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Hair Today, Low Ratings Tomorrow January 31, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, Sports.
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For years, it has been the bastard child of sports. Baseball gets the type of money that makes Bill Gates weep with jealousy and a history older and deeper than the wing of the Smithsonian that nobody visits because it doesn’t have Fonzie’s jacket. Football gets the visceral, testosterone uber males and the hope of fat males everywhere who think, “If that heavy set, sweaty pile of chubb could be an ‘athlete,’ so could I.”. Basketball has more street cred than a rapper born in a crackhouse atop a bed of bullets and crumpled up copies of the liner notes from “Straight Outta Compton.” But hockey. Hockey has very little to bring to the table. Sure, it is widely viewed by many as “soccer on ice” or “little more than a series of fights with a confusing, rule filled game around it.” It has the history, but in true American style, most of it involves French Canadian names and Eastern European goons, so we pay no attention to it. Maybe the arenas are too cold; maybe losing a year of the sport was too strong for it to overcome. No, says I. Hockey subscribes to a little known theory of sports. A long-standing corollary I like to call “Prell-Nair Theory of a Sports Success.” Basically stated, for the people like me who thought math class was nothing more than a massive roadblock on the way to gaining a liberal arts diploma, the theory means “The less hair average on your players, the more successful your sport will be.” Don’t believe it? Let us go to the theoretical evidence.

Take baseball. In it’s early days, when men in straw hats banging newspapers in their hands rapidly while screaming ‘Huzzah,” the game was the only show on the block. It was America’s game. And the hair was short. Not just short, but flattop city. In fact, there is a little known myth that the lineup for the 1958 Yankees once moonlighted as the entire dining room tables for a Saturday evening at Toots Shor’s. And with these bevy of buzzcuts came a game that enthralled our nation and made every child want to hit like Mantle, run like Mays and use a little Dippity Doo and their almost bald hairlines. Yet when did it all go south? That’s right…in the seventies. Men let their hair grow from out side their caps. Afros, like the tiny little steam clouds that form over Yosemite Sam’s head when he gets mad, jutted from beneath the caps of our beloved men. And labor disputes? The ones that threatened the fabric of the game? All after hair began to pop out. Any coincidence that the Yankees hold more championships than any else, as well as great attendance, and have a stringent “Keep You Hair Clean” policy. Oh, I think not.

Football is a different beast. Again, buzzcuts were the norm for most everyone. And the helmet itself is almost like an instant balding machine. Yet the game is stronger now than it has ever been. How is that so when suddenly every defensive back is sporting dreads and looks like Predator is out their covering your wide receiver? Because the corollary takes into account “average league hair.” And yes, there has been a sudden uptick in the dreads and the weird Thor look that tight ends sport nowadays (Note to Jeremy Shockey: Nobody liked Thor in the comics, except for a few Swedish guys in Wisconsin and the chick from Adventures in Babysitting.) But the average hair quotient has been kept at bay by the massive amount of quarterbacks and linemen who have stayed on well past their prime and have succumbed to Helmet Baldness. With every creaky kneed thrower, the game gains in popularity because they are balancing out the hair with their chrome domes and Ron Howard impersonations. So when someone says it’s bad for the game if you hang around too long, it’s mathematically opposite…how cool is that? (You see, math isn’t just for nerds…it’s for geeks too!)
Basketball is summed up easily. Shaved heads everywhere. From every stringy haired Eastern European shooter or strange Afro/cornrow/Afro/weird Bob’s Big Boy style alternating center, there are more than enough slick power forwards and speedy guards who have followed in Michael Jordan’s footsteps. And not in his playing style, but in the fact that the man’s head was cleaner than a Tim Allen movie. It’s why Bird and Magic were so good for the league. Enter one guy who borrowed the wig from Michael McKean in Spinal Tap offset by a young magic, who the gods of hair didn’t smile too kindly upon (though the weird early eighties Rosey grier moustache almost put a kibosh on the whole damn thing!)

Which brings us to hockey. Huge in the fifties. Sure, they were only six teams and fighting was not only encouraged, but (little known fact) all sticks came complete with a bayonet and a little vial of arsenic you could use when that blueliner got a little too close. But it was big. People packed arenas in a time when AC meant a dirty little city in the couth of Jersey and not the wonderful machine that keeps us cool but turns our nasal passages into acrid deserts. And even when the league expanded to cities like L.A. and Atlanta, cities that barely gave the ice in your gin and tonic time to stay solid, it still flourished. But things went south sometime in the mid to late 80’s. And why? The Mullet.

