Friday, December 31, 2010

One last thought for 2010, and it's already about 2011

Will the coming year generally be pronounced "twenty-eleven"? Likely so (which, admittedly, is no different from what I speculated a year ago).

However, I think it might end up "twenty 'leven" because the last syllable of twenty and the first syllable of eleven are the same e sound, and thus we may almost inadvertently blur them together somewhat, because—of course—we've been having four-syllable years for the last decade, and five will seem just a bit too unwieldy.

I have a great amount of faith in our propensity for hints of laziness.


To say "two-thousand eleven" (all six syllables) will be how those who wish to seem erudite will do.


Happy Old Year's Day, gentle reader, no matter how what you plan to call next year. (Hurry up—you need to decide by tomorrow.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

One last Christmas thought: Looking toward the future of the past

When children of today look back with fond quasi-nostalgia thirty or forty years from now about the holiday TV specials they got, they'll be recalling computer-generated high-def fare, not the herky-jerky stop-action animation my generation had from the likes of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the like.

I'm sure there'll be ornaments of the characters from the specials of today like I see ornaments of those characters from those shows I recall, but likely they'll be 3-D holograms that hang off of virtual Christmas trees.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing up Christmas

Okay, kids--now that Christmas is over you can go back to being your unruly selves until next December when the holiday music starts and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" reminds you that someone is maintaining a vigil over your misdeeds and you feel compelled to shape up for those few weeks to ensure you don't screw up getting those presents (you know, the ones from yesterday you've already forgotten).

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Story dilemma

The trickiest part of watching A Christmas Story (during TBS's annual 24-hour marathon) is refraining from reciting the entire movie from memory as each scene comes on.

Maybe it's just me.


Merry Christmas to all, whether you're celebrating with the movie on or not.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Watch as I pretend no one has made this joke about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" before

We all have heard "The Twelve Days of Christmas," right? Over the course of the song your true love gives to you:
12 Drummers drumming
11 Pipers piping
10 Lords a-leaping
9 Ladies dancing
8 Maids a-milking
7 Swans a-swimming
6 Geese a-laying
5 Gold rings
4 Calling birds
3 French hens
2 Turtle doves
1 Partridge in a pear tree

Regarding all the birds and persons given, I have a question: Do you actually keep them, or are they just temporary? Because if it were me, I must admit I don't have that much room. And don't we have laws against human trafficking, even if it's as a gift?

What's the return policy with all this stuff anyway?


But seriously: Six kinds of birds, five groups of people doing things of questionable entertainment value, and the only gift you don't have to feed is gold.


I suppose we're just supposed to be impressed by the number of gifts. In the 21st century I suppose the reason we still listen to the song is to be reminded "it's the thought that counts."

And we must enjoy the game of trying to remember all the items. That probably keeps our minds off of what we're actually singing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Worst "Worst Christmas Songs" List... Ever!

Recently some part of Yahoo! posted a list of what they (whoever "they" are in this case) consider the 5 Worst Christmas Songs Ever. And although I didn't see it originally, I heard about it, and... well, that's why I have this post.

Their quintet of what they considered worst were:
5. Everclear's cover of "Santa Baby"
4. The Jackson 5's take on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
3. "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" (which they attribute to Dr. Elmo)
2. Donny Osmond taking on "Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas"
1. "Domenic the Donkey"

I don't believe I need to explain why this list sucks, but let's delve into it a bit.

So, we have three covers and two novelty songs. The list maker is not alleging that the covered songs are bad; it's suggesting the versions that are bad (even though, with the exception of Donny, they're not bad), and thus the title of the post is inaccurate. And putting novelty songs on the list is inapplicable; something has to try to be good and fail in order to be on any "worst" list.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Carols for All

On the Political Gabfest one of the panelists who is Jewish (but went to a Quaker school, she noted) expressed some distress over the fact that she really loved Christmas carols. Even though the spiritual message was not necessarily in line with her beliefs, per se, she thought them to be exquisitely beautiful as pieces of music. She wasn't sure if this was some level of hypocrisy on her part, or if it was perfectly okay to appreciate them outside of their specific religious context.

I'd say that despite "Christ" being right there in the name, the holiday and the traditions associated with it in our society can hardly be considered to be exclusively Christian; the ubiquity of all that is "Christmas"—starting with, but certainly not limited to, the fact it's a national holiday—makes it somewhat of an American thing (and I imagine there's an extent to which this may be applicable in other Western nations as well) where enjoying the trappings without actually getting "trapped" into adopting the ostensible reason for the season. (Besides, a rudimentary investigation of its origins suggests Jesus unlikely to have been born around the winter solstice, but the pagan celebrations around then were the easiest thing to co-opt in order to convert those people to the faith.) You combine that with the stories about Santa Claus where the Jesus angle has become essentially eschewed and "Christmas" is about as exclusive to Christians as pizza is exclusive to Italians.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Thinking about gift cards

With some major holiday coming up where there's bound to be a lot of gifts given by people who don't really know what the recipients would want a likely way that situation will be handled will involve the purchase and distribution of gift cards. Now, let's commence this with the requisite acknowledgment that any effort made to give a gift is laudable; by no means should any lack of gratitude by inferred, as none is implied. However, as the saying goes, it's the thought that counts, and there's a certain level where gift cards don't seem to connote much thought by the giver.

There's plenty of catches to using gift cards that the banks and issuers of the cards hid in the fine print—not the least of which tends to be fees that deduct from the amount available on the card if it's not used within a certain window of time—but that is getting unnecessarily nit-picky about this. After receiving and using—or, perhaps I should say, attempting to use—a number of gift cards over the years, I can distill the problems with them down to two obvious problems.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Responding to the lack of response by Congress to First Responders

Jon Stewart held a rally on the National Mall a couple months ago, as we well know. The theme was restoring sanity, a serious response to outrageous rhetoric by politicians and journalists presented in a tongue-in-cheek way.

Lately on The Daily Show Jon himself has been getting a little flustered over the way Congress continues to not vote to approve a bill to provide money for medical expenses of the first responders on 9/11. On last Thursday night's show he had four men who were down at Ground Zero that day, heroically trying to save those in the rubble, and who all now have serious medical issues. It's not even a subtle axe that Jon is grinding here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spirit of the season / Making the effort

As I walked to lunch today I passed a group of people on the sidewalk who had two banners and were handing out some literature. As I got closer I saw indication they were LaRouche supporters, and one of the banners had the slogan "Impeach Obama" over a picture of the President with a Hitler mustache.

Meanwhile, about two-hundred yards from them, on a stage a jazz combo played a midday concert in honor of Kwanzaa.

I guess everyone celebrates the holidays in their own way.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Giving a pass to the Pats

Perhaps the real benefit of sports may fall into the way that one team can play the role of hero to some while at the same time play the role of the villain, and that over time those roles can reverse even if the team itself doesn't change that much.

The same structure can be used to tell a story over and over, with the same cast of characters, but with vastly different stories. And those who like it will never tire of it as long as the structure does not change drastically from what it was when they came to like it.

