Monday, February 28, 2005 

Jesus Lives, And He's Serving You Fries

Just finished The DaVinci Code today, mainly to see what all the fuss was about--and boy, can I see it. It's undeniably entrancing, sure, but it's so damn obvious in doing so. If this book was a movie, it'd be one of those old outer-space flicks where you can see the wires holding up the spaceship as it flies in front of a spraypainted bedsheet. (Yes, I know it's going to be a big-budget Ron Howard movie; I'm talking more in metaphoric than cinematic terms here.) But there are lessons to be learned here, friends.

First off, the plot, if you're not already aware. We've got The Church, here represented sort of as the Legion of Doom in purty robes. (They've even got their own Solomon Grundy-like lunatic albino.) And we've got the Priory of Sion, this super-secret society that's tasked with protecting The Greatest Secret In All Human History. When Solomon Grundy knocks off a Louvre curator with connections to the Priory of Sion (I'll preserve suspense for the three of you who haven't yet read it), all hell breaks loose, and a resourceful (of course), ruggedly handsome (of course) Harvard symbologist (wha...?) and an attractive (of course) French codebreaker chick (ooookay) find themselves in pursuit of the Holy Grail itself, while themselves being pursued by the French police and The Church, who are both in this book a lot more resourceful than you'd think. The symbologist and the French hottie are forced to jump through all kinds of logical hoops and riddles left by the dead curator, most of which are either 1. completely obvious or 2. of the CSI variety, where they just happen to stumble onto exactly the right answer.

Anyway, I'm going on way too long here, but here's the upshot. Dan Brown can write him a cliffhanger. I HAD to keep reading this book to figure out what was going on. The cliffhangers in this book are like pizza or sex; even though they're weak and obvious, they're still pretty good. (Also like bad sex, I felt a little used and dirty after reading this--like I could've spent the five or six hours in MUCH better ways.)

So--do I recommend it? Aw, sure; you know already if you'll like this. I'm a conspiracy--well, not "obsessive," not "nut" or "freak"--let's say "conspiracy enthusiast," and this feeds into the suspicion that a lot of folks have that there's Somebody Out There Pulling All The Strings. And although the theology and academic rigor is grade-school level, I do like the idea espoused here that true faith understands that the stories of the Bible are metaphoric. That's another journal for another day, but the literature professor in me has always been at war with the faithful side; knowing how texts are created through history tends to make me look a bit askance at certain stories that I was told to, literally, take as gospel.

The Da Vinci Code ain't gospel, not by a long shot, but if I can pull off the kind of page-turning tome that Brown has here, I'll be mucho pleased with myself.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005 

Comics That Just Ain't Right II: Special Black History Month edition



"We all smiled, like it was just some throwaway joke at Old Man Weatherbee's expense. Then Archie turned those all-American blues on me and hissed, 'Don't let the sun set on your ass in Riverdale, boy.' After Archie turned his back, Betty leaned in close, pointed at my glass of milk and murmured, 'Like the taste of white, do you...?'" --From A Token In a Land of Quarters: Memoirs Of The Only African-American Within Fifty Miles Of Riverdale, by Charles "Chuck" Clayton.*

This cracker-approved cover courtesy of the fine folks at www.millarworld.biz --and some damn poor editing.

*-And yes, that's the character's real name. I found it in less than five minutes of googling. God bless you, Internets!

 

The Dumbest Student I Ever Taught

I teach occasional classes in literature at Georgia Perimeter College, a fine institution in the suburbs of Atlanta. Fully 99 percent of my students are dedicated, thoughtful, often quite insightful, and most importantly, willing to take the leap to understand that while literature won't get you a better job, it will give you a fuller life.

However...there is that 1 percent. That group of students who are so incredibly foolish that I wonder how they remember to inhale after they exhale. I'm not talking about book smarts or computer smarts--I'm talking about class ethics. It's incredibly easy now to plagiarize papers--visit Google, type in your works for study, cut, paste, and boom--instant paper. Except none of these little geniuses seems to figure out that if they can find something on Google, I can too. And at the end of every semester, my wife can count on me storming through the kitchen on Rant #43--"How Can These Kids Be So Damn Stupid When I've Warned Them About Plagiarism Fifty Times?"