One would think this boil on the ass of hair history could and would never inspire an entire sport. It came out of nowhere and was unnoticed at first. Our country was into mullets back then. We grooved on its dual statement of party time and serious business. Surely, this was what the NHL saw great about it. We’re fun and serious…watch us! So the NHL expanded far as we embraced the mullet. They set up shop in the South where the mullet was a requirement for all people who could grow them. They plastered their mulleted boys everywhere, having their hair blow in the breeze like a bad 80’s hair band video. But Billy Ray Cyrus did for mullets what Rick Dees did for disco: turn a phenomenon into a water cooler joke. So suddenly America shied away from the mullet and with it, all things mullet-centric. Thus we tuned out hockey.

Yet the damage had been done. Soon, there was no mullet poster boy in hockey. Yet here comes Jaromir Jagr. He was European. Maybe he didn’t get the memo. Maybe he lived in Europe where they got American pop culture a few years too late (I hear they are loving Titanic in Sweden right now!) Whatever the case, he inspired an entire generation of young European hockey players to capture speed and skill in their hair. Average hair levels across Europe went up (After all, Europe is just like the South.but with no barbecue.) And the players bombarded the rinks with stringy locks and ringlets that hung from their helmets like limp seaweed. And the theory took effect. Too much average hair and our country tunes out. Hockey struggled to find a way out but the damage was done. Even after mullet loving players shorn their Samson like locks, the people didn’t come back. For fear. Fear that again they would be party’s up front, but some “business” in the rear.

So know hockey sits, the damage done. And still we have young Russians and Finns joining the league with locks that would make Crystal Gayle weep in envy. And with each strand, the ratings drop further and further. Heck, the recent All Star Game was beat by a show that featured a man sitting in a chair and flowing hot air. You know it better as E! Live with Ryan Seacrest.

Can hockey save itself? If it starts making hair lengths mandatory and short, will we as a country return? I don’t know. But the Beastie Boys said it best. We’ll kick you out of our homes if you don’t cut that hair. And we should listen to them. Cause they’ve got mad hits like they were Rod Carew.

Who, uncoincidentally, had short hair.

Is That A Flux Capacitor in Your Pocket or Are You Happy to TV? January 19, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, TV.
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Science has not yet invented a time machine. No Delorean powered by a life preserver wearing Michael J. Fox. No phone booth inhabited by two stoner rock stars who will someday become our world saviors. No big microwave thing like in that movie Primer (Yeah, I know, I’m one of like six people who actually saw and understood that movie, but it was late, it was Cinemax and I was really drunk.) Time travel is one of those pipe dreams we’ve long been promised, like the flying car, the robot butler and Universal Healthcare. But I have a secret for all of you. It’s here…it works…though it only goes back about ten years.

Some folks down there in what the kids call the ATL or Hotlanta or the place where drunken depressed debutantes wear curtains, they’ve invented it. Granted, it doesn’t actually go all that far back (Ten years, max) and it doesn’t actually give you a chance to actually go there physically and it’s not really a time machine in the accepted Webster definition of the word (C’mon, you think if they’d invented a real one, you wouldn’t have heard about…This is comedic satire Mr. Literal, Jeez!), it is still a heck of a chance to relive the nineties. That’s right. The closest we as a culture have to a working time machine is that little thing they call TBS.

(That’s the network, Turner Broadcasting System. Not to be confused with TBS, the affliction known as Tom Berenger Syndrome, which is defined as “a one time leading man, forced to take roles as either a soldier, sniper or man of military rank, who uncovers a conspiracy and dates the wrong woman, all in a movie so bad, it goes straight to Cinemax since video tape alone could not stand it’s sheer craptacularness. Current sufferers include Casper Van Dien, Michael T. Weiss, and Sinbad.)

Why would you want to go only ten years back? Surely, your memories are still relatively fresh from those days (unless you were a fan of Phish, lived near a coal mine or dated Lindsay Lohan). Because the nineties were a simpler time. No war. No secretive presidencies. Cheap gas. And most of all, a time when entertainment was base and simple.

