Oh, this is too sweet. John Calipari, the kind of slickster sleeze, the coaching guru who just signed the richest men's coaching contract in NCAA basketball history, has agreed to take the job as coach of the Kentucky Wildcats. My prediction - within 7 years Cal has Kentucky facing some kind of NCAA violations. The man drips with slime. Let me give you the quick overview. He spents 2 years at North Carolina Wilmington, then transfers to Clarion. The beginning of his on the move mentality begins, no committment, no class, no real winning.
He coaches UMASS from 88-96, goes to final four, then leaves them with a scandal in his wake, in order to jump to the NBA for 3 seasons with the Nets. At 3-17 in his third season in NJ he gets fired and crawls back to the NCAA, taking a job with the Memphis tigers.
In Calipari's first nine years as head coach at Memphis, he won 253 games, posted nine consecutive 20-win seasons (including an NCAA record four consecutive 30-win seasons) and earned nine consecutive postseason bids. His 2007–2008 team's 38 victories set a new NCAA Division I Men's Basketball record for most victories in a season.
Sounds really good, right? Good enough for an 8 year, over 31 million dollar contract, with a 2.5 million dollar signing bonus to coach the Kentucky Wildcats. I mean, with those credentials, he is a winner, through and through. Except the primary difference between Cal and previous big time Kentucky coaches like Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith. Cal has a total of 0 championships. 0 Pitino has won a title. Tubby won a title. they never received this kind of money.
So congrats Cal. Lots of money, lots of questionable kids, lots of talent, but no character, no integrity, and no winning the big prize. Ah, the modern American dream!
Some quick thoughts, starting with my perusal of today's paper.
I didn't have to go any further than the first page to see the first example of absurdity. The story was prompted by the recent incident in Passaic county, NJ regarding the 14 year old Clifton girl accused of distributing child pornography, because she posted nude photos of herself on MySpace. So who exactly is she victimizing? Herself - so she should be designated with a Megan's Law label, and be forced to stay away from ..... herself? To be clear, I am not suggesting that 14 year olds should be posting nude pics, nor should they be having sex but guess what? They do, and they are. Should a 14 yr old who has sex with her boyfriend be arrested for statutory rape? Do we lock up both participants if they are under 18, and only one of them if they are older. This is the problem with a reactionary society, and it is the mentality behind everything from Megan's Law, DARE, MADD, Danielle's Law, etc. Of course we as a society want children safe from predators, drunk drivers, inappropriate use of dangerous drugs, but draconian laws and societal crackdowns have never been, nor will they ever be, the true solution.
So further into the paper we come to the Parade section. Basically this is the USA Today equivalent of the local paper. It usually is a nice piece of the paper to head into the lavatory with, as it really doesn't require more than 5-10 minutes to garner the useful portions. This week's was pretty good. The article was about the prison system in the US, and what an absolute mess it is. Here are some amazing numbers: The U.S. has 5% of the world's population yet houses nearly 25% of the world's reported prisoners. (Certainly there are many countries in which the people are not reported, but that can not possible account for the full discrepancy). This doesn't include the more than 5 million people who have left jail but remain under "correctional supervision", ie parole, probation, and other sanctions. This adds up to 1 in every 31 adults in in prison, jail, or supervised release. Price tag for US taxpayers = 68 billion per year. So some of the less enlightened of you (okay, the idiots, but you're reading my words of wisdom, so there is hope for you) are thining hey, I want the criminals, the violent, the dangerous locked up. I'm right there with you pal, but our tale becomes more depressing. Drug offenders, usually harmless users and their so called "connections" (which the police call dealers, because in the black/white world of the ignorant, you either are... or you are not. No nuance, no subtlety, because their puny brains begin to hurt when forced to... think. The pct. of prisoners locked up for drug offenses rose from 10% in 1984 to 33% in 2002. ( Congressional Joint Economic Committe, and yeah, the name is funny if you think about it in this context).
It gets worse. 47.5% of the drug arrest in 2007 were for marijuana. Also, almost 60% of the people in state prisons serving time for a drug offense had no history of violence or on any significant selling activity. 4/5 of the arrests were for possession. 75% of the drug offenders in state prisons were there for nonviolent or purely drug offenses. Is this really something that helps society? (Once again, for the unintelligent out there; the answer is NO!
Furthermore, in a time of economic crisis, this approach is even more dangerous. Legalization, with structured rules, regulation, and taxation would remove this enormous revenue source from the underground, allow for a potentially lucrative revenue stream, and put more people into the productive segments of society, as opposed to someone labeled with the "ex con" status, often pushing them into the underground economy in order to simply make a living.
Oh, and before I get too nuts and climb high on the soapbox, let's be real. Nicotine, big pharma, and alcohol are all are more powerful and damaging to society as a whole than Cheech, Chong, Harold, Kumar, Bill Maher, the Pineapple Express fellas, Cypress Hill, and Willie Nelson put together.
