31 May 2010

Monday Movie Reviews

The Nightmare Before Christmas (2010)
This unnecessary remake follows the original almost beat for beat, but suffers by using terrible CGI and entirely too many instances of the word, "bushwhacked". The plot is much the same, following the adventures of beleaguered champion of Halloween Jack Skellington as he terrorizes the teenagers of Springwood, Ohio by appearing in their dreams. The movie is mostly inoffensive until the bizarre third act when (SPOILER ALERT) it is revealed that the happenings of the film are set in the reality of "Dateline NBC". Best viewed at night with someone who doesn't have long to live. Starring Hippopotamus Johnson and The Three Stooges. 9 stars out of a possible 3,211.

Gladiator (1992)
A charming tale of love and longing set against the background of the 1986 Challenger disaster. Russell Crowe stars as an airline pilot named Maximus whose dream it is to one day go aboard a space shuttle. His dreams are shattered when the disaster happens and he is forced to fight for his own job when an airline stewardess accuses him of masturbating in the cockpit. Starring Russell Crowe and Meredith Baxter Birney. 44 stars out of a possible 50.

Space Jam (1921)
One of the earliest successful combinations of animation and live action, Space Jam tells the story of a young scientist obsessed with becoming the next emperor of the galaxy. With a little help from his animated friends Shoebox Forrester and his sidekick The Ice Train, he learns that power isn't everything, but friendship is. Starring Michael Jordan and Abraham Lincoln. 8 stars out of a possible 13.

27 May 2010

The Shark Tank's Guide to Interior Design

For centuries, interior design was the exclusive province of the wealthy, the erudite, and the frou-frou. However, with accessible furniture and ornamentation coming down in price every year, having a great looking home is something we call all strive for. Sadly though, unless you were born with the gift of garnishment, you might find proper interior design to be beyond your capabilities. Hiring a professional might be beyond your budget. That's why I'm here to give you some important tips that will take your abode from drab to fab in a heartbeat. Listen up!

Finding the Balance
One of the most important aspects of interior design is to find the right balance between your various ornaments and furniture. A piece of furniture by itself might be especially gaudy or inappropriate on its own, but together with a complementary piece, it could really come alive. The opposite is also true. Don't believe me? Well, maybe you'll believe this: Your parents didn't intend on carrying you to term. It was only when a gypsy told them they could sell you for $100,000 into slavery that they decided to go ahead with it. Fortunately for you, they could never find that gypsy after you were born.

Let's continue with an example of proper balance.

Here we have a nice, plain, red couch. Boring, right? Maybe, but its important to have a few pieces like this so the room doesn't get overwhelmed. Besides, it looks comfortable enough and you can probably find a replica for cheap. Here's the secret. Bookmark the couch with endtables. On one of the endtables, place a lamp. On the other endtable, place this decorative ornament:

That's right, it's an Al Roker cookie jar! All right, maybe it's Louie Armstrong, I don't really know. Whoever he is, he will bring just the right amount of whimsy and warmth into an otherwise dull situation. Why don't you just stretch his head open right there and have a cookie. I think I will. Mmmm, chocolate chip. My favorite!

The Importance of Contrast
Matching a room is not like matching your t-shirts and jean shorts. You have to put a little thought into what colors go with what, and then play around with the concepts. Sure, you can make a whole room a single shade of blue, but don't complain when you go blue-blind and wind up lost and alone, murmuring the word, "periwinkle" over and over again while your children decide what to do with your corpse when you finally die off.

Contrast is like this. Let's say you have a floor that looks something like this:

Simple and elegant, but you're asking for trouble if you introduce a blue rug on top of that. To find the right contrast, you have to go to the color wheel. Directly across from blue is "lion face". Perfect! I know just the rug!

Not only does this rug contrast beautifully with the floor, it lets your guests know that you're a person who appreciates wild animals and might even have a bit of a wild streak yourself, if you know what I mean. Eh? Eh?? Don't you just kind of want to brush that lion's teeth for him? Come here, lion, let me get those back molars, you saucy cat.

