Monday, September 25, 2006

Look Who's Back!!!


And it gets better... look who else is back!

The only way this day could get better is for someone to faithfully reproduce Dark Castle in Flash and make it available for free over the internet. So that I can play it once or twice and forget about it again. (Boy, it's just Dark Castle day today, huh?)

Some Colin Meloy Trivia

Old news, but a couple weeks ago Pitchfork ran a "what's in your CD player"-type feature on The Decemberists' Colin Meloy.  The music picks are all well and good, but I was more interested in these two tidbits:

1) He owns a bouzouki.  SHUT THAT BLOODY BOUZOUKI UP!!!
2) He names Snood as his favorite video game.  While that's enough to endear him to any Haverford alum, the truly excellent news was his second choice: Dark Castle, which comes as absolutely no surprise.  Nyuh-nyuh-nyuh-nyuh-nyuh!

Can't wait for them to come to town in October...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Paging Mr. Orwell

This comment on Slashdot terrifies me.  Let me get this straight... according to the Baltimore Police, simply out-debating a pair of Diebold representatives, on the subject of their voting machine's accidental lack of security and intentional lack of a legitimate audit trail, is grounds for arrest?  Fabulous.  I didn't realize you could be arrested for aggravated debate.

But it's not like there's some vast Hollywood-style conspiracy going on here.  Let's assume, for the moment, that we can confirm  It's pretty clear what happened:
  • The two Diebold douchebags exaggerated the trouble this guy was making because, as cowardly, spineless sales reps, they are taught to do anything at all to keep people from degrading their product.  Lying is no sweat to scum like them.
  • The policemen, being glorified automatons to begin with, decided not to consider whether their mission had anything to do with truth, justice, the American way, or even just protecting people, and chose instead to swing their big cop dicks around and keep things copacetic.  Finally, a case where enforcing the law to the letter (hmmmm, which amendment is it?) would have actually benefited the little guy... and they don't do it.  Ha.
My point is that it doesn't take any mustache-twirling or bribery or anything to make a 1984-esque situation arise.  All it takes is a whole lot of indifference, selfishness, and ass-covering.  At that point, it's just two equally ignorant groups of people following the new American ethic: doing the right thing means doing whatever it is that makes your life easiest.  (You know, because I got my own problems to worry about.)  Pathetic.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

DC Politics Update

So, this guy Jonathan Rees just ran for the Ward 3 council seat.  I've been reading about his hijinks for months but never really tuned in.  Then I found out that he got a grand total of 28 votes, out of 25,000 people, in the primary.  I believe Sherriff Gone Getcha got more votes than that in his re-election campaign, although I remember hearing that he was facing a strong challenge from Dr. Don't Know.  For further comparison, Dante's girlfriend in Clerks sucked 37 dicks, which is 9 more dicks than Rees had votes.

Did I mention that his campaign strategy was to convince the entire city how completely fucking batshit insane he is???  He basically got $500 from the city to run a campaign that primarily involved a) spamming Craig's List users and b) bombarding every media/politics blog in town with comment-section rants about "snobs" and "rich white trash" (he's white), always posing as someone else, as if to create a "community" of Rees followers.  I'm gonna go ahead and guess that he used more than 28 aliases during the campaign.

In retrospect, the fact that his blog is called Crack City Blog should have tipped me off.  There's some excellent stuff in there.  I like how he claims that the constituents of Ward 3, whom he was trying to win over, in theory, are the District's primary source of genital herpes.  He's like a cross between the average Howard Stern guest and my dad.  Also fun is evidence of his spammery.  It's a lot funnier when you remember that he actually ran for the seat.  It wasn't a goof.  Maybe I was wrong about politics not being fun...

Credit Card Pranks

Far be it from me to come up with unique content.  So, here's more of someone else's stuff.

Now, let's assume that this wasn't a complete put-on, and that some of these receipts are legitimate.  Can any of the scientists in the audience tell me how the author fails to preserve the integrity of his "experiment?"  If you said, "by conspicuously snapping pictures of his wacky signature, thus suggesting to each clerk and waiter that he's probably not trying to surreptitiously rip somebody off," you win.

Sure, his point is that a "good" employee would be a dick and force him to re-do the signature for real.  But who would make such a spectacle of himself while trying to sneak something past the credit card's real owner?  He basically identified himself by taking these goofy pictures.  The real question should be "how much do I need to spend before someone decides that my wacky behavior is insufficient identification?"

All in all, though, good prank.  It's not the Upper Decker or anything, but pretty good.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Studio 60 On The Wire

Good show. The bottom line is that I was both amused and entertained.

