Archive | March, 2008

The Hangover Film Festival

26 Mar

Not as jet set as Cannes or hip as Sundance, The Hangover Film Festival offers the following films for a weekend of cinematic bliss:  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, To Have And Have Not, Animal House, American Beauty, and Four Weddings And A Funeral.  A film should contain substance, tension, and developing characters.  Humor is a definite plus.  It goes without saying that good acting is critical, as well.  And while the average film go-er might not look for brilliant aspects of direction or cinematography, those skills, if present, will make a film “an experience” as opposed to “two hours killed.”   In The Hangover’s selections, one will find movies that are fun to watch, but more than that, as well.

Of course, being a low budget operation, The Hangover cannot take over a western mountain town for  a weekend or even rent out the local cinema pub.  To that end, we have linked the recommended DVDs to Amazon, and you will have to trust your own couch and microwave to deliver comfort and popcorn.  (You could also visit your local video rental or Netflix to address your needs).   However you choose to do it, a screening of the following should leave your cinematic needs fully satisfied.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)  Directed by John Ford;  starring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin.  

Viewed simply as a western, this would be among the genre’s best.  But what makes this film so much more is that it addresses nearly every aspect of the formation of the American character.   Foremost is the struggle between civilization and the frontier, played out between Jimmy Stewart’s greenhorn lawyer and Lee Marvin’s outlaw, Liberty Valance.  John Wayne is the conduit through which the struggle emerges.  A battle between monied powerful interests and the common man adds to the tension as the territory considers statehood.  There is, of course, a girl–caught between the Wayne and Stewart characters.  The importance, power, and responsibilities of a free press are explored, too.  This atypical film develops these themes while using the elements found in the typical western:  shoot outs, the hired gun, saloons, the stage coach robbery, the dude, the cowboy, the drunk newspaperman, the pretty immigrant girl, and a dusty town called Shinbone.

The acting is phenomenal.  John Wayne is, of course, John Wayne.   But he is a three-dimensional one who takes his lumps.  (His best performance, by far.)  Lee Marvin is outstanding as the outlaw Liberty Valance, a menacing presence that holds the screen with Wayne and Stewart.  And Stewart is his usual brilliant, perfectly cast as the Easterner who arrives in a wilderness that might as well be another planet.  The supporting actors also shine, including Andy Devine, Vera Miles, and Edmund O’Brien.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is more than just a brilliantly conceived western.  It is one of the great American films.

Animal House (1978) Directed by John Landis, Starring John Belushi.

The Hangover believes in certain values:  That we must not take ourselves too seriously; that those in power are not necessarily the best and the brightest; that beer and music go well together; and that college isn’t just about studying, but also having fun at a time in life when one is most capable of having said fun.  This film extols those virtues fast and furiously.  That John Belushi carries this movie while having no more than twenty lines of dialog is an added bonus.

From the opening scenes, Animal House shows us that those who are proper, respected, and envied are often the least deserving to be so.  While the “animals” of Delta House are initiated by singing Louie, Louie and drinking beer, in the “best house on campus,” Kevin Bacon’s character is getting spanked with a paddle by a robed and hooded sadist named Neidermeyer.  Enough said.

Even though this movie can be taken as an invitation to resist conformity and the status quo, the real reason to watch is it’s as funny as hell.  (It also holds up to repeated viewings.)  Some may consider toga parties, food fights, and road trips to be boorish and adolescent, but this movie shows us that those would be the people who would benefit most from them.  Watch the movie and laugh your ass off, but if you are over the age of 21, do not attempt an imitation of John Belushi imitating a zit with a mouthful of mashed potatoes.  Unless you are truly moved to do so.     

To Have And Have Not (1944) Directed by Howard Hawk, Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Walter Brennan

Although this movie could be called a combination of Casablanca-lite and Hemingway-lite, that still leaves it plenty of room for greatness.  Bogart stars as Hemingway’s Captain Harry Morgan, an American individualist who becomes caught up in the WWII intrigue he had tried to ignore.  Opposition is provided by the Gestapo-like Renard.  As Morgan is pressured by financial needs, his conscience, Lauren Bacall’s character, and the struggle of the French resistance movement, he is pulled into action.

