Thursday, March 7, 2013

Attention! Attention! We Jumped Ship!

Yes, I know it may be hard to accept. But Reginald and I could no longer endure this lovely, though somewhat drab webpage. Style was called for! Sophistication! Depth! Things I don't bloody well display very often, so as I always do in crisis- I turned to my friends who are much smarter than me.

You can now find all future posts about my adventures with Reginald at:

Thanks so much for stopping by the old place. Visit us at our new home anytime.

Yours in love and war,

Jeff Newman
Reginald Buford Brimley

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Week 9: Now With Chin Whisker Twirling Action...A Very Unpleasant 30 Minutes

JN: It's fuzzy, it's shaggy, I'm happy! Reginald has gotten a little itchy, although it is nowhere near the level of annoying awfulness that is still to come. The very thought of that eye twitching, fist pounding itch makes me want to hurl whiskey bottles through windows and into the night. The dark, dark night. But no matter! This is what I signed up for, and I am damn well determined to to stick it out til the bitter end. People keep complimenting Reginald's growth, and I continue to feel more like my actual self. Looks like me in the mirror too. An added bonus is that now my chin whiskers are long enough for proper thought twirling. And what's the point in living if you can't twirl your chin whiskers while contemplating the cosmos? Not much is the correct answer to that question.

A note from the desk of Jeff Newman:

Heading home from grocery shopping the other night brought with it an incredibly unpleasant experience while standing atop the Granville platform of the Red Line. A train arrived heading south, and from out of the last car a young woman of about twenty emerged. She was incoherent, hyperventilating, and babbling about a man who was trying to hurt her. A man who was trying to rape her. There were four of us standing there caught in that familiar limbo place of what to do when something so flip side of normal happens in the city. Before anyone had time to assess this twisted situation, the man she was fleeing from approached from behind. He was wearing an oversized black Bulls coat with a huge red logo on the back. She pointed at him confirming through so many gasps and yelps that he was indeed the man she was talking about. He froze, saw the four of us standing there, turned, and walked away. As there was no exit from the platform in the direction he was walking, so the only reasonable explanation is that he hopped down to the tracks and fled the scene as it were.

Inhalers or puffers are used mainly for the treatment of asthma, influenza, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and Zanamivir. I only bring it up because there's a good chance that's why she was clutching her inhaler so tightly as she sat and shook in the corner of the hot box. Two puffs, then a third, trying her damndest to stay level-headed and failing miserably as she called her sister, and one of our four called the cops. Two of Chicago's finest showed up to take our statements, get a description of the man in question, and assure the safety of the young woman. She finally related that the man on the train was masturbating in front of her, and followed when she got off the train. It was when he grabbed her shoulders from behind that she started screaming. She insisted, or seemed to insist that an ambulance was not necessary, but the officers thought it best to have someone see her just to be on the safe side. Possible hyperventilation and all that. Neither myself, nor the caller from our group of four could agree on which direction the man had left in. As I said, I distinctly remember him turning and walking away. Our caller said he was sure the man walked passed us, down the stairs, and out the exit. It would seem that such an obvious detail having occurred not moments ago would be anything but fuzzy, and yet...

Her sister finally arrived and after a lot of close quiet talk, they rose and left with the police. The whole mess was over in about a half hour, though it seemed to last far longer. I received a call today from a detective asking if I'd be willing to come to the station and pick someone out of a line-up if it came to that. I assured him that I'd be perfectly willing, but was more than a little uneasy at the prospect of having to point out a guy I only saw for five seconds in the middle of a lot of yelling and confusion with no chance for second glances or caught breath. Detective Mark DiMeo thanked me for my cooperation and for being a good citizen. He gave me his number and assured me he'd be in touch. While this ending seemed happy enough considering what's possible with the same set up in any city in any country in any decade, I was very shaken by the whole ordeal. I knew without much consideration on the train ride home why I was so unsettled. It was as plain as the lump in my throat. A choked back sob of shame that I didn't feel like sharing until I was alone in the shower with steam, white noise, and a good stiff drink. Regardless of how childish, outdated, or impractical the sentiment, deep down I can't help but feel:

I could have done more.

Done more? Done what? What more is a good citizen supposed to do besides stay out of danger, call the police, give a statement, cooperate and be thanked for it? Why did standing back and keeping quiet fill me with such overwhelming guilt? This guilt stuck with me the whole way home, and all through putting groceries away, and all through loading laundry, and into the shower with the heat and whiskey and tears. I'm not Batman and this isn't Gotham City and that's not what I'm talking about. I don't know, nor have I ever known where the line is exactly concerning my own safety, my own responsibility to my fellow man, and the importance of minding my own business. The one thing I know for sure was the one thought that burrowed itself into my frontal lobe and would not vacate no matter how much I tried to expel it and be done with this nightmare forever. The fact that would not stop haunting me is knowing how I would feel if this was done to someone I cared for. Someone I loved dearly and could not do without. Someone who could not necessarily defend themselves from a large perverted fiend, and needed to reach out to whatever strangers and bystanders might be available on a cold train platform in February. Moments like this remind you exactly who makes this list in your life. I thought of that list. I thought of the young women in my life, particularly in the city who may one day face such a monster. And when I thought of that, I couldn't shake the knowledge that in this hypothetical situation, I would have done more. For my sister, for my close friends, for the young college students I work with, for anyone stuck in an impossibly helpless situation in need of a friend, if only for a half an hour. What made this actual situation different? This young woman was not my family. She was not my friend. She was my total stranger. So what? She was somebody's sister. Somebody's daughter. Somebody's friend. And, yes. I could have done more.

I could have chased this man and knocked him to the ground.

I could have beaten him about the face with a can of Campbell's Chunky soup from my backpack of groceries until he stopped moving.

I could have forced him to apologize and restrained him until police arrived.

I could have drug him the length of the platform on the concrete and thrown him down the stairs.

I could have shoved him onto the tracks hoping he'd get shocked to death by the third rail.

