Thursday, January 31, 2008

Farewell, $1 Double Cheeseburger

I don't say it's a great hamburger. Double Cheeseburger never cost a lot of money. Its name was never in the paper. It's not the finest McDonald's item that ever existed. But it's a hamburger, and a kinda terrible thing is happening to it. So attention must be paid. It's not to be allowed to fall in its grave like an old bun. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a burger!

That somewhat clumsy and awkward parody of the famous quote from "Death of a Salesman" pretty much sums up my feelings of the McDonald's Double Cheeseburger, which after today will depart its longtime home on the Dollar Menu. Oh sure there were better value burgers out there: Wendy's Jr. Bacon and Cheeseburger Deluxe used better ingredients, as was the Whopper Jr., and you could get two classic White Castle sliders for the comparable price; but none of these gave you the pure gross, quantity over quality, burgerness of the DC.

I can put away three Whooper Jrs. or Cheeseburger Deluxes at almost any given moment. I can put away four if I tried. If I'm feeling particularly hungry or grossly hedonistic I may be able to stuff down five. Anything over five and I've probably wondered into a burger eating competition. In stark contrast I can't recall eating more than 2 Double Cheeseburgers at any one sitting. Maybe it was the two rubbery patties that tasted like somebody sprayed on the burger taste; maybe it was the fact that a pinch of tiny, cut up onions bits and ketchup were all that counted as fixings; or the hideous half melted, taxi yellow cheese; but I doubt if anyone can eat more than three in one sitting without getting violently ill.

While all this sounds like harsh criticism, it's actually some of the highest praise I can give to a value fast food hamburger. A truly great value fast food hamburger has to have all those qualities: it has to be cheap (check), it has to be filling (check), and it has to be a little bit gross (double check).

If I want a fancy burger I'd go to a Fuddrucker's or order from the regular menu. When I go to a fast food joint I want something I can pay for with the contents of my dashboard change holder. Over the past few years, especially since going to school and living in NY, I have actually become almost exclusively a value menu customer. In a chaotic world of shifting burger inflation, the value menu remains my one solid rock of stability. The price of a Whopper or Big Mac may fluctuate two dollar from the New Jersey suburbs to downtown Manhattan, but the DC remains the same. It defies all economic logic for existing, there is no way they can be making a profit on these things. Even if I made my own burgers at home I probably wouldn't be able to meet these price points. In a way the value burger is one of the only true deals left in this bankrupt world.

Of course the value of the burger is highly dependent on how filling the whole thing is. The White Castle slider may cost a relative pittance, but I can down one in a single hungry bite. In the end, after a half dozen, the deal is revealed to become an illusion. Wendy's and Burger King will fill me up for less than the price of a gallon of gas, but like I said nobody could beat the DC. It was a noxious burgery mess that punched in the stomach...with flavor. This is in relation to its unparalleled grossness factor. You don't finish a DC, you just say no more and submit to it. Also economically, if you break it down, it is probably the cheapest cent per calorie food in the world. Roughly 440 calories of pure value for a dollar comes to roughly 4 and a half calories per cent! If that ain't America I don't know what is!

All of these above benefits would be for not if it didn't have a significant gross factor. But Victor, why do you want to eat food that's of sub standard quality when there are so many better tasting, possibly healthier options? In the words of Dennis Leary from one of cinema's great soliloquies, "because I suddenly may feel the need to". Fast food burgers, by virtue of their existence need to be kind of gross. At three in the morning after a night of drinking you're not going to have a craving for a an elaborate plate of sushi or foie grass, you want something greasy, something fatty, something down right antagonistic to your body. And in that respect, the DC was like Betty Davis in the "The Little Foxes".

So now after years of holding this steady position as a bargain basement priced, gutbusting, killer, the economics of the burger world and the powers have pushed it out of the special dollar menu and onto desert of the regular menu. McDonald's better think of a comparable replacement quick since the standard cheeseburger that has now moved up on the depth charts is literally half the burger that the DC was. As for the future of the DC, with its value roots diminished, it'll no doubt fade into obscurity right next to the fillet o' fish or the Angus something or other, a freakish refugee torn between too worlds; too cheap to be regular, too expensive to be value.

Godspeed, you cut rate, filthy son of a bitch.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Anal Bum Cover

In my continuing efforts to provide fluffy filler content for this blog and procrastinate from doing any actual law school studying I decided to take a crack at an interesting little "meme" I caught a few weeks back. Now normally I really don't go for such things considering that I still refuse to put any of those new fangled "applications" on my relatively spartan Facebook profile, I haven't done an internet quiz since I was a freshman in high school, and I heard so many analyses of memes during my Communications undergrad days that it makes me sick just to think too long about them; but hey I do enjoy dicking around on Photoshop.