AIG Bush Cheney Donald Rumsfeld Eric Cantor Fees Gettin Fleeced HMO's Idiots Jackasses KKK members Loudmouths Morons Nitwits Owens, Terrell Posade, jorge Q.T. bashers Ramirez, Manny Scarborough, Joe The politicians Ugly people Views of Ignorance Wall St. Journal Xenophobes you Zits
here's an idea to help our faltering economy. Anyone who voted for George W. Bush 1 time has to pay %4 of their gross income every year until the economy is stabilized. After all, Bill Clinton turned over a surplus only 8 years ago. Think about that. 8 years ago dubya was given a country of relative peace with a strong functional economy. If someone was stupid enough to vote for Dubya a second time they have to kick in 8%, 1 per year in office. Votes for Ronald Reagan are also worth 4%, but to be fair only his second term, because even I can't defend the state of the U.S. under Jimmy Carter. So the first vote for Reagan is a pass, even though his approach was the beginning of this supply side economics nonsense. Basically stuff the rich with as much as possible, and to hell with everyone else. A vote for George H.W. is also a pass, because he inherited the problem from Reagan. So if someone voted for Reagans second term and both of Bushes, and then voted for Mccain/Palin, they should pay 16% of gross salary until we are stable. In addition, the so called Red States, states which support neo-cons and believe in small govt., states which want tax cuts for the rich, can no longer receive disproportionate federal funding. It amazes me that the traditional "blue" progressive states pay the bulk of federal taxes, in order to subsidize the booger eating morons in red states who then turn around and want to dictate the terms of the countries cultural/ethical approach to everything.
This is why the Comedian is such a great character in Watchmen. he sees the absurdity of it all.
It's no secret to anyone who reads my blogs or knows me that I am a big fan of comics and graphic novels (yes, they are different ). So it should surprise no one that I took the day off yesterday and sent to see the 10 AM showing of Watchmen, the first showing at the most convenient theater for me. The audience was probably a bit less than half full, but as hoped for, it was a serious audience ready to watch the filmic translation of the best graphic novel of all time.
The bar has been set high, because "comic book" movies or movies inspired by graphic novels and comics have become increasingly well done. In the last few years we've seen V for Vendetta, Sin City, Iron Man, The Hulk, the first 2 Spider-Man films, the first 2 X-Men films, Wanted, and some I've likely forgotten. The feathers in the cap for these films the last few years had to be 300 and The Dark Knight. 300 was a well done and entertainting film directed by Zach Synder, (director of Watchment) and it made a lot of movie for the studio. The Dark Knight was a great film, and amazingly pulled off the rarest of double plays; a great film that also makes huge money. i believe the success of The Dark Knight opened the door for a movie like Watchmen, both in it's ambitious scope, length, tone, rating , and budget. (Granted, we've also had The Spirit,Both Fantastic Four movies, Teenage mutant Ninja Turtles, the third installments of Spider-Man and X-Men, the newest punisher flick, DareDevil and Elektra) but it feels as if Hollywood is really picking up their batting average in their adaptations.
Watchmen the movie is a terrific experience, a great film. If you've read Watchmen you know the task facing the screenwriters was immense. The novel is 12 chapters, with supporting info in the back of each 28 pg chapter, along with things happening on multiple levels , and the book explores issues of political idealogy, vigilantism, what types of personalities would be attacted to the field of vigilantism, quantum physics, love, and so many other themes at the same time. it's an amazing piece3 of work, and no film would ever be able to adequately include everything without a 5-6 hr. film. So the trick was to adapt the 12 chapters into a 3 act structure, cutting material without losing the overall tone and themes of the book. I found the movie to be successful at this.
Just to be clear, this will include some spoilers.
The movie opens with the killing of the perfectly named Comedian. it's a powerful opening, and for those of us who read the book, a great depiction of the panels. The Comedian is one of my favorite characters in the book and film; not quite a nihilist, he reminded me somehow of the character Candide in Voltaire's book. The Comedian sees humanity for what they are, and he thinks the whole thing is one great big fucking joke. one of my favorite lines for him, is when confronted with an angry mob of violent masses in the street, he's asked by his colleague what happened to the American Dream, he replies "You're looking at it"! - Cynicism and gallows humor, the Comedian sees at the absurdity of it all.
The movie uses a brilliant montage to convey a ton of exposition to the viewer, to the tune of bob dylan's The Times They aRe a Changing . (The first of many excellent song choices, and the use of such songs to add a layer to the movie - nice.)
Soon we meet Rorschach, easily the favorite of the majority of watchmen fans I speak to. I recently read a piece from the great web site Aint it Cool News - http://www.aintitcool.com/ in which harry compares the characters of Owl Man and rorschach as the 2 sides of Batman. It makes a lot of sense, more so if you read/watch. Rorschach has zero compromise, for anyone. The rules of right and wrong are to never be compromised on. Ever. He is violent, asocial, and judgemental of all around him, even his "friends" He is Batman lost, without the spark of humanity that Bruce Wayne provides him with. Bruce Wayne has often had some element of family around him, via Robin and Alfred in the beginning to a full Bat family in recent years. (Lucius Fox, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Batgirl, oracle, huntress, the JLA, etc. Rorschach keeps a detailed journal, spies on his friends, and eats cold beans from a can. He stinks. Owl man is different. He is very smart, a detective, less physical, more cerebral. Oh, and while he enjoys being Dan Dreiber, regular citizen, he gets off on being Owl Man the hero. Literally, and we'll leave it there, but let's just say than slapping on spandex and exchanging blows with villians can be quite the kinky turn on for some.
