Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
Boston
North Central
Philadelphia
The Northeast
The South
The Inland North
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

THOUSAND KITES: CALLS FROM HOME

http://www.thousandkites.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=49

Every year, the Thousand Kites project hosts a recorded radio program playing calls back from loved ones and supporters of those imprisoned during the holidays. Please support the project by following the above link and telling others, asking your local radio station to play the program, or calling 877-518-0606 (toll free) and recording a message of support. Remember that no matter who they are or what they've done, prisoners are people too.









Glossary of Terms
Here are some useful words and phrases to remember when reading this blog:

"Chupa 2 Bad", as in "This test was Chupa 2 bad":
Something so terrible that it approaches the awfulness of Chupacabra Dos: Dios Ayudenos, one of those movies that's so bad it's funny, except it's not funny.

"But we didn't even put down the barbarians!":
A reference to AJ's infamous boardgame, which, much like Duke Nukem Forever, is perpetually being upgraded with brilliant new features but will probably not be released. Ever.

"I can't stop dancing":
One of J's many, many, many different catchphrases, often preceded with "This sucks, but..."

"HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qttBPCVQsc8

"The Blacklist":
A hypothetical list containing various films/sounds/books/activities which are forbidden for the holder since they contain too many painful memories from previous relationships.

"Orange Eve":
The night before J's (100*n)th day of wearing an item of orange clothing every day.

"The Cuteness Rule":
You and your partner should be on the same level of cuteness or a negative level of cuteness. The ultimate litmus test, of course, is if you show someone a picture of the two of you together. If their immediate reaction is:
"That's a cute picture of you [and your gf/bf/whatever]": you're cuter than your loved one. No worries.
"Aww, you guys are so cute together": same level of cuteness. Be careful; this could be a warning sign.
"Aww, she/he's really cute": She/he is at least one level of cuteness above you. Start counting your days.
"Hrmm. [Internally: I can't believe you're tapping that]": Two levels of cuteness above you, and you're screwed. Get a good divorce lawyer/friend on retainer.

"To Sketch":
A verb meaning to make someone feel simultaneously guilty, naughty, sexually violated, titillated, flirted with, and creeped out. Also compare with the term "sketchiness". Note that being sketchy is a mostly verbal/perceptual art, and requires a strict no-contact policy.

"IFMEH"/"IFGAH"/"IFEM"/"IFKERR"/"IFKATH" etc. etc.:
State secret, sorry.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Also, this:

http://www.batman-on-film.com/TDK_for-your-consideration_heathjoker_11-22-08.html
Something that should make you happy....



Sunday, November 23, 2008

SCWHN

I saw That Girl last night at a ballroom dance; she was dressed real nice but also working as a photographer for yearbook. She seemed calm, poised, regal, and very taller than usual, something that seemed odd until I realized she was wearing heels, something she hadn't done very much of when we were together.

She can wear heels now, courtesy of not having to stoop down to my level, and I don't have to look up anymore. Good decision or not, at least now I know there's a practical benefit to all this, and the future is pretty bright for her.

For me, well, we've got some work to do. More on this (and an honest-to-goodness Dance Story [!!!]) later.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Unfortunately both the lyrics and the singing in this parody are about as good as the original song:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Guest Column #9 (by AJ)
Well, in the interests of a free and fair media, the Author has graciously allowed me to come onto this blog in order to present a more conservative viewpoint against the hedonism that seems to be infecting the media these days.
It bothers me immensely that sensationalism seems to persist in media so often. It's gotten to the point where the last several guest columns that have gotten their own spots on A Seraphim Dream have been about smoking adictive substances, amino acids, and cannibalism (not in that order). Spectacle has replaced substance. What happened to the days of journalistic standards??? What happened to following in the footsteps of Woodward and Stewart and Bernstein? What happened to journalists reporting facts and stories instead of opinions and rants?
It's us. It's our fault. We demanded media that was light and frothy and sold cars and commercials like candy instead of media that was responsible and uncommercial. We sold our souls for ads that steamed over with sex and violence to exploit us. We demanded journalists who were personalities on soapboxes instead of unbiased narrators-

[Editor's note: We interrupt this guest column to bring you this brief commercial break]:





Thursday, November 06, 2008

Keys to Life
I had a math teacher once who taught us all these quirky little sayings that were supposed to help us remember otherwise arbitrary information. She called them her "Keys to Life" (she would actually write "Keys to Life" on the board) and it would go like this:

Teacher: Remember, vectors are "the one to which it points, minus the one from *whence* it came".
Student: "Whence"? [WTF!??!?]
Teacher: If you use that weird little word, you will never forget that key.

And I never did. But I thought to myself, math isn't the only realm that has keys to life. So I went around and asked some folks (regular contributors to the blog) what they thought were the Keys to Life:

That Girl
1) The polar, amphoteric nature of water. Without water, most of the major chemical and biological processes essential to life would be unable to function.
2) Carbon's ability to form stable organic compounds at room temperatures, which form the basis for polymers essential to life.
3) Loudon's Principles of Organic Chemistry, which explains the above two observations.

The Roommate
1) If you lose a game of DoTA, it's because you have bad picks. It's NEVER because you played bad.
2) If you win a game of DoTA, it's because you played great. It's NEVER because your opponent played bad.


fPendl
1) No blondes. Ever.
2) Always tip the bartender.
3) Don't let the first time you have sex be the first time you've put on a condom.
4) If it feels good, it's a sin.
5) If it feels really good, it's a mortal sin.
6) If it feels really really really good, stick it back in your pants.

L
1) Shoot them in the back before they shoot you.
2) No mushrooms, ever.
3) No popcorn, ever.
4) I never have, never do, and never will watch anime. Ever. Do you hear that, Mark?

M
1) Cheetos before liquor, never been sicker.
2) Always make sure you have makeup remover before you try to put on an Emo costume for Halloween.
3) Bros before hos.
4) Unless she's really something.

V
1) Sleep early, and sleep often.

E
1) Make sure your glucagon shot is labeled CLEARLY
3) Try to maintain a blood sugar level of about 135
5) Don't be a negative Nancy



Saturday, November 01, 2008

Guest Column #8: A Brief Look at the Econometrics of Sweeney Todd (by fPendl)

[Excerpted with fPendl's permission from his groundbreaking Fermi-problem novel "Freakonomics"]

...Notice, of course, Mrs. Lovitt's comment "With the price of meat being what it is", an obvious reference to the incredible hyperinflation that existed in 18th-century post-Revolution London. However, it is at this point that the unrealistic setting of Sondheim and Wheeler really comes to the forefront.

Here, for the sake of convenience, we'll assume a few postulates in order to simplify our scenario:
1) Mrs. Lovitt's meat pies are about four inches in diameter and more importantly, weigh in with about 4 oz of "meat" apiece- this is about the size of your typical McDonald's hamburger, which we are using for a mass and quality comparison.
2) Despite local variances in pricing due to haggling, variable competition from the fish-monger, and other such problems, we're going to fix the price of meat at about twelve shillings per pound.
3) Not to throw any doubts upon Scotland Yard, but we're assuming a minimal level of competency from the police in investigating Todd's murders.
4) Mrs. Lovitt's is presumably open for lunch and dinner (at least one scene- "The Worst Pies in London" and "God That's Good" is set in each mealtime) and we'll assume she serves breakfast as well.

Now, let's take a look at Sweeney's victims. Assuming male-only victims on what would be in today's standards a slightly deficient diet (1200 cal/day at most, the majority from starch and protein), we can see Sweeney barbering gentlemen not larger than about 5'9" and say, 160 pounds soaking wet. We can divide these body masses into two different segments: inedible bones, organs, gristle etc. and meat (that is, fat and muscle, and given Mrs. Lovitt's well-known pragmatism, liver). From human physiology and our good friend Pierre Alfredo we know that the inedible composes a large proportion of the human body mass *up until a certain point* at which adding more bone structure, larger heart etc. is simply a diminishing-returns game and muscle (which is heavier by volume) becomes the majority of weight gain. However, this point is far beyond the parameters of our scenario so it is safe to say Sweeney's victims will have about 20% of their body mass be meat or about 32 pounds (384 shillings worth).

Some quick arithmetic tells us that this works out to 128 4 oz servings of meat pies per victim. Now it gets interesting.

Mrs. Lovitt's, at the peak of its operation, is shown to contain at least 20 guests at dinnertime, which, extrapolated over a 4-hour dinner time, is 80 guests a night. Add in about 20 guests over a 3-hour combined lunch/breakfast period and you have a total of 100 hungry chorus members demanding more hot pies.

Assuming each member eats only a single pie, that's 100 pies needed per day...which translates to 600 pies per week (Sundays off)...which translates to 2400 oz, or 150 lbs. Think about that for a second. That would mean Sweeney and Mrs. Lovitt would need to kill 4.6875 people *per week* to be able to sustain their business model.

