Riots Cure the Summertime Blues

As May approaches, clocks begin to wipe their faces, sweating hands grasp for summer months, and calendars simmer and melt away. When not beguiled by promises of lethargy, the just reward for months of stress, the human mind naturally turns to thoughts of what to do with summertime. Hazy fantasies play out upon the mind’s eye until the heartless voice of reason demands something a little more productive than months at the beach.
Only the lucky few can get away from it all and spend the summer traveling, drinking Mai Tai’s on Daddy’s yacht, castigating the servants for incorrectly chilling the Chablis. The rest of us need a vacation! With Exxon and Chevron bloated like artery- striking leeches, gas prices rule out the chance for a cheap trip to Puerto Vallarta or even a weekend road trip to Vegas.
The economy is a mess. Pay rates would be laughably insulting if our stomachs weren’t busy rumbling. Foreign wars and trillion dollar deficits haunt our daydreams like Banquo’s ghost. What can we do to relieve the stress?
It’s time for a riot!
Riots are destructive, costly to society, bad for morale, and morally reprehensible. They can also be a great deal of fun when done properly and can provide the perfect antidote to summer’s ennui. However, even a riot takes careful preparation and meticulous planning.
To organize the perfect riot one must ideally live in France. The French are the undisputed masters of cuisine, champagne, and riots. In fact, the French habitually riot over bread, labor laws, immigration, bad Champagne harvests, social integration policies, and silly things like the Brits trying put boeuf de la vache folle on Parisian menus.
Tagging along on a prêt à porter civil dispute can provide for a perfectly enjoyable time but these do not happen along on a regular basis. Do not despair. You can organize a perfectly fun-filled riot right here at home.
It is not necessary to have a cause, dispute, or grievance to organize a riot but without one, they will become tired and dull and unlikely to feature on CNN. Even more dangerously, you will become a social pariah, and future events will be met with the same enthusiasm as fund-raising casino nights and keg parties.
Luckily, with the economy in the tank, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine, school loans about to come due, Trump, the rise of right-wing popularism, and rights, healthcare, and and immigrations issues at the top of the summer’s hit parade, devising a theme is not difficult. However, one must beware of cliché. Themes like tea, taxation without representation, and sports have been done to death. Be inventive. Take a risk. Try organizing a “Free Melania” riot in honor of our nation’s First Lady. It may not attract many participants but cachet is often more important than popularity and the more bizarre your themes become, your reputation as a niche riot organizer, and attendances, will grow. However, don’t be too tame. There’s nothing worse than a riot that only reaches the level of civil disobedience. It looks bad on your record.
For the less status-conscious among you, attendance may be key. A less elite riot can be just as enjoyable for the more gregarious but, like a surprise party, cannot succeed unless plenty of people attend. This means inviting more than your parents and strange Uncle Mildred. Unless your name is Oprah and you have a daily TV show and a monthly magazine, mere word of mouth is not enough to garner the attentions of the riot-favorable public. Here is where being a cyber geek becomes advantageous. Maintaining a blog, a social media profile, or any form of Internet presence are an investment that cannot be underestimated. Twitter and a roster of “friends” longer than the Hollywood blacklist is a winning lottery ticket just waiting to be cashed, but be careful for anarchists and revolutionaries that are really undercover FBI agents or Uncle Mildred. Even worse, make sure they are local to you and able to afford the bus fare to the venue. A PayPal or Venmo account is useful if you need to subsidize the rioters’ transport costs. The creation of flyers is accessible to anyone with access to a computer and a hacked copy of Photoshop. Often these can be found at your college, dead-end job, or dead-end college job, and a selection of eye-catching colored paper may be readily purloined. What you lose in selectivity by randomly handing out flyers is often gained by the diversity of rioters you attract. The inherent unpredictability of mob-mentality can be a thrill in itself.
