Monday, May 31

Best Thing I Saw This Weekend

One of these days I'm gonna start realizing that holiday
weekends are approaching, and actually plan for them.
Instead, my son (it was my weekend with him) and I made the most of the mostly good weather and took everything at a lazy, relaxed pace. Not that it was a bad thing in any way -- but here were three mostly gorgeous Florida days available to play with where we could have been traveling or finding new friends or barbecues to hang out at -- but instead one of my main achievements of the weekend is that I was able to finally try steam-cleaning the carpet in my apartment.

All that being said, fun is where you find it -- and there were lots of good times had between the lines of Friday and Monday. Whether it was taking a trip to a downtown memory lane, goofing off at the pool, or just enjoying the vibe that my son and I have when we're just lamping around my place watching TV, playing videogames, or roughhousing -- it was the three days I really needed to come back ready to attack a work week with a smile on my face.
Anyways, onto the best things I saw this weekend.
Winner: Having a drink named after me:
Anyone who knows me is well aware of my thing for sexy bartenders. From the old days at Endo when Bartender Christina and Bartender Brenda competed for my tabs to that time in New York where that incredibly hot bartender at Red Rock West batted her eyes at me and told me to "Ditch your friend and stay here with me" (Satorical almost lost his wingman that evening -- but as a great man once said, "Even when it's on with the help, it's never really on with the help") -- It's as if someone realized that my love for women is chocolate and my love for booze is peanut butter, and then decided to make a Reese's out of it.

Which is why I've been enjoying the hell out of this new blog created by my girl KitVonB called Hello Drunky -- where she explores her love for mixology by creating new drinks and then naming them after her friends.
Seriously, how cool is this?
She comes up with some pretty interesting stuff too -- Jagermeister, Rootbeer Schnaps, and Cherry Coke?
I gotta try me some of that.
Runners up (in no particular order):
  • The Milk Bar Reunion -- I wasn't really sure what to expect. The Facebook page said 800 people were planning to come, which seemed like a lot -- especially on a weekend where the Jacksonville Jazz Festival and a free concert at the Landing were taking place, effectively shutting down half the streets in our downtown grid. But into the night I went anyways, meeting up with old friends to revisit glory days at what used to be my favorite downtown spot (and former workplace) the Milk Bar. If you've been there then you know what I'm talking about -- but I actually got a chill going down the stairs to get into the place. It had literally been years since I'd taken that walk, but once I got in there it was like being home all over again.

    The place is actually a Jamaican restaurant now, but they cleared out the floors and got it mostly back into the same shape it was. Some thing were a little different -- the stage wasn't where it used to be, the bar in the back was gone, and they finally separated the bathrooms -- but the vibe was still so much the same that it was hard not to get swept up into it all. It started off with Robert Goodman spinning old wave and alternative, which filled the dancefloor for a while -- but then led to a performance by classic Jacksonville alternative rockers The Beggarweeds, who's mix of rockabilly beats, distorted guitars and simple country-music lyrical sneer I hadn't heard in literally years.

    The guys sounded great, but to be honest even they weren't sure why they were the only act to grace the stage (they even jokingly said as much during the show). The crowd reaction was mixed -- as people had vastly different memories of a place that hosted all different kinds of bands over the years but specialized in punk, metal, ska, industrial, and alternative acts. In a lot of ways as much as I loved hearing them close out their set with the classic "Churchin" -- an hour and a half of just one band (especially an alt-countryish act) was a lot to ask of people to sit through.
    Which led to the other problem of the evening, which was the bar.
    While I suppose it was possible -- I don't really think 800 people showed up. But even if it was just 300-400, you’d think the event organizers might have planned a little better for that kind of crowd. Instead, 2 bartenders and one barback (who eventually started taking drink orders too) attempted to fend off scores of thirsty people from behind a tiny corner bar that almost immediately began running out of things.

    This event was for a bar that had been closed for almost 15 years. The people who used to come there and dance all night are all older now -- and we wanted booze. When it became clear they hardly had any and couldn't get it to us without standing in line for almost 20 minutes a lot of us left for other places.

    I ran into a few old friends (Fred Andrews was apparently there, but I missed him) and had a great time revisiting memories -- but all of the hassle involved (especially considering the nearly $20 it cost me to get in) left sort of a bad taste in my mouth. So in the end I'm really glad I went -- even if I did end up at LIT by the time the night was done.

  • The Geek Ascention -- I probably shouldn't be as proud of this as I am, considering that I might be damning my own son to nerd prison for a few years just by pointing it out -- but Curren found his first continuity error this weekend all on his own.

    He was watching the latest episode of one of his favorite shows, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien -- which features a character named Terraspin (he could tell you this by heart, I had to look it all up). Terraspin is sort of a giant turtle-looking dude who can fly. Anyways, the whole hook if this show is that a kid named Ben is the owner of a device that enables him to transform himself into a wide variety of alien forms that he uses to defeat bad guys. but you can always tell that it's him because all of his aliens have the devices' symbol somewhere on their bodies.

    The reason I have to point all this out is that during this episode, the turtle alien dude is trying to escape from a bad guy yada yada yada, so there's all this footage of him running around looking like this (no symbol on his chest) -- but then in a scene somewhere in the middle of the episode he turns around from a computer console looking like this picture:

    My son actually paused the DVR on the scene and demanded to know how the animators could make such an obvious a mistake like that. He was actually kinda pissed off about it, too.
    I was so proud, I have to admit I choked up a little bit.
  • This: -- Seriously, this clip makes me feel like Rex from Toy Story 2. "I don't need to play the game.. I've lived it!"
    So, what were some of the cooler things you saw this weekend?