The dialog is quick, edgy, and cutting (James Furthman and William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay, wisely keeping some dialog from the book and making their own contributions fit seamlessly–yes, that William Faulkner).  To Have And Have Notwas Bacall’s first movie and her chemistry with Bogart is sizzling and real.  The movie is suspenseful, sardonic, action-packed, and a love story.  It has its comic moments, too.  What more could one need?      

Four Weddings And A Funeral ( 1994) Directed by Mike Newell, starring Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell. (Nominated for Best Film and Best Screenplay)

This film is blessed with a fanastic ensemble cast with Hugh Grant as its central character.  The movie is propelled by situational comedy, but there is plenty of it and the three-dimensional characters take it well beyond standard romance-for-laughs fare.  In scene after scene, the movie sends up modern love and its entanglement with the quest to become wed.  The characters are individuals and at times wonderfully self-aware.  The one funeral adds gravity and sets the stage for character growth.   Reversals abound. 

The ending does seem a bit overdone, but otherwise there isn’t a missed opportunity in its 117 minutes.  There are few more enjoyable ways to be reminded, in the words of Polonius:  “This above all:  To thine own self be true.”

American Beauty (1999)  Directed by Sam Mendes, starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.  (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Director)

This film gracefully exposes the cracked foundations that so many suburban lives are built upon.   Narrated by a deceased Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), the film details how easy it is for a “normal” existence to go askew.  Discontent simmers and comes to a boil as Lester is turned on by his daughter’s best friend (Mena Suvari), disillusioned with his wife (Annette Benning portraying a real estate agent that could have been spawned by Martha Stewart), and fed up with the corporate world.  Lester decides to step out of the rat race.  The results are often humorous and troubling, but ultimately enlightening.

The disillusionment is not limited to Lester.  His wife Carolyn is disgusted with her husband’s new attitude.  The younger generation portrayed by Suvari, Thora Birch (Jane, the daughter) and Wes Bentley (neighbor boy, Ricky), are even more disconnected from their parents than the adults are from each other.  

There are some disturbing moments in this film.  Characters make hard decisions.  It’s a film that provokes thought and an examination of ones own existence.   That makes it worth much more than the price of a rental. 

Dan Zanes, The Disney Channel’s Del Fuego

24 Mar

The Disney Channel used to be a morning staple for The Hangover children.  The kids have grown out of it now, and for the most part, that’s a good thing.  But there is one drawback:  Dan Zanes and Friends no longer appear in the living room, providing musical interludes between shows.  One might ask:  Why would a grown man bemoan the loss of videos starring a funny looking, colored-suit-wearing, gangly musician?  Because Dan Zanes was formerly the lead singer of one of the best bar bands on the planet–The Del Fuegos

A few years ago I was reading the morning paper and the kids were watching television (the horror, the horror).  To fill time during breaks, the networks showed music clips, usually featuring some goofy singer strumming an acoustic guitar singing about dinosaurs or bunnies.   My eyes never left the page.  And then I heard a raspy voice backed by a Stratocaster and drums.  I put down Doonesbury and there was Dan Zanes.

“Kids,” I said.  “Watch.  This guy is awesome.” 

The Del Fuegos came out of Boston in the early ’80’s.  They weren’t musical virtuosos, but the drums snapped and the guitars churned.  Dan Zanes’ vocals suggested gravel more than velvet.  Ten seconds into a song, you knew they meant it.  They sang about the usual rock and roll subjects:  girls, relationships, failed relationships, music, and making it through the day.  The music had integrity and cajones.

The Hangover first saw them in a San Diego bar in ’84 on a recommendation–more an order–from a friend in Boston.  They took the stage and howled, sweat, and jumped through their set.   People danced.  It was music made for beer drinking and letting loose.  Eventually, Miller tapped them for a commercial–a grainy, shadowy bit that is nothing like the slickly produced ads seen today.  Most of their videos looked like they were shot in 8mm and created for black and white.  That’s the kind of band they were. 

The day their second album, Boston, Mass, came out, we drove to Newberry Comics and then listened to it straight through on a portable CD player in a ratty Camaro.  A show at the Channel a few weeks later was a masterpiece.   The next time they played the venue, it was so crowded that no one could move, never mind dance.  Personal space and fire code violations were rampant. 

Two  more albums and the Del Fuegos were done.  That’s the music business.  Great bands disappear practically on a daily basis, with no logic or voodoo to explain it.  Had things fallen right, the Del Fuegos might have been a contender for the “American version of the Rolling Stones” crown.  Instead, they are a footnote. 