The film moves in what could have been a dizzying or confusing manner yet keeps it all clear. Clear to me since i knew the beats and plot points, so I think it would be clear to others but can't say for sure. The film has flashbacks, and throughout the movie shifts among and between the following: Mars, present time, New mexico, the past . new york in various time periods, from the older heroes in the late 30s through WWII, through the Vietnam War (in Vietnam) to the late 70's, when heroes were outlawed, and only the Comedian (who went to the work for the govt, knocking off third world dictatorships and black ops (check out the sweet shot of Dallas, Texas and JFK!) Meanwhile, Dr. Manhattan, a man who died after exposure to a form of molecular disintegration only to find he was able to reconstitute himself - this effectively creates a God on earth, and is crucial to the piece. Don't want to spend much time on his character, but Billy Crudup plays Dr. Manhattan and it many ways it's one of the tougher roles, because he plays a man who has lost his humanity, and is now losing touch with humanity in general.
This theme of humanity, and human connections, is powerful, and many of the critic reviews I've read seemed to have missed the point entirely. Dan (Owlman) is sorty of lonely, disconnected. He visits an older gentleman who was the original Owlman, and Dan comes fully alive when he begins to spend time with Silk Spectre II, (leading to the first attempt at lovemaking, stymied by Dan's performance issues, issues that are resolved after some superheroing later, in full costume. (One could easily argue, and it's far too lengthy and complex to go into here, that many of these heroes suffer from identity issues. Rorschach screams at one point, "Where's my face" when his mask is pulled off, and he tells the prison psychiatrist that his name is Rorschac, not Walter Kovacs. - Silk Spectre I (played by the awesome Carla Gugino) is clearly bitter, like an old athlete who can no longer play, but misses the attention).
Back to the importance of human connection and humanity, one of the most powerful schenes in both book and novel is when Dr. Manhattan realilzes that human creation is indeed a miracle unto itself, just as amazing as quarks, quantum physics, and other scientific phenomena. This humanizing link is critical.
Even the Comedian has an interesting moment, one in which I will not spoil, but it's clear in the book, a bit less so in the movie.
I realize this a rambling review, but part of the problem is that there is so much cool stuff, so many things to talk about with a project like this, that it is overwhelming. I highly recommend seeing this movie. At the very worst, you will know what others are talking about, and my true suggestion would be to read and see Watchmen, then do it again! I plan to read it yearly because every read rewards you with some new nuance you didn't catch the first time through.
I returned home tonight from work in a perfectly fine mood, happy to be looking at the mid week hump day tomorrow, since it is both comic day and my second to last day of the shortened work week, since I am taking the day off to see Watchmen on Friday.
Little did I know a small kernel of anger was heating up in my belly, slowly warming up and getting ready to pop!
I unnecessarily became quarrelsome with the wife, with me bringing up some older issues, basically unimportant, except for what they obviously represented to me, on a level below the surface, but not far below. I first derisively referred to N.J. GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie as "her boy", and she was irritated. We discussed it and reminded of the fact that he stood as an arbiter of morality and a corruption buster, and he arguably did a good job of that. (There is a case to be made that he went after a disproportionate number of democrats, but it is also fair to say that our state has more democrats in power than republicans) I pointed out that when presented with an opportunity to deliver a monstrous state contract, he just happened to award the job to his boss's firm, the illustrious John Ashcroft presiding. (Oh, we'll come back to him, don't you worry). This is hypocrisy, and hypocrisy angers me more than anything else, because it so often emanates from those in power.
I then bought up an old argument about an event in which Iwanted to verbally engage with a man who worked closely with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, at a time when Bush was going to veto an extension of funding for the SCHIP program designed to provide services to poor children. This kind of callous, "compassionate conservatism" is hypocrisy at its fullest, a "born again" who shows no real understanding of the message of Christ.
Clearly, the last 8 years have left me simmering inside, and I generally do not wallow in the negativity, but the shape of the country is directly causing hardship for me and my loved ones, and I am pissed off. Why the fuck are people so ignorant that they would allow the last 8 years to happen?
Super smart (and oh so humble) I often wonder if heightened intelligence is a blessing or a curse. Recognizing the evil, lies, and corruption that dominate the world, I often retreat into films, comics, sports, and other distractions. Bread and Circuses, baby!! (Don't you just wanna hang out with me now; I must be a barrel of laughs). My blog is where you can read these thoughts, and soon enough you will begin to see, I'm a pretty cool guy. (There's that humility again)