And it doesn't have to make logical sense.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Get Jesus... or else!

From the train I spotted a van parked on the street where on the back doors appeared a message suggesting that the period of 2010 – 2017 was the Tribulation, and asking in the now hackneyed take on the milk commercials if the reader "Got Jesus?" The inference I drew was the message suggested we were bearing down on the end times and thus it was a veiled threat to the readers who had not accepted the Christian savior; they'd better hurry up and at least go through the motions of baptism and attending weekly services or else face some true misery over the next six years.

However, conceivably those who aren't churchgoers may not grasp what the Tribulation is supposed to entail, and by specifying the range of years it did seem to imply there wasn't a terrible urgency yet, as we weren't even out of the first year yet, and thus the power of the message seemed undercut.

Of course, I'm probably deconstructing this more than those who came up with the message were expecting would be done; presumably the idea was that this would be viewed by speeding motorists on the highway, and as such they needed to keep it succinct and appealing to the spiritually insecure. Or I should say, the undecided spiritually insecure. In short, they figure they might be able to scare some butts into the seats, and at least ostensibly save some souls.

Ah, the classics.

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Tis the season to chill the heck out

If you call your winter-based celebration a "Christmas" party (or parade, or whatever) rather than saddling it with the "Holiday" moniker, that is absolutely your right as an American.

Of course, should you decide to want to make a nod to inclusiveness and use the "Holiday" term, that is allowed as well.

And if you're not a Christian (or at least someone who merely celebrates the reasonably secular occasion of gift-giving occurring on December 25th) and you feel left out by someone choosing to brand their event with "Christmas" you are free to not shop there or support the owners or vote for those people at the next election. You can write a letter to note your disappointment over their decision. But let's keep the ACLU out of it, okay?


And to every city or shopping center that waited until after Thanksgiving to put up the "holiday" decorations, allow me to applaud that restraint.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Narcissism is not about me

Apparently in the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the manual for psychological diagnoses, will be dropping "narcissistic personality disorder" (in 2013). In a podcast discussion about this, ultimately it came down to the question of what's the difference between a narcissist and an asshole—and might the dismissal of the latter as a diagnosable condition render the distinction moot. (A suggested answer was that if the patient annoys a therapist, he's just an asshole.)

A side subtopic was the perception that ours is a narcissistic society, based on the proliferation of social media. That strikes me as inherently contradictory merely from a rhetorical standpoint. Narcissus, as I recall, was so taken with gazing at his reflection and being in love with himself that he didn't have interest in anyone else; he was, by that aspect of self-love, anti-social.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Shock of shocks

Every once in a while one encounters evidence that working hard and being competent pays off, without resorting to back-stabbing.
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Monday, December 06, 2010

Confessions of the world's worst English major

Recently I heard a discussion about MFA programs for writing. The general topic was supposed to be whether those produce great writers of novels, short stories and poetry. They didn't really answer that question, but they did touch on the notion of whether these graduate-level periods of being essentially sequestered from the market results in writers who are producing work that is out of step with the "real world" (and thus less pertinent to the culture at large), or is that necessary to prevent those writers from turning out pulp that's not really contributing to the larger artistic development in our culture. Then they mentioned how difficult it is to be a member of both worlds at the same time, both because the market does not pay enough to support a family off of short stories and because the workaholic demands placed on those with day jobs do not really allow for having one foot in one and another in the other. And finally they digressed to experiences with creative writing classes.

This all, of course, spurred a certain reflection on my experiences.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

McCain needs to come out

The ending of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as the official military policy about openly homosexual men and women serving is supported by the top brass, and even surveys of the rank and file shows it generally acceptable. Nonetheless, John McCain continues to oppose it.

The way he's fumbling for excuses makes me want to say: Senator, you've served the country. That's absolutely commendable. Still, it's time to come out of the proverbial closet on this and get it over with. Really, everybody's going to be okay with it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The end of nostalgia, brought to you on-demand

On a pop culture podcast I heard recently they discussed how the availability of "everything" from the past (through DVDs, eBay, YouTube, etc.) makes nostalgia different than it used to be; what promotes nostalgic memories is the selective editing the mind does in its recollections, particularly from those childhood touchstones. The brain remembers the emotional component—the thrill a favorite TV show gave at the time is the source of that nostalgia, not the content of the show itself. And in order for that to develop properly, there had to be that period of a long time away from the show (or whatever it was), where there was no further input or contact with it for the mind to sift out the sour bits (so to speak) so the memory ferments with only the sweet.

One panelist cited the '70s children's show The Electric Company as something he and his brother adored at the time, quoted the bits even as pre-schoolers, and adoring the irreverence in a way they could not have appreciated at the time.

Then when the DVDs came out a few years ago he found that while there was everything he remembered, the parts that he had forgotten was not jewels to rediscover but the cheesy drek that filled the moments between those moments he revered.

I had a similar experience with a cartoon from my childhood. I remembered holding the '70s Saturday morning staple Hong Kong Phooey in high regard at the time; the slapstick tales of an incompetent martial artist dog who was secretly saved by his sidekick cat each time was something about which a strong nostalgia developed. In the '90s I even bought a t-shirt with the eponymous character on it, which I wore many times (in casual situations—which, for me in the '90s was often).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dropping the ball (without the disintegration of the persistence of memory)

Over the weekend a number of football games were essentially lost because a player failed to make what should have been a routine play. The Buffalo Bills (the only team named after a historical figure with the first name William) saw a game-winning catch dropped by receiver Stevie Johnson in the endzone during overtime; USC had a similar drop as they drove down late in the game against Notre Dame; and perhaps most notable was two missed "chip shot" field goals by the Boise State kicker, which allowed Nevada to thwart the Broncos hopes of competing for a national title.

Granted, had the Bills, Trojans, and Broncos played better earlier in their games and not had to rely on coming back late or pulling out the game in overtime, none of these three individuals would have been in the position to fail, but when there's that opportunity for making what would be called the "game-winning" score the failure to make the play must be considered what cost the team victory.

The Bills' receiver noted in a post-game interview that he'd never forgive himself the drop in the endzone. Certainly he would need to put it behind him and not dwell on it when the team plays next week, but he specifically noted that he'd never really get over that blown play. And this is on a Buffalo team that should have been ecstatic just to have made it to overtime against the Steelers.

The competitive spirit leaves deep scars.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Getting in touch with the TSA

The hullaballoo about the new TSA screening procedures (where at the security checkpoint one must choose a full-body scan or being patted down by a person) and the protest movement someone sought to organize today, a very busy travel day, to encourage people to choose the slower pat-down and drag down the system, makes me ponder the following question: Is the government secretly trying to make us want to get in shape?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Don't make me fail to refudiate Seth Myers, Oxford

The Oxford American Dictionary made its word of the year Sarah Palin's typographical error "refudiate".