At the very least I could have remembered the man's shoes. If he was wearing jeans or pants and what color they were. Cliche though it sounds, it all happened so fast, and I just couldn't god-damn mother fucking remember. I could have done at least that. I could have asked the detective when he called what her name was. If he had spoken with her today. If she was feeling any better. I could have at least done that.

Lots more whiskey, laundry, pizza delivery, and XBOX 360 until seven in the morning was how I decided to deal with this emotional tempest. When a situation dwarfs your usual reason and the ground beneath you starts to shake, it's best to go with your gut. I knew deep down that this internal crisis would subside soon enough, but in the meantime it seemed like a good use of my time to take Arkham Asylum back from Joker even if that meant electrocuting his giant pasty Titan-form with my ultra batclaw no less than three times. Seriously, that is one of the easiest boss fights in the history of video games. I don't have a clean ending for this. There was nothing clean about the evening. There is nothing clean about my mood as I write this. In a despicably unsatisfying way, this was just something that happened this week. Something that made me ask myself a lot of questions I never wanted to answer. Something that fucked up my Sunday night.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Week 8: Enter The Curl...WWSLJD- pt. 1

JN: Things are growing along their lovely merry way as far as Reginald's physical progress is concerned. I'm getting more shaggy by the day and loving every minute of it. While Reginald is not yet quite long enough for me to pull at the chin hairs the way I like during contemplation, I have noticed that I'm rubbing my cheeks with both hands in a downward motion a lot lately. It's like smoothing the sides down, and feels very nice when contemplating things as well. This week also brought with it the reappearance of a certain giant curl of hair in the lower left portion of my face. This is like seeing an old friend not quite forgotten. I used to hate that curl because it stuck out and was weird. Now, I'm enjoying all the little nuances and details of Reginald's emergence and continued growth. The inquiry and resulting investigation into his potential treasonous actions of last week have not yet concluded, but the damage to our personal relationship seems pretty well in place. Our lengthy discussions of the previous month have all but come to a grinding halt. Our conversation has been reduced largely to curt, short sentence interaction. I don't like feeling like the bad guy, but democracy could be at stake. I don't feel I have any choice but to play it safe. Should Reginald prove to be above board, I can only hope he'll have the serenity to forgive me.

An extended note from the desk of Jeff Newman:

Heh. Extend. But, anyway. As stated earlier this past week, Reginald's posts will not be published until such time that his status can be cleared as a security risk. In the meantime, it only seems fitting that we continue the tradition of wise beardly wisdom with a little segment asking the one question that I believe everyone should ask themselves when facing a difficult conundrum.


Samuel L. Jackson has long been a man both respected and revered by the Beard community. Further study into Beard culture (which only grows more fascinating by the day) shows him to be the gold standard by which most of the rest of humanity is compared to. In their estimation, no human can ever achieve the overwhelming wisdom and decency of the mighty Beard, but Samuel L. Jackson comes closer than almost any in recorded human history. Not necessarily because of his own facial hair, which is both diverse and magnanimous, but because he consistently displays the decisiveness, honor, strength, and character that Beards prize above all else. It only seems fitting that we remind Beards everywhere of our unending respect for their culture during this investigation into Reginald's potential criminal ties resulting from his actions this past Tuesday. Details will be available as soon as they develop.
To begin, it seems best that we pick the most direct and specific question possible:


Let's look at some archival footage to see just what Samuel L. Jackson would do.

What are you sick of SLJ?

And what happened then? We all remember what happened then. He takes his gun and shoots out the windows thus creating a vacuum which sucks all the snakes out of the plane. Did he endanger the lives of everyone on the flight? You betcha! Did the snakes which were sucked out the windows most likely land on a heavily populated area below only to attack a whole group of unsuspecting bystanders? Oh, for sure! But that's not important. What is important is that when faced with potentially insurmountable odds, Samuel L. Jackson shows that decisive action must be taken. And as Sean Connery proved many years ago, shooting out the windows of an aircraft in mid flight can and will save the day. This solution can be applied to several other sticky situations that don't involve slithering airborne serpents. These include but are not limited to bad in flight movies, lousy in flight food, being stuck next to a crying child, or needing a diversion because you got caught in the lavatory joining the mile-high club.
By yourself.
Okay, I feel I've strayed a bit from the topic. The mightyness of Samuel L. Jackson and his wicked-cool, constantly changing facial hair can not be denied. It's a scandal and an outrage that this very topic isn't covered in any public school that I'm aware of. Until it is, I will certainly do my part. And you can do yours by taking a few minutes every week to ask:


Monday, February 11, 2013

Week 7: Beard At Last, Beard At Last...Reginald Slips Me A Mickey

JN: Well, as my father said when I lost my virginity, it's about damn time! Reginald's progress has finally gotten to the point that he can actually be considered a beard, both by the standards of others as well as my own. While grabbing at hairs to twist them in between my fingers is finally possible, I have to reach way down to the neck section where the hair is longest and thickest. This has helped my thinking, writing, and personal well being immensely. And there's lots of comfort in the fact that it's only going to get better. The possibilities are are pretty damn endless. Hell, we're just getting rolling on month two!

From the desk of Jeff Newman:

Just another Tuesday night. Another day in the week that wasn't the start or even the middle. It just was. But Tuesday brings with it a weekly tradition of writing, drinking, and music. A block down Lunt and a right on Glenwood will bring you to the Red Line Tap. A watering hole conveniently located in a wall just off the Morse stop on the red line. A pool table, an old arcade game, and a dark haze that makes the cold street outside seem bright by comparison. Evan at one in the morning.
But it wasn't the $2 Hamms or even the $5 Fighting Cock bourbon that brought me into this charming dive every Tuesday. Oh, no. It was the Mudflaps. James, Justin, and Brentley make up the three-piece bluegrass band that fills my Tuesday with beat, grit, and purpose each and every week. Sometimes after putting this baby to bed, sometimes feverishly trying to finish, but always with a cold beer and that heart pumping music filling my veins with a kind of life unknown to me six days out of the week. Often stumbling home refreshed and in good cheer, but no worse for the wear. But tonight was to be different. Oh, yes. This night would end very differently indeed.

