Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Harlem Shake: What IS it?

First was the Twist in the 1960’s. Then we got the Macarena in the 1990’s.  The Dougie was popular in recent years and soon after came Gangnam Style which just officially got stale. Why? Because The Harlem Shake is here.
But that begs the question: what IS the Harlem Shake? Aside from being something completely non-productive and slightly amusing- it’s the newest internet video craze. If you are making a video right now in an attempt to be hip, you are too late. There are already hundreds if not thousands of versions out there, and you are late to the online party.

To do the Harlem Shake requires years of practice. By years of practice, I mean you have to be able to have acted like a complete neurotic fool at any given moment. The dance begins in a setting of one’s choosing (locker rooms, class rooms, work places, homes, etc.)  as one person dances with an item on their head ( a mask, helmet, scarf, hat, etc.) to Baauer's “Harlem Shake” while the rest of the people occupying the room carry on in normal, every-day fashion. It starts out as controlled movement to the beat. Then about fifteen seconds in the beat drops and everyone goes from normal to completely ridiculous.

The most notable version of the “Shake” came from Susquehanna University, a Division III school that does have a football program. Eleven players made a video of the new trend in the weight room. Once the school found out about how their student-athletes were using their facilities, all elven were kicked off the team. One player kicked off the team, Logan Skillman, pointed out on Twitter, "There are much worse things that go unpunished at every school every day." He is correct, but I can’t fault the school for acting how they deemed appropriate.

There is no “one way” to dance to it. You just move your body to the beat however you choose. That is the beauty of it: just let loose and have fun. There is no silly hand gesture (I’m looking at you, Psy) and the beat is quite catchy. You don’t need to understand the words. You just….dance like no one is watching.

Some may view this as a regression in society and the killing of many brain cells. Others see it as mindless entertainment that kills a minute at work and just makes you go, “what the-“? Either way, its gained steam and for now is here until something else comes along.

By the time you read this, the trend will have already gotten on your nerves and stale, since EVERYONE is doing it. That’s how we treat trends these days: we milk them out really fast and then after a week we don’t want to even hear a word about them. Today it’s the Harlem Shake, and tomorrow it will be something far more - well for lack of a better word, “idiotic”. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, though. 


Sunday, February 17, 2013

NBA All Star Weekend: Room for Improvement

The NBA had their All-Star festivities in Houston this past weekend. They are spread over three nights: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. While it grabs the attention of loyal NBA fans, it still fails to tap into the older generations who wrote it off because they are all "spoiled superstars who put money first."

All-Star Weekend is when the League aims to grab the mainstream attention and prove why it's the best professional all star spectacle in sports. The problem is, the NBA seems to rest on its laurels and become complacent with this.

David Stern is a notorious "know-it-all". He's perceived as arrogant and out of touch, and looks out for the league's best interests even when it goes against rational thinking (see Stern Vetoes CP3 Trade, or Stern's Absurd Fine of the Spurs). I cannot speak for everyone, but I can only agree with these sentiments. While he's a very intelligent man and business savvy, he always thinks he's the smartest man in the room, and that cockiness can impede progress in certain areas.

Stern's two missions the last few years have been:

1. Make the game a worldwide phenomenon (like soccer).
2. Reside as commish for exactly 30 years to the day, and then let Adam Silver take over.

While the NBA's foreign markets were initially grown from the 1992 Dream Team's popularity, it will never supersede soccer as THE world's sport. There's so much more pride involved, typically because they play internationally.  No, it does not count when teams go into Canada and play the Toronto Raptors. At least the NBA doesn't call their championship series the "World Series." C'mon, MLB. That's an outright lie.

The second goal is a complete ego thing. Athletes get ragged on for staying too long past their prime; league commissioners should be held to that same standard. Stern's best years are behind him, yet he trudges on for the sake of  completing thirty years. Even Brett Favre thinks more sensibly than that. Let Silver take over already- no one wants to deal with you for another year, David. Step aside and let the league develop and evolve without you. Who knows- maybe in February 2014, Stern will change his mind and decide he wants to go for forty years.

