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May 2008

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
May 28, 2008

Forget McCain or Obama, if I were president the first thing I would do is declare myself president for life.

Then, I'd have a fancy fashion designer make me some cool military suit with a big hat like Napoleon used to wear. To keep it a tad contemporary, I'd wear mirrored aviator sunglasses all the time and my pants would be leather.

I'd have two national anthems: one commissioned by me to have Bruce Springsteen write and sing, and then the other would be the James McClean campaign song -- which I miss since it ended with last week's primary.

I would declare Hugh Hefner my vice president, and I would have him oversee the construction of the world's largest Slip n' Slide on the White House lawn. State dinners would be replaced with Slip n' Slide parties. No tuxes. Just Bermuda shorts and bikinis. And Bruce would be the musical entertainment along with Ryan (not Bryan!) Adams. In fact, I would have Bryan Adams, along with each American Idol contestant and winner, imprisoned for life. Of course, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood would be exempt from such a sentence, and they would be welcome to perform at all Slip n' Slide state parties -- particularly the latter AI winner.

George Michael and Barry Manilow would also be imprisoned, but with hard labor sentences. In fact, executions for those two might be considered. Yes, it's harsh -- but think people: "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "I Write the Songs." Need I say more?

I would also force all oil executives to begin accepting a yearly salary of $100,000 or face prison. They would then have one week after my reign begins to sink all oil profits into the market to lower gas prices to $1.00 per gallon. Any executive who would balk at my order would be forced to share the prison cell with George Michael and Barry Manilow. Or, they might also be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight alongside our soldiers. In fact, I'd bring all the troops home, and force the oil executives to live over there on $50 a month.

There would be no censorship of any type of entertainment with the exception of Matthew McConaughey movies and Grey's Anatomy. Oh, and book burnings would only be encouraged if they involved titles by The Dog Whisperer or Dr. Phil.

Siestas would be required at all businesses, and tax incentives would be offered to any business that had Slip n' Slide Fridays.

Of course, just because I would be president of the United States for life doesn't mean that I would forget about my peeps here in Arkansas. No, in fact, Arkansas would replace New York City as the center of the Universe. The following companies would be forced to move their headquarters and affiliated businesses to Arkansas: Google, Microsoft, Boeing, Apple, the United States operations and factories of Toyota, and just for fun, Maxim magazine.

Wall St. would move to Harrison St. in Batesville which, by the way, would have all of its construction and renovations moved to the nighttime hours. And a President Rob ruling would require the highway department to have such renovations complete within one week of the beginning of my reign.

On an international level, I would invite all of our allies and enemies to monthly Slip n' Slide state parties. Such a gesture would immediately cool tensions between all countries, religions and cultures, and encourage brotherhood among nations because, really, once the president of Iran and Israel's prime minister saw each other in their bathing suits, then they would realize we're all just alike.

Plus, when they see Carrie Underwood going down the presidential Slip n' Slide, they'll really know the world is worth saving.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
May 21, 2008

If there's one thing regular readers of this column know about your humble scribe, it's that I am a snob.

There's really no way around the fact that my taste in movies, music and books is, well, better than yours. OK, wait, that was a snobby thing to say, wasn't it? See, I've already proven my point.

Seriously, there are aspects of popular culture that drive me batty. That's because most of the gunk that oozes from all types of entertainment is calculated by corporate focus groups to ensure its appeal is easy to swallow by the public. And once the public becomes accustomed to having everything presented to us in simple terms, anything else becomes "weird" or "difficult" or "just plain bad."

I think that's one reason the ending of No Country for Old Men baffles and frustrates everyone. The film's screenwriters and directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, had enough clout in Hollywood to ensure that the ending of Cormac McCarthy's book on which the film is based made it to the final cut. I think it's an appropriate and bleak end; everything is not tied up with a pretty bow. Comfortable resolution doesn't always happen in real life, and Tommy Lee Jones' final dark and poetic monologue completely applies to and addressees the themes of the film.

Of course, I'm veering into pretension, and that's something I don't want to do. Pretension is the snob's calling card.

I'm simply saying that I like things that are different, challenging and fulfilling. That's why I'll take the music of Ryan Adams (not Bryan!) over the bland and generic pop from the latest flavor of the month artists like Daughtry or 3 Doors Down. Or the latest Cormac McCarthy novel over a James Patterson book of the month. Or a film such as Michael Clayton over some generic SFX-stuffed flick like 10,000 B.C.

