Saturday, December 08, 2012

Confidence is Very Sexy

For me one of the great things about the Internet, aside from the whole facilitating the worldwide democratization of information thing and the instant, anonymous porn delivery; is how it constantly reminds me that no matter how obscure or esoteric a reference or obsession I have, there is someone else on the Internet thinking the same thing. I find that oddly reassuring; that I'm not that crazy and alone in my thoughts after all and that there is a fellow weirdo backing me up. In fact, if you have a crazy preoccupation or interest and you see someone else on the Internet blogging or tweeting or pinteresting or whatever-ing what you're thinking, it makes you come off as slightly less insane since at least you didn't put the effort in posting it on the Internet for everyone to see.

So the weird little bit of past esoterica that's needlessly distracting me this week is this early 90s television spot for Skin Bracer aftershave starring the late Jack Palance:


Despite having a six decade long career filled with memorable classic film and television roles, this is my definitive Jack Palance moment. Forget his deliciously evil turn in "Shane" or his Oscar winning comeback role in "City Slickers" or the famous one armed push ups he did at the ceremony, when I think Jack Palance, it's this short clip of him selling me aftershave. 

However considering that this ad may possibly be the single most genuinely manly fifteen second TV spot in advertising history, I don't think it's that out there to have it as my lasting image of the icon. The commercial has a sort of a "Most Interesting Man" approach. Right from the start, Palance is a blinding supernova of self confidence; and really he needs all of it to make the spot work. He comes off as someone who doesn't really care for cologne or even aftershave for that matter; he just happens to not object to Skin Bracer which he just casually dabs on with one hand when he remembers to. Even the commercial itself with its brevity and bare bones production gives the impression that the whole thing is just a casual, off the cuff comment by Palance in between doing important movie star things. Skin Bracer was taking a bit of a gamble relying on the seductive sex appeal of a septuagenarian character actor who was often cast as creepy villains. Even with the charming confidence there is a subtle slight creepiness factor to the whole thing; it is easily one of the most idiosyncratic deliveries of the phrase "sexy" ever recorded (on a personal note: this commercial was probably the first time I heard the phrase "sexy" on TV and my preadolescent self was shocked to hear what I vaguely knew to be a bad word in a commercial).

So aside from finding someone else who was enough of a fan of the commercial to post it on Youtube, I was delighted to find that there was at least one couple out in cyberspace that was obsessed with the commercial enough to make a reenactment of the spot:


Sure the production quality is obviously lacking (then again not all bizarre, seemingly unnecessary, shot by shot, pop culture remakes can have the budget and star power of "The Greatest Event In Television History"), however it is obvious attention has been paid to all the small details from the bedside lamp to the final "By Mennen" (random aside, almost every commercial featuring the "by Mennen" tag line on YouTube has someone writing in the comments a variation of "Co-Stan-za").

The fact that tributes like this exists outside of just these random blog posts is pretty neat. Don't you think?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

My Fictional Alfred Hitchcock Themed Roller Derby Team


I have to admit, despite having seen that episode of "King of the Hill" where Peggy joins a roller derby team, a roller derby focused episode of "Cheap Seats", and carefully going over the Wikipedia page I am still not one hundred percent sure how the whole thing works. I have a basic idea of scoring, the offensive players from each team ("jammers") score points by lapping members of the opposing team while the defensive "blockers" obviously try to prevent it. However, anything beyond that, actual game play strategy like the starting and ending of "jams" and the role of the "pivot" which is a "blocker" that can suddenly become a "jammer", is still fairly unclear to me. I don't think I'll fully comprehend the sport until I actually sit through a real game or maybe rent "Whip It".

Aside from the physical play itself, I also have questions about the whole aesthetics of the sport. Modern roller derby has a pretty well established sensibility to it: the whole third wave feminist, punk ethos. It's an interesting evolution from all those early black and white images of ladies falling over each other from the 40s or even the organized televised cheese of the 70s and 80s (once again "Cheap Seats"). How did we end up today with all these legions of often hot pink attired, tattooed, mean looking, mostly white girls? Where's the team of Midwestern housewives? The squad of Jamaican nannies? A vicious lot of Asian tiger moms? Or even guys for that matter? Is this one of those rare sports that are biased against men like field hockey or synchronized swimming?

Irregardless of my general ignorance and confusion, I randomly thought a good name for an improbable Alfred Hitchcock themed roller derby team would be "Hitch's Bitches". I think between the recent HBO film about Hitchcock "The Girl" and the star studded Oscar bait feature "Hitchcock" I've just had a lot of Hitchcock on the brain (random aside, once again poor Toby Jones finds himself in the lesser of two biopics released around the same time). In keeping with the whole "derby name" tradition of the sport, all the players would be variations on famous Hitchcock leading ladies:

Tippi Headlock
Janet Laid
Disgrace Kelly
Joan Fontpain
Ingrate Bergman
Kim Novakaine
Evil Marie Saint

Given Hitchcock's notorious approach to directing actors and complicated relationship with women, it would be a fascinating scenario to see him manage a female roller derby team. Hmm...do I smell an alternate history comedy? 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pod Person


Given this blog's prominent position as one of the internet's foremost tastemakers, I am well aware of and careful with the great amount of cultural influence it wields. As I recall Cliff Robertson once said in some movie "with great power comes great responsibility". So whether it be presidents (or at least movies about presidents) or cereal brands, my readers expect a certain high standard of integrity and genuineness that comes with my recommendations or criticisms; my cheers and jeers if you will. With that in mind, I just want to give a quick little shout out to these new Tide Pods.

