Sunday, January 26, 2014

What is fame in this country?

Let’s examine two case studies from this past week.

The dominate story this week was the DUI arrest of Justin Bieber on Miami Beach. The story was all over national media, and to put it lightly, JB and his d-bag father didn’t come out of this looking very cool. Calls for the pint-sized pop, ah, person to check into rehab have since swelled, but I don’t think a 19-year-old getting toasted and driving drunk should mean a clinical intervention. The problem with the Beebs is a simple one: He shouldn’t be a celebrity, and thus his every movement shouldn’t be so massively micro-managed, and then unpacked by the likes of E! This is simply what happens when you’re famous for nothing. JB can’t sing, can’t dance, can’t perform, can’t write songs. In other words he has absolutely no talent and no business being in the spotlight the way he is. Know why Timberlake never gets busted like this? He's working 24/7. That's what real fame is.

I flat out don’t understand why this kid is not only famous, but presently worth north of a hundred-mill. He's worth more than Usher. Yep, more than Usher. FORBES called him the third most powerful celeb, but he's only sold 15 million total albums. In comparison, Eminem has sold over 80 million, BeyoncĂ© about the same. I don’t know a single Justin Bieber song, and every time I’ve seen him in televised performance (Late night shows etc), or on SNL, or on TV doing something of the kind, it’s always so amateurish and so doctored and over-produced. Letterman shredded him. Watch: This guy has forty million Twitter followers? Seriously? Bieber has added nothing new and/or original to the pouty-lipped, teen-idol genre. I actually find his style to be hackneyed and absurdly unoriginal. His career strikes me as a shtick against the teen-throb genre. Anyone who thinks this kid could be the next train wreck et al Brittany Spears, I must tell you: Brittany Spears was Aretha Franklin compared to JB.

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Here’s another humdinger

So let me get this straight, Seattle Seahawks’ defensive back Richard Sherman, helps his team to ONLY their second SB berth in franchise history, then, on national television, carries on a cartoonish rant against an opposing player, and somehow has gotten the media to rally around him? Um, OK. When, on his CNN show last Wednesday, Piers Morgan finished his Sherman segment and said, “Richard Sherman, I for one salute you, sir,” my frustration about this went next level. Sherman has skillfully and crudely taken a look-at-me tantrum, which essentially robbed the Seahawks organization of possibly its all-time greatest moment, and used it to present himself as the momentary face of race relations in America, calling out those who labeled him a "thug," suggesting it was euphemism for another, much-worse word.

Let me clear up some misconceptions. First, Sherman did not rant this way RIGHT after the biggest play of his life, it was more than five minutes of “real time” later. Then, an hour later, he went right back to it at the media podium, carrying on about his personal feud with Michael Crabtree, the opposing player. Then, he took to Twitter to attack fans who reacted. Of course we reacted! So this theory that he behaved badly ONLY in the heat of the moment is nonsense. What he did was disgusting, and it was his behavior that made people flash to the race issue. It was HIS behavior. He doesn’t get to sit on a soap box now and wag his finger at the ignorant reactions of the masses. And don’t give me that crap about how we ask NFLers to be gladiators then ask them to be civil. What Sherman did was subterranean. And this week there’s reports that his rant will earn him millions in endorsement dollars. Huh?!

Watch the rant:
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What is fame in this country?

Brian Huba

Monday, January 20, 2014

I have a dream!

Click and watch this rant:

"Go, Peyton!"

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Brian Huba

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Villa

When I was sixteen years old I washed dishes at the Villa Valenti. Three nights a week, for $5.25 an hour under the table, I busted hump five feet from the first-generation matriarch, Emma Valenti, who’d arrive at three pm and sit all night behind a push cart cutting vegetables, rolling dough, barking out orders. Emma had the most beautiful white hair and the sharpest tongue. She’d ride my back for six hours straight, yelling for me to pick up the silverware, empty the dish bin, scrub under the machines. I was an “idiot” a “moron." It was the best job I ever had.

