Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eimer's 15 Best Movies of 2011 (and then some)

As my kids grow older and my free time opens up more and more, I find myself able to expand my viewing horizons and, ultimately, see more films with my family, which is nice. They've already watched JAWS (last year with their grandmother), so I think I'm about 2 or 3 years away from taking them to R-rated fare a theater. We'll see.

Enough about great parenting. Let's get back to the films.

I've had the opportunity to see a number of great movies this year, which makes it hard to toss them all onto a list. However, I've toiled and contemplated the 15 films that really moved me enough this year to sit down and write something about them.

Keep in mind, due to circumstances beyond my control, I don't get to the theater that often. Thus, I haven't seen some of the big guns such as Mission Impossible 4, The Artist. The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo and other sure-to-be nominated for Academy Award films. Perhaps they'll make next year's list.

That said, you'll see two Academy Award winning movies from 2010 on this year's list as well as a movie from 2001. Again, they were movies I VIEWED for the first time in 2011. (Get it?)

So, here goes - my top 15 list (in no particular order), with links to IMDB for more information.


This was, hands down, one of the best superhero movies to come out in quite some time. And to think that I thought this was going to be the worst super hero movie of the year. From the beginning frame to the final epilogue after the credits, Director Joe Johnston (October Sky, Jurassic Park 3, Jumanji) has given us one of this best outings to date. So, why is this movie a 5-star film? Well, it's one of the smartest superhero flicks out there. It merges a great storyline with fantastic, fun acting and a witty script (not to mention great special effects) for a complete product from start to finish. You can tell the actors had a fun time creating this movie as well. As a testament to this, my wife, who hates superhero flicks, watched this from start to finish and actually asked me to pause the movie when she left the room. That never happens people! But enough about my wife, the film is just solid. Check er out! One of the best superhero movies ever made. Yep, I said it.

I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. Scratch that. I'm a sucker for smart, endearing romantic comedies that don't insult my intelligence. Films like SAY ANYTHING, JUNEBUG, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, AMELIE, IN HER SHOES and even last year's EASY A. For me, CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE, falls into that category. A fun, romantic comedy that forces you to take a step back and analyze your past loves of your life, your current relationship and the possible children that you brought onto this Earth. Sure, maybe the intertwining romantic, generational plot points all coming together at the end is a bit of a stretch, but I didn't seem to care. Steve Carell has had a long history of making bad films - minus LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. Hopefully, he's broken the jinx. The rest of the cast including Gosling, Moore, Stone, Bacon and a perky, yet angry, Tomei comes together to make a great film that will make you smile. Just goes to show that all movies don't have to be heart-wrenching to win accolades, this film as well as the THE MUPPETS and BEGINNGERS just may well be the feel-good films of 2011.

Solid film through and through. It's just a bit...well...sad. Hey, it's an Alexander Payne film (About Schmidt, Sideways, Election), so I knew there was going to be a touch of sadness, but this is heavy on the sad...and a bit light on the laughs. Just be warned. That said, Clooney does a fantastic job in the lead role. He hits a hundred different emotions in this movie and it's one of his best roles to date. he supporting cast of mostly non A-list actors (minus Beau Bridges) are also on top of their game. A shout out to Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller as Clooney's two daughters in the film. Totally believable performances from start to finish. Also, actor Nick Krause provides the most comic relief of the film as Hawaiian surf bum Sid. Like I said, it's a tear jerker. But, it's worth a viewing. Hell, when it arrives on DVD or Pay Per View, I'll more than likely watch it a couple more times, which is a solid testament to this film. Check er out.

Wow. Fantastically horrific, yet very beautiful film. It's almost three movies in one with tons of twists and turns that take you, the viewer, on a rollercoaster of emotions. Is it gory? Yes! Is it a disturbing film to watch? Definitely! But, you have to trust me on this, the end justifies the means. This is not simply torture gorno porn a' la Eli Roth's HOSTEL or Aja's HIGH TENSION (both are great films by the way). There's a definite method to the madness with the final 10 minutes an almost ethereal bloodletting of the soul. Nods to Director Pascal Laugier, who I'm going to keep my eye on. Also, someone should get noticed or props for the make-up, editing, cinematography and acting. Laugier definitely kept the actors in check and under control throughout the film. No over-the-top, snarky performances here. Screenplay was fantastic. Kudos to the screwed up mind of Lauqier. Again, check 'er out with reservations. This isn't MARY POPPINS people. However, if you can stomach the 97 minutes, then I guarantee you'll be talking about this movie hours, days, months, years into the future. And, in the end, isn't that what a great film is supposed to do

In my opinion, a great movie has you thinking about the plot, the cinematography, the direction and the acting days, months, even years after an initial viewing. Von Trier's Melancholia does just that. The great thing about this movie is that the plot (a planet is on a collision course with Earth) can be played out in a thousand different scenarios. Von Trier decided to focus his lens on a wealthy, somewhat dysfunctional family during and after a disastrous wedding. This movie almost borders on sci-fi, but it's the acting, directing and interesting screenplay that pulls this movie together. In comparing this film with another current existential film, Malick's THE TREE OF LIFE (see my review below), this movie stands at the top. Like Malick's 3-hour opus, in a sense, this movie could be considered Von Trier's 2001: A SPACY ODYSSEY as well. But, that's not saying enough about this film. The great thing about this film, and Von Trier in general, is that he's not worried about critics or reviews. He just churns out interesting, creative films that force you to take a step back and look at your life and ask that proverbial question, "What would I do if this was happening to me?". Again, very enjoyable film. Some people will think it's slow or boring, but I was enthralled from beginning to end. Check er out!

Whoa. I just may have watched the 2011 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature. Fantastic movie by Gore Verbinski and the animated team from Industrial Light and Magic. There's a reason that celebrated cinematographer Roger Deakins was brought on as a visual consultant, and it shows. The movie blends whimsical adult dialogue with not-too-cuddly characters to create an odd ball film. I watched this with my kids and they simply loved it. You know why? Because it's different! This isn't your typical Disney fare, which is great. It's a psuedo-animated western. Visually speaking, this film is a treat. The animation and art direction crew at ILM really put their heart and soul into this film. From the fluid animated movements to the quirky idiocentricities of the characters, I think they really did a fantastic job of creating this very creative anthropomorphic world. Congrats to Verbinski for having the cojones to create and produce this film. It may just pay off come Oscar time.

A little bit of ET, a little bit of STAND BY ME and THE GOONIES - JJ Abrams gets it. He gets the heart, the soul and the passion of being a naive kid. Better than that, he gets dialogue, cinematograpy, screenwriting and the sense of mystery that surrounds a movie. Who cares if you see the creature 3/4 into the movie when you've got great characters to pull the movie forward? And that's the most important part about this movie; an interesting story, a fantastic plot, witty banter and exception special effects that are used as a compliment to the movie, not the main course. This movie took my back to my 70's and 80's when my naivete and childhood intertwined with nostalgic feelings and the movies I experienced when I was at that age - before I discovered women. Check 'er out!

