Tuesday, October 25, 2016

CineMasochism: The Sandlot Heading Home

It's late October, and there are only a handful of baseball games left before the boys of summer pack it in for the winter. The World Series starts tonight, and it looks to be an exciting conclusion to the season, like a phoenix's final burst of glory before it settles into the ashes. However, not everything casts off it's mortal coil in such spectacular fashion. Sometimes a limp death rattle is all that can be mustered as a soul slips away from this realm. Which brings us to the third installment in The Sandlot Trilogy, The Sandlot Heading Home.

Like Jason Voorhees, you may have thought that the idea of Sandlot sequels died after the previous movie. You would be wrong. A mere two years after The Sandlot 2 comes episode three. There is sense in the quick turnaround. The twelve years between the original and part two did not result in a quality product, so why not cut that production time by one-sixth and churn out another one? Unfortunately(?), David Mickey Evans, writer and director of the first two Sandlots, was not on board for that plan and does not return. However, Chauncey Leopardi, AKA Squints, does. So, that's nice.

The plot for Heading Home is . Luke Perry (yes, Luke Perry) plays Tommy "Santa" Santorelli, a professional baseball player who has forgotten what is truly important in baseball and life: teamwork and love of the game. He even gave himself the nickname Santa, because "watching him play is a gift." Another piece of evidence that Santorelli doesn't play The Right Way is that he moves from team to team chasing large contracts, something that is common in all professional sports. The opening scene is set up as a made for TV career retrospective on Santorelli, which describes him as one of the greatest hitters of all time and shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, but only if his ego doesn't get in the way. Right away, the movie shows a disregard for how baseball actually works. Yes, the baseball writers are the people who vote on Hall of Fame inductees, and they have been known to hold grudges, but being a dick would not keep an all-time great hitter out of the Hall of Fame. Also, Perry's swing during action shots looks like garbage.

 Santorelli, playing for the Dodgers, gets knocked out in a combo batting practice-fireworks freak accident. When he wakes up, he's been transported back in time to when he was a kid and is on his back in the middle of the sandlot. All his old buddies are there: Two Ton, D.P., Timber, Wings, the infield duo with the probably racist nickname of Wok and Roll, and Q, which is short for I.Q. Why you would need to shorten I.Q. is never explained. Also, returning are Benny the Jet, who is still in the prime of his career, and Santorelli's dead mom, before she is diagnosed with cancer (Pathos!). Despite his former coach being younger, his mother not being dead, and the appearance of his childhood friends, Santorelli can't understand why every is treating him like a kid and doesn't understand his references to things that don't exist yet. (What's Hip Hop? eBay?) It takes half of the movie for him to stop voice shock that those around him don't share his knowledge of the future. It's easy to play armchair quarterback, but you can bet your bottom dollar that when I experience head-trauma induced time travel, I'm going to be quick on the uptake.

We find out that the Sandlot is in jeopardy, because the city wants to sell it, and the dad of one of the snobby, well-funded little leaguers wants to buy it. It seems that the willingness of the local government to tolerate an unkempt, ramshackle baseball field is directly linked to the quality of baseball being played on said field. This is where young Santorelli comes in. Under the tutelage of Squints and Benny, the sandlot kids have to play against the fancy little leaguers for the rights to the Sandlot. This allows Santorelli to relive his life, changing his outlook on what's important and correcting things he regrets. But not before being tempted by the dark side, only to switch back to the good guys at the last second. Santorelli leads the team to victory, and, via the butterfly effect, makes his adult life better.

Heading Home sports a surprisingly good soundtrack, mostly on the back of The Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" and Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime." Movies of dubious quality with well known songs baffle me, mostly because I have no concept of the monetary cost to acquire the rights to songs. Any song that I know or enjoy, in my mind, must surely cost $100,000. But how is a direct to video shelling out the cash for Mungo Jerry? IT'S MUNGO JERRY!

How to use The Sandlot Heading Home to be a film snob
You can use it to impress people with your extensive knowledge of Luke Perry and Chris Farley's filmographies.
Key phrases to bandy about
Best Sandlot Sequel.

Sweet lines to help you start The Sandlot Heading Home's cult following
I'll go Tarantino on you so fast, you won't know what hit you.
Tara what?!

