Sunday, December 30, 2007

Why Am I Not a Campaign Consultant?

I'm sure that Rudy Giuliani thought he was doing something really clever when he pulled a Yakov Smirnoff and started referring to the War on Terror® as the "Terrorists' War on Us." I'm not sure he anticipated the awkward phrasing that would result, such as when he says things like, "We must redouble our efforts to win the terrorists' war on us."

Would you care to rephrase that, Rudy? Because it sure sounds like you're saying that we should be working extra hard to make sure the terrorists are victorious in their war against us. That may well be how you feel, but I always heard that the Democrats were the ones rooting for the other side.

Friday, December 28, 2007

An Open Letter to Whomever Is In Charge

Well, I've almost made it through what is certainly the most annoying week of the year: the seven days between Christmas and New Years Day. Let's be honest -- nobody is paying attention to work this week. There is no other point on the calendar where two major holidays fall so closely together, and as soon as you're starting to recover from the first, you're hit by the second. It's especially bad when they fall in the middle of the work week and you're left with a bizarrely shaped week that leaves you disoriented as to what day it is and whether you have to get up the next morning or not. Someone really needs to follow the lead of the nation's educators and declare the whole week an extended holiday.

Oh, and one more gripe about this week: everyone knows schools are closed. Yet some schools still flash their school zone speed limit signs at the beginning and end of the school day. Of course, there are no children in danger of being run over, so these flashing signs accomplish nothing but present an ethical dilemma. Does a law need to be obeyed even when the situation that made the law necessary does not exist? Fuck if I know, since I'm still half asleep and pissed off that I have to go to work the day after Christmas.

Ah, but there has been one bright spot in my more-annoying-than-usual commute: the posters for There Will Be Blood that seem to be in every bus shelter that I pass. I am, it's safe to say, more than a little excited to see that movie, especially since the critics with whom I most frequently agree are practically orgasmic over it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Things About Christmas I Don't Hate

By the time December 25 rolls around, I've been subjected to over a month of giant inflatable lawn decorations, 24-hour holiday music radio stations, and awful Lexus commercials (honestly, how fucking rich do you have to be if your first reaction upon learning that your spouse has spent $30,000 on your Christmas present is anything but "How the hell could you spend that much money without letting me know about it?"); it's almost enough to make me want to march down to my local ACLU and enlist in the War on Christmas. Still, I always seem to get into the spirit of the season at the last minute. On that note, here is a list of my favorite pieces of seasonally appropriate pop culture ephemera:

A Charlie Brown Christmas - I tried to watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special earlier this year, but I couldn't make it through more than a few minutes before I turned it off. The animation was too smooth, the voice acting too professional, and the Vince Guaraldi score too much a product of the era. If only reminded me what a huge gap exists between the great original Christmas special and all of the other Peanuts animated specials (with the exception of the very good It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown). The soundtrack is nearly flawless (probably the only Christmas album I'd gladly listen on in August), but the raggedness of the rest of the show is most of its charm. Many lines of dialogue are obviously edited together from multiple takes with the child actors, the animation is frequently stiff (do any of those kids know more than two dance moves?), and why does Linus seem to have the whole Bible memorized? The special is a lot like the ratty tree that Charlie Brown picks out; it's hardly flashy but thanks to a little love, it's close to perfect.

Patton Oswalt's "Christmas Memory"
- "The Chipmunk Song" is possibly the most irritating thing ever recorded, partly because whenever I am forced to hear it, I reflexively sing "I still want a hula hoop" in a bad falsetto. On his album "Feelin' Kinda Patton," Patton Oswalt has a hilarious bit about the terrifying sound of a chipmunks album played back extremely slowly.

The Pogues - Fairytale of New York

I was first drawn to this song because of it seemed to be the polar opposite of every other Christmas song, from its Celtic sound to its seedy setting to its brutal lines like, "You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot / Happy Christmas my arse / I pray God it's our last." But, strangely, by the time the instrumental coda fades out, it's achieved the sort of genuine uplift associated with the best holiday music.

(For another look at Christmas behind bars, check out "Christmas in Prison" by John Prine, covered here by the Mountain Goats.)

Other Non-Canonical Christmas Songs - Perhaps I'm just a contrarian, but I have a soft spot for songs that avoid the nostalgia of most holiday songs (have you ever been on an actual sleigh ride? Or seen someone peddling chestnuts roasted on an open fire?). So forget talking snowmen or winter wonderlands; I'd rather hear about violent, disaffected youth, finding Santa's wallet in a park, and the secret that the Man's been covering up for centuries.

The Strangest Christmas Duet Ever - Man, don't you hate it when you're about to sit down to a nice family dinner when your cousin Ziggy, the androgynous glam rocker from Mars, shows up uninvited and proceeds to harass your guests? Maybe you can try asking him to sings some Christmas carols with Grandpa; that might keep him occupied for a little while.

Pottersville! - It's a Wonderful Life is, of course, the quintessential Christmas movie, even though Christmas is only incidental to the plot. I have little interest in the interminable set-up, though, in which the audience is forced to relive all of Jimmy Stewart's wonderful, tedious life, and the big finale is just too pat for my tastes (despite what you may have heard, I do not get choked up every time I watch the closing scene . . . or overhear it when the movie is playing in another room . . . or merely think about it). For my money, the best part of the movie is when George Bailey visits the nightmarish alternate-reality of Pottersville. So many great lines are packed into this section of the film. Most of them come from Nick, the tough-talking bartender who, suspicious of Clarence the Angel's girly drink choice, threatens, "Hey look, mister - we serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don't need any characters around to give the joint 'atmosphere'. Is that clear, or do I have to slip you my left for a convincer?" When Clarence commits another faux pas, it's Nick's time to shine: "That's it. Out you two pixies go, through the door or out the window!" I am eternally hopeful that someday I will be able to work that line into a conversation, as I have spent the past several years perfecting my Nick impression. Another hilarious line comes after George asks where he could find his wife. But the George-less universe has not been kind to poor Mary, and Clarence tries to avoid revealing the awful answer until finally he blurts out that she is . . . closing up the library! And he says it in the same horrified tone of voice that you or I might use to say, "She's turning tricks down at the shipyard to buy cheap heroin!" or "She's kidnapping infants to sell on the black market!" And on top of it all is the fact that Pottersville seems like a much cooler town than boring ol' Bedford Falls. I mean, it's a shame about George Bailey never being born and all, but isn't that a small price to pay for a happening nightlife, wisecracking bartenders, and the lovely Donna Reed working at the library?

