Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Time Machine

The first Halloween costume I remember wearing was Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. I was probably 4 or 5, and anybody who knows me now, would probably say that was the perfect costume for me, set in motion my demeanor from then on out.

When I was 9 I dressed up as Dracula. The black cape, face paint, and practiced Vampire voice, all in an effort to win the BIG costume contest at the ice cream parlor across the street. I was set to compete with six other boys from the neighborhood, and I was excited to win a prize for my getup, really excited. I strutted in there “Thriller” style, all the confidence in the world. This night would be my coming-out party. In the end everybody won a prize, except me. Have you ever heard of first through fifth place?

Either way, I finished sixth, and that’s when I realized I would never be someone defined by where they came from. OK, maybe they could’ve wrestled up an ice cream coupon, so that every kid in that contest, even me, would get a prize, but I wasn’t raised in the everybody-gets-a-ribbon age. Nope. But on that night everybody did get a ribbon, except me. Cue my jaded, embittered Dracula laugh.

One year I was a clown. Nobody thought I was funny. Why? Because I wasn’t funny, I suppose. I can’t remember the next several Halloweens, 6th-11th grade, I guess. Nope. The next one I remember is when I was a senior in high school, and we decided to egg our math teacher’s house on Mountain View. To this day, it is one of my biggest regrets. He was a math (and science) teacher at Averill Park, still is, and he was the first adult who was nice to me, genuinely nice. He would listen, talk about rock music with me, gave me rides home if I didn’t have one.

From the moment I met him, I respected him, liked him. He had a fun relationship with our whole class, but I always thought that me and him had a better connection. So why did I egg his house with my ‘crew’ that night? Because I was a dumb teenager, and I thought it would be funny, and I was wrong. While we were in carton-emptying launch, Mr. &^%$ opened the front door, and I saw him see me, even though I was dressed in black with my face covered. I knew he knew it was me.

The next morning we were called down to the principal’s office, all three of us, and I was forced to go after school and scrub the dried yoke off his house. I scrubbed that yoke till my fingers were numb, and for the rest of the year I tried to reestablish that relationship we had, but it wasn’t meant to be. I had burned him bad-bad, and I can’t remember him ever speaking to me again during the rest of my high school time. Years later, when I was all ‘grown up,’ I emailed him, apologized for what we had done, thanked him for being so kind. His response was obligatory at best. The truth: I had lost him forever, as a friend, adviser, teacher, on that Halloween night.

In college, and in my twenties, Halloween was about going out on the town, out to parties. There were so many great Halloweens in those eight, ten years that they all blur together in a single, grainy picture of live music and college kids dressed as Super Mario. I always loved going to New Paltz to see my friend when he went to undergraduate there. With its neo-hippie vibe and lacking street lights, I thought it was the perfect place to spend Halloween, just the right amount of creepy and dark.

One time my mother told me that your twenties are just for you, and they’d go fast. She was right on both counts. Suddenly I was too old to be spending my Halloweens that way, college/post-college parties. Suddenly all the other guys were younger, taller, better looking, and it was time for me, and mine, to move along, let the next generation have their run. So I retired my glittery Michael Jackson glove and fedora.

Today Halloween means something much different. It means the living room lights turned low, scary movies with pop corn and soda. It means walking 3 dogs, dressed as a bumble bee, turtle, and chicken, around our neighborhood, my new Halloween Crew, waving to the little kids on the trick or treat trek. Someday soon (I’m sure) it will be an actual human baby in costume, and three dogs, walking with us. But right now Halloween is a happy, relaxing time with my K9's. And sometimes I can’t believe how many Halloweens separate me now from the little kid outfitted as Oscar the Grouch.

And when I have a kid of my own, who maybe enters a neighborhood costume contest as Dracula, and that kid doesn’t come in first, second, third, or fifth, I’ll tell him not to cry the way his dad once did, because the real prize is waiting down the road, way down the road maybe. And when he or she asks how an old timer like me knows that, I’ll tell this story: “The first Halloween costume I remember wearing . . .”