Dan Zanes is now on a mission to play a folk-rock-world hybrid that entire families can enjoy.  He believes in this the same way he did his earlier music.  It’s not the Del Fuegos, but we like it.  The Hangover will miss seeing the Dan Zanes videos in the morning.  They never failed to bring back bars, Buds, and great times, at least until someone spilled Cheerios all over the floor.

Dick Cheney: Public Servant Translated

20 Mar

Vice President Dick Cheney has some strong beliefs and he tends to communicate them clearly.  In recent interviews, however, Cheney has made some comments that the average American might find confusing.  In the Hangover’s never-ending commitment to public service, we have translated them below:

From an interview with ABC White House correspondent Martha Raddatz:

Raddatz:  “Two-third of Americans say it’s (the war in Iraq) not worth fighting.”

Cheney:  “So?”

Translation:  “Fuck you, citizens.  You’re the ones who voted us in.  Live with it or move to Canada, (as if any of you morons could even find Canada).” 

Cheney:  “I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.  There has in fact been fundamental change and transformation and improvement for the better.”

Translation:  “There has been great change.  My friends at the oil companies are enjoying record profits.  So are my pals at Halliburton and their subsidiaries.  My portfolio has never looked better.  That’s the kind of change we can be proud of.”

And from his speech to American troops in Iraq:

Cheney:  (Following 9/11) “So the United States made a decision: To hunt down the evil of terrorism and kill it where it grows, to hold the supporters of terror to account, and to confront regimes that harbor terrorists and threaten the peace.”

Translation:  “It (9/11) was a good excuse to go into Iraq and grab their oil.  Who cares if Osama Bin Laden is still running around free while hooked up to his dialysis machine?  We’ve got Iraq’s oil.  Yipppeeee!”

Cheney:  “They (the Iraqis) know, above all, that America can be trusted.”

Translation:  “The Iraqis know that America can be trusted–to take their oil, to sell them Coke and Pepsi, to bring MTV to the region, and, hell, if we can get those women out of their burqas, you can bet your ass we’ll put up a few Victoria’s Secrets, too.” 

Cheney:  (To the Troops:) “I appreciate your attention this morning — it’s been my privilege to be with all of you. Keep up the great work. And thank you for what you do for all of us. “

Translation:  “It’s a privilege to be here with you troops, who are actually serving your country out of a sense of duty.  And thank you for what you do for me personally–making it possible for my buddies and me to make off with piles and piles of loot.”

Sox Stud Set (With Pet) For Success

19 Mar

The Clay Buchholz gossip is ripping through New England and Red Sox Nation.  Several sources revealed that the young pitcher is dating 2008 Penthouse Pet of the Year Erica Ellyson. This first came out on the Howard Stern show a few days ago and then was confirmed by Buchholz’s dad on Boston’s WZLX.  That’s what The Hangover calls quality reporting.

One of The Hangover’s correspondents is worried by these developments.  He fears this relationship might be a nefarious plot to distract and discombobulate the rookie pitcher, engineered by the Yankees with Hank Steinbrenner (the brains) and Johnny Damon (the muscle) doing the dirty work of setting up the kid.  Sox Nation can rest easy, however.    

Being a shrewd judge of human nature and a student of history, The Hangover realizes this “hook up” practically insures that Buchholz will reach the potential he showed last season (by throwing a no-hitter).  The Hangover predicts that our man Clay will emerge as a dominating, top-of-the-rotation starter.  He’ll be a menace in October, too.

One needs to look no further than Josh Beckett to see what happens to a young Texas pitcher when he finds a knockout celebrity girlfriend.   Beckett has been linked to lingerie model and Fox Sports personality Leann Tweeden, as well as country singer Danielle Peck (who, as his ex-, sang the National Anthem before a playoff game he pitched and won against the Indians last fall, speaking of nefarious schemes).  Has there been a more dominating pitcher than Beckett in recent playoff history?  Certainly not.  The connection has to be more than coincidence.  Even the oft-injured Carl Pavano pitched the best ball of his career in the 2003 World Series, the exact point in time he began seeing Allysa Milano.  If this pitcher-goddess dynamic bears itself out with Buchholz (as The Hangover is certain it will), we recommend the Sox skip the White House next year and head straight for the Playboy Mansion.    