Stern's biggest accomplishment has been growing the All-Star game from just a single game into a whole weekend filled with shoot-out, three-point and dunk competitions, musical acts and the main event: Sunday's All-Star Game. He'll gladly even point this out to you that yes, it was and still is his "baby."

"It used to be a one-day get together, and it's now not only a weekend, I mean it goes way beyond that, when you look at the host city and all the preparation that takes place," said longtime Phoenix Suns owner and executive Jerry Colangelo.

Adam Silver has already began to outline how he will grow the game his way.

 "We've discussed playing internationally All-Star games, I'm not sure if it will work logistically, but it's something we'll continue to study," Silver said. "We've looked at other neutral cities. We've looked at refreshing All-Star Saturday night and other innovative events for the weekend, and I think we'll continue to do that, the same way we have under David's leadership."

While this is all well and good, we live in there here and now. And at the moment, I'll tell you why the weekend is so popular and what can be done to make it better.

1. Friday's Rising Stars Game

The annual freshman versus sophomores game only continues to get better every year, showcasing the future of the league. This year it was a mix on both teams of freshman  and sophs, chosen by Shaqille O'Neal and Charles Barkley. Standouts this year included Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, (32 points) and DionWaiters (23 points), Denver's Kenneth Faried (40 points) and Portland's potential rookie of the year, Damian Lillard (18 points). The final score saw Team Chuck beat Team Shaq, 163-135. This is always a fun way to kick off the weekend, and the drafting of teams this year was a great touch. This is the first of two things I would not change about the festivities.

2. Shooting Stars/Skills Challenge/Three Point Contest/Dunk Contest

This year the twist to all of these events is that they were tied together as being East versus West. This might have initially sounded great on paper to league execs, but to me I viewed it as an exercise in futility, and completely distracting of the individual efforts. Basketball is played as a team sport, and when a player looks out for stats or their own performance, it is frowned upon. But in these contests (aside from the Shooting Stars one), it is their chance to shine by themselves. 

For instance, When the Eastern conference group of players (WNBA player Swin Cash, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, and former Hawk Dominique Wilkins) won the Shooting Stars contest, the Eastern Conference gained 10 total points. When Portland's Damian Lillard won the Skills Challenge, the Western Conference gained 20 points. When an Eastern Conference player ( Kyrie Irving) won the three-point shootout, they gained 30 total points. The Dunk contest champ (Terrance Ross) grabbed more points for the East.

While not calculus or even Algebra-level kinds of numbers here, it was just a waste of graphics on the screen and  in my opinion dragged down the night as a whole.

Once I got  past this and watched the Shooting Stars competition, I realized how much I loathed it. It's just a layup, a free throw, a baseline jumper, a straight-away three-pointer and another off to one side three followed by a half court shot. The first 5 shots should be made rather quickly since they are basic and uncontested. (You'd be surprised at how badly groups of players can do at that part.) THEN comes the half court shot. It all boils down to luck, after so many heaves are tossed up. There is a two minute time limit, sort of a mercy thing for down-on-their-luck groups. It basically devolves into Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith going "This guy is going to make it. No, THIS guy is going to make it!  I'm calling it- THIS player is going to make the shot." It;s not "calling it" if you say   it every time. This competition is a waste of time and should be completely eliminated. No one ever remembers who won, or cares.

Up next is the Skills Challenge. It's fun to watch, as long as the players aren't "too cool for school" like Reggie Miller says. Those kinds of players half-ass their effort, and it shows. Making this a group competition really ruined it. Each point guard should have been trying to best each other, not compete together. It's fun to watch them show off their accuracy and speed, as well as impressive.

The Three-point shoot out changes the temperature in the building. Now the real fun starts. Again, these respective conference players shouldn't be playing for their conference, but the name on the back of their damn jersey. Back in the day, this included up to eight players, and felt like a winner was crowned at the end. In recent years, only four took part in it, and there was no feeling of "They really shot well and won it". This year, six joined the fray: Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Steve Novak for the East. For the West, Matt Bonner, Stephen Curry and Ryan Anderson.