Christmas at the Zoo

Wayne Coyne seems to be a big fan of Christmas, as evidenced by the dancing Santas that join the Flaming Lips onstage or his long-in-production film Christmas on Mars (which apparently is finished and scheduled to premiere at South by Southwest next year? Cool!). Musically, there's this song from Clouds Taste Metallic, which tells the story of someone who decides to spend Christmas Eve liberating zoo animals, but the animals tell him they're not especially interested in liberation. This being a Flaming Lips song, psychedelic drugs may have been involved.

Awful Christmas Specials
- Earlier this month, I downloaded a copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special, but I still haven't watched it. This is partly out of fear that it can't possibly measure up to its so-bad-it's-good reputation. How bad is it supposed to be? So bad that George Lucas refused to allow it to be aired more than once or released on video (and this is the same George Lucas who had not problem with releasing Episodes I, II, or III). In the same vein, I'd love to get a copy of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, the last of the Rankin & Bass stop-motion specials, which features Santa kicking ass against a bunch of Tolkeinesque monsters.

Six to Eight Black Men
- David Sedaris has enough great Christmas essays that he could fill a book with them (and he has). My favorite, though, is "Six to Eight Black Men," an examination of the foreign holiday traditions that seem bizarre to Americans. For the full effect, be sure to listen to the essay read in Sedaris's inimitable voice.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) & 2000 Miles

No smartass commentary here, I'm afraid; just two fairly mainstream, contempoarary Christmas songs that I really love.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reviewing Unseen Movies

It looks like Charlie Wilson's War is being promoted as a lighthearted romp about how grand it was to fund the Mujahideen. I'm thinking that might not be the best lesson to draw from that particular moment in history.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Music Notes

So I know who Robert Christgau is and why he's a big deal in rock critic circles, but I never really read much of his writing. The first paragraph of his first entry in Slate's annual Music Club, though, has pretty much made me a fan:
Let's get this party started quickly. Journey sucks. They sucked in 1981, they'll suck in 2033, and they suck now. Who gives a fuck what Tony Soprano thinks?

Truer words were never spoken.

I'm in awe of Christgau's best-of-the-year list; the dude is 65 years old. I hope that when I'm old enough to start getting a social security check I'm still hip enough to keep my ears open to the likes of M.I.A., Against Me!, and Hyphy Hitz (not that I'm even that hip now, but you get the idea).


I've been so caught up in the gossipy tales of the crazy cop-punching news anchor and the pregnant teenage D-list younger sister of an even more fucked up C-lister that I've been mostly oblivious to all of the other notable personalities who are assaulting police officers and getting knocked up. Well, not so much the first one. But I just learned that Lily Allen is expecting, news which gave me the same sinking feeling you get when you find out that the person you had a crush on all through high school is now happily married. Oh, Lily! I knew I should have asked you to the prom!

Also, a woman who used to be a staffer for John Edwards is pregnant. This apparently has the makings of a HUGE STORY, if you tell it while winking your eye and nodding suggestively at the proper moments.


Since I seem to have abandoned writing about anything that relates to music, I may as well share my immense joy that Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg's long-awaited tome, is actually going to be released soon. The fine folks at Sadly, No! have gotten their hands on a leaked copy of the work. Their conclusion:
Is there even a word for this? Reading this book is like watching a flaming piano fall out of an airplane and land in a puppy farm.

Oh boy! It's even better than I was expecting!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why the Parker Brothers Deserve the Medal of Honor

I always assumed that Monopoly was only useful for passing the time on a rainy afternoon or teaching children about the fun of mortgages and foreclosures. Turns out it can also come in handy for helping soldiers escape from POW camps.

It's a shame that all of the extra sets were destroyed in the name of national security; this would be one special-edition game that would actually be cool to own.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Teh Dictionary Get Pwned

Merriam-Webster's choice for word of the year is "w00t." Yes, spelled with two zeroes (although not necessarily followed by a string of exclamation points and 1s).

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Weekend: A Summary

The Best Thing I Read: Brad at Sadly, No!, laying on the romantic talk PR-style.

The Most Disheartening Thing I Read: This ubiquitous article on waterboarding, which is giving me a serious case of voter's remorse.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's Grammy Season! (I Guess)

So when I went online today and saw a headline about the Grammy nominations being announced, my first reaction was, "Oh, so they're having the Grammys again this year?" There are many reasons why the annual music awards hover somewhere between an afterthought and a joke. The deadline for eligibility is at the end of September, meaning that most of the high-profile fall releases won't have a chance to be nominated until a year from now. The ceremony is filled with god-awful banter between award presenters who seem to be matched up by pulling names out of a hat (I recall one year when, after a terrible one-liner fell flat, Macy Gray [I think] said something to the effect of "Sorry, folks, we don't write this stuff."). And while there are over 100 categories, all but a dozen or so are handed out at a sparsely attended, untelevised ceremony ahead of time.

On the other hand, with so many categories, there's usually something amusing/interesting/infuriating/baffling to be found amidst all of the polka albums and rap-sung collaborations. Some of the highlights this year:

  • The nominees for Album of the Year are pretty much what you'd expect: perennial bridesmaid Kanye West, the increasingly sad Amy Winehouse, token country artist Vince Gill, token rock act Foo Fighters (I almost forgot that they put out a CD this year; this band has completely fallen off my radar), and Herbie Hancock. Wait, Herbie Hancock? How'd he wind up on this list? I'm going to go out on a limb right now and say that Hancock will win this one, making him the Steely Dan to Kanye's Eminem.
  • This year continues the proud tradition of nominating non-new artists for Best New Artist. Hey, has anyone heard of this Feist person?
  • You should note that a vocal album must contain at least 51% playing time of vocal tracks, whereas an instrumental album must contain at least 51% playing time of instrumental tracks. There must be some poor sap in a basement office who has to listen to every new release with a stopwatch in his hand.
  • The lines between Rock and Alternative Rock are never clearly drawn, and this year Wilco was nominated for best Rock album with Sky Blue Sky, the least rocking album of their career.
  • Jay-Z got a bunch of of nominations for last year's letdown of a comeback, Kingdom Come. That would be be embarrassing enough by itself, but then Jay went and released the much more highly-praised American Gangster, which is, of course, too recent to have been nominated. If middling Jay-Z is worth a nomination, then back-on-his-game Jay-Z should be a lock to win next year, assuming logic prevails (it probably won't).
  • The Spoken Word category, which should just go ahead and change its name to Best Audiobook, is once again heavy on the politicos: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter are all nominated. So remember: if you want to win a Grammy but have no musical talent, just run for public office and you can get a statuette for sitting down in a studio and reading from your book.
  • Was "Falling Slowly" really composed for the soundtrack to Once? The song appears on
    the Frames' album The Cost, but I guess that's not indicative of anything, as the nomination criteria for these types of awards are always insanely complicated. Then again, I'd prefer to believe that the nominating committee just got it wrong.
  • I'm always interested in the awards for packaging and liner notes. In theory, you could put out an album that consisted of a nicely-designed sleeve and a blank CD and still win a Grammy for it. Bright Eyes seems to put a lot of thought into their album artwork, so it was nice to see a nomination for Cassadega, and the White Stripes are probably the first band to get a nomination for a flash drive.
  • I'm fairly sure that the category for Best Surround Sound Album exists solely to let the Flaming Lips accumulate trophies.
  • The nominees for Short Form Music Video mostly consist of clips that were heavily embedded in various blogs over the past year ("1234," "D.A.N.C.E."), but also include "Gone Daddy Gone" by Gnarls Barkley. To refresh your memory, that was the one where they were all cartoon fleas. Yeah, that one.
That's about all I have to say right now. Be sure to tune into the broadcast on February 10th to see Kanye throw another fit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ad Hominem