Let's go a little further into Sondheim and Wheeler's delusions. When Anthony goes to retrieve his lovely Johanna from the mortgage, she specifically says, "We were to be married on Sunday- that was six months ago!" That day goes with the same day that Sweeney and Mrs. Lovitt begin their business plan. Some more arithmetic goes and shows that Sweeney would have had to kill about 112 people in order to keep the pies a comin'.

That is, of course, assuming all of the meat could be used at once.

If we allow for more inefficiency in the process, the amount of bodies required jumps again: without a refrigerator to store meat, they would have to cook 128 pies at once to avoid wasting any, and although the furnace is large enough for Mrs. Lovitt to be burnt in at the end of the musical, it is highly unlikely that a single woman would be able to cook 128 pies at a stretch four times a week while also renovating her establishment to a more-reputable place.

But let's give them some dramatic license and say that Sweeney murdered only about 112 people over the course of six months. The average murder rate in many modern cities is less than 10 per 100,000 people per year (http://wheelgun.blogspot.com/2007/01/crime-in-uk-versus-crime-in-us.html), except in Washington DC, because that's like, where the President lives and everything; take away guns, gang feuds, and modern transportation and you could easily cut that number in half. Given that London's population was about 1.5 million in the 1800s, we reach an average murder rate of, at most, 150 per year. Sweeney nearly doubles the rate in SIX MONTHS. As incompetent as the police are, you think they would have noticed a trend in the disappearances?

Now, the investigative methods...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

So I was in lab today at around four, thinking about some Weighty and Momentous things, and could feel the anger burbling and gurgling within me, as acid splashed around my stomach lining and screamed for vengeance.
Stay calm, I told myself. Stay calm.
Yet that slosh of rage continued to boil caustically within me, threatening to explode out of me.
What is the matter with you? I asked myself. What's got you so upset?
Then I looked at my watch, and realized I hadn't eaten since a couple bites of chicken in the early morning.

Anyways, with that little intro, I present to you another guest column by fPendl:

Guest Column #7 (by fPendl)
People always look at me funny when I light up a cigar. They feel it's too septuagenarian, or too British, even too unhealthy. (Just so you know, cigars are like caffeine or cocaine: not addictive at all).

Yet I smile inwardly as they try to take a puff off of their cigarettes, or even more...*blunt* vices. That bull**** is for the rat races. Nicotine, marijuana, a shot of tequila, a shot at love, a shot at love with Tila Tequila, all of them are just ephemeral bull-rushes of pleasure that spark and fade away rapidly, leaving you crashing, craving more and unable to be satisfied with life.

But when you first light the cigar...the pleasure stays, not the center of the smoking experience but rather a peripheral texture that becomes the frame of the experience, in an oddly postmodern way. [Editors note: seriously?] Every time you try to focus on the calming feeling it writhes away, but by deliberately *not* focusing on it and instead thinking about (for example) the smoke burning your eyes, it creeps in around the edges out of the corner of your mind's eye. It's a fascinating experience, in a very Zen way: feeling pleasure by not focusing on pleasure. Try it sometime.

[Editor's note: I believe fPendl has truly gone insane]

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Guest Column #6 (by fPendl)

So, seeing as That Girl's penmanship has been permanently "retired" by request, I thought I might help my friend the Author out a little bit by contributing a guest column, seeing as he's run dry of material these days (not the only thing he's run dry of lately).

I've known the Author for a long time; we fought in the trenches together, built barns together, campaigned for Senate together, all that good stuff. For those of you who've been reading the Author's blog for a while, I've played a major role in many of the better stories he tells. For example:

-Some of you may remember (to be abbreviated as SOYMR) an incident in which laser tag of the non-ghetto kind was played and much shenanigans were created due to the efforts of one young lady who learned the Bambach Strategem. I was the one who taught it to her.

-SOYMR the Author's reminiscing about the joys of Sector L...I was the one who founded Sector L in 1847.

-SOYMR short films the author references....there's a reason every single one of them starts with "An Alex Fpendl joint".

-SOYMR a story about a young lady named Mary-Kate, and a dance. Guess who hooked them up? Yes, you guessed correctly, it was me.

-SOYMR a band called Suburban Rhythm, which was highly influential upon the ska scene of the early 90s. They broke up shortly after reaching the pinnacle of their success. In fact, there is a song called "S.R." by Reel Big Fish that asks, "What ever happened to Suburban Rhythm? Why did Ed and Scott quit?" The answer? They quit because I told them to.

-I was the one who made the Author quit playing Apples to Apples. FOREVER (or at least until the summer afterwards)

-Something I forgot: the stock market crash of 1987, "Black Tuesday". It ocurred because I forgot to intervene.

-The proclaiming of "IFKERR", LOLcats, rick-rolling (click on this link for the video of me at the Cyberworld Expo '05 explaining the idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0), the dance phenomenon called skanking, gravity: all are ideas I had in the past.

-I kissed a girl, and I liked it.

-That "World's Greatest C***Block" coffee mug with the picture of the rooster on the other side that the Author carries around? Yep, all me.

Anyways, I didn't mean to take up so much of your time with this biographical stuff. Basically, the Author asked me to contribute an article to the blog regarding technology and progress, so I thought I might show this little secondary-critical piece on liveness:

As I was reading Parks’ article “Satellite Spectacular: Our World and the Fantasy of Global Presence”, I was struck by one passage in which she described an irony of the “live broadcast” of “Our World”, a program in the 1960s:

“Producer’s concerns about Mexico’s ability to deliver it’s live feed [on time, without problems] meant the segment [on Mexico] had to be prerecorded…The [Mexican] performances…were continually intercut with an image of two Mexican technicians watching what was presumably the videotaped version of the segment as it moved through a reel-to-reel player and out into the world. The performances were also juxtaposed with an image of several female performers huddled around a television monitor on a city park lawn watching themselves as part of “Our World”"

Parks uses the example to highlight the irony of the producers trying to incorporate the idea of liveness as expressed through the display of live transmission equipment and broadcast…while simultaneously using a pre-recorded, non-live segment. It spurred me to think a little about of McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” idea.

McLuhan noted that the television medium, not the content of that medium, is what is shaping society; concepts like flow, which are unique to the televisual, are altering human perception (he even describes television networks as extending the human nervous system). In the case of Parks’ example, the setup is that the message (world unity through the liveness of television) is being transmitted through the content of the medium (people playing around the world and watching themselves playing on television) but also through the supposed medium itself (the image is live! Look how cool it is to watch people around the world live!). The ironic punchline is that neither the medium nor the message are live at all (being completely pre-recorded). Yet in this case, it is not the liveness itself that matters, but the *appearance* of liveness (some Debord for you).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

So here are two Obscure and Bizarre Asian Sports for You:

Sepak Takraw:
Think "volleyball" and "hackeysack", or "Hackyball" or "Volleysack".






Kabaddi:
A bizarre game where you have to cross a line and tag/wrestle a member of the opposing team without being tagged yourself...all while holding your breath...to keep you from taking a breath illegally you have to chant "Kabaddi kabaddi kabaddi kabaddi..." continuously while playing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Guilty Pleasures
Every once in a while, the demands of being a Renaissance man just pile up on you far too much, and you just need to have some junk in your system, so I present to you, the intellectual lightweight's guide to poor grammar and good stuff:

1) Star Wars: Shatterpoint, by Matthew Stover
Though it may not seem obvious at first, there are some pretty good Star Wars novels out there that are worth your time to read. Despite the pedigree of the author, this is not one of them. However, Shatterpoint is one of the most roundly entertaining SW stories I've read in a long, long, long time (in a galaxy far far away). Imagine an entire novel dedicated to showing how bad@$$ Samuel L. Jackson can be with a lightsaber and the power of the Force. That's basically what Shatterpoint is. Also:
-Cringeworthily good lines
-More than a few tips of the hat to "Apocalypse Now" and (a few) to "Heart of Darkness"
-An explanation for why there are no black Jedi in Star Wars.
How can you go wrong?

2) "Big Trouble"
Barry Sonnenfield tries to recapture the magic of "Get Shorty" and also that of Dave Barry but it doesn't *quite* work. Also, Tim Allen is not a good man to build a movie around. However, there's just enough bizarreness, funnyness, absurdedness and Stanley Tucci to make the whole thing work.

3) "My Best Friend's Wedding"
I know, I know, it's a chick flick. But it's a *good* chick flick. As I repeat often, you can explain why it's so good in about five words: Julia Roberts is the villain. Say it with me, folks: Julia Roberts is the villain. Julia Roberts in the villain. It's a good mantra, and it's probably what PG&E executives were chanting as they watched "Erin Brokovich".

4) Batman: Hush
Terrible, even by Bat-standards. But I love it all the same...