If you're a fan of Kubrick, or at least a couple of his films, I implore you to watch this film. It puts to rest, or in some instances reaffirms, the rumors that you've heard - once and for all. Telling his story in chronological order from his time as a photographer all the way through to EYES WIDE SHUT, the 142 minutes slides by like a 30-minute episode. Great inside interviews with top actors and crew who worked side by side with this genius film maker. Highly recommended. Very motivating to watch as well. Makes you want to run out and achieve your dreams whatever they may be.

Great film. I was dragging my heels on this one for one reason or another. The main reason being that I thought SOCIAL NETWORK was going to be the superior film. However, I can now eat crow, because both are on the same level, but for different reasons. This film, the acting totally carried the entire film. Colin Firth is amazing as King George and his stammering seems so real, so lifelike. Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter offer fantastic supporting roles. Director Tom Hooper should also be applauded for making what would at first glance be a dull story about a speech impediment into a fantastic, edge-of-your-seat film. I had goosebumps at the end. Any Director that can suspend disbelief for two hours and actually make you feel that you were in England in 1939 when the King was giving his famous war speech, deserves to get recognition. But, that's not it, the screenplay, the art direction, the cinematography, the editing and the 2 hour length. Everything in this film is simply sublime. And, unlike, SOCIAL NETWORK, this film makes you feel a bit happy about the human condition when the credits roll.

Unlike Christopher Columbus' direction of the first two films, Director David Yates gets it. He gets the look and, most importantly, tone and feel of the Harry Potter universe. (Of course, Azkaban is my personal favorite of the eight). However, this movie is a great finale of the series. All of the actors take their roles seriously from Daniel Radcliffe and Helena Bonham Carter to John Hurt and Ralph Fiennes (as Voldemort). Fantastic cinematography and special effects meshed with a great storyline, pulls this film out of the three-star dumpster and tosses it into, possibly, one of the 10 best movies of the year. Check 'er out. But watch the first seven first!

I dragged my heels on this movie due to the fact that I thought it was a tear jerker bummer of a film a' la PHILADELPHIA. Turns out I was completely wrong. What a great romantic comedy. Yeah, I know. How could a movie about a 75-year old man dying from lung cancer be a romantic comedy. Well, it is and it works spectacularly. All actors are fantastic. The script and direction by Mike Mills works from beginning to end. In a time of stupid romantic movies of 2010 such as FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, JUST GO WITH IT, FOOTLOOSE and THE TWILIGHT SAGA. It's nice and refreshing to see that someone out there is creating a great romantic film. Check 'er out!

Aronofosky does it again, and in a completely different genre - horror. Some may argue that this is a drama. However, I would put it in the same realm as SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and ROSEMARY'S BABY. Smart horror. Aronofosky is a talented director who pushes his actors to their finest levels. It's no wonder most of his film have actor nominees when the dust settles. Portman is on top of her game. I truly cannot imagine anyone else taking this role. But that's not all. The screenplay. The grainy mixture of 16 mm and video cinematography create a muted, somewhat ethereal tone to add to the already darkened mood of the film. The handheld camera movements makes the movie feel like a documentary at times. Top it off with a great supporting cast and a fantastic script and you've got one helluva entertaining, original film. Check er out!

One of the best documentaries of 2010. A fantastic, intimate look into a platoons point of view of the conflict in Afghanistan. Im not sure Ive ever seen such an up close, personal look of the soldiers in a documentary before. Fantastic cinematography and direction by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington. But its the soldiers interviews that really packs a powerful punch. Powerful, powerful stuff. Highly recommended.

Could be considered great, or not so great, upon a second viewing. As I stated above with Von Trier's Melancholia, in a sense, this felt like Malick's 2001: A SPACY ODYSSEY. The acting was fantastic. Brad Pitt is having a banner year for acting jobs. The supporting cast, in particular the young son is top notch as well. I'm just not sure if I really like this movie because the critics and reviews say I'm supposed to, or if there is a deeper meaning to all of this. I understand that Malick is a very nature-specific guy filming loads and loads of natural elements to intersperse with the actors. Seems to me that Malick chose this family as a tiny snippet of the big kahuna that is life. I'm just not sure how that affected me including the 15-plus minute 'The Earth is Born' sequence at the beginning of the film Sometimes it seemed to take away from the movie altogether. Sometimes I found myself wondering why was this all necessary. Sometimes I found myself asking 'Why in the Hell did Sean Penn take this role?' Was there a lot more that they shot of Sean Penn as the grown-up son? Did Malick leave it on the cutting room floor? I guess I would like to hear what Malick's intentions were before I toss the movie into the realm of greatness. Which begs the question, if I'm asking so many questions, does it make it a great movie? Well, at the very least, I tossed it on this list stars mainly for acting and direction - and the fact that it's still making me think about it a month and a half after I've viewed it.

The Rest of the Pack
Below are some films that were almost considered as top views, but didn't quite make the cut:
  • The Muppets
  • 127 Hours
  • Midnight In Paris
  • Horrible Bosses
  • X-Men: First Class
  • Bridesmaids
  • Puss in Boots
  • Contagion
  • Biutiful
  • Win Win
  • Limitless
  • The Way Back
  • Rio
  • Never Let Me Go
  • The Fighter
  • Last Train Home
  • Let Me In
  • Enter The Void
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Dogtooth
  • Easy A

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Eimer's Worst Movies of 2011

Well, with the good comes the bad, and I've come across a lot of bad this year - even though I try to stay away from the very, very bad films (I'm talking to you Director/Producer Michael Bay and the third Chipmunks sequel).

But, sometimes, thanks to my kids and my blatant stupidity, I toss a movie into the DVD player that I think is going to rock - and it just ends up sucking a big bag of balls in the end.

So, because it's much more fun writing nasty reviews than positive ones, I'd like to share my 10 WORST viewing experiences of 2011.

Keep in mind, I watch a lot of movies on DVD, so the films may be a year or so old. Eh, you get the drift.

Well, what am I waiting for? Let's go:

Does not like. What do you get when you mix OCEAN'S 11 with THE ITALIAN JOB and a bunch of terrible actors? A big turd named FAST FIVE! I cannot fathom why, this year, more than one critic tossed this onto their top ten of 2011 lists, which romanced and massaged me enough to actually toss this into my Netflix queue and waste 131 minutes of my precious life. The dialogue was terrible. Just terrible. The action scenes were predictable and dumb (two cars pulling a 10-ton safe through the streets of Rio taking hair-pin turns and not messing up their cars one bit? Really?), the plot, a slightly tweaked version of OCEAN'S 11, was ludicrous. Ludicrous I say! Screenwriters Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson even had the stones to steal the character personas from Danny Ocean's suave crime syndicate. Look, I semi-enjoyed the first FAST & THE FURIOUS for what it was...a movie that entertained all the gear heads out there with fast cars and loose women. I stayed away from the other installments as a personal protest against bad films. Now, who's the sucker? Curse you paid-off critics! Curse you! Not only for insulting my intelligence, but for sucking me back into this terrible, terrible franchise.

If the trailer for this film has piqued your curosity, just a warning that you're going to watch a totally different film. It's not a goofy comedy. It's bordlerine drama. Plus, it's not that funny. Even Vince Vaughn's interesting little tantrums and speeches couldn't transform my frown into a smile. Not much more to say. Wasted acting. Wasted talent. Wasted script. Wasted movie. Save your 112 minutes, because you'll never get it back. NEVER!