The way it goes is:
  1. You click on the Wikipedia Random Article page. Whatever result you get is your band/artist name.
  2. Click on the Random Quotes page at the Quotations Page. The last four words of the very last quote on the page will be your album title.
  3. Now head on over to Flickr and click on the "interesting photos from the last seven days" section. The first picture is your album cover.
  4. Take all those elements and slap them together in Photoshop (or I guess MS Paint if you're keeping it old school) and you've got yourself an album cover that William Burroughs would have been proud of!
The results were actually at times eerily genuine. Frankly I don't know why bands even bother with graphic designers and artists when a few clicks, crops, and prudent font selection will give them just as good a cover. Here are the four I came up with:

I can totally see "Union Bay" as a modern day, post-grunge hard rock band, which in short means they probably suck. At best they might be like Live, at worst Nickelback. "Temper" would probably contain a baker's dozen of straight ahead crunching guitars and Eddie Vedder-like vocals form a bunch of indistinguishable long haired white guys (possibly from Florida). The songs would cover all the staples: screeching anthems about broken relationships, problems with the bottle, and finding the the strength to do something. All in all, they'd be derided by critics, however sell at least a million copies (which no one will admit to owning), top the modern and mainstream rock charts for about 40 weeks, and further contribute to the death of rock.

"Concreatism" seems like a fairly established electronica music group. They'd be one of those big beat bands that came out of the Ecstasy-fuel British rave culture of 90s, except they're Australian. They had their heydays about a decade before this release and even a fluke mainstream hit which makes people in this country who are not into the electronica scene classify them as one hit wonders. "Morning" looks like the long awaited release after a tumultuous period of change in the group (although about 90% of the work is done by one guy). It'll be hailed as a return to form and sell just enough albums for them to make another album.

This is definitely my favorite image of the four. "Atwood, Colorado" which happens to be where the group hails from seems like one of those irreverent, somewhat subversive, indie folk rock bands. It may possibly be all girl or at least half girls. I'd probably find them annoying and untalented a la Moldy Peaches. That being said I'm sure any of the songs from "...Is That" would fit like a glove within the Juno soundtrack. A fine collection of sparse, acoustic, lo-fi songs about young love, kissing, living in New York, candy wrappers, or whatever they're looking at as they hastily write a song. I'm sure you can preview all of them on their well maintained MySpace page.

Aside from the somewhat out of place artist name, this was probably the best combination that randomly came up. Alekseev seems to be to a Russian version of Mike Skinner. You could possibly assume that his name is a pseudonyms. He probably came originally from the rough streets of Moscow, then settled in England and established himself with a string of highly regarded singles. Amid a mountain of hype and buzz his debut "Impossible" becomes a critical smash and gets nominated for the Mercury Prize. Although nobody knows what the hell he's saying on the album, it all sounds fresh and interesting nevertheless. Elitist, above mainstream rap/hip hop fans in America find pretentious joy in introducing their friends to it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

King of the Road?

The gentleman pictured above, for those of you who didn't have a brief serial killer obsession period in high school after watching a rerun of the classic made-for-tv film "To Catch a Killer" with Brian Dennehy, is Mr. Henry Lee Lucas. One America's most prolific serial killers (and the inspiration for the cult classic Michael Rooker vehicle "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer") Lucas had at one time confessed to about 3,000 murders committed in a roughly ten year span until his arrest in 1983. Although he later recanted most of them, and was officially convicted of 11, the number may reasonably be believed to be as high as 350. As was the case with many of the most prolific serial killers throughout modern times, Lucas was able to kill so frequently and for so long because he lived the nomadic life of a drifter. He lived on the fringes of society and on the fringes of the awareness of probably most of the people he came across. He was a vagrant, a tramp, a vagabond, and possibly according to Roger Miller, a man of mean by no means, king of the road.

I personally find Roger Miller's hit "King of the Road" one of the most insidiously catchy songs ever created. Every time it comes around on my iPod or on some oldies station, or used in some commercial; the smooth vocals, that sparse jazzy bass, those snaps, linger around in my head for days. So as it was cycling through my head after hearing it earlier the other day, I began to think about the lyrics and found some disturbing elements to it I never bothered to notice before. Maybe it was because I had just gotten out of Criminal Law class where we go back and forth about rape and homicide for entire classes, but suddenly I began to view the lyrics in a more suspicious shade. Could it be that behind the general country goodness, the laid back accompaniment, the old time sound that seems way before it's 1965 origin, the lyrics reveal a protagonist with more than a hint of evil, David Lynch-like, perversity?

Let's look at the verses:

Trailers for sale or rent
Rooms to let...fifty cents.
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah, but..two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room

The first part of the song establishes that the protagonist is living the life of a perpetual traveler. However his traveling doesn't seem to be that of leisure. He's obviously living low rent motel to motel, trailer to trailer. He's probably homeless, a drifter who doesn't even seem to have enough to buy his own cigarettes. He also doesn't seem to have a steady income as he resorts to doing menial labor and odd jobs like "pushin' broom" to even get lodging for the night. This already paints an unfortunate picture of the singer.

Third boxcar, midnight train
Destination...Bangor, Maine.
Old worn out clothes and shoes,
I don't pay no union dues,
I smoke old stogies I have found
Short, but not too big around

More details of the protagonist are revealed. He travels illegally by the classic hobo method of hitching on boxcars from city to city. He further elaborates on his overall shoddiness by mentioning his worn out clothes and shoes. His statement of not paying union dues seems to be a way of implying that he is essentially unemployed and that this appears to be a permanent or long term status for him. More vagrant like behavior is revealed as he smokes left over butts that he's gained from rummaging. At this point we have ourselves a pretty clear picture of a drifter. Possibly a criminal? Possibly a drunk? Possibly mentally ill? Possibly dangerous? The last verse implies some unsavory answers.