Take today’s television. All episodic series. If you miss one episode of any show nowadays, like 24, you spend the first half hour trying to figure out what you missed last week that you miss what’s going on this week (Wait, they killed that guy? Wait, what did he say? Where is the missile? Where is Keifer’s hairline? This sucks. Turn on Skinemax.) And comedies have become so full of themselves you can simply wait until the pop culture reference (Ooh, they just made fun of Nicole Richie’s anorexia…that’s right, they went there) and move on.

But nineties TV was simple. Complete half hours that tie up loose ends. Simple straightforward story lines. (Sure, you may miss have missed a major moment in the Ross and Rachel relationship, but they’ll make sure to recap you for the next six years, at least three times every episode.  Side note, the phrase “We Were on a Break” needs to be retired from the vernacular, joining “mint,” “rad,” and “Britney Spears’ career longevity.”) Seinfeld was all pop culture reference and self referential but never tried to be anything else. You can’t tell me the Two and a Half Men of the world, with their lame attempts at making the now funny are content with not also trying to be a straight forward sitcom. Even Everybody Loves Raymond, though really taking off in our own decade, still followed the core values of simple TV trying to not be more than itself. Simple, funny, fart jokes, repeat. (Forgive them, though, they were on CBS and they were always a little slow on the uptake…Murder She Wrote must have infected them all). TV had lost that and every once in a while, it helps to hop in a machine and go back.

But is that all? I mean, some “time machine,” you say? (And seriously, you’re gonna have to stop with that attitude..here, have some Snickers and sing a folk song…you’re really tensing me out over here.) But if TV’s not your bag, they give us a chance to look back on nineties movies as well. They take us back to a simpler Schwarzenegger, not distracted by politics or, far worse, becoming a comedic leading man. Kindergarten Cop was the high point. Perfect combination of the action and the comic. It’s been all down hill for the Governator and most action movies, possibly all movies, since then. But TBS can take you back. To a time when films had all the action but lacked the plot holes large enough for a Mack Truck, the USC marching band and the entire cast of Mo’Nique’s Phat Girls to waltz right through. There’s a nineties movie on TBS every night. And if you miss it, they give you one, two, hell, even three chances to catch it.

Let’s say you don’t like movies and TV, what use is the time machine for you? Well, the folks at TBS also provide a little look back on the nineties in sports. That’s right. The nineties were before the steroids, right before the sudden uptick in home runs and assault on every record known to man. That’s right: it’s the home of the Atlanta Braves. Dang, they were great back in the day. And they did it right. Instead of throwing their money at every problem like the Yankees (Heck, we need a pitcher…buy everyone…) they promoted from within and taught them their system. Never flashy. Boring old Atlanta Braves. And they’re still doing it today. Promoting the youngins and making them part of the team. Sure, they’re not the team of the nineties they once were, but nothing lasts forever. So, thank god for TBS.

TBS is a time machine. To a place where our morals were easier and our entertainment was better for the soul. So when the weight of the world has got you down, you can always go down south. And they’ll be right plum glad to have ya. Just leave the machine the way you find it. Now if you’ll excuse me,  Blank Check is on. Love me some Sinbad, before he got on and caught the TBS.

Trying To Be Sufficientally Hip Enough For Educational Purposes, I Mean, Too Cool For School. January 8, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Pop Culture Rants, TV.
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Dear Philosophy,

Let me first start by saying, you do great work. As a class, as a genre of thinking, as a way of life. And I just don’t deal out compliments. Heck, I still haven’t even admitted I liked Citizen Kane and everybody liked that one. But this isn’t about me. It’s about you.

You were the shit back in the day. There was a time day when you a more star-studded line-up than the Yankees, Match Game ’76 and that one episode of The Love Boat with Sha Na Na combined. Look at your roster back in the day: Kant.Thoreau. Rousseau. Nietzsche. Marx. Calvin. Hobbes. Look at their list of accomplishments: Molding fledgling democratic nations, questioning the very existence of God, inventing the Transmogrifier Box, playing tricks on Susie Derkins. You were bigger than the Beatles. You were bigger than Michael Jackson (pre-Moonwalker, of course). And not only were you bigger than Jesus, you made him feel inadequate by asking if he was really around (He’s still a little bitter over that one, by the way…Quick tip, send cookies…Mrs. Fields…Butterscotch Snaps)

But that was the past. Sure, people still major you in school. Everyone once in a while somebody uses your name to espouse some sort of life style that usually involves retrofitting ourselves to Kindergarten, eating Chicken Soup or that we’re OK, I’m OK and you’re OK. Truth is, though, Philosophy, you’re not OK. And it’s not these dime store hacks. It’s a lack of troops.  A lack of thinkers. A lack of people that want to get interested in you. Why?