Although my kid's loved it, this movie did absolutely nothing for me. Granted, a 39-year old father is probably not the demographic that the producers were trying to grab for this film. I just felt everyone was sleepwalking through this movie to make a simple buck. Nobody brought their A-game to this film. Shame on director Rob Letterman for creating this tripe. Rent TIME BANDITS or GOONIES instead. Those two movies are a much bigger fantasy bang for your buck - and your time.

This movie was 45 minutes too long, even considering the fact that I fast-forwarded through about half of it. WRECKED is a like a failed Gus Van Sant experimental movie. I was bored, bored, bored as hell. Here's my idea for the perfect fix, have Adrien Brody's character actually have flashbacks during the movie. Little tiny snippets a' la MOMENTO where he starts to finally realize how and why he wrecked and who in the hell those people are in the car. Was this movie a good idea? Hell, it's a great idea. Just poor direction. Poor screenplay. And, worst of all, a very boring movie. It's a pity, because I had very high hopes for this film after reading all of the review.

Oh man was I excited when I saw the line-up: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, David Spade and Kevin James as five childhood pals who reunite after 30 years to mourn the loss of their old basketball coach. Boy was I wrong! How is it possible to have such comedic talents and garner such few laughs. Terrible script. Terrible direction. Just a bad movie all around. Yes, the pee turning blue in the pool was funny. But do you really want to waste 2 hours of your life waiting for the one joke that you saw in the trailers? Such a pity. Man this one sucked ass.

I had high hopes for this film, but it all just fell very, very flat - and I'm a fan of Takashi Miike. It seems like the first part was basically samurai sitting and talking, sitting and talking with a tiny bit of sadistic torture tossed into the mix. The second half picked up a bit, but by that time, I was yawning and looking at my watch. It sucks that I had such a terrible viewing experience for a film that I've been anticipating for quite some time.

Meh, didn't really do it for me. Look, this film was heads and tails above the other low indie shark movie OPEN WATER. The characters were more likable. The cinematography was a bit better and the plot, well, it still reaked of JAWS 4 - a serial killer shark is hunting the ocean for the only perceived food source in hundreds of hundreds of miles. Like I said, it was entertaining enough, but it just felt redundant and stale. Australian accents can't even pull this rank chum out of the 2-star dumpster.

Sure Paul Giamatti was great. But, after watching this movie, two things came to mind. First off it was waaaay too long. Secondly, it reminded me of MR. SATURDAY NIGHT starring Billy Crystal (with waaay better make-up of course). There just seemed to be too many plot points stirring around in this soup that, at the end of the film, I was scratching my head. Not that I didn't have answers. It just felt like it was a blah ending. I don't know, people are giving this movie five stars and praising everything about it. The acting is good. The editing, script and direction are the real culprits in this film.

Sometimes when I toss in a movie that I know nothing about, I sit back and wonder to myself This may be the next RESERVOIR DOGS or PULP FICTION or DONNIE DARKO. Well, this isnt anyone of them. As we were watching the Aborigine man chase down white guy after white guy my wife screamed out "Buncha pussies! Why don't they fight back?" Well, theres a reason and you have to wait to the very end to find out why. Yes, this is an okay nice revenge, twist tale. But its not as fantastic as everyone has made it out to be. Nothing great. Okay acting. Okay idea. Okay direction. In two words...just okay.

Meh. I was a fan of the original. Plus, when I heard Director Tod Williams (DOOR IN THE FLOOR) signed on for this sequel, I was doubly excited. With exception to better acting than the original, I can honestly say that I was expecting a bit more. Don't worry, you'll get your share of out of your seat suspense. But, I thought the storyline and the ultimate end was a bit milquetoast for me. Even with a little baby thrown into the scary mix, consider me underwhelmed. Rent the original for more scares and creepiness.

If you like these crappy movies, check out more of my worst movies of last year below:

Eimer's Top Reads of 2011

Well, it's that time of the year when I reminisce about the year that was. Truth be told, I didn't read as many books as I have in years past. Not sure if my attention was focused on other things, I've been reading longer books or simply, my eyesight is failing me and it takes longer to read fine text. All in all, I believe I read a total of 26 or so books this past year. Not much, but enough to have a top ten list.

Also, I ask anyone and everyone to visit and open up a FREE membership where you can mark and rate your favorite-and not so favorite-books, write reviews and build a 'to-read' list based on other reader's recommendations, and more!

Now, shameless promotions aside, let's get to the books.

This year, it seems that I've picked a number of duds including Xenocide (the third book in the Ender series), Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine and A Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer. Very disappointed with these three books among others.

However, as the whale shit sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor (or in this case my book pile), ten books served as the distinctive cream that rose to the top including three books by three of my favorite illustrators. Plus, a special shout out to my copywriter companion Craig Israel who recommended not one, not two, but three books, which made this list. Thanks bud!

So, without further adieu, here were my top-ten favorite books of 2011 (in no particular order):

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb
Well, now I can officially say that I've read the Book of Genesis! However, it wouldn't have been as nearly entertaining had it not been illustrated by R. Crumb. Couple thoughts...the story of Noah, Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel as well as Sodom and Gommorah are extremely short - less than a page or two. It seems like this Rebekah character controlled all of the early men's decisions in the Bible. It's funny to see that people lived to be 400 or 500 years old in the olden days but - in today's time of radical medicine and prescriptions - we have an average lifespan of 77. Speaking of Noah, since a flood wiped out all of humanity, then technically, everyone on this Earth is the spawn of Noah? Correct? There are pages and pages of boring, mundane text talking about who had sex with who and then lists and lists and lists of the children's names. By far, the most enjoyable part was the story of Joseph, which ended this extremely daunting first chapter of the Bible on a high note. Thanks to Crumb for offering a visually stunning 'take' on this important manuscript. Highly recommended for the visuals. Slightly recommended for the overall text.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Wow. What a novel. Reminded me of a modern day Grapes of Wrath. Where as Steinbeck's fantastic novel talked about the plight of the American farmer and their struggles to feed themselves and find constant work to survive. Franzen, the author, focuses his lens on the modern day family's (The Bergland's) internal, psychological struggles with their emotions, their beliefs, their sanity and their ultimate pursuit of happiness. A struggle to find what will make them truly free. Like Steinbeck, Franzen has strong control of the English language and creates a fantastic story interpersed with plausible, believable dialogue between the characters. A genius work (and I don't use genius oftern). The first 100 pages, you may be scratching your head and wondering where this is going. Give it time. The book percolates in your mind, lets you slowly get to know the characters and then grabs a hold of you until the very last sentence. Seriously. This book would make a great HBO mini-series

20th-Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
The short story, in particular, the short horror story is a dangerous nut to crack, as you'll see when I release my little nuggets to the world in a couple of weeks. Some great fiction, science fiction and horror writers are known for their fabulous short stories including Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Clive Barker and Stephen King - even Hemingway among others. Other long-form horror writers try and try to create a good short story, but fall short. Which brings us to Joe Hill who has offered up a handful of not necessarily gore shriek stories, but rather eerie, odd, fantastical stories. Hence the term 20th Century Ghosts. These aren't goblins and spooky critters, but somewhat real people that you could possibly run into on the street. The thing about Hill, is he has a knack for dialogue and his character can be very funny, very sarcastic when need be. His stories could be pulled from this book and tossed into an episode of Twilight Zone without much tinkering. I was very happy with this collection. However a number of his stories came to the top of the 'jealousy' pile including BEST NEW HORROR, POP ART, THE BLACK PHONE, THE CAPE, MY FATHER'S MASK and VOLUNTARY COMMITTAL (which is quite possibly one of the best short stories I've read in quite some time). So, there you have it. After reading his 'okay' long-form novel HEART-SHAPED BOX, I'm looking forward to reading some other great entries from this up-and-coming horror writer.