I know every engineer on every train
All of their children, and all of their names
And every handout in every town
And every lock that ain't locked
When no one's around.

The song suddenly takes quite a dark turn here. What are we supposed to assume from this last round of revelations? The first part says that he has a long history of living this boxcar hopping vagrant lifestyle, then he disturbingly adds "yeah I also know their children's names too". Maybe these were simpler times, but if I were an engineer, one of the last people I'd talk about my children with would be this creepy drifter I found riding in my boxcar. Or maybe he just found out about them on their own and it's now too late! Then comes the most incriminating part about his knowledge of every locked lock when no one's around which is about as close as saying "yes I am a criminal, I rob people" without actually admitting it. Is it the unlocked, unattended doors of the children that he's so familiar with? Disturbing!

I don't know, it may be a delusional stretch on my part, but taken as a whole everything about the singer just seems so off. I can totally imagine this guy with the vacant one eyed stare of a Henry Lee Lucas, the tragic, twisted upbringing of an Aileen Wournos, the perverse appetites of a Jeffery Dahmer, the cold manipulative abilities of a Ted Bundy, just looking for someone to contribute to his crudely made suit of human flesh. One thing's for sure, it'd make one hell of a psychological thriller/horror film though. "King of the Road" starring Peter Sarsgaard. Although I can't decide who'll play the obsessed detective with the personal life that's falling apart yet...maybe Ed Norton or Sean Penn.

Or I guess it could all just be about some bum on a train.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I cannot emphasize enough that my following entry does not in any part endorses, promotes, or even condones Cablevision. I view the American cable industry as the most crooked, greedy, unscrupulous, and downright evil branch of business still allowed to function with relative freedom by the US government. The shameful reality that the government allows them to split up the country into their own personal cable fiefdoms and thus depriving us the consumer of any alternative or bargaining power is one of the biggest (among many) examples of the irrelevance of the FCC. Furthermore, among this terminally corrupt industry, Cablevision, the providers of the Optimum Triple Play package, as I've learned from years living in their service area, somehow manages to be the paradigm of corruption, greed, and customer indifference; not only with providing cable services, but with running Madison Square Garden and the once proud New York Rangers and New York Knicks completely into the ground. With all that being said however I can't deny, "The savings are for real, the Triple Play is the deal!"

For some of you living outside of the tri-state region and thus out of the reach of the dark tendrils of Cablevision's service area, this commercial won't be as affecting. For anyone living in Cablevision's sphere of influence and watching a moderate amount of TV, you most likely have seen this commercial during every commercial break for the past month or so. It's tasteless, annoying, extremely redundant, and advertising a product that I am openly hostile towards, but I somehow can't get enough of it!

The cheesy visuals, the forced reggaeton, the confusing demographic targetting, the vapid eye candy ladies, the nonsensical plot, all of this and more somehow combine to form a commercial that I can't look away from every time it comes on. So how can this annoying little advert which seems to fly in the face of the conventional view of creative, memorable, advertising somehow cut through the clutter of thousands of better produced ads and into my prized consciousness?

I think deep down it all just comes down to genuine fun. This commercial is just plain fun. It's outrageous, it's wacky, and I have a feeling everybody even had fun making it from the Daddy Yankee-esque protagonist to the 877 girls, to the pirates, to the guy in the monster suit that looks like Tony Reali. It's silly without the overwhelming stink of irony. The modern commercials created by their detached merchants of cool have mostly been about being painfully ironic, or postmodern, or just too plain clever. Antagonizing Burger King customers by giving them the wrong food and calling it a freakout, Old Spice commercials with Bruce Campbell just for the sake of Bruce Campbell, cavemen selling car insurance (or rather trying not to sell car insurance), ambiguously associating Cheetos with some sort of guerrilla movement, commercials not for Esurance but merely the character that used to promote Esurance. Somewhere along the attempt to provide "killer" copy, to enhance positioning, to try to be as distinctive as possible, to think outside the box, people may have strayed away from the primary goal of advertising which is to get awareness out so the product will sell.

Now I'm not calling for the overhaul of modern advertising back into some sort of utilitarian, no frills, Head-On Apply Directly to the Forehead, approach; but I think sometimes copywriters and art directors have to stop being so damn cool that they think they're not making a ad for a product. It's okay to make a goofy commercial that's not completely in an ironic manner. Sometimes you need pirates running around in fast motion, a lame rap, extra repetition of the phone number ( with sexy women doing pelvic thrusts on the last 8). Don't be afraid to, gasp, show the product in a straight forward manner. As chaotic as it seems, the three specific acts of the Io commercial each deal clearly with the three separate services. Show me a burger and I may want to buy it, don't show me a just guy in a creepy king suit and tell me there's a burger in the restaurant also. Creativity is great, but one has to walk a fine line between getting my attention and then transferring that intention to the product. If you can't reconcile the two, direct music videos or branch out into feature films.