That was mocked during Weekend Update this past Saturday in a piece Seth Myers called "Come On, Dictionary". He duly noted how risible it was at the time of creation even Palin admitted it was a flubbed amalgamation of "refute" and "repudiate" but later she pulled the best way to cover a mistake: claim it was clever, like how Shakespeare came up with new words. However, comparisons to the Bard aside, and faux pas or not, as Myers stated in his quasi-rant, to take two words that not only start the same but mean similar things and switch one of the letters in the one with one of the letters in the other to make a new third word that means essentially the same as the first two did does not make for a worthwhile addition to the lexicon.

But that's not what this is about.

Monday, November 22, 2010


A useful skill one can attain as an adult is learning not to feel guilty about things that are not one's fault.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The end of our Union. Or not. (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the system.)

In an article I read not long ago the author pondered why the American public is relatively clueless about the nature of our economic woes and what the impact of the health care bill will have and all the associated circumstances that led to the "shellacking" the Democrats took a couple weeks ago. Ultimately, the accomplishments of the administration and the outgoing Congress should have been tout-worthy, but it proved shameful from a campaigning standpoint.

In short, the Democrats did a hideous job of convincing the public that what they did was good.

Or is it the Republicans did a masterful job of convincing the public that those accomplishments were harbingers of the end times unless they were undone before they could even have a chance to succeed or fail.

The only certainty is that the GOP pushes out a message in ways that the Dems cannot hope to match.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kardashian sex machine... well, machine

Note to Kim Kardashian*: I accidentally saw some of you hosting the "25 Years of Sexy" special on ABC the other night (only until I found the remote). At the beginning you claimed to "know a little something about sexy," and yet every second you spoke you were so lifeless that it sounded like you don't. (It seemed more like not only did you not know something about sexy, you lacked familiarity with being conscious.)

You may want to do something about improving your skills at being an emcee (and with voiceover). Or fade into obscurity.

Either would work for the rest of us.


* Sure, she might read this. Eh, I can't even type that with a straight face.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dancing with the deluded

A Wisconsin man was so upset by Bristol Palin's routine on Dancing with the Stars, allegedly exclaiming she had no talent, that he shot his TV, which led to a showdown with the local SWAT team.

I have to imagine that Palin's mother would respect that more had the man shot the TV from a helicopter.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The best way to stop cell phone usage

Actual thing that happened last week:

The light rail train I take travels down the median of a main boulevard and then crosses over the southbound lanes and a crosswalk to head northwest. One morning as the train was waiting at that intersection the operator used the external loud speaker (which we on the train all could hear as well) to say to someone the following:  "You need to get your behind off the phone!"

I couldn't see from the second car to whom she addressed that order, but presumably someone was lollygagging on the tracks with a cell phone to his/her ear, oblivious to the large train waiting to go.

I may have to look into becoming a train operator just for that reason. How awesome would it be to blare a verbal ass-whooping with tons of steel to back you up?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tuesday Morning Coming Down

It's been two weeks since the election and there's been no further glossy fliers from the candidates or those promoting a proposition. Weeks and weeks of daily deluges of didactic documents, and then… nothing. I know that back on Election Day I was celebrating that it would stop, but it's such an abrupt transition that way. The building of postal attention followed the complete discontinuation makes it seem like those behind the mailings did not really care about us, had no interest in developing a genuine connection with us; all they wanted was our votes and then we were of no further worthiness.

Friday, November 12, 2010

When You're NOT the Sexiest Woman Alive

In the previous post I admitted that the newest inductee into Esquire's pantheon of sexiest women was someone I didn't recognize. One might think that accepting that title may reek of desperation for attention, and maybe so, maybe not. However, another magazine on the stands at the moment is an issue of GQ that really showcases desperation.

It features three members of the Glee cast on the cover. It's two of the young women (Lea Michele and Dianna Agron), and and one of the young men (Cory Monteith). The shot has the guy between the ladies, with his arms around their waists and his hand grasping their behinds.

However, to see the real desperation one needs to check out the photos in the spread inside.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sexiest Woman Alive. Whoever She Is.

There was a period of years in the last decade when I had an Esquire subscription. The primary reason was for the Chuck Klosterman columns that used to run in that magazine, which were enjoyable more often than they weren't, but I would read other parts of the issues as well. In 2004 they started bestowing the hypothetical honor of "the sexiest woman alive," which would feature a pictorial and interview with the feted one, and the photos (not surprisingly) would show the woman in a way that played up her sexuality. Not as much as Playboy would, in that there'd be specific spots on her body that could not be shown uncovered, but not entirely dissimilarly.

I'm sure it sold magazines. However, I think part of the appeal was not merely seeing a woman in a seductive pictorial—magazines like Maxim have those every issue, if one is looking for that. No, it was seeing the specific women, who tended to be reasonably popular celebrities.

The first one was a household name: Angelina Jolie. And it truly was a phenomenal cover photo they had for that one (see right).

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Real Great Political Divide

Everyone seems to agree that ours is a country that's divided politically, but the flaw with that conclusion is not so much the division itself but who is on the different sides. It's not conservatives vs. liberals, or Tea Party vs. GOP, or even major parties vs. third parties; ultimately, all of those people are on the same side.

Yes, you read that right. Voters of the Republican, Democratic, and independent persuasions are all together here. They constitute the party of those who actively involved in the political process, of those who are actively invested in the game. These people feel passionately about not only their positions and candidates but about the concept of politics.

On the other side are those who don't vote, or who only vote intermittently, and for whom politics is merely that thing necessary for achieving the larger goal of governing.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Boehner's genius

Presumptive Speaker Boehner made some statement about how the GOP gains in the House was a "referendum" from the American people to repeal "Obamacare."

Memo to the representative: First, unless you ask each and every voter individually whether that was the case, you're talking out of your ass. But, okay, conceding you were stating your opinion, here's the question: How would devoting energy to that (which isn't in effect yet) actually do anything about the state of the economy in 2011? If you don't care about helping the country but merely want to exact some level of virtual retribution for a perceived wrong in the past, that may offer a temporary sense of satisfaction, but it seems to suggest you're not interested in doing anything for the  benefit of the country's biggest issue.

The largest demographic is actually non-voters, and this vengeance-based agenda you've suggested seems unlikely to pull any of them to your side.

Ah, but I suspect your aim may actually be to drive more of the public to that group, and thus reduce the pool of who might vote for the other side.

Bravo, sir. Insidiously clever.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hooray! Sanity is Over!

We've reached the end of the first week of November, and one of the best things about this time is: The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear is over, and now the subset of those who were commenting on that can stop talking about it. As with the election, we may have a bit more time putting up with some post-game stuff, but soon any interest as a general topic will expire.

Thank goodness.

The election was politics. The rally was not (as I mentioned it would not be a month ago). Jon Stewart stated that emphatically many, many times. However, those who were so fascinated by the rally clearly could not accept that, presumably because they need to project on to it what they wanted it to be—namely, a rally for their agenda. I'm not so oblivious that I don't grasp that the somewhat amorphous mission statement of the rally allows those who seek a more definitive message to impose their more definitive message on to it (in their minds).