It's not really an unqualified rave, though. The first episode isn't going to sell anyone who wasn't sold already. There wasn't a great, perfect Sorkin double-take laugh. There was an awful lot of storytelling, which was necessary given that there's like 17 main characters on the show. And the primary themes were awfully Sports Night to me... TV's going to hell, why won't somebody stand up for what's right, look at all these suits hiding behind Standards & Practices, etc. and so forth. Seen it.

But it's also important to recognize that we got exactly what we wanted, which is more Sorkin. Besides, you can't judge TV on the first episode of a show. No worthwhile sitcom/drama in TV history has ever failed to pick up steam. Neither The West Wing nor Sports Night were as good out of the gate as they eventually became. I see no reason for Studio 60 to be any different.

And now for something completely different...

If you'll allow me to spray on a bit of Pomposity For Men, by Calvin Klein...

We're living in a veritable golden age of hour-long dramas. Just in the last six or seven years we've seen the rise of The Sopranos, Rescue Me, The West Wing, Six Feet Under, Nip/Tuck, 24, Lost, and plenty of others that I may have missed. ("You're risking a patient's LIFE!!!") After decades of idiotic shit in the vein of The Love Boat and Melrose Place, it's a relief to know that there's some actual good television out there for public consumption.

The Wire is head and shoulders above anything on that list.

It's the most important TV drama ever made, and easily the most authentic, the most true. It's faithful... detail-oriented... intelligent... natural... down-to-Earth... heartbreaking... and funny. No television show takes its responsibility more seriously, and no other show is as successful from an artistic standpoint. It should be required viewing for older schoolkids, if only to bang home the point that anything can be deconstructed, and everything should be looked at with one eye askew.

But the reason it works so well is that it's so goddamn entertaining, despite being a civics lesson. It's got all the hallmarks of other sprawling dramas... soap opera intrigue, character arcs to keep track of, hell just characters to keep track of. But while it looks like steak, smells like steak, and tastes like steak, it's actually a green salad with avocado and yellow tomatoes. And I mean that as a compliment.

Your Daily Dose Of Brain

If you're anything like me, your knuckles drag along the ground, you drool on your food, and your favorite word is "GAAAAAAAAAAAAAA."  But if you're a mite smarter than that, you probably find the collection of new knowledge and expertise to be an exciting and rewarding enterprise.

For those in the first group... a very warm gaaaaaaaaaaaaa, brothers and sisters!

For those of you in the latter group, however, behold: via Lifehacker comes news of a random WikiHow generator.  Basically, all you have to do is go to the URL in the above link, and wha-la, blow-by-blow instructions for performing a task you would never think to ask about.  Today I came across this, which pretty much blew my mind.  If you do that every morning, first thing, imagine how smart you'll be after a couple months.  Makes those Word Of The Day emails look like a bunch of crybaby shit.  Yeah, CRYBABY SHIT.  Go cry on your postprandial furbelow, quidnunc!  GAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Star Wars DVDs + Slashdot Slashdotted

I wanted to check out what was going on on Slashdot re: the new Star Wars DVDs, except the Slashdot link gave a 503 server error.  Perhaps a Slashdot page was so uniformly popular that it Slashdotted itself, instead of Slashdotting everyone else for a change!  Like how John Malkovich climbed up into his own head.  Is there even a name for that?  Just thought it was interesting.

Anyway, back to the DVDs.  I pre-ordered them a month ago.  I got excited about the prospect of the original versions finally being available.  And guess what.  I wish I'd never bought them.  In fact, I'm considering sending them back to Amazon and putting that money towards something, anything, that George Lucas hates.

Why?  Because it turns out the original versions on DVD aren't anamorphic.  The video isn't an expanded widescreen image, like pretty much every other major studio DVD since 2000, but a 4:3 image with black bars above and below the film.  So when I watch on my widescreen TV, I will get black bars around the sides, as well as extra-fat ones on top, giving me a miniature image of the film.  Kids, anamorphic widescreen DVD is an industry requirement at this point.  Even the crappiest straight-to-video DVDs come with anamorphic transfers.  To go the 4:3 route is like releasing a CD in mono instead of stereo, or selling black-and-white televisions.  It actively demeans the content.

So, you might ask, what exactly am I pissed off about?  After years of bitching, I finally got what I wanted.  It's better than nothing (arguably), since my only other option was to buy older versions that wouldn't be anamorphic either.  That's partially true.  In fact, I will probably keep the DVDs after all because of the "better than nothing" factor.  However, three things still sting me.

1) I'm most pissed because I could have saved my money.  The disc specs have been out there for months, and I never sought them out, assuming they couldn't possibly release a movie in anything but anamorphic.  Obviously, I was wrong.  But that's something I could have done something about.  I could have posted this rant, like, four months ago and spread the gospel truth about these DVDs being another fucking rip-off.

