Friday, June 27, 2008

Idiots, Grand Theft Auto, and Newsday

On Tuesday night, a group of six teens in New Hyde Park robbed and beat a man waiting for a bus, armed themselves with blunt instruments found in tool sheds, destroyed cars and vans, attempted to hi-jack a woman in a 2008 BMW, and were arrested by police who responded to a 911 call, all according to today's Newsday.

Teens aged 18, 17, 16, 15, and 14 were on a crime spree; a strong armed wrecking crew. "The teens told detectives they were imitating the 'Grand Theft Auto' video game series where characters steal cars, beat up other characters and commit crimes, authorities said."

This has always made me so mad. If I just got arrested as a fourteen year old, I would blame everybody and anything for why this happened to me. Witchcraft, talking dogs, drugs, alcohol, video games, death rock, cool jazz...ANYTHING. So, one of these idiot kids says "Oh, we were just imitating a video game we play. Is it wrong to mug people and destroy property? Ohhhhhhhhhh I didn't know." Give me a break. Video games had nothing to do with this.

Basic morals and code of ethics start at home with PARENTS and in schools with TEACHERS. If your kid is learning about society from video games and isn't smart enough to tell the difference between reality and entertainment, then there are greater issues going on. I say lock these kids up forever because the world is chock full of IDIOTS. There is no room for six more. Instead of "Inspired by 'Grand Theft' video, 6 teens rob man, try carjacking, smash van with bat, police say" in bold on page 1 it should say "Teens go on crime spree, where are the parents?"

Newsday was praying for a story like this. I feel like MATTHEW CHAYES ( dropped the ball here. Let's stop passing the buck and finding out what's really wrong with these idiot kids? Are you letting you're fourteen year old out at night on a Tuesday? Irresponsible. If I get a response from Mr. Chayes I'll be happy to post it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Matt Cavallaro: Man, Snake, and Mind

I can't think of a ruder or cruder dude. He has been through 45,239 women and you are next. He's a millionare and a WWF champ. He was the 2005 poker player of the year. My advice: Don't turn your back on Cavy.


In the Classroom with Bob Doda

The following is a short essay on the impact of old muckrakers have on the new media. It's for a class so if anyone has any suggestions I'm happy to oblige.

Muckraking and The New Media

It is a journalist’s greatest tool and a politician’s worst nightmare. The term “muckraker” refers to an investigative reporter exposing an injustice that society never would have known about if it wasn’t for that particular story. Some of the most famous muckrakers are Nellie Bly and her reports from inside Blackwell’s Island mental institution and Upton Sinclair’s expose of the impoverished in The Jungle. That spirit of exposing the underbelly of society is arguably more alive today than ever before. Modern day journalists have taken cues and learned many lessons from muckrakers of the past, only it is a more ruthless network.
No matter how caring or clean someone in the spotlight may seem, there is always a skeleton hidden in the closet. This has become a rule of thumb for most 24/7 news outlets. Barack Obama and his family once were members of Reverend Wright’s congregation in his home town of Chicago, Illinois. Months into his campaign trail for the democratic nomination, the various internet videos featuring the Reverend ranting about how America has stomped all of African Americans became a major talking point for all candidates involved. Primarily, the Reverend’s speech has nothing to do with how good a president Mr. Obama would make. But by stirring the pot and by digging into his past, ABC news found and exposed Obama as a possible racist himself with this story in March of 2008.
Muck sells. Muckraking circles the globe before the parties involved has a chance to respond. In Obama’s case, he responded with a forty five minute speech discussing race. His eloquence probably won him more votes than hurt him in the long run. Muckraking can be very costly as well. Dan Rather lost his job at CBS news subsequently following a story about George W. Bush’s military records which turned out to be forged documents. That pursuit to break controversial news and stir the pot backfired and destroyed more than one career. When muckraking was just beginning, the stories exposed harmful aspects of society which caused many policy changes. Today, most muckraking stories are about the defamation of individual’s character with some important exceptions.
The horrific stories and images from inside the Abu Ghraib Prison sent shockwaves through the entire world when a report aired in April of 2004. The war was still in it’s early stages and was not going exactly as planned by our commander and chief. After seeing the American atrocities, the public began to really come out against our war effort in Iraq. The remainder of public nationalism was drained and the Iraqi detainee became a sympathetic figure. Around the world, the image of the United States has been tarnished, possibly forever due to one reporter’s work.
The importance of this type of journalism cannot be underestimated. Muckrakers historically have changed the world and become famous. As long as there are awful people in this world, there will be a “Shame, Shame Shame” segment on the evening news.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Incredible Waste of my Time

What this world needs is more Incredible Hulk movies. Please Hollywood. Please give me another Incredible Hulk movie every two years or I will throw myself off a cliff. I left the movie theater angry...and you would not like me when I'm angry.