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thanks a lot, Delaware

Now that the big election (like any election is "small") is over, I have to say: I cannot believe what voters in Delaware did to us. They had the chance to send spitfire (and Tea Party darling) Christine O'Donnell to the U.S. Senate but instead went with "tax man" Chris Coons.

In the Senate O'Donnell would be constrained and forced to at least feign an attempt at governing, but now she'll be free to go be a pundit for Fox News, following the lead of her quasi-mentor Sarah Palin.

Come on, Delaware. When O'Donnell got the GOP nomination she befuddled the establishment so much that even feminists declared part of her appeal was that she was the pretty one. Just look at her:
Compared to Coons' bald head, isn't she's stunning? Isn't that what you were supposedly looking for? Are you really that not-shallow?

Now it's only a matter of time until there's no escaping her on the cable news tsunami.

Eh, what else should we have expected from the "blue hen" state? Shows what they know about politics...

Monday, November 01, 2010

The madness stops Tuesday

No matter what comes of tomorrow's general election there'll be one way in which all—Democrats, Republicans, independents, non-voters—will benefit equally:
All of this came on the same day. Seriously.
Our mailboxes will cease to be filled with campaign fliers every day. There'll be room for the non-politically themed junk mail to which we are accustomed.

So we have that to look forward to, whether we like the results of the election or not.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Frankenstein's Mistake

When you hear (or, in this case, see) the word "Frankenstein" what comes to mind? Something like, say, this?

Understandable. Do a search for that term and you'll see a bunch of such images.

You, and the coding at the search engines, would be wrong, of course.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All things being equal...

An idiot who happens to agree with you is no less of an idiot than one with whom you disagree.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Did you hear about NPR?

If you paid attention to the media at all last week you heard about NPR firing Juan Williams, and attributing that to remarks he made on The O'Reilly Factor. And NPR has largely been criticized for that, although it seems fairly obvious (and Williams himself felt) that they had been looking for a reason to give him the axe.

Are we to interpret the intent behind the firing of Williams was to be a punishment—as denying him the reward of having the job he did? Obviously it didn't work out that way; if anything, firing him was a reward, freeing him up to get a better-paying gig at Fox News. But was it supposed to be a punishment?

Eh, probably not. Even as inept as those behind the decision demonstrated themselves to be, they couldn't have been so daft as to think that Williams would be cast out into some journalistic void with no possible prospects. More likely they knew he had a chair waiting for him over at Fox News, perhaps even perceiving him as having one foot out the door given the number of appearances he made there, and finally concluded it was time to cut him loose.

It's almost as though they fully grasped that they'd get some bad press for how it would come off, but (here's the rub): NPR would be in the press. Think about it: When was the last time you heard NPR get mentioned by the entire media in this way?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Post #1000 Extravaganza. Or Not.

This is the thousandth post here on the blahg (and after only six and a half years), and thus I am faced with the challenge of deciding what to do about that.

On the surface, it seems noteworthy because one-thousand seems like a number worthy of commemoration, but other than being the point where whole numbers change from three digits to four what is particularly special about it? Ultimately that aspect holds no intrinsic value save what we have been convinced to imbue upon it. If one is impressed, is not nine-hundred ninety-nine not also pretty darned impressive? (If someone handed you a check for $999 would you rip it up because it wasn't $1000?)

I'd thought of making a big deal out of the post where the number corresponded with the highest prime number that's still under one-thousand (nine-hundred ninety-seven), but I didn't remember to pay attention and the opportunity to do so obviously has now passed. Not that a prime number is any less arbitrary, but it would have appealed to any nascent math nerd fan base I may inadvertently be developing for the site.

Nonetheless, I have devoted sufficient attention at this point to realize that #1000 is here, stepping into the batter's box (so to speak), and thus if I find myself inclined to make a big deal of it, I need to make that decision. Even as dismissive as I was above about it holding significance, as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing about it now there's no denying that I've been brainwashed convinced of it being potentially noteworthy. The proverbial cow has escaped the barn; closing the door is pointless.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Even more Portland adventures

For the 999th post on this blahg I direct you to... my other blog (the one devoted to my photography). Recent posts (numbers 521, 522, and 523) over there have continued shots from a trip to Portland, featuring, among other subjects:

Pittock Mansion

Belmont Street

Tanner Springs Park.

And miscellaneous shots from around the house of the friend we visited.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Yankee Series

With Fox carrying the World Series and hoping for better ratings there, the fact that the Yankees have been eliminated from the post season must leave the Fox executives concerned. While true fans of baseball find it interesting that the Rangers finally make it to the Fall Classic—reducing the number of teams that have never played in the series down to two: their American League West compatriots the Seattle Mariners, and the Washington Nationals (formerly Montreal Expos)—it's unlikely that games played in The Ballpark in Arlington would draw as many eyeballs as games played in the new Yankee Stadium. Or the old Yankee Stadium.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Violence is bad. Hooray for violence.

Two big stories from last weekend were the NFL cracking down on violent hits in their games and Jackass 3-D setting an October box office record (unseating The Social Network from the top spot it held for the two weekends previous). One is a group deciding that they want to take steps to reduce injuries in a violent situation; the other is a group deciding that they want to subject themselves to violent situations designed to result in injury. Both proved very lucrative, indicating people have an interest in seeing the infliction of damage, be that upon another highly paid athlete or on oneself by a self-proclaimed "jackass."

However, it seems more likely that the typical American mother would be much more proud of a son who makes it to play for a football team, making money for purposefully performing physical punishment upon others than she would be of a son who chooses to punish himself for the amusement of others.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Specious Origins: Why it doesn't matter if you teach evolution or creationism

When it comes to the ostensible dichotomy of evolution and creationism, there are people who believe one explanation and people who believe the other, and both groups passionately contend that their view should be taught in public schools and that the other view is harmful to the young minds.

Both sides are wrong, but not for the reason you're thinking.

Last night I saw a story on the news where the Delaware senatorial candidates debated that very topic. The thrust of the article focused on how Tea Party darling and non-witch Christine O'Donnell appeared to question that the First Amendment mandates the separation of church and state when "taxman" Chris Coons alluded to that. (See for yourself.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"I'd like to register a complaint, please"

Here's the joke: Why did humans invent language? So we could complain! (Ba-dump-chick!)

Like the best humor it's funny because it's true—or, at least, it carries a sense of "truthiness." Even conceding that communication serves more of a purpose than merely that, there's little quibbling that we have more language than is necessary for merely the utilitarian purposes of living in groups.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

And the loser is not...

In the last post I alluded to the governor's race in New York. Here in California we have Whitman and Brown, both of whom seem to be running on the platform of spotlighting how much worse the other one is.

It almost seems like the ballot should be reworked so that rather than voting in favor of one candidate you would instead identify the candidate who you'd most NOT want to see in office, and then the governor's office would be given to the one who was shown as least objectionable.