I'm not so sure that Cedric Daniels of the Baltimore Police should be flaunting his Cadillac like that. People might start talking about his bad old days in the Eastern district.

In related news, while searching for a video of that commercial, I was pleased to learn that Lance Reddick will be joining the cast of Lost next season, since I'm all in favor of actors from The Wire continuing to find high-profile work. Still, I can't help but notice that, along with Harold Perrineau and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Reddick is that third Lost cast member to have been featured on Oz. That means the show is three for three on adult male black actors who have previously had recurring roles on a show about a prison. That seems to say something about the American criminal justice system, the types of roles available to black performers, or both.

Or who knows; maybe the two shows' casting directors are just good friends.

O Brave New World That Has Such Beverages In't!

When I was younger, there were two main varieties of milk: regular and chocolate. Somewhere along the line, strawberry milk was unveiled, and I figured I had seen the limits of what milk-flavoring technology could accomplish (those bottled Starbucks drinks occupy a gray area between milk and coffee).

But science marches onward, and I have recently discovered the existence of root beer milk. Weird. And yet strangely enticing. The same dairy also makes orange creme milk, which seems like a good way to recreate that time you woke up and were really tired or really hung over and poured orange juice on your Chex.

Unfortunately, these strange concoctions only seem to be available in Missouri and Kansas. Overall, I think it's one of the more tempting reasons to take a vacation to the heartland.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

News I May Have Missed

Apparently, at some point yesterday I stumbled into a sound-proof chamber and avoided hearing anything about the hostage situation at a Hillary Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire. I only found out about it late last night, long after it had been peacefully resolved. Also fortunate: I missed having to sit through a live feed of the typically moronic statements that must have been uttered on a fairly regular basis during the crisis.

Also, Evel Kneivel died yesterday. I missed that news as well.

My posting this week has been non-existent, but I'm afraid I can't blame that on my visit to a sensory deprivation chamber. The fact is that I have several posts on the mental back-burner, on topics such as TV shows, commercials, and amusing videos (which, I now realize, is really just one topic). I have been stymied, though, by my inability to figure out how to rip video clips from DVDs and upload them to YouTube. We're dealing with cutting-edge stuff here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Weekend You-Tubery: Technicolor Edition (With Bonus Sports Commentary!)

Feist - 1234

The New Pornographers - Challengers

Blonde Redhead - My Impure Hair

. . . Meanwhile, in news brought to you by the colors green and white (how's that for a transition?) let's all congratulate the Eagles on their heroically non-embarrassing 3-point loss tonight. I can't help but be reminded of that episode of Arrested Development where the company celebrated that its stock had been upgraded from "Sell" to "Don't Buy." I guess you take your victories where you can get them, even if they're not actually victories.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

How's This For Optimism?

Wikipedia has a fairly lengthy article on human extinction. It's mostly speculative right now, but I would expect it to become even more thorough once humanity actually goes extinct.

Blogs You Should Be Reading Instead of This One

Carrie Brownstein has a blog at NPR. Like most things involving Carrie Brownstein, it is worth checking out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why I Don't Run a Magazine

Can it really be that we are close enough to the end of the year that "Best of 2007" lists are already starting to trickle out? Amazon has released their list of the top books of the year, the American Society of Magazine Editors has listed their best magazine covers, and GQ released the list of their Men of the Year (which is like Time Magazine's similarly-titled honor, but only attractive people are eligible).

The magazine will print three covers, each spotlighting one of the honorees. Looking over the list, I'm really baffled why the editors wouldn't go with cover photos of Brad Bird, Daft Punk, and Josh Marshall. Apparently, they think that Bill Clinton, Daniel Craig, and Kanye West are more likely to sell magazines. Bah. I'd take an animator, blogger, or French robot DJ duo over a president, movie star, or rapper with a Messiah complex any day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This Just In: The Onion is Funny

From the "True, It's Funny Becuase It's" file, this Onion article on the special "Regular Monopoly" edition Monopoly reminded me of this post on the ridiculous number of movie and TV show tie-ins that dominate the board game industry. Does Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers even employ people to think up ideas for new games anymore, or do they just slap a picture of Elmo on the box and call it a day? Could a game like Risk even be introduced today unless it were a tie-in to 300 or something? On the other hand, I'm kind of disappointed that the Grey's Anatomy game in the picture is a straight-ahead trivia game and not a special version of Operation where you have to remove Meredith's feelings for McDreamy from her heart, or the homophobic slurs from Isaiah Washington's mouth (I've only seen one episode of the show, in case you're wondering, and just exhausted my knowledge of it).

Also great this week in The Onion, this cartoon is totally going on my desk if I ever get my act together and break into the library game. I guess I'm assuming that most librarians have desks, though. I should probably do some more research into that.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Weekend You-Tubery: Out Into the World Edition

The Beatles - She's Leaving Home

Stars - Take Me to the Riot

Blur - Coffee & TV

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What I'm Not Watching Tonight

This week's Saturday Night Live has one of the stronger hosts and musical guests in recent memory: Michael Cera and Yo La Tengo. The only catch is that it's not actually going to be on TV, what with the writer's strike and all, but instead is being put on as a stage show. Damn lazy writers, always wanting to be paid for their work. Don't they realize that my entertainment is more important than their livelihoods?

