Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Football prediction

Even though Brian Hoyer has been named starter for the Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel will have several starts this season. Because it's looking to be a typical year for the Browns.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Teen Wolf Too, the rewrite

Two years ago, I wrote an Editing Room-style script treatment of Teen Wolf. Now comes the inferior sequel script to Teen Wolf Too. Why? Because the sequel came out two years after the original; Editing Room hasn't done it; and I was on a three-hour flight yesterday. 

Int. Dean’s office, HAMILTON UNIVERSITY

JOHN ASTIN is hiring PAUL SAND as a coach.

JOHN ASTIN
Who are you?

PAUL SAND
Uh, Paul Sand.

JOHN ASTIN
You weren’t in Teen Wolf.

PAUL SAND
Uh, the character that I now am was.

JOHN ASTIN
You look enough like Jay Tarses, but you don’t sound much like him.

PAUL SAND
There’ll be a lot of that in this movie, except for the lookalike part.

JOHN ASTIN
I see you were an apathetic and terrible basketball coach at Beacontown High whose only winning season was due to a werewolf. So I’m hiring you to coach that werewolf’s skinny, intellectual cousin — who we don’t know to be a werewolf — in boxing at the collegiate level, which he doesn’t yet know he’s going to do because this is all a wacky misunderstanding that apparently can’t be fixed. Not that this would make any more sense if they had recast Michael J. Fox like they clearly meant to.

PAUL SAND
This setup makes negative sense, but I don’t care, so I’m on board.

JOHN ASTIN
Oh, it only gets worse from here.

Ext. Dorm

JAMES HAMPTON is driving JASON BATEMAN to college. No effort is being made to hide that JASON BATEMAN is supposed to be MICHAEL J. FOX.

JASON BATEMAN
Do you think I’m ready for college, Uncle James?

JAMES HAMPTON
You’re more than ready, Michael, er, Jason.

JASON BATEMAN
Looks like I’ll be rooming with all of Michael’s best friends, who are also starting college. There is no reason for Michael not to be here. Oh well. Thanks for driving me here, Uncle James.

JAMES HAMPTON
You’re welcome, son.

Int. Dorm room

STUART FRATKIN
Hey, it’s Jason! We heard all about you from Michael, who you are most definitely a different person than.

JASON BATEMAN
Who are you?

STUART FRATKIN
Stuart! You know, Michael’s best pal from the first film. My name used to be Jerry Levine.

JASON BATEMAN
Good grief, you look and sound nothing like him.

STUART FRATKIN
I also act nothing like him.

JASON BATEMAN
Your transcript must be different, too, because you got into college.

MARK HOLTON
Hey, I’m Mark! I’m Michael’s chubby friend from the first film and played by the same guy. I’m a boxer and I eat a lot!

JASON BATEMAN
You are officially the first thing to make sense in Teen Wolf Too.

STUART FRATKIN
I changed all your classes to screw-off courses.

JASON BATEMAN
Why? And how? What kind of school lets that happen?

MARK HOLTON
The same kind that signs you up to be a boxer by surprise.

JASON BATEMAN
Wait, boxer wha?

STUART FRATKIN
Don’t worry. You can change your classes back if you have glowing, red eyes.

MARK HOLTON
And you could learn to be a boxer if you happen to be a werewolf.

Int. Registrar’s office

JASON BATEMAN is trying to change his classes. The REGISTRAR is refusing all change requests.

REGISTRAR
Sorry, NO CHANGES! Only wacky dorm-mates can alter your schedule.

JASON BATEMAN’s eyes glow red.

JASON BATEMAN
Give me ... a keg ... of class changes!

REGISTRAR
Your homage to the first film frightens me with its impotence. Consider your request granted.

Int. Classroom

JASON BATEMAN is in BIOLOGY class. He wants to be a VETERINARIAN. He is SERIOUS about school, because he is wearing GLASSES.

GIRLFRIEND
Hi, Jason, I’m your girlfriend now.

JASON BATEMAN
Hi, Girlfriend. I like your glasses. I’m a boxer, apparently.

PROFESSOR
Jason, you show lots of promise. Also, I hate jocks.

JASON BATEMAN
I look forward to the bond we’ll share after I blow off half the semester.

Int. Gym

The first BOXING MATCH of the season. It is SPARSELY ATTENDED. There has apparently been NO PRACTICE. JASON BATEMAN gets ready to fight.

JASON BATEMAN
This is ridiculous. I shouldn’t be here. Can’t somebody fix this bureaucratic mess?

PAUL SAND
Given this bizarro alternate universe, maybe skinny white nerds are the best fighters. Physics might be entirely different. Or not. Whatever.

JASON fights a JERK and gets his BRAINS BASHED IN.

JERK
I get all the girls.