One night she fired me, I went home. She called ten minutes later screaming for me to get back. “We’re slammed, you idiot, where are you?” So I hopped on my ten-speed, raced back, a mile from my house to the restaurant. Another night she addressed me as only "dumb-dumb" as I scurried about. All night long: "dumb-dumb." Other nights she’d give me life advice, reward me with soda, homemade desserts and free dinners w/ bread (the most amazing food ever!). It was a wonderfully-schizophrenic experience. But . . . but if I needed something, anything, Emma got it done. She was a powerful woman. I adored Emma Valenti. I recommend everyone have an Emma Valenti at some point in life. She taught me that nobody's gonna kiss your ring for doing your job. She taught me that working hard for something never ends. Even now, years later as an adult, when I don't feel like reaching for that little extra, I hear her say, "Move your ass, dumb-dumb!" And I move my ass.

Back then the Villa Valenti kitchen was alive. Waitresses--HOT waitresses--coming in and out in their little black-and-white getups, cooks yelling out orders as rock music blared above the ovens, preppers snatching supplies from the walk-in freezer. Enter Ralph, son of Emma and business manager, dressed in slacks and a slick button down, walking with purpose from the jam-packed dining room, screaming frantically that Sen. Bruno or that guy from Channel 10 News just sat down. He’d make a lap from the right side of the kitchen to the left, hollering and clapping and cajoling us to work hard. "We're on fire tonight!" Then he was gone again. If somebody super important was eating in, Emma had me fetch her buttoned sweater while she fixed her hair for public consumption, then she’d leave the kitchen for a bit to say hello and have a chat. You really made it in this world if your presence moved Emma to slip on that sweater and leave her push cart unmanned.

As dishwasher, I’d often be sent out front myself, donning sweat-soaked, sauce-stained apron, to refill the salad bar or empty the overflowing bar garbage, maybe unclog the toilet, and let me tell you, the place would be rocking. Around the bar, people would be packed three-deep by the long wall that housed dozens of autographed pictures and newspaper clippings calling the Villa Valenti the number-one Italian Restaurant, waiting, waiting, waiting for an open table. I remember the framing of Emma and her husband Sam, the Villa patriarch, hung above the front door, where the hostess stayed busy with the long reservation list. From the other side of the partition that divided the bar and dining area, loud laughter and conversation flowed, mingling amazingly with the authentic, Italian music that played. To me, the Villa was the Kenmore, the Cotton Club, the place to be. I loved the look of it, the smell, the vibe, the everything!

Caffeinated on Pepsi Cola and pasta, I moved with surgical precision around the well-dressed crowd. I’d bag that garbage or touch up those salad trays then slink back to the hot-hot kitchen, where four more tubs overflowed with dishes in need of a cleaning. I was part of another big night at the Villa!

When the rush of diners' dishes began to slow, it was time to start breaking down the kitchen components, which meant big things (pots and pans and plastics) for me to wash. It was also my task to take out the garbage. I’d drag bag after bag to the dumpster in the back parking lot, then come back to the kitchen to find my just-cleared area once again filled. That part was always the hardest because I prided myself on keeping a pristine area at all times, but the rush was the rush. By now waitresses were beginning to clock off, and the constant bite of the time-card machine could be heard from across the kitchen. Soon I’d be the only one left, alone in the clean and quiet space that once raged. My last job of the night was bringing the salad bar back, the best salad bar on the planet.

Shift finished, I’d toss my disgusting apron in the laundry bin, clock out, carry my complimentary rolls and spaghetti dinner through the kitchen door. One of the cooks, maybe a waitress, would be sitting at the otherwise-empty bar, having a drink, watching a ball game on the TV that hung above the liquor supply. Before leaving, I always detoured through the desolate dining room, with the big paintings that filled the four walls and the tables freshly dressed for next day. God, I wished I could be lucky enough to go there and eat and be merry. Little did I know back then, but years later I’d have my last meal with my father in that room, my wedding rehearsal dinner would be had there, my 33rd birthday, countless Saturday nights with my wife. I don't care what anybody says: the food never stopped being amazing. The rolls. The sauce. The homemade pastas. The parm dinners. The cheese. The Villa was my place, even when I was the mole-rat who emptied garbage and de-crapped the clogged toilets. I knew every inch of it. The wood work. The green cushions. The colored cakes in the urinals. The basement where they made the sauce. I was part of it. We were all part of it.