All signs point to a big year for Clay.  In every way possible. 

Israel-Palestine Conflict Deconstructed and Defused (in 1500 words or less)

17 Mar

One doesn’t need to be a graduate of the Fletcher School of International Affairs to know that relations between Israel and the Palestinians are screwed.  While American attention is now focused mainly on Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, a series of articles in this past weeks’ Boston Globe caught The Hangover’s ire.  Israel and the Palestinians are at it again.  Of course, that line could have been written just about every day since 1947.

The Headlines:

Monday, March 10:  “Shooting Leaves Holy City On Edge” (Matti Friedman, AP)

A Palestinian gunman shot and killed eight Jews in a Seminary library.  Jerusalem Palestinians and Jews were set “on edge” as further violence and a tennis match of reprisals seemed possible.

Monday, March 10:  “Israel to Allow Contractors to Build in Disputed Areas” (Mark Lavie, AP)

Israel gave the go-ahead for 1000 homes and apartments to be built in disputed areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  Considering the tenuous (absent?) nature of peace in the region, one wonders if Donald Rumsfeld hasn’t found work consulting for the Israeli government. 

Tuesday, March 11: “Israel Orders Military To Reduce Operations In Gaza” (Aron Heller, AP)

This would seem to be a wise, logical decision, as quelling the violence that has surfaced over the last few weeks would be a relief to those who actually live there.  But then Heller states:

“Hamas said it was encouraged by the relative lull, citing it as evidence that attacks on Israel were paying off.”

“Israel, concerned that calm could enable the militants to claim victory and rearm, said it reserves the right to strike at will.”

Oh yeah, that sounds like a solid foundation for peace talks. Both sides are more concerned with the perceptions of their opponents than with the actual results–fewer of their people getting killed.

Wednesday, March 12:  “Rocket Attack Breaks Lull in Palesinian-Israeli Conflict”(Isabel Kershner and Taghreed El-Khodary, New York Times News Service)

Palestinian rebels fired a rocket into the city of Ashkelon.  A militant group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attac.  Israel blamed Hamas.

Thursday, March 13: “Hamas seeks period of ‘calm'”(Ibrahim Barzak, AP), “Israeli Forces kill 4 millitants” (Isabel Kershner and Taghreed El-Khodary, NYTNS)

Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh appealed for a period of mutual calm, urging Israel to halt military operations on the West Bank.  Shortly thereafter, Israeli soldiers killed four Palestiniam militants in Bethlehem.  So much for that cease-fire.

Friday, March 14:  “Gaza rockets barrage Israel after deaths:  Attacks follow W. Bank raid by Israeli forces.” (Amy Teibel, AP)

No explanation needed.

Here they go again.  Despite a small period of relative calm between Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Palestinians both inside and outside of Israel’s borders, hostilities have resumed.  This should surprise no one, simply because the conditions that give rise to the violence remain unchanged.

Some key factors that lead to conflict:

  • Israel now occupies land on the West Bank of the Gaza strip and in East Jerusalem.  These lands were acquired by Israel in the Six Day 1967 War with Jordan and Egypt.  Palestinians everywhere view the lands as being Palestinian.  Israel views them as the spoils of war–Israeli land. 
  • There are eons of hatred between the groups based on religion and disputed ownership of land.
  •  Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied land are not considered Israeli citizens.
  • Both sides consider the other to be terrorists.
  • The Palestinian state that was mandated in the 1947 Partition Plan has yet to exist.  Note that neither Palestinian or Israeli factions were pleased with the 1947 agreement.

Although it is not our usual style, The Hangover is going to go academic here.  There are both historical and sociological  perspectives that indicate violent conflict will continue until Israel changes its regional philosophy and adjusts current policy.

The Sociological Perspective:

Relative Deprivation can be used to explain the existence of conditions that can lead to social conflict.  Sociologist Jock Young concisely explains :

“Relative Deprivation occurs where individuals or groups subjectively perceive themselves as unfairly disadvantaged over others perceived as having similar attributes and deserving similar rewards (their reference groups).” 

The feelings of deprivation can be economically, socially, or politically based.  When the deprivation reaches a certain level, frustration results, which in turn, if the conditions are strong enough, can result in aggression.   This Deprivation-Frustration-Aggression model can be applied in an obvious “paint-by-numbers” approach to Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Palestinians view Israelis as their reference group.  Comparisons with their Israeli peers reveal the following points of deprivation.

