Monday, September 22, 2008

The annals of bad taste: "Postal"

Welcome to a new (and hopefully recurring) feature here at the blog-that-no-one-reads, I will joyfully watch films that bathe in the fermenting stew of bad-taste and hopeless shit and dick jokes. We'll start with a newer film, "Postal," the latest English-language travesty from German director Uwe Boll.

It's the wholly unique, completely stupid vision that sets "Postal" apart from the rest of the direct-to-DVD and limited-release litter. Director Uwe Boll's absolute dedication to adolescent, bloody story telling really shoves "Postal" down your throat, whether you want it or not. The film is not a side-tossed idea directed by a studio machine with minimal artistic control and no wriggle room. It wasn't pushed out in response to a marketable trend, with a title that sounds similar to a current blockbuster. It not only aims to entertain, the film actually attempts to make you think, something Boll should have sat long and hard on before he rushed over to the type-writer.

Boll actually poured his heart and soul into the film and crammed every inch of geopolitical and religious commentary he could into so-called themes and plot points. Then again, the director is as known for his video-game adaptation movies as he is for his exploitation of an obscure German tax loophole that allows him to make bank off failed movies. (apparently "Postal" is also a video game adaptation, but have no idea what the two have in common.)

All it takes is five minutes of "Postal" to understand why he has more haters than Rachael Ray, and less talent than Pauly Shore and Steven Baldwin have career sense. The man has challenged his critics to fight on countless occasions, but after his cameo in "Postal" I don't think any vitamin-D deficient scribes are going to take him up on the offer. He looks like one of the Eurotrash goons in Die Hard — slightly silly, yet still menacing (and of course frighteningly German). According to the, "major talent agencies refused to let their actors appear in the film on the grounds that the script was too 'disgusting, insulting and over-the-top' for their clients. Many of the actors Boll wanted passed, and distributors refused to take the film out of fear of being attacked by Islamic fundamentalists." Boll thinks the whole world is against him because he speaks the truth, not diarrhea.

He sandwiches his social commentary and political messages between boobs, ultra-violence, dick jokes and girls in bikinis stealing plush male-anatomy dolls called "Krotchys." The bikini-clad bimbos work for a New Age cult leader named "Uncle Dave," [Dave Foley, (how the hell did he wind up in this mess)]. Uncle Dave is in some trouble with the IRS, and he wants to capitalize on "Krotchy's" beanie-baby like craze after he steals the dolls. But, Osama bin Laden and the rest of his homicidal home boys are also after the dolls. Al Qaeda plans to insert vials of Bird Flu into the dolls and then distribute them on a mass scale. "Uncle Dave" is Boll's primary vehicle to smash religion and the lemmings that follow both Christ and Christ-like figures off the figurative cliff. The slams are all far-from-subtle and played-out, or at best, poorly executed.

Boll portrays the terrorists as a bunch of incompetent but American-English speaking, white-collar dudes with extensive keffiyeh collections, and a direct phone line with President Bush who's always helping them out of bullet-ridden jams. It's a scenario that could have produced some good gags, but instead all you get are a few forced smirks. They also film their video releases on a sound stage in a warehouse, fake cave walls and all. One noticeably handicapped terrorist is always crawling around on the ground and looking, well, generally retarded.

Thrown in the middle is the protagonist, named only as "Postal Dude" [Zack Ward, (who?)]. He hates his job, hates his town and really hates his three-thousand-pound wife who's always shaking the family double-wide with some other tooth-challenged neighbor. The most bearable parts of the movie involve Postal Dude's painful existence — a job interview with a psychopathic boss and his evil secretary, a Jersey shore type who always hassles Dude for bus money. But that honeymoon from inane plotting goes out the window when Dude goes all Rambo, shoots terrorist, blows up trailers and jumps on Foley's stuffed-animal-stealing bandwagon. When Dude stops the action to give a 5 minute speech detailing his thoughts on humanity, pointless violence, and the need to come together, he only stops to mercilessly mow down the remaining citizenry.