Incidentally, I'll probably never be a high-powered media mogul, but if I ever am, I should remember that it's probably a bad idea to pick fights with people who are skilled at creating funny, incisive videos that make their opponents look like blatant hypocrites.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Guilty As Charged

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Book Snob

You like to think you're one of the literati, but actually you're just a snob who can read. You read mostly for the social credit you can get out of it.

Literate Good Citizen

Dedicated Reader

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

Fad Reader


What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Geek Interests, Now Two For the Price of One

Man, why didn't I get to do anything this cool when I was in marching band?

Of course, it's only in the uber-dorky world of marching bands that a six-minute ode to video games could seem relatively hip.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Norman Mailer, I'm Pregnant!

The obituaries of Norman Mailer seem to touch on most of the highlights of his life; two Pulitzers, New Journalism, founding the Village Voice, stabbing his wife, massive ego, six marriages, The Naked and the Dead, etc. That's all well and good, but they overlook perhaps the strangest item on his resume: an appearance on a 2004 episode of Gilmore Girls. Observe:

Here's Your Fortune: "You Talents Will Be Recognized and Suitably Rewarded" / "You Are Original and Creative"

I opened the first cookie after my meal, which contained the upper of the two fortunes. I immediately began searching for the ever-present loopholes, and finally concluded that while it does promise a reward for my talents, it doesn't say how much my talents are worth. After eating another cookie, though, I realized that I am talented! Or, at least, original and creative. My big payday awaits!

Weekend You-Tubery: Veteran's Day Edition

Bob Dylan - John Brown

The Pogues - And the Band Played Waltzing Mathilda

Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reviewing Unseen Movies

From the moment I saw the first preview for Lions for Lambs, the new Robert Redford joint, I thought it looked pretty bad. Now that it's been released, the nation's critics seem pretty much in agreement with me. But bad movies can at least make for entertaining reviews:
"[A] hopelessly stilted political drama that plays like U.S. News & World Report: The Movie. Redford's latest middlebrow muddle is so hopelessly talky, mannered, stagy, overwritten, and didactic that it's hard to believe Aaron Sorkin isn't somehow involved." - Nathan Rabin

Lions for Lambs appears to have been created by someone who's never seen one of these newfangled contraptions called "movies," or for that matter, witnessed that phenomenon known as "speech." . . . The net effect for the viewer is that of being trapped in an airless room, then escaping it to find yourself in another, and yet another." - Dana Stevens

"There is a long stretch toward the beginning of the film when we're interested, under the delusion that it's going somewhere." - Roger Ebert
And speaking of ill-conceived Tom Cruise movies, the trailer for his upcoming film Valkyrie is now online. For all I know, this will turn out to be a fine film; Bryan Singer is certainly no slouch when it comes to making entertaining movies, and heaven knows that Hollywood needs more lead characters who wear eyepatches. No, my reservations have to do with the accents. The sad truth is that to American audiences, all accents sort of sound alike, and British accents are a useful stand-in for how we think the rest of the world talks. This is the phenomenon that leads to situations like the The Hunt for Red October, where the crew of the Russian submarine is played by actors from almost every European country except for Russia, or the cockney-sounding Latin of Rome. Cast an American, though, and the result is often laughable, like Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar, Tony Curtis in Spartacus, or most of the actors in Amadeus. So while Cruise's castmates Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, or Eddie Izzard may not sound especially German, Cruise will be lucky if people can listen to him and think anything but, "That Nazi sounds just like the kid from Risky Business."

Of course, there are bound to be some good movies coming up. Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood looks interesting, judging from the trailer. While it may sound like one of those movies where someone gets tortured for two hours, it's actually a period piece about oil drilling. It's a bit of a departure for the director; among other things, it's his first movie not to have Philip Seymour Hoffman in it. Anderson has yet to make a bad film, though, and Daniel Day-Lewis does so few movies these days that anything he appears in is noteworthy. Plus, the music is by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, who succeeds previous Anderson collaborators Michael Penn and Jon Brion; the guy seems to like giving work to musicians without much experience composing for films, and so far it's consistently paid off.

Finally, looking waaaaaay ahead, the AV Club marked their literary week by putting up a great list of books that should be adapted into movies. Several of their picks are projects that have long been stuck in development hell (A Confederacy of Dunces, The Hobbit), while others are more contemporary book club favorites (The Road, Middlesex). The list itself, though, is just the pretext for the predictably numerous user comments. The shameful truth is that I don't really read enough to add to the list, although I did start reading Good Omens recently and thought that it would make a great movie, and the ten-year-old in me would love to see a good adaptation of The Westing Game. If nothing else, this feature will serve to further bloat my already epic to-read list.

Philly City Limits

Man, does this blog get results or what? I've previously bitched that there isn't a big Coachella-type shindig within 10 miles of where I live, but that may be about to change:

A multi-stage, multi-day music festival has been proposed for next summer in Fairmount Park, according to city officials.

C3 Presents, based in Austin, Texas, and producers of Austin City Limits and the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, has been recommended by the Fairmount Park Conservancy to mount the festival, which would take place over three days on Belmont Plateau.

Who wants to bet that they come up with a really dumb name for this thing? I mean, dumber than the one I came up with for the title of this post.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Calendar Has a Well-Known Liberal Bias, and Other Political Musings

Nerds have word-a-day calenders. Insufferably pedantic grammar freaks have daily calendars of commonly misspelled and misused words and phrases. I'm sure you'll be surprised to learn that I fall into the latter group. Every morning this year, I have woken up and enjoyed a moment of snickering over people who think the word "sherbet" has two R's. Today's entry, though, was surprisingly forceful (click to enlarge):

Damn! "Childish game" . . . "only succeed in making themselves sound ignorant" . . . that'll show Bush! Except I kind of doubt that he has this particular calendar on his desk.


They say that if you don't vote, then you have no right to complain about your elected officials. Well, I have therefore guaranteed my right to bitch and moan for the next twelve months. The voter turnout at my polling place was an astronomical 42%, so I'm one of an elite group who turned out to make know my views on county councilmen, the school board, and about a dozen questions on the retention of judges.

I remember when I received my first absentee ballot my freshman year of college, I spent a good deal of time researching the various candidates, right down to the Greens and Libertarians; I was that concerned with making the most informed choice I could. Of course, that was the historic 2000 presidential election, so I guess my excitement was understandable. Had I turned 18 the summer before a municipal and judicial election, I wonder if I would have even bothered to request a ballot.

This year, early returns are indicating that the incumbents won and the challengers lost. Ain't democracy grand?

