Saturday, July 17, 2010

Close Them Up?

As a person living in Minnesota, a state that prides itself as more progressive than most, this is quite shocking to me.

I will wait to reserve judgement until more is said...but still....

Friday, July 16, 2010

Old Guard

Can Someone Please Explain Inception to Me? | The New York Observer

Look, I can make this really easy.

My mother used to say, "If you don't understand what's going on, don't comment on it."

She used to say that to my father all the time. Rex Reed needs to heed this advice. If you don't understand or like the film, that's fine, but to critique a film not based on the artistic aspects but instead say, "I don't understand the movie, therefore it is bad," is lazy.

This is almost as ill-conceived a commentary as Roger Ebert's piece on video games.

However, both of these men show something important about the 21st century: Critics are no longer really necessary or appreciated. There was a time when Roger Ebert's words on a film could make it or break it. A time when Rex Reed was the authority on film. A time when we really cared what Owen Gleiberman had to say about a film.

Now, however, the in-depth ideas of the artistic cinema are dead to the audience. The modern audience wants the Facebook status or Tweet about the film. Instead of an in-depth look at how Eclipse makes the world look fresh and new as though Lewis and Clark had just discovered it (thanks, Roger Ebert), the people who go to the movie theatre want:

Film is worth the time, RPatz hot, TLaut hotter!

If you ask the main theatre going audience with money (the 18-34 year olds), they don't read the lengthy reviews anymore. No, they look and see what their friends say. Just recently one of the recent grads of the high school I work at said this about Despicable Me:
"Awesome. Minions are so cute. "It's so fluffy!" Go see this now."
I saw this and thought, "What kind of review is that?" Yet, several people went to see the film solely based upon what she said.

Soon all reviews of video games, films, books, etc will have to be able to fit into 140 characters. It saddens me to see that all of the wonders of the world now have to be boiled down to quick snippets, but it also means that everyone truly will become a critic.

And if you don't like what I'm saying here...write about it...politely.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

God Don't Smite the Nerds, Foo!

Via God loves nerds.

Without nerds, geeks, and dweebs, who would pray to God?

Without nerds, who would come up with all of those stories based upon the story of Jesus (here's a hint: Superman is a Jesus figure...sssshhhhhh).

Come on. Get working on real issues. You know like ruining military funerals and hating all gay people for being happy.


The Little Things (Leab and 2.0)

You can have the worst day in the world, but if you remember the whimsy of childhood and what makes things fun... it no longer matters.

My children have great senses of humor which makes my life that much easier.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Boss Is Out

George Steinbrenner died today, and even though I am a Mets fan, I actually found Steinbrenner fascinating (and a major part of New York culture). Yes, this is a man who created the free agency issues of today (so if you're a Pirates hate him), who tried to convince the city that a new Yankees ballpark at Ground Zero would be best of the city, and who didn't like Dave Winfield so much that he hired a guy to smear him...and got banned from baseball for life (or three years), but he did do good things as well.

He created a way of life for the New York Yankees. They had to dress well and look professional. This meant no long hair or beards. He brought them back from the brink of nothingness after they had been so great.

Yes, he was a tough son-of-a-gun, but he also wanted to win...and to win, you have to be tough.

No one really remembers, however, that Steinbrenner had a sense of humor and pretty good heart.

For example, he kept bringing Billy Martin back. Yes, he fired him, but he kept him on the payroll and kept bringing him back. And you could tell they had somewhat of a fondness for each other as was evident from this commercial:

And this extended to other players as well. If you listen to the different pundits out there, you'll hear about how Steinbrenner kept fired staff members on payroll. You'll hear how he helped out kids in Tampa who needed help going to school or needed lights for their baseball fields. This leads to my George Steinbrenner story. Mind you, much of this was relayed to me by my parents.

In the summer of 1986 (the year the New York Mets won the World Series), my parents had setup a house in a small town in Northwestern Connecticut. The town sold raffle tickets to certain items to raise money (sort of like how many Minnesota towns sell pull-tabs to pay for things like Whiz Bang or Duk Duk Days). I, being a charming and precocious child, was drafted to sell said tickets at a carnival held near the Congregational Church. With a sandwich board and a reel of tickets, I set out to charm as many of the people as I could. There was also a prize for the top seller ( I don't remember what it was, and I didn't win as I didn't have a bajillion family members to sell my tickets to like the other kids).

I was focused, and I wanted to win. I spied a group of older men who all looked to have money and figured I could get them to buy from me...but I wasn't sure who they were. I found my mother and asked her to tell me quickly. "That balding man," she told me, "is Mayor Ed Koch. I'm not sure who's with him."

So, I marched up to Mayor Ed Koch in the circle of these men and said, "You are Mayor Ed Koch, and I am Marcus Leab, and YOU are going to buy some raffle tickets from me." The Mayor of New York looked amused. Here was a kid telling the mayor of the greatest city on Earth what to do. And to his credit, Mayor Koch bought ten dollars worth of raffle tickets off of me. Once our transaction was completed, I started working on the rest of the men in his circle. Almost everyone said no, but I started talking to they guy closest to me.

