Sunday, July 29, 2007

Don't Call It a Comeback, I've Blogged Here For Years

There are two things I haven't done in a good long while: find a new band I like and writing a blog post.

Well, I'm hoping to kill two birds with one Stone.

First of all, I'd like to point out how fucking great the weather was in New York City this past week. It was like 75 degrees with no humidity this week. Big up to Mother Nature.

On Thursday of this past week, myself and friend dave got together at another friend's apartment for dinner.

It just occurred to me that three out of four paragraphs so far are one sentence each. A bunch of grammatical Australias, if you will.

Anyway, Dave, Lilah (the other friend) and her fiance went to the bitter end. I wasn't too into going but didn't put up much of a fight either. Joe's friend was in a band that was playing at ten but when we walked in at about 9, there was a band up on stage.

The girl was standing up but playing the drums and flute while singing. There was one other person, this dude in a baseball cap playing the guitar. And that was it, but they were rocking out.

Their name is Sirsy, check them out:

SIRSY opening for Lifehouse. (about SIRSY)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Friday Classic Video: Basement Jaxx

This video (totally safe for work too) is both an amazing song and friggin' weird. So turn up the juice, and I guess if you've got some cool drugs, this'd work with that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

At What Point Does This Become Sad?

My vote is that this switched from strange media obsession to sad story just about the time this mug shot was taken.

I'll take people high on cocaine two weeks after leaving rehab for $200, Alex.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Like Magic

Together with what was apparently a decent percentage of the population, I finished the Harry Potter series yesterday, staying up until almost 3:00 in the morning to complete the seventh book in the series of seven (owing in equal parts to an inability to put it down and assurances to my wife that she could have it first thing Monday morning).

I don't have much to write about the book itself, since you've either read it, and already know, plan to read it, and don't want to know, or won't read it, and don't care to know.

(side note: I don't think I've given away anything at all here, but if you are super paranoid, stop reading now just in case).

Instead, I wanted to post the summation with which a reviewer for Time concluded her review of the book. A few people who have never read any of the books in the series have recently asked me if the books are really that good . . . I think the following is a start in answering that question:
It's impossible to finish Deathly Hallows without mixed emotions: satisfaction, but also sadness. Not really because the series is finally over — if anything, turning the last page of Deathly Hallows made me look forward to rereading the first book. Maybe Sorcerer's Stone [-- the first book in the series of seven --] will never be surprising again, the way it was the first time, but now that I know how the series ends, that knowledge propagates its way back through the series, casting everything that came before it in a different light and giving it a fresh new meaning.

The sadness is more an instant nostalgia for the unironic, whole-hearted unanimity with which readers embraced the story of Harry. We did something very rare for Harry Potter: we lost our cool. There is nothing particularly hip about loving Harry. He's not sexy or dangerous the way, say, Tony Soprano was. He's not an anti-hero, he's just a hero, but we fell for him anyway. It's a small sacrifice to the one that Harry makes, of course, but it's what we, as self-conscious, status-conscious modern readers, have to give, and we gave it. We did and do love Harry. We couldn't help ourselves.

"We lost our cool." That is a spot on statement. For most people, at least growing up if not also as adults, the "fantasy" or even "sci-fi" genre was something to make fun of (side note: remember "Magic: the Gathering?"), and only cross over to delicately, when everyone else did it (Star Wars was cool, but people who played Dungeons and Dragond were weird). Yet somehow the Harry Potter stories transcended the typical scorn -- or at least mild amusment -- that most people cast upon witches, wizards and the like. It's a credit to the author, and maybe to our culture as well, that she was able to produce something that was so enveloping, so riveting, and just so much fun, that we put aside "cool" for a few years, especially towards the end, and just enthusiastically enjoyed the story she had created.

I'm headed back to mystery novels and history books on the civil war; but crossing over for a little while was, well . . . cool.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Here's An Interesting Question

This is part of Goldie's comment on Joe's post about Mr. White:
"There are many, many people who would condemn strangers to long prison sentences but when it's their friends or someone they know, they don't think these harsh penalties are justified. I'm sure that's just human nature, but still, I think the hypocrisy needs to be addressed."
My question, then, is which is the appropriate response? We can give remorse to people we know because we know there are more facets to them than just whatever heinous act they committed. When all we know of a person is that they committed a heinous act, then we are more prone to offer harsh penalties.

So is the act alone worthy of the harsh punishment, outside of what we know of them, or should we take into account the other facets of one's personality? It seems like Goldie, who is surprised at the lightness of the upcoming sentence, would argue the former, while clearly many others would argue the latter.

In this case, Mr. White's punishment seems about right to me. Given that he's no longer in a position to abuse his power over students and that he's going to register as a sex offender, it would seem like no more children are in the way of being mistreated. I guess that may be a leap, however, given the repeated nature of his actions.

Also worth mentioning is that I agree with Goldie in having sympathy for the kid(s) who were the victims here. I guess it is human nature, but these types of situations seem to lead to one choosing a side and looking down on the ones who are on the opposite side. Whether we we choose to loathe the alleged perpetrator who may have been falsely accused, or to loathe the accuser who is subject to scorn if we don't believe their story.

Friday Classic Video: This cat is just like me!

Wasted! Watch him try to sit there. He reminds me of LJT at 2 a.m. on a typical Saturday.

A Sad Day

So yesterday Joe White, former principal of Teaneck High School, and vice principal at the time of our tenure at Teaneck High (3 of the 4 of us, anyhow), pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual conversations with a student and to downloading child pornography.

This ordeal has been going on in some form or another since 2002, when Mr. White was first arrested on charges that he fondled a boy who was living in his home. He was acquitted on those charges, on what now seems like a lack of evidence rather than innocence, though I probably shouldn't speculate, but was then arrested again in 2006 on these current charges.

Given that this has been in the air for 5 years now, I guess I can't say that I'm shocked by Mr. White's admission of guilt, though I am still somewhat shocked by his actions. Mr. White's demeanor was literally the opposite of someone who you would think would partake in these types of behaviors. It leads one to wonder if that was a Primal Fear kind of smoke screen, or if he really just has two enormously disparate parts of his personality. The person I know and the acts that he has admitted to really don't match at all.

So I'm saddened by this turn of events. Someone who I had a lot of respect for has done something that, by any account, was enormously inappropriate and irresponsible, and in addition is just highly illogical. At what point does one decide to act on the feelings that one knows to be inappropriate? I mean, I suppose we are all capable of having "sins of the mind" as Jimmy Carter might say, but choosing to act on them is a huge leap from that. And after already having gotten through essentially unscathed the first time, choosing to continue that behavior, separate of the inappropriateness, is just highly irrational. At what point does one count his blessings and seek some sort of help?

Incidentally, Joe is quoted in the article and I think his thoughts kind of sum it up in an apporpriate way:
"It's like someone telling you the world is flat...He was the most strait-laced, ethical man on the planet. Not in a million years would I ever guess something like this. There has got to be some kind of explanation."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007




Obviously not safe for work.

Who came up with this?

So I read about this new movie called Dynamite Warrior on IWatchStuff, and I've gotta say, it sounds like about the best idea for a film I've ever read. Here's the description that's up on the Apple trailers site:

A supernatural, action packed movie with high-grade special effects and the kind of raw action scenes the world is coming to expect from Thailand. Set in rural Thailand during the 1920s Dan Chupong (Born To Fight) plays Jone Bang Fai a young man riddled with grief and bent on revenge after witnessing his parents’ murder by a callous and malicious killer. The only information Jone has as to the killer’s identity is the memory of a tattoo-covered man who is part of an organized group of cattle rustlers. Jone makes it his mission to stop all cattle rustlers and in the process return each head of cattle back to its rightful owner. After searching the country high and low, Jone finally believes he has found the murderer in a small rural village in the North of Thailand. To Jone’s dismay he learns that the killer is in fact a warlock of immense power, a nearly invincible mystical man who is trying to control the whole village. His one weakness? He can be harmed only by weapons that have been treated with the menstrual blood of a young virgin. Armed with this knowledge and a few hundred highly charged rockets (and a dash of menstrual blood), our intrepid hero goes up against one of the most dangerous men to have ever walked the Earth.

Holy shit.

(See the trailer here.)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Flight Of The Conchords

Flight Of The Conchords is a new show on HBO that's based on the adventures of a band of the same name. These two guys from New Zealand called Bret and Jemaine comprise the band and the show is a fictionalized account of their living in New York and trying to get gigs for their band. The show is also interspersed with music videos based on their songs, which can best be described as in the vein of Tenacious D, with somewhat ridiculous and funny lyrics.

The show is goddamned hysterical. You should watch it. That's all I really have to say about it, but the main reason I wrote this post was to say that the two best names in the history of rap are these two guys' alter egos, the Rhymenoceros and the HipHopopotamus. Here's the video:

Incidentally, what a fantastic rhyme, "They call me the HipHopopotamus, got flows that glow like phospherous, poppin' off the top of this esophagus."

Quite Probably The Dumbest Movie Ever Made

I didn't have high hopes when I went to see Transformers last night, but even so, my hopes were not met. It was easily the dumbest movie I've ever seen. I wouldn't go so far to say that it was the worst movie I've seen, as the effects were cool and Shia Lebouf is pretty entertaining, but good lord in heaven, the plot had more holes than, than, something with lots of holes in it. I was beside myself last night after leaving the theater and I was actually upset for having been subjected to a movie that clearly sucked by the filmmakers.

Here's what I don't understand. First of all, I already mentioned the glaring plot holes and ridiculousness. From the first line of the movie I was thinking to myself, "You've got to be kidding me. The way you explain how living robots who can transform into everyday machines manage to exist in a universe alongside humans is to say, 'there is something called the cube that gave us life and we don't know where it came from or how it works,' and you want me to be engaged in this film?" Put forth some kind of effort. The fact that Jason Vorhees's mother never told him what death meant and he therefore can't die is utterly stupid, but it is an explanation. I can go along with the rest of the movie as long as I accept that one stupid thing. Also something that bothers me is that this film has been in production literally for years and the script has gone through draft after draft, yet somehow in the 5 minute drive on the way home my friend and I came up with at least two endings that would have been infinitely more satisfying and believable.

In summary, this movie sucks. If you want to see a movie with one cool special effect repeated one hundred times that insults your intelligence with the stretches of believablility that it asks you to take, then by all means go see Transformers. But ask yourself this while you're seeing it: Why would a super secret government agency that even the Secretary of Defense does not know exists have its secret hideout in the place that it has it and perform its operations out of it, including landing helicopters and walking in broad daylight and not manage to draw any attention to itself?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Classic Video: Friday the 13th style

I've always been a huge Jason Voorhees fan for some reason. There's something about the woods and being alone out there with a serial killer that I guess anyone can relate to, but for some reason, when I was younger, the Friday the 13th movies in particular used to really scare the crap out of me. Way more than the Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street flicks. Anyway, as an adult, I still love them. Whenever I'm lucky enough to catch one on TV these days, I'm surprised at how clearly I remember certain scenes -- especially the great kill scenes.

I spent a while today searching for a clip from Friday the 13th Part VII that's my favorite death scene (the sleeping bag/tree whacking, for those who are familiar), but I couldn't find it anywhere. There's a short little bit of it here, which is one guy's top 10 best kills by Jason. His number 1 is my number 1 as well, so clearly I think he's got pretty good taste. Read his list, he's got good insights into why these scenes are so loved by at least some of us. (Go passive voice!)

The clip below, however, clocks in at number 4 on that list, but for me it would certainly be number 2. I have a perfectly clear memory of watching this movie (it's from Part 8, where, as you certainly remember, "Jason Takes Manhattan") and this scene in particular the very first time. It's definitely the best part. Thrilling, creative, absurd, and funny -- all the hallmarks of a great kill scene.

Without any further adieu, perhaps the best example of what happens to black people in horror movies...

(be sure to watch all the way to the end, it's worth it, I promise!)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Weirdest Thing Capitalism And The Internet Has Caused

Ok, I've never played a massive multiplayer online game (MMO), but they are apparently very popular nowadays among many people, not just typical gamers. The most popular of these games is World of Warcraft (WoW), which, based on my admittedly limited knowledge, seems to be some iteration of the Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy type of role playing game. First of all, it's weird to me that people pay a monthly fee just to play this game, but apparently the game play is so good along with the fact that people make e-friends while playing that a whole community has built up around this game.

There are others that work in a similar way where you don't have to be an elf or a wizard. You can just walk around and be a regular guy and then the way you play the game is to pay real money for virtual shit for your character. How this is fun, I have no idea, but, like I say, it's apparently enormously popular.

I guess this phenomenon is true of all of these games, but I'll talk more specifically about WoW and then there are also a couple of examples from other online communities. The weird thing to me is the amount of real, actual, physical (consulting thesaurus for more synonyms) money that changes hands in order for people to exist in this virtual world. Here are two examples from WoW.

The first one I read about in the New York Times Magazine (which is fantastic reading, by the way. I often just skip the paper and read the magazine. "I like the crosswords. She goes straight for the magazine"). In order to play WoW you need to buy stuff for your character, weapons and whatever else. There are two ways to do it. You can earn the money through playing the game, which takes many, many hours, or you can pay someone real money in exchange for game money. A lot of people choose the latter route and there exists, therefore, a market for virtual WoW money. Filling that demand are many companies in countries with internet access and large numbers of poor people, aka China and Russia, that literally employ people in 12 hour shifts to play WoW and do whatever mundane task is involved in getting coins and stockpiling fake money, which they then sell to a middle man in some US company, who then sells it at a profit. There are guys whose job is to walk around this virtual world and do the easiest possible thing in order to win money, and that's it. And when you can employ some large number of people to do this 24 hours a day and pay them essentially nothing, you can turn a significant profit.

Now that's weird. The second thing is somewhat understandable, but seems to defeat the purpose of putting all this time and money into the game. I saw this on a TV show either on the DiscoveryHD or the MoJo channel (again, people, if you don't have a HDTV, you're not just missing out on picture quality, but on quality programming). Another business that has sprung up is where guys are employed in 8 hour shifts that span all 24 hours of the day, the one they showed was in like Ukraine or something, where you can send them your username and they will play the game for you for however long it takes to get you to the highest level of gameplay. Apparently in WoW, the worlds don't change really at all, but as you gain experience points, you move up from level to level and you're able to do more things. The maximum is to be a level 40 player. So you pay some Ukrainian guys to play the game for you and then when they email you back, this takes about a month, by the way, of non-stop game play by the Ukranians, then you are a level 40 player. You don't have access to your avatar while they're upping your level and so you're basically shut out of the community. What's the point of that? That's like paying someone to get all the triforces and heart containers in Zelda just so you can walk around and kill things with one sword hit instead of two.

In another online community who's name I forget you basically just walk around and try to buy cool shit for your avatar. And then you can go out to clubs and hang out and hook up with other virtual people and do whatever. It's like living life for lazy people. Anyway, this was also on that TV show, one guy was really into the game and ended up being really popular because he actually wrote a song about the community and played it at the virtual club and everyone really liked it and he eventually became like the hip DJ of the virtual club. So they tell this guy's whole story and the end of the story is that he mortgaged his actual house and some other stuff and paid a few hundred thousand dollars to buy a virtual space hotel. The centerpiece obviously was the dance club in the middle of it, but there are hotel rooms and permanent residences for the virtual people in it as well. He paid this several hundred thousand dollars because he fully expected that people would pay him roughly $1,000 per housing unit, and would pay to stay in the hotel, and go to the dance club and whatever else. And he had potentially made an investment that would net him a million dollars in actual money.

Something else I read about in the NYT Magazine was about an online community that was a little different than the others. Apparently most of these MMO games only have the illusion of being a gigantic universe where everyone is, and the reality is that there are many, maybe even hundreds, of identical universes where some fraction of players are situated and they exist on different servers and it's easier to manage that way. This one universe, again who's name I forget, actually had only one enormous universe. And they did whatever virtual people do, but there was going to be a coup in the universe because some people felt that the emplyees of the company were managing the game unfairly and some people had more power than others due to some unfair practices. This company actually took the step of electing a governing body from amongst the users, flying the actual people to their offices and holding deliberations regarding whatever issues they were having and planned to make it an annual event in order to keep up the fairness of the game.

That last one is interesting, but not necessarily all that weird, given how much people seem to care about these things. Those first three, though, really just kindof astonish me. It's just so strange.

On a related note, I wondered in the comments on Joe's blog a while back what type of people administrate Wikipedia, and it turns out that the people at the NYT Magazine were wondering the same thing, because they had a really interesting article about the types of people who moderate Wikipedia. Many people, largely high school and college kids, choose to volunteer up to 8 or 10 hours of their day moderating Wikipedia. And no one asked them to do it. They weren't solicited by Wikipedia or anything, they just decided that it needed to be done. Again, that's mad weird, but not related to capitalism in any way.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You know what's fuckin' awesome? America

There isn’t a cloud in the sky. Humidity? I left it back in New York. I look to my right and see mountains. To my left, the Pacific Ocean. I’m fairly certain this highway is prettier than the New Jersey Turnpike.

