Monday, August 24, 2009

Feeding her addiction / thwarting intervention

me: This is news?

Artemis: you know what
those aren't even canks in the pic
she just has pudgy legs, but ther'es a noticiable dent between her calf and feet
which would constitute ankles.

me: eugh

Artemis: i just spent 5 mins on the internet looking for a good picture of canckl;es.

me: oh. what i have I done.

Artemis: haha
well believe it or not
there are NO GOOD PICS of them online.
so i stopped.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Coffee Non-Effect, in 3 Cups

It's 9:45AM on a Saturday. After a 1.75 hour trip out to LonGisland (yeah it's one word; ask Chuck), 24 Marathon XVIII is set to begin, and as is tradition, we have a Box O' Joe from Dunkin' Donuts waiting for our imbibe-itude. For normal humans, coffee usually provides a much-needed morning boost, and seeing as the typical 24 Marathon runs from 10AM one morning to 4:30AM the next, drinking the sacred bean excrement is an almost necessary ritual to keep one's energy levels up in order to survive the onslaught of awesome that only Jack Bauer and his cohorts can provide.

David, who is our host (as the Marathons take place in his father's awesomeness I mean house), and who also looks like the only 11-year-old on the planet who can grow a full beard, has in the past displayed the effect that coffee is supposed to have on the aforementioned "normal" human, even though--like me--he is as far from a normal human as you can possibly get. Once, when Alex--one of our staple attendees--was delayed by a burning house and his mandatory police duty to stop and help the would-be victims not be victims, the combination of caffeine and impatience within David conspired to create a beast the likes of which Earthlings have ever seen. It's impossible, with mere words, to describe Hyper David, who--despite his Napoleonic stature (barely 5'5", 125 pounds)--is already more boisterous than most; this is a task that requires some sort of alien holographic language. All I can hope to provide here are a select few bullet points from witnessing the Jewtalian hopped up on coffee:

* Power-walking in circles around the kitchen counter at quite possibly 4.5 miles per hour--literally...

* ...while rapidly tossing his cellphone from hand to hand as if speeding up his rate of tossing will somehow make Alex call him with an update sooner...

* ...while yelping, every 11 seconds, "Where the FUCK is Alex?"...

* ...while yelping, every 50 seconds, "Hey, hey! Does anyone want to play pool?" (There's a pool table in the basement of his father's house.)

* Every so often, the yelping and pacing are punctuated by an impromptu energetic, and almost balletic, leap over the couch...and then a speedy power-walk back to the kitchen counter. (Sidenote: Dave almost always has some sort of sports injury, and it's frequently of the leg-ankle-foot variety. Maybe some of them are coffee-related.)

This goes on for about 33 minutes until Alex finally arrives. That Marathon, as it turns out, ended up being one of the most disastrous in history.

Marathon XVIII went pretty well, despite a snag with the home theatre in the basement during an early episode, but we're here to talk about why coffee and I remain fiendish enemies. Now, every Marathon, I down a cup of coffee in hopes that I attain the lofty energy nirvana that Dave seems to reach. Every Marathon, here's what happens:

a) 80% Coffee, 13% milk, 7% sugar (yes, I measured it; no, not really) are mixed into a cup, which--as I'm told--is typically the vessel of choice for drinking beverages

2) The contents of said cup are consumed by my person

iii) I lie on the couch and within the first two episodes, feel my eyes drooping

What the fuck?

Now, mind you, I have never fallen asleep during a 24 Marathon. I suffer from prolonged blinking during the last four episodes, but I never miss a beat (as someone who's seen every season prior to actually seeing it at a Marathon, I'd have known if I missed something). This is not attributed to the coffee, or at least, I am not willing to attribute it to the coffee. If I can start fading within the first 84 minutes AFTER drinking coffee, which I otherwise NEVER drink, then there's something that the coffee is not doing that it's supposed to be doing but it's not doing to me because I'm not a normal human which I've determined due to the fact that, for some reason, what the coffee is supposed to be doing to me is not happening to me. (Actually, maybe it is. I did drink a cup of coffee before writing this to remember the awful feelings I'm about to describe, so perhaps that ill-conceived sentence was borne out of my ill-advised and unwarranted consumption of the beverage.)

During Marathon XVIII, I again went down the droopy path, though I didn't fully droop. But hours later, at around 9PM, I thought it prudent to brew more coffee in order to speed up my metabolism that my body would use to break down all the delicious and gorge-ful red meat that I had eaten throughout the day. (Fact of Earth: After reducing your red meat intake from about 30% of your diet to 5% over the course of five months and dropping 23 pounds within that span of time, going to a barbecue is nothing short of trauma. Delicious, juicy, tender trauma, but trauma nonetheless. Hence my desire to figure out a way to speed up my metabolism in any way I could. I also did Renegade Rows and bicycle crunches in the basement after a few beers. Not a good idea.) (By the way, I know I'm in trouble when the parenthetical statement in a paragraph is longer than the non-parenthetical statement.) (I know I'm in even more trouble when I make three consecutive parentheticals.) (Maybe I should just make all of them one parenthetical. Shut up.)