Brian Huba

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You Don't 'Actually' Like Alternative Rock

Remember in the 90’s when we had to pretend that Pearl Jam was good, and “Jeremy” was a cool video, and song? Later on we had to pretend that Green Day’s music was legitimate, and the album DOOKIE, which was nonsense from start to finish, was worthy of selling ten million copies? I mean, come on. Then it was the same thing with the Chilli Peppers and “Under the Bridge,” and Limp Bizkit, and Sound Garden. All horrible, and anyone who says they 'actually' liked any of that music is kidding themselves.

The truth: Pearl Jam’s albums TEN and VERSUS were screechy messes, Eddie Vedder couldn’t sing, and should’ve been working at a Blockbuster Video, not being treated like a flannel-shirt wearing John Lennon. And even though teenage girls said Fred Durst was hot, he was bald with the body of a fifty year old, and acted like he was Mr. Hard Rock, while getting dissed by female pop singers who hooked up with guys from NSYNC. Let me tell you, that whole dissed for boy banders, that didn’t happen to Mick Jagger or Axl Rose. And Nirvana . . . Nirvana is the most overrated band in the history of modern music. NEVERMIND was an OK album at best, not a master piece, and I cringed every time “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came on MTV or the radio, while everyone else called it the song that defined a generation, and MTV crowned it the most important video of the 1990’s. Check out the lyrics if you get a minute. You might change your mind. But I bet you already hate it, just pretending all these years that you like it.

Have you ever been around something or been a part of something that you knew was fake and phony on every level? If you asked me in high school if Green Day was cool, I would’ve said yes, and everybody would’ve said yes, of course. But, honestly, I don’t think anybody actually liked Grunge/Alternative Rock, and only said they did because that’s what everyone else said. It was herd behavior at its finest, this fake love for Alternative Rock. Nobody actually likes Alternative Rock, and if you were/are someone that listens to 103.1 or 103.9 the Edge, I saw you (and still do) as kind of artificial, not the coldest soda in the fridge, so to speak.

I have no idea how in the 90’s the Chilli Peppers and Pearl Jam sold albums like Zepplin and the Stones did in the 70’s. How? Alternative Rock is the most soulless form of music ever made. Every Alt. Rock fan is the same kind of guy, in my experience. You know Alt. Rock guy: tribal band tattoo on his bicep, quotes Fred Durst in social situations, “First one that complains leaves with a blood stain." He calls “Break Things” a great rock song. Alt. Rock guy was cool when we were 22. Now . . .

I’m not saying I’m a music expert, so don’t list me great Alt. Rock bands and albums, call me out on minute statistics of music history that have nothing to do with what I’m saying. The point is simple: Alt./Grunge music has never produced a single GREAT group or individual artist. Is Alt. Rock and Grunge the same, music historians? I don't know. Seems pretty much the same. Alt. Rock has contributed nothing of substance to the grand landscape of music history. ‘But, Brian, what about Beck? He was a genius, and amazing artist.’ Beck was a bore. I’d take Jason Mraz over Beck.

Can't deny it though: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Chili Peppers, Weezer, Sound Garden, etc have sold hundreds of millions of albums, and I don’t get it. Oh wait, I do get it. This country is good at pretending to like things that we don’t actually like. Don’t believe me? Check out your local bars during World Cup time. Filled with people who are pretending they care about soccer. Care about soccer? Come on.

Have you ever tried to sit through a live Green Day performance on TV or in person? Oh my God, it was awful! Chilli Peppers' music was gibberish, and Nirvana . . . I can’t even wrap my mind around people who call Kurt Cobain one of the most important musicians who ever lived. 90’s Grunge and Alt. Rock was ridiculous. Alt. Rock is still ridiculous, and whatever the new 103.1 and 103.9 Edges are on the FM dial, I’m sure those stations are also ridiculous, packed full of commercials for Planet Fitness and spray tan places. Do they still put on that awful Alt. Rock summer concert every year, Lollapalooza? Good God.

‘But, Brian, what about Jane Says by Jane’s Addiction? That was great, right?’ Nope, it wasn’t. But, just like I’m sure you did, every time we went to Sadie’s, I put it on the jukebox to sound track our dart game. I’m not saying I am innocent of this phony revolution known as Alternative Rock, no way, but I was there for the rebirth of it in the 90’s as Seattle Grunge, and I can say nobody/everybody liked it. Remember when nobody/everybody thought Seattle was the new music Mecca? The best thing to come out of all that was a movie: REALITY BITES. Gen X is my my Gen, and I'll defend it to the end, but I can no longer quietly pretend on this music thing.