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
This isn't a book for nerds. Well, not really. This is a book celebrating the numbers, the statistics, the data of life, the (dare I say?) hidden side of everything. Steven D. Levitt and economist Steven J. Dubner provide an easy-to-read thought-provoking book on economics...with a twist. Want to know why crime has gone down in the past 20 years? It's not because gun control. What's in your child's name? As it turns out, a lot. Do teachers and sumo wrestlers cheat? You'll be surprised to learn that some of them do. What makes a good parent? Well, as it turns out - it's not reading to them. How is drug dealing a lot like McDonalds? Find out in this book. Are there similarities between real estate agents and the KKK? In a word, yes! Economist Levitt and journalist Dubner come together to create a page-turner of fascinating facts that will make you the most brilliant chap at any cocktail party. Seriously! I'm sorry that I dragged my heels on reading this book. It was a very fun read.

The Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
After I read that Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo) signed on the dotted line to direct a live-action movie about Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Princes of Mars (aptly titled John Carter of Mars), count me intrigued. I've always heard fellow geeks in my fellow geek circles talking about this book, but didn't think much of it. "Pffftt. It's an old dusty book about a guy who goes to mars and fights aliens," I would say. Well, turns out I was half-right. The other half is that it's actually an entertaining read. Keep in mind that this book was first published in 1917. Almost 100 years ago! Then, you can respect Burrough's vision and creativity and imagination. Sure, some of the plot is a little clunky (how did JC get to Mars?) and writing is a bit antiquated. But, so what. That's the fun of the book. It's a great, pulpy science fiction book that inspired a lot of famous writers, directors and scientists to think beyond this Earth. And start looking to the stars for literary and literal exploration. Will I continue to read Burroughs' John Carter series? Eventually. But not right now. There's too many other books I want to read. After talking with a friend, he mentioned that Burroughs uses the famous cliffhanger technique from book to book. He does it with this original entry as well, which piqued my curiosity. So, yeah, I'll probably explore the series a bit more down the line. However, I'm very happy that I picked up this important piece of science fiction literature. It's definitely worth a read.

Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku
Great interesting book. If you ever wanted to step into a time machine and find out what life was going to be like in 25, 50 or 100 years - this is the book. Based on patents that are currently at the patent office and conversation with some of the smartest, forward-thinking minds of this century - theoretical physicist Michio Kaku paints an optimistic picture of the future. No more gas. No more disease. No more aging. Tons of robots. And expanded space travel and colonization. The book, at times, is a little heady, but the brilliant Kaku tries his best to speak in lamen's terms referring to pop culture movies, tv shows, books and magazines to help illustrate his thoughts. One of the most eerie parts lies in the the final chapter where Kaku takes us through a day in the life of a 71-year old man in 2100 - as close as you're going to get to seeing the real thing. Check er out.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My favorite book of this past year. Not only a great read for young adults, but for everyone. Sure, comparisons will be made to THE LONG WALK, BATTLE ROYALE and THE RUNNING MAN, but Suzanne Collins creates a somewhat plausible, eerie dystopian world where 24 teenagers battle to the death in a forested arena...and only one survives. A real entertaining page-turner that will have you thinking long and hard weeks and months after you finish it. LIke I said, very entertaining, creative, violent read, which is surprising for a young adult novel. TWILIGHT this ain't, so check 'er out!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Collins' follow-up to the fantastic horror novel The Hunger Games, I enjoyed the story arc, the writing and even the great twist in the middle - and the end. However, although this is a great second novel, in my opinion nothing will compare to the first novel. I wish I could say more, but the beauty of this series is the element of surprise that springs out at the reader each and every page. Read the books and tell me what you think. Highly recommended. EIMER NOTE: Although I read Collins' third and final Hunger Games novel, Mockingjay - I did not include it on this list for a number of reasons. Although it was good, it just wasn't top-ten worthy.

Berni Wrightson: A Look Back by Christopher Zavisa and Berni Wrightson
Fantastic book. If you're an illustrator, a fan of comic books or simply like staring and learning about great art, this is the book for you. Bernie Wrightson is the master. It's nice to get inside his head and see what makes him tick as an artist. The cool thing about this book is not only the great art, but the fact that Bernie actually takes the time to talk about his work - including his failures, which makes him a bit more human in my eyes.

MAD's Greatest Artists: Sergio Aragones: Five Decades of His Finest Works by Sergio Aragones and Patrick McDonnell
If you're a fan of MAD Magazine, cartooning or ironic-filled cartoons, you need to check out this book, which supplies the best of the best of Sergio Aragones' five decades of work at MAD Magazine - hand picked by the author/illustrator himself. If it wasn't for this guy and Don Martin, I wouldn't have dabbled in cartooning myself. This is a great collection of some of Aragones' funniest gags. Great, great stuff by a truly talented, and mad, genius.

ADDITIONAL WARNING: If you're interested in any of the above books, I implore you to not (NOT) visit Wikipedia to learn more. Wikipedia summaries are filled to the gills with spoilers that will ruin your reading experience.

Well, there you have it. If you're interested in other top ten list from years past click the links below:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eimertoons - Battle Claus

(click image to enlarge)
Check back next week for an Anatomy of an Eimertoon of this particular pen and ink drawing.

Oh, and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What do James Brown, Sinead O' Connor, Public Enemy and Madonna have in common?

A couple days ago, my wife and I were listening to 'I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got' by Sinead O'Connor. Great album/cd/download by the way.





Monday, December 5, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Top Movies to See This Holiday Season

While you're dicking around on your computer today waiting for the clock to strike 5 p.m. so you can get the hell out of the office and start enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I'd write up a little something to entertain you during lunch.

After checking out Rotten Tomatoes' 2011 Holiday Movie Preview, I can honestly say that three are a number of intriguing films that are being released in the next 6 weeks.

And without further adieu, let me give you the top movies that I would like to see in a good, old-fashioned theater this holiday season (in no particular order):

Directed by Martin Scorcese, and in 3-D, Hugo (based on the very entertaining young adult book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick) has already been getting great buzz in movie geek circles. Hell, it's got an all-star cast, a great director and a fantastic, original plot - plus it's great for kids. What more could you ask for in a holiday movie?

A movie directed, written for the screen and produced by Alexander Payne? Starring George Clooney? Go check out both of their film resumes (which I linked to their names) and you'll understand why this is on my list.