[Listening to:  Snoop Dog - "Gangsta Love (feat. The Dream)" ]


Thursday, May 27

You Don't Bring Me Flowers, You Don't Sing Me Love Songs

I love pictures that suggest a story.
Images that come with a subtext, photographs of moments frozen in time. They're fascinating for me because everyone you ask always comes up with a uniquely different storyline to go along with them. So what might appear to one person as a pure moment of bliss might just seem to someone else as a reflection back on what it's like when even the closest of connections start to become distracted by the virtual distance created by the world all around.
It all depends on what the person looking at the picture brings with them.
The unique lenses that they see through when they're looking at something.
All that being said -- no matter what story might come to my mind when I look a this picture -- there's really no way to avoid the fact it's still kinda hot.
So, What do you see?

[Listening to:  Erykah Badu - "Gone Baby, Don't Be Long" ]


Wednesday, May 26

Funkentelechy, Part II

Last Saturday afternoon, driving to the gym when the phone rings. Almost at reflex, I checked the screen on my Droid to see who it is -- only to find a number with a local area code that I don't immediately recognize. I know for most people unfamiliar numbers are an immediate send to voicemail, but I've been circulating a story for publication locally lately, and you never know when an editor will decide to call. So I let it ring once or twice more -- contemplating whether I should answer or not. Eventually I picked up the call though, and this is what I found:
Me: Hello?
She: Good afternoon, Daniel. My name is Kirsten, I'm calling today to let you know that you've been specially selected to take part in..
At this point I sorta tuned out. Partially because I was sort of annoyed at myself for falling for this trick, especially considering the recent years I had spent dodging, screening, and eventually finding unique ways of dealing with bill collectors -- but mostly because there's just this sinking feeling that hits you when a telemarketer jumps on the line and starts pouring out their opening spiel.
It's like there's this tiny little voice in the back of your head saying, "Other people don't have to deal with this."
She was still going on about this, that, or whatever -- I wasn't really listening very closely, but whenever a call like this gets through my ever so sophisticated screening process, I immediately consider three options:
  1. Hang the hell up on them.

  2. Let them finish their little opening speech, and then politely decline whatever it is they're hawking (having done some phone sales myself in college, I know that sometimes the reason they bark out the opening speech so insistently is that there's a manager sitting over their shoulder expecting them to do just that. Nice-voiced telemarketers on a day where I'm not too tied up in anything else usually get this treatment -- which is probably more than they deserve, but occasionally feels like earning a tiny bit of good karma for my day.

  3. Immediately turn into my father and demand to know how this person got my number in the first place.
At the same time, this is still me we're talking about -- and her voice was kinda have cute..
She: ..there's absolutely no obligation to buy, this is simply a free trial offer to show you just how effective this amazing new breakthrough in male enhancement can be. All I need is your address for confirmation, and..
Me: Wait, what was that last part!?
She: ..um, it's a free trial offer
Me: No, no -- not that part, what is it you're selling? Male enhancement?
She: It's an exciting new herbal supplement that..
Me: Ugh, seriously?
She: (flustered) well, yeah it's.. (I assume she was checking her script for a moment) scientifically proven to..
Me: It's cool, I don't need to hear all that again. What was your name again?
She: Kirsten.
Me: Well, Kirsten -- although I can't tell you how nice it is to be getting a call on a Saturday afternoon from a pretty girl wanting to talk about my penis -- I'm can't say that I'm really all that interested in buying this pill of yours.
Kirsten: (giggling a bit, then recovering) But it's not a sales call, it's a free trial offer..
Me: ..That comes with a convenient automatic renewal feature that sends me a months supply in 10 days for a low, low price yada yada yada
Kirsten: Well, not exactly -- what we do is..
Me: Where are you calling from? My phone is showing this as a local number.
Kirsten: Oh that, our company uses a service that redirects our calls from local call centers so that we can provide the quickest response to..
Me: Right, sure -- but where are you?
Kirsten: ..what?
Me: Where is the office you're calling from located?
Kirsten: Oh, um.. I'm in Maine
Me: Really? Where at? I have a dear friend who lives up there.
Kirsten: Westbrook
Me: Westbrook? Never heard of it -- What's that like?
Kirsten: Ugh, It's totally boring. I hate it here.
Me: What's wrong with it?
Kirsten: I've only been here for a little while, I hardly know anyone.
Me: Where did you move from?
Kirsten: Boston
Me: What? Why the heck would you move from a town like Boston to some place no one's ever heard of?
Kirsten: My parents moved here for work.
Me: Ah, well that sorta sucks for you, doesn't it?
Kirsten: I know, right?
Me: Still, it can't be all bad -- you just need to get out there and meet some new people. Shouldn't be that tough for a girl with a pretty voice like yours.
Kirsten: (giggling again) ..Thank you.
Me: And yet, here you are on a Saturday calling me to talk about my junk.
Kirsten: (laughing louder, then catching herself to whisper back at me) Stop that -- You're gonna get me in trouble.
Me: You're selling knock-off Viagra over the phone and you're not allowed to laugh? Come on -- If I had a job like that, I'd be cracking up all day.
Kirsten: Ugh, no you wouldn't -- it's soo boring.
Me: Why would you sign up for something like that? Especially on a weekend.
Kirsten: Especially on a weekend. That's the worst part, I don't usually work Saturday's at all. They called me in today.
Me: Wait, you were called in? You mean they called you in specifically to call me about my penis? What are you, ..some kind of specialist?
Kirsten: (laughing) No, I'm covering for somebody else. *sighs* You're funny.
Me: Yeah, but according to your little list there -- I'm apparently not that much fun on a date.
Kirsten: (laughs) No, it's nothing like that -- these names are all come from magazine subscription lists.
Me: What do you mean?
Kirsten: The company buys lists of names of subscribers and their phone numbers from magazine publishers.
Me: So.. what you're saying is that because I read Playboy, it's just assumed that somethings wrong with my penis?
Kirsten: (laughing) ..pretty much, yeah.
Me: That's cold, Kirsten.
Kirsten: (after a moment, with a different tone to her voice) Well I don't know, Daniel -- are you're saying you don't need this free trial offer?
Me: No, girl. Not at all.
Kirsten: Yeah, I'm getting that feeling too.
I'd love to tell you that something else developed at that point, but despite the vibe that was clearly on the line, there really wasn't much further for the conversation to go after that.