Hailed by Tide as the greatest innovation in laundry in decades, these newfangled individual use detergent pods were bought for the house mostly as a novelty; also they might have been on sale. I didn't have any expectations at all. For me concerns about the laundry occupy a pretty low slot in my daily thoughts; somewhere between wondering about the unusually slow speed of releases of "Family Matters" seasons on DVD and worrying about rising threat of Africanized killer bees from South America. Like most people I'm basically content with whatever random, colorful detergent with a monosyllabic brand name that manages to clean the everyday stains out of my shirts without giving me some sort of chemical rash.  

The marketers are really trying to sell people on the convenience factor of just throwing in an individually packaged pod instead of dealing with the supposed hassle of powders and liquids and measuring cups, but really I don't think that's a big deal. I mean what is this saving like an extra minute a week? Now we can do all that traveling? Also, if you're really having a difficult time measuring out and adding detergents, to reference Jerry Seinfeld, maybe laundry isn't your biggest problem right now.

What really impressed me and drove me to write this silly post was the performance. I have to say I actually noticed that my laundry has been coming out smelling a lot nicer since we started popping pods.  It must be from one of the two bright pockets of chemical goo along side the white powder core. The smell is sort of a fake kind of nice, like those air fresheners that are supposed to simulate the mythical scent of linen sheets on a wire, but I like it. For me fake clean is cleaner than real clean. True story, after slipping into my freshly washed sheets and comforter for the night, I was actually so distracted by the overwhelmingly pleasant smell that I had trouble falling asleep (this could quite well be the most first of first world problems).

I don't know if any of the other laundry packet detergents are just as fragrant or as effective or if you can get the same effect by throwing in one of those similar dish washing packets into your washing machine, but for me I noticed a difference.

One additional potential "benefit" of the pods is that that it in addition to cleaning performance and convenience the product also appears to have been aggressively designed to poison children by fooling them into thinking it's candy (seriously why don't they just put a toy inside to further increase the confusion). So I suppose if you're some sort of child hating monster you can consider it as an additional plus. I can go either way.

Friday, November 16, 2012

78 Lines About 26 Women: N to Z


You can finally release yourself from the agonizing strain of anticipation, the second half of my poetry anthology featuring the fabulous fictional females of N to Z has arrived. Full disclosure, I had to do some straining with some of the less popular letters. Call me ethnocentric but frankly I couldn't come up with many options for U or O or Z. I don't even want to get into it with X, I originally considered punting it all together considering the only three choices I could think of where warrior princess Xena, bond villaness Xenia (Onatopp), and South American sensation Xoxchisa...Xoxchoshe...Xox... So cut me some slack, I'm no Nipsey Russell:

I was into Nell
She did not like me as well
Took a while to tell

I admit Odette
My solitary regret
Is that he had met

Our brief union, Pat
I can't recall much of that
Just your friendly cat

A good girl named Quinn
Would often dabble in sin
Like drinking straight gin

What went wrong with Rose?
It's a mystery no one knows
Boredom, I suppose?

Oft I think of Sue
Is she thinking of me too?
Does it make her blue?

I remember Tess
The affair was such a mess
Still fun, I confess

I knew an Ulla
For work she taught the hula
Lived on dad's moolah

Our dynamic, Viv
Of just you take and I give
Was no way to live

What about Winnie?
Well she was sort of skinny
Voice somewhat tinny

I danced with Xena
Strangely plump ballerina
At the cantina

Night: I met Yvonne
Day: She was already gone
That's all that went on

I'll picture Zara
With a silver tiara
A shinning aura

Thursday, November 15, 2012

78 Lines About 26 Women: A to M


I had the strangest dream last night that I was writing a series of rhyming haikus (are haikus even allowed to rhyme?) about fictional ex-girlfriends from A to Z. When I woke up I remembered about half of them. The incompleteness was inexplicably bothering me so I spent a good chunk of my attention at work coming up with the other half (fortunately my work doesn't require all that much of my attention). After all this, I have to say the creative power of the unconscious mind is a truly awesome force. In my dream I was just reeling these off like nothing; while it took me significant mental energy and counting syllables on my fingers to fill in the gaps during my waking hours.

So here's the first half of my weird, partially dream penned, fictional girlfriend rhyming haikus from A to M (and here you thought there was no classy literature on this blog). Note: these are all characters and scenarios are based fiction; in fact I don't even think I know any girls personally with these names.

Ended bad with Ann
It was great when it began
Didn't follow plan

Fun times with Brandy
She was splendidly randy
And sweet like candy

Oh beautiful Claire
Perfect skin and gorgeous hair
But her head was bare

The thing about Dee
I don't believe she liked me
It ended quickly

Start again with Eve?
Not too crazy to believe
This time, I will leave

You win for now Faye
You're in my head once a day
It pains me to say

Sweet, wonderful Gwen
I wonder what could have been
Every now and then

Grade school love Haley
We kissed after school daily
Moved on to Bailey

I must say Irene
You're best when you're extra mean
You find that obscene?

The lesson of Joan
Our relationship has shown:
Sometimes stay alone

I am sorry Kate
For my showing up so late
To our only date

Serious Lily 
Couldn't ever be silly
Always so chilly

Raven haired Mary
Worked at the mortuary
Pleasantly scary

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Rise To Vote, Sir


I voted. You voted. We all voted. We're all great. We're all heroes. Whoop-de-doo. Stickers for everyone.

Now I am obviously for voting and democracy, but frankly the act of voting in modern America isn't all that amazing an act. The trials and sacrifices of people of the past who had to fight for their right to vote is amazing. The trials and sacrifices of people of the present who are fighting for their to vote is amazing. Here in our wonderful modern 21st century democracy, it's all pretty well set up for you if you are eligible and for most people it is about a much an effort as going to the post office. Overall it's just plain something that is expected of you as a citizen of this country. No one gets a sticker and a pat on the back for paying their taxes or sorting their recycling.