Link O' the Day

If you're looking for a way to discard several hours of your life, a good place to do it would be Wikipedia's directory of strange articles. They seem to fall into two categories, the first of which make you think "I can't believe someone decided the world needed a Wikipedia entry devoted to 'more cowbell' /Nixon masks /the phrase 'talk to the hand.'" On the other hand, a lot of them are genuinely interesting: there's dancing mania, "No soap, radio", the thagomizer (a.k.a. the spikes on a stegosaurus's tail, named after a Far Side cartoon), the Phantom time hypothesis (which claims that the years between 614 and 911 AD never occurred) and exploding head syndrome (which, the article takes pains to point out, "is not an example of spontaneous human combustion, nor does it involve the head actually exploding.")

This sort of repository is a godsend for lazy bloggers (like this, uh, friend of mine). I, for one, was fascinated by the article on the Arbre du Ténéré, which was the world's most isolated tree until it was hit by a truck in 1973. Think about that; this is a tree in the middle of the Sahara desert, the only tree for 400 kilometers, and someone managed to hit it with a car! That is some colossally bad luck.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Weekend You-Tubery: Homage Edition

Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight, Tonight

TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me

Beastie Boys - Sabotage

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Things I Learned From Al Taubenberger's New Ad

Hey, did you know that there is a mayoral election in Philadelphia this week? It's true! Of course, the election has about as much suspense as a Globetrotters vs. Generals matchup, so neither side is wasting much money on advertising. I've seen one commercial for Democrat Michael Nutter (his plea: "Help me run up the score to send a message to Bush and Cheney, I guess.") and was shocked to see Republican opponent Al Taubenberger buying airtime as well. Since the ad in question is the most information I've ever gotten about Mr. Taubenberger, let's analyze why he is the superior candidate:

  1. He's got cool retro movie-serial music and narration!
  2. He's from the Northeast!
  3. He's a super-nice guy!
  4. White people love him!
  5. Did they already say he's from the Northeast?
  6. The girl wearing (literal) beer-googles can relate to him!
  7. Jesus, it's like an unending parade of white people.
  8. He's the underdog! (Actually, I think the socialist worker candidate is probably the real underdog in this race)
  9. It looks like Al himself is white! Uh...not that that should influence your vote or anything.
  10. He's "America's Favorite Underdog!" Which doesn't sound right, really. I doubt he's even Philadelphia's favorite underdog, even if you exclude fictional boxers and real-life sports teams.
  11. Plus, there's the whole Northeast thing. Yeah, this guy's toast.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Another Bullet-Point Filled Post

Shit, that's right...I've got a blog that customarily needs to be updated from time to time.
  • There was a brief time when, after Dennis Kucinich's UFO question at this week's Democratic debate, I was worried that extraterrestrials would become the dominant theme of this campaign, especially after Chris Matthews kept fixating on it during the post-debate show. Thankfully, this doesn't appear to be the case. I guess that's about par for the course when you have a debate in Philly: lame Rocky references and one of the most inane questions ever asked of a presidential candidate.
  • Whenever I see a new Domino's commercial on TV, I have the same reaction as when I see competitive eating contests or people flagellating themselves as part of religious rituals: How could anyone do that to their own body? After successfully (?) combining pizza with dessert, the chain's latest project is the Crispy Melt Pizza. To be honest, the concept seems a little pedestrian; I'm surprised that they resisted the temptation to put even more cheese on top of the thing. Maybe they'll gradually add layers until they wind up with something like a pizza baklava.
  • I sometimes wish it were possible to temporarily erase a specific part of my memory, so that I could watch Psycho without knowing all of the twists, or re-read all of the Calvin and Hobbes or Far Side cartoons and have the jokes all be new to me. Sometimes, though, my own fallible memory lets me experience something like that, like a couple of days ago when I re-listened to Thunder, Lightning, Strike by the Go! Team. It seems that every year or so, I forget what an awesome, fun album that is and get blown away by it all over again. If you've never been fortunate enough to hear it, I urge you to get a copy and listen to it for the first time on my behalf.
  • Finally, this is a very special weekend: Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie opens in theaters! I don't plan to see it, of course; I'm just excited that perhaps now I'll be able to watch television without being confronted by Mr. Seinfeld's voice making sure that everyone on the planet, including coma patients and Nepalese monks, are sick of hearing about the damn thing.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend You-Tubery: Masquerade Edition

Daft Punk - Around the World

M83 - Don't Save Us From the Flames

Of Montreal - Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Take It Easy With That Dharma Initiative Beer, Buddy

By now I'm sure you've heard that the cast of Lost is continuing to increase Hawaii's drunk driving statistics, as Daniel Dae Kim (who plays the guy with father issues and a secret past) was arrested for DUI.

This is especially bad timing for Mr. Kim, since after a season-long absence, Harold "Waaaaaaaaalt!" Perrinaeu is returning to the show. No word yet on whether he still has a tendency to kill off his drunk-driving castmates.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Halloween Brainstorming Session

Every year around this time, I get a few ideas for Halloween costumes that I never follow through on since, much like Charlie Brown, I only get invited to parties by mistake. But why should these ideas go to waste? If you've got a masquerade coming up and don't feel inspired, feel free to help yourself to one of my abandoned disguises:

1. White Stripe:Put on a pair of solid red or white pants and a red or white T-shirt, and you're one half of a popular rock act!
Pros: Unlike other rock groups with a distinctive style of dress (Kiss, Gwar), this one can be achieved easily and on the cheap. Plus, my observations seem to indicate that the White Stripes are still pretty popular.
Cons: Works best as a duo, so if you don't know a busty, raven-haired girl or a slightly creepy wannabe bluesman, you may look incomplete. Also, while I've been kicking this idea around for a while now, Veronica Mars beat me to the punch last year.
Most Likely to Leave the Party With: Your sister and/or ex-wife. Icky.

2. John Cusack in Say Anything: Wear a trench coat and hold a boombox over your head.
Pros: Who doesn't love John Cusack? With that boombox, you'll be able to keep the party jumping.
Cons: If you're going for accuracy, you won't be playing anything but "In Your Eyes" all night long; are you prepared to put up with that? Also, that boombox looked really heavy, so once you've made your entrance, you'll probably be looking for a place to put it down.
Most Likely to Leave With: Someone dressed as Ione Skye.

3. Werewolf Bar Mitzvah: Combine a red leather jacket with a werewolf mask and a yarmulke. Today, you were a man; tonight, you are a wolf.
Pros: The cool people will get it; even those who don't will probably just think you're Michael Jackson in the "Thriller" video.
Cons: If you get hot and take off the mask, you'll just look like a Jewish Jacko.
Most Likely to Leave With: A vampire Bat Mitzvah. Get it? Get it? Well, it was either that or "a nice Jewish ghoul."