  • The Palestinians feel they rightfully own lands now occupied by Israel.
  • Palestinians living in Israel do not share the same rights as Israeli citizens.
  • Israel exists, the Palestinian state does not. 

Frustration arises when the sense of deprivation is prolonged and heightened.

  • Sixty years and still no Palestinian homeland.
  • Palestinians denied access to former homelands and important religious sites.
  • Palestinians in Israel remain less-than-citizens and terror suspects.
  • Aggressive actions by Israel against Palestinian militant groups often injures Palestinian civilians.

  Aggression results in violent social conflict:

  • Palestinian militant organizations strike Israel using modern guerrilla tactics.  (Israeli response is also viewed as terrorism by Palestinians.)
  • The first “punch” was thrown so long ago, it doesn’t matter who struck first, only who struck last.
  • Militant group acts, Israel reacts. Or Israel acts, Militant group reacts.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Rockets. Tanks. Ruination.

The Historical Perspective:

Occupied land never works.  Over time, the natural population will eventually contend for self-determination, equal rights, or access to the political process.  When those are continually denied, unrest follows.  That is, unless an “occupier” can decimate the native population (as the Europeans did in North America).  However, devastation of that level requires a technological advantage, as well as the will to accomplish it.

The cases showing failure of occupied land are many.  The first that comes to mind is Ireland.  After centuries of simmering and often violent conflict, the English relinquished the south of Ireland in 1922.  It is only recently that hostilities were quelled in the North by allowing Catholics access to the Protestant-English dominated political process.  Through those actions, the sense of Catholic deprivation (and frustration) that fueled the conflict was greatly minimized.

The age of empire is over for a reason:  An inability to govern occupied land.  India is no longer English.  The French long ago left Viet Nam.  South Africa is governed by native South Africans.   It doesn’t matter if the empire is halfway across the planet or across the street.  Unrest will follow. 

Israel and the Palestinians have shown they each have the will to persevere, but neither has the means to end the conflict.

The Solution:

Israel must eliminate the conditions triggering the collective deprivation-frustration-aggression construct that exists for Palestinians, which results in civilians of both sides being blown to bits on a regular basis.  If these conditions are not eradicated, violence will continue.  History in the Middle East (and everywhere else on the planet) proves that.

Israel should be a leading proponent for the formation of the mandated Palestinian state.  This would remove a major trigger of Palestinian deprivation-frustration.  It would also give the Israelis a focal point for communication and negotiation.  Instead of having to deal with a variety of militant organizations, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, Israel would have the opportunity to let Palestine be responsible for the actions of Palestinians.  Secondly, Israel should be prepared and willing to give back land they have occupied since 1967.  Mark Lavie of the AP indicates that there are “some Palestinians” who would consider swapping those settled and developed lands for other blocks of Israeli territory.  This seems specious, but at least a point for discussion.  It would be a break (if not a miracle) for everyone involved if logic and reason became operative aspects of the peace effort. 

A nation-state’s first concern should be the security of its people.  If Israel does not make concessions to eliminate the conditions fueling collective violence in the region, they can expect to continue their existence under siege.  That’s what history and social conflict theory make perfectly clear. 

Israel has the will to defend itself in perpetuity.  But why would they want to have to?  As the English relinquished Ireland, Israel should release disputed occupied land (or a negotiated equivalent) to a Palestinian state.  In what the Palestinians will claim as a victory, Israelis will reap tangible benefits.  They will have a chance for peace.  To forsake a significant change in their regional policy will doom Israelis to carry the threat of a ticking bomb in their collective consciousness, as well as in their communities.   There are better ways to live. 

Hillary Clinton’s Hide and Seek

14 Mar

Hillary Clinton has been playing hide and seek throughout this campaign.  Today Senator Orrin Hatch found her crouched behind a facade of words in the health care discussion. states: 

“Nobody has worked harder or longer to improve health care than Hillary Clinton. From her time in Arkansas when she improved rural health care to her successful effort to create the SCHIP Children’s Health Insurance program which now covers six million children, Hillary has the strength and experience to ensure that every man, woman and child in America has quality, affordable health care.”