Select a location far enough from your home so that flames from torched SUVs won’t singe the herbaceous borders or dry out the soil crucial to a begonia’s welfare. Remember, begonias have a delicate fragrance that can often be spoiled by the pungent scent of burning tires. The downtown of large cities are popular spots for riots due to the prevalence of corporate offices, news media, and the inner-city poor that will often join in if there’s a possibility of sticking it to the man or obtaining a 42-inch plasma for the two-room, three-family tract home.
Dress for success. While showing up to a riot in an elegantly tailored, lightweight Van Gils suit may make a statement, you may find yourself the target of your very own riot and there’s nothing worse than scuffing your favorite Cesare Paciotti loafers while trying to escape the great unwashed. Similarly, don’t dress in sweats or camouflage, as you are likely to be featured as “person of interest” number one on the local news. The best bet is to dress in smart jeans, a designer polo, and Reeboks. This outfit is guaranteed not to attract too much attention and the sneakers may be useful if things get nasty and a rapid exit is required.
Some extra tips may also be useful. Have a lawyer on speed dial on your cell phone. If the theme of the riot is civil liberties, the ACLU number is especially beneficial. Getting to the riot may be tricky as public buses often refuse to negotiate burning asphalt. Instead, park your SUV or station wagon where the riot is least likely to spill over. Contrary to popular perception, more prosperous areas of town still provide the safest parking. Riots tend to either be quickly contained or migrate to poor areas of town.
Scheduling can be a tricky area. Try not to organize your riot to coincide with Superbowl Sunday, or games five, six, or seven of either the Stanley Cup or the World Series. Similarly, if the World Trade Organization is in town, hold off for a week or two or you run the risk of losing the credit for all your hard work. Better still, go along and take notes. You can always learn from the mistakes of others.
Try not to feel guilty for organizing, attending, or simply enjoying a riot. Remember, even as long ago as 1787 Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to James Madison, “I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people, which have produced them. … It is medicine necessary for the sound health of government.” Jefferson was serving as the U.S minister to France at the time!
If a vacation if beyond your budget this summer, try a refreshing riot. With the right amount of effort, planning, and wholehearted participation, a riot invigorates and infuses the soul with enough joie de vivre to last until Halloween.
Even Jefferson would approve.


Underworld: Evolution Really Bites

“Underworld: Evolution” stars Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman, reprising their roles as Selene and Michael from cult hit, “Underworld.” If you didn’t see the first movie, you may need a little background detail to get you started.
Selene, you see, is a vampire who, prior to meeting and falling in love with Michael, used to be a death-dealer (it’s similar to being a drug dealer but with less repeat custom) bent on assassinating as many lycans (werewolves) as possible, all while wearing skin-tight rubber, corset, and black leather storm trooper boots. Meanwhile, Michael is a doctor who doesn’t realize that he is the direct descendant of a man whose wacky genetics spawned both the lycan and the vampire bloodlines. Michael subsequently becomes a bit of both but Selene loves him anyway and the couple proceeds to irritate both lycans and vampires, jealous of this unnatural love affair.
Unwilling to sit down, have a friendly chat, and work out their problems with this inter-species coupling, the vampires and lycans become a little boisterous in their objections and Selene and Michael are forced to do the only decent thing left, which is to shoot, stab, slice, dice, shred, disembowel, eviscerate and decapitate as many of them as possible. The course of true love never did run smoothly, even for blood-sucking immortals, and so the first movie ends with Selene and Michael facing an eternity of squabbling in-laws intent on making the lovelorn duo a tad uncomfortable.
Ah, love. It’s a classic tale, a bit like Romeo and Juliet with fangs, and the star-struck duo are undead in the end.
So there’s the background. However, if you didn’t see the first movie, don’t worry because “Underworld 2” repeats everything you need to know in a series of grainy flashbacks and “blood memories.” What’s more, it only takes ten minutes!
