Sunday, May 31, 2009

This Post Is Lamer Than FDR's Legs.

Well, it took over 97 years which included: 11 Oscars, the highest grossing film of all time, one of the most diabolically difficult computer games ever sold, and a baffling Tony Award winning musical; but the final survivor of the Titanic passed away earlier today. Sadly, while this all but assures that Bill Paxton will never be able to find the Heart of the Ocean, there is one silver lining to be found from this solemn passing. With nearly a century and no direct lives in being from the tragedy, whatever statute of limitations there was on Titanic jokes is officially over! Watch out Lusitania, you're next.

Also, I find it totally bananas that Gloria Stewart is still alive and kicking (and according to her wikipedia page, BFFs with fellow, surprisingly alive, nonogenarian actress Olivia de Havilland). She was actually older than the last surviving Titanic survivor!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You're Gonna Make It After All

I was looking over some of the random scribblings I wrote in my pocket notebook the other day and I came across a note to myself to comment on the above Chase banking commercial. It has been a while and I'm pretty sure the commercial doesn't even air anymore, but I figured it's better to have a hopelessly belated post rather than to have never posted at all.

The obvious reading of this commercial and the ostensive message conveyed by its producers is how liberatingly helpful and flexible Chase banking services are. In displaying that message, it also co-opts the excitement and optimism of a young adult experiencing the exhilarating novelty of being an independent adult; earning their first paycheck, opening their own bank account, living on their own, etc. On top of that you throw in a dash of modern generation female empowerment with the girl rock cover of the Mary Tyler Moore theme song "Love is All Around". Overall it's a well produced textbook example of the first part of my unified three part theory of banking commercials. The theory is that all banking commercials essentially fall under a three part life cycle trilogy: (1) commercials about opening an account, earning reward points, building credit (youth); (2) commercials about getting a mortgage, refinancing a mortgage, building your business (middle adulthood), and (3) saving up for retirement (death).

So at the time this commercial was still running, about six months ago, I commented to my younger sister, who had then recently started her first big time career job working as a buyer for Macy's in the big city and at the time was balancing her checkbook online (she actually uses Bank of America), that with all this new found grown up independence and responsibility she reminded me of the protagonist of said commercial. She was familiar with the commercial as well and surprisingly commented back that she really didn't enjoy it and found our blond banking heroine to be an incredibly sad and pathetic figure. She thought the character's downright ecstatic reaction to such an unremarkable act as receiving a paycheck and opening a bank account was unrealistic and more than a tad ridiculous. She also was a little off put by the character's disturbingly compulsive monitoring of her account balance via cellphone and her psychotic wide eyed joy from completing every mundane financial transaction. She also suspected that the girl was paying for the companionship of her "boyfriend" since it appeared that she was paying for everything and had to make sure her deposit cleared before she could even kiss him.

I initially laughed off her unexpected take on the commercial, but the more I saw it, the more I started to agree with her viewpoint. Colored by my sister's context our commercial protagonist comes across as quite a sad figure. This is a person who has never really lived. Whatever sheltered life she had before setting out on her own in the big city must have been so repressed as to make everyday tedium like personal banking such an unbelievable thrill. You can tell from the first scenes at her workplace and the eye rolling cynicism of the guy handing out the paychecks that she had already irritated and alienated her fellow workers with her psychotic chipperness in her first two weeks. Her immediate reaction to getting her first paycheck is to sprint directly out of the building and into the first Chase branch she can find to open an account. One can only imagine the scared look on the Chase employee's face as the woman reacts as if she had won the lottery after being given her temporary checks.

The hired rent boy theory also appears valid as well. She has to constantly monitor her finances while on "dates" with her man to make sure she has enough to pay off his hourly companion rates at the end of their day. She even has to break up their kiss right in the middle just to see if she'll be able to afford him for the duration of the movie and later on. When she sees that her deposit has cleared, she goes back to kissing him with the confidence of having enough funds to keep him. Also on the topic of purchased relationships, I'm also suspicious about the circle of friends she's having lunch with. To me they could either be compensated friends that are paid to humor her insanity or her actual friends who are all also similarly insane.

By the conclusion of the commercial where she's doing her best Ophelia impersenation in front of the fountains, I start to worry about the fate of that poor dog and wonder if she hadn't inadvertently killed it via some Lennie Smalls-like misguided, overly enthusiastic petting.

P.S. For all you eagle eyed viewers out there, as it turned out the girl in the commercial is indeed Jess Weixler, star of the refreshingly original yet still fairly terrible horror/dark comedy "Teeth".

Saturday, May 23, 2009

That Darn Cat!