However, in today’s Boston Globe the co-author of the amendment that created SHCIP, Senator Orrin Hatch, said:

“We all care about children. But does she deserve credit for SCHIP?  No–Teddy (Kennedy) does, but she doesn’t.”

There are those that acknowledge that Hillary may have done some behind the scenes lobbying for SCHIP.  However, to call that a “successful effort to create the SCHIP Children’s Health Insurance Program” is to stretch the truth from Pasadena to Pluto.  Hopefully, someone in the Obama camp will point this out to voters in Pennsylvania and perhaps even Michigan, should the chance arise.  

Of course, documents and records that could enlighten voters on the actual roles Hillary Clinton played as First Lady remain under review by the Bill Clinton Library Archives.  How convenient.  Could it be that while Hillary gives the impression that she was politicking side-by-side with her husband, she was actually writing guest lists and planning menus?  It probably doesn’t matter.  For in the phraseology of the Clinton campaign, if Hillary were choosing China patterns for a state dinner, she would have actually been “developing avenues of international trade.” 

As readers of The Hangover know, language can be a dangerous thing. 

Songs for Drinking: The Hangover’s Best

14 Mar

The Hangover’s extensive research into music and libation has been thorough and produced meaningful results.  It’s shown that a good drinking song will spiritually and physically enhance any alcoholic beverage.  Contrary to some popular notions, the best tunes are not meant to be screeched by a bus full of skunked English soccer fans.  Instead, they connect personally to a drinker, offering reason to imbibe, a road map to revelry, and a blockade against regret.   

(This list may come in handy with St. Patrick’s Day dead ahead.)

The following are The Hangover’s Five Best along with corresponding drinking recommendations : 

“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”–George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers (on Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock)

Thorogood took John Lee Hooker’s classic “my baby’s left me and it’s last call” blues tale and expanded it into a slide guitar-powered “War and Peace” of down on your luck woes.  The song provides plenty of reason to listen and drink–triple fisted as the title suggests.  While Hooker’s version is good, Thorogood’s is great.  George’s narrator is a vivid barstool storyteller who becomes ironic, sarcastic, and presumably drunk.

The Hangover recommends:  a shot of Jim Beam, a shot of Ballantine’s, and a draft of the cheapest domestic beer on tap. 

“Are you drinking with me Jesus?”–The Beat Farmers (on Viking Lullabys)

The bible tells us that Jesus liked his wine, but we don’t know if he enjoyed a brew.  Sung by the legendary Country Dick Montana, this song brings a twisted spirituality to slugging down beer.  It’s a romp that asks the musical questions, “I know you can walk on the water, but can you walk on this much beer?” and “If you’re drinking with me Jesus, won’t you buy a friend a beer?”  It also sounds as if there might have been a bottle or two kicking around the studio during recording.

The Hangover recommends:  A shot of Jagermeister (Country Dick’s favorite, which he often drank out of the bottle while standing on the bar in the midst of a Beat Farmer’s show) and a beer (Ask yourself:  What brand would Jesus drink?) to chase it down.

“I Got Loaded”–Los Lobos (on How Will The Wolf Survive

This Mexican influenced rock celebrates a bender.  Last night it was gin; night before last it was whiskey; tonight it might be wine.  The chorus consists of variations on: “But I feel all right/I feel all right/I feel all right/I feel all right.”  The Hangover is with you, boys.  Fans of Bull Durham will recall hearing this song as Crash Davis and his teammates let loose with the ball field sprinklers and then slid and flopped around the bases in their civvies while drinking cans of beer.

The Hangover recommends:  A six pack of Miller High Life, in cans, in the spirit of the movie.

“Thunderbird”–Shaver (on Electric Shaver)

Songwriter Billy Joe Shaver’s character traces a failed relationship through the rising price of Thunderbird wine.  The song is sung to his woman, with the singer longing for the good ol’ days when “loving you was fun and the price was forty twice.”  Of course, things have gone to hell with the girl and the jug now costs $1.29.  The singer longs for yesterday.  Who could blame him?

The Hangover recommends:  Toughen up and grab a jug of Thunderbird.  That’s how the professionals do it.

“Alcohol”–Gang Green (on Another Wasted Night)

This is an old school punk ode to, yes, alcohol.  Chris Doherty screams his allegiance while his band buzzsaws through the power chords.  The lyrics are simple and to the point:  “No doubt about it/I can’t live without it/Alcohol.”  There are also references to 100 proof blood and cocaine.  And they’d “rather drink than fuck.”  It’s always a pleasure to see a band passionate about their subject matter.  Check out the video on youtube to see what you’re getting into with these guys.

