have placed much higher if you ask me...and while I can appreciate the acerbic wit and impeccable timing of Groucho Marx, I cannot really sit thru a Marx Brothers film and see what all the fuss was about. Zaniness? Yes. One liners from Groucho funny? You bet your life. Chico's inimitable hilarious misuse of the English language? Brilliant indeed! But while all of them stand on their own...to me they don't exactly gel when you throw them into the movie mix. Even playwright George S. Kaufman had an issue with their antics, and according to the Internet Movie Database, walked up to them during a rehearsal of "Animal Crackers" and remarked, "Excuse me for interrupting, but I thought for a minute I actually heard a line I wrote". Now, that movie didn't make this list, but this Kaufman quote did validate my dislike for their all-too-silliness.

Again, this is a list comprised by 1500 people and not my own self, so I know there are going to be some picks on there I agree with and some I am completely baffled by...but that's really not what the point of this list is. I do feel, as Roger Ebert also stated in not so many words, that coming out with this list perhaps introduces people to movies they ordinarily wouldn't have ever thought of viewing and especially of films that were made long before the majority of us were born. In fact, the earliest film I see on this AFI list is from 1916...D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance"...a subject he was not all too unfamiliar with, having filmed the highly controversial (then and especially now) "Birth of a Nation" the year before.

And, perhaps it might be a fitting way to end this blog saying that even though we don't agree with the films on this list...we just might need to be a little more tolerant of the choices.

13 June 2007

Nursery Crimes

I think I'll go and sue my elementary school, Mother Goose, and those incredibly morbid writers, Hans Christian Anderson and The Brothers Grimm. Why? Perhaps on some strange subconscious level they are responsible for any depression I'm feeling...or will ever feel.

"Oh, but you're over exaggerating" you are collectively saying. Well, then, let me just give you a little back history on my wonderful "growing up" care-free happy days of yore...

But first, yes, there's always a reason behind why we think of things...don't let anyone tell you there isn't. I was doing things around the house and singing gleefully out of tune like I always, always do, when something in my head harkened back to "The Farmer in the Dell"...and WHY exactly was it that the poor cheese had to stand alone? Was it Limburger? So, I, being silly, asked my daughter just that, who, to my dismay, never heard of this well-known ditty we always sung and played when I was in Kindergarten. Who can't forget ending up being that pathetic little cheese? Rather like being the last one called for kickball or always being the first one "out" when you played dodgeball...and never winning Musical Chairs. Dodgeball, skinned knees and overly depressing songs...ah, the wondrous memories of my youth.

I scurried over to the computer and brought up Google to see why exactly that cheese stood alone, I mean if Google isn't going to have it, no one will. But, alas, it was just a bunch of silly conjecture and I didn't get a real answer. Perhaps I was overanalyzing it all...but wait...then it dawned on me: We sang some pretty darned depressing songs...and my daughter never sang them. Is it because they've all been phased out of school because they'd get sued nowadays if they sung them? Well, if I had to sing about drownings and death...well, by golly, she should, too! In fact, as my daughter commented, "Wasn't your favourite song from school that "Molly Malone, cockles and mussels, ghost wheeling a barrow" one? Why, yes, yes indeed. Back to Google we went.

So, we had a grand time singing songs that formed me from a nice happy-go-lucky child to the person I am today, a cynical overly-depressed hypochondriac. Oh, c'mon, I'm joking here! But take a look at some excerpts from songs and passages from poems and stories that are to blame (I'll include a clickable link in case you wanted to see them in their entirety). And, yes, we did indeed sing and read these...all before third grade.

Cockles and Mussels

She died of a fever, and no one could save her
And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone
But her ghost wheels her barrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O!
Alive, alive-O! alive, alive-O!
Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O!

My Darling Clementine

Ruby lips above the water
Blowing bubbles soft and fine
But, alas, I was no swimmer
So I lost my Clementine

My Bonnie

Last night as I lay on my pillow,
Last night as I lay on my bed,
Last night as I lay on my pillow,
I dreamed that my Bonnie was dead.

And let us not forget those kindly nursery rhymes...

Ding Dong Bell

Ding, dong, bell,
Pussy's in the well!
Who put her in?
Little Tommy Green.
Who pulled her out?
Big Johnny Stout.
What a naughty boy was that,
To drown poor pussy-cat,
Who never did him any harm,
But killed the mice in his father's barn!

There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread.
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

And don't get me started on the REAL version of The Little Mermaid and the sick, sick, sick story of The Little Match Girl, let alone Hansel and Gretel. Talk about the stuff that nightmares are made of. And you know what else freaked me out as a kid? That little prayer that goes... "If I should die before I wake???" What AREN'T you telling me here, Mom???