I love Edward Norton just as much as the next 18-35 year old. The list looks something like this:

1) American History X
2) Rounders
3) Primal Fear
4) Fight Club
5) 25th Hour

These are all film achievements and blockbusters at the box office. He is very likable in the press. You never hear about him getting DUI's or calls from the IRS. This is the Hollywood poster boy. I guess the opportunity to play a dorky doctor/green monster was too much to pass up for a man who is used to playing somewhat normal white guys.

Bruce Banner finds himself on the run from U.S. Army, making his stay in the slums of Brazil. Just months earlier, he was testing gamma rays on himself which conversely turns him into The Hulk. During his escape from the lab, he puts his lover in the hospital for a few months and makes an enemy in her father who happens to be General Ross, the brains behind finding and capturing Banner. We get all of this information from the opening credits of the movie told in a flashback format which helped the storytelling process. The foundation was built, but then starts to crack.

Norton does all that he can do with this role. His presence on-screen is always captivating but he interjects no levity to his situation. Even Toby Maguire makes you smile here and there, but the way Hulk was written left no room for any laughs. Norton's leading lady Liv Tyler, the damsel in disgust, is awful. I understand that she is not exactly playing Susan B. Anthony here, but her acting is paper thin. I was not buying what she was selling.

The film follows Banner's quest to rid himself of the beast that lives inside of him culminating in a face-off between the Hulk and an Army produced replication in Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth- Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs) in the streets of Harlem, New York. The action sequences display the pinnacle of what can be done on computers nowadays but cannot make up for the boring Bruce Banner and company. Be on the look out for a Robert Downey Jr. as well as Lou Ferrigno (the original Incredible Hulk and still jacked out of his mind) cameo performances.

If you do not mind being dazzled by CGI, then this could be you're movie. If you are tired of save the girl while saving the city while saving their own reputation as a superhero story, then save your money. This has been done before and if history serves us correctly, I'm sure Hollywood will take another crack at making the perfect Incredible Hulk movie. Who knows? Maybe Barry Bonds will be the next big green machine. I give this flick 1.5 out of 5 shines.

Get Smart or Get Out

Connery, Bronson, Cruise, Schwartzeneger…Carrell? Would you believe that this was a movie with no flaws from the beginning to the end? No? Would you believe that it ridiculous, very entertaining but ran a little bit too long? Exactly.

There is no better person on Planet Earth that could replicate Don Adams’ fast wittedness and dweebish persona than Dunder Mifflin’s own, Steve Carrell. On screen, he is physically dwarfed by his co-star Dwayne Johnson, known to many as “The Rock” from the WWE fame. I guess at one point in life, the public has to come to grips with the idea that Dwayne is not an inanimate object. But it was still the funniest name in Hollywood. Keep it as “The Rock” Dwayne!!!! Anne Hathoway plays the sultury Agent 99, the brains behind Maxwell Smart’s bumbling crime solving operations.

The opening credits of the movie mentions how CONTROL, where the TV Maxwell Smart worked as a true guardian of freedom and democracy, was disbanded after the Cold War. Since they mention there was a CONTROL in the past how is there another Maxwell Smart? Is Steve Carrell playing Maxwell Smart Jr.? I was probably the only one thinking along those lines but it still confused me. Sometimes, I have a hard time suspending reality.

Maxwell is the best analyst CONTROL has ever seen. His reports are lengthy and in depth (much to the dismay of his fellow employees who do not bother to read them). Seeking a promotion as a field agent, the Chief played by Alan Arkin, lets Smart know that he too valuable as analyst. Fate steps in as CONTROL is broken into by the evil and unseen genius known as CHAOS. Apparently, his henchmen can reach all aspects of crime from petty theft to a nuclear arms race. After CONTROL is compromised and field agents have been exposed, Maxwell Smart is given his chance becoming Agent 86 and teaming up with love interested and deadly assassin Agent 99.

In the long history of spy films from James Bond to Austin Powers, there is a formula that must be followed.

1) The bad guy. He usually has a limp, groomed facial hair, or a prop of some sort to make him look more interesting. In this case, we have a man by the name of Siegfried who plays the violin. One of his henchmen is famous for his portrayal of Borat’s road trip friend. I could not help but picture him naked on a hotel room bed while watching Get Smart which actually added to the comedic experience.

2) The hero is usually lucky with the ladies and winds up with whomever he chooses.

3) There is usually a great escape scene and somebody usually winds up in a ventalation system.