While it went from four to six, the team thing once again reared its ugly head. Matt Bonner has thirty-seven threes on the year. Paul George's involvement in this was even questioned by the announcers. Seriously, the dude was in last year's dunk contest. The strength of his game is taking you off the dribble.  He is TENTH in the league in threes made. Irving won this- and he only has eighty-two on the season. His game, like George's, is off the dribble penetration. If you are going to continue to have this contest, NBA- put the guys in it who, I don't know...lead the damn league in threes.

And finally, our main event- the Dunk Contest. What  was once put on the map by the likes of Michael Jordan, Daryl Dawkins, Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb was then revitalized by Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Nate Robinson, Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin. And in 2013 your field was Jeremy Evans, James White, Gerald Green, Terrence Ross, Kenneth Faried and Eric Bledsoe.

If you are not a die hard NBA fan and just said "Who?" six times, well that proves my point. What was once powered by creativity, athleticism and star power is now replaced by unoriginality, too many bad tries and....athleticism. What's missing? STAR POWER. CoughLeBronJamesCough.

James promised for years he'd enter, but never did. Now he cites it is a younger man's event and he is "too old". Great cop out, champ. He was also afraid he's get injured. Hold on let met go research dunk contest injuries. Ok I'm back. Yep, that's right.....ZERO, EVER. NO, REALLY- CLICK HERE.

A part of what made the dunk contest so interesting and intriguing is we got used to the bar being set even higher each time, that we expected it to get better and better. Kind of like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa conditioning us to expect more home runs every year. And then when there's a drop off from 60 something home runs to 40 something, we go, "wait a minute, why are we going backwards?" 

Simple. We have been desensitized to the difficulty of it all. Home runs are not easy to do (with or without steroids). Superhuman, gravity-defying dunks are no small task, no matter how easy Jordan, Dominique and Vince made them look. Think of violence before you saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or seven Saws.  Now a finger cut off makes you go, "meh- is that it?"

It's great these young guys might make a name for themselves for thirty seconds on YouTube and then for fifteen minutes at the contest, but does any casual fan know who Jeremy Evans is? No. Yes, he dunked over a picture of himself doing that dunk, which I was told he painted himself. But  how does that compare to Jordan's rock-the-cradle or Spud Webb defying the odds? It doesn't. It's all show with a barely-above-average dunk underneath.

 The one recurrent theme in recent years' contests is the fact that the dunkers rarely get it right the first time. They show their cards, the audience sees it, and then it takes them three or four more tries until they get it right, if they ever do in a minute and a half. They rarely have a plan B dunk, and if they do- its significantly lamer. Sometimes their dunks are so hyped, they cannot possibly live up to it. Like Gerald Green.

His dunk consisted of cutting down the net to avoid getting caught in it, then dunking the ball, catching it in the opposite hand and dunking it again before touching the ground. Very unique, but the time it took to cut the net, miss all of his chances, and re-attach a new net set a new record for "when will this be over?" in the minds of many a fan. Oh, and of course he made it after it was his turn, while the pressure was off. #Lame.

Then there was you, James "Flight" White. His name should be changed to James "Out of Breath Wannabe Track Star" White. Every single dunk he ever does involves him running from one end of the court from the free-throw line. And guess what? He NEVER makes it on the first try. He runs back and forth while  everyone waits for it to be over.

To his credit, Terrence Ross threw down some nasty, creative dunks. Props to him- he earned it. 

The simple solution to the dunk contest? Add stars, mix with creative dunks and have them get it right the first time. They have practiced enough, therefore they should be able to do so in front of thousands of people.

All-Star Game

 Then Sunday we had the All-Star Game. It was advertised as starting at 8 pm, but tipped off at 8:52. Please, NBA, if you are going to do that- just advertise the game to begin at 9 pm. All of the over the top intros with rising platforms and smoke with music artists in between were unbelievably unnecessary and a complete waste of time. Just start the damn game.

The game began, and in a low scoring first quarter, I saw less defense than all three Kardashians teaching a room full of athletes how to do Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. Players whizzed by "defender"s' outstretched arms for easy buckets, like the "defender" was trying to play tag. The only time defensive plays were made were because a pass was thrown in an errant fashion. You had your fun plays for the first three quarters, and the game tightens up in the fourth as always. It was a good close game (West 143, East 138) but a little more effort could be put forth by everyone involved. Chris Paul won the MVP with 20 points and 15 assists. No word on how many assists included asterisks to lack of defense.