I couldn't tell you what that latest viral, guerrilla marketing campaign is about but I will probably remember the phone number 877-393-4448 till my deathbed. And for that I hate them even more.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Where Were You In '99?

Roughly over ten years from now you'll be in your mid thirties. You may have settled down, married, and maybe have a young kid keeping you awake at night. You may be living in an actual house to facilitate this, with an actual mortgage. You could have risen to some status within whatever you do for a living or have come to the realization that it's probably too late to uproot and change you're current path. Your body won't be as resilient or as low maintenance or as skinny, tight, muscular, energetic as it used to be. Drinking until you're drunk won't be as appealing, along with sex without commitment, staying up late, eating convenience store food, and using facebook. There'll be nobody back at college to remember you except for the alumni board that sends you monthly letter for donation. Overall, you'll be fully engaged in the early stages of that transition into becoming your parents from whence you'll maintain a steady decline for the next few decades. You may also find that if you're not living like this, the people around you will think you've screwed up somewhere along the way.

It's a disturbing scene for sure; one that has yet to even mention the possible ills of climate change, rising fuel costs, the solvency of social security, murderous replicants, and the ethical ramifications of robot baseball.

One thing I will, however, actually be looking forward to will be the ability to see how the collective nostalgia of my generation (or as I personally refer to it, the "Pepsi Generation") and the retro-fetishism of the younger generation finally give credit to the teen movies of my high school years. As we stand now in the early 21st century, the teen movies of the 80s, the Pretty in Pinks, the Breakfast Clubs, Ferris Buellers, the Fast Times at Ridgemont Highs, the Revenge of the Nerds, Heathers, Wargames, even the Some Kind of Wonderful Wonderfuls, have the spotlight in the pop culture collective nostalgia. There's no reason why it wouldn't be this way, the torch is kept alive by all the plentiful aging Gen Xers who are now currently in their 30s and 40s and many of whom are well established in society to keep it on top (hell, that's what most of the World Series of Pop Culture was all about).

But as they say, all things must pass, and I'm predicting some serious passing around the corner. For all the attention and pop cultural cache 80s teen movies have, in the next ten to twenty years they will be a mere afterthought, buried under the sheer quantity and (sometimes) quality of teen movies of the late 90s to the early 00s. Teen movies may have blown up prominently in the 80s, but in comparison the late 90s were an atomic bomb. By comparison the year 1999 alone stacks up well against the output of the entire decade of the 80s. As this generation gets older and begin to become to new merchants of nostalgia cool, the aging films of the 80s will just be relegated to "movies grandpa watches".

If I were to ask you to name a 90s teen movie off the top of your head, there's a good chance it came out in 1999. I was pretty surprised too as I started look up my list.
The most prominent of these films that stick the most faithfully to the traditional formula include:
  • American Pie
  • Varsity Blues
  • Cruel Intentions
  • She's All That
  • Election
  • 10 Things I Hate About You
  • Never Been Kissed
  • Drive Me Crazy.
Some films that I don't automatically fit into the mold of a typical teen movie but never the less should be considered:
  • Go
  • Dick
  • But I'm A Cheerleader
  • Idle Hands
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous
  • Simply Irresistible
  • The Rage: Carrie 2
  • Detriot Rock City
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • Virgin Suicides
Also if you think about it, the Oscar winner for Best Picture American Beauty is half about the quiet, desperation of suburban parents and half about the quiet, desperation of suburban teens. It's by far the closest the academy has ever come and will probably ever will come to giving a teen movie a best picture (I guess "Oliver!" had a bunch of young people in it?).

Considering that these were just movies I thought about off the top of my head and limited to just one year there are probably more. Overall though it's a pretty impressive array that spans various genres, periods, and quality (I'm looking at you Drive me Crazy). It's not all great, but in assessing pop culture that matters the least. Keep in mind that outside of this year is a full decade of films as well. You only need to look a year to the left or right and you'll see others like Bring It On, Disturbing Behavior, Can't Hardly Wait, and Final Destination.

So I figure based on the prolific amount of material of this generation , people should be prepared in the next decade and beyond for Mena Suvari retrospectives, midnight showing of Crazy/Beautiful, contemporary movies with terribly shallow interpretations of life during the period, and an even more irrelevant Chris Klein talking about things on I Love the "00"s. Of course this is all until the 80s becomes so old it becomes cool again.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Opportunties (Let's Make Lots of Money)

Game show money, similar to game show fame, is a fleeting thing. Between Uncle Sam's crippling rabbit punch of a tax on all my winnings, the mountain of student loans courtesy of NYU, and the debt that I'm accumulating right this very moment as I fail my way through St. John's Law; there's little to nothing left over for offensively ostentatious displays of wealth. On top of that, to maintain this oh so fabulous lifestyle of prudent loan repayment and educational investing I, along with my fellow "Twisted Mister' compatriots, will have to win another World Series of Pop Culture. It's not that I'm lacking any confidence that we will repeat, but considering the economics and pay scales of game shows as a whole, for the work we put in we're going to have to work hard for the money. If you consider the three way split of $250,000 a year for beating the toughest competition the US has to offer, it would take us years of continuous Patriots-esque perfection to equal the amount some overly excited rube would get for a night of randomly picking suitcases. Of course I'm far from complaining, a third of $250,000 was an amazing win fall that I'll be forever gracious about; but sadly you can't live your whole life on it.