In many ways, Get Smart is your basic spy tale on a predictable time table but it does succeed in ways Austin Powers never did. The comedy is sudden, neat and does not cornerstone on sex and toilet humor. Steve Carrell is a familiar face and a Hollywood box office cash register for a reason. He take cues from his role as Regional Manager Michael Scott on the smash hit The Office, using that dry and underscored cleverness to craft different jokes. This movie is perfect for a Carrell fan and a nightmare for some who takes themselves to seriously.

Though the movie does execute, it does run somewhat long. Also, the absence of a current Cold War takes away from its potrayal of the television series. This film gets 2.5 shines out of 5.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Smithtown Library, Going Postal, and Rolling Stone

I have never considered myself much of a reader. Actually, I think I may have read a total of twenty fiction books in my career (and I'm counting old school R.L. Stine). If it was up to me I would read A Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Moby Dick, and Robinson Crusoe just because of there cultural and historical impact, not for fun. Well, I guess it is up to me and I chose not to. I choose movies, no... films. In the last three months I have watched:

-Hell's Angels (Howard Hughes war epic)
-The Deer Hunter
-One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
-All The Presidents Men
-Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
-Cool Hand Luke
-The French Connection
-Bridge Over the River Kwai

And it has all been courtesy of the Smithtown Library. Now I know what your thinking. Bob, you need another hobby...and maybe a girlfriend. Maybe so. But I find these flicks, as well as other classics absolutely fascinating. Maybe I should write a screenplay and move to Hollywood like Cosmo Kramer. I think if I wrote a script it would be a comedy drama about the Post Office. It's an untold story what goes on there. A young dude gets a job as a letter carrier and he gets into all types of crazy situations along his route. You know what? That's not a bad idea. It's a good thing nobody is reading this blog. If you are, I would love to here some ideas. I'll give you a nod in the credits.

Tonight, for an assignment in my News Literacy class at Stony Brook, I have to write a letter to an editor of any publication. I have chosen Rolling Stone magazine and an article they wrote about the top 100 guitar songs of all-time. The cover is graced by B.B. King, Jon Mayer, Carlos Santana and others but excluded is Trey Anastasio. Maybe he doesn't deserve the cover but I can still argue that he does. Boom. Assignment done.

I'm off to get started on that. I'll probably wind up posting it tomorrow. Till then... Onward and upward.

WILLIE FIRED!!! and why am I still awake?

Breaking News 3:23 AM ET:
The New York Mets Fire Manager Willie Randolph

Smithtown, LI 3:41am: This is the headline on the The New York Times website. Now if I'm reading this correctly, Willie Randolph has been fired by the New York Metropolitans in the wee hours of the morning, June 17, 2008. Hopefully, I'm the first person in cyber space to give an opinion on the matter.

Willie had it coming. His team had all the talent a coach could ask for. In the shadows of last seasons historic and cataclysmic collapse, Mr. Randolph lost his clubhouse and could never win it back. And to think that the Mets were one strike away from the World Series in 2006. If Carlos Beltran could have worked a base hit or a walk in that last at bat, I could guarantee you Willie would not have been fired today.

Now the real questions will be answered. Will this shake up positively affect a team deep in the muck and mire? Will Willie ever work in New York again? Who is the next head coach of the New York Mets?

As a self admitted untrue Yankee fan, maybe I have no business commenting on this story. But there is something very exciting about knowing a juicy bit of info before the world has a chance to stretch out and have a cup of coffee. I'm jumping back in the sack for now...

Willie Randolph....Close but no cigar.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Happening: What happened??

Leaving the theatre, I found it hard to classify what kind of movie I just saw. Was it a psycological thriller, a 'thinker' drama, or just another straight up creepy film by M. Night Shyamalan. Right from the opening scenes of the movie, I knew I was in for a bumpy ride. Basically, the film is about Planet Earth finally getting even with a human race in a bloody and freaky way.

Apparently, the wind and the trees might have the ability to flip the switch in the human brain breaking down our natural instinct to protect ourselves from harm. Instead, the switch is flipped to "throw yourself under a lawn mower" mode. It makes for an interesting premise but is far too outlandish. Where the movie succeeds in creating a cloud of fear for the audience, the acting fails to ignite the story.

Mark Walhberg has impressed me throughout his movie career. Especially in The Departed where his is the only surviving character in an all-star cast. Playing a middle school science teacher with marital problems, Walhberg resurrects his Dirk Diggler voice from Boogie Nights for some reason. It's sort-of afeminent but not enough to question his sexuality. I just don't understand the choice. His best friend in the film is potrayed by John Lenguizamo, an interesting selection for a supporting actor. I didn't see him coming but he does a well enough job.