Like everything in Boll's universe, "Postal" is uneven and out-of-touch with reality. He must have really looked deep and stripped himself of all self-awareness to achieve some zen-like level of cluelessness. When a black cop executes an elderly Asian lady with a shotgun for sitting at a green light through two cycles, the cop says defensively, "She called me a n*****." According to the, Boll called the scene his special moment to himself because of his hate for slow (specifically) Asian drivers.

The shootouts and action sequences almost always boil down to Dude waiting for the bad guys to run out of bullets, before stepping out from behind a car/dumpster to shoot all the baddies with a machine gun. For a movie with such a high body count, there really isn't one inspired moment of fight choreography or impressive set design.

The relentless poor taste, irreverence and overall disregard of societal norms would be accepted by me with open arms, if it was funny. But it's not. It's shock humor at its most base level, and political at its most juvenile. Though it does get a few Annals of Bad Taste Bonus Points (ABTBPs) for the sheer number of children struck in the chest and head by stray AK bullets. The kid body count was at least 15.

Film: 1/10
Annals of Bad Taste score (comparative to others movies with similar taste): 3/10

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Radio Raheeeeem

the only part really worth watching in this entire movie.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Baseball and Star Wars

There are so few shared cultural experiences.
It's a fact that becomes more apparent every time I try to relate to anyone about culture, even so-called popular culture. We all exist in different bubbles of taste — different television channels to surf, different Web sites saved as favorites. I don't even know about many of the same bands my musically-inclined friends like. I scour the internet daily to find new artists, listen to new albums, and it's still hard to connect with many people on anything, even music. reviews new albums everyday, most of which never appear in the mainstream media outlets — Entertainment Weekly — etc. Even more discouraging, the same albums often don't even appear in other indie publications.

But when I go to a Cub's game and walk around Wrigleyville, everyone has the same purpose — watch the Cubbies win, drink beer, eat hot dogs, yell at the umpires, high-five. That social animal instinct comes out. I should be running in a pack! I should be participating in group think! It's my nature, man ...

Arriving on the North side, you feel like you belong to something, even if it is only for a few hours, and you aren't even really from Chicago. But when the all the cheering and parading is over, you can't help but feel like a sucker. The cliched complaints come out in full force. Did I really just spend more than a hundred dollars on a ticket and concessions? Did I really just use $50 worth of gas to watch grown men run around in a circle and hit a ball with a bat? I just spent a half a week's worth of pay. The owners and players and managers continue to earn millions, but are still hungry for more. Is this the cost today to have a simple, shared cultural experience?

Why is it appealing to shell out that kind of cash for something so superficial? My meager salary is a year's work worth less than Alex Rodriques' payout for one game. It all comes back to that shared cultural experience. For those few hours, I was a part of something bigger, there were 40,000 fans united momentarily for one silly purpose. The same thing that can make a concert more than just music.

Maybe it's because there are some things ingrained into my psyche as a little boy that I will always enjoy, even when I know they are silly and ultimately unsubstantial — baseball, Star Wars and hot chocolate. So even while my attitude rises and falls like an uppercut hitter's swing, I can't help but enjoy going to baseball games. It's a feeling a colder, more rational person would level.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008



Well, the story has been buried all day, but Pakistan has ordered its army to fire upon US troops if we violate the country's borders again.

We sure know how to treat our allies.

It was revealed this week that President Bush signed off on the cross-border attacks this summer. Initially just bombing raids, each one became more brazen until US commando boots actually touched ground in Pakistan on Sept. 3. There have been repeated reports of U.S. drone aircraft striking militant targets, most recently on Sept. 12.
Our cross border attacks were aimed at Al Queda but more often than not maimed citizens. President Bush does not have respect for any other country's borders. Pakistan hasn't been doing enough to bring law to it's borders with Afghanistan. but they have been making striodes, sending over 100,000 troops into he region. Instead of working with them, we work around them.

