(This blog may contain spoilers from Season 1 of the HBO series, Game of Thrones. That said, if you haven’t started watching it by now, read on anyway and I’ll save you the trouble.)

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So it’s Saturday. My day off-ish. I finally decided to binge-a-thon Game of Thrones t­­­o see what all the fuss is about.

After two episodes, the story was building at such a snail’s pace (interlaced heavily with uninspiring acting, cheap nudity, and incest) I could barely keep my eyes open. T­he cliffhangers, however, of episodes 1 and 2 (an attempted murder of Sean Bean’s son and the son waking from an apparent coma respectively) peaked my interest just barely enough to forge bravely on to episode 3.

Then I finished episode 3.

Good LORD. I cannot take any more boobs and boring.

In regards to the boobs, don’t get me wrong, in general they don’t bother me. It’s the completely random, pointlessness of the boobies on this show. It’s as if the director, while filming, asked, “When’s the last time we had some boob?… Ten minutes?!? We’d better throw a couple topless chicks in here then.” And don’t get me started on the one-positional sex scenes. Seriously?

As for boring? The writing is boring. The wolves are boring. The blond chick with the dragon eggs is boring. The hot warrior dude is hot, but still boring. And, bless him, but Sean Bean is BORING BORING BORING.

I don’t care anymore if winter is coming. I don’t care if dragons are coming. I tried. Even a zombie apocalypse couldn’t save this show for me. I know there’s (at least) 5 more seasons left, and maybe it does get better, but I’d prefer to save the rest of my Saturday, my time, my sanity, and just imagine my own ending right now:

Winter finally comes. Sean Bean’s son pushes the icky queen out a window. All the douche bags on the show (and there’s A LOT of them) all fall on their swords. And the rest of the kingdom (or whatever) freeze (with “Let It Go” flare) in their stupid, fur coats bringing a swift and satisfactory, non-doggy style climax to Game of Drones.

The end.

Oscar

“For the 83rd consecutive year, celebrating the gems in a sea of mediocrity.”

There’s always quite the brouhaha about the Oscars this time of year. Which million dollar masterpiece will be honored with best picture? Who will win the bald, golden statue for best actor/actress? What hideous gown will make the best and/or worst dressed list this year? (For the record, Cate Blanchett’s bizarre, pink frock – she looked like she’d been exposed to an alien virus – gets my worst dressed vote.) Yet, while I can fully appreciate the abstract artistry of a Black Swan or a brilliant script à la The Social Network, I can’t help but look passed the Hollywood glitz and glamour to reflect on the overwhelming number of awful movies I was exposed to in 2010.

While the minds behind the Academy Awards saw fit to recognize 10 films in the best picture category this year, in retrospect they seem to be rare cinematic gems in a sea of mediocrity. For every good to great film I watched in the last 12 months, at least a half dozen appeared to warrant a refund after the first 20 minutes. Some were presented using useless, over hyped 3D technology. Some insulted your intelligence. Some made you think about hunting down the actors to retaliate for retinal abuse.

We go to the movies to escape, to be entertained and, despite Hollywood rumors to the contrary, that desire was more lacking in 2010 than ever before. In fact, the more I investigated the topic, the more bad movies I discovered to add to my hit list. So before this rant gets any longer, in honor of the 10 official Oscar nominees of 2010, I give you…

The Top 10 Worst Movies of 2010!

Ah, Steve Carell. The accidental genius, God bless him.

#10 – Dinner for Schmucks
Steve Carell is no leading man, but he still has this amazing ability to take garbage and make it, at the very least, smell like a taxi cab air freshener. He’s fantastic in The Office. I watched him work miracles in Evan Almighty. Even in Dinner for Schmucks, Carell manages to portray Barry as an endearing idiot savant… in a creepy, stuffed rat posed in 1950s Americana sort of way. Unfortunately though, it’s not enough to dilute a weak script and poor execution. Schmucks is a lot of wacky people being overtly weird, the same jokes playing out ad nauseam, and a hapless Paul Rudd as the biggest loser of them all.