Besides, for all I know she could have been some high school chick or something. I know that sounds kinda skeevy and all, but as far as I'm concerned if some company considers you to be mature enough to call me on the phone and talk about erections -- then whatever happens on the line after that is fair game.

Still, it was an interesting way to spend a drive from point A to point B, and if nothing else -- gave me something to grin about as I headed in for my workout.
I do wonder, though what might have happened with Kirsten the cute-voiced telemarketer.
After all, those calls are recorded for quality control and training purposes.

[Listening to:  The Dirty Heads - "Insomnia" ]


Tuesday, May 25

Monday, May 24

Funkentelechy, Part I

"The motion or change or process of change is the entelechy
of the potentiality as potentiality (when still a potentiality)."

                                                    -Aristotle
"There's nothing that the proper attitude won't render funkable."
                                                    - George Clinton

After my divorce, the phone never stopped ringing.
A combination of unexpected costs, the untimely end of my student loan grace period, mounting credit card receipts, and the aftermath of a particularly nasty home foreclosure brought them down like hungry locusts -- calling at all hours, multiple times a day. They'd ask nicely. They'd ask not so nicely. They'd yell. They'd threaten. Again and again they'd call, asking for money that I simply didn't have to give to them.

The calls would wake me up in the morning and keep me from falling asleep at night. I'd block the numbers and others would show up. I'd screen the calls, looking for out of town area codes, but they'd use re-dialer services. Worse yet, when they couldn't reach me they'd call my father, or any other number they could find. Ask him where I was. Threaten him with garnished wages.
It was a daily reminder, not only of how broke I was -- but of just how far in the
hole I had gotten and just how ineffective all of my efforts were to fix any of it.
I remember when I was a kid, my dad getting the same kinds of calls. The debris from his own divorce, the credit card bills -- I remember this man; one of the coolest, most laid-back people I've ever known getting to the point where he'd just be yelling at the phone, cussing at the "vultures" at the other end of the line to stop calling him, that he was doing the very best he could.

I was too young at the time to really understand the full picture of what was going on, but what I did know was that it had to be something pretty bad for him of all people to be losing control over.

And yet, when the same thing eventually happened to me, I ended up doing the same thing -- Losing my temper. Raising my voice. Calling names and threatening violence. Like that was going to do any good against some guy with a telephone headset who's job it was to listen to people yelling at him all day long.

But then something dawned on me. I sorta realized that the only one who was feeling bad after one of my collection call bitch-out sessions was me. I was the one who was exasperated and embarrassed over being unable to settle my debts, I was the one I was actually angry with for even letting this phone troll get under my skin. The person on the other end of the line didn't care. As far as they were concerned, it was just another number. All my hollering and protesting just proved that I knew I was in the wrong. You could easily imagine that all my hysterics and name calling were actually pretty comical to the collectors in the office on the other end of the line.
And so I decided on a new tactic.
From that point on, regardless of the hour or anything else that was going on -- I took every call. The collectors, the telemarketers, the research surveys, the wrong numbers -- and as soon as they got done with their opening speech telling me who they were,
I would talk dirty to them.
Vulgar, profane comments about the sound of their voice. About how I've been so lonely all day just waiting for someone like them to call. Man, woman, young or old -- it didn't matter: If you wanted a late payment from me, I wanted to get in your pants -- and I described that desire to collector after collector in as much filthy detail as I could think of. And not in a joking way, not some snickering prank to distract the voice on the other end -- I would use the first names they had given me, ask them what they were wearing, if there was anyone sitting nearby that could see them. If they liked it with the lights on, up against the wall, over the panties, under the blouse, shoes off, hoping to God that your parents don't walk in. Over the panties, no bra, blouse unbuttoned..
Most would hang up immediately.
I was transferred to managers. I was yelled at by the bill collectors. More than I could count would listen to every word in stunned, awkward silence. Answering my questions with stammering syllables, half-words, and confusion. Every now and then you'd get a laugh, especially if you were aiming to charm more than shock. But one by one the calls would taper off.

The trick is to sneak them into it. Ask their name, get to know them a little bit. Make small talk until they revealed some detail that would then become the foot in the door for the naughty telemarketer sex fantasy that I would then drop onto them.
It was something I would do constantly, regardless of whoever happened to be in the room with me at the time.
I remember one morning, sun peeking in through the blinds, drawing little lines across the floor of my old apartment highlighted with the sparkle of dust floating in the sunbeams. It was one of those rare moments where the silence of the morning was the exact music you wanted to hear, or at least it was for j and I as we cuddled in afterglow -- only to be interrupted by the ringing of the phone. It was too early for anyone else to be calling, so the conclusion was obvious -- but before I could even think of moving to answer, j stood up, looked me in the eye -- and with a devilish tone in her voice that I can still hear to this day asked,
"Can I answer this one?"
Of course I said yes -- dying to see what would happen, only to hear her carefully draw the woman on the other end of the line in with comforting small talk about how she didn't know where I was but she would be happy to take a message that melted effortlessly into a breathy-voiced erotic explanation about just how cute the telemarketers voice was, and how it was making her feel sooo good to imagine what her face might look like..
By the time the bill collector disconnected the call we were both
so turned on that we spent the rest of the day in that room together.
It was such a long time ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
People ask me sometimes why I can't just let people go. Why after friendships and relationships run their course and fade into the darkness that I don't just cut the line, break contact, slash and burn, and never look back.