4. Gay Albus Dumbledore: Take the wizard outfit you wore to the Harry Potter book release party (sure, pretend you don't know what I'm talking about), and add a rainbow flag, Judy Garland album, or some campy accessory.
Pros: It has that ripped-from-the-headlines quality.
Cons: Don't overdo it with the stereotypes; if Dumbledore had spent seven books mincing around Hogwarts singing show tunes and calling Harry "fabulous!", you probably wouldn't have needed J. K. Rowling to spill the beans about his Chamber of Secrets.
Most Likely to Leave With: Sir Ian McKellen, that other famous gay wizard.

5. Zombie Professional: Can't decide between dressing up as a cowboy or a zombie? Why not do both? Just pair the clothing for one costume with some fake blood and a shambling gait.
Pros: The possibilities are nearly endless: zombie doctor, zombie astronaut, zombie millionaire. Plus, it's an important public service message that being turned into a zombie can affect people from all walks of life.
Cons: Be careful not to pair the zombie look with a vampire, ghost, or Frankenstein's monster, unless you want to get stuck in a metaphysical debate over how many times one can be made undead.
Most Likely to Leave With: Someone with a good heart who is able to overlook your ghoulish make-up, or who are taken with the earning power of a zombie attorney.

6. Ann Coulter: Put on a black cocktail dress and a blond wig, then go around calling people faggots and expressing your hope that Jews wise up and start worshipping Jesus.
Pros: With her giant Adam's-apple and husky voice, Coulter works just well as a drag act. Plus, she's the most horrifying creature on this list.
Cons: If you stay in character too long, don't expected to be invited back next year.
Most Likely to Leave With: Inexplicably, a book deal and numerous chances to promote it on NBC. Oh, and a deep sense of shame (hey, you're only pretending to be her).

7. Monster M*A*S*H: Start with a Korean-era army uniform or surgical outfit, and add a scary mask.
Pros: Everyone loves puns, right? Right?
Cons: If it's anything like the show, this costume will start out entertaining, but by the time you leave it will have become maudlin and self-important.
Most Likely to Leave With: A dry mouth from constantly explaining the joke to people.

8. Lolcostume: An easy one: hang a whiteboard, legal pad, or other writing surface around your neck, and write a short, misspelled message, like "I'M IN UR PARTY, CELBRATIN HALOWEEN," "INVISABLE COSTUME," or "I CAN HAS KANDY KORN."
Pros: Unlike other potential viral-internet costumes, like the leave Britney alone guy, it doesn't require you to actively annoy people. Plus, if you get tired of one caption, just write another one.
Cons: Part of the appeal of lolcats is the pictures of cute animals. I doubt you're cute enough to compare.
Most Likely to Leave With: A cheezburger?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekend You-Tubery: Motion Picture Soundtrack Edition

The Crystals - And Then He Kissed Me

Cat Stevens - The Wind

Aimee Mann - Wise Up

Bobby Womack - Across 110th Street

Saturday, October 20, 2007

An Evening of Rhthm & Soul

I spent last night seeing Spoon play at the Electric Factory. I went in with my expectations somewhat low; the band didn't really wow me with their lackluster Saturday Night Live appearance. Tonight's show didn't get off to such a smooth start either; the opening acts were supposed to be DJ Dave P and the Ponys, but Mr. P was nowhere to be found (perhaps he remembered, sitcom style, that he scheduled
two dates
Making Time for the same night, leading to wacky hijinks), and an announcement over the PA revealed that travel problems would prevent the Ponys from being there. When Spoon did amble onto the stage, it was almost anticlimactic; the house music didn't even get turned off until they were a few bars into their first song.

After that, though, it was quite a solid performance. Britt Daniel kept the between-songs banter to a minimum (though he did encourage the guy smoking pot near me to pass it over to his mom, whom he said was in the audience). Aside from the horn trio that came onstage for a few songs, it was generally a no-frills performance, but then Spoon is a band with little use for frills. The only time when they departed from their proven guitar/keyboard/bass/drums formula was on their rendition of "The Ghost of You Lingers," which was appropriately atmospheric but didn't do anything to make me like the song more.

While it wasn't the sort of transcendent performance that kept me enthralled from beginning to end, it was the next best thing: a very good concert in which all of my favorite songs ("My Mathematical Mind," "Don't Make Me a Target") sounded excellent. My only quibble is this: after the encore, almost all of the people near the stage started filing out. As I moved forward to fill their void, I thought, "Those fools! Do they really think that Spoon would leave without playing 'Sister Jack' and 'The Way We Get By?'" When the band returned to the stage for the second encore, with me mere feet from the stage, I was feeling mighty smug. But then, a few songs later, they did leave without playing "Sister Jack" or "The Way We Get By." Not cool, fellas. Not cool.

Oh, and while the Electric Factory crowd had a below-average number of fratty assholes, I wanted to pose a question to the tall foursome in front of me: what's the point of shoving your way up near the stage if you're going to spend most of the show talking and taking group photos of yourselves? You know, there's a band on the stage that you paid money to see.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My Cosmic Autumn Agenda

To do this fall:
  • continue watching Gilmore Girls DVDs
  • drink things with some kind of spice in them
  • go to a concert and wait outside in the cold, underdressed, for an hour before the doors open
  • take a day trip to Princeton, try to pass as a student, browse the Record Exchange, keep eyes peeled for Joyce Carol Oates or Paul Krugman
  • watch Rushmore
  • watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  • watch Night of the Living Dead
  • have my annual work-related meltdown
  • make another attempt to enjoy drinking red wine
  • carve a Rudy Giuliani jack-o-lantern to scare away neighborhood kids
  • find a quad somewhere; walk through it while wearing a scarf
  • come up with a clever Halloween costume on November 1
  • listen to "Alice's Restaurant"
  • eat 5 pounds of stuffing (preferably on Thanksgiving)
  • come to the conclusion that autumn is overrated; start looking forward to winter

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Weekend You-Tubery: Ampersand Edition

Queen & David Bowie - Under Pressure

Massive Attack & Liz Fraser - Teardrop

Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash - Girl From the North Country

David Bowie & Mick Jagger - Dancing in the Streets (watch at your own risk)

For more, see here.

