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Football Tonight: Ursine Mammals vs. Midpriced Sedans!

2 Apr

by Roger White

 

This here story, which you may have heard about already, falls squarely under the “you gotta be kiddin’ me” category, because when I read it, I said, “What the f— … er, you gotta be kiddin’ me.” Yeah, that’s what I said.

Here ’tis, and I quote:

“A Utah school district has decided against using Cougars as a mascot for a new high school in part because of the negative connotation of the word in popular culture. Canyons School District Superintendent David S. Doty said the selection of Chargers as the school’s mascot was driven by the desire for originality, despite a poll of some future students that showed 26 percent in favor of using the Cougar mascot.

“Doty said that although Brigham Young University, as well as several Utah high schools (including one in a nearby district), use Cougars as a mascot, public comments they received reflect a desire to be different—and he noted that some see the word ‘cougar’ as carrying a ‘negative double entendre.’ Spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook said the power of social media has brought the district more attention than desired, referring to articles like this Huffington Post story, ‘Cougar Mascot Vetoed for Corner Canyon High School for Being Offensive toward Women,’ or this Yahoo sports story, ‘New School Can’t Be Cougars Because Middle-Aged Women Might Be Offended.'” Or this here social media story that I’m about to write. Har. Woah, hey, I’m actually writing it right now. AAH! One of those space-time continuum moments. How can I be writing it now if you’re already reading it? Hello! hello! Echo! echo! Scary.

So anyway, yeah, all ol’ Superintendent Doty had to say was that the school wanted to be different. By bringing up the negative double entendre thing, he opened himself up a big ol’ can o’ media worms. I like that. Media worms. Kinda fits.

This, of course, got me thinking about what other teams might have to re-ponder their mascot choices, given today’s milieu of ultra-hyper-crikey-sensitivity. Let us ponder. And re-ponder. Take the NFL (please):

Chicago Bears. Sorry, gay connotation. If you are unaware, a “bear” in the gay world, and I quote from a popular social media source, refers to male individuals who possess physical attributes much like a bear, such as a heavy build, abundant body hair, and often facial hair. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, lest we offend our hairy homosexual brethren, let’s change it to the Chicago Ursine Mammals.

Buffalo Bills. Mmm, negative emotional impact on the financially strapped in our society. Bills, bills, bills. We can’t have that. This needs to be something gentler, something along the lines of Buffalo Payment Restructuring Reminders.

New York Jets. Nope; this offends those of us who can’t afford to fly. From now on, you are the New York Midpriced Sedans.

New England Patriots. This is borderline, but I see possible political overtones here. Just to be on the safe side, let’s go with the New England Citizens of No Political Affiliation.

Washington Redskins. This one’s obvious. New name – Washington Human Race Members. (Same with the Kansas City Chiefs. Come on, fellahs, that’s just rude. From here on out, the Kansas City Regular Decent People of Vague Ethnic Persuasion.)

Tennessee Titans. Sorry, too reflective of the Titan Missiles, the Space Race, the Cold War, Kruschchev, shoe-pounding and all that. Your new name is the Tennessee World Peace Initiative.

 

Oakland Raiders. Please, this conjures up images of thieves and thugs and other ne’er-do-wells. Try on the Bay Area Working-Class Magnanimous Helper Types.

Cleveland Browns. This is downright color elitist. You will from here on take the field as the Cleveland All-Inclusive Hues. The helmet, of course, will be white but will change color depending on ambient temperature.

Philadelphia Eagles. Mmmm, too nationalistic. I like the Philadelphia Countries in Harmony.

New York Giants. Honestly, this is simply humiliating to short people. The Big Apple’s team should now and forever be the New York Average-Height Folks. And scratch the Big in front of Apple, while you’re at it. Let’s just say The Apple. Well, now, wait—that also discriminates, doesn’t it? The Fruit. There you go. New York the city its own self is now known as The Fruit.