It's hard to say why exactly, but I think a big part of it are because of those memories. Because regardless of how things end up, those moments happened. We're only in this life for a very short time, and so much of that time is spent searching, struggling, and chasing after things we aren't even sure we really want. As a result, it's these singular moments -- these unique snowflakes of happiness, even if they exist in memory that are so precious and valuable.
Call me sentimental, label me a big dopey
romantic if you want -- that's just the way I see it.
I don't dwell on past memories every single moment of my day -- especially as time passes and life edges on, but I'm always happy whenever they revive and return anytime the phone rings from a "unregistered number," or the sunlight hits the window just right..

Time passes. Things change. People move on. Eventually you find ways to get your individual debts in order.
The calls stop coming, in a sense.
But it's funny how so many of those moments hang over you like stars in the
sky, just waiting to reflect their light back on you with just the slightest reminder.

Part II here

[Listening to:  Clipse - "I'm Good (feat. Pharrell Williams)" ]


Friday, May 21

The Friday Hot Sheet

My son learned a new joke -- You wanna hear it?
Q: How come the Pirate couldn't get into the movie?
A: Because it was rated ARRRRRRRRR!
Like my kid needs help being any cuter, but few things are more of a slam-dunk in the "Aww" department than the "little kid tells everyone the same joke and giggles at it more than they do" gambit.

Waitresses especially seem to get a kick out of it -- which is good, since the past seven days have somehow turned into "lets go out to eat" week. Not that I'm complaining -- but between finding a new lunch-buddy at work and the weekly dinner outing with my dad, there's been a lot of restaurant action happening.

Discovering new restaurants (even if they're just ones that are new to me) is a lot like finding new music. The process is exciting. It's an expensive hobby to be sure -- but when you score a hit it makes the whole investment worth it. Good food is an experience that should be shared. Not only for the taste, but for the way it makes conversation flow. Even when it's just me and my little boy, good food gets us laughing and talking about all sorts of things.
Unfortunately, it's also the perfect opportunity for him to tell me this new joke he just learned..
So before I say "Orange you glad I didn't say banana?" -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here..
Shrek   The sequel no one asked for -- Shrek Forever After opens this weekend. They say it's going to be the last one in the series -- but I have my fears doubts. There are really no other straight-up family oriented films out right now, and the only other new film opening this weekend is the SNL-skit feature MacGruber (which I've got to admit looks kinda kickass). As a result, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Shrek carries the weekend and puts up huge numbers. Mike Meyers can't seem to buy a non-animated hit anymore (which is a real shame, So I Married an Axe Murderer was inspired brilliance) -- not to mention the fact that every one of the original cast members is still on board at this point (which is rare, especially for a franchise as old as this one). Sure the concept is played out and the jokes are lame, but who really doesn't think there's gonna be another one of these coming out next summer?
 
Daria    Perfectly timed as I'm getting close to finishing up watching Blood: The Last Vampire on Netflix comes word that the long-delayed release of MTV's animated series Daria to DVD is finally here. The holdup apparently had to do with securing the original music licensing rights -- and while I'm glad the creators stuck to their guns to keep the show intact for DVD release, I wonder if all that time past will have an effect. Even though Daria was probably more of a chick show that I'd like to admit, it was for a while one of my favorite things on that network. Beavis and Butthead I suppose was more aimed at me with the metal music and the guy-antics (and I liked that show for what it was), but there was something uniquely cool about the quiet snark of Daria that I always dug a little bit more. At the same time, I can't help but wonder how a show that was so locked into the time frame that it was made in will translate to a viewing now? Will it feel horribly dated, or out of place?
 
Janelle MonáeI'd heard a few Janelle Monáe songs here and there while listening to the Erykah Badu and Outkast stations I keep bookmarked on Pandora. I liked her stuff -- but for whatever reason didn't take the time to get an album or anything. So when I saw a glowing review of her newest disc by Bef over at OHN, I decided to give it a shot and see what all the fuss was about.
Best decision I've made all week.
It's weird saying that considering how glued I already was to the new Deftones and Erykah Badu discs -- but there's a unique flavor to this CD that is so intriguing and fresh that it's been totally overloading on my iPod all week. In fact if anything, I suspect one of the things that I really like about this disc is the exact same thing that others might not enjoy about it -- The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV) is all over the place with different genres and styles.

It's a pop album sprinkled with moments of indie Rock, Crimson and Clover sounding psychedelia, Samba beats, 80's New Wave, Portishead-like melodrama, Lauryn Hill-sounding anthems, Amy Winehouse/Duffy-like Retro Soul, bouncy dance tracks, and even two Orchestral Overtures book-ending each the two individual "suites" that make up the album.
And yet, it all sorta fits together.
In a lot of ways, this is the album I sorta wish Santogold's debut would have been more of. The difference being that Santogold is a band, tied in many ways to the creative limits of their individual members -- where Janelle Monáe is more of a unifying voice swirling above the soundtracks that each of the various producers on the disc (Big Boi, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Chuck Lightning, and Nate "Rocket" Wonder) assembled for her to work with.