The Hangover recommends:  This band’s T-shirts were formatted as Budweiser labels.  Go find yourself a forty, or at least a quart.

Other songs that were considered:

“Red Red Wine”–Neil Diamond (original artist).  Great song, but if you’re drinking to forget, as the singer here is, one might need something stronger.

“Cuervo Man”–The Syphlloids.  While extremely obscure, this song extols the virtues of tequila and makes fun of martini drinkers.  Could not be chosen for the Fab Five because The Hangover co-wrote it–no conflicts of interest allowed (This isn’t the McCain campaign, after all).

“If You Don’t Start Drinking (I’m going to leave)”–George Thorogood.  This is a good song by a master of drinking songs.  It just isn’t as good as the one that heads the list. 

Spitzer Pays For It

11 Mar

It turns out that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is the worst kind of politician:  One who can’t get sex without paying for it.  Isn’t his name the first clue?  Sorority girls must have giggled uncontrollably when hearing it at Princeton keg parties.  Even with a title like Governor, it couldn’t have been easy for Eliot (snicker) Spitzer (Give me a break).  

The Hangover is not opposed to legislators blowing off steam as long as it is with another consenting adult.  After all, politicians can be under a lot of stress and in need of release.  Given the fat-headedness one must possess to believe that thousands or millions of people will vote for them, it’s reasonable to expect such egos might need stroking in other ways, too.  That doesn’t mean those politicians lack the aptitude for running a state or leading a country.  Getting caught up with paid-for hookers sure casts some doubts, though. 

In 1988, Gary Hart, the most progressive and insightful candidate in the presidential race, had his primary bid implode when he was caught cheating with Donna Rice (not your average bimbo) on a boat fittingly called “Monkey Business.”  At the time, The Hangover was a resident of New Hampshire and voting in the all-important first in the nation primary.   A pre-primary favorite, Hart’s numbers vanished faster than dollar bills in a strip club.  But as Hart remained the best candidate in the race regarding policy and platform, The Hangover voted for him anyway.   I shocked a reporter doing an exit poll by answering “Gary Hart” when she asked who I had supported.  When she asked why, I added, “Because he stands for everything I believe in.”  Surprisingly, the reporter was not interested in having dinner with The Hangover that night–or any other night.

At first, one might be inclined to give Spitzer some credit.   He’s loaded and was spending his own money as he saw fit.  He wasn’t driving around picking up transvestites like former A’s pitcher Dave Stewart.  He wasn’t getting over on a same-sex, seventeen year-old Congressional page like Gary Studds.  Consider that Hugh Grant got nabbed with Hollywood streetwalker Divine Brown, and his girlfriend at the time was Elizabeth Hurley.  The quality of Spitzer’s chosen escorts eclipsed even those that Charlie Sheen corralled in his Heidi Fleiss days.  And, apparently, no blue dresses were harmed in the making of this scandal.

The Hangover has done some investigative reporting.  The Emperor’s Club VIP web site is as of this writing currently down, either in hiding or bludgeoned by rich bastards in a state of over-excitement.  However, we unearthed some Club pages here.  Screen shots of the lingerie clad escorts offered tasteful Playboy-ish poses with hidden faces.  The girls are in technical terms, hot.  What The Hangover found next was unsettling.

The escorts’ pictures were accompanied by some disturbing descriptions:  They consisted of the “playful and sensuous” cliches and “vivacious and agreeable” bullshit.  For up to $5,500 an hour, the prospective John should get more than standard Playmate of the Month patter.  It only got worse as favorite perfumes, chocolates, flowers, and cocktails were also listed.  So the wealthy client not only has to pony up for sex plus tip, he’s expected to shop for gifts like a nervous boyfriend.   The names of the models were also disappointing:  Anais, Maya, Marina, Josephine, etc..,.  For that kind of dough, one would think that a guy could get some good stripper-ease like Brandi, Candy, or Destiny. 

It’s that kind of information which caused The Hangover to lose respect for Governor Spitzer.  No capable leader would get fleeced like that.

Of course, The Hangover is not an expert in these matters (Are you reading Mrs. Hangover?).  For a professional view, The Hangover recommends Heidi Fleiss’s well qualified and thoughtful opinion.     