Coffee #2 sent my abdomen into spirals. Remember that time you woke up and two gremlins were having a prizefight in the nether regions of your large intestine? This kind of felt like that. Instead of energizing me or my soul, the coffee energized the food imprisoned within my gastric prison, brought it to life, and caused them to do battle. Braveheart comes to mind. And no, at that point, I would not have consumed the English with bolts of lightning from my arse. That's Robs' job. I have better control over my bowels, thank you. (Yes, "Robs"--Dave made the sage observation that he counts as two people. He is large.)

A smart man would have stopped then and there, maybe vomited out the coffee or just downed a reservoir's worth of water, and sworn off coffee for the rest of the weekend--staying awake for the whole Marathon be damned.

I am not a smart man.

Coffee #3 sent my head reeling. So now I was not only fatigued and in the throes of stomach pain, I was also battling a headache. Not a Scottie Pippen migraine, mind you, but enough of a headache to make me wonder why I drink not one, not two, but THREE cups of coffee. Remember that the one cup of coffee in the morning before the Marathon starts never, ever, ever works. And yet I still have it. (Remember also that I am not a smart man.) By midnight, I was alternating between leaning my head against the table in front of the couch and leaning back and exhaling violently. It was a contest to see which was more emo: my head or my gut, as they were both whining for attention and affection (and playing guitar without any semblance of talent or skill).

I once looked at my Blackberry and saw a Facebook status update from my friend Maurice stating that he was on coffee #9 for the day, at around 4PM. I then checked his status the next day and he claimed illness, saying that he was drinking gallons of water to counter the effects of the prior day's bean juice. That was nine--NINE--cups. I got sickly after THREE. And yet my lack of intellect will dictate that I will drink the traditional morning coffee at Marathon XIX, which will likely come in three months' time. It doesn't matter that whatever intellect I do have in my brain will remind me that the coffee will fail to have its desired effect--again.

Moral? When it comes to a fight between the lack of intellect and the presence of intellect, Lackey always wins.

I hate you, coffee, and I hope you rot in hell.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Musicology and Plastic Guitars

My sister once asked me if she thought I played Guitar Hero better than I did the cello. I thought this was pretty amusing at the time; this was at the height of my Guitar Heroics, when my friends Al, Megu, Maurice and Sneezy would throw the little plastic fisher-price guitars behind their heads with me as we competed, playing through riffs on Expert without skipping a beat (until my arms tired out and I had to descend to earth once again). This was when Al and I were fresh off of participating in a forum-based impromptu league set up by another friend of mine, where we strived not only for that five-star ranking on each and every song but also attempted to close in on perfection: hitting every single note without over-strumming (i.e. strumming when there was no note to be played). This was when "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" was just around the corner, and I'd be soon mastering Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" and its newly-recorded (and deviously insane) solo without needing to use Star Power as a crutch to avoid failing out.

For reference, I played the cello for 13 years seriously and two more off and on. Though I was notoriously undisciplined, preferring to play by ear and without practicing technique as much as I should have, I'll go out on a limb and say that my playing was good enough to be pleasing to the human ear, if not the canine ear. I never quite reached the heights I would have needed to in order to play something like Dvorak's cello concerto in B minor, but hey, come on. It's the fucking Dvorak we're talking about, and I was merely decent; I wasn't a prodigy.

To entertain myself, I took these two separate worlds and attempted to answer my sister's question. 15 years of playing cello, 75% by ear and 25% by discipline, versus hitting five buttons in rapid succession and odd combinations in order to rack up a high score at a videogame that just happened to be based on playing music--but didn't involve actually playing music. What was I better at? If I reached the conclusion that I was indeed better at Guitar Hero than I was at playing cello (the former of which I have spent--to date--four years playing as a form entertainment), would this be a "sad" thing? That all the time and effort (ahem) put into refining skills at creating music were trumped by a few leisurely years spent learning how to mimic the solo to a heavy metal song that was compressed to five buttons?

In truth, this is a question that can't really be answered properly--at least, not with regards to the context in which people ask it. Usually they make the understandable mistake of intending the question to be a musical one, implying or thinking that the musical skills required to be proficient at Guitar Hero are the same or similar to those required for a real instrument. This mistake, sadly, is at the root of why music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have been scoffed at (sometimes lightly, sometimes scornfully) by some in the music community. A few months ago, when asked if he'd like to contribute his songs to Guitar Hero, the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince (now currently known as Prince, in case you forgot) politely declined, stating his desire that children learn to play the "real thing."

I don't particularly have an issue with Prince wanting children to really learn how to play music. Done correctly, encouraging kids--hell, anyone-- to play music can result in joy for the would-be musicians, as well as those around them. Playing music is simply fun, and there's a fantastic sense of achievement and satisfaction when you finally master a piece or write a song of your own (...and all of you narcissists would have something else to brag about, another reason to look in the mirror, or whatever).