Without knowing too much about this film, count me intrigued. It's in black and white. It's a silent film. So, you're probably asking yourself, 'How can this movie be that good?' Well, all I know is that it's been cleaning up the awards circuit including a best actor win for star Jean Dujardin and a Palme d'Or nomination at Cannes. And, again, it's an original plot, which always gets me excited.

When you have Director David Cronenberg (The Fly, Eastern Promises, A History of Violence) attached to any movie, it's sure to be a rather interesting trip (ahem, Naked Lunch). When you have Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen playing Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud who are both fascinated by a particularly sexy patient played by Keira Knightly - you have the perfect concoction for a rather odd period drama.

This just looks like a fun comedy starring Jonah Hill as a babysitter. From what Rotten Tomatoes says 'it's Adventures in Babysitting for the Twitter generation.' Also Directed by David Gordon Green who has directed a handful of great dramas (All the Real Girls, Undertow, Snow Angels) as well as the funny (Pineapple Express as well as episodes of HBO comedy Eastbound & Down).

I know absolutely nothing about this film, which is a good thing. But with an all-star cast such as Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and John Hurt  not to mention Director Tomas Alfredson (who directed one of the best horror movies ever in Let The Right One In), this movie looks to be a lot of espionage-laden fun.

Just kidding. :)

Directed by Steven Speilberg. Produced by Peter Jackson. Winter-animated film based on the hit adventure series of yore. What more do you need to say?

I read all three books by Steig Larrson. I've even viewed the three foreign films based on the same name. But, there's just something about this outing directed by David Fincher, that seems very intriguing. The books are pretty dark. Fincher knows dark (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac). And, by the looks of the trailer, he seems to have gotten the look and feel down pat - at the very least what I pictured in my mind. I have faith that screenwriter Steve Zaillen (Schindler's List, Moneyball, Gangs of New York) has been faithful to Larrson's book. And kudos to Fincher for making Rooney Mara (who plays Lisbeth Salandar in the film) look extra homely...exactly as I pictured her in the books. Oh, and let's not forget a soundtrack by Nine Inch Nails frontman (and Academy Award winner) Trent Reznor.

With J.J. Abrams producing and director Brad Bird behind the lens, this looks to be an interesting fourth entry into this Tom Cruise franchise. However, I'll be honest and say the only reason I want to see this film is to see what Academy Award-Winning Animated Film Director Bird (Rataouille, The Incredibles) can do with a live-action cast. If he can even equal what he's done for animation (Simpsons, The Iron Giant, etc.) then the man is sure to have a very long live-action filmmaking career.

I was dragging my heels on this one. But, when I found out that this would be Cameron Crowe's fictional directional return after taking a six-year hiatus (remember the not-so-great Elizabethtown?), I was intrigued. (Note: Crowe directed two documentaries last year - one about Pearl Jam, the other about Elton John). It looks like it's going to be a feel-good movie that will just make you want to hug everyone when it's over. And, let's be honest, is there anything wrong with that? Considering most of my other choices are a bit darker, why not include at least one feel-good movie on this list.

Well, there you have it. Sure, there are other movies that I want to see, but just not really too excited to view in a theater including Young Adult, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Darkest Hour, War Horse, The Muppets, My Week With Marilyn, Melancholia and let's not forget Chipwrecked (just kidding).

So, what do you think?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Eimer's Top Ten Verbal Rants During His Daily Commute

Every day. Every single work day, I have a 30-minute work commute from my hometown of Bath, Ohio, to downtown Cleveland.

A couple weeks ago, I was driving to work with my wife (yes, we work at the same company) and she commented on my disgusting, sometimes filthy, outbursts on the road.

Being myself, and comfortable in my own skin, I had no idea what she was talking about...until I started to pay attention to my so-called 'filthy outbursts'.

In short, I’m embarrassed, disgusted and, well, sometimes entertained.

That said, for the past couple days, I’ve made a mental note to remember some of my not-so-nice comments yelled to other drivers on the road. And, sadly, I would like to share with you, my loyal reader, my top-ten favorites (or not-so favorites) with notes:

1. ‘Oh my God, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me!’
I was following this slow, old van into work today. Obviously he was lost and was hesitating on a green light in hopes that it would turn red so he could get his whereabouts around the big, scary city of Cleveland. I shouted this when he stopped at a yellow light - a light that he obviously could have easily made.

2. ‘Piece of shit, asshole!’
I think this goes without saying. This is my go-to bellow when I can’t think of anything creative to say.

3. 'Fuck an A, Jesus fucking Christ, you goddamn bitch!'
I was following some lady who was fussing with her hair and constantly looking in the rear-view mirror to fix her fucking face. She was in the left-hand speeding lane and putting on fucking lipstick. Really?

4. 'Move to the right you old bag!’ or ‘Move to the right you fucking white head!’
Let me preface this by saying, I love old people. I really do...except when they drive. I firmly believe, after the age of 70 years old, everyone should take a driving test every two years to prove to the authorities that you are a capable driver. That’s just me.

5. ‘Right is fast. Left is slow. Did you ever take a fucking driver’s test?’
I shouted this to a couple of drivers who were, obviously, in the right-hand lane either talking on the phone, screwing around with their goddamn GPS or putting on their fucking make-up.

6.‘Oh, give me a fucking break!’
Although somewhat familiar to rant #1, I specifically yell this rant when some driver does something that is so fucking stupid, that I’m just completely flabbergasted. Examples include, dodging between lanes and cars, swerving on the road, obviously texting someone, constantly looking over at their passenger and trying to have a meaningful conversation and reaching for something in the passenger seat (i.e. lipstick, coffee, Hostess apple pie, etc.)

7. ‘Ha. Ha. Fuck you asshole!’
Although not very creative, I say this to driver’s that attempt to pass me up on the right-hand lane only to be cock-blocked by a big rig or slow van. Trust me, if someone gets on my ass, I cordially put on my blinker and get in the right-hand land (see quote #8 below). However, if it’s obvious that I’m in the fast lane for a reason and that I’m also in the same traffic that they’re in, I have no fucking sympathy for you.

8. ‘Go forth my little rabbit!’
I say this to people who are on my ass and are dying to pass me up – sometimes they flick their headlights at me, which makes me feel especially great. But I don’t care. I consider them my little rabbits who, eventually, will get eaten by the wolves (i.e. the State Highway Patrol). And when I see them picked up by the police (and often I do), I say quote #7 with pleasure.

9. 'There you go. Now turn your steering wheel to the right and get in the right-hand lane. Good job!'
This is obviously to people who have no clue how to drive. However, instead of yelling at said driver, I say this in a quiet, almost snarky, somewhat sarcastic tone like I’m a new pet owner talking to a little kitten or puppy.

10. ‘Your fucking piece of shit belongs in a goddamn dump!’
Look, I get it. Times are tough. A lot of people can’t afford nice cars. Hell, I’m driving a 2005 Toyota Camry myself. But, at least, I keep up to date on the tires, the oil changes and regular routine maintenance. I save this little blurb for people who, obviously, could give two shits about their vehicle. Ironically, I’ve noticed myself saying this a lot more since I moved up to Northeast Ohio from Columbus.


