Posts Tagged ‘E’

Empire Records (1995)

April 5, 2019

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time in the Fells Point area of Baltimore. It is a historical area right by the Chesapeake Bay nestled in between Little Italy and industrial Canton. I was down there a lot because I was constantly running light and soundboards at a community theater down there. Before I could drive, I often had to wait for a ride at the end of the night and I also got dropped off early. One of the places I spent time at was a store right near the water called The Sound Garden (not to be confused with Soundgarden). I remember endlessly walking through and looking at the actual records, tapes, and CDs. At that point, I was mostly buying CDs because they were the best quality at a size I could carry in my backpack. I browsed a lot but I did purchase plenty. If I remember correctly, this was where I bought the first and second Queen Greatest Hits albums. It is also where I discovered The Who on my own terms. Most importantly, it was where I bought a Mary Prankster album which was a local band at the time and it is a band I still adore.

When I was younger, I adored record stores the same way that I adore bookstores and comic book stores. While I never liked the social aspects of in-person shopping, I love browsing. I love getting absorbed into the potential of decisions. I remember fondly a record store that was in the Rotunda which was in walking distance from the house I grew up in. I used to walk there on the same trips that I walked to the comic book store, which was a little farther. Eventually, they were in the same place. I remember specific purchases. I remember the very first album I bought with my own money on my own was an Aerosmith Greatest Hits album. I remember the clerk smiled at my purchase and recommended that I “play it loud, man”. It made me feel like an adult and a peer. Earlier than that, the first album I ever had which belonged to me was Metallica And Justice for All… and my parents graciously let me play it in the car even though it was not their scene. I remember buying a Guess Who album in Towson. When I was really little, I remember my friend buying an MC Hammer album while I bought a Vanilla Ice album. We spent time bootlegging the cassettes for each other.

When I first saw a blurb on this movie, I saw it described as High Fidelity meets You’ve Got Mail. This is all wrong. This is somebody who just skimmed the synopsis and called it a day. Sure, it has elements of those two movies but it feels like neither of those movies to me. Both of those movies are romantic comedies to varying degrees. Empire Records is definitely not a romantic comedy. There is a romantic subplot but it far from being the actual focus of the movie. If I were to pick two movies that this movie is similar to, they would be The Breakfast Club and Clerks. The movie was an ensemble piece about a bunch of kids who work at a record store and their adult boss. They have a lot of fun, they get deep, they basically go through group therapy, and they get better than they started. A lot of it felt like the famous dancing scene from The Breakfast Club. There is a lot of high energy that shifts easily between angry and happy. I really appreciated the sense of humor the movie had. Everybody is comfortable with getting silly or sarcastic and everybody looks like they are really having fun. When things get deep, it hurts but it feels so relatable.

The sort of core of the movie is the boss of the record store played by Anthony Lapaglia as the only sane adult who is happy to let the kids play because the customers have fun with it. Liv Tyler plays the perfect, book smart girl who is about to go to Harvard. I knew girls like her in high school. Renee Zellweger plays her flirty, sexy best friend and she is a lot of fun which covers up a deeper pain. There is also Johnny Whitworth who plays the dreamy artist guy. Ethan Embry plays the loveable stoner screw up that we all knew back in high school and college years (or maybe still know). Rory Cochrane plays the odd zen and existential guy who I also knew in high school. My favorite is Robin Tunney who plays the punk girl who is sick and tired of the world, kind of goth and kind of metal too. Maxwell Caulfield plays an aging new wave musician who comes to the store for a signing. There are plenty of other great small roles but those are the main important ones. I really loved this cast and each scene was basically an excuse for them all to interact and either riff with each other or have deep, meaningful conversations.

Overall, I really loved this movie. I did not expect to be writing that on this review. The movie was scene after scene of relatable white teenage drama without getting too cheesy or over the top (at least not in a bad way). The movie also felt like a lot of good stories about mental health awareness and how our friends can be dealing with stuff that we don’t see. It also has a great eclectic soundtrack which makes sense since it is set in an independent record store. For one, I never expected to hear GWAR on a soundtrack especially not one that also has the Gin Blossoms on it. The fake new wave music video is priceless. I was also pleasantly surprised by Renee Zellweger’s rock and roll singing voice.

(Written on 4/2/19)

Eat S**t, Bob!

April 5, 2018

I am a huge fan of political humor and I am a big nerd when it comes to research. Research is actually a big part of why I decided to become a paralegal. If I had more time, I would do a lot of research in my free time as I looked up a lot of things that interest me. So it is that I like shows like Jon Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. The show is a weekly show that examines current events and tries to explain and reveal its subject matter so that people can get another perspective from actual journalism and social media. The show is known for singling out a specific topic or event and doing a deep delve into it. Oliver and his crew research the heck out of things and then contact all parties involved in the issue to allow them to comment. But, let us see what we can do with just a little bit of research and examine one of the funniest legal documents I have had the pleasure to read.