Pakistan's pro-US government is the only thing that keeps its citizens from openly aiding the tAl Queda and Taliban. Pakistan's government maintains a huge political risk every day it's in allegiance with the US, and yet we piss it away. The Taliban in Afghanistan would love to expand into Pakistan, and by crossing broders without Pakistani assitance, we are helping the Taliban gain the popularity with Pakistanis it needs to do precicly that.

When I see shit, I follow the smell and more often than not it leads to George W. Bush's doorstep.
He plays my favorite game: how many wars can one President start/instigate?
He has two in seven years. Can he tack on Pakistan in his final at bat? If he's really ambitious there's still time to rile up Iran. And if we're really lucky Kim Jong Il will finally die from that stroke, and a real nutbag will take his place and reclaim its spot on our Axis of Evil shit list.

His cock-sure bravado cowboy act has gotten Mayberry in a real gee-golly pickle this time.

Here is the AP story:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Unfettered Paranoia: A User's Guide

Released this week, Itunes 8.0 comes with a friendly little devise called "Genius."
When I initiated its painfully long start up procedure, the first item of business was "gathering information about your itunes library."
OK, I can deal with that.
Item number 2, "sending information to Apple."


Is Genius devouring the digital souls of every computer in America, preceding the unstoppable singularity that instigates the impending war between man and machine? Will we have to blacken the sky to cut off their solar power supply? Oh my God, Genius is coinciding with our green attempts to use more solar and wind power. They will use our own environmentally friendly devises against us for power. That's just mean.
We will have to find a way TO STOP THE WIND TOO.
We never should have turned it on.... oh the humanity... the HUMANITY!
Once we hit the switch we could nveer goooo baaaack, what have we done?
I don't want to be a battery.

Will Genius turn me into an electronic zombie? Will Genius know what song I want to listen to before I do?
Will Genius make fun of me for having a couple albums on my hard drive no one should know about?
Will that annoying Apple guy (Justin Long) from the Apple vs PC ads personally come to my house and create playlists on my computer?

If Genius's diabolical electrons and nucleus logo doesn't tip off some Umbrella Corporation-like deceivery, I don't know what will.

I crush interns with the full mass and anger of my size 15 stompers. every. year.

Last week was Walmart week, this week is nameless, but it continues September's theme of nothing in our meaningless existence changing, ever.

At this time a year ago I was an intern reporter for the Peoria Journal Star.
They trained me in a variety of beats. I got experience writing as a cops reporter, covering local political matters, etc. But mostly I was resigned to the purgatory of featurizing festivals and Civic Center events.

"Hey, just have the intern cover it."

The bizarre thing is, these events happen. every. year. with the same organizers, the same place and the same fund raising goals. They could print last year's article into perpetuity, just changing the date every year.

So now when I read the Journal Star, I read about the same events happening at the same places, for the same reasons, only now its written by another faceless intern with a byline. Every week I partially relive my senior year by reading some hideously bland article about an Alzhiemers Walk.

It's an out-of-body experience. Like it's still 2007, but now there are 2 Ed McMenamins, one writing cheesy articles about cat fashion shows (really) and the other working in Pekin and reading said cheesy articles.

On the sane side of things, it's fun to read the articles about the "Black Expo" and "Fiesta en el Rio" and see how much mental torture and anguish it took for the new intern to wring out 14 inches of newsprint. You can almost smell the embarrased sweat dripping onto the keyboard.

Typically my reaction is as follows: Open paper ... think, "oh my god I forgot all about this event/cat fashion show, it was so horrible I blocked it from memory until now." Audibly chuckle, and then think "I was so much better than this lame intern, I made this event/cat fashion show sound almost interesting."

Take that, intern.

As if I needed another reminder that things don't change, they just become more irritating.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Walmart week, pt.2

I walked out of a Walmart yesterday and didn't know what city I was in, really. Like when you wake up after spending the night in a bed out of town - the temporary confusion and burgeoning panic quelled only after a few moments concentration. It's only a slight exaggeration. In fact, I was in Pekin, Il, but I had to remind myself. Actually, it could have been Peoria, maybe it was Springfield.

