Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Love in the Wild

Last year dating show Love in the Wild debuted on NBC and it's back for a second season. Contestants get paired up with potential suitors and suitoresses (I know, not really a word) in a small tropical country. Last year it was Costa Rica, this year it's the Dominican Republic.

They're forced to couple up and run around in the jungle, on the beach, find buries treasure, swim against the currents, wrestle alligators and pythons. OK, maybe no animal fighting, but you get the idea. The couple that finishes in first place gets to stay in a luxurious suite, while couples that finish progressively lower get progressively shittier accommodations. In the end, the couples decide (one week the guys get the pick, the next week it's the ladies turn) whether to stay paired up with their partners. If they choose someone else, their partner goes to The Unmatched Area, where maybe someone else will pick them, and maybe not. In the end, the one male and one female player left unmatched lose, and so on each week, until two people are left.

There are a few changes this season. For example, Jenny McCarthy has been inserted as host, replacing Some Boring British Guy. Also, the show inserted some extra guys in the first episode, so the women could date two men simultaneously, and then turned the table Tuesday night, giving the remaining guys an extra woman to date.

Here's the rundown:

Cringe Factor for Women: Medium to high. The new women brought out a certain cattiness and rampant jealousy in the existing women, who resorted to name-calling (though "Boobs McGee" was amusing). Also, it's pretty much shallow eye-candy-admiring/exploiting (for both genders, see below).

Cringe Factor for Men: High. In the confessional segments, there have been allegations on the show that some of the guys had "intimate relations" with their dates and then broke the bad news to them that, "the connection just isn't there." Funny how that connection faded after Boobs McGee arrived.

The Bottom Line: I would give this show an A if it were only the last 30 minutes of the show, when the couples are loving and hating each other in their respective quarters. But the first 30 minutes bore me to tears. If I'm going to watch couples run around on the beach or in the jungle, I want them to be chased by Sharktopus or Dinocroc or Supergator.

The Verdict: B-

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 18, 1812

Two hundreds years ago today, the War of 1812 -- one of the silliest and most unnecessary wars in the history of the universe -- began.

The war was the culmination of more than a decade of deteriorating relations between the fledgling United States and its former oppressor, those obnoxious Imperial Brits. England had been waging war with Napoleon since the French Revolution and tried to prevent Americans from trading with France on the open seas. Americans were also pissed that their soldiers were being impressed against their will to fight in the British war effort.

Canadians also love to talk smack that the real cause of the War of 1812 was the American "invasion" and attempted annexation of Canada, but I call bullshit on that claim. Sure, in the early days of the nation the U.S. had designs on Canada, and once the war started and there were some early American victories President Madison threw up his hands and said, "Why the fuck not? We're at war. Let's march to Toronto." But that's like saying that the Battle of Gettysburg was an attempt by the Confederate States of America to annex Pennsylvania. The reality is that, thanks to the Indian wars, the U.S. government in June 1812 didn't even have de facto control of the Northwest Territory (what is now Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin), so why would we try at that time to annex Ontario or Nova Scotia. Seriously, who writes the textbooks in Canada? Texans?

(Besides, the United States doesn't need to conquer Canada. We've owned the Stanley Cup for 18 years.)

The irony of The War of 1812 is that it never should've happened. The declaration of war was signed into law by Madison on June 18. But a month earlier Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister largely responsible on the British side for the deteriorating relations, was assassinated. His successor repealed most of the anti-American policies and openly expressed a desire to normalize relations with the U.S. Alas, 200 years ago it took weeks for news like this to cross the Atlantic, so the Americans were unaware of this policy shift until it was too late.

The war went back and forth for a couple of years, until Napoleon finally went down for good and the Brits had an opportunity to focus on this side of the Atlantic. Then the English started to deliver an ass-whoopin' to the States, burning Washington, D.C., blockading the New England coast and conquering much of Maine (funny how you never hear Canadians talk about the root cause of the War of 1812 was Canada's invasion and attempted annexation of Maine). The blockade crippled the economy in New England, which as a region had patched things up pretty nicely after the American Revolution and now claimed Britain as its biggest trading partner. Morale got so bad that there was a movement afoot in New England to secede from the United States and negotiate a separate peace with Great Britain(though other New Englanders floated less radical proposals).

The U.S. regained its footing in the Battle of Baltimore, which led to Francis Scott Key's writing of the national anthem. By the fall of 1814, Britain and the United States, two nations weary of a war in which neither side could gain the upper hand, began to talk peace. That ultimately led to the Treaty of Ghent, signed on Christmas Eve 1814, in which both sides agreed to returned to status quo ante bellum, with no gain or loss of territory on either side. But once again, 19th-century communications technology hindered the end of the war. Because it took weeks to relay the signing of the treaty, the U.S. routed the British in the Battle of New Orleans the month after the treaty was signed, and gave Americans a sense of final victory, a "Second War of U.S. Independence."

It's interesting to see how war has changed over a couple of centuries. What would happen today if we fought a war and New Englanders were so opposed to it that they talked of secession? And yet, despite this era of instant communication, any nation can conveniently withhold facts through propaganda or lies of omission and still create a redux of the War of 1812. As the War on Terror seemingly (hopefully) winds its way to a conclusion, let's hope we don't have to think about it much in the future. War changes over the centuries, but it still stays the same. The end result is that people die needlessly.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Take Me Out

My Xfinity cable listing for Take Me Out says it all:

"Thirty women continue their pursuit of the perfect summer fling."