 

The issue at hand in this post is Jon Oliver’s episode segment about the coal industry and in particular, he decided to shine a spotlight on Bob Murray. You can see the entire segment above on YouTube but I will try to make this post make sense without watching. Robert “Bob” Murray is CEO of Murray Energy which is the largest coal mining company in the United States of America. In the show, Oliver took Murray to task mostly for not caring about coal workers and various lies he had (allegedly) been caught in. Bob Murray is notoriously litigious so few people have ever really gunned for him like Oliver and his team did. Oliver acknowledged that he was opening himself up to a potential lawsuit but stood by his words and dared Murray to bring it on. He ended his show by having a man in a squirrel costume say “Eat S**t, Bob!”.

johnoliver06

Predictably, Murray filed a complaint for defamation in a West Virginia court. All of this happened in off camera and definitely was not a publicity stunt, at least not on Bob Murray’s part. What I wanted to teach you about today is something called an amicus curiae brief. An amicus curiae brief is literally a commentary on the issue at hand from a “friend of the court”. This “friend” is a party not involved in the suit (as plaintiff or defendant) who wants to offer their interpretation of the law and any recommendations they might have for the judge involved. This commentary attempts to provide arguments or additional information that the courts may not be considering. In this case, the amicus brief came from the West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. I am admittedly a big fan of the ACLU and I follow their journey to defend freedom in the land of the free.


The ACLU correctly points out that the first defense to defamation is always truth.

The first defense the ACLU points out is that since all of John Oliver’s speech is protected as free speech by the First Amendment, Bob cannot sue him for being mean. The First Amendment of the Constitution places limits on what is and what is not defamation. One of the forms of protected speech is satire which Jon Oliver’s show definitely falls under. Oliver and his team use ridiculous overtures and comedic statements to highlight an issue that is of public interest. As the ACLU points out, the segment begins with Oliver saying that coal is “Basically cocaine for Thomas the Tank Engine”. While Oliver and his team make sure to include plenty of facts, the show is heavy on opinion which is also protected speech under the First Amendment. Opinions are not to be combatted in a court of law but are supposed to be solved through competition and debate. If Bob Murray wants to convince people that Jon Oliver is wrong, he needs to debate it in the court of public opinion and not waste the time of the actual courts of West Virginia.

 

The ACLU also takes issue with Bob Murray taking further action by trying to slap a restraining order and an injunction against Oliver and HBO. Restraining orders and injunctions are intended to get somebody to prevent somebody from doing something and to stop somebody from doing something respectively. In this case, Bob Murray filed both of these to make sure that Oliver’s show could not talk about Murray or Murray Energy again in order to stop them from tainting a potential jury. In reality, his feelings were hurt by Oliver’s piece and now he wants to make sure that Oliver never tries to hurt him again. When an action like an injunction goes up against a constitutional right, there needs to be intense scrutiny. Basically, while Murray is trying to gag Jon Oliver, he is holding press conferences about the case himself which is unfair. In addition, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press and, as long as the speech is not defamatory (hurtful lies), no private citizen can tell the press what to report. Oliver is the first to say that he is not really a journalist but his show is news media adjacent and the rule still applies.

 

Basically, the ACLU is saying that there is nothing actually actionable in the complaint (lawsuit) against Jon Oliver and Home Box Office. In layman’s terms, Oliver and company never actually did anything illegal and therefore the lawsuit should be dismissed out of hand. The elements of defamation are as follows:

(1) a false statement about the plaintiff is made, (2) that statement was broadcast, (3) the defendant is responsible for the broadcast, and (4) the broadcast caused damage to the plaintiff. When a celebrity or famous figure is the one filing for defamation, there is an additional element in that (5) there was actual malice in the broadcast.

Oliver and HBO definitely broadcast their information (2 and 3) and the broadcast probably damaged Murray’s reputation (4). Actual malice is not what it sounds like. It means that the defendant knew the false statement (1) was false or did not care enough to fact check it. If you go back to my first paragraph, you will remember how much work Oliver’s crew puts into research and none of his stated facts were proven false. Also, opinions and flat out insults cannot be “false” by definition. The complaint falls apart there which is exactly what the judge in the case ruled in the end.

Electrical Malfunction

April 5, 2017

Once again, I woke up before my alarm could go off. This time it was an hour before my alarm was set for seven in the morning. I tried to close my eyes again but sleep did not come. My eyes were tired and my brain was fuzzy. I had plenty of work to get done so I guessed that I might as well get to it instead of wasting any more time in bed. It was at that moment that I figured out that my eyes were not the only part of me that were tired. My limbs were heavy and refused to work at first. Great, my implants were on the fritz again. I hate mornings.

I struggled to reach for the diagnostic panel in the headboard but it was slow going. I was born with a physical defect that made it hard to gather enough energy to get through the day. Physical movement was a chore as a kid mostly because eating and breathing became difficult. My folks paid for the implants to fix the problem and pretty soon I was running and playing with the other kids with no problem. The implants were first generation so I never got to the level of an Olympic runner. (The implants were banned from the games on the day I got them anyway). They also were not stable twenty years later. It was not fatal but it was annoying.