Having finished the blog earlier that evening, I was in very high spirits. I filled my lungs with the green buds, pulled on my heavy boots, and made my way through the fresh fallen snow to my Tuesday night refuge. Mickey, at the bar as usual had my favorite beer open and waiting for me when I sat down. Tonight I asked for a short glass of the Fighting Cock to sip on. It was to be a night of loud music, strong drink, and contemplative contemplation. It most certainly was just that. It was during my second bourbon that I noticed problems. Sweet Jesus, the stuff had gotten right on top of me! One minute, I'm hearing the dulcet tones of a Willie Nelson song, the next I can barely hold my head up. Nothing was spinning. Spinning only goes in one direction. This was more akin to being stuck inside a giant cotton ball. Unable to move properly, think straight, or focus my vision. Feeling much more isolated than usual by the unfamiliar chemical composition coursing through my system.

Smoking cigarettes in the last seat
And trying to hide my sorrows from the people I meet
And get along with it all

But no. This wasn't a night for sorrow. It never was. This was a night for jubilee. This was Tuesday night at the Red Line Tap. And the combination of a dark bock, a fine bourbon, and full-flavored mary jane was nothing new to my system. 103 proof or not, something else was at play here. That's when it hit me. Reginald. The fuzzy follicle bastard! Isn't it possible he's been planning this all along? Watching me. Quietly noting my schedule. My routine. Patiently waiting for the moment he could seize. Slip me a mickey, and take over. And why not? He knew the score. He was fast, smart, capable, and ready it would seem to fly solo. Had I done something to offend him? How did we arrive at this moment? Should I have seen this coming? And just what unspeakable method had he chosen to employ in disposing my body? These were the questions wracking my horribly struggling mind as I leaned against the bar shoving chunks of a pizza bagel into my mouth. Surely some food would slow the process of whatever terrible drug was overtaking my system. Devil Reginald! How could I have been so blind? All this talk about his fascination with human culture and the stoic wisdom of the mighty beard. It was all a ruse, and I had fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. Tuesday was unraveling before my very eyes. The decision to flee came suddenly. I paid my tab in such a hurry that I had no memory of doing so within seconds of standing. The block and a half back to my humble abode was more hazardous than usual. Between the slushy, icy sidewalks and altered state of gravity I certainly had my work cut out for me. But it wasn't until I was vomiting pizza bagel under the red line overpass that I realized just how sideways this whole evening had turned. What used to be pepperoni, mushrooms, and banana peppers was now a steaming, reeking confirmation of my worst fear from the moment I felt the bottom start to fall.

I don't remember the rest of the walk home, or anything else for that matter besides waking up safe and unmolested in my own bed. Cash and cards still in the wallet, keys and cell phone on the desk. A throbbing in my head, a rotten taste in my mouth, and a sore need for new combinations of new chemicals before anything would be alright again. Reginald must be behind this. Or maybe the Chinese. Either way, things will have to change. We haven't spoken all morning which only exacerbated my suspicions. At this point, I don't feel it would be safe to allow his posts to be published. If he is by chance working with the Chinese, there may be secret codes being transmitted. And I wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing I was guilty of treason, not to mention aiding and abetting a breach of national security to a Beard/Chinese hybrid double agent. Some kind of 00-Fu Manchu. I don't even think that's a crime on the books, but you can be damn sure it will be if I don't put a stop to this post haste! When the bells in my head stop ringing, Reginald and I are going to have a very serious discussion. Frankly, I'm not looking forward to it one bit. Mostly because he's much smarter than me. -JN 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Week 6: I Can't Quite Think Yet...4 Simple Rules For Riding My Fucking Train...A Friendly Formal Farewell to the Former First Dog

JN: I've been tugging like mad at these little hairs, but they're just not where they should be for optimal finger-twirling. I spend the better part of my week thinking, and that is increasingly difficult to accomplish without a proper beard for assistance. I'm starting to realize now more than ever how much I took Reginald for granted. It's encouraging how well he's growing in, but my god it's maddening! To be so close to the chin whisker, fuzztastic goodness of yesteryear and yet so fucking far. Jesus, take the wheel! Reginald, give me strength.

From the desk of Jeff Newman:

So, there's been a lot of pissing and moaning the last couple weeks about the CTA hiking their prices up. Listening to this has got me thinking about exactly how many hours over my last two years in Chicago have been spent with my air-conditioner ass parked snugly in a plastic blue seat on the EL. Many Chicagoans who've lived here much longer than I have use this train system as a means for transportation every single day, and yet I am consistently surprised at just how many of these folks have absolutely no idea how to ride the god-damn train. Now, it'd be tempting, easy, and partially correct to blame this on dick-weeds from Evanston and Skokie who only come into the city to shop at Macy's or hit a Cub's game, drunken bros from BroTown, and dumbass college kids. However, the responsibility must ultimately fall to the rest of us marginally aware, marginally conscientious commuters to lead by example and follow some basic rules that are obvious to anybody with eyes, ears, and a 3rd grade- aw hell, let's call it a 1st grade education. If you don't live in Chicago, feel free to take notes. On your next visit to the Windy City, you can impress your fellow travelers with your comprehensive knowledge of CTA etiquette. 

Rules For Not Being a DICK on the CTA

1. When the doors open, people get off. THEN you get on.

*There's a reason this is #1 because it's the most elementary thing imaginable and yet the most commonly mis-performed maneuver. Think of the train as an elevator that moves sideways. If you don't wait for people to get off first, you can't very well cram your stupid ass in, now can you? Also, standing right in the middle of the doorway and waiting for people to exit isn't good enough. I'm afraid you'll need to ALSO move out of the god-damn way so they can too.