Crazy stalker in your house? Don’t call the police, sit back and enjoy the chaos! Your girlfriend thinks you’re cheating? Don’t immediately try to explain the situation, drag the nonsense out for another hour until the explanation happens unintentionally!

Obviously Dinner for Schmucks was never going to be an Oscar contender, but when your viewers find themselves angrily shouting “WHY?” at the screen while simultaneously searching for the exit, that’s never a good sign it’ll sell a lot of DVDs either.

#9 – Hot Tub Time Machine
This could’ve been a funny movie… if I was drunk, stoned, or both. Maybe then I would’ve felt like I had something in common with the characters or the state of mind of the writers. It also has cringe worthy dialogue that suggests those delivering the lines think they’re being clever; a Jerry Seinfeld, who laughs at his own jokes, effect. A poor excuse for comedy.

“You want me to turn it sideways and do what with my career?”

#8 – The Tooth Fairy
I love The Rock. He’s one of the greatest professional wrestling personalities of all time. As his performances in both The Rundown and Walking Tall demonstrate, he’s also not a half bad actor either (he blows John Cena out of the water on both counts). However, if I have to sit through another child friendly flick where a sickeningly saccharin People’s Champion is forced to prance around like a ballet dancer (see The Game Plan for an equally excruciating experience… on second thought, don’t), I may be forced to give up on supporting his movie career altogether.

#7 – Iron Man 2
Note to the Iron Man. You’re not immortal. Your special super hero suit does not come customized with internal airbags. Nevertheless, you can be whipped around like a crash test dummy and plummet hundreds of feet to the earth without turning into an iron bucket of broken bones? The errors in logic from this movie hurt my brain.

Just keep walking, honey. You and you’re fancy heels wouldn’t last five minutes.

#6 – Leap Year
When it comes to the reasons why co-star Matthew Goode choose to do this film, it should be no surprise that he said, “It wasn’t because of the script, trust me.” One hundred minutes with a whiny, spoiled redhead complaining, played infuriatingly well by Amy Adams, is not my idea of fun. Then there’s the added bonus of her trying to get to Dublin, Ireland from Wales (a northwest route) by taking a boat traveling southwest to Cork, which was then diverted to Dingle, which is roughly 100 miles passed Cork on the other side of the country? Did the writers, actors, director, or anyone involved in the production of this film ever look at a freakin’ map? Where exactly do you think Dublin is? Iceland? She would’ve needed more than the luck of the Irish to make it to Dublin by 2012!

#5 – Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
If the length of a movie title were any indication of the time spent on character development, then perhaps Percy Jackson would’ve been worth the financial investment at the cinema. Alas, within the opening 10 minutes we’re treated with dialogue akin to:

Percy: “Oh! A creepy bat thing is trying to kill me! What the hell is going on?”
Some Dude: “It’s because you’re the son of Poseidon.”
Percy: “What?”
Some Dude: “Now we’re going to send you to a special camp where you’ll meet other kids whose parents also come from mythology.”
Percy: “That explanation is perfectly logical. Okay then. Let’s go.”

#4 – District 9
I assumed, incorrectly, with LOTR director, Peter Jackson, at the helm the unique story of District 9 surely would provide an interesting evening of entertainment. Boy, was I wrong, wrong, wrong.

As part of a DVD double feature night, I picked this movie to trail a viewing of Babe; a sweet, heartfelt tale about an extraordinary pig to be followed by dead pork carcasses being used as projectile weapons. This was a poor choice to be fair. I also didn’t appreciate the enormous gap left open at the end for a sequel. Really? You’re that confident viewers will give a crap whether or not your extremely unlikable “hero,” will ever be saved? If they were trying to make a statement about human misery, they should’ve worked a little harder on presenting a coherent story, rather than psychologically torturing their audience.

My thoughts exactly.