Alt. Rock is the worst kind of music, geared toward the lowest denominator in society. It has contributed nothing more than naked guys named Flea wearing socks while they played on stage, and songs that made no sense lyrically but everybody treated as generational anthems. Alt. Rock’s success is the greatest demonstration of the power of herd behavior, how people can brainlessly follow something, since McCarthyism and the Salem Witch Trials.

I think the only thing left to do is combine a World Cup Soccer game with an Alt. Rock music fest. Wow would that be a huge number of fake soccer/fake music fans congregated in one place. Of course I wouldn’t go, even if the tickets were on the arm, but I’d probably tell everybody how cool it sounded.

Brian Huba

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Mystery is better than the History

As I watched another fantastic episode of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER tonight (CBS, Mon., 8PM), I got to thinking about two things: 1) What are some of the greatest TV twists ever? And 2) why doesn’t this sitcom get more respect than it does?

If you remember, last year I wrote about an episode of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, calling it the best half hour of TV in ten years, and it was, save THE SOPRANOS, obviously. The writing, acting, everything, sitcoms don’t get better than that episode last season.

Tonight’s episode focused on the gang’s “psychotic” codependence on each other, and the debate between knowing someone’s history through Facebook, the Internet, etc vs. keeping certain and/or all parts of a person’s past a mystery. The two story lines revolved around whether or not Marshall and Lily would reveal the sex of their unborn child, and Ted’s first date with a girl, whether he should research her on Facebook or leave her past alone before going out. In the end it was revealed that Marshall and Lily would be having a boy, and Ted does finally break down and allow his date’s past to play a part. She’s a superhuman genius on the Web, and the date goes downhill after that, proving that the mystery is better than the history.

As I watched this episode I told the person watching with me to pay close attention to the last ten minutes of the show, because I sensed that the show’s writers were going to show their hand about who the mystery mother/Ted’s wife will actually end up being. In the last scene of the show, after his first date goes bust, Ted tells the gang, “The mystery is better than the history,” and from that I crazily believe that we are never going to find out who Ted ends up marrying. I just have that feeling.

I believe it will remain a mystery when the show ends, leaving it to the viewer’s imagination. Throughout the whole run of MOTHER they have dropped subtle hints about how it all ends, masterfully dropping these hints mind you. Tonight I think they did it again. Sorry, fans, we are never going to know who Ted’s wife ends up being. Why? Because it doesn’t matter, same way it didn’t matter if Tony was shot or wasn't shot at the end of THE SOPRANOS. See what I mean? It doesn't matter.

So I got to thinking about the greatest TV twists ever. Of course the NEWHART finale: It was just a dream. THE SOPRANOS “twist for the ages,” Tony shot by his own uncle Junior, and of course, the ending: fade to black. Who could forget, “I Ross take thee Rachel”? Nate Fischer dying at the end of SIX FEET UNDER. ROSEANNE was only Roseanne herself writing a book about her family, changing details where and how she wanted. ST ELSEWHERE was the workings of an autistic imagination. And the granddaddy of them all: Who shot J.R.?

If MOTHER leaves us hanging, and I believe it will, it could possibly be one of the greatest TV twists of all times. A disappointment, sure, for some, but honestly, is there really any one answer that could satisfy everyone? They already revealed that it was not Robin, he calls her aunt Robin several times to his future kids. The show is seven seasons old, and I see no evidence of a mother from former story lines that would satisfy me as the permanent, show-ending figure we've been waiting almost a decade to meet. I’m telling you: It’s going to be a great big nothing, the best way to end it if you ask me.

Which leads to my second question: Why doesn’t HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER get more respect than it does? In my opinion it is the best sitcom on TV, has been for five years. It is the smartest, funniest, most well written, and always finds a way to bring out an emotional side at some point. Every episode is a riddle wrapped in a riddle, and it holds your attention right till the end, and the culmination is always done just right, with so much heart every time.