For her own part -- Monáe touts The ArchAndroid as the second and third parts of something she calls "The Metropolis concept series" -- which mixes elements of Afrofuturism and science fiction to tell the story of a messianic android featuring lyrical themes of love, identity, and self-realization.
And I know a lot of you are out there thinking, "Oh great,
a hip-hop version of Rush’s 2112. Sounds like a disaster."
But I'm telling you, despite all the different elements and sounds -- The ArchAndroid is light on it's feet, danceable, and addictive as hell. Truth be told, even though the storyline sounds like something straight out of 70's prog-rock -- the "concept" behind the album only surfaces periodically, calling more to mind the use of recurring characters and themes on Parliament Funkadelic albums than anything King Crimson ever came up with.

My only real fear is that this album will fall into the same sort of trap that Gnarls Barkley fell into a few summers back, where the one hit single took off so much that people wanted more and more of that same sound, only to find themselves frustrated and confused by an album that didn't seem to know what it wanted to be, and definitely didn't have another "Crazy" hiding anywhere in it's track listing.
Seriously, if you're looking to get out of a new music rut -- you gotta check this out.
 
Robin HoodI didn't get to this one last week because frankly -- I wasn't all that interested in it either way. But the more I kept hearing about it this week -- the more angry I got about the new Ridley Scott/Russel Crowe version of Gladiator Robin Hood. Much like Shrek, there's a point where you've just sort of got to let things go -- and as much as I love the Robin Hood legend in it's many, many forms -- this just seems like one too many over the line. Remember the Errol Flynn Robin Hood? The Disney version with the Foxes? Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn in Robin and Marian, John Cleese in Time Bandits, or my all-time favorite -- Daffy Duck? This is a story that is meant to be fun. Now it's like a bad joke, which really sucks because it's a story that should be timeless. A story that should be beloved enough to endure re-invention after re-invention. And yet all I could do when I saw the trailers for this was groan.
 
Tell-All   Chuck Palahniuk will always be one of my favorite authors. At best, his work is arresting and thought-provoking, dripping in dark humor and nihilistic characters that seem to slither off the page. Books like Survivor, Lullabye, Diary, and Fight Club dig the reader into stories of characters at personal crossroads who end up taking unusual and frequently anarchic paths to recovery and self-revelation. Unfortunately at his worst, Palahniuk can also appear to be a one-trick pony who revisits themes and framing devices more than a wordsmith of his talent level should ever do. His latest novel hit the shelves a week or so back, and I'm excited to get it -- but ..also pensive. His last few books have (at least for me) been kinda hit or miss. A lot of people say that after a while you should sorta "outgrow" Palahniuk and move on to more mature satirists like Don DeLillo (who rocks) -- But there are few authors out there who can gross me out, make me think, and have me laughing all in the same sentence the way Chuck does. For better or worse, he's been a huge influence on me as a writer, which is why I'm looking forward to cracking the spine on his newest release to at least see where it takes me.
 
MC Chris  For years now, Johnathan Coulton and Parry Gripp have represented alternating beats in the musical heart of Internet nerddom. Their parody songs and video soundtracks have in many ways been the unintentional soundtrack to the rise of viral entertainment (or at least they were until that crazypants ICP song about Fuckin' Magnets [how do they work?] showed up). But to me -- if web geekdom music has a soul, it's MC Chris. From the voice acting he's provided for episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force to songs that have been traded back and forth on message boards, he's quietly become a favorite of Star Wars fans, Anime freaks, and stoners the world over. So where does he go from there?
To Twin Peaks, baby.
           

[Listening to:  Jimi Hendrix - "Crosstown Traffic" ]


Thursday, May 20

Wednesday, May 19

Desktop Disco

Need your help, gang.
Currently my desktop background on my work computer looks like this:
For those who might not immediately recognize it -- it's a still photo from Fight Club taken from the scene where Tyler Durden is explaining the splicing process for old film stock, specifically when he points out the "cigarette burn" mark that represents the break between reels.

I always thought it was a cool picture -- but I also secretly wanted to see how many people who decided to peek over my shoulder while I was working (hate that) might see this pic and then immediately associate it with what flashed up on the screen next, which in my mind would at least get a reaction, and at best make them go away.
Clearly I watched that movie a lot more intently than anyone else I work with.
So I'm kinda thinking it's time for a new desktop picture. Actually, I tend to change things like this up fairly regularly at work, just as a way to pass time between assignments and meetings.
Problem is, I'm sorta stuck between two choices.
So what I was hoping was that we could have a sort of an unofficial vote here to help me make the call. Either one of these is cool with me (and whichever one isn't chosen will most likely end up getting a turn sometime next week) -- but I thought it might be fun to see where you guys are when it comes to this sort of thing.
Who knows, maybe if people get into it this might turn into a regular thing.
Here are this week's choices. Feel free post a comment below to let me know which one you like better.
This One?

Or This One?
I know it's hard to go against Marvin, but ..these go to 11.
Rock the vote, people.

[Listening to:  Janelle Monáe - "Say You'll Go" ]


Tuesday, May 18

Call Any Vegetable

What is with you vegans?
No, not you vegans -- the ones who have made a conscientious choice whether it be for ethical or health-based reasons to structure your diet in a certain way that your protein, mineral, and sugar intake comes from non-animal sources. The people who choose and maintain a specific style of living that requires a zen-like focus but provides in return many benefits (both physical and mental) that make that challenge worth it.
I'm talking about you vegans.
The ones who want vegan hot dogs. Vegan ice cream. Vegan beer.
Ain't no animals in beer, people. No fuzzy cute creatures had to die in order for my double vodka to be poured. But that doesn't mean that there aren't people out there who want to be sure about it. Or more specifically, people who like to ask the question out loud when they order their drink so you suddenly know what they're all about.