#3 – Clash of the Titans
The subtitle of this film should’ve been “FX Overkill: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

The trouble begins when they laugh off Bubo the owl. (I hate this revision from the original almost as much as I hated George Lucas changing the Ewok party theme music at the end of Jedi.) Then there is, like most films these days, the pointless addition of 3D nothing. They also fail to deliver on the eerie characters of Calibos and Medusa (she’s meant to be hideous, not a supermodel with snake hair), turned killer scorpions into rodeo arthropods, and then went completely overboard on the special effects.

It takes what feels like an HOUR to “release the Kraken!” for gawd sakes!

It’s as if the technical geeks thought, “let’s turn him into an Octokraken with a thousand legs and show 15 minutes of CGI footage for every individual limb!” In the time it takes for the beast to emerge from the sea to wreak havoc, the townspeople could’ve evacuated and rebuilt an entirely new city from scratch!

There are rumors a sequel is in the works, but I say you should save yourself the hassle and check out the original Harry Hamilton version instead.

#2 – Piranha 3D
No plot, lots of cursing, and more! A multitude of extended montages of bikini clad, gyrating, booby jiggling sluts? They’ve got it! Repeated blasts of loud, headache inducing music? It’s like being in a nightclub where everyone’s drunk, but you! An excessively gory shot of a half Jerry O’Connell, half bloody, spinally skeletal legs? It’ll make you long for the days when he was overweight and a reasonably respectable actor! And what was the icing on this disemboweled cake? They’re talking sequel! “No plotline has yet been decided,” according to reports. That’s okay. Something tells me they never came up with one for the first run either.

Just let go, Sly. It’s for the best.

#1 – The Expendables
With all its star power, including Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and WWE’s “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, I walked into The Expendables with high expectations. That was my mistake. From beginning to end, this movie filled me with such disdain, I considered hunting down Stallone, hitting him with a rolled up newspaper, and snapping, “No! Bad Rocky!”

The plot (if you can call it that) is beyond weak, the acting is atrocious, and the dialogue is the verbal equivalent of chicken scratchings. Poorly trained monkeys could’ve produced a better movie. And to make matters worse, the entire thing was filmed using awkward, shaky, and nonsensical camera shots as well. Do we need to inspect every pore on Mickey Rourke’s face or zoom in spasticly whenever someone takes or throws a punch? For all the constant, unnecessary motion, they should’ve offered dramamine at the box office.

Finally, after hours of killing and bloodshed, we come to the anticlimactic battle between Stallone and one of the main evil villains. This is where Sly, using an array of maneuvers unfit for even a roided up 60-year-old man, chooses an armbar submission hold. Really. After thousands of rounds of spent ammunition and merciless, murderous warfare, he decides to go for a tap out? There’s a sequel rumored to be in the works so perhaps we’ll be treated with the dreaded Bob Backlund chicken wing in part two! Then again, do I really want to risk another $12 on this? Unlike Stallone’s dwindling career, my money’s just not that expendable.

$25 for tickets, $11 for parking, plus food, drink & back pain?

Launched in 2002 in Louisville, Kentucky Lebowski Fest is, according to the official website, “a celebration of all things related to the 1998 Coen brothers cult comedy, ‘The Big Lebowski.’ Fans of the film (aka ‘Achievers’) come from far and wide to drink white Russians, throw some rocks and party with an array of Dudes, Walters and Maudes (not to mention a nihilist or two).”

After months of anticipation, and enduring fee-related drama with Ticketmaster, my sister and I headed down to the Showbox in downtown Seattle to attend the first night of this two-day extravaganza. When all was said and done, however, I’m not even sure an entire pitcher of white Russians would have cured my disappointment.

The following is a letter of complaint addressed to the promoters of the Lebowski Fest fan event in October of 2010 in Seattle, WA.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to request a refund of $26, the cost for parking and other related expenses encountered while attending your failure of a Lebowski Fest event in Seattle, WA in October 2010.

When I first heard Lebowski Fest was coming to my hometown of Seattle, I was living in Cork, Ireland planning a trip home for the summer. Determined not to miss it this time around, I extended my trip into October leading to months of eager anticipation. Little did I know the whole experience would leave me feeling extremely Un-Dude.