New Orleans Saints. Really, way too pious and religiously selective. See if this fits: The New Orleans Non-Proselytizing Spiritually Uplifted Cadre.

Roger White All Colors is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat lovingly large-boned dachshund, and a self-absorbed healthily self-aware cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

An Insider’s Peek at Hollywood, Part II

26 Mar

by Roger White

I suppose I had my one real insider’s look at how Hollywood works some years ago, when I attended a screenwriters’ session on how to “pitch ideas” to producers during an Austin Film Festival annual gathering of would-be writers.

A panel of so-called idea people (a Hollywood oxymoron if I ever heard one) sat at a table and critiqued writers’ script ideas, based on approximately 30 seconds of monologue. If writers didn’t have what the idea people called a high-concept proposal, if writers paused for a breath, if writers tried to explain a complex plot turn, they were toast.

The guy who won the pitch contest did so with the following idea, I kid you not:

“So you’re walking along the street, a nice sunny day, and suddenly everything goes blank. Then you’re like HOLY F@#K!! WHERE AM I?!”

“Ooh,” said the idea people. “Nice.”

Cursing and yelling seemed to be high on their list. “High concept,” to these folks, who I must say all looked to be about 25 to 28 years old, meant explosions, gruesome terror, betrayal, deadly animals, killer robots, slasher horror, or Brad Pitt. This particular pitch session occurred as the movie “Snakes on a Plane” was in production. One of the idea people could hardly contain himself as he explained what a fantastic high-concept film this was going to be—a classic in the making.

“Imagine it,” he gushed. “Snakes set loose on a plane! Don’t you see? There’s no way off of a plane. And all these snakes are slithering all over the place!”

I sat and wondered how this expert panel would have rated the opening scene to the 1951 epic “A Place in the Sun,” in which Montgomery Clift is quietly thumbing for a ride along a lonely stretch of road. It was then and there I realized I would never be a Hollywood screenwriter. No, not sour grapes. I’m just not young and stupid enough.

Am I alone here? With very few notable exceptions, this is the state of film-making today. If it bites, blows up, bleeds, beheads people, or is Brad, it’s got a green light. If we run out of ideas, we do it all over again as a sequel.

Even my kids, teenage movie buffs both of them, understand by now the banal, bottom-line instincts of your basic Hollywood producer. Both my daughters are big “Twilight Saga” fans, but even they balked at the notion of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Wind—Part II.”

Did I say “Wind”? I meant “Dawn,” of course. This latest gem, which opens in November, is a part two within a multi-part series of movies, mind you, all of which are looking more and more like the same vampire movie with simply fresh blood and longer fangs.

This got me thinking again. What if the great citizenry—that’s us—rose up and dictated to Hollywood: No More Sequels! I know, I know what you’re going to say, what about “Godfather II”? Simple, this is the exception that proves the rule. Just about every other sequel I can think of never should have seen the light of day. Here are just a few: “Basic Instinct 2,” “Caddyshack II,” “Grease 2,” “Jaws: The Revenge,” “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” “Dumb and Dumberer,” “Blues Brothers 2000.” The list is damn near eternal.

I shudder to think of the results if such movie-making titans as director Stuart Rosenberg (“Cool Hand Luke”) or Robert Mulligan (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) had been under similar pressure to squeeze out sequels. Oh, the horror.

Come to think of it, there’s no time limit on butchering classics. They have a new “Three Stooges” now, for crying out loud. So, as much as it strikes terror in my heart, you might look for these titles soon at a theater near you:

• “Cooler Hand Luke: Revenge of Them Damned Eggs”

• “To Sir With Even More Love”

• “Citizen Kane II: Rosebud Returns”

• “The Ten Commandments II: God’s Revisions”

• “Real Gone with the Wind”

• “Bonnie and Clyde Part 2: They Were Only Flesh Wounds”

• “The Post-Graduate: Revenge of the Robinsons”

• “Mockingbird II: Rise of Boo Radley”

• “Dueling Wizards of Oz: I’ll Witch-Slap You”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy

15 Apr

by Roger White

For this installment to make any sense to you, my fellow life travelers, it will behoove you to be of a certain age range—namely, somewhat old to pretty darn old. It will also be of great benefit to your reading comprehension and pleasure if you are listeners of a particular genre of music—i.e., rock and roll that also ranges from somewhat old to pretty darn old.

