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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

So, this is YouTube?

I finally joined the masses, and registered at YouTube. I’ve discovered some disturbing realities, not the least of which is that finding us on the trail to the existence described in 1984 is a tad startling. Less dramatically, most of the shows I got to know via reruns that have stuck with me apparently did so because of an attractive actress much more so than for the quality of the show.

I’m also ready to admit I have an addictive personality. I’m pretty sure I’ve found all of the Laverne & Shirley clips with a young Cindy Williams to ogle available, but I keep checking back. Go ahead, laugh, but someone took the time to post Betty, Please and a bunch of others. Actually, only a few others, which kind of sucks. And whoever posted this commercial with Williams wasn't doing it to preserve cinematic art.

Of course, I’ve read that YouTube recently wiped out a bunch of copyrighted stuff. Clearly, someone’s about to try to charge us to watch these clips. I understand that. What I don't understand is how this got to where it is.

YouTube invites you to “Broadcast Yourself.” I can see anyone looking to break into any form of showbiz jumping on the offer. Anyone looking to cheaply market a business would seem into it. But unless I'm way off, that's not what let's people lose hours upon hours on YouTube.

There seems to be plenty of video “blogs,” like this from PianoKeySurfer. There's a ton of exhibitionists, like this a guy who is double jointed. Random looks found
cheerleader bloopers, a funny beer commercial from Denmark, and a PMS survival guide.

I'm sure I could learn to post clips. But why the hell would I want to post a clip, even if it's very easy, unless I'm the guy about to charge everybody to watch these clips? I clearly already have it, and the ability to save it on my computer. Why do I care if everyone else sees it?

I mean, is Adam Sandler's Thanksgiving song something important? I'm happy to have easy access to Phil Collins' Sussudio video, but why did someone post it?

Some things seem to give YouTube a potential purpose. Michael Richards losing his mind and his apology is available, and there's at least an argument to be made that this is a way to expose things without merely hoping the media picks it up. While we all no doubt feel better that “Kramer” will get to the “force field” of racism, I wonder if the connection to 1984 this suggests balances out the positive of offering people the ability to broadcast almost anything.

I'm not defending Richards; only a fool would. But let’s say he was caught on a home video making a racist joke, and the owner of the tape doesn’t like him so he posts it on YouTube. Is there anything wrong with that? Someone sees a guy who is momentarily flipping out on a kid, though no more than yelling occurs, and has the camcorder rolling. He posts it. We still good? The kid next door films you having a spat with the spouse in your own backyard, and posts it. Far-fetched? I think so, too, but it could happen.

Someone has already developed YouTube Theatre, mocking the lame videos, and it’s pretty much the best original video I’ve found so far. So maybe YouTube eventually ends up as little more than the local, more accessible, TV station that only cost a few bucks to get amateur shows on the air.

Having discovered YouTube, I’m guessing there’s no turning back. It’s entertainment, and there’s worse things than checking in on old sitcoms. Now and then, the news will no doubt draw me to a video or two. I’ll pass on the video blogs, bad parodies, and even worse burgeoning “talent” convinced they actually have talent in need of discovering. I’ll also keep wondering why non-showbiz hopefuls post, and if we’re merely helping erode our own privacy that we fear the government is the one stealing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Blonde and Bitchin’ — DVD Review

Roseanne Barr may have gone back to the first last name we came to know her by for her Blonde and Bitchin’ HBO special, but little else resembled the adorable housewife that made it big by poking fun at a life trying to make ends meet. In a recent appearance on Ellen she pretty much admitted to getting back into stand-up out of boredom, and it showed.

Opening with about five minutes of sucking up to gay people, Barr seemed like a grandmother trying to be cool. There was just something fake about her. At one point her desire to be liked deteriorated into her screaming “Bush blows” and “I hate the President!” Not exactly savvy political satire.

If that originality wasn’t enough, she threw in a few classics such as the joke on old folks multi-tasking by peeing and standing-up. Then there was the old favorite about the ability of men to read maps because we have no trouble seeing an inch as a mile. I kid you not, I saw her do the exact same joke a week later in Roseanne on Nick-at-Nite.

There were a few highlights, though. Maybe I’m a chauvinist, but her women-can-be-bitches jokes were funny. She also had a solid bit with the audience toward the end.