Lastly, I don't buy the "false" claim on the history/origin of this one, but I'll include it...I'll always think it was about "The Black Death". Anyway, again, this is just another testament to how we sang songs of horror...and you know what? We LIKED it! But, sssh...don't tell my lawyer that.

Ring Around the Rosey (Rosie)

02 June 2007

Cellphone Videoantes

Last week I was at the stop light at intersection of Dalraida Drive and Atlanta Highway in Montgomery. For those of you who don't know the area, it's a spot that has a four-lane highway and a two-way street that, only for the intersection part, branches out into right/left/1 and 2 straight lanes, respectively, and then goes back down to their "allotted" amount of lanes.

Not only is there major congestion there since someone decided it was a brilliant idea to pop a Walgreens Pharmacy right smack on one of the corners, it also has four schools within, I'd say, half a mile of this intersection; three of which are pretty much located within sight distance...even for me...even without corrective lenses.

I routinely go there as I have to cross this intersection to bring/retrieve my daughter to and from school, so the timeframe I'm speaking of is just when all these schools are either starting or letting out. Now I'm no stranger to "creative" driving, God knows I've driven in Philadelphia, LA, New York City, Atlanta, DC, et al, so I've spied a wide variety of "tactics" that people come up with to go that extra pavement inch.

I've also seen people drive and simultaneously talk on cell phones (I think Montgomery, seriously, has got to be the worst...they really need to implement some law here), put on make-up, look at maps, unfold maps, refold maps, read books, drink various beverages; both hot and cold, eat, drive with their knees because both hands were otherwise occupied, and, uh...even bore witness to front-seat "love sessions" a few times...and every combination of those you can think of...but the guy last week literally took the cake.

Not only was he chowing down holding a massive "to-go" styrofoam container with one hand, eating with a fork or spoon with the other, seemingly talking either to himself or on the cellphone...or maybe he was cussing out the guy in front of him for not running the light. Regardless, he was also "knee-driving" thru this same intersection that you really should be devoting at least one iota of your attention to do. I mean, this guy wasn't just juggling a super-hot McD's coffee in one hand and a sausage biscuit in the other...we are talking about balancing a mega-huge container probably laden with food, with that flip-top lid part up no less, virtually blocking whatever windshield view he had, rendering him pretty much "more useless" than he probably is the rest of the day. Think of that iconic portrayal of the little old lady, about 3 feet 5 inches tall, precariously balanced on a stack of five or six phone books...and not those scrawny Wetumpka phonebooks neither...those mega-huge DC kinds, having to scooch forward in order to reach the pedals. Oh, did I mention that even WITH corrective lenses she couldn't see those three schools? Well, add that to the mix and then you'd have a pretty good idea of what this guy seemed like to me.

Anyway, as I sat there at the light biding my time, about three minutes 30 seconds worth of time to be exact (it's a long light)...I watched the routine traffic antics play out and had a brilliantly wicked idea spawned from witnessing "Mr. Styro" shovel food into his face. But first, before I forget...it is always fun to see people try to ignore the fact they've "inadvertently" rolled their 2000 pound hunk of metal into the middle of the road, blocking off two lanes of traffic, and pretending to be totally unaware of the fact. Oh, the faces they make...it's quite comical actually. It's actually some of the best entertainment Montgomery has to offer...oh, c'mon this place isn't exactly the mecca of all things social, so don't fault me for making the most of an otherwise tedious and annoying situation.

But back to sitting there at the light...I envisioned a website run by the authorities where I could take a cellphone shot of this guy (and countless others) and have him duly fined for reckless driving, driving in a school zone without using any hands, failure to use turn signals (heaven knows what appendage he'd have to employ to do that whilst doing all the rest...and something tells me he wasn't THAT talented), and basically being a total idiot. "Sorry, officer, the only way I could think of giving myself the Heimlich maneuver when I was choking on that piece of Kung Pao chicken was to ram my car into the guy in front of me...and guess what? It worked!"

So, I'm almost tempted to at least provide some bandwidth on my own site, HumorMeOnline, to showcase similar boneheads caught in the act of failing to realize that you can also see IN through that same window YOU are supposed to be concentrating seeing out of. The least I could do is post their pictures up on my PhotoLaughs contest and use them for comedy fodder. I've even coined a word I made up describing this whole "regular citizen turned vigilante photocop" - yes, I Googled and no one used it yet...a "Videoante"...being the person who snaps said image of an auto-perpetrator and turns them in.

The only downfall I see to my whole "brilliant" scheme is being snapped in turn by someone else who is also a Videoante...being caught at your own game so to speak. I certainly wouldn't want a whole nation going all suburban/urban über-Paparazzi...and I'm sure there's only so many covert images of guys picking their noses one can take...at least I hope so.