2. If all the seats are full, and lots of people are trying to enter behind you, WALK FURTHER INTO THE TRAIN.

*Haha. Enter behind you. Anyway, you can actually keep walking into the train thus creating space behind you for more people to get on. Standing still three steps inside the train car pisses off everyone stuck behind you, makes many of them late, and increases your chances of being bumped into, yelled at, shoved, or even bitten by a zombie. Hey, it happens.

3. Keep your belongings off the seat next to you so OTHERS can sit down.

*This is actually a direct quote that is played repeatedly throughout every ride on the EL you will ever take. Pretty simple. If someone is stuck standing up, and your backpack is occupying the only available seat- you are a dick. I actually saw a guy get punched in the face last year at 6:30 in the morning because he refused to move his bag so an old lady could have the seat. To answer the questions I know are in your head: yes, it was a dumbass college kid. And no, it wasn't the old lady who punched him. That would have been really cool. The point is: what could possibly possess a total stranger to punch you in the face before 7am? Being a selfish dick on the train, apparently.

4. Turn your god-damn music down.

*Again, you would think it's a basic, elementary concept not to blare your music so loudly on the train that everyone else on the train is forced to listen to it as well. And YET! Headphones are very cheap and very available. The douche-bags of which I speak have no excuse whatsoever. People who do this bank on the basic fear most people have of confrontation. When they jam their beats or beat their jams or whatever the hell they do loud as fuck on their stupid fucking phones, sitting there acting like it's the most natural thing in the world, they're essentially daring you to confront them. This is what douche-bags do, and it's tolerated by countless well-meaning commuters every day. Tolerance isn't always a good thing.

If you can follow these 4 simple rules when on the EL, you will have succeeded in avoiding being labeled a dick-weed, douche-bag, ass-clown, dick-cheese, douche-cock, or of course the classic fen-sucked dewberry by those of us who have eyes, ears, and a 1st grade education. This is not at all meant to be a condemnation of the CTA. Far from it. I treasure my train time. Hell, that's probably why I get so aggravated by the douchenheimers of which I speak. I've read most of the books I've read since moving here on the EL. I've written most of this blog on the EL. I've had amazing conversations, eaten terrific meals, and gotten free beers passed to me by brand new friends all while traveling to and from work. That being said, for twenty-eight bucks a week- the bullshit is getting is pretty old. -JN

From the desk of Reginald Buford Brimley:

The nation is in mourning this week, or at least some of it is. Flags everywhere will be at half-mast, or at least should be until such time as the people can raise their heads high once again with pride and confidence in the face of danger and adversity. The loss suffered will not be forgotten anytime soon, nor should it be. For the former commander in chief, Super Bowl Sunday brought with it a bittersweet sadness falling a mere forty-eight hours after the loss of his prized presidential pooch. Barney Bush, Scottish Terrier and former First Dog of the United States (2000-2008) died tragically on Friday after a lengthy battle with lymphoma, a kind of blood cancer which I understand continues to plague canines as well as humanity to this day. Former President George W. Bush posted on his Facebook wall Friday,

"...after twelve and a half years of life, his body could not fight off the illness. Barney and I enjoyed the outdoors. He loved to accompany me when I fished for bass at the ranch. He was a fierce armadillo hunter....Barney greeted Queens, Heads of State, and Prime Ministers. He was always polite and never jumped in their laps. Barney was by my side during our eight years in the White House. He never discussed politics and was always a faithful friend."

It should be noted that the official record reflects that Barney performed his duties as First Dog with unflappable aplomb. He caused not a scrap of controversy during his time in the White House. Nor was he ever indicted, questioned, or implicated in the near countless criminal offenses committed by the administration of his master. The sheer decency of this creature is as plain as the prominent moustache he wore proudly upon his snout. Beard culture has always held great respect for the animals often kept in captivity by their human oppressors. Particularly those owned by Heads of State. Though restrained through various forms of bondage, they continue to display the simple stoic dignity befitting any superior creature forced into such a subservient position, and Barney was no exception. Like many before him, and many more to come, he served as a great mustachioed symbol of the grace and elegance held by all those with fantastic facial hair.

It is important to remember that First Dogs have been a regular presence throughout American history. From President Washington's Staghounds, Sweet Lips, Scentwell, and Vulcan to President Obama's Portuguese Water Dog, Bo. However, the history of this nation shows far more variety in its First Pets than simply canines. Andrew Jackson owned fighting cocks, William Henry Harrison, a cow. Martin Van Buren briefly owned two tiger cubs, while Abraham Lincoln enjoyed the companionship of a turkey named Jack. Benjamin Harrison owned a pair of opossums, but Herbert Hoover takes the blue ribbon for excess with two crocodiles. In recent years, the First Pet position has been reserved mostly for dogs and cats, thus putting increasing pressure on them to stand alone as the shining example for all other presidential pets around the world. This pressure only makes Barney's performance during the W administration that much more impressive. Barney was never at the center of a pathetic grammatical blunder, thoughtless irresponsible abuse of power, or clear and flagrant fabrication which in turn spelled disaster for this or any other nation. He may be the only member of the W administration who can make this claim.
And so it is with a very heavy heart that we bid adieu to the former First Dog. His paw prints will not be easy to fill, but as Bo Obama begins his second term in the White House we cannot help but look forward to the future. Bo Obama will not be the next Barney Bush, nor should he be. Barney's time has passed, and with no concern or possibility of a third term for Bo, we can be assured of a very interesting four years indeed. And though I suppose I should restrain myself during such a time of mourning, I cannot help but ask: wouldn't Bo look better with a Beard? -RBB

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Week 5: Reginald Rode A Blazing Saddle...The Man of Steel Bows To The Dark Knight...One Man's Righteous Indignation

JN: Reginald's progress continues! This is actually a beard. It's official. The itches have all but stopped, the zits are all but covered, and my chin and cheeks now have that soft comforting touch that I have been sorely missing all month. Last night, I went to a friend's apartment to watch that marvelous Mel Brooks masterpiece Blazing Saddles. When I walked in the door, he gave me a great big hug. The first words out of his mouth were, "Oh, look at you and your beard!" If this keeps up, Reginald will quickly achieve greater notoriety than even my own. If he hasn't already...    