All I'm saying is people shouldn't get too high on themselves that they voted. It's a basic thing to do, and if you think about it the bar is really low. There are few activities with as disproportionately high amount of praise for the small amount of work involved. There's just this blind, "Rock the Vote"/"Vote Or Die", emphasis on the act of voting itself. You're not even judged on the quality of your voting. I'm not even referring to choice of candidate, which is obviously beyond critique. However it think it is possible to be an inherently shitty voter. If I remained completely ignorant of the candidates and issues and walked into a voting booth and selected candidates based on how I subjectively felt about their names? Haven't I failed at voting? If I voted against all my own interests based on misinformed half truths and hearsay I vaguely heard about somewhere? If I didn't take the process seriously and wrote myself in as a write in candidate for every position? What if my ignorant voting patterns totally nullified your informed selections? Would I be deserving of a sticker as the rational voter in the next booth?

I always feel like kind of an idiot when I get down to the town council and school board member section of the ballot and I just arbitrarily pick the required number of candidates from the given list.

Actually if someone came out and admitted that they where to busy or lacking in interest to follow any of elections on the ballot and because of that was willing to voluntarily abstain from the democratic process and not vote, thus freeing up resources for other diligent voters and enhancing the power their votes; in a weird way that would be a sort of honorable act of self sacrifice. That might be worth at least some kind of sticker.


On a quick final note: in all my years of voting, I have never once received anything close to a sticker or pin or a even thumbs up. Apparently they keep it pretty bare bones in the my North Jersey suburb.

Friday, November 02, 2012

A short scene I wrote while waiting hours in line for gas this morning



Fade In:

EXT. - CROWDED HIGHWAY - DAY

A long line of cars taking up the entire right lane of a highway extends for miles in front of a crowded gas station.

About 30 cars back we see a red couple with a middle aged couple, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, sitting in the front seat

INT. - RED COUPE - DAY

Mr. and Mrs. Smith sit in their car looking tired, impatient, and frustrated.

MRS. SMITH
This line is ridiculous, it’s been over 2 hours.

MR. SMITH
(leaning his head out the driver’s side window to see ahead) I think I can see the station up ahead, I’d give us another half hour. Let’s just hope they don’t run out before we get there.

MRS. SMITH
We should have gotten that other hybrid car.

MR. SMITH
Well...

Mr. Smith’s eyes look up as he thinks back to two months ago.

The screen turns hazy as we enter a flashback.

INT. CAR DEALERSHIP SHOWROOM - DAY

Mr. and Mrs. Smith examine a red coupe in the showroom.

A Salesman approaches them. He is sharply dressed with a chipper attitude.

SALESMAN
I see you’re interested in the coupe. It’s one of our best sellers.

MR. SMITH
Well, we’re browsing. How accurate would you say the MPG numbers on the side are?

SALESMAN
Those numbers are accurate, in fact in reality you’re likely to get even better numbers with real world driving.

MRS. SMITH
Impressive.

SALESMAN
Well, if you’re concerned with mileage, let me introduce you to a new model.

The Salesman directs the Smiths to a similar coupe in green.

SALESMAN (CONT’D)
This is our latest model, it has all the performance and amenities of the other car but this one runs on frustration.

MR. SMITH
Excuse me? Did you say frustration?

SALESMAN
That’s right, genuine, everyday, human frustration.

MRS. SMITH
How is that even possible?

SALESMAN
There’s a lot of fancy Japanese technology involved but essentially this car is fueled by your frustration.

MR. SMITH
Assuming all this is true, is it practical to have a car that only runs on frustration?

SALESMAN
You would not believe how much daily frustration modern life generates for the average person. Any kind of frustration, big ones, small ones, will do: workplace frustration, frustration at home, frustration with your personal life, frustration with...

MRS. SMITH
Sexual frustration?

Mr. Smith awkwardly eyes Mrs. Smith

SALESMAN
Err...yes of course. Even existential angst in a pinch, although the mileage won’t be as great.

MR. SMITH
Well I’ll be, a car that runs on frustration. Does it come it red?

SALESMAN
Sorry only green for now.

MR. SMITH AND MRS. SMITH
We’ll pass.

The flashback ends and we are back with the Smiths in traffic.

INT. RED COUPE - DAY

MR. SMITH
Boy that other car sure would have come in handy today.

A green coupe drives up next to the Smiths on the highway. It is being driven by the Salesman. He recognizes the Smiths.

SALESMAN
(Smiling) Hey! Smiths! Should have gone with the new model eh?

The Salesman’s car stalls due to the lack of frustration.

SALESMAN (CONT’D)
Oh damn it.

The car starts up again and drives down the road.

SALESMAN (CONT’D)
Alright!

The car stalls again. The Salesman drives off in this stop and go manner as he experiences alternating feelings of frustration and relief.

The Smiths look on in confused frustration.

THE END

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Boo! Four supremely esoteric Halloween costume ideas for your consideration.

Halloween 2012 is less than a week away and the weekend is even closer. For anyone planning on participating in some All Hallows Eve festivities it is definitely crunch time for getting those costumes in order. I would like to clarify that this point that when I am referring to getting costumes in order I mean using resourcefulness and your innate sense of imagination to assemble a getup that is an original expression of yourself. I am also mainly focusing on costumes that are references to other things, mostly pop culture, cause well that's sort of my bag; but I'm for any costume that expresses creativity. Also I am not the biggest fan of the walking pun costume but I admire a good one when I see it; truth be told I actually may be leaning towards a pun costume this year.

I absolutely do not mean going out and buying some overpriced, Chinese exported, ill fitting, prefabricated sack of colorful flammable rags from some crowded party supply store. Frankly if you're the sort of person who purchases their entire sense of self expression comes from a mass produced plastic bag, I can't imagine I actually know you as a person since I would likely avoid associating with people who lack such creativity and generally souls.

For all those procrastinators, the indecisive, and the not yet inspired looking to put together their holiday attire I figured I'd throw out a few extra esoteric costume ideas I had bouncing around in my head, free of charge to anyone interested, like a fun sized Mounds bar or a razor blade filled apple. 

