Did that tall, goofy kid from Road Trip actually get his own starring vehicle at one point? Did that really happen? Yes, it did. His name is DJ Qualls. The movie is The New Guy. It was released in 2002. And it is the worst.
How do I know this? Simple: I am a terrible, terrible nerd. But how would an ordinary, less pathetic individual find out such information? Why, the Internet Movie Database, of course, dummy! For 20 years now, this site has been the ultimate one-stop oracle for everything you could ever think to wonder about movies with your human-brain. More arguments have been settled by IMDB over the years than by fistfights and sexual intercourse combined. And yet this is something we all take for granted.
Not me, though. I have long since realized the singular, transcendent power of IMDB, and I take full advantage whenever the opportunity arises. Did you know, for instance, that you can watch trailers for upcoming motion pictures there? Admittedly, not an impressive sales-point, but did you know that you can also watch episodes of television programs too, in a manner similar to Hulu? You did? Well, pretend you didn’t know and that you are finding this information out for the first time right now. How nuts is that, right? BUT IMDB ALSO HAS OTHER HIDDEN USAGES AS WELL!
As someone who is 30 years old, I have lately become obsessed with age. Luckily, IMDB has helped me navigate these murky times with age-relativity. Since I started writing We Were Promised Hoverboards last year, I tend to watch a lot of movies that I’ve already seen before. Sometimes these are movies I saw a long time ago, such as The Mighty Ducks. Thanks to IMDB, when I watch Emilio Estevez teach a bunch of kids how to play hockey like they mean it, I can instantly uncover what double-E’s age was when that movie came out. Turns out he was 30.5. Sweet! I am still younger than Coach Gordon Bombay was when 12 year old me watched him design the flying-V offense! And that also means I am ridiculously so much younger than Emilio Estevez is right now. Suck it, Emilio! Unfortunately, then I see something like the fact that Eddie Murphy was 27 when he made Coming to America and his character was supposed to be 24, and then I feel like I’ve taken a gander at the abyss and that the abyss is now taking a gander right back at me that will last until forever.
It’s also fun to combine age relativity with the power of social media. If one were so inclined, he or she could search IMDB to find the names of all the actors who played in The Sandlot, and then look them up on Facebook to see what each of them looks like now. I’m not saying that I personally have done this with several beloved early-90s tween classics, but I’m not saying that I have not done this either (shout out to the cast of 1994’s Little Rascals franchise reboot.) The fun only STARTS with learning that the kid who said, “For-EV-er. FOR-EV-er.” in The Sandlot is actually named Chauncey Leopardi. Nice name! Okay, that is kind of a cool name. I can’t front.
I only discovered this next feature of IMDB just last year, but I have definitely since made up for all the fun I missed by not discovering it sooner. My girlfriend at the time was revolted by the sight of blood and just about any form of violence. Not a big fan of Quentin Tarantino, if you can believe that! Anyway, her aversion to bloodshed was such that she wouldn’t watch any movie in which violence figured prominently into the plot. Lucky for her, though, there is a Parent’s Guide on IMDB that lists every single violent or sexual act that occurs in each movie, and she would consult this guide before any movie we were planning to watch together to see if it passed muster. Soon I started looking up the violence quotient in hardcore horror movies that I didn’t feel like actually sitting through, and the violence descriptions are AMAZING! I have now read the carnage report for each entry in the Saw franchise, and they each read like synopses for the entire movie. Disgusting! “A woman has her hair caught in the gears of a machine that slowly begins scalping her unless she can dig out a key that’s been lodged inside her own fucking eyeballs,” it basically says. By reading this, I have pretty much honorarily seen the movie.
While I’m praising IMDB, though, I might as well end on a word of caution. For all the pleasures this resource has to offer, when browsing one must be careful to avoid spoilers for they are sprinkled around in ways you mightn’t have thought of. For instance, if you are just getting into the first season of The Wire and you look at the IMDB page to see what else any of the brilliant character actors featured in the show has been in, you will notice that some characters are in far fewer episodes than others. THAT IS BECAUSE THEY GET KILLED. Furthermore, seeing just how many fewer episodes these characters are in will let you know WHEN they get killed. And that is not fresh. So be careful of what you look up, lest you find out more than you wanted to know. But always be grateful that you have the option to do so.