What perturbs me slightly, though, is the inappropriate correlation between this segment of interactive entertainment and "the real thing." There certainly is a link between playing music games and playing music itself, but again, I feel that most people get the context wrong. Specifically: “Practicing Guitar Hero is going to stop you or your child from practicing a real musical instrument.” Listen--let's look at Guitar Hero, Rock Band and other music games for what they are: videogames. A form of entertainment. A pastime. A leisurely activity. Theoretically, you could be arguing that you'd rather your kids learn how to play their instrument than playing videogames. From there, you could theoretically argue that you'd rather your kids learn how to play their instrument than watching television or movies; going to the mall with their friends; listening to music on the radio (now isn’t that interesting?). Sure, I will concede to the view that mastering a song in Guitar Hero provides the instant gratification of "playing" a piece of music that can’t be achieved from practicing a passage or a set of riffs, for hours on end (unless you’re a virtuoso). However, most forms of leisurely, mainstream entertainment are designed to provide instant gratification.

Does this mean that Prince is entirely "wrong" to say what he did? Not necessarily. I'm not saying that he should amend his statement and lambaste all videogames instead of just Guitar Hero. In the grand scheme of things, though, I do think that music games don't warrant being singled out from any other form of entertainment. As with all entertainment, they should simply be a part of anyone's checklist on what to balance in one's life. For youths, do your chores; do your homework; study and practice what you're supposed to practice; reward yourself, have fun and enjoy life. For adults, do your job; run your errands; take care of the people in your life; reward yourself, have fun and enjoy life. Just like anything else we do for fun, something like Guitar Hero is a perfectly acceptable pastime for those who know how to balance their lives, and more importantly, understand the difference between playing music games and playing real music.

For all of us “grown-ups” (though I’m really 12 years old inside), let's put it this way: If someone came up to me and said, "You know, the time you spent playing Guitar Hero could have been spent revitalizing your cello-playing ability," my response would be, "Had I the desire to spend time revitalizing my cello-playing ability, I would have simply done so. Guitar Hero has nothing to do with it." The sad truth of the matter is that I played Guitar Hero--or read books, or played basketball, or did whatever else I did these past few years--over playing the cello simply because I didn't feel like playing the cello at those particular times. (Note: Kids, you're out of luck; when you asked your parents for that guitar and to spend money on lessons for you, you'd better damn well feel like playing it.)

Let's flip the script and look at this situation from another angle. For all of the negative things people can "learn" or become "desensitized to" thanks to videogames--or movies, or music, or books (are you listening, politicians?)--there are plenty of positive influences that can be gleaned from them. (The key for parents, of course, is knowing how to teach their kids right from wrong, and fantasy from reality, at the outset. I know--duh, right? You'd think.)

I serve only as anecdotal evidence, but I like to think that I’m a passable example. Until around 2005, I almost exclusively listened to hip hop and classical music. December of 2005 is when I brought home the original Guitar Hero. From there, my music library slowly increased to include music--both good and bad--from any number of rock genres. I entered, and am still in, an experimental phase with finding new music that I can appreciate. Why did Guitar Hero, Rock Band and their sequels spark this interest? If you think about it, I was being exposed to music I never really cared for before, contextualized in an environment that I did care for: videogames. The effect is not entirely different from what you'd get when, say, watching a biopic about a musician (e.g. “Ray” or “Walk The Line” might make you curious enough to check out the work of Ray Charles or Johnny Cash), but because these music games (a) were all music all the time, and (2) exposed me to some compressed, faux inkling of the technique required to play these songs, it was easier for me to appreciate the music contained in those games.

So, sure, playing music games got me to appreciate and enjoy "new" music. I'll tell you something else though: My desire to start practicing the cello again has increased noticeably. That's right. After saying that people shouldn't negatively correlate playing Guitar Hero and playing a real musical instrument, I'm turning on my heel and am now suggesting that playing Guitar Hero and its ilk were responsible for me wanting to play my real instrument again. The reason is simple. I want to be able to answer my sister's question, however apples-to-oranges the correlation between the two activities may be, by saying, "No--I believe I can play the cello far better than I can this guitar game." When seeing insane streams of colored notes on the screen and actually being able to play them, it reminded me ever so slightly of the breathtaking sensation I got from playing a run or crazy-ass chord passages using thumb position and other techniques on my cello. It was fun to score points in a videogame through the sheer speed of my fingers--but I wanted to play for real.