Now as someone whose Halloween costume track record has steered mostly towards the obscure over the years I just wanted to note some of the benefits of taking the road less traveled when picking costume ideas. The main overarching pro for going esoteric is that it makes you an original. It's hard to a be an original in this post modern day and age and especially on Halloween; and anyone who can really pull of a unique look should take great pride in it. It's fun being PSY but the joy is going to be a tad diminished when there's like 5 of you on the train at the same time. Another benefit of going esoteric is that if you do end up being an original, you become by default the best example of your costume. Could my 1964 Barry Goldwater costume two years ago have been a bit more historically accurate? Sure. Could my hair have been colored better? Of course. Was I probably the best Barry Goldwater in all of New York City that night? Most definitely. If you're going to be Bane you have to compete with that really serious jacked guy who actually shaved his head. The final benefit to going esoteric is that while you will most likely have to explain yourself to everyone you meet, the supreme joy you feel when someone actually gets your costume on their own is immeasurable. You might as well become best friends with them or if the situation fits propose to them right there because you may have just found your soul mate. I remember dressing up as the one eyed, asian, Russian roulette moderator at the end of the "Deer Hunter" years ago and literally one of the last persons I met that entire long night immediately got my character. I admit our marriage only lasted a few years, but the split was amicable and we still remained friends.  

Manny Fraker from Death Wish 3

Playing Gavin O'Herlihy's comically evil gang leader from the ultra violent, Reagan era snuff film, "Death Wish 3" will take some degree of dedication since you will have to shave (or somehow simulate) that ridiculous reverse mohawk. However, if you are bold enough to pull it off, rest assured, there will be no confusion over who you are. I am pretty sure that hairstyle has never been reproduced in the history of cinema. Once you get the hair and silly gang paint you're essentially done, the rest is pretty easy, just some generic 80's street gang attire, which basically means dressing like a standard hipster with maybe a leather jacket. You can even do a group costume with friends as other gang members, just as long as they have the matching "gang sign". I call the Giggler

Tan Shoes With Pink Shoelaces

This costume idea is one that perhaps some of the older Baby Boomers might appreciate. The entire costume is laid out in irresistibly catchy form by 13 year old Dodie Stevens on her famous #3 hit from 1959, "Pink Shoelaces". In the song she sings about her wildly eccentric boyfriend Dooley who has quite an idiosyncratic fashion sense. As the chorus lays out, he wears "tan shoes with pink shoelaces, a polka dot vest and man oh man...and a big Panama with a purple hat band"; it couldn't be any simpler. A real life rendition can be seen in this awkwardly charming homemade music video that goes to show that not all modern teens are sexting each other and doing bath salts (some are reenacting forgotten pop songs from the 50s). On a side note, I just realized right now creepy it was that Dooley, who was apparently old enough to enlist in the army, was dating a 13 year old.

Take That Ridiculous Thing Off Guy From UHF

To characterize the humor in the Weird Al Yankovic cult film "UHF" as lacking subtly is about as gross an understatement as saying the Sahara is lacking moisture. Nearly every joke and definitely all the acting by Weird Al is about as nuanced as a rocket launcher to the face. However, my all time favorite joke in the whole film, and the only one that legitimately caught me by surprise was the above scene where evil network president RJ Fletcher tells his one lackey, who shows up with a garish new hat, to "take that ridiculous thing off" only to have him unexpectantly take his mustache off. I also really appreciated the length of the set up for that joke, for the first half of the movie the guy always appeared with a mustache. In any case, the costume is not difficult at all: get yourself a suit, steal a hat from José Eber, slap on a fake mustache, and hope to God that you run into someone who is enough of a "UHF" fan to tell you take that ridiculous thing off. If will end up becoming the crowing moment of both your lives.

The Dylan Farnum Look

Any opportunistic twenty something could lazily piggyback on cheap 90s nostalgia by putting on some shorts and a green vest and going as everyone's favorite Nicktoon every man Doug Funnie. However, for the those who want to obnoxiously take it to the next level of obscurity, they should dress exactly like Doug but explain to anyone that points out their costume that they are in actuality just a random resident of Bluffington wearing the Dylan Farnum look. For those not familiar this, it is a reference to the Doug episode "Doug En Vogue" (which is apparently available in its entirety on the Nick website) where the star of a popular teen drama, Dylan Farnum, appears in an episode wearing Doug's exact outfit which in turn leads to everyone at school dressing like him and Doug trying in vain to explain to everyone that he has always worn this outfit and isn't copying Dylan Farnum. As a bonus alternative, you could also dress up in the crazy outfit Doug comes up with halfway through the episode when he tries to create a new ensemble that no one could possibly accuse him of copying only to have Judy show him that it's actually a real look called "The Schizo" (good luck trying to get that medallion that just says "RAP").

I realize now as I finish up that all the examples above are based on male characters. I personally encourage all woman readers to try their own female variations on the ideas above. I'm all for a little gender bending. Additionally, if you want to "slut up" the costumes a bit, as it is apparently the trend nowadays with female costumes, I suggest you just go down two sizes, replace the pants with hot pants, and unbutton most of the top buttons.

Happy Halloween everybody!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It Doesn't Mean Squat


Well now that the final Presidential debate of the 2012 elections in over, I can finally give my, highly anticipated, detailed, arch overview of the candidates and the election thus far; just in time for the critical final two weeks before Election Day. Now I want everyone to know that, despite its warts, I hold the American democratic process in high esteem and consider our nation's two hundred plus year history of free elections and steady transitions of power to be an under appreciated minor miracle in and of itself. I understand that for this process to be optimal we need an informed electorate that is well aware of the important issues of the day with a thorough, unbiased, understanding of the stances of all parties involved. With that high ideal in mind, I will attempt to give my personal take on this election as a whole.