What “Evolution” doesn’t explain, however, is how the story shifted from a gothic American city to a rural Eastern European setting replete with communist-type soldiers. Nor does it explain why Selene is still wearing the same stunning outfit that looked great on the dimly-lit mean streets of underworld America but which must be a little chilly in the snowy mountains of Czechoromangary. (Not that I mind, of course.)
Instead, the sequel starts six hundred years before the end of the first movie. Apparently, the sequel-that-starts-as-a-prequel is meant to introduce some new characters, including Willie the Werewolf and Marcus the Big Bad Bat, the ill-fated brethren spawn of simpering Alexander Corvinus, and to explain the deeper reason why Selene and Michael are going to be having a spot of bother for the next 90 minutes.
Setting the scene for the rest of the movie, “Underworld 2” opens with a battle between the lycans and vampires. The lycans are as scary as semi-claymation animatronics can be, while the vampires are real actors but less lifelike than the lycans. The blood and gore is so overdone it becomes laughable within the first 15 seconds. The comedy does not stop there, however. In one shot, a lycan jumps from a roof, completely misses his target, and then appears to feel somewhat foolish about the whole affair and walks away shaking his fuzzy head as if wondering if he can catch a gig in a John Carpenter movie instead.
The role of a simpering Alexander Corvinus is played by great Shakespearean actor Derek Jacobi, who seems a little embarrassed to have been caught with his hand in the Hollywood cookie jar. Marcus the Big Bad Bat, the son of Corvinus, is played by Tony Curran. I used to work for a builder named Tony Curran. I think he was more menacing than Marcus. Even though Marcus has incredibly dexterous wings that do double duty as implements of torture, Tony Curran had a fiery Irish temper, an assortment of fierce-looking tools, and a randy daughter named Maria who was secretly teaching me the building trade in her own inimitable way!
Willie the werewolf, Marcus’ brother, is played by… Oh, I really don’t care by this point. He’s hardly in the movie anyway and he has a fuzzy face. You’d never recognize him in the street so it really doesn’t matter.
I won’t ruin the plot because the writer, Danny McBride, and director, Len Wiseman, have already done that. Wiseman and McBride were responsible for 2003’s”Underworld,” a sleek, stylish and subversively sensual work that delivered an interesting twist to the vampire movie genre. The sequel, unfortunately, is a formulaic exercise in special effects and overkill, overt sexuality rather than implied sensuality, and finding as many different ways as possible to terminate the in-laws.
“Underworld: Evolution” really is a bad movie. However, that’s not to say that you won’t be entertained. The action is spectacular, the unintentional humor keeps you giggling when you’d normally be yawning, and the rapid pace keeps you gobbling the M&Ms and Starbursts until finally you think you’ve seen everything: a helicopter pulled from the sky, two spectacularly inventive deaths that cause the audience to applaud rather than gasp, a flying vampire being outmaneuvered by a Soviet truck traveling at five miles-per-hour up a mountain road, and Michael emulating Jackson Pollack. Quite what the symbolism is behind pulling a chopper into a cavern through a very tight hole followed by ripping someone’s head off, I’m not really sure but I’m glad I suspended my disbelief before the movie started or I’d have been tempted to rip my own head off before I’d even finished my candy!
There’s even a gratuitous sex scene that somehow manages to be less sexy as the clothes come off. Wiseman and Beckinsale married after the first “Underworld” movie so maybe he just didn’t want her to look like she was enjoying her sexual tryst with Michael too much while still putting his wife’s nudity on display to a paying audience. “Look what I found! That’ll be $8.50 please!”
“Underworld: Evolution” is a truly awful movie. The acting is terrible, the story is silly and convoluted, character development is non-existent, and the plot has more loose ends than a half-eaten bowl of spaghetti. Will I be going to see it again? You bet! Why? Because Kate Beckinsale is outrageously sexy and spends another fine 90 minutes dressed in the kind of outfit normally reserved for aficionados of underground fetish clubs or mistresses of TV evangelists.