Comfort is Paramount
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking style should come before comfort when decorating their homes. This is not true. After all, you have to live there, right? Shouldn't you be able to relax in your own home? I guess you think style should be paramount when decorating your house. Perhaps you'll wonder where that line of thinking got you when you're sashaying down a secluded alleyway, your pants missing, and a Bratz doll stuck in your lower colon.

Let's take this chair for an easy example.

Just look at that thing. Oh sure, it looks like a million bucks, but how long do you think you could sit on it before you started to get butt-leprosy? Probably not for very long, if my days as an amateur doctor gave me any indication. On the other hand, take this chair:

Sure, it's a little silly to have a dinosaur chair in your primary living room, but what of it? Oh, are dinosaurs just for little kids now? The pteradon, one of the most popular flying dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous, was actually known for his skills in interior design. This way, you can not only watch television in comfort, you can pay tribute to one of the pioneers of decoration at the same time. Plus, look at that spiny dinosaur just where your left knee would go. Doesn't that kind of put you in the mood for peanut brittle. Man, I love peanut brittle.

Selling Your Home
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Sometimes you'll make such a disaster out of your interior design, you'll have no choice but to simply sell your house and start fresh. I've moved 39 times in my adult life for that very reason and I'm about to do it again. My best advice: use Craig's List.

25 May 2010

Some Dogs Don't Deserve to be Adopted

[As part of a community outreach program, The Shark Tank is pleased to welcome SPCA Tampa Managing Director Phil Gillman, who has a few words he'd like to get off his chest about pet adoption.]

For years, the SPCA has been the leader in the nationwide movement to protect precious animals from evils such as overbreeding, abuse, and neglect. As part of that effort, we have encouraged a system whereby potential pet owners come to us for adoption possibilities, rather than patronize expensive pet stores that likely sell pets from outdated and immoral breeding farms. While this movement has been a tremendous success, I can no longer stand by and let bad dogs go to good homes. Let's face it, some dogs don't deserve to be adopted.

To prove my point, I'm going to pick a sampling out of our current batch of dogs at the Tampa chapter of the SPCA. Don't get me wrong; many of the dogs here are well trained, obedient, and ready for a nice home. They will play with kids, fetch the newspaper, and do all manner of things people expect out of their faithful friends. Then there are the dogs I'm about to feature. While some of them certainly look like the type of pet you would bring home to Mom, let there be no mistake: these dogs are bad. Let's take a look.

Name: Bernie
Breed: German Shepherd Mix
Favorite Color: Atomic Tangerine

Why He Doesn't Deserve to be Adopted: Bernie is certainly a playful sort and one look at his rambunctious face will lead even the most hard hearted to fall immediately in love. Unfortunately, Bernie is a habitual liar. He claims to have invented helium and to be the first dog in space. This could be excused as mere senility or even eccentricity, but his lies are typically not so grandiose. Usually he just lies about whether or not he's been fed.

Name: Captain Courageous
Breed: Welsh Corgi
Favorite Song: "Yes! We Have No Bananas" from the musical Make It Snappy

Why He Doesn't Deserve to be Adopted: The good Captain will fool even the sharpest of dog lovers with his meek manner and his lovely pork choppish scent. Adopter beware, however! Captain Courageous is one of the laziest canines I've ever had the displeasure to meet. Though his resume suggests a great deal of experience in secretarial work, he will not take so much as a single page of dictation, even at a fair wage. If you like your dogs to be freeloaders, this is your guy. Otherwise, avoid.

Name: Roxy Fantabulous
Breed: Labrador/Great Dane mix
Favorite Insect: Pink Katydid

Why She Doesn't Deserve to be Adopted: Roxy has a number of traits typical of a dog. She likes to chill out and chew on a bone. She likes to go for long walks, stopping every few feet to release imaginary pee on unmarked patches of land. She even likes to watch television, particularly late night infomercials. Oh, and she likes to crush your dreams as quickly and efficiently as possible. What's that? Oh yeah, Roxy is our resident Debbie Downer. Let's say you're thinking of going back to school to become a dentist. Roxy will be there to remind you how hard the entrance exams are and how unwise it would be to take out student loans at this point in your life. Maybe you dream of asking out that gorgeous gal you see every Friday at Starbucks. Roxy will quickly let you know how unsuccessful this would likely be, considering your growing pot belly and undiagnosed skin condition. Sure to trample every aspiration until you settle in to your meager existence, Roxy Fantabulous should never be adopted.

