Sunday, July 31, 2011

Reading a magazine, and the eventual HIMYM anachronism

In the How I Met Your Mother episode from 2009 titled "Benefits" Marshall (Jason Segel) is embarrassed by carrying a magazine down the hall at work as he walks to the men's room, feeling the judging eyes of his co-workers and imagining them thinking poorly of him for what he's about to do while reading that magazine in their shared restroom.
Such is his shame that he goes by Ted and Robin's apartment (he still has a key from when he and Ted (Josh Radnor) were roommates) instead.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I am not a poseur but sometimes I pretend to be one

On last week's Pop Culture Happy Hour touched on poseur-dom, spurred by an article in the New York Times written by someone who avoided Harry Potter but after some condescending elitist rhetoric apparently concluded the only method of dealing with having missed out on it was to pretend to have knowledge of it.

Or there's the way I approached the exact same topic last week. But enough about that.

However, to be a poseur is to not merely feign familiarity with something but to do so for the benefit of fitting in with some situation. While I have overcome the need to seem in-the-know for pop cultural phenomena (because I am no longer young and have come to grips with the fact I know what I know, that I've seen what I've seen, that I've read what I've read, I've heard what I've heard), it is those areas of what some might consider "high" culture—classical music, opera, Shakespeare, literature, art, etc.—that put me in situations where I find it's easiest to just go along with the conversation rather than have to explain I don't really know the subject well (or hardly at all).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nevermind how the '90s don't seem so long ago

When reading a chapter in Tina Fey's Bossypants I saw a reference to how she moved to Chicago in 1992 after college and had a roommate and could only get a crappy job at the YMCA. This was her starting out. See how far she's come.

Here's the thing: Obviously 1992 is now coming close to being two full decades ago. But when I think of 1992 it doesn't seem like some kind of distant past. I know it was, but it doesn't seem that far back.

When I think of the '80s, or certainly the '70s, they seem like a completely different era; the '90s, however, somehow seem part of a different period in the current era. As to how I draw that distinction, I can only surmise that in the '90s I was in my twenties and living on my own (I did, in fact, move out from living with my parents in 1990, coincidentally) and thus that's the start of what could be considered being a full-fledged adult (by at least a rudimentary definition thereof). I earned a paycheck that paid the bills (and put me through college), and while compared to how I am now I was an utter dipshit, I still remember 1992 pretty well.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Big buck resolution-off

So, who had the NFL lockout being resolved before the Debt Ceiling talks?

Of course, most Americans would be upset about no football this fall more than they would if the economy falls apart—no one seems to be exactly sure what would happen if the U.S. defaults on its debts, but the country would definitely go to shit if there's no pro football on Sundays as the leaves change color—so clearly the more important battle over ridiculous amounts of money got done first.

Or at least it proves that some organization with opposing sides grasps that if they cannot come to some agreement in time, everybody involved loses.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

127 Hours Down in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Upon seeing ads for the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie with James Franco, I found myself thinking: Okay, in this movie, when he falls in the crevasse, it's the ape he taught sign language that cuts off his arm.

That taste of dismembering humans must be what puts the apes on the road to overthrowing humanity.


Yeah, let's stop this before someone starts to wish that a chimpanzee were writing this.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A California Wonder from the beginning

Over on the photo site, you can see (over the course of 17 shots) this little bud grow into a "California Wonder" bell pepper. Click here and go see nature in action (or as much as what happened out in our little patio garden qualifies).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Google+: Is there room for another social media site?

Can Google+ supplant Facebook as the most popular site (as Facebook did with MySpace, and MySpace did with Friendster)?

I have not even seen Google+ yet, as I am not one of those who has received an invitation (as they did with Gmail accounts initially, they're doling them out sparingly presumably to create a sense of exclusivity—when in fact the early adopters are likely just beta testers who don't realize they're helping get the kinks worked out), so I cannot comment on whether I think this new player has the likelihood of usurping the king.

But that won't stop me from offering unfounded speculation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter, missing out, and fitting in

Over the weekend the final Harry Potter movie set box office records, and it made me realize more than at any point over the past decade that a tremendous pop cultural phenomenon completely passed me by.

And I'm okay with that.

I have no doubt that the books and movies are entertaining works. I know many people personally who were adults when the books first came out and loved them, but for whatever reason I never felt inspired to even get on board. I did see the first movie back when it first came out (in the theater) with someone who was a fan of the novel, and it was fine, but nothing struck that chord in me like clearly happened with many, many others worldwide.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The ups and downs (and ups) of the Women's World Cup

Sunday I made it through the emotional rollercoaster that was the Women's World Cup final match between the U.S. and Japan—and it was an event that fans of either nation's team did have to make it through, whether their team emerged victorious or not.

Without thinking about it, I was rooting for the U.S. team. Of course I would pull for the representatives from my home nation. I'm not a "rah-rah, go U.S.A.!"-type guy who thinks his country can do no wrong, but still when it comes to these tournaments where there's a team of my fellow Americans there as part of a national team I cannot deny there's something that kicks in on a subconscious level to make me identify with them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Carmageddon" shows how LA freeways work

Although the closure of part of the 405 freeway (a.k.a., "Carmageddon") proved to be a non-event (and not the traffic disaster predicted by the media in the weeks leading up to this weekend), it did offer proof that the freeway system in Los Angeles can be an effective way to get around town--provided that everyone stays off of it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How did our garden grow?