Short Stories, Long Payoffs

10 Mar

In his book On Writing Short Stories, Tom Bailey writes:

“A story creates its own world, often–though not always–with clear or mysterious correspondences to our own, a world in which we are too involved to keep track of what anyone is learning.” 

To that end, The Hangover will expand its Fiction Section to present a series of short stories by guest authors. 

The brevity of the short story makes it a natural art form for contemporary society, where time is a precious commodity.  A ten or twenty minute investment has the potential to pay unending dividends.  At worst, a reader is simply entertained–and there’s nothing wrong with that.

It is The Hangover’s pleasure to present the first in its Guest Fiction series, “The Accident” by Maine writer, Joshua Bodwell.  It’s a story that will stay with a reader, and there is no higher praise than that.  To step into this world, all one has to do is click on the Fiction tab on the header of this page.  Experience and enjoy. 

Clinton versus Obama: Will There Be Blood?

8 Mar

The Clinton-Obama battle has turned nasty.  First, Hillary launched her “It’s 3:00 am, who do you want answering the bat phone?” ad.  Then came her speech in which she deemed herself and John McCain foreign policy veterans, but implied that Obama wouldn’t know Afghanistan from Argentina.  A Clinton spokesman also compared him to Ken Starr.  The haymakers are coming fast and furious.

Obama tried to remain civilized–and lost three out of four primaries.  He reminded America that while he came out against the war from the start, Hillary voted along with Bush and McCain at every opportunity, which doesn’t exactly show a great deal of acumen in international relations.  However, this isn’t about logic anymore.

Obama refused to trade hair pulls, elbows, and eye gouges with the Clinton campaign.  But one of his staffers, Harvard professor Samantha Power, let loose to a Scottish journalist, referring to Hillary as “a monster.”  It’s not an unfair characterization.  After all, she could star in her own version of The Thing That Couldn’t Die.   She could also play the lead in dramatic renditions of “The Little Train That Could” and “The Guest Who Wouldn’t Leave.”  Give her credit.  If she’s going down, she’s going down swinging.

Of course, the Clinton campaign was shocked and outraged (although The Hangover doubts they were surprised) by Samantha Power’s comments.  The Clinton camp demanded action and Power resigned from the Obama team.   Obama has acknowledged that the election has taken a vicious turn, but stated that he would not be drawn “into a knife fight.”  That’s too bad, because by avoiding the blood, he puts his campaign in jeopardy. 

It’s noble that Obama wants to keep on message:  hope and change.  It’s honorable that he wants a clean, dignified campaign.  But a look at recent history suggests that those ready to claw and scratch usually emerge the winners.

In 2000, Al Gore acted like a gentleman from start to finish, even after it was clear that Florida had been stolen.  Where did that lead us?  Into 9/11 and ultimately Afgahnistan and Iraq.  If Gore had fought–ungainly and looking like a sore loser–and won, we don’t know how different things might be today.  Let’s face it, they couldn’t be worse.

In the 2004 election, “swiftboating” became a verb.  John Kerry was besieged by false accusations.  Fact:  He was a decorated veteran, one of the few Ivy Leaguers to actually see action in Viet Nam.  By not fighting back, he allowed himself and his campaign to appear weak.  He had an opponent who didn’t even show up for significant stretches of his National Guard duty.  Kerry should have hammered W. Bush on that every chance he got.  We heard barely a peep about it from the Kerry campaign.  That turned out bad, too.

The public shouldn’t be surprised that at least one side of the Democratic battle has turned ferocious.  The Clinton team is savvy and cutthroat.  They aren’t concerned with a Democrat winning the nomination; their mission is to get Hillary the nod.  It’s politics.   And after losing for much of the campaign, they don’t care how they get there.   That makes them dangerous and more than viable.

In her apology to Hillary Clinton, Power stated,  “Last Monday, I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor, and purpose of the Obama campaign.”   In those words lie the problem:  If Obama hopes to hang on, he’s going to have change “the spirit, tenor, and purpose” of his campaign.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s the way it is.  If he believes his Presidency is what this country needs, his number one priority needs to be winning–no matter what it takes.  He’s got plenty of ammunition.  If he doesn’t start using it, he’ll be sitting in the Senate next year wondering what the hell just happened.