5) Without Remorse
Tom Clancy attempts to write a novel with something like a plot (this was back when he did plots) and Character Development. It's not even his best work (that would probably be The Hunt for Red October, which I'm currently reading, and is reminding me how technothrillers can be clever instead of merely boggled down with facts). But somehow I always get sucked into the detective-story-level-of-detail and the guilty pleasure of watching someone gun down the American Gangster (I think Frank Lucas is the real-life inspiration, anyways...)

6) "Rush Hour 2"
Not a great movie by any means. Yet it's a family favorite, and I can tune in any time it's playing on TBS (it's always playing on TBS) and be cracked up within five minutes by the Michael Jackson gag, the scene in the Versace store, basically anything Chris Tucker says ("Yes, this is the S.S. Minnow Johnson") and of course, the scene where they go to Crenshaw's Soul Food restaurant. It will never crack anyone's top-10 comedies list (including my own) but somehow around the holidays it always show

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Prison Break
So I was sitting there in molecular biology, and I was struck by an odd thought: three years ago I was planning to be an English major. WTF? Why am I sitting in a classroom filled with homicidal-looking Asian pre-meds trying to memorize 20 arbitrarily-chosen letter codes for amino acids?

I was once told a story about a boy who had been called out by his father for getting a C in a pre-med class at Yale. The boy's response? He started telling his dad about one of his classmates, a girl who had taken 40 classes (32 are required to graduate at Yale) and had achieved an A in every single one of them except one (an A-). Because of that one class, her father had refused to speak to her for the past two years.

Those are the kinds of driven, motivated kids who will one day become driven, motivated doctors, and then eventually, driven, motivated corpses. I, unfortunately, will never be one of them. I'm going to be one of the 90% that don't make it through pre-med, so why am I trying?

Because I don't want to be a quitter. Because I don't want everyone back home to think I'm a failure. Because doctors make lots of money and get lots of women (see: Anatomy, Grey's). Because the only other option is to be a waiter.

So I thought to myself, how can I make this experience less painful? I realized the answer: to cheat my way through the system! Most of you have guessed my solution from the title of the post: tattoo the answers to all the questions that I might be asked on a test onto various parts of my body. All I have to do is register a new religion in the UK that requires me to have various chemical formulas tattooed onto my body as an expression of worship, along with a few other memory-enhancing diagrams meant to invoke useful memories:

-Forehead: A sign that says, "Today is Shave Day" backwards so I can read it in the mirror.
-Knee: A scar that is actually an exact map of the London Underground.
-Left eye: Scary-looking scar that I can put an eyepatch over.
-Feet: funny quotes from Woody Hayes that I can read while showering.
-Left hand: Of course, "Remember Leroy Jenkins" (huh, that was funny)

That Girl Guest Column #5
So I was sitting there in molecular biology, and I was struck by an odd thought: why is it so hard for me to remember these arbitrary 20 letter codes for amino acids?

What I realized is that the modern world has, in fact, stolen our memory from us. Because technology enables us to be lazy, we become so. Nobody remembers phone numbers anymore (an excellent example of something that requires arbitrary, semantic memory); all you do is punch them into your phone and you're done.

Firefox has a fill-in-the-blank option so as you type a web address possible completions come up and you can select the one you want instead of having to type the entire domain name. After a little while using it, you even remember the order of the possible completions so you don't have to look at them, just hit the down arrow enough to select the right one and go. When you delete your history and have to go restore all the settings, it doesn't work properly and you have to type in the exact address, which is more difficult than it might seem.

Maybe the Luddites had something right after all.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Fifth

Come here, darling.

What's your name?
Who's your daddy?

Droplets falling from the heavens,
God's fears and tears slicking you down,
All of it running together again,

Who are You, Naiad?
Are You here to break my heart or my head,
From which part of You is my fancy bred?
Are You any different from the ones who came before?

Twist and twirl, smile and whirl,
I will not break for you like a droplet of sweat beading across a forehead,
Guzzle you like fingers of Beethoven.
So always remember this:
Never trust in being alone.

Mrrrgh.

That Girl Guest Column #4
So last night the Author and I went dancing it the rain at around midnight. I guess it was supposed to be romantic or something...except there was a creepy guy watching us the whole time.


Friday, September 05, 2008

The Existentialist Creed

I am not an animal.

I am not my body. I am not my test scores.

I am not my job. I am not my college. I am not my major. I am not my resume or my title or my salary or my material wealth.

I am not how many girls I've had or how many drugs I snort. I am not a burnt-out liver or soot-covered lungs or my own diseased self.

I am not the friends I hang out with, the girls I date, the church I go to, the clubs I belong to. I am not what parties I'm invited to, nor the ones I go to.

I am not a stereotype. I am not a belief. I am not my past. I am not my potential.

I am not nothing; I reject the Nihilist.

I am not anything; I reject the Relativist.
I am not pleasure's toy; I reject the Hedonist.
I am not suffering; I reject the Buddhist.
I am not "stuff"; I reject the Consumerist.
I am not a number to be toyed with; I reject the Communist.
I am not my own greed; I reject the Objectivist.
I am not purposeless; I reject the Absurdist.
I am not an individual for my own sake; I reject the Anarchist.
I am not alone; I reject the Solipsist.

I am not meaningless; I reject the Atheist.

Who am I, then?



I am only what I choose to be.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Ohio State University @ the University of Southern California, September 13th (That Girl Guest Column #3)

Me: So That Girl and I are going to have a brief chat about the prospects of either of these possible national title contenders-

That Girl: They're not 'possible' national title contenders, they *are* title contenders, given that both of them don't play in the SEC and this is likely the only tough game either of them play.

Me: Uh, OK, then. This promises to be a good matchup-

TG: If you call USC by 21 a good matchup.

Me: What? Definitely tOSU 21-USC 17. Definitely.

TG: And what makes you think that?

Me: Well, honestly speaking, these might be the two deepest teams in the country in terms of talent- every position for both teams goes at least 2 or 3 deep, despite injuries to the Buckeyes and TE Vernon Davis, OLB Keith Rivers, QB John David Booty, and perhaps most importantly, three-year starting DT Sedrick Ellis. In fact, depth-

TG: -will be a huge advantage for USC.

Me: Why?

TG: Well, let's think about this. If Mark "Dirty" Sanchez, USC's starting QB, goes down, he has a former #1 in the nation, five-star caliber recruit to replace him. If Todd Boeckman goes down, Jim Tressel is going to rely on a guy who hasn't played a snap of college football in four years and an 18-year-old kid who is still trying to put his jockstrap on.

Me:...who also happens to be the most talented and heavily-recruited quarterback in history.

TG: Right, so he's also the most overrated.

Me: Wait, if Pryor is overrated, how can you say Mitch Mustain is overrated?

TG: Mitch Mustain is 8-0 in the SEC, the toughest conference in America except for maybe the NFC West. Questions?

Me: I will agree with you that USC's players tend to be more highly rated coming out of high school; however, generally speaking, Jim Tressel tends to develop his players well. For example, a former two-star recruit named Troy Smith became, under his tutelage, a Heisman-trophy winning quarterback-

TG: -who was overrated because he played against non-SEC competition, then choked in the biggest game of his life and became a benchwarmer for the Ravens, who will probably cut him to go play Mexican football or something.

Me: *Canadian*, thank you very much. You can't blame the Debacle in the Desert all on Smith, though-

TG: Exactly! It was a team failure.

Me: *suspicious* Well, yes...

TG: And seeing as this is the exact same team that got [censored] up the [censored] by Florida, and then proceeded to get [censored] again like a [censored] [censored] [censored] by LSU the next year, can you explain to me why this might be any different?

Me: Well, obviously, this team is harder, stronger, faster, better than either of those two teams, and both those defeats were for reasons other than talent: Florida was simply the better team on the field that night because tOSU thought it could walk in there without being properly prepared, and the LSU game was much closer than the score indicated; had our boys executed a few key plays properly-

TG: Like the ones where they tried to score, and didn't?

Me: Umm, well-

TG: Not that you would know anything about scoring, of course.

Me: Wait, what-

TG:...watching Tresselball all the time! *ba dum ching* Thank you, I'll be here all week. In any case, I don't see how a unit that is essentially unchanged from two years ago- we're talking offensive line here- can possibly protect a talentless quarterback like Todd Boeckman from one of the fiercest pass rushes in college football.

Me: Well, obviously DT Fili Moala and DE Everson Griffin are going to be formidable threats, but you have to understand that this is an OL group that has been through the fire together for the past three years, unlike USC's patchy group of-

TG: Five-star linemen? Who are projected to become all-pros in the next 10 years?

Me: Well, yeah, but we have BEANIE-

TG: And don't get me started with that crap. If your starting running back is named after a toy hat children wear, perhaps you should start being very, very afraid of Rey Malauga.

Me:...who is the second best MLB in college football, after James Laurinaitis.

TG: Laurinaitis disappears in big games.

Me: He set a record for tackles in the BCS championship game last year!

TG: Well, yeah, but that's because his DT's were getting blown off the line, as they will be when Kris and Co. come to town.

