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So, I feel like my ears are being raped by CNN right now.  OK, that is a weird way to start a blog, but it is true.  I am in transit to a conference in Portland, Oregon and blasting through every speaker of O’Hare and also in the Minneapolis airport is the trial of the mother that allegedly killed her daughter.  I think her name is Casey.  Apparently it is a “Developing” story, but so far it has been a “Will someone please stick knives into both of my ears” story.  I am seriously in agony right now.

Which brings me to today’s blog topic:  When did travelling begin to seriously ‘Suck Ass’?  I actually thought seriously about the appropriate description of the state of travelling today, and after serious mental deliberation, and considering the numerous options, I finally settled on ‘Suck Ass’ as the best label for United States travel today.  A major part of the negative experience are the travellers themselves.  I understand that in a ‘Post 9-11’ world, as everyone calls it, air travel is especially an arduous experience with long lines, heightened security and scanners that reveal your private parts.  On a side note:  I am proud to say that the woman who did my scan at O’Hare gave me an especially bigger than usual smile upon seeing I was not concealing anything dangerous and allowed me to move forward to the air terminals.  I thought the pat down in the private room was a little over the top, but everyone is asked to turn their head and cough.  Right?

I digress.  the problem with travel these days are the travellers.  I am telling you, the workers at O’Hare went out of their way to be super nice.  I got ‘good mornings’, ‘how are you today sir’, ‘let me help you with that’, ‘you need a bin?’, ‘have a great day’, from just about everyone.  Now, if you read my blog, you know that people are nice to me where ever I go, it must be my face or something, but this was beyond just my ‘entice people to talk to me in spite of my desire to NOT talk to them’ personality.  These airport employees were genuinely trying to make the experience as pleasant as possible.  So why are people so cantankerous?  Here is a list of behaviors that I simply think are uncalled for:

1.  Employee – “That will be 25 bucks to check your bag.”
Traveller – “What?!?  That’s highway robbery.  This is an outrage!”

Guess what?  You’re right, but you know what, the person at the counter is not going to disobey their company’s rules because you think the baggage charge is unfair.  Unless you have been living under a rock, you knew that you were going to be charged, so don’t act so surprised.  So, shut up, pay your 25 bucks, and get out of line so I can get my boarding pass.  Next time fly Southwest and then you can complain about not having a seat assignment.

2.  Employee – “Sorry ma’am, but your carry-on is too big, we are going to have to check it for free.
Traveller – “What?!?  It fit on the other plane!  You guys suck.  Huff and puff.  Give up bag begrudgingly.

Part of the reason these things bug me is because these travellers never make their complaints private or quietly.  They want everyone in ear shot to know that they have been wronged by the system.  What makes it even worse when they look around for perfect strangers to join their cause.  They look at you, or even say to you, “This sucks right?”  Don’t involve me in your tirade.  You want to start a revolution?  Pick a better topic and just thank your lucky stars that you have the means to take an airplane in the first place.  You can literally go across the country in FOUR FREAKIN’ HOURS!  How awesome is that?  Chill out.

3.  Travellers rushing to the door and waiting in long lines and ‘protecting’ their spot.

If you are a frequent traveller of the skies, I have a secret to tell you:  Whether you are first in line or last in line, your seat is the same and the plane will not leave without you.  You are rushing to sit down and wait for everyone else.  This is also true on the other side.  No matter how quickly you get off the plane, your luggage will arrive the same time as mine.  You are rushing to wait at the baggage carousel.  Chill out.

4.  Flight Attendant – ‘Please turn your cell phone off.”
Traveler either does not turn off their cell phone right away or does so with an attitude.  Your phone call or text is not that important.

5.  My favorite traveler annoying behavior only occurs during the winter.  People pissed off because they have to wait for the wings of the plane to be de-iced.  Seriously?  A similar version of this happened to me in Paris, France.  A bomb threat was called in and they had to unload every plan at Charles De Gaulle.  Most people were patient, but there were a number of travellers that were openly complaining about the delays.  Do you want to take a guess to what nationality these people were?  You guessed it, Americans.

Well, travelling does suck ass, but I bet it would be a lot better if people were a little less angry about it and took a moment to realize how convenient we have it here.  As long as turbulence is low, landings are safe, flight attendants are cute, and I get my ginger ale, I’ll be happy.  I do miss free food and a higher percentage of flights with in-flight movies, but what are you going to do.  Besides, if you really hate flying, there is always the bus.  You think the people on plains are bad, wait to you see the freak show on Greyhound.  In the mean time, chill out.