There you have it. Another All-Star weekend down, and in my eyes a whole lot of opportunity for a quality effort out the window. While certain aspects of it are a success (Rising Stars, Skills Challenge), others are outright failures (Shooting Stars, 2013 Points System), and the rest just need to be tweaked (Dunk/Three Point).

Let's get it right next year, Adam.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Move over, Sweet Brown. Ain’t nobody got time for you anymore because hatchet-wielding Kai is here. This week, the video has become one of the more popular ones due to the intense nature of the sequence of events that led to Kai’s new fame. We all know what this means.

It’s time for a video breakdown.

First notice the title- “Homeless Hitchhiker (Kai) Saves Woman From Jesus Attack With Hatchet”.

Reading this without any context could make one believe that the Son of God has returned after thousands of years of dormancy, not to bring us all to judgment but to attack a single woman with a bear hug. Yeah, definitely sounds like W.J.W.D.

0:04: Kai is asked by the reporter to discuss what happened to which he replies, “What do you want to talk about?” with a shrug.

Oh I don’t know Kai- how about your sports prognostication skills? When will the Cubs win the pennant? What did you think of the Super Bowl? Who does your hair? Wait no, let’s try talking about that whole “Guy who thought he was Jesus trying to run over a man, then getting out and attacking a woman leading to you killing him with a conveniently- placed hatchet.”

0:18: “I want to say no matter what you done, you deserve respect. Even if you make mistakes, you loveable. And it doesn’t matter your looks, age , size, skills or anything- you’re worthwhile.”

Well we have already gotten to the moral of the story, Kai. Thank you and good night. Notice I typed it just as he said it. Why? Kai ain’t got no time for correct grammar. He’s the hatchet-wielding anti-Christ.

0:25-1:09: He goes on to curse and explain a story of this Jesus fellow being thirty years old and having relations with a fourteen year old girl, and then sets us up for the initial collision between the Jesus fellow’s car and the victim.

1:07: “Freight train riders know this. If you get pinned between something, do not (bleeping) move.”

Yea, wannabe freight train riders. You best edjumacate yourself. Don’t move if a car pins you- you know, while you are riding a freight train.

1:38: After setting the scene, he describes his reaction to the Jesus fellow’s actions, “I ran up behind him and SMASH! SMASH! SMASSSSSSH! Yeaaa. (Bleep) his cool. That guy ain’t. (Bleeeeep).”  

Well ok then.

2:01: “How’d you get in his car?”- Reporter bro.

Excuse me, Reporter bro- Kai is a HITCHHIKER. Next.
“People say don’t hitchhike. Good thing I was hitchhiking.”

Parents, never deter your children from this fruitful activity.

2:22: And your name?

“Kai. K-A-I. Straight outta dogtown.”

Last name?

“Naw, bro. I don’t have anything.”

Yeah that’s right. They took his house, his car, his family and his last name. Wait until 2020 when he is the “Artist Formerly Known as Kai.”

2:30: After asked his age, he replies “I can’t call it.”

It’s not a judgment, Kai. It’s a number, as in years you have been alive. Unless he believes his age possesses a cell phone and has blocked Kai’s number. Or maybe they took his age, too. He’ll never be able to see PG-13 movies, or legally smoke and drink. Truly tragic.

2:39: “So he’s dead. Good.”

The most peaceful killer since….well, never. Kai won’t be losing any sleep on the park bench tonight.

2:53: When asked if he had ever experienced anything like that before, he replies, “Well this one time…”

Normally after you are involved in an event which involves a man claiming to be Jesus running down an innocent man and attacking a woman, then killing the man claiming to be Jesus, and someone asks you about a situation similar to that, you would go, “Nope, never I have I ever seen anything as crazy  as this.” But you are NOT Kai. Only someone with the life experiences of Kai could nonchalantly and without hesitation bring up a similar experience. What matters is not what he said after, but the fact he had an immediate answer at all. Without flinching. At all.

By the way, this second story ends with Kai smashing a woman-abusing man. EVERY story ends with Kai smashing a woman-abusing man. You know what happens at the end of Fifty Shades of Grey? Kai walks in and attacks whichever guy is having sex by smashing him in the head.