Outside, I’d fetch my bike from the weed garden where I always hid it. I’d climb on and pedal across Route 150 towards home, stinking of Villa sauce and 42 dollars richer, past Emma & Sam's house, where a solitary light still oozed through the curtained windows. Behind me, as I rode away, the West Sand Lake Rd/Pershing Ave. traffic light perpetually blinked orange, and the huge sign on the side of the restaurant filled the night in red-and-white lettering that read THE VILLA VALENTI. Then I’d hit the steep hill for home and coast away, and the restaurant I loved would fade from sight.

We were on fire tonight!

Brian Huba

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Real American Way

The Gun Guys are at it again. This weekend, there was a symbolic shoot off in Middleburgh to protest the one-year anniversary of Gov. Cuomo’s restrictive gun proposal (SAFE Act) being signed into law. Those interviewed at the rally let the media know they wouldn’t rest until Cuomo reverses course and quits violating their Constitutional Rights. To that I say two things: 1) Stock up on stay-awake pills, because Cuomo isn’t backing down, and 2) Who in their right mind is this consumed by a debatably-minor (at best) violation of Rights? Don’t you have families, and jobs, and lives?

How come people in Westchester County and Greenwich, Connecticut aren’t organizing symbolic shoot offs? Why’s it always the guy that looks like Billy Gibbons and lives in Nowhere USA? Turn off DUCK DYNASTY and take a dose of reality: When some orange-haired psycho shoots up a movie theatre and then some other nut blows an elementary school to oblivion again and again, politicians are going to exact legislation, because that’s what the smart people demand of them. It’s nothing against you and your “American Way.” Action begets reaction. If students fail tests; teachers pay the price, even if it's the parents' fault. If sports teams lose; coaches get the ax, even if it's the players' fault. If guns kill innocent people; guns get legislated upon, even though it's the lunatic pulling the trigger. That's the Real American Way.

99.9% of the general population has absolutely no business being armed to the gills, especially when there are kids in the house. Don't believe me? Sign on to Facebook and take a ride on the fun-time express. You want these people gunned up? Really? Guns aren’t a culture to be practiced and celebrated. Guns are guns. You want to protect your family, put a pocketbook piece in the end table by your bed. You want to hunt, buy a Winchester and some Wal-Mart bullets. You don’t need AK-47s and assault rifles. “But, Brian, it’s my Constitutional Right, the way our forefathers meant it." Get real. Our forefathers would combust if they ever saw a personal computer. The Brits have left, the Revolutionary War’s over, welcome to 2014. If someone yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre is against the law than someone unloading an AK-47 inside one is enough to rethink ALL OUR laws.

The Gun Trade in this country is like anything else: It’s about money and political footing. Understand the leaders of the NRA are propaganda professionals who peddle their product, and their way of life, to the millions of Americans that look like Billy Gibbons and drive around with Confederate Flags on their back window. Is that stereotyping? Of course it is. But we all know that’s their market, their bread basket, and it’s generally those types that get lathered up about artificiality like “Rights” and the “American Way.” They will devote their lives and protesting power to pursuing this invisible ideology. And I thank God they do, because somebody has to buy into this concept and sign up for the Armed Services and go to war, and possibly die at 22 years old for AMERICA!! And the AMERICAN WAY!! because I’m not doing it.

And here’s why . . .

The “American Way” is a bumper sticker slogan; it’s not a tangible thing. It has a billion different definitions, none right; none wrong. But these gun lovers get hung up on this and the NRA pushes that position and makes guys like Cuomo the enemy, the heel, the oppressor. It's a game. It’s the same principle that guides the WWE, if you think about it. When the Iran Sheik gets in the ring, everyone boos and hisses, then Hulk Hogan comes out, waving his flag and singing, “I am a real American,” and everyone goes nuts. With all due respect to the Hulkster, ours is a Capitalist Country that's bordered by money and power.