You know what actually I just want to note how this article I came across last week about a lady who is forced to live with a squatter in her home felt like a romantic comedy set up (I'm actually starting to dig these false starts, too bad I'll have to stop now before they start becoming predictable). So anyway the gist of the article mentions that the owner of a house in Detroit had left her home for an extended period of time so that it could undergo extensive repairs, but when she came back some other lady had made herself at home. There's a whole legal battle over whether the home was actually abandoned by the former and in the mean time the original owner and her child  has to live with the alleged squatter (who according to the article is also running a write in campaign for president...so I guess that's some election related coverage right there).

Obviously if you want to convert this situation into a standard romantic comedy, you switch one of the genders around, give both individuals wildly conflicting personalities, close the lid and shake for 90 minutes. While you're at it you might as well age the kid up a bit and make them cute and freakishly precocious  Eventually after three acts of conflict you have them acknowledge that they truly belong together. I suppose the classy example of this sort of set up of people being forced to live together would be Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl". However I admit the movie I thought about first was the atrocious "What Happens in Vegas", a movie so derivative and cliche and encompassing all that is wrong with the genre that it almost looks like a parody of a bad romantic comedy (the scene in the trailer where Judge Dennis Miller sentences Diaz and Kutcher to 6 months of "hard marriage" just about sums it up).

As for the title, it's still a work in progress. In addition to the above title I have off the top of my head "The Squatter's Right" and "Squat to Trot".

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chart It!

My dear friends, I have a confession to make. I have been lying to each and every one of you. Every word that I have ever communicated to you has been a carefully crafted deception intended solely to manipulate. I have knowingly, indeed gleefully, violated whatever degree of trust you thought existed between us and made gullible fools of you all merely for my own selfish personal amusement.

Well, actually all that was an extreme exaggeration. What I did do was little personal exercise for fun with my facebook "friends". For about the same random, inexplicable reason I decided to chart the punctuation of all my last facebook birthday greetings, I thought I'd play a little game with my status updates.

It all started back on September 13th when I threw out a random observation I had about the snack I was eating at work ("For me string cheese always seems to taste better after its been strung. I think the pulling apart process unlocks some special flavor element. I have no hard proof of this so I guess it's just string theory."), it tallied a modest 3 likes and a comment from my pool of friends. Now I'm not a real heavy user of facebook. I probably check it about a couple times a day, use it to receive and send out invitations, and of course relay new blog entries (like this one right now). I usually stay away from the status bar. However the next day I felt compelled to throw another quick observation out there ("'Innocence of Muslims' has got to be the worst received film ever. Even the violent protests over 'Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2' was less wide spread."). 

It was after that I decided to see how far I could keep this streak going. I committed myself to throw out one quick status update a day as long as at least one person liked or commented on it. Considering I was just tossing up whatever esoteric thought I had in my head around lunchtime at work, I figured this activity would last like a week tops. Interestingly enough, despite a few close call days, it actually lasted exactly one entire month from September 13th to October 13th after my criticism about the new Kevin James movie ("Here Comes The Shamelessly Derivative Kevin James Movie") had as poor a debut as the movie itself (though if you ask me, this is the kind of feel good, PG, movie that just sticks around for weeks and becomes a sneaky hit).

Some quick takeaways from all this:
  • If I were to give an official name to the activity I was engaging it, it would be "like fishing". I just threw a line out there and later checked to see what nibbles I caught. Some days were more prolific than others and it was often surprising the random people that would give up a like.
  • Related to that, there is no way to predict how any update will go over. It's an exercise in futility to predict who will like a certain update; also why are you taking updating so seriously?  
  • Facebook "likes" are extremely devalued. They may very well be the weakest form of human contact so no need to get too excited. Can anyone think of a more insubstantial way to acknowledge a person's existence? There is almost no message or significance attached to it other than I suppose at least mild agreement with someone's update message. Compare that to the complex and heavy connotations of the old Facebook "poke".
  • Since likes are so casual, it is more difficult to avoid someone giving an update a like; unless you're one of those inane people who update the most mundane details of their daily lives like when they're going to bed or if they're going on a run. In that case most of your friend have likely long since blocked you on their feed.
  • Although likes are inherently of little value, the quantity of likes may indicate substantial value. Certain thresholds of likes are usually indicative of substantial updates. I never broke double digit likes during my month and I shouldn't have given how pointless my updates were. But, a new baby update or a graduation post or even some indirect call for sympathy from your friends during a difficult time should garner at least double digit likes. With further research I'm sure someone could make a scale of minimum likes (ex. babies = 15, marriages = 25, etc.) factoring in for total amount of friends.
  • Comments to status updates are worth at least two possibly three likes. When someone comments that they wish they could like an update more than once, they have done the equivalent by commenting. It's a huge barrier to cross to actually write something in response to someone. 
  • Facebook has the potential to be a tremendous waste of time. 

As for any future status updates from me, I will be going back to my usual schedule of "whenever the mood strikes me", although now that I've made everyone completely self conscious of their liking behavior I'm not really sure what to expect in terms of future likes. Good thing all this really doesn't matter much. 



Sunday, October 14, 2012

Crunchy Numbers


Today I noticed that it was almost the middle of the month and I hadn't posted anything yet. Then I remembered that way back at the end of last year, in a fit of irresponsible ambitiousness, I set a personal goal for 100 posts for the coming year. Currently my 2012 total stands at an underwhelming 22 entries down; still 78 entries away from my quota. I looked up the amount of days in the year and interestingly enough it turned out to be...78 days.