In order to make my flying experience tolerable, I have a few rituals/beliefs.  You see I am not afraid of flying, but I am a nervous flyer.  Here is a list of my flying rituals/beliefs (Not a single one of these is exaggerated):

  1. I believe if a cell phone is left on it will cause the plane to crash
  2. I’d rather pee on myself than get up while the fasten your seatbelts sign is illuminated
  3. If someone else gets up while the fasten your seatbelts sign is on the plane will crash
  4. I think take off and landing are the most likely times the plane will crash
  5. I am most nervous during takeoffs, planes rarely crash when landing.  Not true, but I believe it which is all that matters.
  6. Once I hear that first ‘ding’ I believe everything will be OK
  7. Once the plane is at cruising altitude, it should never go down for any reason.  It can go up to a higher altitude, but not down until landing.  Going down to land is OK.
  8. If I don’t drink ginger ale, the plane will crash.
  9. If there is a baby on board the plane, the plane is less likely to crash, not impossible, just highly unlikely
  10. I have the same rituals and prayer on the tarmac to takeoff and I never miss a part of the ritual or prayer.  If I forget something, the plane will crash

I especially hate turbulence.  If I am not sitting next to my wife or my kids, I need two things to happen for me to remain calm during turbulence, and they both involve the flight attendants.
1.  Flight attendants need to be unphased by the plane shaking.  If they show any fear on their face whatsoever, I will FREAK out.  The only exception to this are clouds.  I understand why a plane experiences turbulence in clouds, and therefore I am OK with cloud turbulence.  My brain soothes me with knowledge.
2.  Secondly, and linked to the first, is that the attendants must be good looking.  They have to be a minimum of a 6 on the flight attendant beauty scale.  This is also true for men.  When it comes to flight attendants, I am bisexual.  If I am going to obtain solace in your calm face, it must be a face that I do not mind looking at.  Being a good looking flight attendant should be a requirement for the job.

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I am not anti fat people.  I am overweight myself, but is there anything more demoralizing than needing a seat belt extender when you fly.  I guess it could be worse, you could need to buy two seats.  I’m just sayin …

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So, I just finished watching the A-Team.  I loved it!  I know what you are thinking.  “Are you kidding me?  You are going to open up a movie blog with the A-Team! Seriously?”  You better believe it Fool!  I pity the fool that don’t like the A-Team. 

Did you know that Mr. T had a cartoon? I did.

That’s right, a Mr.T reference.  Do you know why I liked the movie, because when it comes to movies, I follow one simple rule: Pure Entertainment Value.

I don’t want life lessons, political messages, redeeming value, or even reality from my movies.  I want to be entertained.  And I am relatively easily entertained, so when I am disappointed by a movie, it pisses me off.  I am so easily entertained that a plot is not one of my requirements for a good movie.  For example, one of the greatest movies of all time is ‘Friday’ with Ice Cube and Chris Tucker.  You read it right, Ice Cube.  Basically you have two guys hanging out in LA.  One person owes someone else money and they are worried that they are going to be killed for a couple of hundred bucks.  Maybe you have to be from California to truly appreciate this movie, but trust me, it is a classic. 

Daaaamn!

And the best character with almost zero lines was Deebo (Daaaamn!!!!!).

One of the down side to having a little knowledge is being able to point out inaccuracies in movies.  For example, in the movie, Lion King, there is an opening scene where you see ants carrying leaves across a tree branch.  As far as I can tell, they are leaf cutter ants.  Leaf cutter ants can be found in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, shoot, you will even find them in the southern parts of the United States.  You know where you won’t find them? In Africa.

Found in many places EXCEPT Africa.

  King Kong?  I loved the movie, absolutely loved it.  However, the commercials made it out as if gorillas were dangerous man-eaters.  You know who has to fear gorillas?  Celery.  That’s right, they are vegetarians.  A common “evil” animal is the wolf.  Do you know how many people have been attacked by wolves?  Zero.  Nonetheless, we love movies where we are attacked by some crazy rabid, genetically created, radioactive, science experimental animal gone wrong.  To be honest, I love them too.  If I am ever watching TV and Godzilla comes on, I will have no choice but to watch it to the end of the movie.  To this day, I hate the fact that Godzilla has been vilified.  He’s just a radioactive monster trying to make it through the day.