I know it’s not a typical sitcom: dumb one liners, laugh track, hug and kiss, end of episode. But how many times, and for how many years, can you listen to 22 minutes of the same jokes on WHITNEY and MIKE & MOLLY and THE BIG BANG THEORY? I agree that MODERN FAMILY, THE OFFICE, and 30 ROCK are all brilliant, and clever, etc, but MOTHER has more heart than all three of those shows combined. And don’t even get me started on TWO & A HALF MEN. It was low brow with Charlie, and it’s lowbrow with Ashtin, which, of course means, it’s America’s #1 show. Meeennnnnn.

I say that MOTHER is the best sitcom on TV, and I simply don’t understand why this show isn’t regarded as the top-notch, TV-writing gem it actually is. I don't think the show has won a single Emmy, ever! Anyway you slice it though, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER is galloping towards one of TV’s all-time best endings, mark my words, because in the end, the mystery is better than the history.

But if future Ted Mosby, played by the Bob Saget voice over, MUST marry someone, why not Andrea Barber as mystery wife? You may know her better as Kimmy Gibbler. Now that my friends would be a twist for the ages.

Tonight's Episode:

My Blog from Last Season:

List of TV's Best Spoilers:

Brian Huba

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mixed Message = Lost Message

Last week I was watching ANDERSON COOPER 360 on CNN. Every so often Anderson devotes a piece of his program to chronicling the on-going problem of teen bullying in schools across America. In this edition of the Bullying series, Anderson had a panel of six middle school students who had each been bullied so bad that their parents were forced to take them out of public school, a crazy decision if you ask me, and home school them, an even crazier decision if you ask me.

They complained of being called racial, sexual, and just-plain cruel slurs. I agree the problem of bullying is something our society should not tolerate, and as an adult, I am always trying to educate myself on ways of reducing and/or running interference on this epidemic. The message on ANDERSON COOPER 360 was a solid and obvious one, and the pain these young people were feeling was something you never want to see. But then the message got mixed. In the midst of all this heartache, in the flow of those running tears, a parent of one of the bullied students (I'm sure it was a parent) had it arranged with Anderson that her tormented child would perform a musical number for the national audience.


So this blond-haired, eye-glass wearing young man belted out that Gaga song that says, “I was born this way,” while the rest of the bullied watched on with jaws dropped. Of course he got a standing ovation, but I was left with one thought: Did this young man’s mother use the opportunity to plaster her child all over America as a bully victim, while also hoping to sell him as the next teen singing prodigy?


To me so much of the sympathy I built up for this child while watching, and the five others, was washed away in an offbeat, extremely awkward, and really mistimed performance of a pop song. You can’t expect people to take your sadness seriously if you try to double it up with a free singing audition in front of America. Is this some kind of new-age stage parenting? Pull your kid out of public school, tell everyone he’s bullied then shop him all over the talk show circuit as a bullied, abused, but untapped singing superstar? Was all this in an effort to get a singing deal? If this child was truly tormented, I am sorry for that, but confidence didn’t seem to be a concern as he sang it up. Wait a second: Is this an anti-bullying program or a Leif Garrett concert?

It’s the same thing with the Wall Street Protests. In the beginning they were rallying to speak up against Wall Street greed and the mismanagement of billions by the wealthy few. The protests were really moving well. Even NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg spoke up about them. They were organizing in thousands in cities all over America, and I thought their singular and unshakable purpose might really get somewhere. I was proud to see a huge group of people so riled up about something so wrong, and saying: We’re not going to take this anymore.

But now . . . they’ve taken on advertising. I guess now the protests are not only about Wall Street greed, they’re also about the War in Afghanistan, and something to do with unemployment. So the protests are now about all that stuff? What if I hate Wall Street greed but support the War? Then what? The point is the singular and forward-moving message is now lost, mixed, replaced by a This-Protest-is-brought-to-you-by feeling, and to me, I’m completely turned off and no longer see it as a legitimate outcry, which is sad, because I thought it had real potential.

But this is everywhere in our society now. Politicians turned actors, and just the opposite. Athletes who go on dancing shows, singers who make movies; it happens in so many other aspects of culture as well. There’s a reason why Billy the Kid wasn’t an outlaw and a church preacher. There’s a reason FDR didn’t have a reality show. Vince Lombardi understood you couldn’t coach football and also star on the YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. When the message gets mixed, it gets lost.