ALL THE GIRLS
We love a man who can punch out a nerd!

JOHN ASTIN
That jerk sure bashed his brains in. Jason is the future of this boxing program!

Int. Classroom

PROFESSOR
Biology! Biology! Frogs!

JASON BATEMAN
I still kind of like biology at this point.

GIRLFRIEND
And you’re still kind of a human being.

Int. Gym

The SECOND FIGHT of the season. JASON BATEMAN is up to box. MARK HOLTON is there, which MAKES SENSE, but STUART FRATKIN is there too, which DOESN’T.

JASON BATEMAN
I can’t fight. I suck.

STUART FRATKIN
Please be a werewolf.

Jason IS. He wolfs out after being KNOCKED DOWN.

REFEREE
I didn’t see nothin’.

OTHER BOXER
I’m about to lose my sight, and the majority of my other senses, too, I fear.

WEREWOLF JASON BATEMAN beats the CRAP out of the OTHER BOXER. This makes him the MOST POPULAR GUY IN SCHOOL. He is invited to a PARTY, where he is the LIFE. Then he gets a SPORTS CAR from JOHN ASTIN and runs CYCLISTS off the ROAD. Also, he BEATS EVERY BOXER. At no point does the WOLF exhibit any NON-ARROGANT QUALITIES.

Ext. Hamilton campus

STUART FRATKIN
T-shirts for sale, because that’s a thing I do!

PROFESSOR
Why do they say, “TEEN WOLF TOO?”

MARK HOLTON
Because Jason is the second wolf.

PROFESSOR
That only makes sense if you saw the first movie, which none of us did, because in our universe that was real life and not a movie.

GIRLFRIEND
And it happened in Nebraska, not Colorado, where this film takes place for some reason, so we didn’t read about Michael J. Fox in the papers.

STUART FRATKIN
Also, he’s arrogant, so I’m not sure why there’s even a market for this stuff.

JASON BATEMAN
Anybody want to peel out in my car, the one I got illegally for being a student-athlete and has the license plate “WOLF TOO,” thus ensuring I will be caught red-pawed by the NCAA?

STUART FRATKIN
No, you are a jerk and I am studying because I am just completely out of character at this point.

Int. Classroom

JASON BATEMAN
I hate biology and class is for suckers.

PROFESSOR
I’m sorry you feel that way.

GIRLFRIEND
I don’t think I can be your girlfriend anymore.

JASON BATEMAN
Eh, I can have any girl I want. Why, you ask?

ALL THE GIRLS
Because we love a jerk!

Int. Gym

JASON BATEMAN is sad because NO ONE LOVES HIM ANYMORE. He is sitting in the GYM all alone in the DARK. JAMES HAMPTON shows up, because it’s not like he HAS A SON anymore.

JAMES HAMPTON
You don’t need to be the wolf, or a jerk.

JASON BATEMAN
Can I also not be a boxer?

JAMES HAMPTON
Oh no, son, you have to be a boxer. You can’t undo that.

JASON BATEMAN
Well then, I want to box as myself.

JAMES HAMPTON
Have you seen yourself box as yourself?

JASON BATEMAN
Yeah, but remember, this is Bizarro World.

JAMES HAMPTON
Ah, true. Well, it turns out that I was conveniently a boxer in college myself. I can teach you some moves, though it would make more sense if you simply remembered what you did as a wolf and do that as a non-wolf. When’s the fight?

JASON BATEMAN
Tomorrow.

JAMES HAMPTON
That isn’t nearly enough time. You’re going to lose.

Int. PROFESSOR's office

JASON BATEMAN
I’m sorry, Professor. I was a jerk. Can you bend the rules so I can take the test?

PROFESSOR
I hate jocks, but sure! Right before the fight, for dramatic tension.

GIRLFRIEND
I’ll help you study and be your girlfriend again.

Int. GIRLFRIEND’s room

JASON BATEMAN and his GIRLFRIEND spend all night studying, presumably after all the BOXING LESSONS. It’s implied that they MAKE LOVE.

JASON BATEMAN
Well, that took a bite out of my study time.

GIRLFRIEND
My glasses are all steamed up.

Int. Classroom

JASON BATEMAN takes the test. He PASSES, doing especially well on the FROG and SEX parts. He goes straight to the gym from there, because sports works like that in movies.

Int. Gym

The FINAL BOXING MATCH of the season is underway. There are NO MINORITY FIGHTERS of any importance. The GYM is PACKED TO THE RAFTERS, because this universe is WEIRD. JASON BATEMAN is about to fight the JERK as HIMSELF, which is STUPID.

JASON BATEMAN
OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW!

STUART FRATKIN
Not sure why I’m your trainer, Jason, but YOU CAN DO IT!