That way, when nothing got done, it would be as expected; the purpose was merely to not screw up in any significant way.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I find myself liking the idea of politicians like New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, even though I don't care for people like New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. Most politicians are so guarded about their actual opinions that the only basis one has as a voter to try to determine whether a candidate would represent him/her is a series of vague platitudes designed to avoid offending anyone. Ordinarily it takes a lot of digging by a candidate's opposition to find something that reveals the candidate's fundamental beliefs in a way that allows for gauging how well those beliefs match or differ from the voter's. Paladino has the gumption to come out on a major news interview and declare his disgust with homosexuality. He spells out how he found witnessing a gay pride parade to be "not right" when talking to an orthodox Jewish group while a camera obviously records the speech mere feet away.

Truly fascinating, especially from this coast.

Obviously, I don't live in New York so I won't have the opportunity to vote for any candidate on their ballot, but I can use his own words to make up my own mind about whether I would support him on Election Day.

I wouldn't, more than likely, because as is well documented I'm one of those wackjobs who does consider homosexual love to be as valid as heterosexual love, and thus at a core level Paladino would not represent that aspect of my beliefs. Or really any of my beliefs. However, in a way, I do respect that he didn't mask it or pretend to be something he's not. I get a definite scuzball vibe from him when I see him in interviews, and while I don't find that appealing as a person there is something refreshingly open about it as a voter.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


When people enter an airport they are funneled through a structured area as they go through the security checkpoint; the queue of humans is cordoned off with stanchions and employees keeping things relatively organized.

Then those same people get to the gate for their flight, and the onus to maintain order is left up to those same people who couldn't be trusted minutes earlier. The waiting area by the gate has a counter behind which the employees make announcements about which group gets to board, and there's a bunch of chairs where the pending passengers sit. Beyond that, there's no structure imposed on the space, so when the staff starts announcing who gets to board, people coming from multiple directions to that point of entry at the gate have to queue up with nothing but the patience of some and the pushiness of others to guide them.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Now that we've passed the date on the 2010 calendar that read October 10 we can rejoice in the knowledge that there's only two more dates this century where some people will get all excited about the coincidence of the number of days into the month matching the number of months into the year and the number of years into the century. Twenty-six months from today we'll have the last such date (December 12, 2012, or as it will be touted, 12/12/12) until January 1, 2101.

If humanity is still around then, I'm sure the novelty of that date will make it equally popular as the matching day-month-year days have been (and will continue to be) for the first dozen years of this century to schedule weddings (especially if it falls on a weekend).

If our species does not make it until that point and aliens land to review what's left of our civilization, allow me to explain why this arbitrary aspect of our means of marking the passage of time struck a certain portion of the population as being a more prized day to schedule an event.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"Good morning"

Another real life adventure:

In the morning I leave the condo, walk three blocks east then one block south and get to the platform for the train. Generally the only thing that delays that trek is if I catch a red light at any of the intersections I must cross. One morning last week it was something else.

As I exited the building and started east down the sidewalk there was a man crossing the street and then walking down the alley that bisects the block. I noticed he glanced over toward me, took a few more steps, then glanced toward me again. As I approached he turned and came back to the sidewalk.

He wore a wide-brimmed straw hat and tie-dyed t-shirt, and held a plastic bag with some green leafy vegetables poking out of the top, suggesting he'd just come from the market. "Excuse me," he said. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" I replied with slight apology that I had a train to catch. "That doesn't matter," he retorted with a noticeable twinge of annoyance. I wasn't blowing him off—well, not entirely—I did, in fact, have a train to catch. "I'm not weird," he continued.

"I didn't say you were," I noted, by this point committed to the conversation by default.

He went on to explain that he said "Good morning" to people to see what the reaction was. He paused, so I gave an "Uh, okay" in acknowledgment. Then he looked me in the eye with great intent and said "Good morning."

With that gauntlet thrown down I replied "Good morning" back, looking him square in the face and smiling.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Dummy Sanchez

When I read about Rick Sanchez getting fired from CNN for some remarks the host made on a satellite radio show I must admit I was shocked.

I wasn't shocked that Sanchez would put his foot in his mouth so deeply, nor was I shocked that he'd be canned for saying what he did.

I was shocked that CNN was still on the air, much less that such a moron had still been employed on it.


I think that CNN fired him not so much for calling Jon Stewart a "bigot," but because he didn't know how to use "bigot" correctly. It's not a demand for political correctness; it's a demand for rudimentary grasp of vocabulary.

Friday, October 01, 2010

It's a funny thing (not a political thing)

On a politically themed podcast I heard recently they touched on the upcoming Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies (which I mentioned last week). They did expressly mention how it was an obvious parody of Glenn Beck (everyone seems to be on-board with that), and reflected on how these rallies were now only being held by TV personalities, and how that has been accepted as the new paradigm for expressing political views. It was noted how apparently there was some concern by Democrats that the timing of the events (on the Saturday before Election Day) could take away from the chances of that party (in that those who might volunteer in door-to-door get-out-the-vote efforts (not that the panelists were of that opinion). One panelist thought the rallies brought a necessary bit of fun to the side that's lacking in enthusiasm, while the others were skeptical that reaching disaffected voters was best achieved through the "fur coat of irony."

I continue to be amused and bemused by the way two silly shows on a comedy channel are considered to be leading voices for a political party. These rallies are not striving to encourage the ostensible agenda of one party or the other; the one is suggesting that it would be spiffy if those who are acting in alarmist ways could "take it down a notch" and the other is lampooning that alarmist rhetoric. They're not get-out-the-vote events; they're entertainment presented by entertainers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Congress is a tough room

Last week Stephen Colbert testified in front of a Congressional committee, and it was a horrible waste. See for yourself:

It wasn't a waste of the government's time; let's not pretend that Congress' time is that well spent.

No, it was a waste of some pretty funny material by Colbert. The committee and the others in the room didn't even chuckle. (Well, the room did give one modest laugh at the end.) They acted like they have absolutely no sense of humor whatsoever.

Ah, it's all making sense now.

Monday, September 27, 2010

$#*! Some Man Said (a lesson yet to be learned)

[The following story is completely true, with no embellishment whatsoever.]

Recently I was in the waiting room of a doctor's office and a white-haired, elderly man came in accompanied by someone who didn't stick around. As they came in the companion asked him if he remembered the doctor's office. As he hobbled over to a seat behind me he replied in a genial tone that he did.

As I sat and filled out the paperwork on a clipboard (requisite for the first visit to any medical professional) I heard him chuckle as he read one of the magazines he'd picked up from the waiting room; I don't know which magazine it was, but he chuckled at it several more times so clearly it struck his sense of humor repeatedly.

At one point I heard him get up and amble over to the counter behind which was one of the ladies of the staff engaged in whatever activities occupied her time. He asked her if she wanted to hear a joke, and she replied "Sure."

"What do you call an elephant combined with and a rhino?" he started.

"I don't know—what do you call an elephant combined with and a rhino?" she said, making that clear effort to repeat the setup question.

"Elephino." Although I couldn't see him, I imagined him doing his best to shrug to play up the way the hybrid of the animal names sounded like saying "Hell if I know." The woman laughed in a way that seemed to be at least partially genuine and not entirely patronizing.