Now if you believe that by that above observation I am implying that I am going to set off on a prolific rush of updating at a rate of at least one post per day; I have to seriously question if you really know me at all. I'm not saying it's completely out of the realm of possibility but it is most definitely a long shot. If I were to aggressively attempt to hit my numbers I would have to really readjust the old quantity/quality ratio around here. It's not like what I was banging out were New Yorker think pieces or anything but things would have to get reduced to the most shallow and inconsequential of fleeting personal musings. Essentially it would become a Tumblr. I have too much respect for myself and you dear reader to take that sort of shortcut. I will however put more of an effort going forward with the rest of the year to contribute more to this space at a better rate than I've done so far. 25 entries? 50 entries? 100 entries (hey, this post itself has already kept me on pace)? Who knows?

If anyone wants to throw out a total number for the end of the year, you have until the end of this week to get it to my attention. The closest number without going over (we're using "Price is Right" rules) will get an unspecified, completely arbitrary prize from me of unknown value! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I Miss My Old Glasses


I was going to write this entry when I got my new glasses but things got held up for about 8 months or so. Fortunately I'd like to think that one of the endearing quirks of this blog is its tendency towards putting out terminally outdated and overdue posts. Perhaps somewhere further down the line I'll write my thoughts on the Gary Condit murder investigation or my pick for Super Bowl XXXIX.

So as I was saying I got a new pair of glasses in February and every time I find myself getting new frames I think of that scene from the 6th season Simpsons episode "Bart's Girlfriend" where Marge asks  Homer if he noticed any new changes in Bart and he randomly suspects new glasses and then grimly misinterprets Marge's concerns about "smothering" Bart. Although it has little to do with the episode and isn't one of those all time famous Simpsons scenes like Kent Brockman's welcoming of out new insect overlords or parking in the Itchy lot (which I will almost always reference when parking in a large complicated parking lot with friends), this scene always sticks with me as one of my personal all time favorite scenes.

One for the reasons I find it so memorable is that for me it encapsulates in one scene what made the Simpsons the greatest show of all time. It has that wonderful mix of the classic and the absurd that the show uniquely captured so well in its prime. The Simpsons have always been about subverting the trope of the American family television sitcom and at its best the television comedy genre as a whole. Here you have the most common of settings for a sitcom set up, a son having personal problems and the parents being concerned, but then when one parent discusses the matter with the other it quickly veers into the silly randomness of a discussion about non-existent glasses and contemplated acts of filicide. There's heart but there's also the unexpected weirdness as portrayed respectively by Marge and Homer. Essentially every sitcom since the dawn of the medium to this episode when placed in that similar scenario went the standard route of the parents reacting logically to the situation. The show was just routinely doing amazing things like this week in and week out in its hey day.

That's just my incredibly unfunny take on an incredibly funny scene.

Oh and for anyone out there who now feels a little guilty that they didn't notice my new glasses, they were essentially the same color and design as the old ones so you're off the hook.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Replacements 2: The Official Sequel


While yesterday night's NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns was about as routinely unspectacular as any game involving the Cleveland Browns would be all season, it did mark the historic end of our long national nightmare as the official NFL referees returned to work after settling their early season lockout with the league. Based on the outpouring of outrage and disgust by football fans across the country over the course of the new season and particularly after the tipping point of the Monday Night Football debacle, this whole ugly affair could not have ended soon enough. If I were an obnoxious, moral high horse, sort of guy I would point out how it felt like I read more widespread and vocal public outrage over the quality of officiating in professional football games on the internet than about the civil war in Syria, famines in Africa, growing anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, or the important issues at the forefront of the upcoming presidential election. However, like I said, I am not the type nor am I in any position to be judgmental. In fact I'll admit I've put more thought into what to eat for lunch at work than basically all those issues combined.

What I have been thinking about lately was that with the end of this strike, we have the real life story upon which to create a sequel to the 2000 Keanu Reeves sports comedy "The Replacements". As the "The Replacements" loosely based their story on the replacement players brought in for the 1987 NFL players strike, particularly of the Washington Redskins, who given a brief chance to live their dream of playing in the NFL managed to win all three of their games with a roster entirely composed of replacement players, "The Replacements 2: The Official Sequel" (final title still open to change) will be the triumphant story about a officiating crew of underdog replacement referees who proved all the doubters wrong and competently officiated football games even better than the professionals (see this is where the "loosely based" part comes in).

It doesn't have to be a straight sequel with the same cast, although I guess Reeves' character could somewhat impassibility be written in as having become a referee after his playing career ended, but the essential story can almost be converted directly. Due to a work stoppage caused by the union of greedy, prima donna professional referees, the beleaguered commissioner is forced to turn to untested, ill suited replacement referees to save the season. The main Shane Falco character would be a ref who had a promising officiating career in college before spectacularly flaming out, losing his confidence, and has been forced to ref poorly organized street ball games just to get by. The other side referees would be a colorful, broadly drawn, ethnically diverse, rag tag bunch of misfits, losers, and outcasts. There's the absurdly fat ref who has always got a sandwich in his hand, the foreign soccer ref who doesn't understand any of the rules, the sassy black ref, the ref that can only make defensive penalty calls, the ref who refs in a dress, and the ref who is amazing at his job but he's legally blind, among others.  They are all of course brought together under the tutelage of the brilliant but maverick head referee coach (not sure if there is such a position) who sees potential in this sad lot and knows he can whip them into shape using his unorthodox techniques.

Initially the replacement referee experiment proves to be a disaster as widespread criticism and fan disappointment abounds. The newly assembled group fails to get along together off the bat, cannot keep up with the pace of the game, and are disrespected by all the players. However, little by little, through a series of workout montages, unusual training strategies, and an inspiring speech or two the officiating crew begins to excel and their competently officiated games begin to gain the attention of a surprised sports nation (insert cameos by real life sports announcers like Bob Costas and Dan Patrick talking about the surprising progress of the new refs). Eventually they work their way up to officiating the Super Bowl and though they initially fare poorly under the intense pressure and scrutiny of the big game, when the entire conclusion of the game comes down to a disputed touchdown, the refs make the correct call (I won't spoil it for you) that decides the whole game and the stadium crowd and the millions of people watching at home cheer in the victory of a well called, fairly judged game. As the replacements slowly walk off the field knowing that their brief time in the big leagues will be coming to an end with the return of the real refs the next season, they are respectfully applauded by the newly won over players, the fans there and abroad, and even that one really dickish pro ref who's been ragging on them the whole time. Oh and the main guy falls in love with some chick, maybe it's a cheerleader, maybe it's a sideline reporter, maybe it's the evil pro ref's hot daughter, your call.