Bullied Kid Sings:

More about AC360 Bullying:

More about protests:

Brian Huba

Sunday, October 2, 2011

SNL This Weekend = Worst Ever

I cannot even begin to express in words how bad I thought Saturday Night Live was this weekend. It was without debate the worst episode I have ever seen. In case you missed, the host was Melissa McCarthy. You may know her from BRIDE’S MAIDS (she relieved herself in a sink). Or you may know her from the CBS sitcom MIKE & MOLLY. GILMORE GIRLS? Maybe I just don’t know what funny is. But I thought McCarthy was as unfunny, unclever, slow on the uptake, winded, and just plain boring as I have ever seen an SNL Host be. I am sorry, people, but I simply do not get this Kristin Wiig Comedy Tree. Not a single one of them are remotely funny to me in any way.

When I found out McCarthy was hosting this weekend, I decided to watch a few episodes of MIKE & MOLLY to see if I liked her in that role. Nope, I don’t. The show was as unwitty and unoriginal as I have ever seen make prime time TV. It looked like something from the 1980’s. Then I found out she won the Emmy for it. Huh? Of course you know how much I hated BRIDE’S MAIDS, and how much I hated her character in it. BRIDE’S MAIDS was the most overrated comedy ever, and the only movie I have ever walked out of early. It was horrible. But it made 150 million, so maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know.

I tried to go into SNL this weekend with an open mind, really give this gal a shot, since she seems to be so popular. The pre-monologue skit (woman with freakishly-small hands or something) was a train wreck. I didn’t even know what was going on. I had no idea how bad it was about to get from then on. In one skit she played Arlene the horny secretary. It was singularly the worst SNL sketch I have ever seen. It was brutally unclever and tragically old fashioned. I was waiting for Gilda Radner or John Belushi to come onto the stage. But then I thought: Even dead, they certainly wouldn’t associate themselves with this junk. Depressingly unfunny. Melissa McCarthy was so bad this weekend, in comparison, it made Robert DeNiro’s train wreck hosting job from last season look like Robert DeNiro’s acting job in RAGING BULL. But guess what? She’ll get good reviews this week from all over America. I just don’t get it, guys, I’m sorry.

At 12.40AM, when McCarthy was puking through another horrid, circa 1978-looking sketch about a panel of You Tube commenters, I did something that I have never done before: I turned SNL off early. So the only movie I have ever walked out of was McCarthy’s BRIDE’S MAIDS and the only episode of SNL (my favorite show on TV) I have ever turned off early was Melissa McCarthy as host. And I went into both with an open mind, I promise you, I did.

Please, I beg you: make me understand why she is funny, why her movies make hundreds of millions, why she wins Emmys for that ordinary, poor man’s KING OF QUEENS sitcom she stars in. As for Kristin Wiig, please, I beg you: make me understand why she is funny. The whole mumbling-fast-under-her-breath thing. It wasn’t funny in KNOCKED UP, it wasn’t funny in BRIDE’S MAIDS. It isn’t funny on SNL. It’s never funny. None of them are funny. But everybody loves them. And I know so many will read this and think SNL was hilarious this weekend, and the reviewers/critics will treat McCarthy like she’s Richard Pryor, the way they treated BRIDE’S MAIDS like it was DUMB & DUMBER. I just don’t get it.

I don’t think it is a sexist thing either. I try to keep an open mind about all comics, no matter what gender they may be. Whitney Cummings’ new sitcom has cancelled after 10 episodes written all over it. But there are moments when it is kind of, sort of funny. There wasn’t, for me, a single moment on SNL last night, there wasn’t, for me, a single moment in BRIDE’S MAIDS, and MIKE & MOLLY is as pedestrian as sitcoms get. Melissa McCarthy wins an Emmy for that but Roseanne never won an Emmy for her show? Um, OK.

Again, maybe I’m all wrong here, but I do not get it. SNL Saturday night = worst episode ever. But the critics will say it was great, and Melissa McCarthy was great. You tell me.

See what I mean: Rave Reviews (huh?):


Brian Huba