I'd like to consider myself to be pretty savvy when it comes to pop culture fads. I try not to be careless with whatever new mass pop culture phenomena comes along whether it's movies, music, TV, or the internet. Especially the internet. With the constantly changing ephemera of the web, it really takes something special to break through all the noise of half baked memes, goofy viral videos, and shallow social network applications to really reach me. With that being said, I have to admit after much skepticism, I am totally sold on the Keyboard Cat.

The Keyboard Cat scene is completely mesmerizing and hypnotic all to itself. The initial moment of hesitation before the first notes, the repetitive and synthetic Wesley Willis drums and keyboard melody, the totally unnatural manipulation of the cat's front paws, the complete disconnect between the cat's facial expression and his manipulated front paws, it all adds up to a memorable pop culture scene. However, what really takes the clip into rarefied air are the amazing juxtapositions it has with other clips of failure. It acts as a brilliantly absurd rim shot to the universe of failure documented via video by the internet (and it's about a million times better than that stupid FAIL meme). It also basically resets every famous internet clip that has come before it.

It works with everything from:
All I've got to say is move over "Asleep", there's a new concluding song for my funeral.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Picture This!

With my recent rash of Super Nintendo related nostalgia combined with the end of classes, I found myself firing up the old emulator and going through some of the classics. Just the other day while I was playing and reminiscing, I came to the sudden realization that:

The outrageously gay box cover for the 1991 SNES classic beat' em up "Final Fight" bears an uncanny resemblance to another classic piece of homoerotic cover art:

Hall and Oates' monster 1982 album "H2O" (the correlation between the mustaches is just plain eerie).

"Maneater" indeed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Nail in the Coffin: RIP Wayman Tisdale

If you haven't heard already, former NBA player Wayman Tisdale passed away on Friday. The whole thing is especially tragic considering how young he was (only 44), how it came about after a two year long battle with cancer that even cost him his right leg, and how by all accounts he was a pretty classy guy. For me, what really brings this loss home is the fact that Tisdale now has the dubious distinction of being the first NBA Jam player to have passed away (technically, if you want to split hairs about it, it's arguable that Drazen Petrovic was the first player to pass away if you count the arcade game...which I won't).

For me, NBA Jam will forever be the all encompassing symbol of the happiest period of sports fandom in my life. Back in the mid 90s, basketball ruled my middle school life and I followed my New York Knicks and the NBA with a wholehearted, innocent passion, that'll never be duplicated again. It was my first love and my first introduction to sports as a whole. Serendipitously at the height of my infatuation, I got a copy of the greatest sports game ever made, NBA Jam, for my Genesis. I spent untold hours dominating the league with my unstoppable Knick duo of Patrick Ewing and John Starks. It was seriously one of the best duos in the game, you had Ewing with his maxed out low post dunking and defensive skills and Starks with his speed and deadly three point accuracy, all bases were covered. The only other team with such perfect symmetry was the aging Pistons team with Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer.

It has been a downer year overall for NBA Jam. In addition to the death of Tisale, the imminent retirement of Dikemembe Mutombo means that there will officially be no more active players from the original game roster. It's just another sad reminder of the unyielding march of time and the changes we all have to accept.

So what final words do I have to say about Wayman Tisdale, the NBA Jam player? Statistics wise he was actually one of the worse players in the game with only a slighly above average dunking ability. Paired with the supremely talented Mitch Richmond he was at best a useful role player and at worse a slow footed albatross. But we shouldn't let the mediocre abilities of Wayman Tisdale, NBA Jam Player, take away from the more notable accomplishments of Wayman Tisdale, real life person; the monster college player who was Blake Griffin before Blake Griffin, the solid if not spectacular 13 year NBA veteran, and the surprisingly successful smooth jazz artist (8 albums since 1995, including one that went to Number 1 on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart. It makes Bernie Williams' musical career look positively Federline).

Boom shakalaka, wherever you are.

Wayman Tisdale

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Birthday, or Lonesome No More!

To all those Neo-Luddites out there who decry that our ever evolving and expanding web of mediated communications, while ostensibly appearing to give us a myriad of options to communicate with each other, is actually further alienating us from meaningful human interaction; I must disagree. Sure email has completely extinguished the intimate art of the personal handwritten letter (you can forget about cursive) for this generation and beyond. Texting continues its unrelenting assault on all standards of grammar and spelling. Social networking groups like Facebook have completely diluted the meaning of "friend" to the point of irrelevance. However, to the defense of the modern age, I must point out that there are still some advantages to be gleamed.