Is gun violence, and violence in general, the tradeoff for living in America, the greatest place in the history of humankind? Probably. It’s increasingly likely that I could be executed walking with my family through a shopping center’s parking garage. I get that. There’s nothing any politician can do to stop that. It’s the tradeoff, and I’ll take it. We are a melting pot of every type of person the world knows. We have freedom. We have reality TV. It’s gonna get crazy every now and then. But the Andrew Cuomos of the world have to make it look like they’re trying to curb it. Protesting these gun laws is like protesting the sunset. Just recognize the game, the tradeoff, and live your life.

I think the comedian Chris Rock had it best when he said we don't need gun control we need bullet control, and jokingly suggested we charge $5,000 per bullet. That’ll put an end to innocent bystanders and make people think twice before discharging a bullet so high-priced. So if you find a guy who’s been shot six times, you can assume he probably really deserved it, because somebody just dropped 30 grand to take him out.

And that may be true, because everyone in this country, from Billy Gibbons to Andrew Cuomo, values the mighty dollar over all else.

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Brian Huba

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ditch the Visor

Something seemingly innocuous has irritated me for years and today I’m going to vent about it. I deeply dislike it when NFL Head Coaches where sun visors on the sidelines. I’m not sure that I, as a fan, could take seriously a man who wears a visor at the pro level. The visor belongs in the college game. The visor is Steve Spurrier, Bob Stoops, Lane Kiffin. It feels soft when I see the sun visor come out, especially in cold-weather games. I don’t get it and I’m glad to be a NY Giants fan, because the sun visor would never fly in the Meadowlands, sorry Jon Gruden.

The sun-visor issue reached a breaking point with me this weekend, Wildcard Weekend, in the NFL Playoffs. Last night I watched the New Orleans Saints’ Head Coach, Sean Payton, working the sidelines in sub-zero conditions in Philly. It was a night game and Payton was bundled up in sweatshirt, snow pants, gloves, and . . . a sun visor. I’ve never been a Payton fan simply because I don’t like the way he looks on the sideline with that ever-present visor and puff of hair poking out of the top, as crazy as that sounds, and last night was no exception. Then today, in what some called The Freezer Bowl II in Cincinnati, the San Diego Chargers’ Head Coach, Mike McCoy, coached in a puffy coat, insulated pants, his breath smoky against the ruthless weather plus, of course, the trusty sun visor. How San Diego are you, dude? Pete Carroll doesn’t even wear a sun visor.

Of course both Payton and McCoy earned huge road wins for their respective clubs, but that’s not important. What matters is how your Head Coach looks on the sideline. If I was a GM doing a club’s hiring, I’d ask first, “Do you coach in a hat or visor?” That’s probably one of many reasons why I’m not an NFL GM. But, in my defense, Philly’s rookie Head Coach, the onetime visor-rocking Chip Kelly, fresh from the college game--the proverbial playground of visors--stopped wearing the half hat and adopted the ball cap, and POW 10-6 and a division title. I think there’s a connection. How many visor coaches have won the Super Bowl? Look it up.

I think a pro coach should wear a nice ball cap with his headset or nothing at all. Tuck the visor away, chief, this isn’t Vanderbilt Southern vs. Miami of Ohio. I’m a massive Tom Coughlin guy. Coughlin looks exactly what I want the NY Giants coach to look like. He personifies Big Blue. Does anyone remember Jim Fassel, the coach before Coughlin, with his ill-fitting headset, side-slicked hair, old-woman body? He didn’t capture the Giants’ culture. Coughlin does.

When I observe people in visible positions I watch how they carry out the minutia of their office. I like Coughlin and Tomlin (Steelers) and McCarthy (Packers) because I think if put in a similar role I would conduct myself the same way they do. For the record, they DON’T wear visors.

Brian Huba