Me: Actually, the game's being played at USC.

TG: Oh, it is? Sorry, I was wrong; USC by 40. Their home-field advantage is better than anyone's, unless you count SEC schools.

Me: Umm, Stanford? Hello?

TG: Booty was hurt.

Me: Yes, and remind me, what string QB was Stanford on? Their third? And were they a 40-point underdog? Oh yes, they were. And how many games did they win last year? Four? Like the number of times USC was able to score against them in an entire game? And, oh, let's not forget, they lost to Notre Dame, which, as you may have heard, was a little down last year.

TG: Yes, but we beat ND 38-0, so therefore we must be better than Stanford since Notre Lame beat them.

Me:....Right. In any case, I'm not saying the Buckeyes are the superior team by any means-

TG: That's because they're not.

Me: Would you let me finish? All I'm saying is that the Buckeyes are deep, talented, experienced, and hungry as hell. They have a definite chance to beat USC.

TG: Just like you have a definite chance of being straight.

Me: Shut the **** up.

TG: Thanks folks, we'll be back next week to talk about Maurice Clarett!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

That Girl Guest Column #2
Sometimes I wonder about what's really out there in the universe.

On one hand, I am, at heart, an astronomer, a gazer at the stars, one who looks at the vast, unfathomable beyond and sees billions upon billions of galaxies chock-full of the potential for...something. As Mr. Sagan said, if there wasn't anyone out there, it would be an awful waste of space.
On the other hand, I am, in head, a biologist, and I look at the near-miraculous odds that we faced in our evolution and think to myself that there is no possible way it could possibly ever happen again.

Then I look at the guy who's holding out flowers to me, and I realize that yes, there is alien life in the universe. It's right here, actually.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Notes from today:

-This is what I fear will happen to me someday:
http://xkcd.com/310/

-My roommate has a wonderful list of Spanish argut/slang/palabras de la calle, including:

"Encularse: to become pussy whipped"
"Caquero: stuck up"
"Hasta la quinta, pura, purísma mierda: Out in east bun (sic) f***" (i.e. Kansas)
"Meterse el dedo: to tickle the taco"
"Putear: to be a whore"
"Con huevos: To go balls out, to put some muscle behind it, like you have balls"

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic Basketball
A message to all the "basketball liberals" of the world (note: not the same as political liberals, but there's a lot more overlap than they would care to admit): the US Olympic basketball team is not, in fact, selfish. It is not showoff-ish. It is not individualistic, or fundamentally unsound, or mean-spirited, or unable to work together as a team, or unable to shoot from the outside, or lacking in heart/size/skill/coaching.

That was 2004's team.

That's not to say this edition of Team USA is unbeatable- far from it. A number of the savvier sportswriters (i.e. the ones who have actually watched this team play) have noted a couple of weaknesses: free-throw shooting, half-court sets to get open looks from the 3, sustained defense, difficulty against the zone when Deron Williams isn't in, even a propensity for deferring too much.

Let's listen to that again: a propensity for deferring too much. That means Kobe is passing up shots he would have taken in the NBA (are you listening, basketball liberals? or busy burning David Stern's business plan and tape of Coach K's Mastercard commercial in effigy?), which, yes, given that he's the most potent offensive force currently playing on a court, is a bit of a problem. Occasionally. But are you even listening to me?

Let's talk about what this team can't do: play the Princeton offense. Slow the game down. Get good looks on the ouside consistently in a half-court set. Play from behind. Avoid sloppy, incredibly *sloppy* turnovers occasionally.

But what about what it can do? Never have to play from behind. Tenacious, hellacious, and selfless pressure defense (notice: not zone, not trapping...that's what you do when your team doesn't have the players). Turnover dominance. Near-perfect execution of fast breaks. Nailing open shots like it's nobody's business (getting open shots is the problem) Out-hustle and out-athleticize anybody in the game, except *maybe* Spain, on a down day. And occasionally, every once in a while, run a beat-four-guys-in-the-lane, thundering-dunk NBA-style iso play with LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, or DWAYNE WADE, just to remind everyone that we can.

Oh, and let's talk about depth and team organization: Team USA goes a legit 12 men deep. Easily. I would feel just as comfortable with Paul, Redd, Tayshaun, Bosh, and Boozer (the last 5 men) as I would with Kidd (?), Kobe, Wade, Lebron, and Howard (the first 5 men). And they play well together. Coach K is not an X's and O's kind of guy at the level of Mike D'Antoni (his assistant) or Greg Popovich (the other candidate for head coach). What he is a genius at is getting players prepared to embrace their roles in and to embrace them in a disciplined, smart way. Guess what? Coach K got Kobe to accept *not* being the centerpiece of the offense, and made him care about defense (side note: when Kobe actually cares about playing defense, he's a sickeningly good one-on-one guy, and reminds me a little of MJ. Except MJ was better) Coach K got Chris Paul and Deron Williams to be comfortable with coming off the bench to spark the offense; Coach K got Carmelo to play up to his *nasty* potential as a FIBA swingman with LeBron (most wings are too small and most forwards are too slow to keep up with those two). And he did it while working under the crushing assumption that if he wins, it's because "he had the best players" (true, but not the whole truth) whereas if he loses, it's because of "bad coaching" (completely untrue).

Watch K's Duke teams, the really dominant ones from the early '90s. Watch K's Olympic team now. Then cringe in memory of a bronze-medal winning team that had Stephon Marbury (!) in its starting backcourt.

What does this mean? It means the same thing everyone else has been saying: Team USA is a favorite. But not a jugernaught.

Yes, Team USA performed well under potential at the 2006 world championships in Athens, eventually taking third place after a humbling loss to Greece (damn pick-and-roll). But imagine this: now the players have two more years of experience in FIBA-style rules (different levels of acceptable contact for fouls, really strange goaltending rules, and a larger key, mainly), a much higher level of motivation (this is the real thing, and the medal rounds are stressful one-and-dones, similar to March Madness...which Coach K owns a 66-18 record in) and senior leadership under Kobe (on defense) and (supposedly) Kidd. So what's down the road for the US?

Greece, with its disciplined, massive players, will slow the game down and try to make Team USA play a lot of methodical, half-court basketball, which is exactly what every team should be doing. Pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop will slowly wear away at US defense; tight, well-executed zone defense will make the US pay dearly for every shot. The question: can they minimize the numbers of turnovers from their ballhandlers, and prevent the US from shooting well from the outside? It's an iffy question, and I'd give the US team 50-50 odds.

Spain/Argentina both will play a more uptempo style; Spain, in particular will try to beat the US at their own game with man-to-man defense and quick, NBA-style outside-inside offense. We have the athleticism edge; Spain has size and experience and (possibly) a little "extra help" from the refs, depending on how much they hate us this year. (Recall, Tim Duncan refused to go Olympic again because of shoddy treatment from the refs). Argentina will try to mix-and-match the two styles, and has an NBA-quality roster to do so. Again, I'd give them roughly the same odds: 50-50 against Spain and maybe a little less against Argentina, who has Manu Ginobli, who terrifies me.

So, take heart, and take heed: brighter days are ahead! Win or lose, this edition of Team USA won't embarrass it's homeland.

PS: And yes, I still think a college team would be better, both for the image of American basketball (our Joes can beat your Pros) and because it would be hellaciously fun to watch. Imagine this starting lineup:

PG: Derrick Rose (Memphis)
SG: Stephen Curry (Davidson)/Jon Diebler (OSU, because I watched him in high school and am deeply afraid of him)
SF: Michael Beasley (Kansas St.)/Billy Walker (Kansas St...maybe graduated?)
PF: Kevin Love (UCLA)/Kyle Singler (Duke)/James Mays (Clemson)
C: Tyler Hansblahbah (UNC, but only because patriotism demands it...also it's easier to be a short center in international ball)

On the bench: OJ Mayo, because he's an idiot and it would be great to have him humbled.

I can just see the Greek coach pulling his hair out trying to stop little Stephen Curry :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Review of "The Dark Knight"

I know this is overdue, but...I was *doing research*, as I saw it 3 times...Basically, please, please, please see this movie. It's that good.

*Non Spoiler Review*
The Dark Knight is an excellent film and I would highly recommend it to anyone, comic book fans especially but movie-goers in general. It easily outclasses any of the current crop of superhero movies: Iron Man, Hellboy 2, Hulk, etc., and that's not to downplay any of those films (Iron Man especially is quite good) but rather to give you a sense of perspective on how good it is. Only time can tell, but I believe director Christopher Nolan and co. *may* have knocked off Spider-Man 2 as the greatest comic-book/superhero movie of all time.

It is long, occasionally complex (sometimes too complex for its own good) and especially on repeat viewing, has a number of readily apparent conceits and plot holes. Regardless, it is *still* one of the best films of the year, and the only one I've seen so far that I would recommend to anyone.