That leads me to to the million dollar (neigh multi-million dollar) opportunity I hinted above. Why am I sharing this idea with you the public at large? Well, for all my inspiration, I lack the requisite 99 parts of perspiration. While I have the goal in mind, I need someone with the wherewithal, gumption, along with other old timey synonyms to cut the Gordian knot (I just learned what that meant and have been trying my best to use it in my daily conversations, properly and improperly) and solve the difficult problem of achieving it. In sharing my idea I would hope to appeal to everyone's sense of right and fairness and that someone wouldn't just take all the credit themselves and leave me stuck in miserable, law school less one world changing idea. I'm not asking for too much, just a reasonable cut of the action, maybe like 30% as essentially a finder's fee.

So like Mr. McGuire said to a young Benjamin Braddock, I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Ketchup.

I guess regionally some folk may substitute that with catsup, but the idea remains the same. Everybody has ketchup (well almost everybody since last I heard salsa was the top condiment in this country). Millions upon millions of bottles are consumed every year, it complements hot dogs all across the land, it's considered by some a last resort substitute for vegetables, and it partially funds the opulent lifestyles of the Kerrys. Despite the apparent universal success of ketchup, you would be able to see its greatest failing if you go to your fridge, open a bottle and hold it upside down. Before you got to that good stuff, you know exactly what you'd get. You'd get pre-ketchup.

That's my patented official term for it, and frankly there's no better way of putting it. It's that thin, watery discharge you get from a bottle that's been sitting around for a while. Unless you get rid of that beforehand, you're finding yourself with a soggy hot dog, or a dripping burger, or wet fries. Half the time you don't even think about it until it's too late. No type of bottle or brand is immune to this phenomenon, even plastic packets if left around long enough will give you a trickle of pre-ketchup. With the advent of the plastic squeeze bottle the problem seems to have gotten even worse in recent years. It's a baffling commentary on modern times. We have fiber optic cables, cars that park themselves, a complete map of the human genome, foot prints on the moon; and yet no one has definitely solved this simple problem.

So as the old maxim goes "build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." If anyone can find a viable way to eliminate the nuisance of pre-ketchup from America's kitchens, ballgames, diners, picnics, and backyard barbecues, you can write your own check. Can you imagine the bidding war that would erupt among America's premier ketchup barons for the exclusive patent rights to the perfect bottle of ketchup? It'd be the greatest innovation in the industry since green ketchup. You could play the Heinz people against the Hunt's people and then throw in all the supermarket brands as well for maximum returns. And you know what's the best part of all this? You can double your already enormous profit by repeating it again with the mustard industry; just replace the top guys with French's and Gulden's.

That's basically the gist of the plan. Now there's the slight formality of coming up with a solution. Anyone can try, I'm not sure if there's any background or discipline that is best suited for solving this conundrum (mechanical engineering? physics? graphic design? ketchup fluid mechanics? tomato theory? modern condiment relations?) If you feel like never wanting to have to work again and living the rest of your days in grand leisure, you owe it to yourself to take a crack at it. After you've given it said thought and you've perhaps come across a possible solution send it over to the official email hotline at and hopefully we may be able to turn that red into some green. Opportunity's knocking and this time he's not telling you to buy a Honda.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Political science a la Mr. Lee

Your eyes are not deceiving you! Yes, this is another political entry! While this is quite an unexpected turn of events, a much more unexpected one would be the recent comeback in New Hampshire by Hillary Clinton that prompted it. As it turned out, I called it wrong, the events following Hillary's Muskie moment went exactly the opposite of what I thought might happen. Perhaps this will lead to a rash of weepiness all across the primary field with candidates bearing their fragile vulnerabilities and once sheltered sensitivities all over the campaign trail and C-Span appearing more like Lifetime (although I'm sure Chuck Norris will refuse to let Mike Huckabee cry). So since I did call it wrong, I felt people coming across the previous most recent entry might have wanted to know what my response to the results were. I would have done the same thing if I had written an entry last week that miserably handicapped the NFL playoffs. The days after I would have given at least a brief word on why I might have gotten it so wrong, maybe explain myself a little if possible.

Well, if it was a well reasoned, throughly researched, nuanced explanation you were expecting prepare to be inconsolably disappointed. You're probably just as qualified as me (perhaps even more) to have an opinion on what went wrong. It might have been an error in polling, a late surge of sympathy, a bunch of random people who suddenly had an urge to vote Hillary, or an evil President Hillary Clinton from the future committing electoral fraud on behalf of her younger self to assure her future success. Who knows? It's the chaotic, opera of uncertainty that we call American politics.

But, if you really want to know what happened, you ask my dad, Mr. Lee. Now Mr. Lee wasn't born in this country or grew up here, and has only been a US citizen since 2004. His English may be a little broken and he watches more Korean period dramas than CNN. However, Mr. Lee pays his taxes, works hard, votes, and has opinions which makes him as valid a pundit as Lou Dobbs or John McLaughlin. So when he heard about the results of the primary he gave me his expert analysis (roughly translated): "Although white people say they're going to vote for Obama; they're not because they don't want a black president. They would rather have a white woman president than a black one."