11. 'I will fucking kill you.'
Trust me, I don't pull this one out of the mental suitcase too often. But when I do, I totally mean it. This special rant has to be under extreme conditions where a driver is doing something so awful, so confounding, so gosh-darn stupid that it just sets me off. My wife overheard this quote a couple times, and was speechless. Her eyes wide, she looked over at me, and yelled. 'Are you fucking crazy? You need to relax.' I guess I am. And I guess I probably do.

Well, there you have it.

Now, I’m curious. I’d like to hear your favorite dirty little quotes during your morning commute.

Please do tell...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Eimer Book Review - Neil Gaiman's American Gods

When I read that Tom Hanks optioned the rights to Gaiman's third novel for an HBO mini-series, I was intrigued.

For the past 10 years, like a basket of unimportant dirty laundry, my copy of American Gods has been resting comfortably in a box of  'to-read' books in my basement. However, thanks to this little nugget of information, I thought now would be the ideal to dust if off, free it from its cardboard confines and finally, delve into this behemoth of book.

Well, now that I'm finished, I have mixed feelings. Although I tip my hat to Gaiman for taking on such an interesting, grandiose idea, I thought this novel was a bit long, a bit winded and a bit (dare I say) bland.

Don't get wrong. The plot is very intriguing: the old forgotten gods of yore band together to battle the new gods of technology, television and internet in a no-holds barred final war. And you can feel Gaiman's excitement as the English-born author travels vicariously across the United States through the main character Shadow and his mysterious partner Wednesday in search of unknown, once-great gods to wage his war.

The writing is, as expected from Gaiman, excellent. But, I found the main character of Shadow a bit boring. I found the Gods not that exciting, much like the creatures from Jim Henson's The Mystics from The Dark Crystal who slowly ponder across the land. I found the entire book to be just 'okay'. Although important to the overall story, the dream sequences were a bit too much in my opinion. Maybe it's just me, but I'm just not a big fan of reading about character's dreams in print form.

I will, however, give a nod to the Gaiman's murder/mystery story within a story set in the small town of Lakeside. A very intriguing idea that could have been a separate book in itself.

Am I glad that I read it? You bet. But in a perfect world, this novel would have been about 300 pages shorter for my tastes.

Check 'er out...sadly, with reservations.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

18 Animated Movies Eligible for the 2012 Best Animated Oscar

Movie geek blog Slashfilm just put up an article that announced the 18 2011 films that are eligible for the Best Animated Oscar award this year which include:

  • Rango

  • Kung Fu Panda 2

  • Puss in Boots

  • Rio

  • Cars 2

  • Hoodwinked Two! Hood Vs. Evil

  • Gnomeo & Juliet

  • Mars Needs Moms

  • Winnie the Pooh

  • The Adventures of Tintin

  • Arthur Christmas

  • Happy Feet Too

  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

  • The Smurfs

  • Alois Nebel

  • A Cat in Paris

  • Chico & Rita

  • Wrinkles

  • Based on my previous viewings of said films as well as word of mouth buzz and reviews, I'm going to pick the following five contenders:

  • Rango

  • Winnie the Pooh

  • The Adventures of Tin Tin

  • Puss in Boots

  • Rio

  • And, going with my gut here, I'm going to pick the Spielberg Directed, Peter Jackson Produced The Adventures of Tin Tin the winner with Rango a very close second followed by Mars Needs Moms (just kidding!)

    So, what do you think?

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Winnie the Pooh Medications

    A while back, I talked about my theory that the Disney cartoon My Friends Tigger & Pooh takes place in the mind of a very old lady named Darby who resides in the Hundred Acre Woods mental facility and lives with people who appear to be the popular characters in the show....but they're crazy humans as well.

    Well, to further cement my theory, I came across this infographic of medications for winnie the pooh characters courtesy of

    All I have to say is who's laughing now? Who's fucking laughing now?


    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Eimer's Netflix Reviews - Puss In Boots

    Nice spin-off tale of the fabled, saucer-eyed feline from the Shrek tales.

    Lots of tongue-in-cheek cat jokes mixed with a pretty funny storyline concerning Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty, the Magical Beanstalk and the Goose that lays Golden Eggs pull this movie out of the three-star dumpster.

    Funny, witty screenwriting, not to mention above par Dreamworks animation and quality direction by Chris Miller (who, coincidentally, directed SHREK THE THIRD).

    Plus, can you really go wrong with Guillermo Del Toro (PAN'S LABYRINTH, HELLBOY) as a surprising executive producer addition?

    As far as voice acting goes, Antonio, Salma, Zach, Amy Sedaris and Billy Bob bring their A-game and seem to be having a lot of fun with their characters. For adults, the smart writing and adult humor will make you appreciate the film possibly more than your kids.

    Highly recommended for cat lovers and, of course, animation lovers as well. Which begs the question, with RANGO, WINNIE THE POOH, RIO and the upcoming TIN TIN film, isn't this a great year for animated films?!!

    Check er out!

    Click here for more Eimer reviews

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Proof That Aliens Exist...Or Just Another Damn Hoax?

    So, about three weeks ago, my good buddy (and fellow UFO-nerd) Matt sent me an interesting email with 'See this one?' in the Subject line followed by the attached link:

    First a little backstory.

    Between the years of 2007 and 2009, a night guard named Yalcin Yalman allegedly captured a number of amazing UFO shots in the city of Kumburgaz, Istanbul. In order to capture these high-definition shots, Yalman added a special lens which could capture close ups of almost 200 times that of a normal camera.

    You can watch a stablilized version of the entire video(s) here.

    In any event, Yalman captured several minutes of substantial video of the above metallic UFOs floating in the Turkey night sky.

    One night, which you can view in the above video, he captured what seems to be aliens (or grays as their known in special UFO geek circles) sticking their little heads out of a little hatch at the top of the UFO.

    Alien tourists perhaps?

    Although I'm a big UFO buff, I like to think of myself as a pretty big skeptic when it comes to these type of videos. With the onset of computer technology, not to mention Adobe After Effects, any punk with a computer and half a brain can create a somewhat realistic UFO blazing across a clear blue sky.

    However, this video footage is pretty remarkable to say the least. Otherwise I wouldn't be sharing it with you.

    If you do a little more digging you'll find out that the videos were sent to many video experts throughout the world by Dr. Roger Leif, a self-proclaimed UFO expert.

    And, here's the kicker, no one can debunk the videos. No one can prove their 100% legit either. But, the most important thing is that most of these 'experts' do not seem to believe that these videos are a hoax.


    You know, I scan a number of blogs, search youtube for crazy videos and frequently browse a number of semi-famous UFO sites. Most of the stuff I come across is highly suspect. However, every once in a while, I come across a little gem like this that's just too damn interesting not to talk about.

    Hell, these videos definitely have me scratching my head.

    So, what do you think? Major hoax? Or the truth that aliens do, in fact, exist and are visiting our planet?

    I would hope the latter.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    R.I.P Tom Wilson Sr.

    I came across this article today where beloved, and sometimes hated, cartoonist Tom Wilson Sr. of Ziggy fame passed away.