Quite simply, you’re no longer cool. Cool for school.

For years, people wanted to be philosophers. They were like rock stars. Simply rattle off a few lines about your belief in Man’s Inherent Feral nature and they threw money, women and all sorts of old school stuff at you. A well placed essay on Nature’s Association With Cosmic Beauty and there could be a carved bust of you in every learning center by the end of the year (Carved busts, of course, being the BOP and Tiger Beat of early Renaissance thinking) The French Revolution was bad press for you, I’m sure. Heads rolling all over the place because of revolutionary ideas. But you bounced back in Eastern Europe. Germany was in LOVE with you. And not like normal love, but hardcore stalking your house and peeking through your windows type of love.

The coolness died off slow. Philosophers began to diversify. They weren’t just philosophizers. They were writers or mathematicians. Soon, Philosophizer became a third or fourth section of the resume (like when you worked at Applebee’s or ran FEMA.) And like vestigial tails and Jordache jeans, you soon shriveled up and died out. But you were still around. Travolta-like comeback in the sixties when people were searching for meaning in our crazy, degrading rapidly world. They found it elsewhere, however. And that’s the reason why you just can’t get back on track.

You need an image overhaul. You need a catchy feeling. You need a spokesman. You need a fictional character that practices you. Don’t believe me? Think about it.

Surely, there is no way you could ever be less cool than Geology. I mean, it’s the study of rocks. That don’t move. Or breathe. Or dance. Boring. And boring equals uncool. Everybody knows that. But look what Geology did, it went ahead and aligned itself with Indiana Jones (Yes, he’s an “archaeologist,” but all archaeology is is putting rocks in age order and telling people how important and old they are.) Indiana Jones was flying around on Zeppelins, shooting Nazis, making out with Karen Allen before she needed botox. What part of that isn’t cool? They even gave him a cute little Asian kid at his beck and call. A little much, yes, but still pretty damn cool. Next thing you know, whoop, Geology has passed you by on the cool matrix.

Mathematics. Uh-uh, you thought, no way that’s less cool than me. There is absolutely no way you can look at a mathematician and think that’s cool. It’s numbers and figures. Then Good Will Hunting came along. Matt Damon was a math genius, yet he still had time to drink with his friends and do something with apples (I admit it, I fall asleep until Minnie Driver struts around in her underwear.) And there’s that…Minnie Driver in her underwear. If Math can get you that, then it has to be cool. Next thing you know, people are paying more attention to sine and cosine than to you. And suddenly, the math teacher, long the chalk soaked joke of campus, was being followed around like a Pied Piper.

Now everybody’s doing it. Psychology? Having every other patient sleep with you in the movies is a good perk, ain’t it? (Except when they go crazy and kill you but hey, omelet, eggs, blah, blah, blah.) Writers? How many writers get the girl and the success at the end in every film you see? (Yes, they are writing these stories themselves, but we people are susceptible sheep when we want to be.) Music Theory? Guitar God. Sports Medicine? Need I say more?

You don’t have anybody to look after. You don’t have a cool commercial or catchy idol to look up to. Frankly, Philosophy, you have nothing. A decrepit void, listless and without meaning. An empty sieve that grows weaker and weaker by the day. (Or as Sports Medicine would say, You ain’t got shit.)

Get out there, though and get your mojo back. Maybe work with Hollywood and see if one of the guys from Laguna Beach wants to be Mack Slade, Philosophizer. Blow some stuff up with his views on the duality of God and Man. Or dig up some of your old hits and overthrow a country or two. That’s one hell of a thing to look up to, if you ask me. I’ll be here cheering you on. I want you to be cool again and not just a class you take because the hot girl in Admissions is registered for it too. I want you to mean something. I want you to change the world, make us realize our foibles, question our precepts, and cook really good chicken in less than five minutes. And soon.

But do it soon, lest I have to tell my young friends majoring in you to also take Communications, so they can wonder out loud.