From the desk of Jeff Newman:

So, this week I found myself perfectly stymied as to what I should write about. Then through divine inspiration or bad pizza or some kind of shit, it dawned on me that I could do a random twelve hour survey on one of, if not THE MOST ancient and puzzling questions in the history of mankind. Who is more badass: Batman or Superman? Now, this seemed to me a fantastic question. The two biggest badasses in the DC universe. Without them, the Justice League is just a handful of hapless nerds all trying to bang the same lesbian. Okay, plus a Martian dude. So I started asking everyone I could for about half a day. Those who asked me were politely told to define badass on their own, and answer the fucking question. By the way, for those of you dweebs out there rolling your eyes and thinking, this was already addressed in Frank Miller's Batman: A Dark Knight Falls, I know that. I'm not asking who would win in a fight because, who cares? I'm asking more from a philosophical standpoint of badassness. So that being said, I asked people I knew at work, friends here in Chicago, I asked people I knew in LA, Kansas City, St. Louis, I asked family in New York, and I even asked several customers at the sandwich shop I work at instead of actually working. Imagine my surprise when I couldn't find more than one lonely Superman supporter. Now, having a booming bias for Batman myself, I wasn't at all surprised that he won. What was shocking to me was the ridonkulous margin by which he took the blue ribbon. We're talking about the ninetieth percentile! So the real question became: Why is Batman so much more badass than Superman?
Of course we can't even begin this dialogue without acknowledging the success, magnitude, and all around awesomeness of the Dark Knight Trilogy. Yes, Batman's come a long way since George Clooney played ice hockey against Ahhnold the Governator and kicked Chris O'Donnell's ass all so he could make out with Uma Thurman. Wait, is that what that movie was about? Whatever. The point is, the franchise is no longer a flamboyant, pun-crazy, sad waste of time, and it owes Chris Nolan and company big time for that. But the badass doesn't stop there. In the last 20 years or so we have seen a monumental resurgence in animated series and films about comic book heroes. Among these, Batman has time and again received the lion's share of style, class, sophistication, and the kind of damn good storytelling that the core audience has come to expect. The Animated Series, especially in its early years remains easily a cut above the rest helped in no small part by the near perfect voice casting of Andrea Romano and simply superb music of Shirley Walker. Mask of the Phantasm, Gotham Knight, Under The Red Hood, and Batman: Year One are a few of the remarkable animated Batman films available each with its own storyline, director(s), animation design, and cast. It also wouldn't do my diligence justice if I neglected to mention the Arkham videos games, Asylum and City respectively. Each winner of a veritable shit-ton of awards including Best Game of the Year. 
Against this, Superman just hasn't been doing much worth mentioning. A handful of unremarkable video games, a handful of damn-near unwatchable animated films, and a series that didn't fare much better. Let's not forget that lovely box office gem Superman Returns, whose most memorable performance is a toss-up between Kevin Spacey and Parker Posey. (But who didn't see that coming?) The fact is Superman hasn't been done right since the 1978 film with Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman. The 1980 sequel is also quite badass- credit where credit's due. One could say Batman's had all the breaks, talent, and attention since the early 90's, but one must also judge the characters by their most basic definitions. Batman is human. Superman is a nearly invulnerable alien. The consistent theme of the Pro-Batman answers was that Batman has no powers except a massive obsession and just a hint of a death wish that keeps him tangling with super-humans and with the super villains that terrorize Gotham City. My favorite answer came from my old bonfire buddy, Chris McDaniel. "Batman's 'powers' are not his wealth or training. Those make his objectives possible. What sets him apart is his obsession. His paranoia. The fact that he is one step away from being locked up in Arkham himself...Take away all of Batman's money and gadgets. He'd still do what he's driven to do." I couldn't have put it better myself. (which is why I stole the quote) You can beat him, you can break him, but Batman will find a way to fight back and win the day. And all without any super-human powers. On the flip side, you have Superman who is SO powerful his feats just aren't as impressive. Not to mention the fact that since he IS faster than a speeding bullet, and he CAN leap tall buildings in a single bound, blah-blah-blah, the obstacles he has to face get more and more obnoxious and even borderline gratuitous. This is a turn-off for many. The reason the 1978 film was so successful is because it focused so much on Superman's attachment to humanity and simultaneous distance from them. That's a human story. One of love, trial, and sacrifice. That is some compelling shit! I can only hope we get back to these basics with the upcoming film Man of Steel which will be released June 14th. With director Zack Snyder at the helm, I have high hopes and every intention of seeing it. I'm gonna bring a bottle though. Since Kevin Costner's playing Jonathan Kent, I figure I can take a drink every time he goes near a baseball, makes a big speech to Clark, or shows his ass on screen. I may need two bottles. -JN     

From the desk of Reginald Buford Brimley:

There was much mumbling and grumbling this past week about the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. The speech he gave was quite stirring and inspiring, (for a man with no Beard) but I must say that what I found even more stirring and inspiring was the criticism President Obama received from American activist, Princeton professor, and chin whisker aficionado Cornel West. Dr. West took great issue with the fact that President Obama was sworn in using a Bible belonging to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. West found it disrespectful and inappropriate for President Obama to use Martin Luther King Jr.'s Bible for his inauguration. His explanation for this was very well articulated (as is everything from his beautifully Bearded face) during a panel discussion hosted by Tavis Smiley and aired on CSPAN. Dr. Cornel West on Obama's Bible choice
This man's indignation could not be more righteous. The wisdom, maturity, and eloquence of Dr. West dwarfs that of any human specimen encountered by myself or any other Beard in recorded history. His frustration is completely understood as he seems beset on all sides by very loud, very foolish people (redundant though that adjective may be). His point seems to stem largely from the fact that this was a decision based on publicity and image for the inauguration, and that Dr. King's astounding effort and accomplishments throughout the 1960's were less akin to most social and political movements, and more akin to war. But unlike most wars there were no uniforms (unless you count skin color) and instead of guns, the clear oppressors fought with attack dogs, fire hoses, billy clubs, and lynch mobs. It was this war that inevitably killed Dr. King on April 4th, 1968 when he was shot in a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. This terrible war rages on even to this day. Be it in the form of housing, the prison industrial complex, or the basic daily discrimination people ignore on a daily basis, the human civil rights struggle is a vast, splintered, tangled mess that continues to plague the human race every day. Whether this is acknowledged, embraced, or ignored varies with the individual in question, but the bottom line of Dr. Cornel West's righteous indignation can be summed up by something Mr. Newman said before hurling an empty rum bottle into the drizzling cold night air: You haven't earned what he earned. As it has always been the tradition of great social warriors like Martin Luther King Jr, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Cesar Chavez, Malcolm X, Alice Paul, Harvey Milk, and a great many others to challenge the established order and fight for a more equal status quo, so too has Cornel West continued to be, for lack of a better term- unsatisfied.                 
There often seems to be an attitude coming out of Washington that President Obama is doing enough by simply being black, and that those who like Dr. West, continue to be unsatisfied should consider his election at worst a dodged bullet and at least a decent enough victory. That they should try to rejoice and above all relax. Dr. Cornel West says no. He believes this president is not doing enough. He believes this country can always do better. And he seems to feel an imperative to continue to remind us all of it. Were I in his shoes, or more aptly on his face- I have to believe I'd feel much the same way. -RBB 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Week 4: A Bud Light Beard...Super Bowl Brotherly Love...The Logical Violence of Hockey

JN: So, Reginald tells me he can finally breathe comfortably. Though I am now sporting what many would call a beard, I consider it more like some shitty domestic beer that you're drinking because it's the only thing at the party and damned if I'm hanging out with these people sober. It's just enough to squeak by thus earning that most hallowed name: beard. As expected, I'm not quite satisfied with the length, which I suppose is a good thing considering I'm still in month one. With eleven more to go, I can only imagine how pissy I'd be come Christmas time if I was already getting annoyed with Reginald's length. On the brighter side, I finally recognize my reflection in the mirror. And that's always a relief.

From the desk of Jeff Newman:

HOLY SHIT! SUPER BOWL IN TWO WEEKS! I'm super duper pumped for Super Bowl XLVII which will be played on February 3rd at the Superdome in New Orleans. My excitement is partially due to the fact that those unholy douche-cocks known as the Patriots will not be playing this year. More on that in a minute.
This year, the contest will be decided between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. This is really cool for a few reasons:
To begin, the head coaches of both competing teams are not only related- they're brothers. Like used to play tag, hide-and-seek, and shoot bottle rockets at each other brothers. Jim Harbaugh, the coach of the 49ers is the brother of John Harbaugh, coach of the Ravens. Aside from having parents who love one syllable names that start with the letter J, these two coaches are a mere one year apart, and have led their respective teams to victory time and time again throughout the season.
Next, with Joe Flacco at the helm of the Ravens, and Colin Kaepernick as QB of the 49ers, it promises to be one hell of a fast-paced offensive slug-fest. Let's not forget that the defensive squad of both teams are not to be trifled with. This brings me of course to Ray Lewis. Ray Lewis has played seventeen seasons as a linebacker in the NFL. Every single one of them for the Baltimore Ravens. He's been selected as a Pro Bowl player 13 times, he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and 2003 (only the sixth player in history to win the award twice), and was the second linebacker in history to win the Super Bowl MVP award. He is also a regular singer of the National Anthem who consistently brings himself to tears. In two weeks, Ray Lewis will play his last NFL game. He is retiring after a marvelously decorated career, possibly with another Super Bowl victory to add to his record. The buzz on the street is he'll be on TV as a football commentator in no time. I say, bring it on!

Back to the best part of Super Bowl XLVII- NO PATRIOTS! The Patriots are an over-privileged, over-funded group of dick-weeds who, like the New York Yankees win too often to be any fun to root for. Bill Belichick and his ridiculous comb-over have racked up a whopping 187 wins since he took over as head coach of the Patriots in 2000. This could simply be explained by fine coaching and damn good execution of excellent strategy on the field were it not for the 2007 videotaping scandal known as "Spygate," in which Bill Belichick was caught videotaping the signals of the opposing team's defense to give his team an unfair advantage during game play. As punishment, the Pats were fined $250,000 and lost their spot for first round draft pick for the 2008 season. Belichick himself was fined $500,000 (the largest fine ever imposed on a head coach in the history of the NFL). It was also revealed that he'd been doing this since he took the head coach position in 2000. With all that cheating, it's hard to believe he could only bring home three Super Bowl victories in the past 13 years. Needless to say, neither he nor his Busey-esque, shit-eating grin possessing QB Tom Brady have beards. Is it any wonder? -JN 

From the desk of Reginald Buford Brimley:

The month of January has brought with it the United States president's inauguration, a bitter cold front gripping the mid western section of the US, and most importantly of all the return of that much revered human sport: hockey. As it seems to do every five to ten years, the National Hockey League took a lengthy hiatus to review, revise, and renegotiate contracts concerning the collective bargaining agreements for the men who work as hockey athletes. This most recent revision period (known commonly as a lockout or strike) was mostly caused by a push by team owners to reduce the percentage of hockey related profits earned by the players from fifty-seven percent to forty-six percent. This negotiation period cut the regular season from eighty-two to a mere forty-eight games. It is projected that during the lockout, the NHL lost between eighteen and twenty million dollars a day, players lost between eight and ten million dollars daily, and the league office had to cut jobs by twenty percent. Businesses located near hockey arenas of course suffered as well.
Much to the delight of human hockey fans everywhere, the lockout has officially ended and the games have begun. However, human reaction to hockey's triumphant return pales in comparison to the joy felt throughout the Beard community due to this blessed event. Let me take this opportunity to share a little known fact:

Beards. Love. Hockey.
More than any other human sport, be it football, mountain climbing, rugby, bowling, or even roller derby. This is in part because of hockey's fast paced, constantly changing, logically violent action. This appeals to Beards very much. Hockey requires a very focused attention, and a comfort zone that lives somewhere at the speed of what I can only imagine scientists would call badass. As an added perk, the game takes place in a colder environment than most which encourages Beard growth. Not chemically of course, (they actually grow more in the summer) but the cold encourages the players to allow more growth which adds warmth to their fairly frozen faces. This also gives the players extra protection should a projectile of some kind come flying at their faces. These potential projectiles vary from items thrown by fans, the hockey pucks themselves, and most commonly- the fists of other players.
Now, while Beards as a race avoid and abhor unnecessary violence as a general principle, the violence associated with hockey, commonly expressed through fist-fights is completely understood, condoned, and even encouraged. We as Beards completely understand these fist-fights as a part of the game. Humans are naturally violent creatures and athletic competition brings with it a large amount of aggression, determination, and fatigue. Violence is a natural by-product of this combination. It is unavoidable and should not be resisted, ignored, or repressed. Thus, it is allowed (even celebrated) with the use of bare fists, which do not kill easily. Certainly there is bound to be some long term head trauma and brain damage, but that can be expected by any professional athlete in any professional sport (particularly one with so many Canadians). In an average hockey fist-fight, two men on skates wearing padding over much of their bodies, hold each other steady with one hand while pummeling each other with their free fist under the watchful supervision of the more level-headed members of their immediate community. The fight is given its appropriate breadth, and stopped before it gets out of hand. The men then have a five minute respite to rest and relax before returning to the ice as respectful competitors. This is one of the more logical and proportionally appropriate expressions of violence found anywhere in human culture.

The Chicago Blackhawks began the season this past Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings and followed up on Sunday in Phoenix against the Coyotes. They followed this performance up Tuesday night with their first home game against the St. Louis Blues, winning with a score of three to two. This was particularly exciting since this is the first time the Blackhawk's have started three and zero since the 1972-73 season. While I thoroughly enjoy any hockey contest I'm privileged enough to see, my host human Mr. Newman was particularly elated to see the Phoenix Coyotes get defeated by Chicago's Blackhawks with a score of six to four. I couldn't quite make sense of what he was shouting during the game as he was heavy into drink by the second period. It had something to do with dirty plays, unnecessary hits, being an owner-less team of "pussies," and begrudgingly accepting the fact that goalie Mike Smith is a badass none the less. If Mr. Newman's behavior can serve as a typical example, the violence displayed by a human fan watching a hockey match makes far less sense than that displayed by the actual players. That being said, it's quite an entertaining sight to behold. -RBB

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Week 3: Reginald's Recognition...Mid-Life Crisis Movie Month...Ted Nugent and Massacre Mania

JN: Well, all things move forward. Snail's pace or so it seems. More itchy this week, but nothing intolerable. Hell, nothing even that worth note. Still got some zits poking through, though they are now buried and surrounded by little fuzzies that just make them look like part of some nasty garden. Does that make the zits lawn gnomes? Yeah, I don't think so either. Reginald has gotten some notice from people both in the workplace and in those other places I go when I'm not at work or home. There are many of them. Just cause I'm not naming them now doesn't mean they don't exist. YOU'RE in denial! It's more of a neck beard now than anything, which is a bit uneven and not very pleasing to the eye, but this is all part of the process. Anyway, it's good just to see some continued thickening on my face, but his growth is still too tame to be considered a true beard. All things with time, but I grow impatient. Bottom line: Whatever. I ain't there yet. But baby, I'm bookin!

From the desk of Jeff Newman:

January is already halfway done! If only the same could be said for winter. It's fucking cold with no end in sight, and to be perfectly honest- I'm pretty cool with it. Ha. You see what I did there? But for realsies. As long as you layer up, and acknowledge that freezing to death takes way more time and inaction than are likely while on your way to work or the bar or wherever, I think the winter in Chicago is totally tolerable. Plus, we have all these January blockbuster releases that weren't good enough to be seen over Christmas. For some reason, and I have no idea what that reason could be, this month will be marked with a myriad of mid-life crisis movies from some of our most celebrated and beloved action stars, all of which have passed recently (or not so recently) into their fifties and sixties. Too old to play tackle football, but not too old to have an axe fight or crash through a glass window. This month, the lucky American movie goers will have the pleasure of choosing to go see Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise (50 years old). He plays a military cop who only goes after TRAINED KILLERS. YEAH!!! Or if you'd rather watch something with a bit more heart, grab a BlueRay of Liam Neeson's (60 years old) latest flick in which his family is Taken: 2. Or: again. Or: whatever. Once again Liam will beat the bloody pulp out of an endless grab-bag of dirty Europeans who have the audacity to try and kidnap an innocent American girl while she's on vacation. The fact that he himself is Irish does not seem to confuse anyone in the audience nearly as much as it confuses me. It made more sense when he was fighting wolves. Keep your eyes peeled for Bullet To The Head. In which Sylvester Stallone (66 years old) plays a hit man (the best in the business- mind you) who teams up with a police detective to find and kill the men who have kidnapped his daughter. This is of course totally different from Taken. There's an Asian guy in this one. See? If your depends undergarments aren't moist with anticipation quite yet, get ready for the crown jewel in this gratuitous array of self denial: The Last Stand starring none other than the Gove-Nator himself, Ahhnold Schwarzenegger (65 years old)! He plays a small border-town sheriff who must stop a violent madman and his small army of very well-armed cronies before he can escape into Mexico with the assistance of a rag-tag group of his friends and neighbors who had nothing better to do that weekend.