I think there's enough there to make a modestly profitable sports comedy that'll stand up to copious replays on TBS. My only other idea is a spiritual sequel to "Juwanna Mann" where instead of a bad boy NBA player being banned from the league and ending up playing in the WNBA in drag, it is a dirty NFL player who gets kicked out of the league and ends up playing in the Lingerie Football League in drag.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The M.I.N.D.Y. Project


Every time I see ads for the upcoming Mindy Kaling sitcom "The Mindy Project" I imagine a show with a far more literal interpretation of the titular "project". Specifically I picture "The Mindy Project" to be some sort of ultra secret military initiative tasked with creating an android super solider designed to be the perfect battlefield killing machine (making up an acronym off the top of my head the MINDY could be short for  "Mechanized Infantry Neutralization Droid Y", maybe someone can think of a better one with time). So this killer robot played by Mindy Kaling would be essentially like the titular killer robot in the 1996 Mario Van Pebbles action vehicle "Solo" (and yes that is future Best Actor winner Adrien Brody in the scientist role) or the lovable Johnny 5 from the the beloved 1986 sci-fi comedy "Short Circuit". Also along the lines of "Solo" and "Short Circuit" the series would be a classic killer robot out of water story with the former blindly obedient Mindy bot unexpectedly "malfunctioning" by developing a soul, becoming conscious of the questionable morality of her actions as a government directed murder machine, escaping her handlers, going on the lam, and exploring the outside world for the first time while helping strangers in need to atone for her prior atrocities.

While that overarching plot alone would be enough for six seasons and a movie, I think if we combined the escaped killer robot angle with the actual premise of the series (sassy, career driven, single girl struggling to have it all with the help of her cadre of quirky friends and co-workers) we might be onto something special. The series could pick up right after Mindy has escaped from her top secret military installation and evaded a mess of government agents and troops to establish a new life and identity as a delightfully imperfect, single OB/GYN in the big city. The series would progress with episodes of Mindy's stressful life in the city balancing work and relationships alternating with action packed episodes where Mindy has to dispatch elite NSA hit squads and maybe take on the local mob boss. Perhaps there will even be episodes where both angles come together like when Mindy nervously goes on a date with a hunky guy she thought was Mr. Right...but turns out he's a nuclear powered cyborg sent to eliminate her.

I think the executives of Fox would agree the mass appeal of such a series is undeniable; what other show on television could combine light romantic situational workplace comedy with thrilling serial action drama, all with a solid science fiction background? What demographic would not be excited to watch such a show? Attention producers, there is still time to retool the series before it debuts proper later this month. You may have to do some re-shooting and editing, some heavy script modification, radically increase the production budget, and likely overhaul most of the cast but I think the results will be well worth it. If that is unfeasible, there is always the option of introducing the whole new robot angle retroactively by revealing her secretive past as an end of the season cliffhanger and continuing the series from there. Now that could do some serious damage during sweeps.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Moon!

Between Lance Armstrong being stripped of his Tour de France titles and receiving a life time ban from cycling and astronaut Neil Armstrong passing away, last week has undoubtedly been the worst week ever for notable Armstrongs. Somehow Billy Joe Armstrong managed to get through this period miraculously unscathed; Green Day even managed to retain their position at the top of the Billboard Rock Charts for another week.

Going back to Neil Armstrong, when I heard of his passing one of my first thoughts was, of course, of a long forgotten Saturday Night Live sketch.

The sketch in question was even more esoteric than usual. It came from SNL's 2000 season and is actually part of a group of sketches that make up an interesting footnote in the show's history. During that season, head writer Adam McKay, who would later go on to fame and fortune making movies and creating Funny or Die with Will Ferrell, created a series of quirky short films. Basically these were the direct forefathers of the successful SNL Digital Shorts which came along about five years later. At the time I did not really care for these early short films. The format was unfamiliar, the premises were strange, and the subtle humor wasn't played for immediate laughs. Frankly I would have preferred another "Ladies Man" sketch to have taken up the time.

Reevaluating them over a decade later, I think I'd have to disagree with the insights of my 16 year old self (shocking I know). These shorts,which while still not as funny as I'd like them to be, have an intriguing creative edge to them. I appreciate their enduring strangeness which makes them far more interesting to watch than another lazy Spartan Cheerleaders sketch. I already wrote a post about one of the shorts "The H is O" last year within the utterly incongruous context of Carmelo Anthony's first game as a Knick. Maybe after this post I'll try to make it a thing going forward to eventually cover all 7 shorts.

As for the Neil Armstrong sketch "Neil Armstrong: The Ohio Years" the premise is accessibly simple yet unexpectedly bizarre. The whole short is a brief dramatization of the post-moon landing, contemporary, daily life of Neil Armstrong; short scenes of a man who by virtue of having the singularly amazing experience of becoming the first person to walk on the surface of the moon and gaze upon the Earth is cursed to have the rest of his live come a singularly anticlimactic denouement by comparison. There's sort of a Wes Anderson-esque vibe to the short in parts in terms of soundtrack, cinematography, and fixation with events from the 1960s.

Neil Armstrong - The Ohio Years from Fred Gooltz on Vimeo.