My initial annoyance with the event began when I attempted to purchase tickets via Ticketmaster.com. Upon discovering I’d be required to pay $13+ in fees per ticket, I decided to avoid the rip off and take my chances at the door on the night. Note to organizers: Do not use Ticketmaster. When you advertise one price and your customer has to pay 60% more at the outlet, it makes you look bad too.

On the day, after paying the $11 for parking at a nearby lot, my sister and I arrived at the venue at 7pm when the doors were advertised, on your website, to open. The doorman advised us, however, that the venue wouldn’t open until 8pm and if we wanted to secure a place in line, we’d have to purchase something from the adjacent bar; my sister’s white Russian cost $7.50 as did my grilled cheese sandwich bringing our combined grand pre-ticket purchase total to $26.

Finally, shortly after 8pm when our group number (not a single place in line) was called, we bought our tickets and headed passed the souvenir stand (where I intended to blow a copious amount of cash) into the Showbox to find seats. Much to our surprise, here were the best options available:

  • Sitting on a hardwood floor in a large open area in front of the stage.
  • A single row of uncomfortable chairs surrounding the open floor several yards from the stage with the majority of views obscured by pillars, enormous concert-style speakers, and people.
  • A limited number of tables in the back of the venue with views of the stage completely obscured by the aforementioned pillars, speakers, and people.

For $25 per person, plus parking, plus a mandatory bar purchase, we were being offered two and a half hours of loud DJed music, a band and dance troupe we’ve never heard of and wouldn’t be able to see without obstruction, before we could watch the actual film which we also wouldn’t be able to see without obstruction? Perhaps if I wasn’t so heavily medicated at the time to slave off a migraine I could’ve drunk away my frustration, but instead I spent $11 to park, $15 on food and beverage, and $25 on a ticket to sit uncomfortably looking at pillars, speakers, and people.

When securing our ticket refunds I was told by Showbox staff that they wanted to seat this event, but the organizers refused. It is due to this complete lack of seating and overall consideration for your fans that we choose not to attend day two of the event as planned, and are requesting that our expenses of $26 be refunded as well. Had we know in advance we’d be asked to purchase food/drink to get in line to then pay $25 to deal with a badly organized event, we would’ve watched the Big Lebowski on DVD on the couch at home.

Regrettably,

Natina Norton
Former Lebowski Fest Fan

Photo: AP

I swear I am not making this up.

Popping into a local shop in Cork, Ireland recently, I came across several newspaper headlines that immediately caught my attention. Big, bold font, bright red colours, and together they collectively read to the effect:

“Man Denies Killing Kangaroo with Drink and Ecstasy at Dublin Disco.”

My first reaction? I was simply dumbfounded. So.. Many.. Questions. Let’s start with how many things are wrong with the above headline?

  1. Having a kangaroo in a disco.
  2. Giving an animal drugs.
  3. Giving an animal alcohol.
  4. Potentially killing an animal with drugs and alcohol.
  5. Finding yourself in position to have to deny you killed an animal with drugs and alcohol at a disco.

While attempting to shake off my multi-layered disorientation, I began to read several of the included articles, but this only lead to further confusion, then irritation, then full blown anger with each passing paragraph.

From The Daily Mail:

Detectives questioned a circus owner today about allegations that a wallaby died after being plied with ecstasy and drink at a birthday disco.

The marsupial was let loose among more than 150 revellers dancing at the Clarion Hotel in Liffey Valley, west Dublin, to the theme tune of Australian television show Skippy The Bush Kangaroo.

Video of the incident was uploaded to Facebook which The Irish Times described as finishing with “a man simulating a sexual act on the animal,” much to the delight of the other guests. Meanwhile, a circus, sited 500 metres away from the hotel, denied they’d ever allow their animals to be in a disco, contrary to another report which claimed this would not be the first time the circus had received a similar disco-related accusation.

It just gets better and better, doesn’t it?