I'll leave the sociological and philosophical root causes of this plagiarism infection--it's not an epidemic yet--for another time. For now, I'd like to tell you about the dumbest student I ever taught. This fool decided to write a paper on author Robert Olen Butler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning short story writer/novelist of no small skill. Fine and dandy. They turned in a paper that was obviously plagiarized. Not just strike one; end of ballgame. However, something about the paper's phrasing seemed familiar but tough to place, like when you can only hear the bass line of a song coming from behind someone's car windows. I typed in a few key words to Google, and all was made clear. This future Rhodes Scholar had plagiarized this article right here...

...an article written by none other than me.

I did a classic spit-take all over the monitor, then laughed hard enough to pull some chest muscles. Lesson for all my students who may be reading this...don't plagiarize, but if you do--make sure you know whose work you're plagiarizing. 'Cause being a dishonest student is bad--but being a dishonest moron is far, far worse.

Monday, February 21, 2005 

HST

Hunter Thompson's dead. Goddamn. There are maybe four or five "famous" people on earth whose passing I'll truly mourn, and HST is one of them. He was a genius, a groundbreaker, a fucking American. Like any writer who wants to be worthy of his own profession, I first dove into HST's stuff in high school--got blown away by the sheer POWER of his vision in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell's Angels. And a couple years back, I found an old copy of Rolling Stone from 1986 or so that had a piece Thompson wrote as a journalist in Saigon during the Vietnam War ("War Junkies" is one of the titles it's run under, and it's reprinted in Songs of the Doomed II), and sweet Jesus, Thompson made you feel like you were sitting right there beside the bombed-out pool in the shadow of a dessicated formerly-luxurious hotel, with the heat sticking close and death sticking even closer, jaded fellow journalists smirking glassy-eyed at you, and only a few glasses of Jack Daniels stood between you and total bug-out.

I even tried to chase down Thompson once, when I was living out in Colorado. Being young and stupid, I figured what the hell, I'd drive to Woody Creek and see if I could find the man. Couldn't be that hard, could it? I located the Woody Creek Tavern, went in and shot some stick there but couldn't get up the balls to ask the bartender if Thompson was coming in that night--I didn't want to stink so badly of Desperate Acolyte. On my way out, though, I saw a framed sheet from a waiter's notepad that read something along the lines of "I pledge never again to throw smoke bombs in the Woody Creek Tavern, Signed, Dr. Hunter S Thompson." Beautiful. I later went out driving in the absolute primordial blue-black of a rural Colorado winter night looking for the gates to Thompson's estate, and considering how well-armed and paranoid the man was, it's probably a damn good thing I didn't find it.

So...here's to you, Hunter. We'll try not to fuck things up too badly in your wake.

Thursday, February 17, 2005 

Comics That Just Ain't Right I (First in an occasional series.)

Certain comics rank amongst the most insightful, challenging literature of the last century.

The ones in the Comics That Just Ain't Right series...don't.

And since nothing kills like a Freudian pedophilia joke, I lead with the good stuff and present to you The Greatest Comic Book Cover Of All Time:





...that thank-you note at the bottom just adds that extra dollop of creepy, don't it?

 

Meet the Family II: The Girl



Here's Riley, five-year-old kindergartner and my vote for Most Perfect Child In Creation. This picture was taken on her first day of big-girl school, as she was ready to get on the bus for the first time. And, as you can see, she's already starting to pull away from Dad and look for cooler friends to hang out with.

If you don't have a daughter of your own, you cannot begin to conceive of the homicidally protective thoughts that enter into your mind the very moment the little princess enters the world. It's all funny-ha-ha when you're the guy ringing the doorbell to Meet the Folks--Dad, all chummy, tells you to "have my daughter home by nine, young man!" while you're trying to decide whether there's any significance to the fact that he's got what appears to be a necklace of VC ears dangling off the mantel. (One time, I actually drew blood from my date before we even left her house. It was the homecoming dance, she was hot and I was playing way over my head. And with her family--mom, dad, jerkwad little sister--watching, I went to pin the corsage on her dress. And then I realized my hand was just...inches...from...them...and poink, I jabbed her, and not in a good way. The date went downhill from there--we went to the restaurant where a buddy of mine was the host, and the jackass called me by my brother's name. Needless to say, Date 1 was also Date Fini. Shame, too, because that girl grew up to be Cameron Diaz.)

Okay, so it's a boatload of hormone-driven stress when you're taking out a young lady. But when you're on the other side of the generational divide, it's completely different. Because now, you know exactly what goes on in the minds of the scrawny little bastards that show up in their ill-fitting Sunday sportcoats. And while I'm hoping that Riley has enough sense to keep these little jerkwards in their places, I'm hedging my bets by altering the rules of the game. Last Friday, Riley and I went to a Father-Daughter Valentine's Day Dance, and after all this time, I know damn well how to impress a lady. I gave her a rose, took her out for a fine meal (which she picked at but didn't eat--good job, sweetie!), danced with grace and devotion, and paid attention only to her--in short, did right what every horny little high schooler is going to do wrong eleven years hence. I'm going to raise her expectations of men so high that nobody's going to meet them until she's, like, 35 or so. Happy Valentine's Day, angel!

Friday, February 11, 2005 

Meet The Family: The Boy


Jay Busbee, Inc. possesses quite possibly the most incompetent Board of Directors since Enron. Pictured here is The Boy--Logan to everyone else, including his parole officer--admiring his Jackson Pollock approach to interior decorating, a dramatic and daring use of the Crunch Berry medium.

 

Flicksadaweek: Shaun of the Dead, The Ladykillers

I don't want this blog to be just a bunch of reviews of media that I consume--hell, two months in, and I don't know exactly what I want it to be just yet--but anyway, saw a couple good flicks over the last week. I'm a Coen Brothers junkie; have been ever since Raising Arizona. (Best. Comedy. Ever.) Ladykillers was really more of a cartoon than an actual flick--every quirky character was dialed up to 11 and painted in one color. Tom Hanks' bizarre Colonel Sanders-versus-Tennessee Williams mashup commandeers every scene he's in, but Marlon Wayans (playing the same lunatic homey he played in "Don't Be a Menace...") and JK Simmons as a civil rights activist-turned-demolition expert are also reliably fine. The plot's simple--collection of nutjobs, led by Hanks, steals cash from a casino by tunneling from a sweet old lady's home--and it's not the Coen Bros.' best work. But it may be the only film in history where a garbage barge is a persistent and resonant visual metaphor.

Shaun of the Dead is about thisclose to being a cult classic; too many dead spots (ha!) slow down this tale of British pub slackers against the undead. It's damn funny in spots, winking smartly at its audience--early in the flick, as a depressed and indifferent Shaun rides the bus, folks around him are coughing fitfully and, in the background, dropping to the ground dead. Best scene of the movie is when Shaun and his drunk buddy (whose name escapes me--Vic, I think) encounter a zombie in Shaun's backyard--"I think she's sweet on you, mate," Vic says as Shaun tries to avoid getting bit by the zombie. Shaun and Vic then throw an entire laundry basket--including the basket--at the zombies, to no avail but lots of the funny. See it, preferably after a few pints.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005 

A Vision Of Things To Come


First taste is free...announcements coming shortly.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005 

Cooler Than You'll Ever Be



Got the Miami Vice first season DVD today. Holy crap, is this show perfect. The key to any great TV show--Homicide, The Simpsons, The Sopranos--is the way that it just shows up sui generis, simultaneously staking out its own unique territory and slamming the door behind it so that anything that comes afterward looks like the pathetic imitation it is. TV has metamorphosed so much in the last fifteen years that Vice can seem dated and corny, but looking at it through a twenty-first-century lens is akin to wondering why Robert Johnson didn't mix in a drum-and-bass track with "Love In Vain."

By current standards, the show's got some seriously goofy elements--Sonny Crockett's wacky alligator pet, Philip Michael Thomas's acting, the occasionally melodramatic background music--but man, this show encapsulates the '80s like nothing else. (Whether that's a good thing or not depends on whether you lived through it.) Even though it's constrained by '80s network standards--which didn't even allow dead bodies to be shown--it still hints at a darkness that shows like The Shield would deliver on years later. Being a good Southern boy, I expect my stories to have a strong setting--and Vice delivers that every episode. South Florida is a living, breathing character in this series.