All of this is to say this: I'm not a complete snob. I do have lots of guilty pleasures that are popular and sometimes dismissed by stuffy, high-brow critics or fellow snobs.

I like the novels of Stephen King and John Grisham.

Nickelback is a damn fun rock band.

Iron Man is a summer blockbuster done right. (And I have a strong feeling the new Batman film, The Dark Knight, will even be better.)

"SexyBack" by Justin Timberlake is on my iPod.

I want to see the new Harold & Kumar flick when it hits DVD.

I can't wait for the new Weezer CD.

I like "You Wanna Make a Memory," a syrupy Bon Jovi ballad.

And "Jesus, Take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood gets me every time.

So, see I'm not a total snob. I still think Michael Clayton was the best film of last year, along with No Country for Old Men. I believe the work of Ryan Adams and the new music from Springsteen are both underrated. And Letterman is, to me, still the funniest man on television.

But when "Animals" by Nickelback comes on the car radio, it's likely other drivers can hear me singing along.

Even with my windows up.

***

Hey, who was the moron who wrote in these pages that traffic on Batesville's Harrison Street, despite all the construction, was running smoothly?

Oh, wait, that was me.

I've had more people ask me what in the h-e-double hockey sticks I was thinking when I wrote that  -- particularly after a recent morning jam that had Batesville-bound commuters backed up all the way to Gap Road.

So, allow me to take back my comment about Harrison Street traffic running smoothly. The road workers are doing their best, but it is what it is: a temporary and necessary mess.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
May 14, 2008

A few years back, I wrote a column regarding the trend of metrosexuality. To refresh: a metrosexual is a straight guy who tends to keep up with things usually associated with the feminine world such as fashion and culture. This might be a man who knows linen can be worn after Easter and who remembers to moisturize his face before bedtime, but his tongue still rolls out of his mouth whenever he watches the latest Mariah Carey video.

However, as with any trend, some metrosexuals tend to go overboard and cross a line that men should not cross -- ever.

Some examples:

 

Wearing Capri pants. No man should wear Capri pants. Those are the pants that stop mid-calf. Women made them popular, but on men, not only do they look like floods, but they also are a reminder why women made them popular: They're girly-looking. And if you're not careful, wearing Capri pants in some parts of Independence and Jackson counties could find you in serious trouble. Ask my brother.

 

Waxing your body. Why do men suddenly feel the need to wax all the hair off their body? Unless you're a competitive body builder or a professional swimmer, there's no need for a man to be smooth all over. Now I can understand if one has a back that's so thick with hair it could be combed, but with the exception of the ears and nose, men are supposed to have hair in places women should not. Agreed?

 

Having manicured eyebrows. Now, this might fit in the above category, but it's a trend that's so popular it needs special attention. Gentlemen, unless your eyebrows rival those of Andy Rooney, leave them alone. No offense to the cross dressers out there, but guys with thin, manicured eyebrows look like transvestites in men's clothes. And the excuse that your "stylist" -- the woman who cuts your hair -- was a little too happy with the tweezers or wax strips on your brows doesn't cut it. You allowed her to go down that road to begin with, so you, big boy, are responsible.

 

Baking quiche. The old saying "Real men don't eat quiche" is bunk. A decent piece of quiche makes for some good eats. However, men baking quiche is another issue entirely. Men cook steaks, pork, chicken and fish. They do not bake pies of any sort.

 

Watching Grey's Anatomy. Now, this will likely start a debate, but I'm ready. The popular ABC medical drama, Grey's Anatomy, is nothing but a soap opera or a weekly chick flick. Any show where the lead male character is referred to as "Dr. McDreamy" should not be viewed by any man who thoroughly enjoys the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. In fact, I would bet money that any man who does enjoy the swimsuit edition has never watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Seeing any movie with Matthew McConaughey and Patrick Dempsey. These two guys are the chick flick kings. Dempsey (who, surprise, plays Dr. McDreamy on the aforementioned television show) has been in such syrup-drenched muck as Sweet Home Alabama and the new Made of Honor, and he also appeared as a modern-day Prince Charming in Disney's chick flick for tweens, Enchanted. For once, it'd be nice to see him in a role that requires him to pick up a gun and splatter a bad guy's brains across the wall. The chances of that ever happening are about as likely as McConaughey making a movie in which he keeps on his shirt. McConaughey has had a serious problem throughout his career: he can't make a decent film. Okay, sure, A Time to Kill and his stoner role in Dazed & Confused were decent (the latter more than the former), but sitting through any of his movies since is similar to taking an aluminum baseball bat and swatting it against your head over and over.