Emboldened with that success, the man rattled off a couple more such riddles, both of which elicited chuckles that grew a bit more patronizing than genuine.

Undaunted, he proceeded with yet another. "How do you get a one-armed Polack out of a tree?"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Winning and losing

In a world without insecurity there'd be no schadenfreude, but hey, we're hardly in any danger of such a world emerging any time soon, so let's acknowledge that unjustifiable joy.

Avoiding the guilt of feeling happy about another's failures requires that other to be perceived as something of a pompous or arrogant jerk who is deserving of having his downfall be applauded. The easiest places for this is in competitive pursuits—namely sports and politics.

Especially sports.

Given that many of us are not professional athletes we probably harbor some latent envy of how those guys were lauded back in high school. Combine that with the exorbitant salaries garnered by even minor players and the inflated egos of the more "colorful" players, coaches, and owners, and it gets easy to delight in their losses.

It's not good, but it's understandable, and relatively innocuous.

Just the other day I saw that the Cowboys had lost their second game, and felt a tiny cheer escape me. A couple weeks back I gave an excited air punch when I saw the highlights of a Yankee defeat (something of a rarity this season). Those games had no bearing on any team for which I may have been rooting; I was merely glad to see those teams go down.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Coming to grips with the fact that nobody gives a crap about what you say is a very important skill to develop in contemporary society.

Not that any of us will do that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Running Mild

Tonight the new Fox sitcom Running Wilde premiered. I watched despite everything I'd heard about it.

And at the end I turned to my wife and said, "Well, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."

I was a big fan of Arrested Development, the previous Fox sitcom with Will Arnett. This new show even has that show's creator. And a small role for the always-funny David Cross.

But I didn't laugh or even think "Ah, that was funny" except for one line of dialogue.

However, this really shouldn't have been a surprise; the pilot was largely re-shot, as noted in this interview Arnett gave on NPR's Morning Edition, which closed with this exchange between correspondent Neda Ulaby doing voiceover, Time Magazine critic James Poniewozik commenting, and a quote from Arnett.

ULABY: James Poniewozik finds it encouraging that "Running Wilde"'s creators seem to be approaching the process with a great deal of humility.
PONIEWOZIK: The fact that they recognize that there were problems gives me some hope.
ULABY: Hope fueled by Will Arnett's history with "Arrested Development" and its creator, who built this new show around him. Arnett says that's why the reshoots came almost as a relief. They're eager to do whatever it takes to make their sophomore sitcom a hit.
ARNETT: Look, we're excited at the potential to actually have people watch the show while it's on the air, as opposed to it having to be a DVD cult hit five years after its last episode.
ULABY: And hopefully the burden of high expectations won't trip up "Running Wilde" as it finds its footing. 
Notice that Ulaby does not suggest the producers are eager to make the show funny or good, just to make it a hit.

I think we've identified the problem. Alas, I fear it won't be around long enough to become a cult phenomenon down the road, because I don't expect I'll be watching it further while it's on.

Sorry, Will. At least your wife's show is good and funny.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rally around the rallies

Last week Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced events they are holding in Washington, D.C. on October 30. Both are obvious responses to Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally from last month.

The Daily Show's is the "Rally to Restore Sanity," which purports to represent the 80% of the population who are not in the extreme for either side of the political spectrum and who don't tend to be heard by the alarmist parts of the media.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
It's the parody of Beck that's the opposite of Beck.

Colbert's response is the higher satire of his show, which will seek to "keep fear alive" and defend those in the media who get ratings by talking about of what their audience should be afraid.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive Announcement
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News
Those pundits and quasi-journalists are what Colbert trenchantly skewers by seeming to be the worst of them, and so his rally is ostensibly ratcheting up what Beck did.

Some will interpret these events as efforts by those comedy programs as striving to exert legitimate political influence as Beck seems to strive to do.

Those people will be missing the joke.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

More Portland Adventures

Over at the photo site I've added some more posts of last month's trip to Portland, Oregon, featuring the sites below.
CLICK HERE to see them all.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Human Growth Hor-moan

The key to progressing as a human is finding new and innovative ways to screw up.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Firing the arcade, abandoning the hype

(Many blogs are geared toward keeping on top of breaking news. My site has mastered the fine art of commenting long after nobody still cares. It's all about finding one's niche.)

Listening to a Soundcheck podcast from a few weeks ago where two music critics debated Arcade Fire. This was back when the band's latest album, The Suburbs, was #1 on the charts.

One was fond of the new album, the other not so much. The latter was turned off by what he considered a humorless self-importance, the former liked the subtleties to be found upon repeated listens. In short, it was the same sort of "why is there so much hype?" exploration of Arcade Fire that the Culture Gabfesters tackled a few weeks ago.

All that comes to mind of any novelty is that when they opened the discussion over to listeners (the podcast is a recording of a live radio program on WNYC) and encouraged comments on the show's web page the overwhelming number of them (as reported by the producer) were negative. But of course they were; it's much easier to express one's dismay when there's something achieving popularity that you don't believe is worthy of that status. That's what riles up those who would be inclined to chime in on such a forum. It's much easier to tear them down than it is to defend them (and those who did referenced their live show really being the selling point, not so much the albums themselves, which seems to be fairly universally agreed upon).

No one is arguing that the album or the band is bad, that they're utterly talentless; they merely refute that the hype surrounding them is warranted by the quality of what is produced. And certainly one can hold that opinion, but at that point it becomes a statement about the speaker's personal perspective on hype than it offers any specific insight into the album or band. For my money I'd much rather have a band like Arcade Fire—whom I do consider to be talented and worth hearing, even if they're not the best band around—atop the charts than flash-in-the-pan, manufactured pop stars (I'm looking at you, Ke$ha). That gives me much more hope about the future of popular music.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The young folks and me

One night last week, just after I got off the train, I crossed the street from the platform to the sidewalk. There were three teenage girls walking down the sidewalk from the perpendicular direction and in order not to bump into them I had to pause for a moment before stepping on the curb. As we passed the girl closest to me looked at me and said: "Hi. You're tall." Without skipping a beat I replied, "Thank you," and kept walking.

I chose to interpret a simple statement about the one aspect of myself over which I have absolutely no control—my height—as a compliment. It seemed nicer than agreeing, "Yes, I am," which may have come across as condescending.

Never let it be said I don't know how to connect with the younger generation.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fahrenheit Four-Fifty-Whaaa

It's too late for this latest incident, but for future reference: Perhaps the best way to stop bigoted idiots from burning books (or merely threatening to do so) is to ignore them, rather than turn their ploy into a national media event (which presumably is exactly what they want).

Oh, who am I kidding? With multiple 24-hour cable news networks and the entire blogosphere out there these days just waiting to be baited by such egregious attention grabs and those outlets having nothing but time to fill, they're just primed to keep being manipulated, which will only cause these stunts to continue.

Eventually only the morons will be heard.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Will nature make a man of me yet?

A couple weekends ago we were in a Starbucks in San Fernando, and as we waited for my wife's coffee I heard a familiar song on the sound system: "This Charming Man."