2) The whole story behind the release of the original Star Wars movies on DVD has been LucasFilm finally coming clean and releasing the films as they should have.  This was supposed to be an "okay, fine, we'll do it, but this is the last time" situation, where the consumers were actually being acknowledged.  It was a nod to the consumers who have spent waaaaay too much money over the years on the Star Wars universe, finally giving us what we want.  Instead, it's just another lesson meant to show their best customers how wrong they are.  Unbelievable.

3) This whole situation was 100% avoidable.  Who in their right mind would perpetually treat their customer base like shit to this extent?!?  With regard to his Special Editions, the people have spoken: they're fine, but most of us would ultimately prefer the originals, and all of us would like to choose between both versions.  This is no longer in dispute.  For LucasFilm to continue to deny this, at the expense of a customer base that has been unflinchingly loyal (from a profit/loss standpoint) to LucasFilm's products, shows a deep, genuine contempt for their base.  That, my friends, is truly pathetic.

But there's good news.  I'm not buying these fuckin' things again.  Well, not unless two things happen:

* George Lucas dies, hopefully from something both painful and ironic (for example, let's say he shoots first in a duel but, improbably, is shot and killed)

* The old versions are restored and re-transferred by a non-partisan firm unaffiliated with of LucasFilm or ILM.  I will never trust anyone Lucas has ever worked with, because I will always suspect some ulterior motive.

So, that's it.  Every repackaging of Star Wars henceforth shall be assumed, by me, to be some sort of rip-off until those conditions are met.  Right now, I'd rather sign up for every service Verizon offers than buy another Star Wars anything after this.  Disgusting.

Friday, September 08, 2006


What a movie.  Great acting, great writing, great story, great everything.

It's remarkable that the filmmakers managed to balance unflinching grit with a very romantic notion about salvation, and did so without ruining or cheapening either side of the equation.  Those two ideas oppose each other more often than not.  Maybe you think, "yeah, we hate Hollywood endings, we're gonna show how it really is," but you end up making a movie that's more defeatist than necessary.  On the other hand, you can't make a squeaky-clean story about Tsotsi (one-time child rapper Lil' Bow Wow), a gangster with a heart of gold, who has wacky adventures with a stolen baby in a bag.  It's a real achievement when you can make a film like Tsotsi that gets right in your face with genuine, true poverty, but doesn't use it as an excuse to deliver a stomach punch.

It's even more remarkable that they showed so much patience with, and faith in, the Tsotsi character.  He's such a bastard for so long, and he continues to act like a bastard even when he's not trying to be one.  There are numerous spots throughout the movie where Tsotsi's goodness is in question; each of those moments is dragged out until the audience has no choice but to think "come on, when's he gonna do the right thing???"  And that's really the point of the film: you recognize the humanity in a little asshole like Tsotsi, because you can feel that even he has some redeeming value.

I'd like to talk about the thrilling conclusion, but I'd better not.  The path towards that conclusion is, in retrospect, one of my favorite parts of the film.  They didn't go the obvious route, and I think it makes what could have been a predictable turn of events into something much more poignant.  In a lot of ways, the ending makes the movie into much more of a morality lesson than it would have been otherwise.  It forces you to ask questions about your own values, about what you would have done in the characters' place.

Highly recommended.  In thinking about how good Tsotsi is, the film that comes to mind is City of God, which is on the short-short list of the best movies I've ever seen (and worth its own post someday).  Tsotsi isn't quite there, but it's close.  It's a perfect, perfect film.

Friday, September 01, 2006

This Whole "Silver Spring" Thing Might Work Out

The Birchmere, the one-of-a-kind picnic-style concert hall in Alexandria, is about to become two-of-a-kind, because they're building a second venue in Silver Spring, at the corner of Colesville and Fenton.  Their bookings tend to be in the Austin City Limits vein: mostly country, folk and bluegrass, with the occasional world act and the once-in-a-blue-moon modern rock band.  But always more upscale, more classy than the average concert venue.

This is a really cool development in the ongoing restoration of my current hometown.  To think, Silver Spring used to be a sewer dump.  Borders was "planning to move in" on and off for like 4-5 years before it actually happened.  We couldn't even get a frigign Borders.  Now people actually want to put in fun shit.  I mean, I could walk to a show!  Sure, I'm not exactly a Dar Williams or George Benson fan, but maybe I would have gone to see, say, Amadou and Mariam had they played in Silver Spring instead of in a Metro-free part of Alexandria.  Either way, this is exciting news.