Whether the allegations regarding the intoxication death of the kangaroo (much less the allegations against the circus) prove to be true, this whole story, the fact that someone – I assume sober – thought it a good idea to bring a wild animal into a disco in the first place, remains exceptionally disturbing. How can anyone be so oblivious?

Traumatizing an animal for the sole purpose of human entertainment? Since animal-based circuses are still in business, perhaps that’s a stupid question.

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News fame apparently just can’t help himself. Appearing on ABC’s program The View, O’Reilly (well-known for his loud spouting of overbearing rhetoric), managed to rant his way into an embarrassingly bigoted statement. He also insulted and alienated co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to the point of them walking off the set. The topic was the mosque near Ground Zero. O’Reilly’s take was that it was inappropriate for the families who lost loved ones because, “Muslims killed us on 9/11.”

A description of the event from an excellent article in the LA Times:

If you wanted to know what’s wrong with American politics, all you had to do was watch “The View” on Thursday, when co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar walked off the set after Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly announced that “Muslims killed us on 9/11.”  In the wake of their departure, co-host Barbara Walters, who is becoming more schoolmarmish with every passing year, admonished her colleagues, telling the audience, “You have just seen what should never happen,” and adding that “we” should be able to sit down and talk calmly about politics even if we disagree.

Girlfriend, please.

While I appreciate Barbara Walter’s feeble and misguided attempt at keeping the peace, in an effort to do so she lost a lot of credibility. O’Reilly is not a humble philosopher. He’s an aggressive instigator; a hate-filled bomb waiting for the opportunity to detonate. Much like the Rev. Terry Jones fiasco, Walters and company provided O’Reilly a soapbox in the name of ratings. You can hardly blame the fallout when you’re the one who lit the fuse.

 

O’Reilly did later clarify his statement, inserting the word “extremists” into his argument, however, he still failed to explain how or why the mosque near Ground Zero is inappropriate for the Muslim families who also lost loved ones on 9/11.

Visiting Ticketmaster.com recently, I began the process of purchasing two tickets for the Lebowski Fest, a celebration of all things related to The Big Lebowski. Little did I know, however, by the end of this seemingly simple effort I’d find myself feeling extremely un-Dude.

Advance ticket prices for the two day event were advertised at $20 and $25 respectively; a relatively hefty investment for a movie, bowling, and what have you. Nevertheless, it’s Lebowski Fest so I could hardly complain. Knowing Ticketmaster’s reputation for fees – partially thanks to a boycott by Pearl Jam in the 1990s – I did, out of principle, at first make an attempt to purchase the tickets elsewhere, but that only resulted in more frustration (like talking to Larry about his homework) at the local outlet:

Me: What is your fee on these tickets?

Agent: (Pointing at the computer screen) The tickets are $19.99 each, and the convenience charge is $9.60 and the facility fee is $1.

Me: Is that $10.60 per ticket?

Agent: (Again pointing at the screen) The tickets are $19.99 each, and the convenience charge is…

Me: Yes, I get that. But it doesn’t specify if the fee is per ticket or if it’s the total fee for both tickets. All I want to know is if I’d be charged $10.60 total in fees or $10.60 per ticket, like $21.20.

Agent: The tickets are $19.99…

Me: Okay. I’m leaving now.

With my options limited and the Fest dates rapidly approaching, I decided to bite the bullet and buy from the evil Ticketmaster.

  • Convenience Charge (for their convenience, not mine) = $8.60 PER TICKET
  • Facility Charge = $1.00 PER TICKET
  • Tax = $0.43 PER TICKET

Only slightly cheaper than the outlet, yet I’d still be spending potentially $10 more than the advertised price and that doesn’t even take tickets for day two of festivities into consideration, not a mind food and a souvenir t-shirt. But wait! There’s more!

Outrageous shipping charges are also available, if you don’t select “Will Call,” including $2.50 for the privileged of printing them yourself at home. (Apparently this charge covers the cost of sending you an email, which we all know is more expense than a postage stamp.) Then, once you’ve entered your credit card info and billing address, Ticketmaster tacks on ANOTHER “Order Processing Fee” of $5.94 as an afterthought.