Summer is here and that means two things -- cookouts and cheesy summer dating shows on TV. Based on the trailers that have run the past few weeks, I had low expectations for Take Me Out. That said, it's contrived and shallow yet more entertaining that I expected.

As the listings indicate, in Take Me Out 30 women get to choose from a cattle call of bachelors who come out, one by one, hoping to win their hearts. The guys look like good catches at first, but then the show plays a series of videos than tend to focus on the bachelors' potentially embarrassing idiosyncrasies ("I dress up as a gladiator," "I only eat animals that I kill," "I live at the gym, literally -- I sleep on an air mattress and box spring in a closet at my gym,"  "I set the world record for stove tossing.") If the ladies are turned off, they turn off their lights. If any still have their lights on after two videos, then the bachelor gets to ask a question of and then choose between any remaining women. (Generally, as you can imagine, by that point the ladies are either all out or there are only one or two left.)

Host George Lopez brings to the show an element of bewildering one-liners ("Time to bring out the next bachelor! Let the peanut butter see the jelly! Let the spaghetti see the meatballs!")

Cringe factor for women: Medium. (Admittedly, I'm not female so I can't truly judge this, and I welcome any dissenting or alternate opinions.) The women get to call the shots on whether to pursue the guys, up until the final round, so they're generally empowered. That said, some of them showed their true materialistic colors, turning their lights off because of preconceived notions about the guy -- which often ended up not being true.

Cringe factor for men: Medium to high. The guys are mostly goofy, and they're pretty much at the mercy of the women's whimsy until the end. In a way, that makes me feel good about myself. But as a gender they don't do men much justice (they have update segments of past dates, and one guy apparently tried to grope his date the entire day). I feel like more of a meathead now through osmosis.

I really didn't think this would be entertaining, but it surprised me. For better or worse, shallowness does at times make for fun guilty pleasure TV and this fits the bill. The women are (for me, of course) easy on the eyes. Most of them seem nice, though a couple were obnoxious. The guys are dorky, yet watchable in a train-wreck sort of way. I feel like George Lopez tried a little too hard to be funny and, while he occasionally succeeds, he falls flat far too often. Better writers would help.

My overall grade: B.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Once again, you should pick up a book from one of my MFA colleagues.

You can pre-order Sharp: A Memoir by David Fitzpatrick. It gets released for real Aug. 21. I won't go into too much detail about it, as I can't really do these things justice. (I have enough problems describing my own writing.) But it's good.

So happy to see more MFAers getting published. Hopefully there will be more to come.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fuck You, Middleboro

I have friends who live in Middleboro. It's a cute town, typical small town New England, though it does have typical problems -- managing growth, kids with not much to do, paying for school and municipal budgets, etc. etc.

One of the problems it doesn't have, any more than anywhere else at least, is profanity.

But now that is a problem. The town voted overwhelmingly Monday night to impose a $20 fine for public swearing.

Now, I am a person who's been known to curse from time to time. I'm OK with the occasional f-bomb. I always have to remind myself when I'm around young kids that I can't say certain things. But I do also have my limits. There are certain words and phrases that offend me.

Still, there are better ways to handle profanity. These things tend to work best when they police themselves. How do we define "public?" Do the police carry decibel meters with them? If I throw an f-bomb to a friend and someone's eavesdropping on me, are they going to drop a dime on the cops? And shouldn't Middleboro police be focusing more on drunk drivers? Violence? Theft?

It's still a cute town. But today I say the townsfolk have implemented bad public policy. Fuck you, Middleboro.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bank Deposit Slip Thief

One of my new jobs only offers direct deposit if I open an account with their credit union, which seems like a lot of hassle. Another sends me checks. (Fortunately, the third job does offer direct deposit.)

So I have a couple of checks sitting on my desk and last week I used my last deposit slip. This won't do. I went to my bank Monday morning to deposit the checks.

And while I was there, I noticed a stack of deposit slips.

I looked to my left and right. The bank had just opened and nobody was really paying attention. I took a stack of about 50 deposit slips and stuffed them in my pocket.

Problem solved. Of course, now I feel like a criminal, like the scum that scum scrapes off of the bottom of its shoes.

I always was a rebel.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Days Off

I've been readjusting to life, working at juggling three jobs of late, taking a quick trip to New York and getting together with friends from my old work. Of course, something always ends up falling by the waside when that happens and lately its been the blog.

I finally have some free time. I don't have any supergreat ideas (or maybe I just forgot them) to blog about, but I have a couple of days off, which will be exceedingly rare in the future. I'll try to inspire myself.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Serial Killers

The world moves on. But it's sad to see the classic game show hosts from my youth -- Dick Clark, Richard Dawson -- passing on to that big bonus round in the sky.

That said, it seems like game show hosts have been inordinately targeted for doom of late. I'm worried this may be the work of a serial killer.

My mind work in strange ways and I started thinking of other ways for game show hosts to meet their untimely demise.

Wink Martindale: Slain by the Tic Tac Dough dragon.

Jim Perry: Decapitated in a terrible accident by the giant playing cards from Card Sharks.

Bob Barker: Trampled by an unspayed dog.

Howie Mandel: Suffocated after being locked in one of the Deal or No Deal suitcases.

Pat Sajak: Crushed by the Wheel of Fortune after drinking too much on the job.

I hope they all sleep with the lights on. This could get dangerous.