Today just happened to be my birthday and while I was too busy with finals to barely acknowledge it, I received a surprising handful of completely unsolicited automated birthday wishes from random Internet sites that I apparently gave my birthday to in the past. They included:
  • A birthday greeting and an Internet coupon for a free order of some dessert item called "chocolate dunkers" from the Pizza Hut website I signed up for once to get a discount a few years back.
  • A happy birthday message from the TravelPUNK Backpacker College Student Budget Travel Message Board that I signed up for two years ago when I was preparing for my trip to Costa Rica.
  • An e-birthday card from the OkCupid dating site that I signed up to take a random personality test back in high school and haven't returned since.
  • A happy birthday greeting and a coupon for a free eyeglass case (valued up to $9.95) from the Eyeglass Outlet, a local glasses place I went to update my prescription in February.
  • A friendly happy birthday greeting from the Facebook site and all the random salutations from friends of varying degrees.
So yeah, the new technology may be dehumanizing us all but come on that's at least five Internet equivalents of a surprise birthday greeting. Even if you're the most friendless, reclusive individual around, if you've been around the web enough times you'll probably get a message on your birthday like clockwork. In addition, you know where an automated birthday wish stands when you get it (absolutely no sincerity). You can never quite tell with real people if they're just going through the motions or are actually wishing you a legitimate happy birthday. In that situation I'd rather have the unambiguous insincerity of the machine than the ambiguity of the person.

I still don't like texting though.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Name of a Champion

If you haven't heard already, the Kentucky Derby was run yesterday; one of three times (two if there's no chance of a triple crown winner) that mainstream America actually pays attention to the "Sport of Kings". So after all the prior days of pointless prognosticating by experts and a Saturday full of mint julep fueled drunken old timey debauchery they actually ran the roughly two minute long race and the winner turned out to be 50-1 long shot "Mine That Bird". While this was obviously a great victory for the trainers, the owners, the jockey, fans of upsets, and those lucky optimists who placed any significant wager on the horse to win; one of the biggest losers on the field was the horse itself. While a impressive triple crown win for most stallions is a fast track to a long life of luxury eating the finest hay and studding the finest mares; "Mine That Bird"'s unfortunate status as a gelding (castrated horse) will guarantee a comfortable but ultimately sex less golden years.

On a side note, consider how much more interesting and popular track and field would be if we adopted that sort of controlled, selective breeding. Imagine if a fantastic gold medal winning Olympic showing became a ticket to an all expense paid life of leisure where your only real obligation would be having sex with a never ending line of the finest female specimens brought in from all over the world. It beats the hell out of getting a Wheaties cover and singing the national anthem at basketball games. Another benefit? If Bruce Jenner's junk got into controlled lock down after the '76 games then there probably would be no Brody Jenner. Just something to consider.

Horse fucking and nightmarish future eugenics aside, the other big loser at the Derby was pre-race favorite "I Want Revenge" who became a late scratch due to injury. Since my only criteria when picking horses for a race is ranking them based on how much I like their names (just as valid as any other methodology), I was really pulling for "I Want Revenge" who, if they had won the Derby, would have replaced 2000 Derby champ "Fusaichi Pegasus" as my all time favorite winning horse name. In my rankings of the names of the field this year, "Mine that Bird" actually finished just about smack in the middle so in my book it wasn't as wild an upset.

Here are my final finishing position based on name and their eventual finish in reality:

19. Regal Ransom (8th)
(One of those boring rich person horse names. As it turned out it was owned by an especially rich person, the prince of Dubai)

18. Dunkirk (11th)

17. Advice (13th)
(Here's some advice: think of a more interesting name)

16. Summer Bird (6th)

15. West Side Bernie (9th)

14. Freisan Fire (18th)
(Sounds like a good name for an experimental indie rock band)

13. Desert Party (14th)
(Would have been higher if it was "Dessert Party")

12. Musket Man (3rd)

11. Mine That Bird (1st)
(I still don't know what that means)

10. General Quarters (10th)

9. Papa Clem (4th)

8. Flying Private (19th)
(Would have been ranked a bit higher if it was plural)

7. Nowhere to Hide (17th)
(Apparently it hid in the back of the pack)

6. Hold Me Back (12th)
(Sort of like naming your horse "she's the fastest")

5. Join in the Dance (7th)

4. Pioneerof the Nile (2nd)
(No that's not a typo, that's exactly how it's spelled. Kind of ridiculous but I like it)

3. Chocolate Candy (5th)

2. Atomic Rain (16th)
(Probably the name I'd give a horse in middle school)

1. Mr. Hot Stuff (15th)
(Awesome name. Any time it's a Mr. something it's a classic, but then they throw in the curveball with the "Hot Stuff")