Adopting the wrong dog is not only bad for you, bad for the dog, and bad for the planet, it actually sets our efforts back considerably. For the sake of all dogs everywhere, make sure you do some research before adopting a pet and don't reward bad dogs by giving them a loving home. They don't deserve it.

22 May 2010

The Fly and the Pig

The Fly and the Pig

One day, an angry fly was buzzing about outside a Red Lobster dumpster, looking for some rotting food within which to lay eggs. The fly was angry because hours earlier a homeless man had stolen most of the choice garbage, taking it home to his homeless family so they could eat one last day before succumbing to exposure. Incensed at this injustice, the fly alighted on the edge of the dumpster and rubbed its hands together furiously. A pig happened along and noticed the fly.

"What are you doing," the pig asked.

"I'm angry and I'm not to be trifled with," warned the fly.

"Why don't you tell me your problem so I can help you?" offered the pig.

"No, leave me alone, you don't know anything about the problems of a fly."

"Come on, I'm a friend and I'm very wise for a pig," he said graciously.

"Fine," the fly said.

The fly zoomed down and landed on the ground so it could speak to the pig more directly. Unbenownst to the fly, however, the pig hated flies and immediately crushed it under his hoof. A little bit of green fly guts squirted on to the side of the dumpster.

"And a merry ho-ho-ho," sang the pig as he went on his way.

Moral: Pigs are filthy, immoral creatures and should never be trusted under any circumstances.

20 May 2010

Bringin The Prayer

A few days ago, I was invited by my good friend Larry Whitson to have dinner with him and his family. Not realizing that he had also invited 30 of his friends from First Nazarene to the dinner as well, I gratefully accepted. Larry has had some hard times in his life over the past couple of years and I knew that letting him cook food for me would be in the spirit of giving generosity.

I arrived early, carrying a bottle of Publix Grape Soda. I handed the soda off to Larry's wife (who, frankly speaking, was not as appreciative of the gift as I might have hoped) and Larry and I retired to the "parlor" for a quick game of dominoes before dinner. It was when I caught him cheating for the third time that the other guests began arriving. I tried to hide my displeasure, but it wasn't easy. I have an intense dislike for large groups, especially in settings where I know I'm going to be expected to mingle. In fact, sitting there in front of our aborted game, I silently vowed that I would not speak to a single guest of the Whitsons.

My plan was somewhat foiled when, moments later, we all sat down to dinner. Because the Whitson dinner table sat only eight, the rest of the guests (including me) had to find various places to sit in the living room, the hallway, the kitchen, and even the back porch. More often than not, this meant sitting on the floor (which smelled not a little like cat urine). I was fortunate enough to grab a seat on Larry's recliner, which had suspicious looking brown spots on the lower back rest. I settled in with a glass of grape soda and a plateful of macaroni and cheese (which I assumed to be some sort of appetizer but later realized was the main course). That was when Larry did the unforgivable.

Rising from his seat at the head of the table, Larry welcomed all of his guests and then said, "Before we eat, I'd like to ask my good friend Shawn to lead us in prayer. Shawn?"

Every eye in the house turned to look at me. For a brief moment, I thought about throwing my plate of macaroni to the ground and making a mad dash from the house, screaming, "I'm on fire! I'm on fire!" I now believe I missed a golden opportunity in not doing so. People do crazier things all the time.

Knowing that any attempts to protest would be seen as sacrilegious God-hating by this swarm of elderly, stern-faced churchgoers, I stood up and decided to recite the one prayer I knew--The Lord's Prayer.

"Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name," I intoned, subconsciously adding a few layers of bass to my voice. This was going surprisingly well. I hadn't prayed in public since...well, it was quite possible that I had never done it before. Here I was making my debut in front of a tough crowd, with mac-and-cheese cooling on my plate, and it was going great.

Except I had already forgotten my lines.

Hallowed be thy name...hallowed be thy name. CRAP! What's next?

I felt a line of beaded sweat break out on my forehead as I struggled to remember the rest of the prayer. Silence drew out and though I steadfastly kept my eyes closed, it was not protection enough from the eyes I felt sure were slowly opening around the room, piercing me with their impatient glares. I had to improvise, and fast.

"The Lord is my shepherd, and lo shall I walk the path. The path of iniquities and forsooth."

Okay, you just used the word forsooth. Get it together, man!

"Rare is the bird that catches the morning worm. High is the pride of the fallen knight."

I heard two distinct throat-clearings and something that could have either been a stifled sneeze or a snort of laughter. I vowed never to attend First Nazarene Church, nor drive down the road where it was located (even though this meant I would have to take an extraordinary long route to get home on most weekdays).

"Thank you for the food of our nestled breast and deliver us from the harms of snakes."

"Be not angry with us and wind the clocks of our advancing age with trust and goodness. Umm, amen."

Though I had little experience with public prayer, I knew that it was customary for several others to echo the "amen" portion of the prayer. No one did on this day. I opened my eyes and was not surprised to see a vast sea of confusion among the guests. I thought about offering an explanation. I considered blaming my heathen ways on the tutelage of Reverend Frank Wilson, but I decided to just sit and eat my dinner instead.

Later that day I found a turtle in my mailbox, but I'm still not sure if that is in any way related.

18 May 2010

That Time I Wanted Tacos for Dinner

So it was just about a year ago when I decided I wanted tacos for dinner. Rather averse to subjecting myself to the flavors of Taco Bell, I chose to make them myself. I approached my wife and I said:

And she was like:

And so she left and about two hours later she came back and said:

And she handed me the meat and I examined it and was not pleased with what I saw:

And I made my feelings known:

And she was all:

But I was just like:

And so she's all:

But I'm still like:

And then she finally says:

Unfortunately, she was run over by an out-of-control rickshaw on her way back to the grocery store and died of internal injuries later than night. Instead of tacos, I had to settle for a bowl of Chef Boyardee Beefaroni. I'm still a little bitter about that to this day.

14 May 2010

The Perfect Post

Those in the blogging business know how difficult it can be to craft a good post. You have to think of an idea (or be inspired by one from an exterior source), but that's the easy part. From there, you have to spend time with that idea, working it this way and that like a Rubik's Cube, finding the angle that will serve the story best. It is an exhausting process, on par with tarring a roof or wrestling an alligator.

Protip: Go for the tail

Sometimes the process gets out of hand. On July 6th of 2009, I came up with the greatest idea in the history of blogging. Just the mere mention of the idea gave me chills. Murmuring the idea in my sleep was single-handedly responsible for several birds dying outside my bedroom window. One of them was an ultramarine lorikeet, one of the rarest birds in all of North America. Most unfortunate.

The problem? The idea was too good. I wrestled for hours on how to present it perfectly, giving it the perfect showcase that it so desperately deserved. Hours turned into days and days turned into weeks. I couldn't do it. I could not form the words that would give my idea justice. Better that it should go forever unwritten than for me to bring it to the blog in a manner unbefitting its glory.

I could have moved past it. I could have continued to throw up new blog posts unrelated to THE IDEA, but it all seemed so meaningless suddenly. Every time I turned on the computer I was reminded of my failure. To forget about it and return to business as usual would have been like craving a bowl of gourmet ice cream and then settling for a bowl of Grape Nuts. I don't like Grape Nuts. They tire my jaw.


With the benefit of time and reflection, however, I have finally come to terms with my regret. THE IDEA may never fully come to fruition, but the show must go on. With oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, Sarah Palin still enjoying inexplicable popularity, and Casey James disturbingly close to winning American Idol, America needs the Shark Tank more than ever. I can no longer neglect my task.

¡Viva la tiburón!