This is where the most important distinction between playing a music game, and playing real music, comes in. In a music game, you're not playing music; you're simply activating it. The music is pre-recorded and comes from cover bands or licensed master tracks. It's already in the game. At its core, all the game is doing is waiting for you to press the right buttons, and strum at the right time; with all that done, the notes will play. It'll be as in tune as it ever could be given the recording. The body--the feel--of the note will be exactly what it was when the original was recorded. You are not really making any music, and that's okay, because all you really need to do in order to get the most out of Guitar Hero is to have a good time. That's why you don't, and shouldn't, have to worry about bow or picking techniques or playing the notes at the right dynamics. You can fantasize about being a rock star with ease, just like how a fan of the football sim "Madden 10" can fantasize about being Randy Moss. Playing a music game, and most videogames for that matter, is about the fantasy and the entertainment.

Playing a musical instrument is about discipline, technique and perseverance. You do have to worry about when your foot hits the pedal as you practice Chopin. You do have to make sure that your bow hand is appropriately light or heavy, and you sure as hell have to be cognizant of where your finger hits to make sure you're in tune if you're a string player. You can fantasize all you want, but the results of your playing are your own, and they're real. When the cat screeches and scratches at your foot; when the dog yelps and scampers away; when your sister comes into your room and laughs at you because you hit the harmonic the wrong way, it's your own fault. If you aren't willing--and will never be willing--to handle the reality of the dedication required to play a musical instrument, you're simply not going to partake in it--whether or not Guitar Hero ever existed.

So, to Prince I say this: There are young'uns who dutifully practice their instruments; who dip into Guitar Hero or Rock Band just for a bit when they need a 15-minute break; who would enjoy rocking out to your music with their plastic instruments. Accept the check and give them a taste of the fantasy of being you. You won't do a disservice to their talents by giving them some entertainment. And for the people who'd be inclined to play Guitar Hero over a real guitar, they were probably never going to pick up a guitar anyway. At the very least, by exposing your music to them through their pastime, maybe they’ll buy more of your albums.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bruno: Head in Your Face

Who remembers Da Ali G show? The short-lived but eye-opening comedy series which came to the United States via HBO long after Sascha Baron Cohen originally conceived its three principal characters, Borat, Bruno and the titular Ali G, was particularly good at disarming, confusing and exposing human beings, cynically painting them as contradictory, hypocritical and bigoted creatures. It was the perfect show for those of us who viewed our fellow man in a cynical light--at least in the United States, anyway (I've never seen Baron Cohen's work across the pond)--showing us how dumb, misguided and ignorant the lot of us can be. Ali G frequently twisted his interviewees' words against them, or just outright made innocent funny with the more benevolent of his victims (such as when he asked "my man, Boutros, Boutros, BOUTROS Gali" why Disney World wasn't represented in the United Nations, reasoning that it has its own currency). Borat got unsuspecting people to show just how anti-Semitic they were, and Bruno pulled some healthy "Zoolander" schtick by slamming all things pretentious, using the fashion industry as his victim. Oh yeah, he also revealed how sadly homophobic we still are.

Well, maybe Baron Cohen is trying to tell me that I'm a huge homophobe (which I'm not), because I sure as hell cringed away from the screen when the surprising image of a flaccid, swinging penis popped up at random intervals during one sequence in his third character film, "Bruno".

If you've not seen "Bruno" then consider yourself foreskinned--I mean, forewarned: Johnson McSwing pops up on the screen at least three times within a one-minute span. Or something like it. I don't know, I didn't count, and it was too long already. Listen: The male flaccid member isn't a pretty thing ("Says you!" Bro, trust me, yours isn't either), and for all the possible subtext behind Baron Cohen's decision to throw it up on a huge ass movie screen, you and I both know he did it primarily for cock value. Shock value. Ahem.

Let's talk about this seriously for a second. While I readily admit that I'm uncomfortable with bare elephant trunk on the screen, this fact is not the issue. Rather, the motivation behind flapping the earthworm speaks for a lot of the "humor" present in "Bruno": "Hey, let's shock the shit out of the audience. It's going to be so outrageous!" Well, shock someone too hard and too many times with your tazer, and he or she might just fall unconscious and MISS ALL OF YOUR GODDAMN JOKES.

Many of the jokes in "Bruno" degrade to the sexual equivalent of potty humor. Oh, look--his partner is pleasuring him with an exercise bike designed to plunge a dildo into his bum. Hey check this out--he's getting whipped by a completely naked dominatrix. This is funny--he and his male assistant just had some earth-shattering sex, and now they're trapped in some overdone bondage suit. There are moments when Bruno's homosexuality creates the sort of quiet, awkward situations (asking a martial arts instructor how to defend against a dildo attack) that we've come to know, love and expect from Baron Cohen, but in most cases, he simply pushes way too hard. No pun intended.

What's most disappointing about this is the fact that, for all of its heinous and outrageous humor, "Borat" still packed enough satire into its story that exposed those of us not familiar with Da Ali G show to anti-Semitism, nonsensical jingoism, antiqiuated sexism and just the general stupidity that humanity has to offer. (Is there an "ism" for that?) "Bruno" sports a main character who might almost be as rich in opportunities for satire--as mentioned, Zoolander did a good job in ridiculing the fashion industry's pretense--and the exposure of America's homophobic tendencies. This is sadly scarce from much of the film's 82 minutes.