Just because I'm husky, doesn't mean I have to play catcher.

Things that bothered me more than they should
The movie uses real MLB team names and uniforms, but, for some reason, the team logos do not appear on the batting helmets. Why not? That would be like making a football movie with real NFL teams and deciding not to put facemasks on the helmets.

The previously mentioned batting practice/fireworks accident happens partly because the fireworks display is being set up in the seats in center field. The fireworks are set up two goofballs who still use lighters and wicks. This is an insane concept. No team would shoot fireworks off where fans are sitting with such rudimentary technology. Unless, in the movie's world, the Dodgers financial woes have spiraled out of control,  driving them to such desperate measures.

Old Benny looks like an off brand Uncle Jesse.

Is it rewatchable?
The Sandlot 2 was hot garbage, so in comparison, yes, Heading Home is rewatchable. However, every time you watch it, you will constantly be aware of the fact that The Sandlot exists, and you should be watching that instead. But it's...fine.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dear Diary: Customers Are Assholes Because America Fetishizes Capitalism

Dear Diary,

Human beings are a mixed bag. We have the capacity for kindness and love beyond measure, but can also be angry, petulant, egotistic little shits actively disregarding the well-being of anyone but ourselves. And for some reason, we seem to occupy the latter mindset much more than the former when we are exchanging money for goods and services.

Anyone who has ever worked in retail or customer service can tell you that customers are selfish pools of garbage water come to life. Heck, anyone who has ever been in a store could tell you that. We've all been out shopping or at a restaurant and seen a fellow consumer of goods and services become unhinged at an inconsequential occurrence that they perceive as an apocalyptic setback.

Hearing "My potato wedges are not seasoned properly. I need to see a manager. I DON'T CARE IF THERE IS SALT AT THE TABLE!" or a diatribe on professionalism and keeping the entire Wiggles CD catalog in stock isn't all that shocking to the average American customer. Something happens to us, even if we don't all have public meltdowns, when shopping doesn't go exactly the way we want. You may not lash out at the Subway employee who gives you mustard instead of honey mustard, but for a split second you feel as though your sandwich is ruined.  Or your mood might a little too affected when you have to settle for your second favorite toothpaste, because Target is out of the cinnamon whitening plaque control.

Part of this is because shopping is awful. You know Amazon and UPS exist, and yet there you are like a sucker dragging your buns around Dillards looking for the lightweight, casual jacket for days that are cool but not COLD that best fits your personality. Every jacket that isn't right is an affront to your sensibilities and the physical manifestation of more time you have to spend in Dillards, while the smell of Cinnabon taunts you. But, you sift through all the chaff until you find the perfect match, and it's a bit of a punch to the gut when you realize that the store has every size except yours.

You did your job. You went to the store with your method of payment, having turned a blind eye to the concept of layering (I just need a slightly heavier fleece jacket, Brenda! LET ME LIVE MY LIFE!), ready to send numbers from your bank account into a corporation's bank account. You might feel like Dillards didn't live up to their end of the capitalist contract. Any setback is going to be amplified by the fact that you're already doing something inherently annoying. You might think, "Well, this was a waste of time." It's fine to think that and be bummed out. It's not fine to yell that at the sales clerk. For two reasons: It's not their fault that the sizes available don't fit you, and they also don't give a shit if you buy anything from that store. They don't get paid more or less depending on your purchase and they don't own the store. Unless the people where you are shopping/eating are actively being mean to you, you as an adult human need to keep your shit together, lest you sound like a child.

Here's a thing that happened to me which involves an adult man, who looked like the offspring of James Taylor and Ebeneezer Scrooge, acting exactly like a child. For a little bit of context, I work in a used bookstore. As a used bookstore, we don't accept returns or exchanges, with rare exceptions. This is pretty common to places that sell used things. The items are as is and sales are final. Yet, we still have people who bring items back (mostly CDs and DVDs, though also books) months later wanting to do an exchange. We don't do this, because that would make us a library minus the public funding.