I pressed the button on the headboard and a blue light came on on my wrist as the devices wirelessly connected. I groaned and turned my head to look at the screen as the thing fired up. First generation technology was so slow. When the display finally came to life, it showed that the implants were only running at half power. I pressed the button to reboot the system and felt the implants shut off. My limbs became like lead and my breathing slowed. It felt like I had some sort of double pneumonia that made it nearly impossible to move. If the implants failed to reboot, a message would be sent for assistance.

I hoped they would reboot, I did not have the money for a medtech technician to come out. Besides, the things were so old now that most technicians had to look up a manual before they could do much work on it. I realized that this might take a while if I was unlucky. I should have signaled the office of the possibility of me getting in late. For once, it was a good thing I woke up extra early. I had two cases open to investigate and I had to get downtown to do it.

A while back the police force had become too overburdened after it was pretty much gutted to get rid of all the corruption. As they rebuilt the system, they restructured new investigative units who were made up of unarmed civilians. I had gotten in on the new unit when it was getting started and I enjoyed the work. Most of the work was done digitally but there were also new drones used for gathering witness statements and doing forensic work. It was a brave new world and I did not want to risk losing the job by being late.

The screen above my head let out a pinging noise and I was suddenly able to breathe deeply. I used that to breathe out a sigh of relief. I sat up slowly as the extra oxygen made me light-headed for a moment. I tested out my arms and they moved fine. My legs kept steady under me as I stood up. The screen showed a hundred percent efficiency so it was time to relax for a minute in the shower before I got dressed. I made a mental note to get the tech looked at the next time I got a little time off to see one. I had a feeling it was going to be another one of those days.

Envy

April 6, 2016

(I guess I should explain for the uninitiated that this is pro-wrestling promo. They pop into my head sometimes and they’re fun)

<Music starts and a man steps out on stage. When he hits the top of the ramp, he holds up a hand and the music quickly fades out. There is a long pause as the stranger surveys the crowd with a very slight, self-satisfied smile on his face. The smile fades as he is handed a microphone and he speaks as he walks down the ramp toward the ring. The crowd has mixed reactions to this stranger.>

Vance: They say the man who has the power, holds the world in the palm of his hand. You are looking at the most powerful man you are likely to see in person. So there you all are in the palm of my hand. This business is in the palm of my hand. Whatever I want is already mine.

<He rolls into the ring and stands defiant>

My name is Nicholas Vance. However, you can call me Envy. That is the emotion most people have when they meet me. I have been around the world and I have seen victory after victory. Nothing is behind me but broken dreams and broken hearts. I went to Japan and broke bones in dojos. I went to Europe and outwrestled anyone I met. I even did some bare-knuckle boxing down in Mexico. You can tell by this pretty face how well I did there.

What more can I say? I want the gold. The gold is mine. My name is Nicholas Vance.
NV Me. Now bring on my first challenge.

Easter

April 6, 2015

I have gone through a few Easters and while I don’t remember them all specifically, I remember the traditions we cycled through. Our family doesn’t really have too many Easter traditions that were handed down through the generations. We used to go to church on Easter Sunday but that ended sometime during High School. I’m actually getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

When I was little until I was not as little, we almost always went down to my grandmother’s house for a visit. Travelling down to Columbia, South Carolina was a ritual that we performed at least twice a year growing up. The rest of the family on my mom’s side lived in South Carolina so it made sense that we went down there. We were always joined by my Uncle Roy and his daughter Brantley and Maw Maw (yes like everyone else we have a cute name for our grandmother and it’s pretty southern). Sometimes we would also be joined by Uncle Pat and his family as well. We would hunt for eggs in Maw Maw’s backyard (which was maybe 20 square yards) and then travelled to church and then we got a huge lunch.

Later, we tended to spend Easter in Baltimore instead. By this point we had found a church that where we felt like we belonged. Grace United Methodist church had a great community and I actually felt smarter after a service because the Reverend had a PHD in History and another one in Philosophy. The church sponsored two different Easter egg hunts. The first was for the little kids and I had long since outgrown it by the time we came to Grace. The second hunt was actually a scavenger hunt of sorts that used riddles. One year I even got to write the riddles at a time when I was obsessed with rhyming poetry.

We didn’t really have a tradition for a few years but now we have a couple new traditions. We go out to West Virginia with our mother and the whole family (on my mom’s new husband’s side) visits as well. We have Easter egg hunts for each generation and we also hunt for Easter baskets that belong to each family. It was strange at first to be part of such huge family gatherings (we often have around 20-25 people) but it’s gotten to feel pretty normal. The other recent tradition around Easter is Seder which is, in case you didn’t know, actually a Passover tradition. This was strange to adjust to but now it’s old hat and another chance to meet up with local family.


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