Mankind has long had an obsession with aging and death, most likely because it is the one thing we all share. It is definite, it is inescapable, and the reality can be a very lengthy and painful process. Thank God our action stars are willing to show their own difficulty and plight with these wonderful human interest stories about the aging process. With explosions. And guns. And hot chicks. Yeah. While this is nothing new for Stallone and Ahhnold who have always been action stars, it seems more a culmination for Cruise and Neeson who until recently could actually be considered actors. They have over the last several years made what seems to be a deliberate transition from actor and artist to celebrity and action star. They're actually pretty damn good at it too. But I am saddened to think of how few young action stars we have picking up the legacy. Jason Statham is the only one who comes to mind, and he's not far behind his more senior brethren (45 years old). Pretty soon, he'll have nobody to play golf with as I do not believe wheelchairs are allowed on most modern courses. But we can all look forward to the 2020 release of The Expendables: 3. In which Ahhnold and Stallone will have to team up to defend their nursing home from Iranian terrorists. That actually sounds like a cool flick. -JN    

From the desk of Reginald Buford Brimley:

Another fascinating week for the human race. They're all fascinating in one way or another. Even a leisurely study of human history and evolution will have massive highlights of mankind's ability to destroy each other in new and powerful ways. These new and improved methods for killing each other often increase "collateral damage" as well. This is a strange human term, which I believe means: PEOPLE WE DON'T MEAN TO KILL, BUT DON'T MIND KILLING.    
As the technological applications for murder increase, so too does a passionate, I'll be it irrational sense of entitlement to possess these new powerful weapons even if there is no logical reason for having them.With this sense of entitlement also comes fear. Fear is one of the strangest and most wondrous of human emotions. Fear brings energy to the exhausted. It brings hate and suspicion without cause. It allows indifference in the face of flagrant abuse. Fear is at the root of many, though not all of mankind's more deplorable and senseless actions.

On December 14th, a man named Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut and killed twenty school children and six staff members before taking his own life with a Bushmaster XM15 rifle. This is a weapon manufactured in the US, and used by military and police organizations in over sixty different nations on the planet. It is only legal in the United States market for civilians to purchase the semi-automatic version of this weapon, but military and police are allowed to purchase the fully automatic models. Soon after this terribly sad day, there began as always does after such a tragedy, a very loud and very predictable debate. It is an argument that quickly took center stage and dominated most forms of American media outlets. Questions that have been asked a hundred thousand times before, though have never found their way to satisfactory answers.
Is it too easy to get a gun?
Should it be harder to get a gun?
Do humans as a race have too strong an umbilicus to deadly weapons?
Is there a middle ground to be attained, ensuring that people on both sides of the argument feel safe? Should more weapons be made completely illegal?
Are people willing to sacrifice a few more freedoms to feel more secure as a community? (In this case, the freedom to own and operate a weapon capable of firing 700-950 rounds a minute.)

Of course, many voices came to the television cameras, microphone adorned podiums, and elaborate news desks. Everyone had an opinion, even if that opinion was something as obvious and useless as, "Something needs to change!" But the one thing that all these voices seem to have in common is fear. The fear of the citizen who worries that he is losing all rights and means to defend himself. The fear of a teacher knowing that they may one day have to face yet another senseless massacre. The fear of the patriot who feels their sense of order and liberty eroding away. The fear of a leader who can sense his nation slipping slowly into chaos. The fear of a parent who can only see all the birthday parties they'll never get to plan.
The common thread between them all is fear. Sometimes this fear is coupled with anger. Sometimes with sorrow. Sometimes desperation. But these voices are always rooted in fear. While this fear is perfectly understandable given the circumstances, it is also wholly illogical and unhelpful. It actually hurts the larger common goal in as much as it destroys the ability for any two people on opposing sides of the debate to regard one another with calm understanding and respect. If humans hope to come out the other end of this tragedy with a new sense of security and trust in themselves and their community, they certainly have their work cut out for them. As the saying goes, the cards are rather stacked against them.

It is also worth noting the connection humans seem to have between guns, fear, danger, and sex. This connection has been well documented and established throughout human history, and is evident in almost every facet of human culture. Even most guns resemble the male sexual organ. It is easy enough for even a child to observe the great pleasure derived from the typical human male as holds this large cylindrical object in his hands, and applies the necessary stimulation to make it explode with force and power. It seems quite obvious and straight forward. Furthermore, there seems to be a whole industry of pornography which appeals to this connection. Countless photos and videos can be found on the internet which seem to both glorify and degrade nearly nude human women holding very large guns. This is an inescapable truth about the relationship between humans, sex, and instruments that kill. It is a relationship that is exciting, addictive, and which robs people their reason, making them incredibly stubborn and volatile.

Now, the American gun lobby seems to have elected, or more likely just condoned as their chief spokesman renowned rock musician and safari hat enthusiast Ted Nugent. Besides having a slightly douchey and completely oppressive "soul patch" I believe it is called, this man seems to be more than a little unbalanced. He describes himself as radical, and a "Damn Nice Guy!" Though he can't seem to get through a simple interview without screaming about his charity work with terminally ill children, and challenging the interviewer to find someone who has given more time to them. In recent months, he's been on every available media outlet from Glenn Beck's television and radio shows to CBS and even CNN to denounce any threat or hint of stricter gun laws. His comments grew so inflammatory and accusatory towards the US president, Barack Obama that the Secret Service felt it necessary to interview him as well. What is most perplexing about this whole situation is the complete absence of any gun lobbyist or official from the National Rifle Association to distance themselves from this man and make it clear that he does not speak for them.

As is true with every compelling human drama, this one is timeless, touching, sad, and doomed. People do not have a history that embraces drastic change in any form. When the dust settles on this tragic debacle, some status quo will prevail as always does. I imagine things will not be much different. People will go to work. They will drive their cars. They will watch the Super Bowl. They will drink beer, eat meat, and swear profusely. They will pat themselves on the back for maintaining unity through this crisis. Some will complain that whatever miniscule steps have been taken go too far, and others will sigh with smug satisfaction because they were a part of the solution. But perhaps progress has in fact been made. Shortly after this tragic massacre, the US president Barack Obama gave an address sighting the fact that shootings like this occur every year. And that one way or another, the nation can do better. His advice was not to go shopping. -RBB