Now some may view this as overly simplified, too generalized, perhaps overly cynical, maybe uninformed, maybe even racist. I myself wrote it off as just standard Mr. Lee talk. However, earlier today I was idly roaming around wikipedia at school, hopping from link to link, and somehow I came across this interesting article on the Bradley Effect. I'm sure this is something most political science majors and political junkies probably know all about. In short it's basically a phenomenon where opinion polls in elections between white and non-white candidates have the non-white candidate leading but then differing drastically with the actual results. It's named after black, former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley who narrowly lost the California governor's election to white (St. John's Law alumni) George Deukmejian despite consistently leading in the polls. At the core of all the analysis and case studies in other such elections, what the Bradley Effect is kind of suggesting is:"Although white people say they're going to vote for [the black candidate]; they're not because they don't want a [black candidate]." It's something to consider in a state with a 96% white population.

While Mr. Lee's word is far from completely validated, it does make you think a little bit. I guess if there's a message in all this is, "everybody's views should be considered and you shouldn't write off people's opinions". Well, at least that's better than, "New Hampshire voters may be secretly racist."

Monday, January 07, 2008

There's no crying in electoral politics!

"Victor Sells Out" is a pretty apolitical blog. My take on showcasing my political views is that it's about the equivalent of posting lurid pictures of myself in a thong. In the end some might be supportive of me, some might be disappointed with me, some would have preferred I didn't share it, and basically in the end, despite all the awkwardness, probably nothing will have really changed. It's only when the politics absurdly spill over into the realm of the pop culture (i.e. Larry Craig's mens room hijinks or the guy from Orleans being elected to congress) that I may throw in my two cents on the issue. Aside from that, it's the usual, rambling post about some esoteric minutiae in my life.

So, don't consider this an endorsement or a condemnation of any particular issue or candidate (lest I unfairly give that all important "Victor Sells Out" endorsement boost to certain candidates) but merely an observation when I say, "Hillary, what's with the near crying?" Someone running for president can make numerous gaffes, but aside from engaging in extra-marital monkey business, or being associated with people with mental health issues, crying has got to be one of the worst things you can do.

When people are looking for the next President of the country, they're generally looking for someone who can keep it together. If some horrific national disaster strikes, or we're plunged into war (again), or if terrorists have hijacked Air Force One, or we have to send a team of rag tag astronauts to blow up a doomsday meteorite, the one thing the President has got to do is keep it together; if not behind closed doors but at least when addressing the press and the American people. Say what you will about Bush, but at the very least he kept it together (perhaps even a bit suspiciously too together) from when he first heard the news to when he addressed the nation on that frantic Tuesday in September. So yeah, when you're starting to well up because the polls may be indicating your campaign isn't going so well, it's not sending a good message. She's also not going to get a lot of sympathy from a state that prides itself on being a bit of a bad ass with the whole "live free or DIE" state motto (in contrast New Jersey has the incredibly trite and lame "liberty and prosperity").

Did I also forget to mention that she's carrying the historic burden of becoming the first woman president and she just played into a major anti-feminist stereotype? It'd be like if she showed up to the next debate with an apron on and asked that before the debates started she'd distribute fresh baked brownies for all the other democratic candidates. You're Hillary freaking Clinton, you were probably the first first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to have done stuff outside of picking the curtains for the White House, you gotta be tougher than that.

In conclusion, I think Hillary done fucked up. Whether this'll be a minor blip that'll fade into obscurity or it's the kind of minor issue that snowballs and derails entire campaigns a la Howard Dean, only the coming weeks will tell. My suggestion, Hillary should immediately schedule a press conference and then punch the first reporter that makes eye contact with her, that's how you do it in prison when you want to show everyone right off the bat you're hard. I think voters in a state known as "the Granite State" who until recently worshiped some sort of pagan mountain god will appreciate that kind of hardness.

Now to go back to writing about which Darren was better on Bewitched.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

You don't know what it's like...

"The Simpsons" debuted right around the time I was 5 or 6. I think I started really getting into it when I was around 8 and watched it fairly religiously through the greatest run in network history until I set off for college around season 14. By this point it was well past it's Golden Era and was entering the depths of its current period of comfortable mediocrity and infrequent genius. I'm well aware that fans of the show still debate when the show was in its prime or whether it has rebounded as of late, or whether it's still just as good now. For me personally the show lost a step when I stopped regretting missing an episode, but if it's on I'll still watch it.

One of the great lasting legacies of the show that still effects me to this day were the brilliantly placed layers of esoteric references that you finally understood and appreciated years down the line. Before the Simpsons I didn't know who Rory Calhoun was; or could recite selected parts of Gilbert and Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore"; and to this day can't imagine "A Streetcar Named Desire" as anything but a musical. When you're little you don't think these as sly references by a bunch of smart-ass Harvard writers, you just think its something that they made up. That is until you see the Twilight Zone and realize about half the early Tree House of Horror episodes were straight parodies, or you see "Vertigo" and it's the same tower Principal Skinner climbs up in that one episode, or you realize Mr. Burns is essentially Charles Foster Kane whenever the plot called for it.