The Myth: Just before The Big Game, any player who is essential for a team’s victory is especially vulnerable to injury, sabotage, existential crisis, or being otherwise barred from participating
The Perpetrators: Remember the Titans, Little Giants, The Replacements, Bend it Like Beckham, Rookie of the Year, Kingpin, Talladaga Nights, The Program, A League of Their Own, The Waterboy, Hardball, Necessary Roughness, The Wrestler, Bad News Bears, Ladybugs, Semi-Pro, Juwanna Mann
In the period immediately preceding The Big Game, most teams are plagued with anxiety, which is perfectly understandable. After all, team pride, history, and a plethora of sex-bets are all riding on the outcome of this—the defining moment of the season. In sports movies, though, nobody ever really seems worried about a thing that should be a source of great concern: will the star player actually be in the game? Considering how often this crisis comes to a head in movies, you’d think the entire team would be freaking out over it.
If real athletes don’t seem particularly concerned about losing their star player right before a big game, it’s because that is not a thing that constantly happens the way it does in movies. Quarterbacks never decide to take some moral stand right before the Super bowl. If they did, MVPs would be coddled even more than they already are in an effort to keep them from defecting (“Is there any part of today’s practice you found unsatisfactory, Mr. Manning?”) In a team so concerned about keeping one player happy, the other players would all start to feel like Dakota Fanning’s least talented younger sister. Nobody wants to feel like that.
Sometimes the threat comes from the other team (the evil team, naturally) seeking some kind of injunction against the star. That problem has an easy solution, though: always make sure the star is eligible and legit, because if he or she isn’t, then the other team should uncover that fact. That old adage about rules being made to be broken isn’t necessarily “true” per se. People go to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison all the time because most rules are meant to not be broken.
Excepting the case of major injury, though, whenever the star player winds up off the team just before the big game, this expulsion only lasts for about seven minutes of screentime. Inevitably, the MVP makes a miraculous comeback—at half time, probably while the grizzled coach reams out everyone else—to relieve the woefully inadequate replacement player and lead the gang to glory. Perhaps the frequency of this classic happy ending explains why nobody on the team seems to get too worried in the first place.
You may have no idea who Carey Mulligan is. That’s perfectly respectable. It’s 2011 (in like three months) and we all have a lot on our plates; who has time to learn about every British ingenue to sashay along the motorcade? Very few of us, for sure! Anyway, some folks would have you believe that Ms. Mulligan is the Oscar-nominated young star of the 2009 motion picture, An Education; and on the surface those folks would be correct. But if you dig beneath the topsoil—famously one of the best places to dig for stuff—you’ll find out that this It Girl is even younger than she appears at first glance. And with 20% less “It”. That’s right, it turns out that Carey Mulligan and Tori Spelling’s newborn baby daughter, Stella, are one and the same person! Which means she’s probably not even British. Crafty! So if you’re dying to see what all the Carey Mulligan fuss is about, then you need look no further than Tori Spelling’s not-at-all horrific television program, “Tori and Dean Are on the TV!”, which airs on Lifetime at a prefectly reasonable hour. God may not forgive you for watching it, but will you forgive yourself for missing it?
In this age of ridiculous convenience, it’s super-easy to live as an unhealthy garbage monster with terrible skin, a pot belly, and no friends. Let’s face it—the tendency toward poor lifestyle decisions has become our default setting. You have to constantly police yourself in order to keep your body from breaking apart like a gingerbread person. Unfortunately, we’re so conditioned by advertising and routine to make destructive choices that most healthy things inherently sound like the worst. “Yogurt? Does that have pizza in it?” Getting into a healthier mindset is not something that happens automatically—you don’t just wake up one morning with a hankering for Omega-3s. The solution is what I like to call The George Costanza Method.
There was a famous episode of Seinfeld wherein lovable loser, George Costanza, turns his life around by admitting that his instincts are all wrong. Whatever naturally occurred to him to do, he would do the opposite of, and this technique proved beneficial. Now if there is one thing that is definitely unhealthy, it is taking lifestyle advice from a fictional television program, but perhaps there’s a lesson to be gleamed from old George. As an experiment for the immediate future, try saying yes to every decision that seems unpleasant, and say no to all the things you’re most drawn to.