Sincerely,

Doc

Fruity Frozen Drinks And The End of Masculinity, Though Not Necessarily in That Order January 6, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Music, Pop Culture Rants.
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There is a single “blink” moment for the current emasculation, degradation and general “turning us into bitches” that is running rampant through the male community. It is not the premiere of the late “Queer Eye.” (Respect to them, but they have a new job designing the warning system for Homeland Security…Threat Level Chartreuse means Girl, you better RUN!) It is not the male wide realization that pretty looking metrosexuals are landing the cream of the female crop left and right (It’s not right that David Beckham is prettier than his wife, is it?) It is not the introduction of the Brossiere on Seinfeld. It is not the point when a woman’s purse became so crippling heavy that we were forced to carry it for her out of chivalry. It all goes back to the close of the seventies and the first week of 1980.

The country was so blinded by hostages coming home and old senile actors taking the oath of office they didn’t hear it. Their eyes were so transfixed on Pong that they didn’t see it. But it entered our collective unconscious the way your super probably goes through your apartment when you’re not there. He doesn’t touch anything but just being in there is enough to throw off your sense of self. And it has grown ever so slowly, until today. I am here to hold a mirror up to this cancer that is slowly making men across the country know that moisturizer was meant for use above the waist and that the word “throw” in front of pillow is an adjective, not a physical suggestion. We are becoming a nation of bitches and wusses and it’s all thanks to one event.

The release of Rupert Holmes’ Pina Colada song, or it’s alternate title, Escape! (The Pina Colada Song)…because the exclamation point made it edgy and groundbreaking.

Now, you may say, surely one simple song about personal ads, loveless marriage and frothy rum based beverages could turn us all into pussies. Then you have been blinded by the lyrics and the evil precedents Holmes set. And what’s even worse, the song will not die. In any bar, any beach resort, any drunken frat party with a half working blender, whenever somebody orders a Pina colada, they sing the song. Or if they don’t, they hum it. Or if they do neither of those, they think about it. But it’s out there every day.  Don’t believe me, huh? Chew on these nuggets.

First, the personal ad placed by our lame, whipped protagonist. Oh, the damage that did for men in general. He admits he doesn’t like health food. (Sure, looking at our collective guts is a far more obvious way to gauge that, but you never actually say you’re unhealthy…A truth left out is not a lie…Live by that) He admits he likes making love at midnight, in the dunes by the cape. Have you tried that? God, the sand is your ass crack alone makes every BM for the next three months akin to smoothing the spackled walls in the garage. And he admits he likes champagne. Might as well just hand over the credit card over at that point. You could have saved beer and saved some cash, but no. And worst of all, he admits he likes Pina Coladas. I’m sad to say most men do, but you don’t say that. The drink is usually ordered on the sly, for the girl you point at in the corner, saying, “It’s for her,” while you slurp it don’t like a thirsty dehydrated rat. We never admit it’s crack-like call to us. But, Rupert, you did. The cats out of the bag. And just think of all the other things we were then forced to admit we enjoyed. Pedicures. The View. Films starring Julia Roberts. The floodgates were open and out came pineapple, coconutty rivers of admittance.

(One exception: Getting caught in the rain is great for all males…one less shower and load of laundry we have to do that day)

Next, examine the song itself. When our man gets to the bar to meet his mystery lady, it turns out to be his wife all along. And what does he do? Flip out on her for writing personal ads behind his back? Does he storm out of the place and head to his divorce lawyer? No, he laughs. He giggles. Psychologists call this a dysfunctional relationship. You have just caught your woman cheating on you and you laugh. By doing that, he pretty much gave every woman the right to walk over the heart of every male in creation. Go out, test the waters. We’ll be at O’Malleys, planning an ‘Escape” while you bang Hector the Pool Boy. And make sure you do some “yoga,” if that’s what you call it. Don’t mind us though, we’ll be laughing. You gonna finish that Pina Colada, hon?

Men, for years, had secrets. Inner thoughts that we shared with no one. And it was this delicate balance between inner wimpiness and outer toughness that made us men. Yet when Rupert went on his “admitting” spree, it planted the seed inside the female brain. And now here we are, 26 years later, and the song has created our current reality. Men are no longer viewed as the rugged, tough hunter/gatherers we were meant to be. Instead, we primp and preen. We eat sushi. We hug people. The lines of gender are blurred. Mr. Holmes, the transformation you unwittingly started is complete.

It angers me to think about it anymore. No, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the corner with this Strawberry Daiquiri. Oh, what? No, it’s not for me; it’s for that other blog I’m with.