One of my favorite such scenes was from the classic 5th Season episode "Secrets of a Successful Marriage." I don't need to go too deep into the plot since I'm sure most people have seen and remember this episode. It's the one where Homer tries to teach an adult education class about marriage to prove he isn't slow but tells private stuff about his married life and Marge kicks him out. Correction Marge, two perfectly good jackets? A marriage is a lot like an orange? Give your new mother a kiss? Etc. etc?

The scene begins when Marge confronts Homer about not sharing anymore details about their personal lives with his class. Homer begins to give a rationed response in hopes of getting some understanding and compassion from Marge. When Marge gives an alternate option, Homer's response to that is merely an unexpected, insane, now classic rant. There it is in all it's glory; a brief 20 second absurdist departure from the rest of the story; a departure from which Homer is quickly brought back via Marge. On the surface this is a completely useless throwaway scene that probably shouldn't have even been included, however for me it's actually completely necessary and is definately one of the highlights of the episode. There's something about that exchange that goes to the complex stupidity that is Homer, which is really the main focal point of the episode.

But really, how many people (especially of my generation) knew exactly where all those quotes came from when they first saw it? How long did it take to finally get all the movies?

Let's see I was around ten and I think I only got the Few Good Men quote since the early to mid 90s were the hey days of "You can't handle the truth" quoting (only to be followed by the mid to late 90s hey days of "Show me the money"). About 6 years later in high school, our sophomore year US history teacher for our study on World War II showed us the famous opening clip to Patten. During my senior year I worked at my local Blockbuster video store and one day decided to use one of my weekly free rentals on a interesting looking Al Pachino movie. Finally during my sophomore year at NYU, I lived in the Lafayette dorms in Chinatown so I figured I'd see what the movie was all about. All in all it would be a good ten years later before I was able to finally look back on that scene and understand all the movies noted to fully appreciate it. It was just as funny as when I knew hardly anything at all. That's why "The Simpsons" is so great.

Friday, January 04, 2008


I haven't studied international law yet, but I'm pretty sure there's something in the Geneva Convention against this.

To put that into perspective it'd be like watching "Good Luck Chuck" four straight times in a row and then listening to half of one of his comedy CDs. It's basically a filibuster against humor.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Everybody Sweats Raymond

OMG, three posts in a row? Given my usual output this recent jag has now reached the historic and unbreakable equivalent level of Cal Ripkin's consecutive games streak or Joe Diaggio's 56 game hitting streak. Soak it in because I'm pretty sure I won't be able to sustain this degree of prolificness for too long. Besides, it isn't my style to be consistent. Infrequent posting makes my sparse entries all the more riveting, and why would I want to water down a good deal like that?

So earlier today I realized I had finally hit that point in my vacation where I had forgotten everything I had learned the previous semester (and then some). I had officially "decompressed" from the previous semester (unfortunately school starts up again next week and it'll take me a good month or so to "recompress"). I felt compelled to do what I did last summer when I had hit my lazy stride which was start running on my basement treadmill.

Now to all those people who say running is so great and find it some sort of activity to relax, clear the mind, and relieve depression: you're fucked in the head! Running, and by extension any sort of physical exercise, is a terrible experience that I find to be the equivalent of assigning yourself the chore of torturing yourself. Those people that use exercise as a recreational activity to me are deeply disturbed sadomasochists. The only pleasures I find from it are when the period of exercise is finally over and the vague notion that I get that I've done something productive for myself thus excusing from any further obligations of productivity. In that capacity it gives me pleasure, much like the unbelievable pleasure one receives when they move their hand from a burning iron or after passing a kidney stone.

Since I've established that running is a generally unpleasant experience for me I try not to associate it with things that I like. I wouldn't listen to songs that I enjoyed while running since I would run the risk of tainting them forever with unhappy memories. To this day I still can't hear Nirvana's In Utero without some part of my brain going back to all the SAT prep courses I drove to with it in my car CD player or hear Radiohead's OK Computer and not remember the many times I played it while driving home at midnight from a long shift at Blockbuster. It's basically like aversion therapy (or the Ludovico technique to give it a pop culture anchor). Since I don't really have a collection of music that I am ambivalent towards or hate, music is usually out of the question, lest I ruin my fond associations with "Crank That (Soulja Boy)".

I still need to keep my mind occupied so I usaually turn to the tiny TV that's set up across from the treadmill. The timing of television works out pretty well to, two back to back sitcoms or a hour long drama and you've gotten yourself some decent time on the machine and caught a whole show. Alas, television shows also run to risk negative association so I steer clear of shows that I would watch, but the beauty of television is that 95% is mediocre to unwatchable giving me plenty of options. Now, the perfect program to watch is something that is not particularly good but not bad enough so as to make running in silence a far better option. "Just Shoot Me"? Too much of a guilty pleasure. "Yes, Dear"? Too unbearable. "George Lopez Show"? Too much George Lopez! The perfect show is what took a title, a picture, and four and a half rambling paragraphs to get to: "Everybody Loves Raymond".