When you get home at night, so many entertainment options are available, beckoning to be consumed in a passive sludge of inactivity on your couch. This is easy; this is comfortable. It’s tough work to take a stand and say, “Hey, instead of watching any of the very entertaining shows on TV tonight, I am going to live life!” Don’t be surprised if your loved ones become frightened and try to flee. The Costanza Method requires discipline, though, so even if it feels like a soul-crushing chore at the time, say yes to a nightly walk or dance-off or anything else that requires activity. A bit of after-work exercise might be the last thing you want to do, but it’s a good first step toward health and enlightenment.
Mental fitness is important too, and that’s why it’s good to spend more time offline. Our brains are sensitive creatures, and constant internet access is turning them into hyperactive disco monkeys. Most people have an attention span of zero at this point. Perhaps you’re one of them. Here is a simple test: keep your eyes on these words and don’t check your email. Now keep not checking it. Stay with me here. How long has it been? Now when you get done reading, start over again, and read this thing twice more. If after that fourth time you start to feel bored, then I’m sad to say you have an unhealthy addiction to the Internet. But the good news is that you just exercised the Costanza Method and said no to the Internet at an inappropriate time. (Any time you’re in the middle of reading something else is an inappropriate time.)
Why does everything tasty have to be cankle-enhancing poisonjuice? Why are there so many holidays that involve chocolate, birthdays celebrated with cake, and Chimichanga Chaturdays at my apartment (where we eat and discuss chimichangas) every single weekend? For most people, it’s easy to plan out healthy meals, but hard to say no to impulse. That’s why moderation has no place in The George Costanza Method. It’s easier to avoid caving in when you’ve got momentum on your side, so start by turning down every single unplanned food opportunity, and let repetition do the heavy lifting. Eventually, you’ll figure out how much indulgence you can handle, but at first just get comfortable with saying no to spontaneous food. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll learn that it feels almost as good to turn down a treat as does to eat it. “I’m being healthy, and THAT is delicious,” you might say, but probably shouldn’t. In fact, do not ever say that out loud.
How long should you keep up the George Costanza Method? Some people take to their new, healthier lifestyle immediately and recant their previous ways—all those nights spent funneling melted butter and watching Three’s Company reruns. Others need a couple months or more. Then once the brainwashing lifestyle-tweaking is complete, you will be transformed into a born again health addict who just says no to the crap of life without forcing him- or herself to do it. Once you’ve gotten wiser about most decisions, you’ll begin to explore the art of moderation. And when that day comes, feel free to drop by my apartment for Chimichanga Chaturday.
I bought a book yesterday from a major chain store. Just walked right in and bought it. The new release discount price was $20, and here’s what I got in exchange: at least 20 hours of (hopefully) pleasurable reading, future book-bartering power, and a slight pain in the ass when I move all my crap to a new apartment. I also got one more thing—the bookstore experience. Shopping in a bookstore, or, to put it more accurately, not shopping there, is a privilege we collectively pay for one book at a time, whenever we can manage. And as you may be aware of by now, it will probably soon be a thing of the past.
The big scare used to be that chain stores like Barnes & Noble were wiping out the Kramerbooks & Afterwords of the world through mega-discounting. Then, the even bigger scare arrived: holyshit, print is dying! Throughout this whole paper vs. digital war, many have assumed that even after digital donned the mighty crown and scepter of Most Popular Reading Platform, we would still have books. As in, they’d still exist in some capacity. Meanwhile, though, it only just crossed my mind yesterday that when physical books are no longer mass-produced, there will no longer be any stores left to sell them.
With Monday’s news that Barnes and Noble will be shuttering its beloved Lincoln Center location next January, this message became as translucent as an LCD screen. Tomorrow is not promised! Sure, that’s just one store, and it’s not exactly the first sign of Barnes and Noble’s troubles. But it was an Upper West Side landmark, and it was heavily trafficked, and how could this happen? Well, perhaps that particular closing could be read as more of a commentary on Manhattan rents than on a lack of interest in physical book perusal, but there are plenty of other signs that bookstores are on their way out.
Digital sales are on the rise, while hardcover sales are declining, blah blah blah, you know the drill. In addition to the story told by sales figures, though, there is the added worry caused by marketing messiah Seth Godin’s announcement last week that he will be forsaking the publishing industry to bring his purchasable content straight to all the Godin-heads out there (a not-insignificant number.) Because of the devotion of his audience, Seth Godin might prove to be the Radiohead of the publishing world, the first to circumvent the system and still come out ahead. But where few besides Radiohead succeeded with their nontraditional sales model, what if Godin’s call to lucrative action is heeded by other already successful authors? Publishers have bookstores for customers; bookstores have people for customers—if the Godin effect hits hard, then the middle men will be cut out entirely, and the death of bookstores (and publishers) will be rushed along even sooner.
