Saturday, March 27, 2010

Where's Luke? 2.0

Now that we're three and redesigning ourselves (we're gonna be the kid in high school who wears a fedora) I decided to take my share of input and put it into the blog. Now my share of input here is roughly 46%, even though you might think it's only 25%. Open Bar's share is also 46%. Side Bar wants his opinion to be known but has neither then time nor inclination to put any work into the redesign save to say, "I like that," or "That sucks". He's therefore at 7%. LJT, true to form, does not give a fuck about anything, and if he were to make a list of things in the order in which he did not give a fuck about them (which would inherently violate the idea of not giving a fuck, thus no list exists), the blog redesign would be near the top along with the time and location of the next Tea Party rally. LJT's contribution is the 1% of obligatory mocking of the rest of us spending any time at all on the redesign.

So yesterday I found myself all of a sudden interested in overhauling the site and discussed with Open Bar the idea of creating a new banner to better fit whatever template we end up using. I decided to give it a try despite the fact that I knew beforehand that I have essentially no photoshopping skills, nor do I even have Photoshop, so I'd have to use an inferior program in order to create said banner. I spent many hours on this yesterday.

Actually making the banner took like 5 minutes to be honest, but I went through many ideas and picture choices and actually ended up making many banners. At one point I had an idea to photoshop in pictures of us in a sunflower field based on a picture of a couple of us. I messed around with that for a while before deciding it didn't really fit with the manliness that this blog is known for.

Then I thought of just taking the existing banner and photoshopping new pictures onto that one. I think the reason I abandoned that one was because I realized that I couldn't really crop the pictures very well with the freehand crop without having really rough edges. Still I don't hate this idea, but I ended up abandoning it. It may be worth revisiting given the end of the story. Read on.

Then I decided that I'd need a black background or at least a dark one in order to smooth out those rough photoshop edges. That's when I decided to sortof put us into space. I came up with the left side of the banner relatively quickly. I screwed around with a few ideas and ended up with two I thought were pretty good.

I did all this without having decided on a template. Open Bar had put in a few different templates and I had picked a few different ones. The problem I was having was that I couldn't find one where the banner would fit without screwing up the page and also all the templates that don't come straight off the blogger site would screw up the many extra information type boxes we have (the links, archive, labels, etc,). So after trying tens of different templates that I couldn't get to cooperate with Blogger, I decided to just pick a different Blogger template.

As of the time I'm writing this, that's the template that's up here. It may be that it will have changed again at the time you read this. If it does change, though, then Open Bar has again taken the reins on redesign, because I think I've reached a stasis on this one. As it turns out, our original banner fits really well up at the top of the page. So I spent a lot of time creating these few different banners and there's nowhere to display them. Anyway, here are a few of the ideas I had as I went along yesterday. This way at least all that time wasn't for nothing.

This one isn't really a banner. Open Bar's idea here was for me to shop myself into this pic of ourselves from Joe's Wedding right in the middle and really make it obvious that I was shopped in. It's pretty funny, although the photoshopping job is, amazingly, actually a little better than I originally intended. Not that it's not obvious that I'm shopped in, but I was going for more of a in your face cut and paste thing. I love in this one also how LJT is tallest and Side Bar is shortest. Worth noting too that the shape of this one doesn't really lend to placement anywhere on the page. Now that I'm looking at it, though, maybe cropping off the whole bottom half would make a decent banner. Hm...that's interesting.

This was the beginning of the reworking of the original banner. I liked those two photos on the right side and I was thinking about starting on the left side before I abandoned the idea. Like I say, given that the original banner is now up there, this may actually be worth revisiting. Click on the banner to embiggen it.

This is the star idea. As I said, the left side came together quickly. I like the (maybe not so) subtle hidden meaning of the point. There were a few ideas for the right side I liked, and ultimately I think this is the one I like best. I like the solidarity. Also these pictures are from three different weddings, Side Bar's, Ghetto Bob's, and Joe's, which is somewhat interesting.

This is the second star one. The appeal of this one is obviously the Side Bar pose. The thing is that I couldn't really work Open Bar in in a way where it really fit well. See the same Open Bar picture shopped in one of the above photos in a much more successful way. Even so, this one isn't terrible.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Where's Luke? gets our Joan Rivers on

Earlier this week, our esteemed blog turned the big 3...uh, just 3, so yaaay, happy birthday us! Three in blog years makes us about as old as Joan Rivers, so I figured it was time for our first face lift. Thus, the new '80s-printer-paper-inspired look. Whadday'all think? Wow, and in "Spaceballs" Joan Rivers' character was named DOT MATRIX. Twas meant to be.

As Side Bar pointed out in our weekly email chat about the blog which we had for the first and only time this week, we totally pulled a Frank the Tank and forgot our own birthday. Pretty sad, but totally not my fault, as I've been a bit under the weather since somehow catching a cold when it was like 75 degrees out this weekend. Blame = avoided.

So yeah, we have a spiffy new look and we're gonna hit on some chicks with it.

And speaking of face lifts, how 'bout this health care thing? (Segue Award win.) Looks like I picked the wrong time to quit smoking, huh.

Anyway, health care. As our honorable and eloquent vice-president said, yes, this is a big fucking deal. Along with a shit-ton of smaller initiatives, here's what I see as the four major accomplishments:
  1. Covering an additional 32 million people
  2. Subsidies of approxmately $80-90 billion a year for low- and middle-income folks to buy either health insurance they didn't have before, or higher-quality care (mostly starting in 2014, though)
  3. Preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to someone who either gets sick or has a preexisting condition
  4. Reducing the deficit by over $1 trillion (though exactly how accurate that estimate ends up being is impossible to know)
None of those things have anything to do with death panels, pulling the plug on granny, a government takeover of 1/6 of the economy, totalitarianism, or any of the other complete fucking bullshit so many on the right claimed -- and not just insane performance artists like Glenn Beck either. That horseshit was spread by congressional leaders and folks even considered intellectuals (Gingrich) and high-level party strategists (Rove).

I'm not sorry one iota for the magnificent schadenfreude I've been feeling since John Boehner's childish tantrum on the House floor Sunday night (see #1 on this list of the Top 5 Health Care Debate Meltdowns).

So, to the moosey muse of Where's Luke?, former half-Governor Sarah Palin, who not too long ago asked in that Real American™ way that she does, "How's that hopey-changey stuff workin' out for ya?" I would say two things to you and your retarded, inbred, dying-off-due-to-the-very-natural-selection-you-evolution-denying-shit-for-brains-don't-understand ilk right now:

1. Pretty well, actually.



Thursday Classic Video: You Can Probably Imagine What Happens Next . . .

This kid is in for a rough one . . . good thing we have universal health care now!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, dude . . . but at least we have health care.

So the Democrats passed a comprehensive health care reform bill last night that the President will sign into law today or tomorrow. Shortly thereafter, the Senate will pass a series of "fixes" that were agreed upon with certain members of the House to secure their votes.

I do not know too much about the health care reform bill other than the basic outline of what it will do, what it will cost, and what it is projected to save. And as much as I am critical of those in Congress and the popular media who opposed it merely because Obama was for it, I am not much better, because at the end of the day I really just supported it because I support him.

But having said that, it seems clear to me that reasonable/smart people support this bill (albeit tepidly), and crazy people oppose it. I think that might be a good enough reason to support it.

Compare Rick Santorum (lunatic conservative ideologue):

This legislation will indeed be historic in its destructive effect if it is not repealed or substantially altered. This bill will devastate our economy and its ability to create jobs and a higher standard of living; government spending and debt will explode; health care quality and choices for most Americans will suffer; and millions more innocent children in the womb will be killed. Worse still, to avoid bankrupting the country, care will be rationed so only those “useful lives” will be given the care they need.

This day will go down as either the day that America turned its back on our unique system of democratic capitalism or the day that ignited a firestorm to reclaim the vision that has made our country the greatest in the history of the world. Today is owned by those who believe that an all powerful federal government is the future of our republic, tomorrow freedom-loving patriots will begin the fight against this tyranny to reclaim our birthright. (emphasis added).

With The Economist (fiscally conservate, socially moderare newspaper) (excerpted a bit so that Open Bar will read it):

IT WILL cost close to a trillion dollars over the next ten years, a vast sum of money at any time and a heart-stopping prospect when America’s budget deficit is gobbling up nearly 11% of GDP and unemployment seems stuck at close to 10%. It takes only tentative steps towards controlling the relentless above-inflation rise in health-care costs that has gone on for decades, squeezing corporate and personal budgets alike and threatening, if unchecked, to overwhelm the federal budget entirely. [. . . ].

[But t]his poor bill is still better than no bill at all for two reasons. The first has to do with coverage. This newspaper loathes needless government intervention. But it also thinks that it is wrong for a country as rich as America to have tens of millions of people without health insurance. . . . The health-reform plan represents the last chance, perhaps for decades, of erasing one of the least creditable differences between America and the rest of the industrialised world. If this president, who came into office with solid congressional majorities and stratospheric ratings fails, neither he nor his successors will dare touch health care for many years to come; and that would be a tragedy.

The second somewhat paradoxical reason is that this bill will have to be improved on after it is passed—especially when it comes to costs. . . . .The current bill chips away at all of these problems. Gold-plated insurance policies will in effect lose their tax-exempt status, though not for a while, and not in full. An independent presidential commission will have some power to force down the rates paid to medical-service providers—though, insanely, hospitals are exempted. Tiny steps in the direction of tort reform are also provided for. [. . . ]

Some health-reform purists will scoff at such incrementalism. They argue that it would be better to do nothing now, wait for an old-fashioned fiscal crisis to force the issue, and then start again. That is an alternative we think most Americans would rather not experience. Mr Obama’s bill does a morally desirable thing in expanding health coverage, and it does a bit on costs. That is, on balance, enough for it to deserve to pass. (emphasis added).

'nuff said. Suck it, tea party.

UPDATE:I hope I'm not overstepping here, but I reversed the order of this post and the one underneath it because it just seems obvious that this one should be above the fold. Love, ChuckJerry

UPDATE 2: Chuck had a far, far better title for the post, which has now been changed. Also, please, please, please read this short essay by David Frum. He is a Republican commentator/strategist who seems to hate the radical wing of his party even more than we do. His point is that Republicans didn't stand on principle, they stood on strategy. They decided this was going to be Obama's waterloo; instead, it may be their own. Or, as Frum himself puts it, "We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat."

Where is John Stewart When You Need Him?

I tuned in to MSNBC yesterday morning in the hopes of getting a balanced, objective and informative report about the status of the health care reform bill and its likely passage later in the evening.

I was not disappointed.

Of course, I was disappointed by the hideously biased coverage and transparently left-leaning commentary about health care. I finally understand how Fox News can claim to be fair and balanced --- because compared to the conservative-bashing, Democrat-humping and Obama-fellating that goes on over at MSNBC, they actually sort of are fair and balanced (not really, but you know what I mean).

No, my satisfaction was derived not from the story on the health care bill, but rather from a human interest story about a recent poll conducted by some advertising firm about the popularity of different cartoon spokespersons. You know, the M&M guys, Tony the Tiger, the Geico gekko, etc.

Two women, a reporter and her guest, discussed the results of the poll. The aforementioned M&M's topped the list, Poppin' Fresh - the Pillsbury spokestoon - came in at number two, followed by Tony the Tiger, and I think maybe Cap'n Crunch was in there somewhere, too.

Now, Poppin' Fresh is as beloved a food icon as there is . . . with his plump little belly, his jolly little giggle, and his oh-so-flaky crescent rolls.

he he!

And as the women turned their attention to Poppin' Fresh and discussed his second-place finish, text appeared at the bottom of the screen giving context for the discussion (as is frequently the case on the cable news networks). But on this day, there was an oh-so-unfortunate "typo" to describe the beloved baker of buttery bread snacks and basker in blissful belly-laughs:

Poopin' Fresh is Number Two!

(Apologies for the very low-tech post here; I recorded the segment on our DVR, but I do not know how to get the video from DVR to the web. If anyone does, let me know. For now, it is this digital camera picture of the screen).

Mrs. Side Bar and I thought this was hysterical, and proceeded to giggle about it like four year-olds. The fact that "Poopin' Fresh" was number two also merited attention and gave way to a brand new fit of laughter.

I really just posted this because I think that picture is hysterical, but it does raise one question: is there any chance this was an accident (get it?). I mean, some production assistant must have thought this was just too good to pass up. And there cannot be that many people watching MSNBC at 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I'm just sayin'. The chances this was an honest-to-goodness accident (get it?) seem slim to me.

If this gets air time on the Daily Show I want royalties.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Things That Are Still Awesome

A few years back my wife bought a Super Nintendo on eBay. Now we have a 3 year old who likes to play Super Mario World but, quite frankly, sucks at it. I guess it's not his fault, he's only 3. The upshot here is that he asks to play Mario except what he means is that he wants to watch while my wife or I play. And he holds the extra controller and gets excited when each board is finished.

So I was playing Super Mario World yesterday and I'm happy to report that it is still freaking awesome. This is one of the best video games ever made. I'm amazed at how entertaining it still is. And it's actually still somewhat challenging. Not challenging in the sense that I'd ever lose. I played like 5 boards and collected 22 lives and I don't think I ever died once. But challenging in the sense that a lot of the boards have secret exits and you ahve to find the switch palaces of different colors.

In my opinion, the biggest leap forward in Mario gaming was from Super Mario Bros. 3 to Super Mario World. It is basically the same foundation of a game, except it's way better. It's more expansive, takes advantage of the greater capabilities of the Super Nintendo, and really doesn't have many, if any, flaws. Now I can't really speak for Mario games after this one. If you have a Nintendo 64 or if there are Mario games for the Wii, I don't know about any of that. But Super Mario World is still awesome.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What's Your Final Four (II)?

As we did last year, the four blog contributors will post their final four picks here. Our readers are invited to post their picks in the comments. Closest to the pin gets bragging rights and our respect (not really).

Side Bar's Final Four:

Kansas, Kentucky, Villanova, Pitt
Kansas over Kentucky in the final
Cinderella: Montana, San Diego St.
Earlier-than-expected exits: Syracuse, Georgetown

Open Bar's Final Four:

Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, ???
Kansas over Kentucky in the final
Cinderella: UTEP, Siena
Earlier-than-expected exits: Purdue, Villanova

I'm having more trouble with this year's bracket than I have with any in recent memory. For God's sake, man, I'm about to put freakin' Baylor in the Final Four. That just can't be right. All my above picks are subject to change, btw.

ChuckJerry's Final Four
Kansas, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Baylor
Kansas over Wisconsin in the final.
Cinderella: If Cornell can win their first round game (they got hosed on that matchup. Their former coach is the coach of Temple), then they could make a run at Kentucky in the third round.
Cinderella 2: OK St. I think Ohio State and G'Town are overrated. Also Siena I think will win a couple games. They lucked out getting Purdue in the first round.
Early exit: Kentucky (free throws will kill them. Write it down (I just did)), Maryland just isn't that good.

That Duke, Villanova, Baylor bracket is really weak. Baylor seems like the only logical choice. I feel you, Open Bar.

The Notorious LJT's Final Four
Kansas, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia
Syracuse over Villanova
Cinderella: Azmagoots & Chizzlewinks

Monday, March 15, 2010

It Could be a Long Season

I won't start the Haikus just yet, but man it is tough to be excited about this team.

Peter Gammons reminds us today that:

The Mets averaged 91 wins from 2006-08. But in the past seven years compared to the Marlins, they've won 13 fewer games, had one less pennant and World Series, had one fewer winning season and spent $560 million more than Florida.
Ouch. Even this little Larry Jones wannabe is is letting us have it. When does football start?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Queens, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.

I got married in 2002. My wife is from Queens. When we got married my wife worked in Queens and I worked at a job that allowed me to transfer from where I was working, in Englewood, NJ, to a branch in New York. That was one of the many reasons why it made a lot of sense for us to settle in Queens. If you had asked me in 2002 I would have guessed that we would live in Queens long enough for me to save some money and convince my wife that we should move somewhere else. I was wrong.

I didn't know it at the time, but it turns out that me and Queens are soulmates. (Let's ignore the poor grammar. This is some Joycian shit right here.) I love Queens more than I ever could possibly have imagined. I love the diversity of experience available throughout the boro. I love its suburban nature. I love its urban parts. I love that there's a working farm. You can live in Queens and have any experience that you want.

And if you want to have all those experiences together, you can have that too. You can find a spot in Queens where you can have a house, like a real house, the convenience of a car, easy access to the subway and therefore the city, places to go within walking distance, and access to the quasi-suburban lifestyle that seems to be exactly what I was looking for in life.

And I know you're reading this and thinking that this is my experience and that you wouldn't love Queens like this, but I thought the same thing. So I'm not getting on a soapbox or anything, but I think this is something that would hold true for a lot of readers of this blog. I suppose it's not even testable, the chances that any of you would move to Queens is essentially zero, so I'll just rest in the confidence of this statement without actually having to put up.

If I didn't have a family I would guarantee you that I'd live the rest of my life in Queens. As an adult, I couldn't ask for more. Unfortunately, there are some experiences that I had as a youngster (that's such a funny word) that are unavailable in Queens. And there's going to come a time in the near future where we'll have to decide if those are experiences that are vital to the upbringing of a family. Most of them relate to education and the insular nature of a prototypical suburb versus a pseudo-suburb, of which Queens is the only one I know. On the other hand, I know that we could supplement those experiences with ones that are entirely unique to coming up in such a diverse and open area. And at the same time, I know I have an ideal in mind that is probably not necessarily available anywhere.

I'm debating with myself whether I should end the post at this point. I have finished what I originally wanted to say, and I've rambled on a bit more in a tangentially related way. You can keep reading, but consider the rest of this a secondary post. Imagine if I had written it weeks or months later.

Additionally, moving out of Queens, the best place to live, would mean most likely moving to Long Island, arguably the worst place on Earth (this logic goes as far as the idea that I wouldn't ever consider moving out of New York Metro, so among those options, Long Island is the one that settles least with me). The nature of our jobs and such would mean that we'd have to either change everything, which I don't really want to do, or move to the Guyland. That prospect kindof skeeves me out. As someone from New Jersey, I have a natural hatred of Long Island, bred from the realization that New Jersey and Long Island are essentially the same, except that Long Island sucks way more (flawless logic). Being on Long Island genuinely skeeves me out. Ninety percent of the towns are laid out in the same way just based on the geography of the island. Every town in essentially a repeat of the last, branching of the LIE down a county highway and spreading out from there. There are a few towns that escape this genuinely unsettling feature, and I suppose I would consider moving there, the same way that others might consider moving to a suburb in New Jersey.

All else being equal, I don't think I could ever live in New Jersey again. It's hard to put my finger on. I loved growing up there. I don't think I'd trade it. But I also look at the nature of the state, essentially a giant suburb, the ludicrous taxes, the awfulness of the state government, and something intangible that has changed in me, and I just know that I don't want to go back. I guess that's the reason that this Long Island idea is fermenting inside of me. As much as the nature of a New Jersey native is diametrically opposed to Long Island, it would sortof be a way for me to go home again without actually going home again.

At the end of the day, I think I'd love to find a way to stay in Queens. I mean, I wouldn't have to find a way, I guess I'd just have to do it. My suspicion is that the perceived trade-offs are a smaller deal than I'm making them out to be. And my eternal happiness at living in the perfect location would undoubdtedly rub off on my family in a positive way. I mean, part of me is wondering why I would ever consider finding the perfect place and then leaving it. Seems pretty stupid.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Dude Abides

I can't name many of Jeff Bridges' movies and I don't seem to remember him being in the "great actors of his generation" class before the last few months but based on his role on as The Dude alone, I was happy to see Mr. Bridges take home the Oscar for best actor tonight.

He also just seems like a nice guy.

The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Girls Look So Good....

Oh, Chi Ali, we hardly knew thee....

Age Ain't Nothin' but a Number was a nice little hit for the Black Sheep sidekick back in 1992. I must, say, it is quite the catchy little song.

In it, Chi attempts to debunk the age old myth that maturity is linked to age. Instead, purports Mr. Ali, maturity is an attained by everyone at their own pace. Age, in fact, is nothing but a number.

Curiously, however, right out of the box, Ali seems to link maturity to age. He discourages girls from excessive hookups while they're still too young to handle sexually charged relationships and advises them that he will wait until they're a bit older and, yes more mature, to hook up with them. And lest they think that just being older and more mature will enable them to diss the young superstar, beware, as he will play them for sure.

In the second verse, Ali dismisses a girl out of hand as she is merely 13 years old - Ali would have 15 or 16 at the time, having been born in 1976. Ali is hitting on the girl and threatening to "snuff" her boyfriend the next time he's feeling tough but upon hearing that she is only 13, he is audi. Her body is that of a young woman, but he advises her to take three years and call him in the morning when she is mentally ready to handle a man such as himself.

Finally, in the last verse, Chi seems to circle back to his original point. He hits on a 17 year old down in the village who recognizes him due to his rap-based fame. While she seems to be attracted to him, she is aware of his age and deems him too young for her. Oh, for shame, nameless hot 17 year old, for you have just proved yourself to be small minded and, thus, not worthy of our hero, Chi. While her body may that of a woman, perhaps even one of the flyest women in the world, mentally, alas, she is just a little girl.

So, ultimately, I think Ali's point is this: while older women should not look down upon him due to his relative youth, he may do so to younger women - but he does justify this by framing his prejudices as based in an almost paternalistic, well-intentioned way. He, however, is more than capable of taking care of himself and does not want to hear otherwise.

A valiant effort, yet it is this blogger's view that Chi leaves the philosophical waters of the link between age and maturity as murky as when he waded into them. But not without catchy song.

This is The Notorious LJT on Nervous Thursday and here's Chi Ali with "Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number".

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We're Like Fortune Tellers Or Something

So we all remember when Side Bar made that eerie prediction about Barry Bonds and the home run record (geez, talk about shitting on a national treasure) and how we all thought that was the end of our fortune telling. (Side Note: since in that post he also talked about how he didn't want the Mets to even think about signing Chan Ho Park, what are the odds that Chan Ho has a freaking fabulous season thisyear with the Yankees?) Well, try this one on for size:

Please to enjoy a post from October 7th, 2007, in which Open Bar goes on about how he's gay for Jesper Parnevik (I think that's what it's about). Anyway, here's one of the throw away lines from that post:
"Tiger Woods? I don't hate him (because how can you?), but I'd like to hear the occasional three-hooker-orgy story or something. That's when I'll really like him."
I mean, I guess you could say we all saw that one coming, but come on. That's some good shit right there. I guess Open Bar has a new favorite golfer.

Relatedly, I'm pretty happy that none of us really tried to tackle that Tiger Woods scandal when it happened. As much as all the (other) media outlets wouldn't let that story die, I was tired of it from the beginning. I mean, talk about a non-story. When he comes back to the tour let me know. Until then, let it go. (If the gloves don't fit, you must acquit.)

(Out of curiosity, was the parenthetical other, thus implying that Where's Luke is also a media outlet a) too obtuse? and b) remotely funny?)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Classic Internet Meme

Pre-Script: You should read Fail Blog. Be warned, though, you may find yourself reading it for many, many hours. Also you may find yourself LOLzing at work. Anyway, this is pretty funny.