STUART FRATKIN is PUNCHED IN THE FACE by the JERK, and it’s FUNNY and of no consequence to the JERK.

MARK HOLTON sees the PUMMELING and throws a NUT at the BELL. The CROWD CRIES FOUL, but the OFFICIALS DON’T SEE NOTHIN’. This sets up a GENUINELY FUNNY EXCHANGE.

JASON BATEMAN
Coach, do you have anything to say to me?

PAUL SAND
Uh ... no.

JASON BATEMAN then returns to the ring, where he is PUMMELED some more.

JASON BATEMAN
OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW!

JOHN ASTIN
What the hell, Jason? Don’t you want this car and free As and other NCAA-violating perks that I’m talking about all out in the open?

JASON BATEMAN
Take your keys back. This is my last fight.

JOHN ASTIN
Maybe you should take those keys and shank up your gloves, or something.

After about 150 more punches, JASON is knocked down. He gets up on the count of 9 because of his GIRLFRIEND’S LOVE and throws about FOUR PUNCHES to KNOCK OUT the JERK.

DON KING
Even I find this shady.

JAMES HAMPTON
GOOO MICHAEL! ERR, JASON!

PAUL SAND
Uh, you won or whatever.

SUSAN URSITTI
Whoops, wrong Teen Wolf!

JASON BATEMAN
I can understand your confusion. This movie ends exactly like the first one, down to me rejecting the bad-girl crush standing nearby for the love of my life behind her while a roaring crowd and James Hampton watch with approval. Except that here, the bad girl was the object of my affection for about two seconds, and only as one-third of a menage a trois, and I already made up with my girlfriend last night and just won because of her love, so the suspense is nil.

PROFESSOR
By the way, I’m also a wolf. See my tail? Grrr.

SHARK
I’m officially jumped.

END

Irrational nonsense erased my back pain

Satire is at its absolute best when it's able to make everyone laugh and say "heyyyy now" at the same time. Sacred cows are the enemy of satire, so it's good to see an empty pasture at the Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense (which is from 2010, but it's new to me).

Pretty much every weird thing (and every mainstream thing) I've ever heard anyone believe in is here. And though my stance on the universe is that everything is far more boring and pedestrian than people want to believe it is — and thus I believe in virtually nothing on this list — I can still see why even rational followers of the world's major religions might object to seeing their faiths lumped in with chemtrails and astral projection.

For me, though, the main point of disagreement lies in the "traditional bollocks" row of the "quack block." Among the dubious medical/mystical practices is the awkwardly named "chiropractic." I don't think it belongs there.

Chiropractors get a bad rap. I'm not sure why, apart from that it's a noninvasive procedure that critics don't consider "real" medicine. Or maybe it once had some mystical connotation that I'm not aware of.

But I can tell you this: in May, I went to see a chiropractor after half a year of crippling sciatic pain. I had to take caffeine-and-aspirin pills every six hours for six months just so I could move. After a single session with the chiropractor, I was able to stop taking the pills. Two weeks later, he declared me fixed.

In total, I had six sessions of 15 minutes or less each, in which he stretched me, employed lasers and percussive instruments on the afflicted disc and cracked various points on my body. Total out-of-pocket cost: $240. Considering the surgery and physical therapy I've had for the same problem in the past, that's a bargain. And aside from some minor nerve pain in moments of high stress (which has always happened), I haven't hurt since.

Much of what I experienced at the chiropractor's office wasn't much different than other medical procedures I've had. There was no spiritual mumbo-jumbo and everything done to me served a physical and practical purpose. It was quick, inexpensive and required no medication. Best of all, it worked. I wish more medical procedures could be as convenient.

So that's my beef with the Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense. But like I said, it wouldn't be as effective if we didn't all find something to object to.

Trust issue

A while back, Bill Maher appeared on The Daily Show and claimed, as a virtual afterthought, that Barack Obama is an atheist.

Obama critics seized upon this because to them it meant he was something far more nefarious than a Jeremiah Wright Christian-slash-evil Muslim fundamentalist: Someone who doesn’t believe in God at all! A heathen! Even some moderate and liberal Christians probably took exception to this.

I did, too, in one sense — I think Obama is more of an agnostic than an atheist. Like many Americans, he identifies as Christian, but isn’t overly, or perhaps even moderately, occupied with it in his personal life.

Otherwise, I agree with Maher’s overarching point, which is that Obama has played up faith as a politician in excess of his personal beliefs. Most presidents do that, except maybe for Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. It’s part of the game in a country where, despite the ever-rising tide of agnosticism and atheism, we still expect our leaders to listen to, or at least cursorily acknowledge, a higher voice.

By most (if not all) metrics, atheists are the least-trusted people in America. We’re willing to vote for a gay, black and/or female president now (in theory), but an atheist wouldn’t get elected dogcatcher running unopposed at an all-cat resort.