I could go on, but I'll stop. The waters of metrosexuality are dangerous and murky. There's nothing wrong with being hip, knowing a decent bottle of wine and keeping your skin healthy, but for heaven's sake, grow some hair and replace Grey's Anatomy with The Deadliest Catch.

And gentlemen, if I catch you in a pair of Capri pants walking into a Matthew McConaughey flick, there will be blood.

Just as long as I don't get it on my linen shirt.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
May 7, 2008

Bill Maher, the political talk show host and comedian, has it out for organized religion.

The former host of ABC's Politically Incorrect-before he was booted off the network for saying the 9/11 hijackers were not cowards-has hosted Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO for the past few years. Despite his aggressive attitude toward any type of organized religion, Real Time is still an entertaining and provocative talk show, and Maher can be very funny and dead-on with some of his critiques of all things political and cultural.

But regular viewers of the show know that Maher seems to have it out for all things spiritual. His ridiculing of religions (in particular -- religious extremists) will even move to the big screen this summer when his documentary, Religulous (sic), hits cinemas.

In some interviews, Maher has said that he does, in fact, believe in God, but last year on the MSNBC show, Morning Joe, he also proclaimed he is an apatheist. (By the way, in my well-worn copy of The New Oxford American Dictionary, the word "apatheist" is not listed. I had to go to Wikipedia to look it up. According to the website, an apatheist is "...is someone who considers the question of the existence of gods as neither meaningful nor relevant to his or her life; nor perhaps to human affairs." So, if Maher does indeed believe in God, such belief is not central in his world.

Which is fine. I'm a Christian, but I respect all other religions, as well as individuals who don't believe or question the existence of a Higher Power. Too much blood has been shed over spiritual intolerance, whether it has stemmed from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.

Recently on Real Time, Dr. Cornel West was a guest on Maher's panel. West, an esteemed scholar on African-American studies and black theology who teaches at Princeton, is a personal hero of mine. West describes himself as a "non-Marxist Socialist," meaning his Christianity obviously doesn't mesh with the atheistic ideology entrenched in Marxism. I'm certainly not a Marxist or a Socialist, but I share his concern over the corporate hooks that have punctured our political leaders, leading to the continuing disenfranchisement of America's poor. And, as he has noted, such concern and compassion are firmly rooted in his Christianity.

On this particular episode of Real Time, Maher again turned his sights on organized religion, and Dr. West called Maher out on his religious criticism.

"I think one of the reasons why you're so deeply loved is that you have a commitment to unarmed truth," Dr. West told Maher. "You say it in a comic way. The question is, though, whether your understanding of religion is deep enough so that you understand religious people are not simply passive and compliant and deferential. They can also be empowered and ennobled to fight for truth and justice. Like Martin King and others."

Later in the conversation, Maher brought up a letter he received from Francis Collins, a prominent scientist who happens to be a Christian.

"Okay, now, he -- he wrote me and he said, 'I don't believe in the talking snake,'" Maher said. "But, he is a Christian. He does believe that Jesus Christ flew bodily up to heaven. To me, it's a distinction without difference: talking snake, a man can fly up to heaven, this mythical place in the sky. You know, you're either a rationalist or you're not."

"No, no, no, no, no," West interrupted. "Let me ask you a question, Brother Bill, when you first fell in love in a deep way, didn't you feel like you were flying up to heaven? There are mysteries. There are mysteries in life. And there's magnitude in those mysteries."

"There are mysteries," Maher said.

"Absolutely."

"And the answer to a mystery is to say 'I don't know.'"

"I agree," said West. "I agree."

"Not to make -- not to make up some story."

"But, 'I don't know'" West said, "doesn't mean you therefore end up being agnostic or atheistic. 'I don't know' might just be trying to live in the midst of your doubts and uncertainties and mysteries by holding onto truth and love."

"Right," Maher said.

"And that's why I'm a Christian," said West.

"But...," Maher said and paused. "Okay."

Dr. West smiled and pointed to Maher: "Ahhhh. You see?"

And the studio audience applauded.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

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