This isn’t a call to action regarding the purchase of physical books—I’m well aware there’s just no talking a person down from their iPad. This isn’t a eulogy either—too many people are allergic to change and will be buried clutching at their vast libraries filled with Vonnegut and Hemingway, et cetera. But just imagine, if you will, a world without bookstores. On the surface it probably looks just like the world you see before you right now. Okay, it’s basically the exact same world, but stay with me here and let’s look at some of the key things that you might not even realize you’ll be pissed about when they’re gone.
One less hang-out spot. Unless you are clearly a hobo, the loitering policy in bookstores is quite accommodating. The bigger places usually have coffee shops, so people can just chill out and take their time deciding if they want to buy Shit My Dad Says, or just get some reading done in a non-library-like atmosphere that inevitably features the music of Corinne Bailey Rae. You can walk around making a mental list of what to borrow from the library, impress companions with your knowledge of ALL THREE Steig Larsson books, or browse through trashy magazines without fear of reprisal. Impossible is nothing!
One less form of curated book-buying. It’s only a matter of time before someone invents a Pandora-like algorithm machine that pieces together the fact that you want to read the new Mitch Albom before you realize it (you are some kind of wuss in this scenario, btw.) However, there’s something about a knowledgeable staff of nerds whose own neurological algorithms will pick out just the right book and describe it with enough enthusiasm to ignite your buying temperature in a way that Amazon reviews never could.
One less public restroom opportunity. Much the same as coffee shops, bookstores will forever be places that busy people can pop into, if need be, and take care of what can’t wait. As long as you buy a book on at least every third visit to a bookstore, you practically own the joint, and have the right to use it as you see fit.
No more bookstore jobs. People who want to break into publishing have long had to settle for “Barnes & Noble assistant manager” as a stopgap position while sweating out those internships. Now, in this dystopian future world you’re envisioning, there will be fewer retail opportunities for these folks—and there won’t be a publishing industry for them to dream of breaking into either!
One less pick-up spot. Getting a phone number at a bookstore is easy. Like, really easy. Have you not tried this yet? If you’re even remotely conversant on whatever tome an attractive shopper is holding, you are automatically cleared for an extended approach. The more obscure the book, the better your chances of willing into existence a romantic comedy-style meet-cute. And as luck would have it, there just happens to be a coffee shop nearby.
One less holiday shopping destination. As the end of the year approaches, each bookstore becomes a mecca of tchotchkes for your shopping dollars. People still need calendars, dammit! And your little niece is starting to have all kinds of feelings that will fit perfectly inside one of those old-fashioned moleskine blogs they call ‘notebooks.’ And what communist bastard wouldn’t want to be gifted with the game, Apples 2 Apples? For as long as there are bookstores, you will always be able to cross off at least three names from your shopping list in one spot.
Much fewer author events. The big, 30-city national author tour is a thing of the past. While your Sparks’ Nicholas and Palins Sarah will still be able to get fans riled up near pub date, it won’t be inside a book store anymore. Just as Seth Godin’s massive readership affords him the luxury of not having to do that whole, pesky book publishing thing, enormously talented popular authors will always be able to find a place to hold their events. However, fans of first time novelists and midlist authors will have a greater challenge of ever meeting these authors offline. Where could their signings be held now—Forever 21? And what would they be signing—your Nook? Fans will have to settle instead for asking questions on a blog.
While the digitalization of everything is giving us more and more tasks we can do remotely, it’s also narrowing down our reasons for leaving the house at all. There are so many market transactions that have been and will be translated into digital form, but the comfortingly prosaic qualities of shopping at a bookstore can never fully be duplicated online. The experience is at once pedestrian and cerebral, and you can stay as long as you like and read magazines and people-watch. While record stores could be pretentiousness factories, they were the closest cousins to book stores—where the journey was the destination—and now they’ve been phased out. It happened pretty quickly too.
Since clothing and food can’t be delivered instantly via digital means, there will always be plenty of brick-and-mortar shopping facilities (until the rise of the machines, at least.) Let’s all just try to enjoy the bookstores nestled into those shops’ surrounding centers while we still can, please. It doesn’t matter anymore whether it’s The Strand or Borders that you loiter in; when they become cultural history one day, they’ll both be missed just the same.