Rating: Five Bats out of Five

*Spoiler Review*
OH. MY. GOD. This film is unbelievable. It's soooooooooooooooooooooo good. Let me put this in perspective: Tim Burton's "Batman" in 1989 was considered revolutionary, dark, edgy, and grittily realistic. It obliterated the campy 60's version of Batman so much that people rarely talked about it anymore.
"Batman Begins" had the advantage of following some truly terrible Schumacher-helmed bat-flicks, but it was still good enough that watching "Batman '89" became painful because of its cartoonishness. The Goyer-and-Nolan script was clever, realistic, true to the tone (if not the content) of the comics, and occasionally brutal.
Flash forward three years. "The Dark Knight" is so good, so real, so dark, that "Batman Begins" feels cartoonish (ninjas? Qui-Gon Jinn as Ra's? a monorail? that ridiculous water vaporizer thing?).
I will try to encompass TDK's goodness in three perspectives: as a filmgoer, as a film critic, and (of course) as a fanboy/geek.

FILMGOER
The Dark Knight is slick, well-shot, and brilliantly acted by each of the performers. The script is sharp and doesn't pull any punches; it is genuinely enjoyable to watch because you keep expecting it to follow the conventional 3-act-structure of most action movies, and it doesn't (my friend AJ kept asking, "Wait, is that the end?") It doesn't take the easy way out of anything, and when it appears to, it's just setting you up for another gut punch. It is unpredictable but well-structured, keeps you guessing but never wondering "How?" (although there are a LOT of plot holes), and creates tension even in the absence of action (although there is plenty of that).
Moreover, TDK isn't dark merely for the sake of being dark; everything and everyone (save for the insane Joker, of course) has a motive for being the way they are and doing the things they do, including, most importantly, Two-Face and Batman. You can empathize with them, you can feel their emotions, and you can feel the way they are forced into action.
The actors all do a great job, right down to the bit parts like Gordon's wife and all of the detectives in the MCU. Ledger, of course, is amazing, and more importantly, fun to watch. His part is well written and his delivery of some of the Joker's quips actually *are* funny.
And his charisma is magnetic; Gary Oldman, Christian Bale, and Aaron Eckhart are all giving performance-of-their-lives brilliance, and *you don't notice* because you're so focused on what the Joker is going to do next.
Finally, the movie is chock-full of set pieces, jaw-dropping shots, and "chill scenes". Again, compare to Batman Begins, which had maybe 3-5 legitimate "chill scenes": Ducard talking by the fireplace, the introduction of Batman as a horror-film-type slasher, Dr. Crane's fear gas, anytime the Tumbler is onscreen, and the shot of Batman flying over the narrows through steam, eyes lit like a demon. TDK, in contrast, has so many stunning shots that they run together: as an example, the extradition of Lau would count as the major setpiece for a Mission Impossible movie, but in TDK it's presented as a teaser 20 minutes in, and is forgotten midway through the movie. Finally, there are three unbelievable scenes: Batman's interrogation of the Joker, the Joker's conversation with Harvey/Two-Face, and the two ferries scene, which I can't in good conscience spoil, all of which match or surpass the best moments in any comic book film, including the "passing over hands" of Spider-Man 2, which was my previous top comic-book-film moment.
The cons are that you have to ignore some pretty egregious errors of logic and logistics (easily done on first showing, not so much on the second and third) like why does Batman just leave the Joker at a party? Where is the Joker's supply of goons coming from and how do they all get to the right place at the right time in the bare time provided? How does Harvey get out and get the same suit he was wearing when he was burnt when the Joker blows up the hospital right after exiting the room? But the movie is good enough and smooth enough you never stop to think about that.

FILM CRITIC
This is the kind of movie that even critics have to love. There's a substantial amount of philosophy that went into this movie, and themes of existentialism and anarchy that would fit right in with an avant-garde art film like Memento. Some reviewers have commented on the post-9/11 mentality of the film; to avoid talking about the politics of it I will not go there but you can certainly see it. More than just talking about the issues of that disaster and its aftermath, TDK deals with the deeper emotions of it: fear, loss, vengeance, irrationality, outcry, scapegoating, questioning of the meaning and purpose of one's life (liberals looking for short-sighted cheap symbolism, however, will be placated with a nice backhanded slant at the Patriot Act).
The Joker is superb. He is written as the kind of anarchist that Alan Moore's V or Anthony Burgess' Alex would be envious of, and has some brilliant, brilliant moments: the pencil, the burning of the money, driving the truck, his conversations with Harvey and the Batman, all the mind-f*** tricks he plays on everyone, the endless stories about where he got his scar...and he is played by Heath with both enormous, crackling energy and a degree of subtlety that is surprising, especially on repeat viewing: beyond merely the tics and the small gestures that establish his character (e.g. the lip-licking, the hair, the twitchiness, the hand-soaping in the hospital), Ledger creates impossible layers to what should be a black hole of a performance: the Joker is a simple agent of chaos, with no origin or background, and yet.... Watch closely the way his voice changes when he is accused of being crazy; the way he teases and pokes and prods at the detective who is guarding him; the way you can *feel* him making up the stories about the scars on the spot yet still be sold on them; watch him shove others in the way of harm and the looks he gives to the party-goers. It's amazing to watch, and given Ledger's untimely and unfortunate death, the Academy might even reward him for it.
Even as I gush about the shots and the action sequences in the movie, the best parts are in the conversations: the rooftop tussling between Batman, Harvey, and Gordon, Gordon's speeches, Harvey's speech to the reporters, Bruce Wayne shifting from faux playboy to genuine supporter in his speech at the party, every Batman/Joker encounter, the perfectly timed, written ,and played Two-Face/Joker encounter...it's perfect coaching and perfect players, with a few exceptions (especially towards the end, where you wonder if an extra half-hour of scenes with Two-Face might have helped develop his character's tragic arc a little more instead of feeling rushed through what should be a grand, almost Shakespearean fall).
The cinematography and music are spot-on. I'm not sure if the shift from burnt-orangish coloration to the cold blue of this new Gotham (which does do more than its share of resembling Chicago) was intentional or not, but from the opening scene it works well. The music doesn't overwhelm and is almost unperceived but hangs in the background like a pulse or a heartbeat, the heartbeat of the city, which goes well with the gorgeous establishing shots of Gotham (if possible, see this baby in IMAX)
Finally, because of the length of the movie, Nolan and co. have really expanded the scope of the setting. Reviewers have said it should be called "City of Gotham" or "James Michener's Gotham" and to a certain extent, they're right. The way Nolan fleshes out the supporting cast, their hopes, fears, and stories, and the brilliant casting of everyone from Gordon and Harvey (arguably the best of the lot) all the way down to William Fichtner's cameo as the cold-hearted bank manager, is wonderful; more than just advancing the plot, these roles all give the movie a sense of depth that is often missing from action movies where typically everyone knows everyone. And, again, I cannot emphasize how good the casting is: Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, two top-notch actors who give top-notch performances, don't stand out because *everyone* is playing at that level.
There are a few flaws: although Goyer (a fine writer in and of himself but not at the same level as the Nolans) didn't write the script directly, there are a few of his fingerprints around (the line "I'm not wearing hockey pads" irritated me the most) and some of the CSI-ish moments really detract from the realism (the bullet, the bomb in the body, the sonar system etc.). The ending feels rushed and though the editing is competent, too much feels like it is going on at once; crucial events lose a sense of weight because we're too busy cutting between clowns, sonar-vision, and Harvey. But the flaws are almost imperceptible on first viewing because it is so smooth and compellingly watchable.
The bar has been raised for comic-book films; beyond besting "Batman Begins", "Iron Man", the "Spider-man" series and many other pulp films, TDK stands comfortably with crime dramas like "Heat", "Se7en", and "Traffic". It has both honored and transcended its roots. Somewhere, Bill Finger is proud. And Bob Kane wants his money.

FANBOY
Alfred: My....God....
Remember Mask of the Phantasm? That line is how you feel throughout this whole film.
Nolan and company could easily have made this a pure-art, independent kind of film, but thankfully, the studios and David Goyer kept them from doing so or from turning it into one of those "edgy" Frank Miller/Darren-Arronofsky-on-"Batman: Year One" kind of films that tries to re-invent the wheel.
Imagine, if you will, Chris and Johnny Nolan sitting down, taking Year One, The Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, the Dark Knight Returns, and many of Denny O'Neil's issues from the 70s, and boiling them down to produce a serum of all the best themes, iconic images, and philosophies from those graphic novels, without any of comic-bookiness of them. You'd be kinda pleased, no? Well, they did that, and then they went back and found as many nuggets of badassness from the comic books and sprinkled them over the stew. It's hard to imagine us wanting more than what they give:

The rooftop conversation from The Long Halloween? Check. "If I have a past, I'd like it to be multiple choice"? Check. Joker cards? Check. Sons of the Batman? Check. Batman with lenses? Check (if for no other reason than to show us fanboys and Sandy Collora how stupid it would look full-time). Bruce the Pimp? Check. Harvey, Apollo, the golden boy? Check (hell, they even include the line "I believe in Harvey Dent"). Tumbler destroyed and replaced? Check. Gordon having fun with Bullock, Montoya, et. al? Check (although they had to change the names since everyone dies). Alfred as producer of witticism? Check. The Mob as a fragile, internally splintered organization? Check. Batman: the Dark Detective? Check, check, check (even though it stretched reality, the gunshot and the databases were AWESOME). Setup for the next film as a Year One/The Dark Knight Returns redux? Check. City politicking? Check. Freaks and geeks? Check (no Alberto Falcone, though). Sick schemes of the Joker? Check. Frank-Miller-style media? Check. Batman as part of a team, a larger scheme? Check. Arrrogant film critics humbled into admitting it's a good movie? Check. $250+ million to convince Warner (and Hollywood) that good movies will make money? Check. $250+ million to get everyone to come back for another one? Check.
And the Joker, of course. This is going to become *the* definitive Joker. Remember how you felt at the end of "The Usual Suspects"? Or during "Silence of the Lambs" during the Clarice-Lecter conversations? That's how you feel...every moment Ledger is onscreen. And sometimes when he's not.
There are enough "Holy $#!^" moments to make any fanboy choke up with joy. The opening bank robbery. The pencil. The flying. The extradition. The chase sequence. The tumbling of the giant 18-wheeler. The burning of Harvey. The giant pile of burning money (another reference to The Long Halloween...). The Joker's entrance to the party. The endless, gleeful destruction. The parade. I could go on and on and on and on...
There was one, and only one thing that bugged me: Harvey/Two-Face got shortchanged. I saw a brief glimpse of the "I thought you were dead" "Half" scene online (cut to avoid the reveal and was hoping that would be A) the end of the film, setting up a sweet third movie and B) the first reveal of Two-Face. As it is, it's more realistic but misses some dramatic tension (not that the movie needs any more). Also, I was hoping/praying that Harvey would pull an Arkham Asylum and have some hope of redemption with the coin. But no film is perfect- yet TDK is damn, damn close.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Oh, the irony...
http://msn.match.com/msn/article.aspx?articleid=9266&TrackingID=516311&BannerID=544657&menuid=6&GT1=26000

And speaking of irony, in a day or two I will be posting a *free* excerpt from my extensive...OK, the only story I've written in like, 10 years...but first I need to contact a few people and see how offensive it might be.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A direct anecdote:
So we're up in the beautiful hills of Wyoming (mountains, really) and tomorrow we're going on a backpacking trip for about two days Into the Wild (TM). My mother is very afraid of bears (and associated markets, Stearns, Bryants, etc.), although not so much ninjas (proof of the dangerous ninja-industrial complex that has hidden the dangers of ninjas and exaggerated those of bears through their media stooges like Stephen Colbert). Exact dialogue regarding tomorrow's hike:

Mom: But what if we get attacked by bears?
Dad: Don't worry, we have bear spray.
Mom: Huh?
Dad: It's like Mace, but for bears.
Mom: Ohh, like pepper spray. (beat) Wait, do we spray ourselves, or the bears?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

So this weekend we went to my Dad's side of the family at their place in That State Up North, which was a fun experience. Besides the fact that nobody's stiletto heel got burnt off by a badly-aimed bottle rocket this year (long story), I think the best part of the experience was probably my mom's "Family Fun Activity": playing bingo with three generations of my family, and my dad's "Family Fun Activity": cleaning out two generations of my family at the poker table. Let's take a look side-by-side:

MOM'S FAMILY FUN ACTIVITY: Provide a way for everyone to compete and have fun together.
DAD'S FAMILY FUN ACTIVITY: Provide a way for everyone to compete and lose to one of the old guys.

MOM"S FAMILY FUN ACTIVITY: Prizes of fun and $25 gift certificates, which amped up the competition.
DAD'S FAMILY FUN ACTIVITY: Prizes of one-upmanship and being able to school other people, which amped up the competition.

MOM'S FAMILY FUN ACTIVITY: Every member of my cousin Michael's family won something.
DAD'S FAMILY FUN ACTIVITY: My cousin Michael's mom bankrupted three players within the first hour.

MOM'S FAMILY FUN ACTIVITY: The best story of the night was me sitting there calling the numbers for bingo and watching the smile erupt across my grandfather's face as he won the first round, finally able to participate in something simple and joyful with his children.
DAD'S FAMILY FUN ACTIVITY: The best story of the night was me sitting there calling my Dad's bluff in Hold'em and watching the smile erupt across my face as I revealed a flush, five of clubs and ace kicker...and then disappear when my father also had a flush, six of clubs and ace kicker, and because of "House rules" (i.e. "We're too lazy to split the pot like we're supposed to") won because six is apparently higher than five. What the f-

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Story #19: The Producers
So we're sitting around at one of the local hotspots for nightlife in Smalltown, one of the few places for the hip and trendy that are open late, a disreputable establishment and local favorite called Wendy's. Janine has come along because she is allured by the smell of grease and preservatives, and we are all sighing contentedly at the table, looking down at demolished brown plastic trays of hamburger wrappers and fry shavings.
In the glorious food-induced coma that we all are in, we decide it would be a good idea to write, direct, and produce a theater production for the residents of Smalltown. Matt immediately cottons to the idea of doing Macbeth, while Ryan wants to do Macbeth...In Space! (Actual quote: "So she'll be like, 'Out, out, damned spot!' and there will be little globules of blood floating in zero gravity...") Janine suggests doing a musical.
This rapidly deteriorates into a rapid-fire stream-of-consciousness set of suggestions for a diverse set of possible productions, including:

-Rosencrantz and Guildenstern....In Space! (The Musical)
-Glengarry Glen Ross...In Space! (The Musical) [Sample song: Where are the ****ing leads, my leads, my leads... *snap snap snap*]
-Ayn Rand: The Musical...In Space!
-Moby Dick...In Space! (The Musical)
-AppleShop in Space: The Musical!
-The JFK Assassination Musical: In Space! [Sample setting: he sits there on the twentieth Space-floor of the Texas Space-Book Depository with his Space-rifle and Oliver Stone doing his Space-"Documentary"...]

And finally,

-World War One: The Musical! (In Space!)
Which would open with a group of townspeople/chorus in Space-Serbia floating around in zero gravity singing "The Archduke is dead, the Archduke is dead, the Archduke is dead, all praise the Black Hand for the proper application of slugs of lead...laid him to rest now the Archduke is dead..." and some Space Austro-Hungarians consulting the Space Ghost of Otto von Bismarck on the wisdom of starting a two-front war...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Story #18: The Publishing Gig
So Ryan and Lauren have decided to co-author a co-memoir together, called "Skinny Guys and Macho Jocks: The Story of an Unlikely Friendship", the title referring to the kind of men they enjoy chasing after. They are struggling with what to do with the cover art, as the original cover (intentionally left without a title) looked like this:



I suggested something more "edgy", but they shot me down. I don't understand why; after all, who wouldn't want their memoir to have a cover like this:



Friday, June 13, 2008

The Difference Between Myself and That Girl

So That Girl is currently working at a high-profile, well-paid job in a lab doing molecular biology, similar to what I was doing last semester (actually, technically, similar to what Jordan from my high school was doing last semester) and curing the world of sickle cell disease.

Here's where she and I are different. I present to you the titles of the last five blog posts she has written on thatgirl.com since she started her job:

1) The Joy of Work: Productivity = Pleasure
2) How I Spent My Summer
3) Easy, Breezy, Beautiful: The Layman's Guide to Maxi-Preps and PCR cloning
4) Staying up until 2 AM to read "Science" and "Nature" articles
5) Wow! Orgo Really Was Useful In Real Life!

Meanwhile, here are the five blog posts I wrote on this blog after starting my job last summer (from the archives):

1) Lunch Break Ain't Over 'Till the Fat Centrifuge Sings
2) How I Spent My Summer Wages on Hookers and Drugs
3) How to Get a Tan via Gel electrophoresis
4) Hiding the Good Pipettes from Scott [my boss]
5) Dry Ice Bombs and Other Scientific Tools

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Story #16: Lost
So some interesting (like the Chinese curse) things happened in Atlanta, and Lex has a Mexican fake ID. Then we decided to go to dinner.
Zach is coming along later, and Carissa has a babysitting gig, so that only leaves 7 of us to cram into Alex's car: Alex (in the driver's seat), Lauren and Lex (in the passenger seat) , and one happy family of myself, Matt, Ryan, and Joy in the backseat. Alex is playing calm, cool, and collected, idly switching between satellite radio stations (stations for the 70s, 90s, and the song "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It", which is *constantly* playing and has become one of the unofficial theme songs for this trip, along with "Four Minutes" and "Piece of Me") and remarking on the weather, trying to conceal the fact that he has no idea where he's going.
We pass, in rapid succession, a Marshall's, the only Chipotle in Atlanta (mmmm, Chipotle), a four-toed statue of a foot, an oddly-shaped McDonalds, and Tyler Perry's house.
Following some advice he received earlier, Alex sets Laura Bush to a heading of 325 and tries to drive towards Buckhead. Lex begins to play an amusing song parody (for the song, listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AB7qL3volo ); meanwhile, the four crammed in the back shift to the left side and sigh as they think about food. Alex wheels the car around a corner.
We pass, in rapid succession, a Marshall's, the only Chipotle in Atlanta (mmmm, Chipotle), a four-toed statue of a foot, an oddly-shaped McDonalds, and Tyler Perry's house.
"Have we seen that Chipotle before?" Ryan asks. People laugh weakly but are still thinking about food, or even about chasing after the polar bear which is running through the jungle like a non-sequitour. Alex frowns and tries to find a different way. Joy explains the popularity of Tyler Perry's work. Lex wonders if we should call Zach and tell him we'll be a little late.
We pass, in rapid succession, a Marshall's, the only Chipotle in Atlanta (mmmm, Chipotle), a four-toed statue of a foot, an oddly-shaped McDonalds, and Tyler Perry's house.
"Hey look, it's a Chipotle!" Ryan says. She may or may not be being sarcastic. As the song "Love Shack" comes on, Lex and Lauren start banging on the ceiling of the car and singing along. Matt calls Zach (Matt: "What's his number?" Alex: "Uhh, four eight fifteen sixteen twenty-three forty-two"). Alex tries a different direction.
We pass, in rapid succession, a Marshall's, the only Chipotle in Atlanta (mmmm, Chipotle), a four-toed statue of a foot, an oddly-shaped McDonalds, and Tyler Perry's house.
"Harrison," Joy says, "This isn't funny anymore." Harrison raises an eyebrow, and wonders if she is referring to Alex's inability to find a way off the Island, or the metafictional touches he keeps putting into the blog.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Story #14: Hearsay
JORDAN: Hey Matt, want to walk around the Casa naked?
MATT: Umm...why?
JORDAN: So it will go on the blog.

Story #15: Fear and LOLing in Hotlanta
So I was supposed to be writing about the experience of going down to Atlanta to visit a few other friends we had but I'm lazy, so it's coming in bullet point form, and not necessarily well written, and not necessarily good (so like a certain author I hate, except he didn't have an excuse):

-Matt was driving Lauren, Ryan, and I through a series of odd little highways and a LOT of byways, including one where the left lane was shut down and blocked with cones, asphalt trucks, and bored-looking workers being paid to stand around and do little. This led to the following exchange:
MATT: Wow, the left lane actually is closed, the sign back there wasn't a lie...
RYAN: Yeah, usually after you see that sign there's nothing in the left lane and they're like, "SIKE!!! Left lane totally open, BITCHES!!!"

-After passing about 2,038,371 advertisements for Taco Bell's scattered around the highway like Kudzu, Lauren and Ryan are sitting in the backseat and have named themselves "The Backseat Coalition" (Matt and I consider calling ourselves "the Dynasty" so...). The Backseat Coalition has declared that they want to go to Taco Bell, and Laura Bush (our beloved GPS system, which also goes by the name Angela Merkel, and who I submit should be named "Margaret Thatcher") obligingly directs us to the next Taco Bell...which is 20 miles out of our way.
When we arrive, the ordering process goes something like this:
LAUREN: [Stereotypical Panhel voice] Hi, sorry for using abrev's (which, btw is so tot's hott and also really kosh) but we didn't want to go to the caf to get a sammy since the guy was tot's drunk and a little belig, and I thought it was feas to ask him -
WOMAN AT TACO BELL: Look, do you want tac's or not?

-Lauren is in the mood for meeting guys, and, like a salmon going upstream to spawn, finds the urge to grow stronger and stronger as she returns to The South. While driving through South Carolina, she goes into hysterics at seeing three mildly cute young gentlemen play golf in polos and plaid shorts, and then locks on to the sign that says "UGA-Athens". She latches on to the back of Matt's driver's seat and begins begging him desperately to turn off there ("I WILL PAY YOU MONEY TO LET ME GO THERE!!!!"), using every slimy trick she's learned from watching various politicians ("There are Hot Guys there...we can go there....YES WE CAN!!!!") but using my Jedi Mind Tricks, I manage to keep her from diverting our course. I obviously cannot have someone diverting attention from our quest this late in the game for prurient reasons; it's wrong to drive somewhere else just for lust, especially because I want to see That Girl soon...

More soon...
Story #13: The Appalachian Candidate
So Lauren and I drove out to see Obama's kickoff campaign (after beating Hillary 48 hours earlier) to write about it for a daily news outlet that Lauren works for. This was somewhat distasteful for Lauren, as she is a diehard Republican, and very distasteful for me, as I like the movie Die Hard, and am a Republican.

Obama's kickoff is at a local high school, and is held inside a gym slightly smaller than my high school's. I tune out the bull$#!^ of political discourse and instead try to focus on the *people*, with the following observations (no jokes today, this is a serious blog post):

-Obama is uncannily charismatic, even for a politican. The way he holds the crowd's attention with a mike in his hand makes me wish I could have studied tapes of his oratorical techniques when I was a Mock Trialer. He is also extraordinarily well-coached by his political advisers, and knows how to tailor his message to appeal to the crowd in terms of regionalism.

-One of Obama's secret service agents was a dead ringer for Kyle Singler, the Duke basketball star, right down to the paleness, buzz-cut, and slightly bemused expression.

-From Lauren: "OH MY GOD THESE SECRET SERVICE AGENTS ARE SO HOTTTTT!!!!"

-There was an annoying cameraman who set up a massive '80s-style clunker on a tripod in front of our seats, completely blocking our view. If Obama promises to kill him, the Dems definitely have my vote (as well as the vote of the exasperated older lady behind me)

-Security definitely wasn't nearly as strict as it could have been, as Lauren distracted the guard at the security check with the following dialogue (approximate):
LAUREN [Puts the camera she borrowed from Ryan down on the table, flutters eyelashes] *subvocally* OMFG so hott...
GUARD: Is this yours?
LAUREN [Flutters eyelashes some more]: Oh no, it's not.
GUARD: [Winks] You thief.
LAUREN: Don't tell anyone.

Meanwhile, people without tickets, illegal immigrants, the Joker, and Manchurian Candidates all slip by without being noticed.

-Totally true story: while obfuscating the answer to a question, Obama tried to tell a sob story about a young boy who has an asthma attack due to the machinations of the evil insurance companies:
OBAMA: And, if they had just paid for his ventilator...I mean, his breathalyzer...I mean...you know what I mean...I'm sorry, I haven't had much sleep in the last 48 hours.
LAUREN: *subvocally* Yeah, but you've had a lot to drink...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Story #11: The One Where...
So Jordan asked if I could write about her in the blog, so....If being in Smalltown is like being on the X-Files, then Jordan, Polly, and Sylvia are the Lone Gunmen: the next generation of main characters who are soon going to leave us, get their own spinoff show, and eventually eclipse our popularity 30+ years from now. They are the three Next Generation interns...anyways, in an oddly postmodern (I think?) or perhaps metafictional (that's better) touch, someone leaked them the blog, and so, I am told to write about Jordan. She injured her neck today and ended up having to rest, before coming back in a yellow dress and cowboy boots, which are apparently a very popular item of clothing here in Smalltown (Sylvia and Lauren both have a pair). There was an amusing anecdote that was supposed to be written here, but I forget what it was supposed to be.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dreams of Being a (Bad) Hero
A lot of people dream of being heroes in all sorts of ways, for all sorts of reasons. The "Hancock"-esque nature of these dreams is something we don't always like to talk about...So here's my dream:
I've always been blessed with things I don't deserve, and many of those things I wish I could have used better. One of my little fantasies is to win the lottery and give all the money (save for a little bit) away...as anonymously as possible, so when I went to present the checks to the organizations they can coo and tell me what a good person I am and generally inflate my ego. Also, it would definitely give me a HUGE boost in improving my "game", especially with those hot liberal-environmentalist-feminist-activist girls that I am apparently deathly attracted to...

Here's how it would go down:

Assuming, of course, that I can dream big in this fantasy, let's say I play Powerball and win $50,000,000 (Fifty Million Dollars) with the lump-sum payment (I have no idea what the difference is between the lump-sum and the annuity payments but let's say $50 million). The moment that money entered my checking account, it would go out to:

-$20,000,000 to my Alma Mater, with the requirement that at least 50% of it go to establishing scholarships/financial aid and recruitment for underpriviledged students: This is a big one. Building a pipeline that does not consist of rich white Catholic kids will do wonders for my old school.

-$10,000,000 to the JDRF, for Diabetes research: To prove something to myself/exorcise demons.

-$10,000,000 to the Boys and Girls Club where I used to volunteer: I never did anything worth a damn for them other than yell at kids; maybe this will buy me some absolution.

-$5,000,000 to Miqlat/Bowy House: Even with the dollar being weak, this will still buy a lot of aid (no pun intended) in South Africa.

-$1,000,000 to the Jewish Community Center where I used to volunteer, with the requirement that at least $10,000 is used to buy a copier with a collating function: I once spent an afternoon collating 150 copies of the 30-page newsletter the JCC sends out. It was terrible. May this gift somehow keep another poor intern from having to do the same.

-$1,000,000 to the Tin Roof Foundation

-$1,000,000 to the Red Cross

-$1,000,000 to Appalshop

-$500,000 to my university:
Those bastards have so much money it's not even funny. You don't get 7 figures from me.

-$50,000 for my father's wristwatch: My dad has always wanted to own a really, really classy European watch but can't bear the thought of sinking this much money into it. Well, now he can.

-$50,000 for the Intervarsity Scholarship fund at my university: As much as I grumble about them, they are doing good things for people

-$50,000 to bring all my mom's sisters together for a big family reunion: I'm not really sure what they would want to do, but this might help get them together...

-$50,000 to the chapel at my school

-$50,000 to the church that rejected my mom's side of the family:
again, to prove a point

-$40,000 to my brother's band fund: on the condition they never come by my house again to solicit money.

-$200,000 for my brother's college tuition: so he can go wherever he wants

-$10,000 to send my little brother to E3 in May: Because this is the only thing that will really make him happy.






Story #9: Pooltime
So we have a new intern to live with us. Her name is Sylvia (Lauren and I had a long debate about the exact spelling of her name, since we got her a birthday cake to commemorate her 21st birthday, which Sylvia spent in Smalltown with none of her friends from home and all of her friends here) and she wants to find out if the pool is open.
So Matt and I pile into the car with her and we drive down to the somewhat ghetto-looking community pool next to the abandoned high school, and discover that the sign that says "11-6" means the pool is open from 11 am to 6 pm, not the contrapositive (closed from 11 pm to 6 am) or something.
Sylvia and Matt, however, decide that they do want to figure out how long the track is at the field next to the pool. They decide to do so by running around the track for 10 minutes (the approximate amount of time it takes them to jog a mile) and then counting the number of laps done and doing the proportions in their heads. I feel as if I've walked into a fifth grade math problem: "If it takes Sylvia and Matt 10 minutes to run 7 laps at 6 miles per hour..."

Story #10: Ghetto Scrabulous
The synopsis: Matt declares that he is not really very good or very competitive at Scrabble, right before he declares that only words included in the dictionary "agreed upon to be used before the game began" will work, and that no, "Skype" is not a verb because 1) its common-usage form has not percolated through enough for it to become a generic word like "Xerox" and 2) he didn't come up with it, and it's far too many points for a rank amateur like me.
The finale: Matt comes up 3rd out of 4, losing to both Jeanine (who is a kick@$$ Scrabble player) and Ryan (who claims to be terrible at both Scrabble and chemistry yet still managed to use the word "AZINE". Gah)

(I'm not bitter at all for coming in 4th)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

http://www.morphthing.com/

Something that seems really cool, but not...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memory-al Day
The last time I was here for Memorial Day, a few things were different, and a few were the same...

Same:

-My brother marched in the parade with his High School marching band. The raw focus, the sheer angry joie de vivre I see upon his face behind the dark sunglasses: this is the brother we want to see. Or is it?

-The crass commercialism, mixed with patriotism, mixed with obesity-causing sugary sweets, that is the floats of the parade.

-Small children grabbing up all the candy thrown from the floats faster than any street-cleaner, like remoras sucking up scraps.

Different:
- The last time, I spent the first hour of the parade talking to E about our hopes and dreams for the future, walking around the parking lot next to the parade route with a cell-phone pressed to my ear. This time, I spent the first hour of the parade sleeping, tossing and turning about uneasily. I'm not really sure which I would rather have.

-More veterans this time around. People are still willing to clap, though.

-The last time, the future was bright.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ryan told me after meeting my parents that my mannerisms and so on are all almost the same as my father's.

I don't know if there's any man living I'd rather be modeled after.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Story #5: The Family
By this point in time, Lauren and I are fraying around the edges in terms of mental sanity, having already discussed to death ad nauseum the respective situations of our moral, family, home, economic, political, and love lives having been discussed, analyzed and picked apart from every angle possible in a Warren Commission-style series of inquiries conducted over dinner, at the same time trying to avoid either being perceived as an old married couple or becoming one. Today we decide to shake it up; Lauren proposes watching “Grey’s Anatomy” over a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Now, my hearing being not quite what it was, I assume she means watching a television show about secretive Men in Black dissecting the otherworldly visitors that come in saucer-like UFOs, while splitting 1/8 gallon of some local brew (Smalltown U.S.A. is wet, but the county it is in is not). Much to my surprise, there were no government agents, no little gray-skinned coldly anthropomorphic aliens, and no fake ID’s in sight; instead we end up with some ice cream, a soap opera set in a hospital, and Lauren in stereotypically sorority sweatpants that have the name of our illustrious rich preppy white kids’ school stenciled down the side.*
Afterwards, there is a blur of YouTube videos that involve ghost riding, frat pranks, DUI, and a few other bits of nonsense, and then, finally, finally, FINALLY, Ryan arrives.
Ryan flies in from the West, and is understandably a little disoriented when she arrives. She is further disoriented by the fact that when she gets here Lauren and I are crying in relief that there is finally another one of us here, someone to break the yin/yang duality that we have created, someone who isn’t clawing to get out, someone who we can pretend is our adopted daughter (from South Africa).
When Matt arrives as our adopted son (from Korea), the family is complete; now I am the master.

Story #6: K-Mart
Matt, Ryan, and I are stuck with no place to go. So, like many cynical, bitter, alienated young people, we decide to go to Wal-Mart. Specifically, an establishment called “Super Wal-Mart”, which (allegedly) has the soy milk that Ryan (a vegan) requires to be able to eat her cereal.
By the way, since Ryan is a vegan, most of my conversations with her end up being enlightening, philosophical discussions about the ethical treatment of animals and animal products:

ME: So can you eat lasagna?
RYAN: No, it has cheese, which is an animal product.
ME: Well, what if we take the meat out?
RYAN:…it has cheese, which is an animal product.
ME: Can you eat barbecue?
RYAN:…think about that for a second.
ME: We can take the meat out of it for you!

We start driving south, cross the state border, and end up at an intersection which has…you guessed it. A K-Mart, a Mexican place, and Food City. Which means the Thai place is right here. I bang my head against the wall repeatedly until Matt gently takes my arm and tells me we are going to Super K-Mart instead, which is roughly the same thing.
As a hardened cynic, pundit, and geek, I have long since learned to avoid things with K’s (K-pax, Kristin, the KKK, K-wings) because of various unpleasant events/things associated with them (Kevin Spacey, Hiroshima, lynchings, the entire war against the Duskhan League) but somehow, I am convinced to go inside.
Super K-Mart has probably seen better days, unfortunately. Its shelves are half-empty and sagging, as though they haven’t been stocked since the boomtown times of the 1980s, and the only items there in plenty are discount candies, which Ryan (an insider, as she worked at Rite-Aid for two years) tells us probably mean they are the promotional kinds that they put in these big bins and nobody wants because they taste terrible. We end up not buying anything, although Ryan gets toothpaste from the convenience store next door.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Story #4: All Thai'd Up
So, on the advice of my boss, we hit the road in search of a Thai restaurant about 40 miles down the road- Route 15 North. With optimism and a full tank of gas on our side, we follow my boss' vague directions about (paraphrasing here) "follow 15 N until you hit a K-Mart, a Mexican place, and Food City".

An hour later, we are very upset. Having found the mythical location with the K-Mart, Mexican place, and Food City, we are unable to locate any Thai restaurant, and neither are the local townsfolk, as shown by the following dialogue:

LAUREN: Excuse me sir, but do you know where the Thai place around here is?
RANDOM GUY: Tie place? Uhh, I think there's a men's shop, or something, down the road...
LAUREN: Oh good God...no, like Thai, Thailand, you know...
RANDOM GUY: TieLand? Is that a chain?
LAUREN: Look, do you have any idea where this place is?
RANDOM GUY: Well, I'm sure it's, uhh, on the, erm, map here somewhere, with, you know, like, South Africa and the Iraq...umm...

We ride back in frustration and end up eating Pizza Hutt for dinner that night.

The next morning I discover that I have, in fact, been misled:

RANDOM COWORKER: Hey, I heard you went to that Thai place last night.
ME: Nope, couldn't find it along 15 N...
RANDOM COWORKER:....you don't take 15 N. That's in the wrong direction.
ME: My boss said 15 north...
RANDOM COWORKER: Oh, she must have meant 15 South...actually, that's not even the right highway...