"Please," I said, "do it for this town. There's so much history here...."
"Sorry, kid, but that's a nice try," he responded.
"But did you see Mayor Koch? He bought some."
This would continue for another minute before Mayor Koch would turn to the man and say:
"Come on, George. Help the kid out. Maybe he's a Yankees fan."
At that, George Steinbrenner turned to me and said, "Kid, what's your name?"
"Marcus," I said.
"Well, Marcus, you're quite good at this," he said. "If you stay out of trouble, you might have a future as a salesman. I'll match the Mayor's purchase and take ten."
I started to pull the tickets off the reel for him. Then he said, "I'll tell you what. Give me ten more than the mayor." Then he smiled.
As he and the Mayor walked off, Mayor Koch said, "See George...I told you you had a heart."

I sold George Steinbrenner those twenty tickets. He never complained, and he was never rude to me (unlike Dick Ebersol, who told me not only to go away, but called me a parasite...but that's another story). He didn't have to buy those tickets, but he did because he wanted to help a kid out.

Of course, as good of a guy as he was, he was shrewd. Steinbrenner is probably up in Heaven now trying to replace God. Then he'll install Thurmon Munson as head angel, force Jesus to get a haircut ("No long-haired hippies on my team," he'll say), and then trade Billy Martin to Hell for Adolph Hitler and a soul to be named later. When asked why Hitler, Steinbrenner will say, "Because I needed a leader...regardless of his past."


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Any Way the Wind Blows

Diving horses anyone?

Where Do Muppets Come From?

In case you thought it.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Fun never looked so...empty.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Eduardo's Insight

"Ten years, "he muttered as he threw the switch. The lights near the tiny helicopters flashed red as the machine roared to life. Eduardo began the speech he had learned from his cousin and had said so many times over many summers.

"Hands are to be kept in at all times, wait until the ride comes to a complete stop to get out, and please, kids, don't puke on the ride. Now have FUN!"

With that, his hands moved over the controls as they had done thousands of times before and clicked the buttons. Laughter, screams, and gasps were his currency...along with the tickets the children gave him, and sure enough the little girl in front of him gasped loudly as the helicopters began to spin. As the helicopters made their second spin, he stepped away from the controls to high five a boy in a baseball cap. "You flyin', brother," he told the boy, who squealed with delight. They loved his smile.

He had been ten when his cousin Luis had shown Eduardo how to run the machine. It didn't interest him. He wanted to be something. His aunt and uncle had dragged him around the United States following what they called, "The Carnival Circuit." He hadn't understood this until he was an adult, but the life of a carnival worker depended upon people to play your games or get on your rides. Most workers bought their rides and then drove from place to place to setup and take people's money. Sure, the guys who owned the games made more money from the idiot high school kids desperate to win their sweethearts a stuffed animal. So desperate were these kids that they would spend upwards of $50 for a $10 stuffed animal. There were also the drunks and macho guys who were sure they could best the "carnies" at their own game. But the rides...the rides made money because more of the little ones showed up to the carnival. And Eduardo had seen: the parents wanted their kids out of their hair for a few minutes and wanted them quiet. Town to town, state to state, it didn't matter. Parents in Las Cruces, New Mexico were the exact same as parents in Keene, New Hampshire. They paid for their tickets, and many times they overpaid.

Still, he wasn't interested. He saw how the road destroyed his aunt and uncle. He experienced the lean months with them. No, Eduardo wanted more. He wanted to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or whatever job the good looking people at his fairs had. They looked so happy with their cotton candy watching their kids spin around on the metal frames. Not like him or his family. Luis, however, was insistent. "Life," Luis used to say to him, "Can by funny. I thought I'd be a Detroit Tiger. My knee decided I wouldn't be. So here I am. It's always good to learn something."

So he learned from Luis. He learned how to run the machine ("It's just hitting some buttons and watching for problems," Luis told him.), how to fix it, he learned how to "bark" at people to come to his ride. "It's in the voice and look," Luis would say to him with a grin. "The people love a smile and quick saying. Make the ride look good for the kids...and the people will come."

Luis was right. The first time Eduardo did it, he was 13. Having spent so much time in the sun and packing and unpacking the rides, he looked older. He had some muscles on his wiry frame and could flash a smile that made the parents look at him. The girls too. And that first year WAS fun. The money wasn't bad either, but this was not the career he wanted.

How could he know that the lack of school and ambition as a kid would mean he was going to be a carnie forever? He tried. As a 19 year old he wanted to go to college. He wanted to become anything else but a ride operator. A cop, a cook, even a janitor. As long as it meant that he didn't have to be on the road anymore, he'd do it. So he signed up to learn how to be a chef, but there was so much to remember...and he couldn't always buy the necessary tools. (Thank God the women in his class loved his smile.) When that didn't work, he tried to apprentice his uncle Julio who was a plumber. The problem was he spent most of his time just waiting, or holding tools.

He was now 21 and had no idea what he could do other than run the machines. He gave in, took all of the money he had saved in his life, and bought the helicopter ride from his cousin.

"Ten years," he said to no one in particular as he slowed the spinning down and went to help the kids. As the happy riders moved past him to the exit, they didn't notice his slumped shoulders as he checked the doors. Nor did the notice his eyes starting to fill with water. He sucked in a hard breath.

"Who's next?"