“It’s different, them last 2 albums didn’t count
Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushing ‘em out”
Let us start by delving into that first line. While it’s noble for Marshall Mathers to admit that his last two albums sucked, that doesn’t erase them from existence. They do count. Eminem’s career spans six albums, so his admission (correctly) asserts that an entire THIRD of his output thus far has been weaksauce. That’s not a very good ratio. It also doesn’t help that the time period between those two lesser albums was five years. Five years went by without any worthy follow-up to The Eminem Show, during which time the attention span of audiences shortened considerably. Five years in the music industry now might as well be forever.
And what of the albums themselves? Relapse had a couple moments, I guess, but Encore was some serious garbage. Encore was the sound of a performer who has nothing but contempt for his audience. The fact that Eminem’s now blaming the trifling nonsense of that LP on drugs is insulting. I mean, The Beatles were completely whacked on acid when they made Revolver, and they still managed to make a classic. Drugs can’t account for a flat-out embarrassing song like “Ass Like That.” But we’ll get to drugs in a moment. For now, let’s get back to Eminem’s admission that his last couple albums were just so-so.
Once upon a time I couldn’t imagine Eminem making a full-length that was less than great. When he first came out, he was silly and smart, irreverent and funny, and just a great rapper. He pissed off a lot of people, but then he gradually won most of them over during a prolific three-year period that culminated in the unbelievable victory lap of his winning a fucking Academy Award for a song he wrote, for a movie he starred in, about his own life! Now that seems like it happened so long ago. Eminem’s latest effort is an unqualified success simply because it doesn’t totally suck. Don’t get me wrong, some of it does suck. Some of it sucks so bad, you guys. Take, for instance, the song “So Bad.” Also, take “Seduction” and “Space Bound.” Take them far away from here. Take them and don’t give them back. I would seriously rather wax my cousin’s Rav 4 than listen to any of those songs a second time. It’s weird to hear total filler on an Eminem album for a change instead of the bonkers bullshit of his previous two albums, but the filler isn’t even the problem.
Here’s the chorus from “I’m Shady”, off the debut Slim Shady LP:
I got mushrooms, I got acid, I got tabs and aspirin tablets
I’m your brother when you need, some good weed to set you free
You know me, I’m your friend, when you need a minithin
Does nobody else think it’s absolutely ridiculous that Eminem has now positioned himself as a martyr for the horrors of addiction to prescription drugs? It’s not very interesting, coming from a guy who was so cavalier in his attitude toward drugs at the beginning of his career. I’m not saying that it’s AWESOME for a public figure to rhapsodize about how great drugs are, but it is admirably ballsy. It was refreshing to see someone pander to tenth grade stoners so gleefully on some songs, while handily deconstructing the idea that he should be labeled a role model on others. Nobody was more self-aware than Eminem in the beginning.
He burst onto the scene as the crazy drug guy who had somehow channeled all that psychedelia into unprecedented levels of creativity on the mic. That persona may have just been a character, but every rapper is necessarily a character because nobody wants to hear songs about buying high thread-count sheets with your wife at Pier One Imports or whatever. What if what he’s doing right now is a character? Are we really supposed to be sympathetic to the boring horror story of his addiction to pharmaceuticals? This is not what MATURATION sounds like. It’s like the frattiest of frat dudes forever telling the harrowing tale of that one time he had to get his stomach pumped. I’m sorry, but I can’t muster up the will to care that Eminem was holed up in his mansion popping pills and playing Xbox all day while the world moved on. I don’t want to hear more than one song about it, and I certainly don’t want to read about it as a bullet point headline on CNN. Having OD’d has become his new Kim, the defining driver of this phase in his career. This is the shingle that Eminem has hung his public image on since he got sober. And it is a very dull shingle. Get a new shingle!
The final thing that’s annoying about Eminem’s comeback album is how he seems to think talking about coming back is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When he mentions being the best rapper ever here, it seems more like wishful thinking than a confident assertion. The strong moments on his new stuff are almost overshadowed by the awkward specter of Eminem reiterating that he’s back and better than ever while admitting that he has some stuff to atone for and that we should just forget about the last couple of albums. He also talks about “his struggle” a lot. It’s a weird combination. Hopefully next time, Eminem will decide that he has nothing to make up for, nothing to prove, and just go for it without feeling so burdened. That would probably be a good album. A couple more of those, and he’ll finally have a winning record again.