For those who don't immediately recognize the title, it's a 1983 song by The Smiths. I was in high school when the song came out.

To give a bit of perspective (from my perspective): I remember how when I started buying CDs and sought the band's second album, Hatful of Hollow, I could only find it as an import (and at the time I ended up paying something like $25 bucks for it). That disc did not feature the aforementioned track, but that it was so tricky to find their music points out how when the song was new, it was not the sort of thing one heard on the radio outside of college stations (or KROQ) here in the U.S. (although it did chart in the U.K.). And now it was playing as background in a chain store.

However, that it had become essentially muzak is not where I'm going with this. I concede that the song and I are not as young as we used to be, and we are both more mainstream now than we were back then.

What came to mind was this: Although the song was over 25 years old it still sounded good; it didn't sound like something from a bygone era in music. In part that's because it's a good song that holds up, and in part that's because, arguably, the music industry never moved past the sound of the '80s, so it still fits in with music coming out now. And in case it's not clear: That's not a bad thing.

However, I thought of how in the mid-'80s a song that was around 25 years old at that time would sound if coming over the speakers in a coffee shop. Would the sound from the late '50s/early '60s seem dated in the mid-'80s?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Worst. President. Ever?

Some people believe that Obama is the worst president ever. Maybe, maybe not, but let's acknowledge something.

"Best" and "worst" are merely terms that get applied to inspire debate without the possibility of empirical resolution, but suffice it to say that over the course of over two centuries every single one of the 44 occupants of the Oval Office* has been viewed by some portion of the American citizenry as the worst president ever—and likely that started while he was still presiding over the Executive branch. The same "worst" moniker was used for George W. Bush during his time, and was attributed to Clinton in his time… and you get the idea.

So while there can never be absolute agreement about whether our current Commander-in-Chief or one of the previous 43 is the "worst" person to hold that title, it's difficult to argue that the leading candidate for that "worst president ever" role will someday be replaced by a president in the future.

Whether Obama's tenure lasts two more years or six, eventually there'll be a new person behind that desk who (in the view of at least some) will be screwing up the country in ways that we, in 2010, cannot yet imagine.

The future's so bright I gotta wear shades.

* Using this figuratively. Obviously some preceded there being an Oval Office.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Alternate ruminations: Quasi-politics edition

Think back to 2008. Remember that election thingie? Now imagine that the McCain/Palin ticket had convinced more voters to cast ballots for them and they were now in the White House.

Question 1: How bored would Sarah Palin be by having to actually govern and not be able to Twitter?

Question 2: Would she have quit by this point to focus on tweeting and thus exerting more influence over politics than the VP does?


Regardless of your opinion of the actual results of the last election, can we all agree that if Palin were ever to run for president and get into the Oval Office that it would be a step down in power from what she wields now (at least ostensibly so)?


Speaking of TV punditry: When will the Emmys recognize the cable news shows? Shouldn't the likes of Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann be recognized for their contribution to farcical entertainment?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The impact of impacting and affecting the effect: Another rhetorical concession

At some point in the not too distant past I was involved in a conversation where an elderly quasi-linguistic stickler was arguing about the use of "impact" in the context that it has come to be used in contemporary parlance. He was firmly in the camp that "impact" connotes only a collision; it involves something smashing into something else, period. Also, it's not a verb; it's a noun, period. That's what he was taught in his youth (many, many years ago) and that's how it remains in his mind.

For anyone paying attention to modern usage it's obvious that "impact" is employed as a verb and connotes merely "have an effect"—with perhaps the implication that it may be an effect of more than modest significance. It may carry the implication of carrying the weight of something greater than when one would say "effect," but need not involve a literal crash.

However, having been taught to respect elders (and acknowledging the futility of arguing with the obstinate), I didn't bother to attempt to convince him that his perceptions of language were, perhaps, archaic.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Secret Muslim eats lunch

President Obama is such a secret Muslim that he's not fasting for Ramadan, because then it would tip us off about his clandenstine Islamic leanings. He's too clever for that--I mean, he fooled everyone well enough to get into the White House...

Sure, I'll wait while you go look up Ramadan...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Domestic blindness

Visit someone else's house and you notice every little stain on the floor tiles, every bookshelf that wasn't dusted, every bit of dirt on the blinds.

Sit in your own home and that pile of dirty socks in the corner of the living room, those spots in the shower door, and that pile of unwashed dishes in the sink somehow turn invisible to you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yahoo!, I give up

Last month I offered this post about a blurb on the Yahoo! home page where they didn't seem to grasp what "ironic" meant.

Today there was this front-page story regarding the Miss Universe pageant:

Zooming in you can see the final link noting the response of Miss Philippines that may have cost her the crown as being "ironic":

That link takes you to their recurrent web series, Prime Time in No Time, a snarky recap of the previous night's TV. In that video we see her answer to the question (from judge Billy Baldwin--seriously) where she claims to never have made a "major, major" mistake in her life (and it's speculated that is where the judges turned on her)

Note that In the actual content there's no allusion to that potentially ruinous remark as being "ironic"; it's only in that blurb on the home page that the term is employed.

So, fine, Yahoo! front page blurb writer: You win. "Ironic" is now beyond how the Alanis Morissette song would have it be defined; it is whatever you need it to mean. "Blithely stupid"? "Hideously off-putting"? Sure, why not?

Your persistence has worn me down past the point of caring. Heck, let's call that ironic. My astonishment that the Miss Universe pageant still exists? Ironic! That I continue to visit your site? Let's call that tragically ironic.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Take him out OF the movies

Over the weekend I saw a movie on cable: New York, I Love You (it was a case where the wife started watching and I was there with her). It's a series of vignettes about fictional New Yorkers (each written, directed, and shot by different crews); some intertwine slightly but overall there just small scenes strung together. I'm not sure how impressed I would have been with that regardless of the cast, but right out of the gate it opens with a story that features Andy Garcia, Rachel Bilson, and… Hayden Christensen (a.k.a., He Who Ruins Any Movie He's In Because He's So Abysmal). The specifics of the scene are unimportant for this (although the vast difference in levels of talent when he acts opposite Garcia is flabbergasting).

Suffice it to say, I could not recommend the movie.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where's the ramp?

Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who last week got fed up with rude treatment from passengers and pulled a dramatic "take this job and shove it" exit (by jumping down the inflatable ramp of the aircraft) was lauded in general despite the irresponsible nature of his actions. Most people seem to be able to relate to being pushed to that edge in their jobs, with having to put up with idiots but not say anything, and fantasizing about giving it all the proverbial middle finger.

His folk hero status stems from the envy that frustrated people who dare not be as intrepid when conditions reach that unacceptable point. However, is the main reason that most people don't just up and quit: a) that they understand their obligations and responsibilities which require a sustained source of income; or b) that they don't have an inflatable ramp down which they can jump in a wonderfully dramatic manner?

Is the lack of an appropriately exciting mode of escape the only thing holding the rest of us back?

