Funny People (***)

Posted on July 31st, 2009 in Engineerboy,Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

L'Chaim...and the turkey, it's kosher?

Funny People is the latest film from adult-comedy king Judd Apatow, and only the third that he has directed, after The 40 Year Old Virgin in 2005 and Knocked Up in 2007.  If you’ve seen either of those, or Superbad or Forgetting Sarah Marshall (where he was the producer), you should have a read on whether or not you’ll enjoy this new film.

George Simmons (played by Adam Sandler) is a successful star who parlayed his beginnings in stand-up comedy into a mega-career and a string of blockbuster films.  However, as the film opens, George receives bad news about his health, and faced with the gaping maw of his own mortality, begins to re-examine his priorities.

He picks Ira Wright (played by Seth Rogen) out of the string of aspiring comics performing for free at the local comedy club and asks him to take over as his personal assistant, and also write some jokes for him.  It’s difficult to tell if this move is selfish (he needs somebody around so his loneliness doesn’t consume him) or generous (he wants to pass on his comedic legacy by helping out a struggling nobody), and Adam Sandler doesn’t give us a clear read, because he plays the character as a realistic-feeling combination of neuroses, talent, affection, and dickish-ness.

Seth Rogen continues to be able to play a believable every-schlub, in spite of his rocketing stardom, and he imbues Ira with a sympathetic combination of self-doubt, opportunism, diligence, and nascent talent.

Part of the realistic feeling in their relationship may come from the fact that Judd Apatow wrote the script, and back in the day he and Adam Sandler were struggling unknowns together, but Sandler’s star caught fire long before Apatow’s, and it feels like some of the real-life dynamics they experienced have been folded into the story. 

I mean, if you look backward from today, you see that both Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow have parlayed their abilities into larger-than-life careers making people laugh, and back in the beginning they must have known that they were roughly equivalent in the talent department.  The fact that one of them (Sandler) hit it big before the other (Apatow) can easily be interpreted as luck, and the inexorable hand of fate plucking one of them from obscurity while leaving the other behind had to introduce some kind of tension and ill-feelings into their relationship (unless they were both saints).

And that dichotomy is played out in startling contrast in this film.  Ira Wright sleeps on a pull-out sofa in an apartment he shares with two other guys, one of whom (Jason Schwartzman) has scored a recurring role in a throwaway sitcom and finds endless ways to flaunt his new liquidity in the faces of his roommates, and the other of whom (Jonah Hill) is faring much better on the stand-up circuit and claims the other bedroom by virtue of being able to pay rent.

This leaves Ira as the bottom dog,

Just Say No to Coconut Welcome Mats

Posted on July 25th, 2009 in Commentary,Engineerboy by EngineerBoy
Say No to Coco on the Flo' by the Do', Scro

Say No to Coco on the Flo’ by the Do’, Scro

Over the years I’ve owned many coconut floor/welcome mats, and I have finally come to the conclusion that they are both worthless and evil.  First and foremost, they violate their own design purpose – they are supposed to help reduce the amount of crap that you track into your house, but when you buy them they *immediately* begin shedding little bits of coconut husk fibers, so that the area inside the “protected” door starts to look like the floor of the Shredded Wheat factory.

Secondly, the mats themselves are impossible to keep clean.  The fibers are so densely packed that any dirt or mud that gets into them is virtually impossible to get out through any means that doesn’t also start causing pattern baldness.  If you spray it with the hose, that seems to simply compact the dirt further down into the fibers.  If you use a pressure washer it will simply blast the fibers loose from the backing, which will eliminate the trapped dirt, but at what cost?

And a word of dire, dire warning – do not, under any circumstances, attempt to run a coconut mat through your washing machine.  Not even for a quick wash and rinse.  Trust me.  Really.  Trust me.

The reason I know this is that, like all men of progress, I was willing to take risks on behalf of my fellow men (and women) and learn hard lessons by not being too embarrassed to end up in a catastrophic failure of epic proportions.  Heed the following tale of warning.

Let me begin by saying that those of you who are smirking at the stupidity of attempting to clean a coconut welcome mat in the washing machine, and who confidently presume that such an activity could only end in tears, are suffering from a lack of imagination that is all-too-common, and which is a primary contributing cause of humanity’s failure to solve some of our most challenging problems, such as curing cancer or eliminating the designated hitter, because of our timidity in trying solutions that might seem idiotic at first, but whose true efficacy can only be measured by practical experimentation and the willingness of the experimentor to risk great failure while striving for great success.

In other words, I really fucked up.  We had family coming to visit for the weekend, and I was doing some early, proactive house cleaning to try to get ahead of the curve.  If you exit the back of our house, you will first step out into the laundry room and from there step out into the back yard.  We have three big, rambunctious dogs who have free access to the fenced backyard by virtue of a dog door through the back door.  And our dogs show no hesitation in tracking in anything and everything they step in, which is particularly