Over on the photo site, you can see how my wife's garden out on our condo patio turned from this:
To this in two months:
Go watch the transition (inasmuch as weekly shots of the progress qualify as transition).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Some people stink (in their brains)

Last week I witnessed the following exchange on the train: During the evening rush hour a young woman sat in the aisle seat next to me. She chatted with another young woman in the aisle seat across from her. Part way through the trip a clearly homeless man got on and stood at the front of the car, holding a sign soliciting help. That is not entirely uncommon. Similarly uncommon, most people ignored him.

However, as the man shuffled down aisle, clearly ashamed of his circumstances, the young woman leaned away from him as though he were threatening her, even though he was merely shuffling. She made remarks about how bad he smelled and told him to get away from her.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Carmageddon": This is why the rest of the country makes fun of L.A.

This coming weekend here in the Los Angeles metropolitan area there will be the partial demolition of a bridge over a freeway. For this, a portion of a few miles of the freeway in question will be completely closed from Friday night through early Monday morning (see red rectangle below).

That seems like it would create some inconvenience for those who live or work or otherwise would travel that portion of the freeway during the weekend, but would otherwise be a minor issue, right?

Apparently you missed when I referenced this was "Los Angeles."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Giving up

On the latest Pop Culture Happy Hour they had this topic, to which I'll offer some response: When is it okay to give up on a book (and then they extrapolated out to discontinuing watching a TV series, walking out of a movie, leaving a theatrical performance)?

The answer is ridiculously simple: if you are not specifically required to read (or watch) something (for school, for work, for a book club, to keep up with what people are tweeting about, etc.), then it's a simple determination: when you're not enjoying it, getting nothing out of it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A face for radio (and podcasts)

When I hear people who are on-air contributors on the radio or podcasts, invariably I concoct in my mind some mental image of what they look like. When eventually I see a photo of these people (which, thanks to the internet, is rather easily accomplished—often whether I specifically seek that out or not), they rarely resemble the picture of them I had in my head. And frankly, other than usually getting their gender-specific qualities right, my mind tends to come up with something that wasn't even in the proverbial ballpark.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Extra Hot Great was a crackpot about Jon Stewart

The Extra Hot Great podcast has a segment called "I Am Not a Crackpot" where one of the panelists offers a diatribe about something in pop culture that goes against popular belief. This week's episode was entirely that segment, with contributions from fans. But one of the panel offered her take on something for the episode: that Jon Stewart should stop being the host of The Daily Show, and a new host (possibly one of the correspondents, like the brilliant Larry Wilmore).

I do concede that if one does not care for Jon Stewart's personality that one's enjoyment of the show will be affected, but a) I think Stewart is still doing a fine job (because I have no trouble believing that he is a comedian and not an activist, despite how others try to paint him as such), and b) he made the show what it is; a Daily Show without him should not exist.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

A California perspective on New York's Same-Sex Marriage Law

The recent passage of the initiative in New York recognizing same-sex marriage resulted from a Republican state senator reversing his position on the issue. As preface to giving his vote, he admitted his Catholic upbringing made him think of marriage in the traditional sense, but that he could not think of any legal reason to deny others the same benefits that he and his wife enjoyed from their marriage, and thus he had to vote in favor of it.

As one who is an avowed proponent of what tends to be called marriage equality, I was pleased to see the Empire State join the ranks of states allowing same-sex couples to file for marriage license. However, I couldn't help but think that, in light of the fact in 2008 my home state (the ostensible liberal bastion that is the Golden State) had its population vote to prevent that same recognition, the New York congress did what they did in part just to show up California.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Minute To Ogle It

A view from this evening's episode of the no-longer-having-anything-to-do-with-its-titled Minute To Win It:

(Women in workout attire bending over to try flipping a spoon into a glass.)

MTWI: Now for people who are too ashamed to get the "Girls Gone Wild" videos.

Ah, yes. Summer TV is here.

Utopian dilemma

Imagine (for the sake of argument) we someday reach a point where intolerance of all forms (racism, homophobia, sectarianism, etc.) is vanquished, where no groups or individuals are oppressed or persecuted, where the equality that activists of all sorts have fought to achieve is realized. Further imagine that it's not merely an ostensible tolerance where people were merely better at camouflaging their hatred but where everyone quite literally was accepting of everyone else in a sincere way. We'd remember that it used to be bad, of course, but know that it wasn't that way anymore.

In that seemingly utopian scenario, do you suppose we would (perhaps ashamedly) romanticize the "bad ol' days" when we were made to feel ashamed? Do we have an inherent unconscious need to draw some satisfaction from feeling like outcasts that would lead us to have nostalgia for that if it were no longer around?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Violence (in video games and in general): It's different than sex (according to the Supreme Court)

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a California law that would prevent selling or renting violent video games to minors; violent content could not be thusly regulated, Justice Scalia wrote, like material with sexual content, in large part because there's a tradition of violence in entertainment consumed by children (citing Grimm's Fairy Tales).

Let's dispense with the obvious: That level of violence is beyond what I can imagine anyone would want to see, and I'm hard-pressed to imagine any parent would consider that acceptable for children to watch, but I do understand how in a free society this should be something decided by parents. But if parents try to deny adolescents and teens this material that will only make the young want it more.

So here's what you do, parents: