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".

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