Through his familiar twisted yet intellectual methods, Baron Cohen does hit the nail on the head in rare instances. I thought I was in for a good show when Bruno quizzes a model on how difficult her life is, having to remember how to walk properly ("...left foot, then right foot..."). And, in the last pre-credits scene, he comes out as "Straight Dave" and lures thousands of America's homophobes into a UFC-style arena, to rousing cheers and adulation, only to make out passionately with his male assistant to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". (Have you ever seen a redneck cry? I highly recommend it.) Now, where was shit like this for the entire middle hour of the movie?!

"Bruno" is simply a missed opportunity, and unfortunately, will probably lead people to think that all of Baron Cohen's material is nothing more than potty slop. Though if this is the best he can do with the Bruno character, maybe it's a good thing that he has to retire every character who stars in a feature film.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Transformers: Revenge Of Shitty Camerawork

Disclaimer: This is not a well-planned "review." I get paid to do those elsewhere. Rather, I saw this movie with the full intent of lambasting it because I was pretty sure I'd hate it. So I am, because I did.

The day before I saw "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen" with my friend Dave, I went out on a dinner date and, well, kinda let it slip that Michael Bay and I have issues. I more or less confessed that Mikey and I had an overly dramatic fistfight in a back alley--complete with wide panning shots and rotating camera shots around our heads--and, because she was both fantastic and hella pretty, I peacocked a little bit and told her that I handily won that fight.

The truth of the matter is, Michael Bay has won almost every single fight against me and my sensibilities. (Sorry I lied. I'll make it up to you.) In the war against my sanity, I've only come out on top twice, escaping Bad Boys and The Rock without any mental scarring. In fact, because I actually enjoyed those movies, I'd be willing to say that Bay inadvertently contributed positively to my sanity.

Then I saw Armaggeddon, and it became apparent that Bay's strategy would be to butcher me in the face with the same tactics over and over again. The slow-motion line shot, in which several principal actors walk slowly towards the camera in a horizontal line. The high-speed head orbit, in which the camera circles around one or two actors' heads--around and around and around. The overblown chin sweep, in which the camera starts under an actor's chin on one side of his body and swivels upwards around to the other side of his chin, primarily when said actor is stepping out of a car or getting up from a fall.

It's a very smart strategy, that being repetition of incessantly nauseating camera work. Immediately, Bay gained the upper hand with Armaggeddon and has been just fucking relentless ever since. He turned "Bad Boys II," the sequel of my first victory, into an overdrawn trip to goddamn Cuba that ended 45 minutes after it really should have. Then we took a trip to "The Island" which actually probably did nearly as much good as it did harm by exposing Scarlett Johansson as a complete fraud of an actress (babe, do you really think your husky voice is going to carry you to a SAG award, or even an Oscar?), and gave us the iconic shot of randomly-cast Djimon Hounsou--dressed in black--walking in the opposite direction of a whole bunch of white-clad pale-skinned celebrity clones. It was almost as poignant as when he shot that scene of Ewan McGregor and Scarlett sparring as if they were inside a game of Street Fighter... complete with freaking life bars and avatars on a screen behind them. (Just to be clear, I'm being sarcastic. I'm pretty sure that "The Island" is responsible for the accelerated growth of that big-ass pimple on McGregor's forehead.)

"I'm Michael Bay's fault!"

Nothing has destroyed my mind, however, as much as the two "Transformers" films Bay directed. "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen" is the worst offender of the two, clocking in at seven hours and eighty-nine fucking minutes. First there was the nausea. The camera spun around heads with reckless abandon--whenever Megatron was addressing someone outdoors, whenever two people were involved in heated conversation, even during as vapid a conversation as the one between Megan "Stripperface" Fox (I'll credit Dave's witty repartee for that one) and Shia TheBeef where they argue about who should say "I love you" first. Here's a hint, douchebags: I sure don't love you, and in fact I HATE BOTH OF YOU, so who fucking cares!?

Oh, I get the genius here. Bay and writers Kruger, Orci and Kurtzman are masters of metaphor and showed it with that aforementioned scene tactfully. By combining Bay's cock-slicing camera work with that "I love you" dialogue, clearly they want us to know that there is a fine line between love and nausea. (Only, James Earl Jones taught us that first, assholes.) They left in another metaphor for our youth to absorb--only it wasn't so much a metaphor as much as it was a blatant insult to black people all over. Mudflap and Skids, complete with buck teeth, full of hood jargon and fist pounds cuz they be wannabe thugz n' shit, rightfully criticized by Peter Travers in his review as "the most offensive bots in screen history," pretty much admit that they, uh, don't read much yo. Bril-fucking-liant! "Black people don't read!" Oh, we get the message loud and clear. Good job alienating like 50% of your captive audience.