So--Vice is good stuff. I watched it first as a high schooler, then more recently in reruns while I was handling Logan's midnight feedings a year or so back. And it's done strange things to my creativity...which I hope to reveal in the coming months.

Sunday, February 06, 2005 

Hype: The Live Super Bowl Blog

I have this theory that every guy ought to have watched at least one Super Bowl in a truly bizarre, disturbing location, one like that scene in “Boogie Nights” where Marky Mark’s trying to make a drug buy from the future Doctor Octopus, and the little houseboy is throwing fireworks as Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” rattles the walls. For me, it was 1991, the Bills-Giants game. I was in Colorado, defending the slopes of Keystone from Iraqi invasion. My buddies and I didn’t own a television, and rather than do the logical thing like go to a sports bar, we went door-to-door in the resort employees’ dorm looking for anyone else watching the game. (We also braved heart failure by jumping from hot tubs into snowbanks. We were idiots.) Anyway, cable was expensive, meaning nobody out there had it, so I watched Norwood shank the field goal on a tiny black-and-white set with a coathanger antenna hung out the window. Ah, memories.

That there's an excerpt from my live Super Bowl blog over at the Chicago Sports Review. Check out the whole deal by clicking here...but make sure you bring along something to eat. You'll be there awhile.

Friday, February 04, 2005 

Hype: Top 10 Sports/Comics Crossovers

Just published a piece in the online version of the Chicago Sports Review documenting the Top 10 Sports/Comic Book crossovers. Didja know that Superman once fought Muhammad Ali? Or that the Yankees once repelled an alien invasion? Learn all this and more by simply clicking here.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005 

Flicksadaweek: The Bourne Supremacy, Knockaround Guys, Walking Tall

I use different media as accompaniment to my writing, depending on what type of work I'm doing. Fiction demands blues; the Florida crime script I've been working on has flowed astonishingly (disturbingly) well when I've listened to Jan Hammer's Miami Vice soundtrack. Opie & Anthony on XM always make for good websurfing accompaniment. And when I'm doing the first passes on journalism, I enjoy having a good dopey movie on in the background. The three flicks I watched this week certainly fall into that category. The Bourne Supremacy is killer escapist entertainment, all European car chases and CIA intrigue. Ludlum was one of the first "real" writers I ever read way back in early high school, and the Bourne flicks nail the international air of conspiracy running throughout the novels. The cast is first-rate--Joan Allen, one of my favorite actresses; Julia Stiles, another one of the good ones; Brian Cox, who always looks like the jolly uncle that'll threaten to kill you when Mom's out of the room; and Matt Damon, who kicks the crap out of that fop Richard Chamberlain in playing the role of Jason Bourne.

Knockaround Guys is that rare fish-out-of-water flick that doesn't once stoop to cheap laughs. A bunch of Brooklyn mobsters head to Montana to recover some misplaced money; problems ensue. Barry Pepper is the standout here, but Seth Green is surprisingly good as the screwup who loses the money; the sad resignation in his eyes during his final scene is light-years away from Scott Evil in the Austin Powers movies.

Walking Tall is just about the shortest film I've seen in awhile--not even seventy-five minutes. I've waited longer for freakin' pizzas. As a result, there's not much there beyond the basic smash-'em-up plot, but the players are all standouts. Between this and The Getaway, I'm now convinced that The Rock can handle the mantle of "next Schwarzenegger." Johnny Knoxville is demented without mugging for the camera, and Neal McDonough is the same just-this-side-of-oily smooth character he plays in Boomtown and Band of Brothers. Recommended--hell, you can watch the whole damn thing while you're waiting for your lady to get ready to go out.

Bio

Jay Busbee runs Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR Blog From The Marbles, Atlanta Magazine's Atlanta sports blog Right Down Peachtree, and the Southern sports/humor blog Sports Gone South. He also writes for damn near anybody who'll throw him a buck and a byline, and he's at work on the books The Quiet Dynasty: The History Of The Atlanta Braves' Championship Run (2009, Sports Publishing LLC) and God Is A Bulldog: Georgia, Florida, And The Greatest Play In College Football History (2010, Sports Publishing LLC). Click below for more info on his novels, articles, and comics.
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