This gentleman came in wearing a suit and looking very much like an adult man. He explained that he had bought a book several weeks ago, but he already owned it, so he needed to return it. I explained that we don't offer returns just because someone decides they don't want a book anymore. He reiterated that he already owned it. I explained that his situation was not the fault of the store's and all sales are final. The man then stomped his foot on the ground, while exhaling loudly and rolling his eyes at me. When confronted with the consequences of his own shopping mistake, this man acted like I had just told him he couldn't have any ice cream before I tucked him into bed. I understand his frustration. I also get frustrated when I bone myself out of $5, but I don't throw hissyfits at everyone who can't/won't help me unbone myself. But being out and about dropping Lincoln's doesn't make us immune to things not going our way.

Want more evidence that people don't think clearly while shopping? Here's a real conversation I had with a different adult man:

Him: I'll take these items.
Me: Okay. Your total is $8.42.
Him: (hands me his method of payment)
Me: (I enter in the cash received/swipe his credit card or whatever)
Him: (bitterly) You're welcome!
Me: What?
Him: You're welcome! Ridiculous. Where are your manners? Don't even have the courtesy to say thank you when I come in here and buy something.
Me: Thanks?

This man, who can best be described as a little shit, felt that it was the highest insult and impropriety that I didn't thank him the instant he began to pay for a transaction, which we were in the middle of. I was physically still doing the commerce. Never mind that Thanks Yous and Your Welcomes come at the end of an interaction. We aren't posh Brits here. No need to punctuate every physical movement with a My Dear Sir, How Very Kind. When we're done, a single catchall Thank You will suffice. But what the hell am I thanking him for?

Don't get me wrong. When a customer says "Thank you," I usually respond with a "Thank you." But really, "Your welcome" would be fine. I have nothing to thank them for. I am working in a store providing the goods and service. They thank me, because I am doing something for them. This angry, little man did not see it that way. In his mind, he was the one doing for me, by paying for something. I understand that businesses without customers don't last long, but let's not lose sight of the fact that the business is the one doing something for the customer. The grocery store sells butter so we don't have to churn our own. Restaurants prepare and serve food so we don't have to make a sandwich (with ham we didn't have to butcher on bread we didn't have to bake). Taxi drivers take us places so we don't have to drive or even own a car. Businesses and customer service providers are there so customers can avoid doing something, be it harvest our own oranges or die of boredom.

What American capitalism has done to this cranky man who snapped at me, and many other people, is condition them into thinking they are the heroes for spending money. The mindset is "I have to blow my fat paycheck somewhere, who deserves it." This guy wanted to be thanked for letting me even feel his supple currency in my sweaty, hourly wage fingers. He's a shopper. The end all be all. Humans are here to earn money, and he has afforded me that opportunity. I must show the proper reverence.

What he failed to realize is that, one, the single purchase he made isn't going to make or break the store, and two, I don't own the fucking store. I get paid the same whether I have one hundred customers or zero. Yes, zero customers will eventually result in the store closing and a new career path for me, but his purchase didn't get me an extra round at the bar this weekend. I could not care less if he had bought nothing. And the same goes for any big box store employee. Yelp and Facebook is littered with complaints about slights customers feel they suffered at the hands of a cashier, an employee to who didn't respect the fact that someone was spending money. The phrase "I spend good money here" comes to mind. I've had it directed at myself. The hourly employee's paycheck is not affected by one person's purchase (or years of purchases). And one person spending a lot of money doesn't trickle down to me.  The person who does make money off of your loyal patronage probably makes too much money to give a shit about one person's spending habits.

But, we've all been told that, as long as we are spending money, we are always right. We are infallible. We're the goddamned Pope once we enter a store with legal tender. And we aren't. We're just people born into a currency-based economy. The customer is no more right than the hunter-gatherer was. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be treated with respect while you're out shopping, but you don't deserve more respect because you are shopping.



Best result from Capitalism Google image search

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

St. Patrick's Day: A Manifesto

The United States has three major booze holidays: Halloween, Cinco de Mayo, and St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick's Day, because of cultural stereotypes, is the highest of these high BAC holidays. Americans know nothing about St. Patrick's Day other than it is for drinking all day either before, during, or after a parade. Some might trying to spin a yarn about snakes, but they lack any real concrete knowledge. Halloween, we all know, is partially for children and has it's roots in demons roaming the earth for 24 hours. College students molded it in their own image and, thankfully, made it a half-naked kegger. Cinco de Mayo has something to do with Mexico, and people mostly spend it sipping on margaritas in Tex-Mex restaurants with outdoor seating. During Halloween and Cinco de Mayo we all have a few drinks. St. Patrick's Day exists only so gingers desperate to be inherently interesting can wear their kilts and the rest of us can get blitzed.