When "Transformers: Revenge Of The Bullshit" isn't assaulting our senses with miserable camerawork, empty dialogue or subtle racism or stereotyping, it somehow magically manages to steal imagery, moments and motifs from Terminator 3 (so how did the T-X make it into this movie!?), The Shawshank Redemption (throw the chess piece at the poster for the answer), Aliens Vs. Predator (though admittedly, that movie crawled out of Paul W.S. Anderson's ass, so who really cares), Flatliners (ghosts have been watching and will bring him back from death!), The Matrix ("I love you!"), and National Treasure (hey here's a cryptic riddle--let's decipher it!). I guess Bay and the writers bought that new-fangled iPhone 3GS (wow, "copy and paste"--finally available after years of incompetence). Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but that only works when the final product doesn't make me want to vomit in the popcorn bucket belonging to the nice gentleman sitting to my right. Fortunately for that gentleman, he was twice my size and looked like a boxer so I found it in my esophagus heart to hold it in.

I'll be fair here. There were scattered moments of enjoyment to be found. I could actually see what the fuck was going on when the big-ass robots were making big-ass explosions--well, at least half of the time. We all know that robots and explosions are awesome. Aaron Pierce and The Jesus made big appearances here (played by Glenn Morshower of "24" fame and the immortal John Turturro from "The Big Lebowski" respectively; listen, anything related to "24" and "The Big Lebowski" gets some kind of credit). EDIT: I forgot to mention: Soundwave. The fact that he was in the movie at all, with his creepy-ass voice, and the way they faithfully recreated his Communications Officer role as a sneaky satellite dude in space, was legitimately awesome. And, amidst the rubble of terrible slapstick jokes (robots and people tripping over each other, slamming into walls comically, et cetera--oh how funny; welcome to what Looney Toons did DECADES ago), there were some decent non-racist quips at opportune moments along with more than competent special effects. In fact, I'm willing to rent the DVD just to splice together the scenes that I liked, which by my estimation would take up about 20 minutes in total. But before you counter-attack my back-handed compliment, I know that this movie is insanely popular and brings in the mad $crilla. I get it I get it I get it. Travers called this out already, but it bears repeating for this reason alone: Not everything that's popular is actually good. (For Chrissakes, Dickelsack is an award-winning band. Figure that shit out.)

In the interests of full disclosure, the only reason I went to see "Transformers: Revenge of Ineptitude" is because of Travers' review, linked above. That critique is so masterfully brutal (no stars out of 5! Holy shit!) that I had to see what kind of a turd floated to the top of Bay's squat-hole. I was fully ready, willing and able to be pleasantly surprised, as I was with Iron Man, but ultimately the real entertainment value simply came from the several times during which I cringed, face-palmed, rolled my eyes, frowned, cradled my head in my hands, laughed blatantly at what were supposed to be sentimental moments, and counted out the many ways in which this movie could turn into a drinking game ("There's a head-orbiting camera shot! Drink!" or "That's another movie they ripped off! Drink!" or "Look how shitty this movie is! Drink!"). So, for all the emotional and psychological pain Michael Bay has caused me over his career, I'm beginning to recognize that with the enjoyment of ridiculing this "film" while I was in the theatre came an overwhelming sense of victory.

I win this round, bitch. Bring on Transformers 3.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fishing For Seats, Running For Flights

This past weekend was a somewhat serendipitous affair. The big hoopla was that I was flying down to Atlanta to visit my best friend Matthew, his loverly wife Taz (Latashia), and their newborn son Zach. Our long-time friend Mark--the three of us have known each other since we were three-year-old pissants in nursery school pissing in diapers and on ants--was also down for the ride, though our trips only intersected on Friday and half of Saturday.

Saturday, the 9th of May, was supposed to be the big event: We were going to drive down to Philips Arena to watch LeBron James and the Cavs take on Joe Johnson/Josh Smith/Mike Bibby and their Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-finals. Let's rewind a bit to Sunday, when I was having dinner with my folks for my dad's 37th birthday (yes, we like to make our parents feel young). I get a message from Matt to get my tickets for the game ASAP--they had gotten two tickets in Section 109, Row Q. I panicked and started Blackberrying Ticketmaster, trying to procure a sacred, precious golden ticket. After numerous failed attempts and a dash to my PC after returning home from dinner, I finally found one that wouldn't break my wallet (at least, relative to the other ticket prices I had been seeing) in Section 109, Row K. Great--at least we would be near each other.

Flash forward to Saturday. We make it through the crawling Atlanta traffic and come to find out that the tickets which had been sent to Matt were for Atlanta Hawks Home Game 3... instead of just plain old Game 3... which means that he had been given tickets for Game 6.