Watching people extinguish themselves without any emotion whatsoever is very entertaining, but a group of four people trying to out run wind just makes my head shake. How dumb does Hollywood think I am? How many bad one-liners and cheesy sense-of-urgency scenes is enough?

The idea is interesting and conversation worthy. What would a plant say if it could speak language? If an oak tree could buy an AK-47, would it? I guess there are some questions that will never get answered. To stay safe, I recommend singing "When The Saints Come Marching In" to your front lawn and house plants before going to sleep every night. I give this movie 2 out of 5 shines.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another Day, Another Crane

May 30, 2008

The day started like any other day. In dreamland. If I recall correctly, I was at some banquet surrounded by strangers...and I was on the dais...and for some reason...

Then my Father woke me up:

"Bob, turn on the news. We are going to the city to serve food to cops. Make sure you bring your suit for Denise's wedding. Can you believe another crane collapsed?"

This was a lot to process for being awake for eight and a half seconds. Surely enough, a second crane had collapsed in Manhattan; the second in three months. Have you ever heard of anything this ridiculous? With all the things to consider while living in a concrete jungle like NYC, watching out for falling cranes should not be one of them.

Needless to say, this was going to be a big day. It began at Costco; buying waters, donuts, coffee, paper plates etc. Also, 300 skinless hot dogs with all the fixins. Big Ron and I loaded up his DEA Canteen Truck and I followed him in my burgendy Chevy Blazer '03 full of suits and ties for my cousin's wedding later on that same day.

When we got to the scene of the accident, the police made their presence known to everybody. Sirens everywhere, cops posted on every corner, and the suits with detective badges anxiously awaited their waters and hot dogs. If you don't know by now, New York City detectives aren't only the smartest and hungriest of the police force, but they are also the best dressed.

The journalist in me couldn't help but wonder about the scene that the eyes of the nation has turned to for a brief moment of time. So, I began to walk down the block to take some pictures of the collapse that claimed the life of two men just a few hours earlier. An officer stopped me:

"Excuse me, Can I help you"

"...oh, I'm with the food." I responded.

Feed these people and you can rob banks. Trust me.

The devastation was hard to believe. Somebody is not doing there job. Imagine for a second: You are in your living room enjoying a bowl of honey nut cheerios watching the opening bell of the NYSE, maybe on the phone with your boss laying on a real thick sick voice, when all of a sudden..........craned.

We were stationed in front of a Marriott Hotel which was actually a big plus when it came time to suit up and get going to this wedding in Island Park, Long Island. After finding a men's locker room, I was able to shower, shave, put on these threads, and lace up the leather. Clearly, I clean up better than most.

The bad news was that at the end of this wedding (whenever that was going to be) my pops and I were going to have to come back for this truck. So instead of getting into the sauce with some family members, I was going to keep a clear head and my eyes on the prize for the rest of the day. Five minutes later on our way to the church I was asleep.

And I picked up where my last dream left off. I was on the dais... and somebody gives me an introduction... and the strangers are applauding... and I walk up to the podium.... take out my speech.....

Then we got to the church (the third smallest catholic church on Long Island). Denise is my father's niece. She is an absolute delight, as well. My brother arrived and then my mother, and all of a sudden I was in wedding mode.

It was a pretty nice service. The priest kind of lost me when he compared prayer to email but other than that it was standard. The husband to be hopes the bride shows up, they light a few candles, a couple of rings later they kiss, and we file out row by row.

Being at a wedding makes me think about what mine is going to be like. In my best estimation, it will be to a woman and indoors. That's as far as I usually get. A wedding is whatever the bride wants it to be. The husbands job is to do everything he is told to make that happen.

Off to the reception. It was here that I discovered something that I now am a huge fan of. Martini glass do-it-yourself mashed potatos with all the toppings you would imagine for a treat like that. Mine was graced by sour cream, gravy, and cheddar cheese. I busted out the "shakin, not stirred" James Bond one-liner for a few family members but I wasn't getting that many laughs. Since that day, I'm putting potatos in dixie cups and waffle cones.
The band was legit. They played all the great wedding songs of our time. "Let's Groove Tonight," the Bee Gees catalog, Meatloaf, Journey, and even some traditional Irish tunes. After the gig (which ended at 12:15am) I approached the guys and complemented there ability to play fourteen songs in a row without stopping between songs and to offer one piece of advice.
"You gotta play Pick Up the Pieces by Average White Band."
Surprisingly, I got a positive response and not a glaring look.
Two captain and cokes and one Chilean sea bass later, we were back on the road heading to NYC to pick up that catering truck. It was there waiting for us after serving more than 700 cops during another careless crisis.
Nobody wakes up expecting to get craned. It seems like such a awful way to go. I thought about that on the ride home. This time I let my pops sleep as I cruised down the LIE.