My feet rest on the side of the car as I recline (sideways) in the back seat of a black Volkswagen convertible cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway. I’m halfway through a six pack of Tecate that I keep in a small cooler behind the driver’s seat, trying to figure out what’s more stunningly beautiful – the ocean or the mountains. But mostly, I’m enjoying the ride. Sunglasses, sunblock, and West Coast hip-hop radio.

My friend (Lexy) is driving me and my friend (Hollywood Squared) from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, which should be about a 90-minute drive without stops or traffic. But we stop for about an hour to eat fresh crabs (and by fresh, I mean crawling in plain sight) at Neptune’s Net, a beach restaurant along the PCH, right at the border of L.A. County and Ventura.

I drink a 24 oz. Pacifico and feel great. The crabs are amazing. H-squared orders some steamed clams—also amazing.

Surfers and bikers love this place as well. And by bikers, I don’t mean Schwinn—I mean Harley. But it’s all cool. Apparently, Hells Angels dig fresh seafood as well. Everyone is welcome at Neptune’s Net.

We get back on the road, farting all sorts of beautiful, shellfish-smelling scents. My forehead is clearly getting sunburned. But every time I look around, there’s something incredible to see. The bluffs, the piers, the cliffs, the sand, the hills…

By the time we get to our hotel, I wish we could just make the drive again. If you’ve ever driven along the Pacific Coast Highway, you know what I mean. I love New Jersey, but driving down to the Jersey shore doesn’t hold a candle to the drive I took along the West coast.

Taking that drive reminds me once again how many different things you can see driving around this country. Every time I drive through a new state, I feel like I see something unique and special. I've never driven across the Midwest, or the Plains, or the desert out in Arizona -- all things I'd like to do soon. The people I know that have tell me that it's amazing, and I believe them 100 percent. This country boasts so many different environments. I can only wish to see all of them.

Just another reminder, I guess, of how special it is to live here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Easiest And Most Useful Class I Took In High School

The one shill that I learned in high school that I still use to this day is keyboarding aka typing. I took keyboarding in my senior year and it was undoubtedly the easiest class I took, but it's also the only skill that I can directly point to that I learned in high school that I'm still using today, right now in fact.

I used to touch type and I thought I was relatively good at it, but I realized that it's essentially impossible to touch type faster than 40 words per minute, which is quite slow once you learn to actually type. I can type like 65 wpm, and clowns like Max can type like 85.

When I used to write papers in college and grad school, and even now in writing this blog post, I find it pretty helpful to be able to type at roughly the speed that I can formulate the sentence in my head. I'm not going to win any world records or anything, but typing quickly is a good skill to have.

All you kids out there (Keith Hernandez/Shaun Pertab) you should learn how to type.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Friday Classic Video: Part 2, I guess

I do agree with Chuck that that last one might be more suited to the All right, stoners, explain this and/or What the Fuck? tab category, but it was still pretty funny. (I like the lighthouse!)

But I've been holding onto this one for a while, debating whether it deserved placement or if anyone would like it. But I figured, what the hell? For this one, I highly suggest you eat a tab of acid, an eighth of 'shrooms, or maybe that awesome 2CE stuff I've only heard about (I swear). If you're not into the whole "tripping" thing, though, turn off your lights, I guess. It may start a bit slow, but at around the 40 second mark...well, you'll see.

Friday Classic Video: Stoners, Help Me Out Here

Side Bar asked me to post this up here for Friday Videos. I think it fits more in the "Stoners, Explain This One" category, but anyhow it's Friday, and it's video day.

How Will 16 Year Olds Express Their Love?

Does anyone watch How I Met Your Mother? It's a pretty funny show. Anyway, a line from that show seems to be a good introduction to this post. This guy Ted is trying to get this girl Robin to go out with him. He's already tried several times. Then he's telling his friends:

"I'm gonna try one more thing to get her to go out with me. I'm pulling out all the stops. I'm gonna...I'm gonna make her a mix tape."

He's joking, but that was pretty funny, I thought. Anyway, I was thinking as I was driving home last night, that the mix tape will soon be a thing of the past. With the advent of iPods and other such devices, there will be no CDs and therefore no mix tapes. Does anyone remember when mix tapes were actually on tapes, by the way?

How many young relationships have been solidified with a mix tape of the perfectly chosen songs to represent exactly how the young lover feels? How many relationships will be torn asunder by lack of a mix tape to define their flowering love? Alas, I fear, the answer is too many for my taste. I just hope that love will survive.