By the way -- My absolut (see what I did there?) favorite entry on the Barnivore website is the page that gives Jägermeister it's seal of approval for being a product that is made without the use of animals or animal by-products.

Um.. hello? -- Jägermeister literally translates to "Hunt Master" in German. It was a term first introduced in a set of hunting laws that the Nazi's introduced in the 30's. Sure there's no animals in it -- but the guy who invented it was an avid hunter who dedicated his herbal liquor to "hunters and their honorable tradition" and intended for it to be drunk both before and after each new hunt took place.
       Hell, for years people thought the stuff was made out of Elk Blood (it's not).
              But it's cool, vegans. Drink up.
Maybe it's just me, but I've always found this whole idea of faux foods to be a bit of a stumbling block when it comes to understanding the lifestyle. I can see the logic behind being against the idea of killing animals for food, but then there's this whole vegan hot dog thing.

So sure, you're anti-animal killing -- which would be fine and dandy, except for the fact that you're clearly pro hot dog.
To me those things sorta cancel each other out.
The thing is, I kinda get the idea of vegetarianism. I understand and accept that there's an ethical argument to be made over the intolerable ways many livestock are raised, farmed, and processed (especially in this country). I understand that as omnivores, human beings do not specifically require nutrients or enzymes found in animal-based foods, and that when you get right down to it -- having animal-based foods in your diet is not truly necessary. It can even be argued that a vegetarian-based diet is actually better for overall health and body wellness and if managed correctly can not only avoid some of the pitfalls that even free-range animal-foods can present, but possibly extend the health and vitality of the body that adheres to this lifestyle.
But that's not what I'm talking about here.
The choice to adopt a vegetarian-based, vegan, or raw diet is exactly that. A choice. Something I believe people should have an absolute right to have. Just because it's not my personal preference doesn't mean it's wrong, or that I don't believe there are actual benefits or positive points to be found in that choice.

Hell, I could probably benefit in a lot of ways by adopting more of that discipline into my diet, if not my life as a whole.
Alas, I like meat.
I like the way it tastes. I like the way it cooks. I like the flavors and textures of eggs, milk, and fish. Call me a digital man, but I don't farm animals, butcher, or process them. Never have. Yes, I've seen the footage. My dad grew up a farm boy who would raise and care for animals that he would then help send to the slaughterhouse. Some of the things he's described when it came to harvesting animals for food are nothing short of harrowing when viewed on their own. I understand it can be a brutal thing, especially when it gets to a corporate level.
This isn't the argument I'm trying to get into here.
What I'm cheesed off about ..is this.
It's called the "Handwich" -- a little taste treat dreamt up by the folks over at Foodswings, a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn, New York specifically as the vegan answer to KFC's Double Down sandwich.

The Double Down, if you've not heard of it yet -- is KFC's newest promotion -- a sandwich (if you can even really call it that) that features two boneless chicken fillets as the buns filled with two pieces of bacon, two slices of cheese, and some sort of sauce in-between. It's a 540 calorie, 1340 milligrams of sodium per serving death ride that I'm pretty sure even Luther Vandross would bristle at the thought of.
Put it this way -- I love junk food, but I ain't going anywhere near that thing.
So why do the vegans need to have one of these for themselves?
Even if the Handwich is supposed to be some sort of joke at the expense of the mindless masses who are being hammered with commercials and marketing campaigns for KFC's latest version of the failure pile in a sadness bowl, it still begs the question:
Since when does something like this even need a parody?
Let me speak for the other side here a moment: I like Fried Chicken. When done right, it's friggin amazing. But contrary to what you might suspect, the Double Down isn't really the gold medal of chicken dishes. If anything, the Double Down is KFC sticking a middle finger in the face of everyone who enjoys eating fried chicken that says, "Oh, so you like chicken, eh? Well here then -- have more of it! Knock yourself out, fatty. Hell, lets put some bacon in this thing. Isn't that what you like, lardo?"

It's almost as if KFC is a pretty girl you've been talking to for weeks, wooing with every last drop of charm and wit you can muster who finally agrees go to on a date with you -- and then when you show up to pick her up she's at the door in a bathrobe and a pissed off look as she drags you towards the bedroom hissing, "Lets just hurry up and get this over with."

I don't know -- Maybe it's just because I live in the south, where family Fried Chicken recipes are like precious gems. No lie, there are sweet little grandmothers down here who will knife you for even suggesting writing them down.

And why not? Good fried chicken is an art. Much like fresh grilled fish, or a perfectly seared steak.

By that same token, if you think all there is to quality vegan cooking/food preparation is tossing some leaves and sticks in a bowl and then chewing on it like a rabbit then you're truly missing out as well.

So it stands to wonder -- were there vegans out there who recoiled in horror at the thought of a sandwich made from faux chicken patties breaded with cornflakes and special seasoning fried with daiya and tofutti cheese used as buns crammed to overflowing with faux bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion and a sweet mustard dijonaise?
If you're a vegan reading this, are you like "Jesus, what are you trying to do -- kill me?"
Because even though you might not realize it, that's what half of America's
non-vegans did when KFC put that Double Down monstrosity out on the table.
My whole thing with this is simple -- Look, if you're a vegan who's craving faux bacon or faux chicken sandwiches, then maybe you're not a really a fucking vegan.

       And that's ok, Starflower.