Well shit, let's confuse our customers by mixing and matching game numbers. Caveat emptor: When buying tickets for sporting events online, and the event is one in a multi-game series that involves different locations, such as the NBA Playoffs in which each round lasts a maximum of seven games and each of the games is played in one of two locations each of which is home to one of the two teams involved, MAKE SURE THE TICKETS ARE FOR THE CORRECT GAME. If they say "Home Game 3", ask them, "Which game overall?" They probably relish the fact that they can confuse consumers this way and rile you up. I swear, companies just like to throw random obstacles your way even though they know that they'd probably make more money if you had just made things easier. Seriously, the iPhone doesn't have a landscape keyboard? Really? Then again, Apple's making money hand over fist already... but I digest.

So we're standing outside the arena like a bunch of wilted asparagus as Matt first tries to plead his case with the unrepentant customer service rep, then with the disembodied voice at the other end of the phone representing (from where he procured his tickets), to finally hear that, yes, he would be getting his money back. So what to do now? I'm sitting here with a $85 ticket ($100 after Uncle Sam and the Internet Surcharge Monster gang-raped my credit card), not willing to sell it because my name's on it (yeah, I'm paranoid, but do you know how much random information someone can get by entering your full name into websites that really should not know or give out the information that they do?). Unrepentant Customer Service Rep (yes, I've turned him into a proper noun) is selling "standing room only" tickets, which means that, for $30 per person, you may be escorted to the back of a section where you may stand and watch the game from high up. The added benefit is that you're in the heavens, and the farther you get from hell, the better, I suppose.

(That's right: Commit all the sins you want, and for $30, you can still get into heaven as long as it's during the NBA Playoffs. Unless you're an atheist or something else. Then I suppose all you get is a shitty view of a landmark basketball game. Which is likely what I would have gotten, except maybe Buddhism has a similar concept to heaven that I don't know about or forgot because I'm not very religious sorry mom and my memory measures somewhere between a brick and a goldfish, but again I digress.)

In any event, I said that as long as we're here, we might as well buy two standing room tickets and Taz could have my ticket and seat. The lady just bore child; you think she deserves to stand on her feet for 2.5 hours straight when she's not even supposed to be jogging yet, even a little? Shame on you. In any event, the idea was sold, and we got onto the Chinese line. Read: not really a line, but a mess of people who try to funnel into a single door and usually end up pushing and shoving to get in--ever been in the NYC Subway?--except this isn't China so instead of pushing and shoving, everyone just slowly merged and tried to inch past each other... somebody probably had his ass groped, and the person groping his ass probably thought he was a she, and the gropee probably thought the groper was a she, but ha ha, isn't the joke on them. Anyway. We separated and vowed to meet each other again, in this life or the next. (Name that movie. Hint: I had to Google it because I forgot where it was from. Well that wasn't much of a hint, was it...) Taz went to the fabled seat of 109 Row K, and Matt and I headed up K7 to watch LeBron execute actions that we wouldn't quite be able to make out because we were standing in the back behind people with bigass heads and a self-serving sense of pride at not having to be a "standing room only" plebe.

Then it happened. We were looking cross-court at Section 109, where Taz was sitting, trying to scope out seats, when we saw an entire half-row of seats waiting to be stolen one section over in 108. She then sent us a text message, saying, "Whole lotta seats down here." I, with beer in hand, followed Matt with--well--nothing, since he actually takes care of his body while I'm a slug, and we head down and around the arena to the fabled emptiness. We walk in but waited a bit too long to make our right turn, though I have an excuse in that I simply had no goddamn idea where to go, and the result was that Friendly Seat Guardian guy asked us, "Excuse me, where are your seats?"

Foresight rules, though original intent doesn't reflect actual use. Basically: I had printed an extra copy of my ticket in case I misplaced the first one. So, while I had given Taz the original printout, I had the Xerox (ok nerds, I know the correct term is "photocopy" because "Xerox" is a brand name, just like it's "tissue" and not "Kleenex", but "Xerox" is faster to type than "photocopy" so I guess this whole parenthetical was counter-intuitive to my goals; just shoot me now). This magical XEROX was used for a purpose for which it was not originally made: It was shown to Friendly Seat Guardian guy, who deemed me worthy of entry. Since Matt was with me, he assumed that we were together, which was a correct assumption. We made our way to Section 109, went across the stairs to 108, and claimed our rightful spots in the half-row free in 108, around 100 feet away from the basket. Taz later joined us, and though my head darted around looking for security or the "true" owners of those seats we were in, we were able to sit through the entire game as LeBron James made a whole shitload of what would normally be ugly jumpers en route to a 47-point, 12-rebound and 8-assist thrashing of the Hawks. Zaza Pachulia got thrown out for menacing the refs, and even though the Hawks tried to play him (and the team) up to be Rocky Balboa (clips of Rocky followed by Zaza in a hoodie quoting Rocky with his charmingly/disgustingly [depending on whether you love or hate him] crooked Slavic accent), people apparently forgot that Rocky actually loses in the first movie. But all that is irrelevant. This was about the great seats.


If you know me on Facebook, you can see some (shitty) action shots I got. If you don't, well, too bad.