Here's Your Fortune: "Never Trouble Trouble Till Trouble Troubles You"

This sounds less like a fortune and more like a song title from a forgotten 1970s musical Western, possibly starring Don Knotts.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Rock Countdowns, Hold Music, and Other Important Matters

  • When WXPN started hyping their 885 Music Moments Countdown, I was skeptical; it seemed like another excuse for baby boomers to congratulate themselves on the awesomeness of the sixties. (Seriously, if the top 10 vote-getters don't include the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Dylan going electric, Woodstock, and the deaths of John Lennon and Kurt Cobain, I will buy a hat and eat it.) The countdown itself, however, has been pretty entertaining. Aside from the usual head-slapping rankings (in whose mind is the release of Flashdance more memorable than The Last Waltz?), there are some pleasant surprises to be found, from somewhat obscure but important events (the founding of Factory Records, for example), guilty pleasures (the Spice Girls' debut), influential TV shows (including The OC and Beavis and Butt-Head), and moments that don't technically exist (the release of Chinese Democracy). Be sure to check out the countdown's blog, which appends almost every entry with links and/or videos.
  • It was bound to happen eventually, but Pitchfork has finally caught on to the fact that Sally Forth is one of the most subversively hip mainstream comics around (see here for more evidence). And Ted Forth, a geeky, pop-culture obsessed trophy husband, is the closest thing you're likely to find to a Nick Hornby protagonist in your daily paper.
  • I have a newfound respect for the people who write the music that plays when your phone call gets put on hold. It undoubtedly a tough job; the music should be soothing to keep the caller from getting pissed at having to wait, inoffensive enough that they won't hang up the phone in disgust or complain about the filth they were forced to listen to, and on a purely basic level, it should be a subtle reminder them that they are still connected and keep them faithful that someone will answer eventually. All of this stands in stark contrast to the hold music I encountered the other day: a high-pitched, electronic of "Fur Elise" that sounded like a cell phone ring from 1998. My first instinct on hearing it was to hold the phone two feet from my ear. So hold music composers of the world, I salute you for merely annoying me rather than assaulting my eardrums.
  • It may be a bit melodramatic to say that there is a Veronica Mars curse, but it's certainly possible that none of the show's talented cast members will ever be involved in anything so good again. Just look at what some of the stars have been up to in the five months since Mars's demise: Kristen Bell's voice (but not the rest of her) is featured on Gossip Girl, and there's been no sign of her supposed role on Heroes. Jason Dohring is on that awful-looking Angel rip-off, while Chris Lowell is on that awful-looking Grey's Anatomy spin-off. Saddest of all is Percy Daggs III, whom I just saw in a television commercial for Jim Gaffigan's favorite frozen entree. I guess we'll always have Neptune, though.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Next Guy Caught Picking His Nose on the Street Could Be Me!

It looks like Big Brother has left his Brooklyn loft and moved to Fishtown: Google Maps Street View has rolled out in Philly. I'm impressed by the scope; not only does it cover most of Philadelphia itself (with some obvious gaps in the north and northwest), but they extend to parts of Willow Grove, Wilmington, West Chester, and Kennett Square. Let the search for embarrassing photo hunt begin!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Snarky Quotes for Columbus Day

I refuse to consider Columbus Day a holiday unless I get a day off of work. So suck on this, Cristóbal Colón!

Lisa Simpson
: I'm so proud of you, Mom. You're like Christopher Columbus. You discovered something millions of people knew about before you.

Herbert Stempel: You know why they call them Indians? Because Columbus thought he was in India. They're "Indians" because some white guy got lost.

Weekend Monday You-Tubery: Talking Heads Edition

Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U

LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends

Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer

Thursday, October 4, 2007

What I've Seen: Children of Men

My most recent Netflix viewings are like a film festival of movies that make me say, "That was pretty good, but I'd better watch it again sometime." Since watching Zodiac, my rentals have been Chinatown, A History of Violence, and, most recently, Children of Men. Other people more eloquent than I am have praised that film, but I'd like to just point out the things about it that kept me enthralled.

1. The Cinematography - Much has been written about two jaw-dropping sequences in the film: a long, single shot from inside a crowded car as it is attacked by a mob of people and an even longer shot of a brutal gun battle. The first is astounding in its technical prowess (it was shot using a specially-designed remote control camera rig), and the latter is as visceral as the opening battle scene of Saving Private Ryan. Both are done so expertly that you can only really admire them once they're over and you've stopped biting your nails. Most of the movie is shot with those kinds of long shots, which gives it an almost documentary feel.

2. The Design - Here's a fun fact: the last time a non-period piece won an Oscar for Art Direction was 1989. It's a shame, since in a movie like Children of Men, the art direction contributes as much to the story as anything in the script. Much of the exposition is handled by propaganda posters, old newspaper headlines, and graffiti.

3. The World
- Children of Men is a science fiction film, but it belongs to the tradition of films like Brazil, Blade Runner, and Minority Report in that, once you strip away the video billboards and high-tech cars, you're left with a scarily recognizable world. There are so many great visuals that aren't neatly explained: the smoldering remains of a pile of dead horses, a silent boy engrossed in a video game being told to take his pill, a discarded baby carriage in the corner of a stairwell. Perhaps my favorite conceit is the "Ark of the Arts," where masterpieces like Michelangelo's "David" and Picasso's "Guernica" are kept safely stored away from the chaos of the rest of the world. Animals are a near-constant presence in the movie, from a deer walking through an abandoned schoolhouse to a cameo appearance by the floating pig from the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals, perhaps to suggest that as in The World Without Us, nature is preparing to reclaim its old territory.

4. The Cast - If Clive Owen were to make a film which featured him sorting his laundry for two hours, I'd probably watch it: that's how magnetic the guy is. Even though he's playing your standard Rick Blaine reluctant hero role here, he's still mesmerizing. In the big climax, as he's essentially running through a war zone, he does something you rarely see in an action movie: he looks like he's scared shitless. As for the rest of the cast, I'm unaware of any movie in which Michael Caine was not a welcome addition to the cast, Julianne Moore is reliably great, and after seeing him in this and Inside Man, Chiwetel Ejiofor is quickly becoming my favorite actor whose name I cannot pronounce.


All together, this is a visually amazing film, the sort of thing I can imagine myself watching with the sound turned off and still being astounded by it (although, it should be mentioned, the sound design and song selection are excellent as well).

Early in the movie, Clive Owen's character remarks that, even if the infertility plaguing the world were to be cured, it would be no good: once humanity has resigned itself to its own extinction, things would break down so quickly that there would be no repairing them. It's a frequently bleak film, and I'm not really sure whether the ending is happy or not. In that way, Children of Men seems like an heir to Dr. Strangelove; it may look like humanity is doomed, but you know we'll meet again some sunny day.