Why is this?

I think it’s because the prevailing wisdom about atheists is that because they have no god, they have no morals. No sense of right or wrong. Nothing to keep them from being uncaged, nihilistic animals at every turn. Funny how that remains conventional wisdom in an age where religious fundamentalists are the ones driving most of the world’s conflict and carnage.

The latter doesn’t describe all, or even most, of the world’s religious people. Likewise, anarchic animalism doesn’t describe most atheists.

My official stance on religion is, “I don’t know, and I’ll never know,” which I guess comes closest to soft/negative atheism. I don’t think gods exist, but I’m not certain of that. (I don’t think anyone has grounds to be certain one way or the other; if they did, there’d be no debate or plurality of beliefs.) What this means in my everyday life is that I practice no religion and don’t follow religious customs. You don’t have to, to have morals and empathy. In fact, some religious people possess neither.

When I make mistakes (which is all the time), I don’t worry about incurring the wrath of God; I worry about the effects those transgressions have on the real, living people with whom I share life. What they think, and feel, matters to me.

This is true of most people who don’t partake in faith. It’s not much different than spirituality, except that the root causes are more tangible. Humanity drives it, not fear of divine retribution.

That’s why, instead of stigmatizing atheism, we should all celebrate it, and should hope more of our world leaders embrace it. The most important thing to understand is this:

Atheists have nothing to die for.

No atheist thinks their tribe of people has a divine right not only to rule the world, but to kill other, “inferior” tribes. An atheist’s foreign-policy stance is not based on laying the groundwork for Armageddon. If anything, they’re the ones who most want to save this planet, because they presume it’s all we’ve got.

And for that, they’re the least-trusted group of Americans.

I see why political hawks might hate having an open atheist in charge, because fear and war are powerful economic engines. But the general population’s reluctance I understand less. Even most religious I people I know are OK with an atheist they know personally and aren’t necessarily down with the hardliners of their sect, but most probably would still shy away from voting for an atheist. Maybe it’s just that there aren’t enough confirmed atheists in the public eye — and those who are tend to define themselves by that characteristic (which can be as alienating as the strongest religious fanaticism) or are not in “serious” lines of work. In any case, secular humanism has a long way to go to reach mainstream American acceptance.

This could be because America is a country defined largely by antagonism and defiance. We cast off the British, enacted Manifest Destiny, nearly split apart over slavery and still fight over states’ rights. Many state and individual philosophies are based on a desire to not be treaded upon, and many an older person has pined for the days “when you knew who the bad guys were.”

Fighting is an intrinsic part of the American identity. We always need an enemy or, at the very least, someone against whom we can judge ourselves favorably. We like to be No. 1. The greatest country on Earth. Defenders of good, defeaters of evil. We want to believe we’re righteous in democracy, in spirit, in philosophy, in firepower. Hell, we even consider ourselves a First World country, because of course there has to be a ranking. We want leaders to ascribe to this philosophy, granted down from the heavens.

We see this in everything from flags to religions to politics to sports allegiances. We’re primally compelled to pick, and stick to, a side.

Atheism undermines that. Atheists are content to believe that everyone is on the same level, that differences are trivial, surmountable and/or the spice of life. They see the virtue of people living together in harmony, regardless of nation or other identities, because everyone ultimately wants the same things in life. It’s indifference to who has the biggest flag, a notion just as unpopular (or worse) as the aforementioned amoral barbarianism.

Of course, it isn’t just religion that drives world conflict, and atheists are just as capable of selfish and destructive politics as anybody. But that’s an issue of individual scruples. As a group, atheists don’t deserve the collective distrust that they get. And like any other group, they shouldn’t have to pretend to be something they’re not.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ear ringer

Seen on a Facebook group today:

I remember when men did not have any piercings and women only had two piercings, one on each ear lobe.

When I was 6 years old, I lived next door to a male college student who had an earring, a single star stud in his left earlobe. It was weird to me, but I was told that some men wore earrings, usually one, but sometimes more — and that that had been true since at least the hippie days of the late 1960s.

In other words, 28 years ago, I was told about a custom that had been around for at least 20 years prior to that. That means the writer of the post is nostalgic for, at minimum, 48 years ago.

Does the sting of something as benign as earring acceptance really linger for decades? 

In 48 years, I'll be 82, if I'm lucky enough to still be alive then. So I should probably start fixating on something trivial and long-accepted now. Perhaps, different-colored shoes? High hemlines? Beavis and Butt-head? Bungee jumping? Nirvana? Diverse groups of friends? 

Smartphones, most likely. "I remember when all your cell phone did was call people, and you held it to your ear. Your left ear, if you were any kind of lady or gentleman."

Yeah!