When all else failed, Barr just sort of dropped in an F-bomb or two . . . or 10. She was even repeating words at times as if the punch lines would be funnier the second time. They weren’t.

Despite an audience that seemed to be paid to clap at the mention of her old show, Barr never approaches the quality of that show. Long before her awkward attire is explained with a nightmarish disrobing that wasn’t R-rated but just not fun to watch, you’ll be screaming, “This sucks!”

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The Departed — Movie Review

When there are chuckles throughout the theater during the climactic scene of a film where three guys are brutally shot to death, something didn’t work. The Departed didn’t work.

A Good Fellas for the new millennium, The Departed pits an undercover cop, Billy Costigan, working the Irish mafia in Boston against a dirty cop, Colin Sullivan, assigned to take down the crime boss he’s actually working with. Eventually, Sullivan is assigned to find the police department leak (which, of course, is him) that keeps helping the mob boss, Frank Costello, steer clear of the investigation. As his attempts to keep that investigation leading away from him fail, bloodshed escalates.

At first my biggest problem with the film was keeping Constigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Sullivan (Matt Damon) straight. As the film deteriorated into a typical mob movie — everybody dies, and the mobsters mostly hang out and extort the locals — it became the least of my problems.

The violence simply became absurd. Call it realistic if you want, but it seemed to be all about shock value. Even that stopped working after a while, leaving at least the audience I was with amused at the ridiculousness of the number of people getting “whacked.”

Damon and DiCaprio were decent, but the big names in this film just couldn’t save it. Jack Nicholson, playing Costello, seemed like a shell of himself. Martin Sheen was solid as Captain Oliver Queenan, but for me it was just plain odd seeing “President Bartlett” tossed off a building. Mark Wahlberg as Sergeant Dignam didn’t do much for me.

I would say the fatal flaw of the film is that there’s never much reason to care about the characters. Constigan was really the only sympathetic figure, but he’s never really enough of a focus to help the film overcome its flaws.

The Departed goes on too long, which is especially cruel with its weak ending. It’s just not that good.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Seeking Signs of Life from PWDs

I think I finally figured out why haven’t followed through much on my attempt to write more about life with a disability on The Casual Critic. Every now and then it occurs to me that the internet should be the ultimate equalizer for people with disabilities, and I troll the web seeking to truly connect with others living life with a disability.

It takes about an hour before I am ready to abandon the subject for another six months or so. I’m never quite sure why, except for the sick feeling I have in my stomach.

I usually start at the New Mobility message board, which reads like someone wrote down dialogue in a high school cafeteria. Then I’ll check for some news on people with disabilities, only to find search results filled with stories on legal issues. Eventually, I’ll find an agency or two looking to help people with disabilities conquer the world, as long as they are paid oodles of money by some government agency “supporting” the “client” who must unquestioningly follow the same prescribed plan that fails time after time.

Recently, I found this ridiculous article in New Mobility that suggests the unemployment rate among people with disabilities “. . . still comes down to, do you really want to work?” Not sure whose ass this moronic author is kissing, but he clearly has no clue about life with a disability. In a 3,400-word story, Jeff Shannon never once brings up prejudiced employers, useless advocates, or a toothless Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 34 years I don’t think the central fact in my life has ever changed. Life with cerebral palsy means never truly being a full member of society. For all the so-called progress made by people with disabilities, the fact is we are still the most discriminated against minority in society. It seems to me that the biggest reason for this is that we are simply too diverse.

People who become disabled view the world differently from those who were born with a disability. Those with speech problems face prejudice others cannot comprehend, while those centered on major health issues have little or no concern for employment issues.

There is no sense of unity, not even a hint of a truly unified “movement” among people with disabilities. Each group has its unique issues, and we spend all of our energy squabbling with each other about useless topics like politically correct speech.

I’ve spent the better part of this year attempting to tie The Stores at Royal Steele to the right charity, garnering barely a nibble of reply. I can’t even get groups to forward my promotional e-mails to their members.

Whining? No. More like wondering. Wondering if we’ll ever have blogs talking about every day life with a disability without getting bogged down in medical or systematic issues. Wondering if the disability community will ever be moved to support each other’s business ventures, artistic efforts, and the like. Wondering if government funded advocates will ever realize that, whatever their primary focus, enhancing the sense of a true disability community should be part of what they do.

Sadly, it seems like I’ll never stop wondering.