This is why it's so unfortunate when St. Patrick's Day falls during the middle of the week, when responsibility rears it's ugly head. It's important to acknowledge that St. Paddy's Day requires two days to be done properly. The 17th must be reserved for drinking slowly and steadily. The 18th is for feeling terrible and recovering. It's a 48 hour commitment. When it falls on a Friday, fine, you can take the day off work for a three-day weekend and go to town. You'll even have Sunday as an extra day to replenish your fluids. If it's Saturday, even better. When it is a Thursday, like this year, tough decisions need to be made. Do you take two days off and signal to your co-workers and boss how much you value maintaining a good 14-hour buzz? Or do you take it easy and just have a few after work? The former is best, but both are acceptable.

What is not acceptable. Is celebrating the weekend before or the weekend after. When you see people wearing green Dr. Seuss hats and plastic shamrock baubles on the Saturdays preceding or following the real St. Patrick's Day, know that those people are weak, and they value the appearance of having a good time more than they value the good time. March 17 is a day of binge drinking. A day to be irresponsible. A day to pound Guinness and green Bud Light. How dare anyone defile it by rescheduling it? This is not a dentist's appointment. This isn't Christmas. Something to bump back a few days. If you want to participate, then you need to dig down deep, find the grittiest part of your humanity, and drink on the day that it falls on. If it's a Tuesday, then we're drinking on a goddamn Tuesday. If you can't manage that, then you don't get to participate. Don't worry. You have a full year to get your priorities straight.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dear Diary: A Douche By Any Other Name

Dear Diary,

I've noticed something about people's names. Any dude who has a hoity-toity sounding name is someone I instantly judge. I'm talking about guy whose name makes them sound like the antagonist of an 80's teen comedy. Hunter Chillingsworth. Brooks Haverford. Bryce Harper. Preston Michael Ellsworth. When I hear a name like that, my brain instantly thinks, "Ugh. Really?" As though it's that guy's fault for picking a name that makes him sound like a prep school asshole. It's dumb. It's his parents' fault. I should be thinking, "Ugh. Your parents make poor decisions."

Image result for 80s teen movie villain
Stan Gable shortened his name from Stanley Gable
in an attempt to correct his parents' poor decision.
It's the whole name that creates the effect. Preston, Bradford, and Ellis on their own do not ooze Pretentious Douchebag. The last name tips the scale. Add Du Pont, Montgomery, or Wattsley after those names and you've got yourself a lacrosse loving, ascot wearing punk. For example, Ellis Jackson sounds like a dude I would want to hang out with. Ellis Du Pont sounds like a seventeen-year-old with strong opinions on unions.

I believe that parents have a responsibility to their children to scrutinize any potential name choice. Adopt the mentality of cruel school children and run that name through the ringer. Game out all potentials insults that could derive from it. Are you a heavy-set person considering naming your son Matthew? He might be called Fat Matt. Thinking of the name Ronald? Your son will be accused of being a fast food clown from the ages of 8 to 16. You can still use these names, but you need to be aware of what's coming down the pike and raise a mentally strong child. And definitely don't hang your kid out to dry by making their name sound like a joke to begin with. If you're last name is Candle, then you shouldn't be naming your son Randall. If your last name is Finger, then the name Amanda is not an option. Kids will always go for the low-hanging fruit. Don't hand it to them.

Which brings us back to names that belong to people who are 27th in line for the British crown. These people's parents either didn't realize that putting a ritzy sounding first name with a ritzy sounding last name would make them sound like stuffy assholes or their parents didn't care. But for some reason my instinct is to be wary of Rutherford Farthington and not his parents. It's not his fault. Maybe that instinct comes from the idea that people are shaped by their names. I don't know how true that is, but would-be insightful internet listicles certainly claim that it's true. I do agree that anyone with a unique name is more likely to have a sarcastic sense of humor due to years of hearing people try and be clever about butchering their name. But are people with pretentious sounding names more likely to be pretentious assbags? Maybe. But we still need to resist the urge to judge the name holder. They didn't make the choice. Their only recourse is shortening the name to something better or trying to force a nickname, which as we all know rarely works.