They are already working on Godzilla 2012. Crazy!

Now no offense to Japan, and the problems that they are facing truly deserve prayer, and I encourage everyone reading this blog to donate to the Red Cross if they haven’t done so already.  But, is there another country that has embraced major tragedy more than Japan?  Just nine years after Hiroshima was bombed, the movie ‘Gohira’ was released.  Gohira, better known as Godzilla was created by American nuclear weapons testing.  It makes me wonder what the country will come up with after its latest tragedy.  One thing is for certain, radioactivity does not create giant monsters or super heroes.  Seriously, donate to the Red Cross.

Despite my knowledge, I don’t mind inaccuracies, because when I go to the movies I check my brain at the door.  Sometimes inaccuracies are crucial to making the movie work.  For example, one of my favorites from 2010, The Book of Eli. 

<<SPOILER ALERT>>

In ‘The Book of Eli’, the movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which Eli is protecting a sacred book that he must bring to the West where he believes there are people who will know what to do with the book.  Of course, along the way some bad guys try to take the book from him.  He helps a young girl and some serious ass-kicking takes place.  Has all the elements of PEV (Pure Entertainment Value).  But there is one serious problem.  In order to make the movie work, the movie must break one very clear reality rule.  You see Eli …,  wait for it …   wait for it …  wait for it …

is blind.

 You see in the movie, Eli carries around the sacred book which turns out to be the Bible.  The reality rule that is broken is the size of a braille bible.  The new King James Version of the braille bible was completed in the 80’s.  It is a 20 volume set that requires 76 inches of shelf space at least 12 inches high.

Try lugging this across country.

I forgive this reality rule ‘error’ because the movie just would not be as slick if Denzel Washington’s character was dragging along 20 braille volumes in a cart.  You now see why I must turn my brain off when I see movies.

As a biologist I struggle with movies like Jurassic Park.  You will never ever see a predator spend over an hour hunting/chasing a prey.  Stalking, maybe, but never chase as they do in most predator movies.  It uses too much energy.

One of my favorite movies of all time was remade in 2010, The Karate Kid.  First of all, the first Karate Kid did not need to be remade.  In general I am not a fan of remakes or sequels.  They are almost never as good as the original.  There are exceptions.  Toy Story 3 might be the best one.  Believe the hype, it is that good.  If I was more in touch with my feelings, I would have bawled like a baby.  If you are prone to tears, have a handkerchief ready when you watch it, trust me.  But Karate Kid (2010) sucked. 

Now keep in mind, I am a HUGE fan of Karate Kid (1984).  My fantasy football team’s name is CobraKai, and has been for years.  “Sweep the leg” and “wax on, wax off” are still very quotable.  So, understand that my review of this movie is highly biased.  That being said, Karate Kid (2010) blows.  I am all for supporting the family, but Jaden Smith would not have “won” this role had it not been for his dad, Will Smith.  Now, I am a huge Will Smith fan, but even I know that Smith has the acting range of a grape in a painting of a fruit basket.  So, instead of just randomly trashing this movie, I have decided to break it down like a preview of a football game, position by position.  To my surprise, and possibly yours, KK 2010 does not lose every battle.  Let’s start with the most obvious positions:

SPOILER ALERT!!!! (Like it matters)

Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) Vs Dre Parker (Jaden Smith):  Both are bad actors and Macchio has finally entered the death throws of his acting career by being the next one-hit wonder to be on Dancing with the Stars.  Jaden will get more work, but that has more to do with his parents than ability.  This is still no contest, Daniel beats Dre every time.

Come on Man!! You were the Karate Kid! Now this. Sad.

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) vs Mr. Han (Jackie Chan):  Please, not even close.  Mr. Miyagi by a landslide.

Ali (Elisabeth Shue) vs Meiying (Wenwen Han):  Here is the problem that I have always had with the character Ali.  Was there ever a more awkward looking couple than Daniel and Ali in The Karate Kid?  Ali was like twice Daniel’s size.  They defined mismatch.  For this reason, and this reason alone, slight favor to Meiying.