Music Notes

  • It should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to my weekly video-fests that I quite adore Leslie Feist. It was a small delight, then, that when I was eating my lunch the other day at a fast-food franchise (you know, the one that makes you feel really bad about yourself when you're done eating) "1 2 3 4" came on over the piped-in music system. It's always a pleasant surprise to hear a good song mixed in with the near-lethal doses of Rod Stewart. Between that and her omnipresent electronics commercials, it's getting to the point that I can't go anywhere without hearing her voice, which is hardly something to complain about.
  • Congratulations to Regina Spektor; you can play giant music festivals and have songs featured Gray's Anatomy, but you haven't truly made it in this industry until you've been featured on Rob Wilco's T-shirt.

Random Design Questions

Time's cover story this week, on the sorry history of Delaware County's own V-22 Osprey, is certainly worth reading, but I'm still kind of perplexed by the cover. That cross-shaped shadow in the bottom right hand corner had to have been an intentional design choice, but why? Is it in reference to the Marines killed in Osprey crashes, or perhaps to the phrase "flying on a wing and a prayer?" Time has done some nicely designed covers since they switched to their Friday publishing schedule, but that one shadow is really nagging at me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

This Week in Angry Correspondence

Pop Quiz Time! Which of the following do people in Philadelphia oppose?

A: Sex
B: Drugs
C: Rock and Roll

Answer: A and C. I'm guessing there are probably people opposed to B as well, but I'm too lazy to find a relevant link.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fitter, Happier, More Productive

Fans of the Phillies and Radiohead are sure to be pleased after last weekend, when both organizations announced their return to either postseason baseball or record releasing. And perhaps to make up for the 4-year delay since their last LP, they'll be releasing the new one thrice: as a price-negotiable download, then as a super deluxe, super expensive record/CD combo, and finally as a boring ol' CD.

Despite my luddite tendencies, I might actually spring for the digital download, not just because it's out in a mere matter of days, but because Radiohead is one of maybe three or four current bands from whom I will gladly volunteer my money when they come out with a new CD. And even with my fandom, it's hard to imagine me being this intrigued if the band had gone the usual "announce the new CD, then release it a few months later" route.

Finally, between this and In Our Bedroom After the War, it's nice to see that some corners of the music world are taking an innovative tack to prevent leaks. If only the rest of the industry were paying a little more attention.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Team to Beat

The last time the Phillies were in the playoffs, I was in sixth grade, Walker, Texas Ranger had just debuted, and Meat Loaf was would end up having the best-selling single of the year.

Needless to say, it's been quite some time. Hopefully I'll be able to get used to it.

Weekend You-Tubery: Power in Numbers Edition

Feist - 1 2 3 4 (live on Letterman)

Spoon - The Underdog

The Avalanches - Frontier Psychiatrist

Kylie Minogue - Come Into My World

Friday, September 28, 2007

An Open Letter to the Philadelphia Phillies

Come on, Phillies, what are you guys doing? It's late September. You're the freaking Phillies. This is the point of the season where you're supposed to be playing just well enough to give us all hope that maybe you'll tie for the wild card or something, only to have us trudge into work on Monday disappointed and trying our hardest to remember what we were doing in 1993. It's a tradition.

You're certainly not supposed to be on top of the NL East. Sportswriters are certainly not supposed to be using the words "historic collapse" to refer to a team from New York.

I don't get it. Is this some cruel new way of toying with our emotions? Because that wouldn't be funny. I haven't stopped believing, though; you guys still aren't mathematically eliminated from sitting out the post-season. If anyone can pull this out, it's you.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Here's Your Fortune: "Your Dearest Wish Will Come True"

This is, without a doubt, the most promising fortune I have ever removed from a cookie. No sayings from Confucius, no bland generalities, just a straightforward promise that my dearest wish will become a reality.

And yet, I'm less than optimistic. I've seen enough Twilight Zone episodes to know that getting your dearest wish is often just the preface to your horribly ironic comeuppance. Like that guy who finally had time to read all his books after humanity was wiped out by nuclear war, but then stepped on his glasses (wouldn't he have been too busy trying to survive in a postapocalyptic wasteland to be kicking back with a good book in the first place?). Also, they don't give a time frame for this dream-fulfillment; what if it takes place . . . an hour before I die! Then Rod Serling would appear and talk about Joe McCarthy or something. In addition, I'm not an extraordinarily decisive person, so I'm not sure I could tell you what my dearest wish is. Is that a prerequisite for it coming true? Or will I know it when it happens?

My final quibble is that I got this fortune in a Chinese buffet that is closing at the end of the week, so I really have no recourse if things don't pan out. Maybe they pulled out all of their pie-in-the-sky fortunes, like "World peace is just around the corner" and "That cute barista is totally into you," knowing they would face no influx of outraged patrons with their dreams still unfulfilled.

But aside from that, wow! My dearest wish. I can't wait.

My New Goal in Life...

is to gain entrance to the All Candy Expo, a convention that I previously assumed was made up for that Simpsons episode. The candy lingerie is probably one of the least erotic things I have ever seen, and the candy grillz and candy bottle cap make my teeth hurt just looking at them.

Also, Lauren Graham's father is a candy industry lobbyist? That must have been an awesome childhood. But does the candy industry really need lobbyists? I mean, everyone loves candy. It's delicious!

On the Road, Again (and Again, and Again...)

I finally got around to reading On the Road just in time for the book's 50th anniversary. The book didn't really do much for me (I'm either too old, too dull, or too averse to travelling to get into it), but I was struck by this original (and unused) book cover, drawn by Kerouac himself. I thought it was interesting that the way Kerouac set the title on a diagonal, as though moving into the distance, anticipated a design element that would appear in several later editions.

While I was tracking down those images, though, I came across this sizable collection of On the Road front covers from around the world. Some are pulpy (this one from Britain, or this one from Germany), others are artistic (such as this Italian cover or this British one), and others look like they should be the cover of an S.E. Hinton book. Editions in the Netherlands seem to be big on upside-down American flag imagery.

Beyond that, things get kind of weird. This Dutch cover has a nice photo, but the font, placement, and color of the title are all too ultra-modern and sleek in ways that the book is not. A Ukrainian cover flirts with satire, while this one from Croatia seems to have borrowed an image from the cover of Revolver. And the less said about this Chinese cover, the better; is this how the world's most populous nation envisions America?

One thing that didn't surprise me is that the vast majority of covers (except those with only text or an author photo) has some sort of car-related images. Interestingly, I only saw one reference to music in the whole set of covers, and bebop is certainly more central to the novel than any mode of transportation. It almost seems like Kerouac and car culture just got wrapped up in some post-war American mythology which may never get untangled in my lifetime.