Look honey, I'm over here on the dark side -- and I gotta tell you, real bacon is awesome. I couldn't give that up even if I wanted to. Sure it's bad for my arteries and it sorta sucks for the pigs when you get right down to it -- but if your whole point with all of this is to make some sort of ethical point by not eating meat, then don't you sort of go right back and cancel it out by endorsing the idea of faux meat products?
It's as if your entire message is, "Meat is murder. Delicious, delicious murder."
The way I understand it -- vegetarianism is a discipline. Choosing against part of your available nature, especially in a culture like ours where you're continually battling against mass media marketing, the relative cost of eating healthy versus buying processed foods, and even the ever-changing ingredient processing/cost-cutting practices of food manufacturers out there (just because something says it's "green" or "organic" doesn't necessarily make it so) is not an easy thing.

But it's OK if you can't fully take the plunge. There are plenty of hardcore folks out there who are fully willing to hold the line for you. Honestly, for every one of you who can't stand to see animals treated with cruelty but would still really like chow down on a BLT every now and then, there's plenty of Gwenneth Paltrows, Natalie Portmans, Mobys, and Tobey Maguires who will never, ever touch the stuff.

You can still lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle. You can still oppose animal cruelty. If subscribing to this lifestyle truly is a choice, then logic dictates that there are other options available, right? Other ways to be conscientious without betraying your own desires and wants. Simple ways to be true to your personal morals without leaving yourself in a position where you are a walking contradiction.
Or to put it another way -- I'm no fan of animal cruelty, but PETA can suck it.
Simply put, there's taking a stand and then there's just being an asshole about it. And I can say that with confidence because I'm over here on the (sigh) ..KFC double down side -- shaking my head in disbelief at some of the choices out there that are somehow associated with me just because I identify as a meat-eater.

Seriously, I'm over here championing Kobe Beef, Grilled Swordfish and General Tso's Chicken -- and my teammates are standing in line behind me waving their McRib sandwiches in defiance.
       See what I mean? That's not a good look.
But the good news is that I don't have to go everywhere they go. Sure I once fell for the tempting wiles of a hamburger with a Philly cheese steak on top of it -- I'm not perfect. But I don't have to Double Down if I don't want to.

So I guess what I'm really saying here is -- come join our team, faux-bacon eating vegans. I know we maybe we don't seem like the best possible team to be on at first glance. I mean, lets face it -- Ted Nugent is here. Bobby Flay is our placekicker. We're sort of the Detroit Lions of good eating.
We're certainly not the the healthiest or skinniest lifestyle choice that you could make.
..But we do have the bacon.

[Listening to:  Yarbrough & Peoples - "Don't Stop the Music" ]


Monday, May 17

Saturday, May 15

Friday, May 14

The Friday Hot Sheet

It's been a wild week. Lots of things happening, lots of stuff to try to get in order. Curren's little league team plays their championship game tonight, and not to get all boastful or anything -- but there's a good chance they could win it. Of course win or lose all of that pales in comparison to the excitement he's got going on regarding his 10th birthday party, which will be happening Saturday.

That's right friends -- party hats, wrapping paper everywhere, off-key singing, presents galore, and the unbridled joy that comes from trying to wrangle a bunch of sugared up kids around a waterpark for a couple hours. He's been jonesing for this for a while now, but as many of you well know, pulling off a successful kids party is one of those "phantom stressful" things you get to do as a parent.

What I mean by that is that when you really get down to it -- as long as there are kids, cake, and presents all in one place your child's birthday party is officially a success. But somehow in making all that happen your adult instincts kick in and you get all freaked out about gift bags and matching napkins and who's in charge of the cake and all of this extra crap that the little kid you're doing all this work for isn't really going to notice in the first place.
And yet, you want it to be a big deal. You want it to be important.
Almost as if assigning importance to minor details is the curse of maturity. Kids are much better at remembering that the show's the thing, so if you get them all in the right place at the same time good times are sure to happen -- but for some reason even the most laid back of parents find ways to turn things like this into a huge production.

Not that I'm advocating half-assing your kids birthday parties, but as long as you don't end up hiring the wrong clown -- you eventually realize that freaking out is not a necessary parenting skill as much as it is a side effect of being in charge of someone elses memories.
Children remember smiles and the laughter. Being with friends and feeling loved.
The napkins ..not so much.
And yet, this day will not be complete until I find those Iron Man paper plates.
So as I ponder being a grown man who still has to purchase streamers -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here..
The Oil
Spill
Fiasco
 
Have you ever been in the situation where you're standing up in front of the toilet, hands still on the flushing handle, perhaps still in some state of undress from the night before -- and as you watch the water swirling around in a circle it suddenly becomes horribly clear that it's not going down -- but filling up? Think for a moment about that instant where you realize you have literally seconds to respond? What do you do -- flush harder, run screaming, start going for towels to catch the spill?
Or are you like the rest of us and you just sort of stare at the rising water in the bowl and yell at it, as if the force of your will is somehow stronger than the laws of physics.
To me, this is sort of what this whole spill cleanup news disaster is turning into.

Clearly BP wanted the oil and knew ways to go get it, but astoundingly apparently had no idea how to approach solving any possible ruptures, leaks, or whatever. I work with Engineers -- these people have contingency plans for when their parking places are taken. How did you schmucks not think of this part?
 