Bad Boys Johnny (Billy Zabka) vs Cheng (Zhenwei Wang):  There are few characters that are type cast for good reason as Zabka was as a teenage bad boy.  Who played a spoiled Arian nation looking kid better than Zabka?  That being said, Wang nailed the Cheng role in KK 2010.  And his Kung Fu was strong (despite the name of the movie).  So, it pains me, and may surprise you, but ever so slight edge goes to Cheng.

Winning Move – Crane versus Cobra:  Can you think of a better ending to a movie than Daniel’s crane kick to win the tournament?  Has any move been more duplicated?  It was the 80’s version of the slow motion back bending Matrix move, and just about as duplicated.  Furthermore, I believed that Daniel could have learned that move.  A kid brand new to Kung Fu learns a Cobra move that takes masters decades to learn.  I don’t think so.  No Contest – Crane kick wins.

Overall the movie is more of a cover than a remake.  If you watch both movies close together, you will notice that many of the lines are not changed.  How lazy can you get?  And despite that everyone is clearly practicing Kung Fu, they don’t change the title of the movie.  It’s a cover, maybe at best, an homage, but mainly a cover and have you ever heard a good cover that was even close to as good as the original?  There are a few, but if you are honest with yourself, how many cover albums do you own? Exactly.

So, let me end this rather lengthy blog with my Top Ten Movies of 2010.  Keep in mind that I did not see all the movies of 2010, so if you have recommendations, please do not hesitate to comment and I will see them and modify my list if necessary.  Also, don’t forget, Pure Entertainment Value.

#10 The A-Team – It’s just a fun movie and stayed true to the TV series.  So, if you liked the Tv series, you will love this movie.  Only one fatal flaw, no Mr. T cameo.  Oh well.
# 9 Alice in Wonderland – As remakes go, well done.
# 8 Get Him to the Greek – Puffy’s role in this movie is down right hilarious.  This goes in my went above expectations category.  Only one other movie on this list pleasantly surprised me more than this movie.
# 7 Red – Think Ocean’s 11, but with lots and lots of guns.
# 6 Hot Tub Time Machine – This movie is truly an homage to 80’s movies.  I was excited to see it and it did not disappoint.
# 5 Book of Eli – Although I try to avoid redeeming value in movies as well as my blog, this one had a little redeeming value.  It did not distract from the butt whoopins galore, however.  “that’s not a knife.  THIS is a knife.”  Not from the movie, but you get it if you have seen it.
# 4 Toy Story 3 – Nice way to say farewell to some excellent children characters.  Bring your hankee.
# 3 How to Train your Dragon – Fun Fun Fun movie.  Best animated film of the year in my opinion.  I can and have watched many times.
# 2 The Other Guys – Biggest surprise of the year.  It went well above and beyond my expectations.  It forever has me thinking of lions and tuna differently.  Must See!
# 1 Inception – Maybe the most intelligent movie of the decade.  I had to turn my brain on for this movie, but it was worth it.

Honorable mentions that you might be surprised by:  Tooth Fairy (Good family movie.  Laughed more than I would have predicted.); Easy A (Smart movie and if you have teenage kids, you should watch it, possibly own it.) and finally She’s Out of My League (I thought it was cute.  It was formulaic, but did not apologize for it.  If you are ever bored one weekend, rent it.)

Maybe my longest blog to date.  I hope you have made it this far.  If so, thank you.  I welcome your comments, especially on movies that you think was a travesty to not be on my Top Ten 2010 Movie List.

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I have two major movie research projects I would conduct if I had the time.  The first is to determine exactly what is the probability that a minority character making through a movie alive?  Especially if the character is a black man.  Often, he is the first to go, like in Jurassic Park.  I see it so often, I am convinced it happens with great regularity.

Secondly, did Walt Disney hate women?  Snow White (drugged and witch killed); Dumbo (Mother locked up); Bambi (mother shot by hunter); Cinderella (Evil sisters and step-mom); Peter Pan (no mothers for pirate boys); Sleeping Beauty (Woman turns into dragon and killed with sword); 101 Dalmatians (Cruella Deville); Fox and the Hound (Mother fox is killed by hunter); The Little Mermaid (No mom, and evil octopus woman); Beauty and the Beast (Belle did not have a mom); Aladdin (Princess, King, NO Queen); The Lion King (despite the fact that female lions do all the hunting and teach the young to hunt, who teaches Simba to hunt?  Mufasa.  Male lions don’t do jack.); Tangled (Evil woman who locks girl away in a tower)  Is this a pattern?  I’m just sayin …

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