In any event, Monday was a sad day as I had to leave Matt, Taz and little baby Zachary Austin (yeah bitches, I was honored and you weren't, which also means that if I gave the entire family Swine Fl- oh, I'm sorry, H1N1, then I'm the most rottenest person in the world, but I'm already qualified for that moniker so the joke's on you) and head back to New York City for Episode 22 of 24 (the television show 24, not 24 total episodes, even though 24 the show does have 24 total episodes a season--so I guess that works out).

My flight was at 2:40 PM.

Matt and I left the house at 1:37PM.

Now, when you go to the airport, there are numerous obstacles that could cause you to miss your flight and look like an idiot with your pants pulled down at the terminal because you tried to run past security and then they found that you forgot to take the screwdriver out of your messenger bag so now they're patting you down for drugs and threatening a Rob Lowe in Wayne's World-style enema. But none of that happened to me that day. It was just your usual mundane bullshit: tires needed air; the Kia needed a full gas tank; the Atlanta traffic stunk; and at 2:21 when I bolted into airport security, the line was slow; yadda yadda.

When I finally got out of security because slow-ass air travelers who are slow-ass asshats at the retrieval line where you're supposed to quickly put on your shoes and shove your shit into your luggage and then put on your belt later or at least just wait until you're off the line, but oh no I dropped my ziplock bag with all my makeup in it or I forgot to drink all my water so now I have to drink it or throw it away, but hey I paid $1.50 for that water and I can't drink all of it right on the spot or I'll throw it up and the water's like $4.79 in the goddamn Hudson News in the airport, no liquids my ass, it was already 2:37. By the time I reached the appropriate concourse, it was 2:42.

Flight missed.


So I grumpily stomped towards my gate, likely scaring people in the process with my crude language and backwards hat, only to find that my flight had been delayed.

Until 3PM.

It was 2:49.


Now that I'm recalling all of this good fortune, I've got a nasty feeling that karma is a sumbitch and that I've got a really rude weekend waiting for me. I'll let you know how many times I get peed on by a drunk guy using his window as a urinal.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Fun Size Twix

I am vehemently opposed to this "fun size" Twix. When you unwrap a normal-sized pack of Twix, you get two sticks of delicious chocolate, caramel, graham cracker and cardiotoxic bliss. When you unwrap the "fun size" Twix, you get one stick.

I was operating under the assumption that "Twix" was a clever, edgy way of naming "Twin Sticks" of choco-graham-ness. With only one stick in the pack, how does the name apply? "Twick?" "Tick?" "Single Portioned Chocolate Graham Caramel Crunchy Dessert For Obesity"?

This will not stand, and it really doesn't matter whether or not my assumption is correct, because as is customary on the internet, MY assumption is all that matters. Therefore, I dema- *bites into fun size Twix bar*... ...oh, I can't stay mad at you, Twick.

I withdraw my statement. More Twix please.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You and I

Blogging without editorial checks and balances has resulted in the internet's perpetual butchering of the English language. Sometimes, that heinous shit creeps into non-blog articles as well. It. Pisses. Me. Off. (Never mind instant messages and chats for a second, because I don't consider those as any manner of "published works" the same way I do high-profile blog entries.)

First of all, "You and I" is not always the correct way to phrase that concept. So your second grade teacher taught you that it was wrong to say, "Me and Jack went to sniff paint." Big friggin' whoop. How on Earth does that make, "Here's what happens when you interview Bob and I" a correct sentence? Blargh! Reading something like that from a high-profile blogger who HAPPENS to write for a newspaper -- someone who even happens to be someone I respect -- is even worse.

What's the strategy Ms. Smith taught you in second grade? Take away the other person and say the sentence as if you were the only subject. "Me went to sniff paint" sounds dickish, right? Right. So what about, "Here's what happens when you interview I"? Yeah. Run that through that brain of yours.

While I'm at it, "on accident" is shit. If you happen to be one of those people who are 100 times smarter than me (I think that's about 98.237% of Earth's population), but still say "on accident," well, I don't care how much smarter than me you are because at the very least you *sound* stupider than I do when you say it. I don't care that your editor let the error pass through the QA process. I don't care what Grammar Girl's "studies" show -- she's just humoring you. It's "by accident" and you're wrong. Deal.

I'm only freaking out because this is really easy shit. It's not like you need Diana Hacker's Pocket Style Manual (go buy it, writers) to know this.

Yeah. Word to yo mama. And stuff.

*turns down the snob dial before getting hit by a food coma*

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Judgement" is now a word in the dictionary.

Apparently, Merriam-Webster updated its dictionary to include "judgement" as an appropriate spelling of the word "judgment".

Fuck. My post is destroyed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Presidential Debate, In Reductive Fashion

McCain: "Yakity yak. We're Americans, and that's why we can get it done. It's also how we can get it done."

Obama: "Blibbidy blah. We need to do something. And that something is whatever it is we need to do."

Tom: "Dudes, please stop ignoring the minute-long time limit imposed at your behest."