4:10: After a longwinded explanation of what happened after said headsmash, Kai begins to tell us what happened post-headsmash.

“Somebody said he was like masturbating in front of this school.”

Who wrote this story? A perverted Michael Bay?  It’s twists and turns are more erratic than a hormonal pregnant female. OF COURSE Jesus would get up and walk in front of a school and begin pleasuring himself. That’s W.J.W.D. if attacked with a hatchet after running over a man and attacking a woman.

4:54: “It’s like the biggest wave I have ever ridden in my life.”
One would begin to think of this in the figurative sense. But Kai does not live in a figurative or literal way. For all we know, he might have seriously thought he was surfing the whole time while being cheered on.

5:00: “What’s next for you, Kai?”

“Hopefully some surfing.” – Kai

After the end of the Super Bowl, the winning quarterback is always asked this question, to which he replies, “Disney World!” This is Kai’s Super Bowl, and his hatchet skills came in first overall at the Hitchhiking combine.  Hitchhikers don’t do Disneyland, Reporter bro. They surf.

5:09: “Would you do it again?”

“If someone gave me a time machine…” –Kai

Stop. Right. There. Someone give this man a time machine. Kai might have prevented both World Wars, Vietnam, the Bubonic plague, 9/11 had he gone back in time. Heck, maybe dinosaurs would still be around.

5:40: “I don’t have any family. As far as I’m concerned, I’m already dead.”

Of course you don’t , Kai. You just appeared on the earth one day.  You are most certainly not dead, either. You are fully alive, and now a Youtube legend. Congratulations. Now go surf.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Following Blog is about...The Following

Fox debuted its newest criminal drama this past January with the small screen return of Kevin Bacon playing former FBI agent Ryan Hardy. That originally peaked my interest, because Kevin Bacon is well....Kevin Bacon. Six degrees from awesome at any given time. Hardy was known for capturing Joe Carroll, a serial killer and is called upon again.

The first thing you notice is how graphic it is, which might turn off some viewers. After seven Saw movies, I have become desensitized to that aspect, but intrigued because of the cerebral nature of the show. It is not just random murders for the sake of killing, but a plan devised by former college professor Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy).

Carroll is passionate about literature, most specifically anything to do with Edgar Allen Poe. His accent adds to his charm as he comes across very intelligent. It is all a nice cover to hide the menacing killer he really is. Very quickly in the first episode he shows how cunning, manipulating and devious he can be. His charm helps him brainwash vulnerable people from all walks of life and persuade them to do his bidding. Quickly authorities begin to suspect he has created  a cult of sorts. The "bidding" being killing in the name of vengeance, art and to add "chapters" to Carroll's master plan, or "story".

While some critics slammed the show  after one episode, I use my suspension of disbelief to enjoy it. Yes parts of the show seem far-fetched, but  its television. It's something different and fun, a departure from all of those cookie-cutter cop shows out there. Kevin Bacon isn't operating by the law; he is outside it. Sound familiar? If there's one thing in movies, television and video games that gets me, it's going rogue. No, not this kind. And I'm definitely not referring to this kind, either. Acting outside the badge in a shade of grey makes for so many more interesting dynamics. Whether it's Jack Bauer, Batman, either assassin in Assassin's Creed,  the one thing they all have going for them is being total badasses. Granted, Bacon's character isn't physically impressive- but it makes him able to be related to. 

After three episodes, I am noticing one thing, though. Anytime a character gets close to another and there is a hint of tension, one of them pulls a knife on the other. Everyone on that show should be looking down at the hands of the other person at all times. I don't care if it's their grandmother, or a priest- LOOK AT THEIR HANDS.....OR YOU WILL BE SLICED. Case in point- the latest episode involves two kidnappers of Carroll's son (used as leverage), who have been at odds at times during the run from the law. He goes into talk to her and make peace, as she you know...has a large knife in her hands. I can't remember the dialogue, but it went something like this:

"Hey babe, we cool?" - Kidnapper Bro

Babe smiles, "Yea we are cool."