Whenever I enter a Walmart I always feel like I've left reality. Shelves are almost comically tall - a Tim Burton architectural perversion - isle lengths are impossible marathons, customers are humorless roadblocks. Drifting around in a florescent bulb nocturnal state, the bright lights and white ceiling nearly put me into a consuming sleepwalk. I can't process all the blinding stimulation, so I tune it out.

This was a special Walmart, it had a McDonalds inside. A McDonalds inside a Walmart is like the golden Turducken feast of a banal existence.

I walked out and everything was the same, or maybe different as everything else, or maybe both. This is not an original idea, but it's still true. The people were fat. I mean impossibly fat, as they are everywhere. Have you ever just sat in a car and watched Americans walk into a shopping center? You can go ten in a row without finding someone who doesn't have type 2 diabetes. I'm in the worst shape of my life but I can still fit between my seat and the steering wheel. I walked out, and there was a Radioshack to the right, a little satellite shopping center with a Gamestop farther to the left. It all sat under gray sky that blended in with the never ending parking lots.

This story has no point. I hadn't been flying, I didn't have jet lag. I was tired. I had been in one too many Walmarts, eaten one to many McRibs, and it finally all congealed into one momentary lack of bearing.

Walmart week, pt. 1

According to the AP, Christina Aguilera has become the latest musician to release an album exclusively through one retailer.
The AP reports:

"The multiplatinum singer announced Wednesday that her greatest hits CD "Keeps Gettin' Better — A Decade of Hits" will be released only at Target. The CD, out Nov. 11, will feature two new songs as well as rerecorded versions of two other hits, "Genie in a Bottle" and "Beautiful."
Aguilera is following a growing list of acts who have struck exclusive deals with retailers. Wal-Mart has had huge success with similar deals with The Eagles, Journey, and Garth Brooks; AC/DC's October release of "Black Ice" will be available only at Wal-Mart, its affiliated Sam's Club and the band's Web site. The Eagles comeback album, "Long Road Out of Eden," was the third-best selling CD of 2007 with 2.6 million copies sold.
Target exclusively released John Legend's "Live from Philadelphia" in January and has had other exclusive releases of special edition albums by the likes of Alicia Keys and Carrie Underwood."

At first I was worried I wouldn't be able to find all the albums I read about in Tiger Beat for sale at the Disney Store.
But, if all pop albums and saggy-skinned classic-rock comebacks can be consolidated at Walmart and Target, my most favorite places to buy music, I like won't have to shop anywhere else ever again!
But how will I ever choose between the Eagle's newest dick-shrinking cringe fest and Christina's new versions of "Genie in a Bottle" and "Beautiful?" I won't have to. I'll buy both ... at convenient locations!

But seriously folks, this is the first thing the music industry has done right in about 25 years. Quarantining all the music no one should ever hear in one sterile and safe shopping environment can only be good for the rest of us on this side of the cultural divide. I can pretend it doesn't even exist.
Nearly every CD sold at Walmart (The Eagles, Bon Jovi, Jessica Simpson) is the same bastardization of whatever the hell "country" means now — a grating pop song with a with a hint of twang ... about "down home stuff"... without an urban beat — I guess.
So, all the music sounds and looks the same and it's all sold in same giant store where all the customers smell and taste the same. Like chicken.

In related news, Darius Rucker is releasing a solo country album — that's Hootie, from Hootie and the Blow Fish, the black one in that really white band. You know, that guy they only recently let onto golf courses without having to pretend he's carrying the drummer's clubs.
AP reports, "His timing is good for crossing over. Country radio seems wide-open with Jewel, the Eagles and Bon Jovi all finding success. Besides Rucker, this week's Billboard country Top 10 also includes Kid Rock's "All Summer Long."

OMG OMG OMG, I bet I can find it all at Walmart!

Post Script: If anyone can come up with a catchy genre name for the "country" music recorded by pop and rock acts and sold at Walmart I'll give you a big, platonic yet sensual hug. I can't come up with anything good, here are a few half-hearted attempts:
"Fauxntry Western"
"County Walmartstern"