The Montreal Canadiens   First they embarrass Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals with a first round ass-whooping, then they turn around and send the Pittsburgh Penguins and hockey's wonder boy Sidney Crosby packing. This is a team that barely made the playoffs. What in the Wide Wide World of Sports is a-going on here? Sure it's exciting to watch a Cinderella team emerge in a post-season tournament, but what casual fans might not understand is that the Habs are one of the most storied franchises in the NHL, if not all of sports. This is the team that in it's history has won more championships than any other team in every other sport combined. It's essentially the equivalent of the Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys being thought of as an underdog. And much like those teams their fans are unlivable gloaters, especially when they're winning. Hell, a bunch of them rioted after winning the last game against Pittsburgh. And it's only gonna get worse if they keep winning. I can't believe I'm saying this -- but I'm actually rooting for Philadelphia to win something. Nothing, and I mean nothing could be worse than a matchup between French Canadians and a bunch of Massholes from Boston.
 
 
LeBron James   Speaking of massive choke-jobs, hows everybody feeling about the prospect of a new series of Nike puppet commercials featuring the Kobe Puppet talking to Dwight Howard? Sure Rajon Rondo went off and the Celtics played better defense than people were expecting them to, but there's no way around the fact that LeBron went in the tank for no apparent reason and starting tossing up bricks all over the yard. This of course will do nothing to quiet the rumors that he's planning on going to another team, and has never really wanted to be with the Cavalier's in the first place. And while I'm sure it's tough to carry all that pressure on your shoulders, the way he's been going about things lately makes you wonder if he even really wants that spotlight at all.
 
New Amerykah
Part Two:
Return Of
The Ankh
I've talked many times before on this blog about my love for Erykah Badu and her music, but her new album is all kinds of awesome. Like everyone else, my attention was sparked (in more ways than one) by her controversial video for the single Window Seat, but that song (which rocks) is only the first course in what is once again a feast of flavors from Erykah and her band. Few artists do a better job of capturing the fun that comes from making music with people you like as well as Erykah Badu does. I've had this album for a few weeks now, and I'm still discovering new things to like about it. In fact, just about the only thing that could possibly distract my attention from a neo-soul disc this addictive would be something like..
 
New
Deftones
The new Deftones album, Diamond Eyes is the first in years from the group -- and comes with it's own interesting backstory. As some of you might know, during the recording of an album called Eros -- the groups bass player got into a serious car accident and slipped into a coma. After a period of soul-searching, the band put the release of that album on hold, and then went back into the studio with another bassist they were close to (Sergio Vega, formerly of Quicksand) and recorded an entirely new album that was more in the spirit of the place their musical tastes and personal inspirations were at that moment in time.

I'm a huge Deftones fan, but any band tends to lose momentum after a number of years -- and although filled with bright spots the last few albums had been less than what I'd come to expect from them. But this disc is something else entirely. Not only is it filled with all sorts of different moods and textures, but it's got an enormous sound to it that I just love to blast on headphones and in the car. Gristina will probably be the only one who gets this reference, but essentially it sounds like the Deftones recorded all of Diamond Eyes with the Boom Button turned on. Much like the new Erykah Badu album, the songs flow into one another in a way that makes the whole thing easy to listen to cover to cover, which is far more rare of a thing than it should be these days. As a result, I've been utterly overdosing on this lately, only pausing a bit to go back to the new Badu. Seriously, is there anything better when you've got lots of new good music to choose from?
 
Aisha
Tyler
My longtime crush and admiration for actress/comedienne Aisha Tyler reached an unbelievable high point last Thursday night as I was able to share a laugh and a hug with her after her set at the Comedy Zone. Although I've been a fan for a while (and not only because I think she's incredibly sexy) I'd not had the chance to see her perform live until last night. Sooo worth it. Her act was raw, silly, nerdy, and brimming over with good energy.

She won over an early night (and quieter than I was expecting) crowd largely by just being herself. I think that's the way I prefer my stand-up. I like conceptual stuff and big sight gags from time to time, but I always take away a lot more from stand-ups who are willing to let the audience in a little. Which is not to say that I forgot to fall in lust with her all over again. So very cool in person, and well worth the time if she comes to a comedy club in your town.
 
Betty
White
Mania
Understand something here -- I love me some Betty White. She's like a national treasure, especially in her latest renaissance as the sweet old lady who cusses a lot and says vulgar things about sex. Honestly, we haven't had a dirty old woman like that around since Dom DeLuise died. But now we have Betty, who's been a beloved fixture in movies, television, and game shows for as long as I can remember -- and she's hotter than ever. So much so that a highly publicized campaign on Facebook took off to get her to host Saturday Night Live (which, unbelievably she'd never done before).

The results were hilarious (having Jay-Z along certainly didn't hurt), and provided a huge ratings night for a show that -- while not always funny, is regaining the ability to have fun just putting on a show again. So kudos Internet for making that happen. But like all Internet trends, there's no such word as stop -- and now Facebook has lit up with new groups pushing to get Betty to host the Academy Awards, as well as several new groups pushing for other famous women to host SNL -- including Carol Burnett (which might be cool), Liza Minelli, and Carol Channing(!?) What, were Waylon Flowers and Madam not available? Look people -- there's doing something cool, and then there's crapping all over it by trying to do it again and again and again just to prove that you can. Betty is handling her own fame just fine and has been doing so for decades. The last thing she needs after all that hard work is the inevitable backlash, ok?
 
Japan's Continued AwesomenessJohn Wayne once famously said that the best thing an actor can do if he wants to be star is to extend their death scenes out as long as possible, because they can't take the camera off of you until you're done. This Koi Fish demon/ogre/ ..thing gets it, as he's being killed to death by boob lasers. BOOB LASERS, PEOPLE. This moment (and many like it) happened on Japanese TV in primetime. Tell you what, lets do the Old Spice commercial play on this one -- Look at we get during those hours. Now look look back the boob lasers. Now look back at Dancing with the Stars. Now look back at me. I'm on a horse.
           
                                 See you next week!


[Listening to:  Mystikal - "Tarantula" ]


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