For me personally "Raymond" is the best show for running. I've tried numerous times over the years to appreciate this show, to see what millions of viewers and Emmy voters saw that I couldn't. Unfortunately I have yet to find it. On the surface I should like the show, I've always been a fan of the dying art of the old school three camera, laugh track, standard sitcom, in spite of modern television and the chagrin of most of my TV watching friends. I can see the merit in the fact that "Raymond" doesn't need fancy single camera shots or a bunch of outrageous actions; you can have half an episode of them just cracking punchlines in a living room. I can see the merit in how they essentially ignore the children and never flip to them for a cheap laugh. I appreciate the fact that it's in Queens and Ray writes for Newsday. However when it comes to the laughs, it's just not there for me.

For me I think it goes to the main characters, they're for the most part irritating and sort of boring. Every character seems to be a robot with their set of fixed responses, the only thing that changes is the situation. Raymond will always be sort of an inconsiderate jerk to everyone, Debra will complain about Raymond and have tensions with Marie who'll be equally tense to Debra and love Raymond. Meanwhile Frank's a jerk/slob and Ray's brother Robert gets no respect from anyone. This remains but newer events arise leading them to tackle it with their set character actions. Frankly the show should be about Robert (Brad Garrett has a valid stake on all those Supporting Actor Emmys) and portray Ray (who is by far the least interesting character on the show) as more of a golden child villain who gets all the attention, I think it'd be somewhat more interesting this way.

All these flaws add up to me feeling a little disappointed every time I flip to TBS expecting a Seinfeld rerun. However, it's not so bad as to the point I would change the channel (especially if I had nothing to do and knew that an actual Seinfeld was just over this sand dune). All in all though, it's the so comfortably middle of the road that it'll do the job; kind of like the worn out clothes you put on to do some really dirty work that you don't mind getting ruined. And with TBS and the WB playing it about a dozen times a day between them my running routine is pretty flexible.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Imgaine if you will.

In keeping with my New Year's Resolution (well more like a notion; definitely no expectation of a long term commitment) to post more entries, I'm providing you, the lucky readers of the internet, with part two of my 2008 Twilight Zone Marathon Choice Picks. I must note that I spent basically the whole day at my cableless uncle's house so alas I missed a rather large chunk of the New Year's Day episodes, however there are still roughly nine hours of groundbreaking Sci-Fi television left, with many prime episodes still to be shown.

To make sure you take these early steps into the New Year right, here's another 5 Victor-approved classics (once again Eastern Standard Time):
  • 7:30pm "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" - This is a standout among the many, many "dystopian future" episodes of the series. A young rebellious girl causes great confusion among her friends and family when she doesn't want to enter into "The Transformation", a body modification process that everyone undergoes at age 19 which makes them beautiful, immune to disease, and look exactly the same. While an excellent commentary on 50's/early 60's conformity, I was more impressed by the main actress who walks a difficult, fine line between unattractive and beautiful.

  • 11:00pm "Nightmare at 20,000 ft." - What more can I say about this episode that most already don't know. If you somehow have no idea what this episode is about, by all means watch it before someone ruins the entire story for you. A sharp looking William Shatner plays the mentally fragile airplane passenger desperately trying to stop a mysterious monster from downing the plane while struggling to find someone who believes him. This episode might be better known to you many as that Simpson's Treehouse of Horror segment "Terror at 5 1/2 Feet". While it has lost some of its power, the tense, claustrophobic directing of a young Richard Donner and Shatner's going mental performance still make it a keeper.
  • 12:00am "The Masks" - For some reason I almost always end up catching this at the end of every yearly marathon. It's actually a pretty good one to top off the viewing since it has one of the most satisfying conclusions of any Twilight Zone episode. The set up is pure Twilight Zone, an dying old millionaire invites his ungrateful, horrible family to Mardi Gras to will over his possessions with (get this!) a catch! The excellent performances all around by the family and the old man along with the twist make this more of a standout than the general description would have you believe.
  • 1:00am "The Howling Man" - Definitely one of the most high concept of Twilight Zone episodes. A man explains in flashback how while traveling through Europe he sought shelter in the monastery of a bizarre order of monks. He soon discovers they are holding a tortured sounding man captive in their castle who the monks claim to be the devil himself. The man is torn between releasing the individual or believing their crazy story. The whole thing sounds fairly ridiculous but on a deeper level its themes deal with man's inherent curiosity and temptation.
  • 2:00am "The Obsolete Man" - It's another Burgess Meredith classic to round out my list. We venture back to the dystopian future, except this time it's a totalitarian society where Meredith's character is deemed obsolete by the state and ordered to die. He is given his choice of assassin and undisclosed method of death. After he decides this he invites the fascist Chancellor who sentenced him for a final meeting; any other details would ruin the rest of the episode. While there's the climatic conclusion at the end, the confrontation between Meredith and the Chancellor is really the heart of the story that sets it up for the big inevitable ending.
Well, that's it for now. Officially the marathon goes up until 5:00am if the SciFi website schedule is as accurate as it should be. If I remember I'll try to do another more prepared list like this next year; there were definitely some major ones I regret missing, but perhaps I might be able to catch them again during the fairly frequent regularly scheduled airings of...The Twilight Zone.