    I say sometimes hated because I know more people that hated Ziggy than loved him. However, from my point of view, any guy who can figure out a way to make it in the cartoon world, and make money at it, deserves some sort credit.

    Despite how crappy the cartoons are perceived in some circles, the man gets my respect.

    Wilson, who was a creative director at American Greetings for more than 30 years, first got his break at the age of 38 (which is good to read since I'm 39) when Ziggy first appeared in 1969 in a cartoon collection called When You're not Around .

    Two years later and Ziggy was syndicated and, well, the rest is history.

    When I worked as a copywriter for the Dispatch Marketing Deptartment in 2003, our VP of marketing had this brilliant idea to bring a local, award-winning cartoonist to speak at an account function hosted by the Columbus Dispatch.

    Two or three months prior to this fantastic idea, we had the opportunity of seeing Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist and Mother Goose & Grimm creator Mike Peters speak at a separate Dispatch function.

    Peters, a very great speaker and entertainer, took us through a number of his personal political cartoons and added a couple fun quips about each cartoon. He had the entire crowd laughing. I noticed a couple of Dispatch execs (who will not be named at this time) spit up coffee while laughing at Peter's on-stage antics.

    So, our VP thought he could capture that lightning in a bottle once again by asking Tom Wilson Sr.'s son, Tom Wilson Jr. to come up and speak. Wilson Jr. took over the reigns of the popular comic strip in 1987 after his father Wilson Sr. couldn't complete the daily demands of writing and drawing Ziggy.

    So, we made the phone calls, set up the times and sent out the invitations and three months later, Wilson Jr. was driving up from Cincinnati to give a speech in Columbus.

    I first met Wilson at the Dispatch Marketing Building. To be honest, I was expecting an old man with gray hair, thick glasses and a humpback from drawing over his cartoon table for years and years. Of course, I was thinking about the original Tom Wilson Sr. and forgot that we invited Tom Wilson Jr. - the current Ziggy cartoonist over.

    Tom Jr. was a tall, thin, fit-looking man. He had all of his hair and, surprisingly, it wasn't even white. We shook hands and proceeded to take a small tour of the facilities.

    Then, Wilson Jr., the VP of marketing and myself hopped into a car and headed out to the Wolfe's private lodge where they conduct a number of private Dispatch functions. Think, the Eyes Wide Shut mansion without the hard-core sex and you get an idea of the place.

    We talked about cartoons, the ever-declining newspaper industry, his new company Character Matters and - of course - his father.  When we arrived at the Lodge, a number of account reps and other people greeted him warmly at the door. We proceeded to eat a decent lunch and then it was Wilson's time to shine.

    As nicely as I can possibly say this, Tom Jr. was no Mike Peters. He stormed out of the gates like Barbaro at the Preakness Stakes...awkward and clumsy. He wheeled out this pretty big overhead projector and drew one picture of Ziggy. That's it just one picture of Ziggy smelling a flower. Then he talked - more like mumbled - a little bit about the philosophy of Ziggy and the cartoon industry.

    Put it this way, no one was spitting up any coffee by insane laughter.

    However, noticing a lapse in the excitement factor of Wilson Jr. and his non-crazy shenanigans, our fearless VP of Marketing (or was it our fearless Marketing Director?) leaped into action and asked the crowd if there were any questions for Mr. Wilson.

    I rose my hand and asked a question about the newspaper industry. Pretty much, it was the same thing we talked about on the car ride over. And he responded eloquently. The crowd perked up and started paying more attention. And some other people started to wave their hands to ask questions. And a couple more. And a couple more.

    About 15-20 different people asked Wilson Jr. questions, to which Wilson responded in a lively, congenial and actually pretty funny manner. People actually laughed at his remarks - with the beginning of the presentation a distant speck on the horizon in the rear-view mirror.

    At the end of the Q&A, Wilson Jr. received a healthy appluase and proceeded to draw customized Ziggy drawings for everyone willing to stand in line. The event ended on a high note and everyone in attendance was pleasantly surprised.

    So, although I didn't meet Tom Wilson Sr. I did get a chance taste of cartoon royalty by meeting his son.

    Which, I guess you can either respect me or pity me depending on what you feel about the cartoon.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Money, Inflation and Mo' Money

    By no means am I well versed in economics.

    Here's what I know. Things cost money. In order to buy things, you must make money. In order to make money, you need to do some sort of job. Then, after you get your first paycheck, you realize the stuff you really want costs more money than you have.

    So you want more money. So you work harder for more money. But things get more expensive, so the more money you make, the more money you spend on the same things that are increasing exponentially in price every single year, every single month.

    Which brings me to Giant Eagle. Doesn't it seem like every item at Giant Eagle costs about $4.00. I know I'm being facetious, but maybe I'm not. To add to that thought, Why does a cart of groceries at Giant Eagle cost about $300, but you can go down the street to Marc's (or whatever your local cheap-o grocery mart is called) and get the exact same groceries, and more, for about $150?

    But, I digress.

    This past weekend I sat down with my Dad to discuss money, inflation and well, mo' money. Not the movie, the idea.

    But first a little history lesson. I grew up in Martins Ferry, Ohio, which is a small little town near Wheeling, W.Va. The economy started to go belly up when the steel industry went kaput in the early 80's. As the steel and coal money dried up, so did the once-prosperous towns and villages along the Ohio River. Although a beautiful area with lots of rolling hils and historic landmarks, the area hasn't really been the same since.

    "Dad," I asked my Dad. "How much were you making in the 80's."

    My dad, who retired after 35 years as a delivery dude for United Parcel Service, gave me a number between $40,000 and $70,000. For that particular time, it was pretty decent money. In fact, I would consider my Dad's annual payload during the 80's above average for Belmont County.

    We weren't starving, we could afford nice clothes, we could afford the latest video game systems (e.g. Colecovision, Atari 2600, Intellivision) and we could even afford a nice pair of $100 Air Jordans every time back-to-school season came around.

    "So, you had two cars, two kids in school and a wife that was a homemaker, correct?" I continued.

    My Dad nodded.

    "You also had credit card payments, a mortgage, utility payments, gas to fill up both cars and cable bills, right?"

    "We didn't have cable," he said.

    "Oh, yeah, I almost forgot," I said, duly noting my faux paus. "Well, despite all of these payments and a one-income family, did you ever have any money left over after you paid the bills?"

    "Oh yeah," My dad exclaimed. Then he thought about this for a moment and said, "We probably had an extra $100 to $200 to spare."

    "Every month?" I asked.

    "No," he said. "Every week."

    I did a spittake of beer, which sprayed all over my mortgage, my utitity bills, my car payments and my gas payments...and my dad.

    My dad's story just goes to prove my point...a little bit.

    Back in the 80's, and even possibly the early 90's, money went a long way. And 'by a long way' I mean you could pay for all of your bills and even have some scratch left over to do something fun - like say going to the movies, or even heading out to Cedar Point....WORRY FREE!

    Nowadays, more or less, we're making the same amount of money that people made back in the 80's and early 90's. However, we're paying out much, much more to the government, the gas station man, the utility man and, sadly,  the credit card man.