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Over at the photo site I've posted some pictures of these gerber daisies that I gave my wife back on our anniversary (even though, yes, it was a month and a half ago).

Why not click over and enjoy the photos now?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another universal truth

When you hear a stranger playing loud music, be it the driver in the car next to you at a red light, a house party a few doors down, or a guy blasting out the speakers on his mobile device, there is one aspect of that scenario that is always true:

What's coming out of those speakers is never Beethoven, Mozart, or anything you'd hear on a classical radio station.

(That's not where you expected that was going, was it?)

Is this because those classical works don't sound good coming out of the sort of sound systems typically employed in those scenarios? Perhaps. Is it because listening to those pieces are better suited for a concert hall environment (regardless of the quality of the sound system used)? Perhaps.

Or is it that self-centered a-holes always lack any taste in music? Or maybe there's some subliminal aspect to crappy music that inspires a-holes to think sharing it with all within earshot is a good idea?

Ah, so many questions…

Thursday, August 05, 2010

What's on the mind of Facebook users? If only they'd tell us...

Sometimes it seems as though someone needs to remind users of Facebook that what used to be the status update now is preceded by the text "What's on your mind?" It used to be a mere matter of what one was doing, but now it's a matter of what one is thinking. And not only whatever happenstance topic that runs through the consciousness but something that is persisting in some way.

In short, there's a tacit suggestion on the part of the site that what one enters in that field should be more than a direct summary of what one is doing (or has done); there should be some sort of hook, some angle that makes it interesting even in the most rudimentary sense.

Let's look at a theoretical example:

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Get in the tank (Green Police)

I recently saw again the commercial Audi aired during the Super Bowl which featured the tune of Cheap Trick's "Dream Police" reworked as "Green Police" and used as the theme for a fictional troop of ecological law enforcers hauling people away for choosing plastic bags at the grocery store or throwing a used battery in the garbage or drinking from plastic water bottles. The end of the ad features a traffic stop where all the cars are held up except one: an Audi "clean diesel" that is allowed to speed down the road.

It's reasonably clever, not merely for the use of the song and for lampooning overzealous environmentalism, but for appealing in a quasi-ironic way to those same environmentally conscious consumers that it just lightly mocked.

We've reached the point where a commercial can make fun of something and tout its importance simultaneously.

And thus we've reached the point where I can appreciate that dichotomy while acknowledging its absurdity.


The best thing for the environment would be for everyone to stop driving altogether, but that's farther than Audi would like this taken.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Nobody-gives-a-crap-but-I'll-say-it-anyway Files: Inception edition

Yesterday we finally saw the philosophical action blockbuster Inception. We even spent the time to go all the way to Hollywood to see it in the Cinerama Dome. The reason we did that was because a friend had seen it there… two days prior… and had mentioned how immersing the sound was in that environment.

That our friend was so willing to see the film a second time, not merely to go along with the outing but from genuine interest does suggest something that those who haven't seen the movie can glean about where I'll be going with this (with any luck—we'll see how my brain complies). In short, I will note, right up front, that it struck me as being designed to be seen more than once.

I must admit that I'd specifically avoided reviews or discussions because I wanted to have as genuine a reaction as possible to seeing it. Given that the movie opened two weekends ago, I'm sure a lot of what there is to possibly be said about it has already been said about it—likely by people who have seen it more than once. I hadn't read articles about it to speak to what writer/director Christopher Nolan intended (to the extent he would reveal that in interviews).

Here I'll offer a spoiler alert even though I'm not going to talk about much specific.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thinking of Prop 8 and its consistent inconsistency

In the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial where closing arguments occurred a while ago, the supporters of Proposition 8 were trying to nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages that were performed in the period between when they were declared legal and the passage of Proposition 8 (and upheld as legal even after that). Apparently that there are any married couples who are homosexuals—well, homosexuals who are married to each other—is too abhorrent for that ever-so-slight majority who voted to ban such unions, and those behind it feel compelled to go about negating (from a legal standpoint) that which was done.

I've made it very clear that I opposed Proposition 8, voted against it, and think it abhorrent that there's people who would go to such lengths to deny a group of Americans the same right that others have. And I think this latest salvo to negate existing marriages is absolutely a dick move. However, begrudgingly I can admit there's a certain internal consistency to it. If the law is that only those of different sex can be legally married then that's the law until such time as the law is changed or overturned.

Again, I'm not suggesting I agree with this attempt to take away these 18,000, but it is tricky to justify a situation where marriage ends up being a matter of getting there first.

Allow me to interject here, so we're all clear: Proposition 8 cannot be overturned fast enough in my book.

But I'm pretty sure that everybody already has an opinion on that topic, so now I'm just going to take this a prompt to ranterate (rant and ruminate) on the general notion.


If someone came along and told me that my marriage to my wife was no longer recognized by the state because a group of bigots got together and reinstated laws where only persons who were of the same race could be legally married... let's just say: I would not take it lying down.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tabloid fun: Brad Pitt stolen

Judging from the cover story on the latest Us Weekly—not that I've read it but while we were in the drug store over the weekend I saw the cover while in the checkout counter—it's pretty easy to see who the editors believe is their audience. The cover features side-by-side photos of Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston and the blurb: "How She Stole Brad."

They're coming down squarely on the side of the poor-Jen faction, who, by inference empathize with her girl-next-door image. She'd nabbed the sometime "sexiest man alive" and then the cool sexpot with brains (Jolie) came along and plucked him away.

Basically, it's appealing to the average woman's subconscious fear that her husband will leave her for someone hotter.

Because, of course, Brad Pitt (and by inference, all men) is a rube with no ability to exert any control over himself, and a perfectly happy marriage can be broken up with modest feminine wiles. It's just that simple.

(Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them.)

There's no way that a man would choose to stay with a woman with whom he is happy if someone who is prettier comes along and decides she wants him. I mean, duh.

Celebrities: They're just like us, and by implication we're just like them. Except unworthy of being on the cover of magazines, what with our marriages not being talked about by Billy Bush. How dull.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Enough talking

There's no questioning that a lot of people are very gung-ho supporters of the iPhone, and even with the significant problems that the new 4 model was revealed to have after its release and the less-than-contrite response from Apple about that there's little question that the iPhone remains a very in-demand device. In large part, I think that's because even with earlier models and the coverage by AT&T the users are accustomed to poor connectivity when making calls, and that hasn't driven customers away in the past, so the faithful aren't as troubled as one might otherwise expect.

Yes, there are many who've expressed dismay and Consumer Reports could not endorse the new 4 with its problems, but overall I don't perceive that the reputation of the iPhone has dropped to the level of other smart phones. One could easily quip (and I'm sure someone already has) that with all of its marvelous apps but the fact it doesn't handle making actual calls that well it's ironically named. But the thing is: I know many people who have iPhones and when I've discussed it with them many of them freely admit that they don't use it to make calls very much. It's not that they have given up on trying to make calls due to the issues; the way they interact with others using the device does not involve much voice-to-voice communication. So it's not that the irony is lost on them; they simply have embraced it.