The real moral is, if you name your son Ambrose he's either going to be in an art rock band or really into investment banking.



Friday, February 19, 2016

Rejected Washington DC Satire

What follows are two articles I wrote and submitted to Rock Creek Snark, a very fun Washington, DC theme satirical blog. They let me down gently, but I still wanted to share what I wrote.

Mayor Bowser Eyes Monorail as Alternative to Streetcars

Citing delays and budget setbacks on the H Street Streetcar project, Mayor Muriel Bowser has sought out alternate means of expanding the city’s public transportation system. On Friday, Bowser held an exploratory meeting with Lyle Lanley, a civil engineer who specializes in monorails. “We felt that other options needed to be on the table,” said Bowser, “once it was discovered that the streetcars cannot go around automobiles parked on the tracks.” Bowser went on to emphasize that, though the meeting was positive, it was still for information gathering. “We are still in the exploratory phase. Nothing is set in stone.”

Lanley, however, showed more optimism. Citing successes in North Haverbrook, Springfield, and Brockway, he expressed confidence that the system was ready to handle DC’s heavy public transportation ridership. “Can it serve our nation’s seat of power?” said Lanley, “It will move 10,000 folks per hour.”

The streetcar project many hoped would bring economic growth to the H Street Corridor has become mired in budgetary disputes causing indefinite delays. Bowser admitted that Lanley’s estimate for the cost of a monorail system makes the idea of scrapping the streetcars easier to swallow. She emphasized the need to help the up and coming neighborhood, stating, “H Street continues to grow while being served only by bus lines. The monorail will only magnify that growth.” Lanely echoed the Mayor’s sentiment by adding, “If you want H Street to be a nightlife spot, Monorail’s the best chance you’ve got.”

When asked if he felt WMATA was equipped to handle the monorail’s advanced technology, Lanely replied in the affirmative. He added that he personally ensures that only the most qualified operators are entrusted with the system.

Nevada Man Ditches Family to Find Portrait Gallery’s Adult Wing

Tuesday morning, several docents at the National Portrait Gallery reported encountering a man, who Rock Creek Snark confirmed to be Geoff Baldwin of Henderson, Nevada, asking cryptic questions about an unknown wing of the museum. Andrew Donahey was the first volunteer to report being approached by Baldwin. “He came around the corner kinda speed walking,” said Donahey. “He made a beeline for me, so I just assumed he needed a bathroom.” However, Baldwin asked Donahey a series of vague questions about the museum’s offerings, making reference to “more mature exhibitions.” Donahey, who had just returned from vacation, offered to find another guide, thinking there might have been a new exhibition of which he was unaware. “I flagged down Margaret, but he ran off.”

It became clear that Baldwin had approached other docents prior to the interaction with Donahey. Mike Gilbert, a volunteer who usually works the presidential portrait room, claimed to have seen Baldwin earlier. Gilbert claimed, “He kept walking back and forth. Eventually, I asked if he had been separated from his family.” Baldwin responded that he was visiting alone. He then brought Gilbert to a portrait of former First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland and requested to see “something like this, but more.”

"Foxy" Frances Folsom Cleveland
“I thought he wanted more First Lady portraits,” Gilbert said. “But then he started asking about a back room.” Baldwin then allegedly became frustrated when Gilbert did not respond Baldwin wiggled his eyebrows and inquired about paintings for adults.

It appears that Baldwin’s claims of being alone at the Portrait Gallery were untrue. A woman claiming to be his wife was reported to have visited the information desk asking if he could be paged. Janelle Martin said that she spoke with a Mrs. Baldwin who was searching for her husband, a man who fit Geoff Baldwin’s description. “I told her that, while I couldn’t page him, he had been by the desk asking where the really artsy stuff was, and I had directed him to the contemporary portrait exhibition.”

Gilbert was last seen staring at a painting of Sonia Sotomayor.