Kidnapper Bro gets closer, "So we should hug it out? Wait, do you hug with a large knife all the time? Must be awkward at family reunions. Well I'm sure you won't you know, stab me with it."

She gets closer to him and slices his arm to send a message, "Don't get soft on me, bro."

"You bitch!" - Kidnapper Bro

So to review: if ever you are a character on "The Following" and you are about to embrace via handshake or hug, please look at the other person's hands first. Then once you have done that, check their third hand behind their back as well.

So far from  the December promotional advertisements and three episodes, The Following has managed to peak my interest, grab my attention and  hold on to it. Every twist and turn keeps you on the edge of your seat, and those who call it "predictable" like they are some all-knowing oracle of television are simply not enjoying it. So I will continue to follow Kevin Bacon on his quest for justice, one mind-game at a time.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Warm Bodies: Plenty of Heart..and Half Eaten Brains

This past Friday marked the premiere of the latest zombie movie, Warm Bodies. Just when you thought you would be sick of another zombie/post-apocalyptic film, director Jonathon Levine manages to put a twist on it and putting it in the pantheon of classic zombie films such as Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later.

Every single movie that included zombies ever made had it from essentially one point of view: the remaining humans, desperate to live and always on the run. Levine flips the genre on its head this time around, giving you the story from the main point of view being  R's, a zombie played by newcomer Nicholas Hoult. As he walks around he laments about his limitations in thinking, wishing he knew how to communicate more efficiently with the other mindless zombies while offering plenty of hilarious thoughts along the way. Another way he tries to make up for his lack of memories is by imagining what life used to be like. Bodies does not rehash the whole "how it happened" start, as by this point that is not relevant to how the movie progresses. While some felt that a movie like The Amazing Spiderman was hurt by the repetitive nature of re-telling a story that everyone knew, Bodies is better for not doing the same.

R's  name is derived from only being able to get the "r" sound out when asked his name by Julie, played by the all-American-looking Teresa Palmer. R shows compassion for Julie in the beginning of the movie, saving her from a pending grizzly death via zombie eating frenzy. That evolves into a relationship with an interesting dynamic: a pale, scarred walking corpse who lacks the ability to communicate with a pretty, tan and athletic-looking blonde who can speak and think perfectly well.

We later find out through the mind of R that there are certain consequences in this movie. The first being that if you eat  a dead humans brain, they die without  a chance to be part of the living dead. The flip side of this, though, is that a zombie can experience that person's memories, something zombies are unable to do themselves.  Another reality that the living dead face is the fact that they can never sleep. Sleeping is for humans who need rest to live. If you are dead, of course you don't need it.

I must give Hoult a lot of praise for his portrayal of R. I would imagine it took a lot of restraint to not just start talking normal out of habit instead of slow, inaudible grunts with the occasional word or two pieced together. He managed to use his body language, eye movements and limited speech to get his point across. Sometimes less can be more.

Along the way, Julie begins to become more attached to R like she never thought she would be able to. She sees his general innocence and begins to become sympathetic, wanting to understand how he thinks the way he does. This becomes problematic later in the movie as her dad, (played by the always awesome John Malkovich) is the leader of the surviving humans who live in a camp behind a large man made wall to separate them from the flesh eaters. The movie's plot progression and character development are excellent as they seem to happen very naturally and don't require a lot of thinking to get their point across.

Another strong point to Bodies is its sound track. Whether songs are used to reinforce irony (when Julie and her friend put make-up on R to the sound of "Pretty Woman") or just simply to engage the viewer (M-83's "Midnight City" while R takes his first shower in years), it helps make the movie seem all the more lively.

I came into this movie expecting to see a generally funny comedy that would entertain me. I left very surprised in how much this movie overachieved. It never dragged on (one hour and thirty-seven minutes), and every scene felt crucial to the evolution of the film and the genre as a whole. While Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later had uber-serious takes on a possible epidemic and others such as Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead were focused on comedy, Warm Bodies manages to balance both ends of the spectrum while changing the genre. I thought we were nearing the end of anything remotely original in zombie movies, but I was mistaken. Levine and his crew have carved their own niche in the living dead film market, and I'm all aboard. Go see this, it'll be well worth your time and money.

Final Verdict: A