    Okay, maybe we're making a teeny-tiny bit more. But, it doesn't make any difference. Show me a married couple with kids that's making $100,000 a year or less, and I'll show you a couple that's struggling to make ends meet.

    Seriously. It's fucking expensive to live.

    Check this out, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, real median household income in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent drop from 2009. Since 2007, real median household income has dropped 6.4 percent.

    Forty-nine thousand four hundred and forty-five dollars? That's about $4,120 a month. About $950 a week. AND THAT'S BEFORE TAXES!!!!!!

    Let me be the first to say, "That fucking sucks!"

    I shared this newfound knowledge with my wife the other day. She took it in, thought about it for a couple minutes, than simply said

    "That's terrible," she said. "How would you live? How could you live?"

    She's right. Obviously people are living. They're eating and scraping by. Some may even be living relatively comfortable by budgeting the money that comes in, and working a second job.

    But, there are many families living below that median income as well, which is scary.

    Gone are the days when the wife (or husband) stays at home to raise the kids - all the while not making some sort of money (In-House Day Care perhaps?). It seems nowadays you need a two-person income to simply make ends meet in this high-inflation world.

    And, speaking of inflation, if we're going by this article in the New York Times, food and gasoline prices are continuously on the rise in the United States, it ain't going to get any easier to pay for these things.

    And I'm not going to even talk about peak oil or paying for my kids' college education or my (shudder) 401K.

    Those are three little jokes that I'll have to save for another entry.

    I'm not sure why I decided to write about this topic. Maybe it's been on my mind for a couple weeks, a couple years, a couple decades. No matter how hard you try to get out of 'owing the man', the man keeps pushing you back down.

    Well, gotta go.

    How to Make it In America is on HBO.

    It's time to get schooled.

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    'The Aliens Are Coming'

    So, I was hanging out at the pool with my wife and two kids today.

    We laughed. We drank. We swam. It was fun.

    A couple hours passed and we decided that we were going to leave.

    On a small sidenote, the cool thing about having a boy and a girl is the fact that one parent can take one kid into the restroom and change him and vice versa for the other.

    So, I was changing my kid into his 'street clothes' and as normal he started babbling. And by babbling I mean singing the Wow, Wow, Wubbzy song followed by some semi-coherent words and a couple understandable sentences followed by babble again.

    Then, as I started to put on his shorts, he stopped - mid sentence - turned his head slowly to meet my gaze and said...

    "The aliens are coming."

    I stopped mid-pull, took a couple steps back and stared at him in disbelief.

    "What did you say?" I asked.

    "The aliens are coming," he said again and then went back to his babbling, sing-songing, crazy fragmented sentences as happy as can be.

    Could this be true? Had my son been sent a message like the children in the Nicholas Cage not-too-shabby Alex Proyas-directed movie Knowing? Did he know something that the adults didn't know?

    "When?" was the only word that could be uttered from my mouth. "When will this happen?" I pleaded with my son like he was the newborn Dalai Lama.

    "VDM," he said followed by the words "Kaka".

    So, assuming my three-year old son picked up Roman Numerology from these aliens...

    V - stands for 5
    D - stands for 500
    M - stands for 1000

    So, to paraphrase my son in Star Wars jibberish, "In 1,505 we're all going to shit."

    The only questions I have, and this is my big uncertainty here, was he referring to years, days, hours or minutes? Or, am I just really, truly, finally going insane?

    I'm going to vote for the former.

    Consider yourself warned...sort of.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Vacation. All I ever wanted?

    Well, as the middle of June arrives, so goes my ass to the Jersey Shore for a long needed vacation.

    Yes, that Jersey Shore.

    Yep, the one that's featured on the hit Mtv Show.

    Yep, that's where I'll be.

    My wife hates it when I tell people that we stay, literally, one mile from the boardwalk where Snooki gets arrested and the Situation shows off his amazing abs.

    "No, no, no," she corrects me. "The show is in Seaside Heights. We are in Seaside Park."

    It's a mile away.

    Besides all of the negative shit you hear about the place, truth be told I have a lot of fun at Jersey Shore.

    The beach is nice. It's not free. You have to pay to enjoy the ocean. Which is awesome because it gets rid of the riff-raff.

    The boardwalk is great. The rides are fun. The beer is cheap. The seafood is awesome. And the people watching is amazing.

    Well, most of the time.

    Last year, I was taking a night stroll through the boardwalk with my wife and kids. Remember I was with my wife and kids. I glanced over to 'admire' this beautiful Jersey girl who was walking into a bar. I moved my eyes slightly to the left and found this big behemoth meathead of a man staring back at me.

    He gave me this 'Stop looking at my fucking property or I'll fucking walk right over there and kick your fucking ass in front of your fucking family' look.

    The guy was pretty big. Plus, I didn't feel like getting my ass kicked in front of my kids. So, I quickly glanced up at the sky and started whistling.

    However, I caught one more quick look of the Jersey lady before she walked into the bar. Take that you guido mother fucker!

    Another story.

    My wife and a number of  our friends decided to taste the nighlife, so we headed down to this dirty biker bar on the boardwalk. Can't remember the name. But, I do remember that this nasty-looking girl was so drunk she hopped up on the bar, ripped off her shirt to permaflash her tits and started dirty dancing.

    Rather than pull the lady off the bar, the bartenders decided to get in on the action. They pulled out their little water side sprayers and started to hose her down with, what I assume, was water. She wiggled and jiggled until the bartenders got bored and pulled her down.

    Then, she walked over to our group and, with her bare  bullet tits a' bouncing, started to hit on one of my buddies, whose wife was standing right next to him! A fight between my buddy's wife and the titty woman almost ensued before she was kindly 'escorted' out of the bar by the bouncer.

    While we're on the subject of interesting sights...

    About five miles south, you can witness the exact opposite of the boardwalk at the Island Beach State Park, it's long strip of park that spans about 12 miles of untainted beach, which in lamen's terms means no hotels, no gaudy boardwalk rides and not a lot of guidos (see photo to the left).

    For a modest fee (about $6) you can venture down a number of insect-ridden trails on either the ocean side or the bay side. I haven't officially visited the bay side, but the ocean side is pretty spectacular.

    About 15-20 minutes north of Seaside Park (Seaside Heights, whatever) is Point Pleasant, which offers another cool boardwalk filled with rides, games and even an aquarium with a number of reptiles and fish.

    Plus, less than a 1/4 mile away from the beach house is a pier where you can go crabbing. Yeah, that type of crabbing. A case of beer, a couple crab traps, some bait and two hours of your time will land you a pretty tasty dinner for the night - and probably a nasty sunburn as well. The picture to the right is an early haul waaaay back in 2006.

    So, all in all, I like the Jersey Shore. I would recommend you check it out at least once in your lifetime. It's worth a week.

    Me? Well, it looks like the Shore is going to be an annual mainstay for my family due to the fact that my father-in-law (i.e. the owner of the house) offers us a modest fee, which is well, well below the $5,000 a week he offers Jersey Shore tourists.
    Games. Food. Family. Fishing. Beer.

    What more could you want in a weeklong vacation?

    Besides, of course, more guidos?