Let’s put the bandwidth at somewhere grayer than The Cars but not so geriatric as Jerry Lee Lewis. Give or take. So if you don’t currently fit these parameters, I will wait to write the rest of this column until you comply. You have 20 minutes.

Oh, forget it. I got stuff to do. Please continue.

You see, it occurred to me the other day, as I tried with scant success to decipher the words to one of the endless string of hippity-hop rapster tunes my daughters devote their entire afternoons to (see previous column entitled…well, heck, see all previous columns), what wondrous adaptive mechanisms our brains are. If we can’t make out the lyrics to a song we listen to over and over (sometimes under duress), our minds create lyrics for us—and even a backstory to go with those faux lyrics—so we can make sense of what we’re hearing and thus not go entirely insane.

Specifically, I was driving home from a genuinely miserable day at the cube. The radio was still in daughter mode, so when I turned it on, Katy Perry was asking plaintively, “Baby, are you tired of work?” You know it, sister, I replied. Understand that I recognized the singer only because I have been taken to task several times for not knowing who Katy Perry is or realizing her great significance to Western civilization. My daughters truly believe it is my life’s goal to embarrass the bejeezus out of both of them.

So anyway, I got home and relayed with a smidgen of pride to my girls how I related to Ms. Perry’s song. I got the exaggerated eye roll and the pitiful head shake, in unison. “Dad, you are such a goober. She’s saying, ‘Baby, you’re a firework.’”

Oh. Well. It was then I hopped into my lemon-yellow time machine and found myself back in my senior year in high school, working at that tiny self-serve gas station, stacking cans of Havoline in the back. It was 1976, and the cheap box of a radio in the next room was playing the new song by The Eagles, hot off the presses. What follows I must say in my defense transpired mainly because I couldn’t hear that darn radio very well. Did I mention the radio was cheap, and small? Anyway:

Catchy tune, I thought as I strained to listen, and what a unique way to give vent to how things can get so messed up at times:

“Flies in the Vaseline,

Surely make you lose your mind,

Flies in the Vaseline, uh huh…”

I could identify with that. I asked my friend the next day if he’d heard the song. “Neat,” I said, “because it’s true, ya know. Sometimes it feels like there’s just a bunch of flies in your Vaseline. Everything going all wrong.”

My buddy’s face morphed from utter confusion to complete hysterics when it dawned on him that I was talking about “Life in the Fast Lane.”

Just so you’ll know I’m not the only goober in the family (and so I can shine the warm lights of shame on my wife, as well), when I divulged my dark secret some years ago to my lovely spouse, Sue, she laid on me a beauty of a “lyric lapse” of her own. Now, here’s where you may look at me like a medicated cow if you haven’t heard the song.

My dear Sue actually thought that in the song “Peace of Mind” by Boston, where the chorus goes thusly:

            “I understand about indecision,

            But I don’t care if I get behind…”

…that it went like this:

            “I understand about indecision,

            But I’m not scared of the FBI…”

I thought for a while there that she was just saying this to ease my discomfort, but no, you can’t make this stuff up. We surely all have our own versions of tunes, the most classic being, of course, “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy…” I bet Jimi never knew how many people through the years would be pondering his lifestyle choices because of that one line. And, yes, CCR will always and forever be accused of some sort of scatological preoccupation for directing us to the “bathroom on the right.”

There are dozens, probably hundreds of others. There are even books and web sites devoted to this phenomenon. But you can’t really worry about it. It happens to everyone, I guess. You have to just let the water run off your back, like Van Morrison says:

            “Hey, wet amigo!

            Dazed when the rains came…”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.