So when all is said and done, a $19 ticket will cost you $32 at Ticketmaster. That’s roughly a 60% mark up.

Needless to say, after being asked to pay a facility charge, and a convenience charge, AND taxes on top of the advertised $19 price, the additional $5.94 inexplicably snuck in at the last minute was the final straw. I’d rather take my chances at the venue on the day than pay $13 in fees to a – in the preferred nomenclature – soulless corporation running as a monopoly.

 

Options.

 

Because Lebowski Fest, which began in 2002, doesn’t have the multimillion dollar marketing machine of, say a Justin Bieber, my chances of scoring tickets outside Ticketmaster were limited to begin with. However, for the bigger concerts and sporting events, there are far more ways to circumvent excessive fees.

Go to the venue – You can’t avoid all fees, but you’ll at least be able to elude the dreaded “convenience charge” by purchasing your tickets in advance or on the day directly from the venue.

Win tickets – Contact local radio stations to inquire about contests and giveaways for upcoming events. I won two tickets to my first concert this way. It cost quite a bit in stamps for all the individual postal entries, but it still cost less than buying two tickets at Ticketmaster.

Craigslist or Ebay – While you must be wary of scalpers and counterfeit tickets, this may be your best option to not only avoid Ticketmaster fees, but also find reasonably priced tickets to sold out events.

Outside giving Ticketmaster CEO, Irving Azoff, a bath with an amphibious rodent, what can be done to stop Ticketmaster’s fleecing of the general public? Is there any hope of defeating them when even the patrons of grunge-o-licious virtue, Pearl Jam, yielded to their former archenemy in 1998?

Unfortunately no. It’s all about supply and demand. As long as the average citizen doesn’t mind paying their fees (or continues to do so begrudgingly), Ticketmaster will remain the masters of the ticket universe.

As for me, I do mind, this loyal Big Lebowski fan minds. A $13 add on is just offensive and I refuse to reward their abuse of power. This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man. And until there’s a major revolt, or promoters start disclosing ALL additional fees in the advertised price, you wanna know what the sum total of my money Ticketmaster will see?

Mark it zero.

Photo by Darren Greenwood, jupiterimages.com

As summer draws to a close, I’m reminded of the many fun-filled trips to the beach I’ve had the chance to experience; the ocean, the sun, the sand and… the trash.

Humans, in addition to being the most over-populated species on the planet, are also the laziest. The sloth has got nothing on us and they’re so slow, it’d take them a month to walk a mile! (Have you walked a mile in the last month?)

Based on the state of most beaches after a decent day of weather, evolution has not only increased the size and complexity of the human brains, but it also seems to have disabled our ability to clean up after ourselves.

Caro, from the uniquely titled blog, Help Me Or I’ll Kick You, discovered a bunched of washed up garage (no, not whatever was Kayne West’s latest album) on an otherwise pleasant walk down the beach in Newfoundland.

I may be no expert, but I know for a fact that tires and blue plastic are not native to any natural environment. Some of you may be tempted to think “Newfoundland needs to clean up their act!”, but you know what? It’s not them. It’s us. What are we doing to ourselves?

– Caro, “Of beauty, discovery and destruction,” June 24, 2010

Humans (as the title of my blog suggests) are collectively disgusting, inconsiderate beings who indiscriminately dump their waste into the ocean (and everywhere for that matter), never once giving a second thought to the damage it will cause. As was so eloquently stated by an official in Louisiana during the BP crisis, the fish, birds and other wildlife of the Gulf are suffering because we insist on the convenience of oil. This statement is true of environments all over the world. It’s a shame so many prefer to go the “outta sight, outta mind” route rather than take responsibility and clean up their act.

I mean, seriously. How freakin’ difficult is it to bring along a plastic bag to the beach, put your garbage in it, then throw it away in a trash bin at the end of the day?