For the famously modest and private Armstrong (in stark contrast to his fame whore Apollo 11 teammate Buzz Aldrin who has done his fair share of TV and film work including "The Simpsons" and "30 Rock") this is what I sort of imagined his quiet life after the end of Space Race would be like, just carrying on like any other senior citizen, seeing everyday living on this Planet as an inadequate substitute to walking on the lunar surface. Always thought the same for all the handful of men who walked all the moon all those decades ago. I mean, after walking on the MOTHERFUCKING MOON, what else to you have left? How does Harrison Schmitt get excited about his granddaughter's high school volleyball championship? Does Charles Duke scream out "MOON" when he's finishing up in bed? How does Edgar Mitchell manage to hold back his contempt when he gets bad service at the Olive Garden?

That glorious fleeting walk on the moon has got to change a man.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Re-Charge!


My last post about the resurrection of previously discontinued advertising mascots has made me nostalgic for the return of other commercial icons of the past, particularly everyone's favorite mischievous money loving monarchist Sir Charge!

Until I started thinking about retired mascots I had all but forgotten about Time Warner Cable's cheeky satirical representation of the supposedly countless superfluous surcharges in a Verizon home phone bill. I for one thought he was great commercial character: easily recognizable, broadly humorous, and had a dead simple message that was stupidly brilliant (his name is Sir Charge, he was all about giving out surcharges, get it?). Unfortunately the character only had a brief, albeit ubiquitous, run lasting about a year, circa 2007. However I believe that he was a victim of unfavorable timing and that the Sir Charge character would have been a bigger hit had he debuted just a few years later.

First off, it didn't help his longevity that Sir Charge was advertising a product that was spiraling into obsolescence (home phone service) he might as well have been selling print magazines. He was also aligned with such a uniformly unlikable entity like Time Warner Cable (fighting against that Verizon menace; talk about a broken two party system) . Most importantly though Sir Charge had the misfortune of coming on the scene just before the social media and the internet viral culture really took off. Had he come out around 2010, he would have reaped the benefits of a vastly expanded facebook community, an exponential explosion of blogs, trending on twitter (#SirCharge), the rise of reddit and the meme-fication of the known world (he could have been just as big as The Most Interesting Man In The World). It was just due to bad timing that Sir Charge never really got the exposure he deserved outside of the tri-state area to become more than just a local phenomenon.

This is why now would be the perfect time for Time Warner to dust off the bowler, break out the bills, and bring back the Charge. Aside from the internet hit potential, Sir Charge's absurdly aristocratic shtick would make him the perfect foil in our current post-financial meltdown, anti-corporate, Occupy Wall Street world. All his stereotypical displays of wealth and upper class status have taken on a far more loaded connotation since the quaint pre-Great Recession days. If there was ever a poster boy for corporate greed, income inequality, and the wealthy 1% it would be Sir Charge. The man just sits in his fancy office all day surrounded by stacks of random currency, ordering constant rate increases upon his working class customers. He makes Mitt Romney look like a lovable boxcar hobo. Additionally with the recent Royal Wedding, the success of "Downton Abbey", and the 2012 London Olympics anglophilia in America is at an all time high, so a posh regal Englishman would also get some play with audiences (I do wonder though why this old English aristocrat had such an interest in American telecommunications and what did he get that Knighthood for? Was the temptation of turning his name into a homonym of surcharge so great that the Queen just couldn't resist it?).

That'd be one unexpected charge I would actually welcome seeing.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

He Has Risen!

Now many of you may already be well acquainted with this story, but for those who aren't familiar I would like to share with you an extraordinary tale about an extraordinary man. He didn't come from status or privilege, just a common man of modest means, but he was put on this earth with the singular goal to give us the important message of saving. As he traveled about preaching his message and converting the people he met, he performed many amazing feats and miracles. Though there were other pretenders with seemingly similar messages, the truly faithful knew that it was only through him that they would be assured great future riches beyond all others. In the end he eventually made the ultimate sacrifice, gaving himself up to a tragic death to save us all...some money.

However, just when it seems like death had claimed ultimate victory over him, he was resurrected!

Yes that slightly forced Christ comparison is true. Less than 8 months after seemingly securing his last discounted hotel room, the Priceline Negotiator mysteriously returns (and apparently he's taken up surfing now). However I really don't know how to feel about the Negotiator coming back. There is a part of me that feels a bit cheated that after all the attention and publicity paid over the final farewell of the character, to have him come back so soon gives the whole affair the taint of a cheap publicity stunt. Had this actually been Priceline's intention all along, then shame on them for being so manipulative and shortsighted with their valuable and respected mascot.

Now if the Negotiator's return is the result of an overwhelming popular movement among surveyed customers to bring back a beloved icon, an exemplary display of direct democracy in action, it would be sort of acceptable (Lord knows how many unsuccessful letters I wrote asking GEICO to bring back the googly eyed stack of money). A part of me would still would have admired Priceline more for sticking to their guns and not so easily bowing to public pressure, but on the whole a company should go with the customer being always right.

From what we see in the commercial it is still somewhat ambiguous if this new advert is just a brief triumphant post script to allow the Negotiator to ride off into the sunset (crashing waves) on his own terms or the first in another new round of Negotiator ads. The ultimate conclusion, like any good advertisement, leaves the watcher wondering. Despite the spot looking eerily like the ending of "Point Break" with Shatner in the doom Swayze role, I am pretty confident that we haven't heard the last of the Negotiator.


Friday, July 06, 2012

Last night I went to sleep in Detroit City.

If any friends or acquaintances are curious as to how my recent trip to Detroit on pizza business went, I have gone through the trouble of hastily putting together a montage of random shots I took with my phone while out there (with a few bonus Canadian shots thrown in). I considered perhaps writing a long, detailed, entry about my travels but for me I've always found that there is no better way to tell a story than through a series of arbitrary images without any commentary or context; preferably with an accompanying KISS song. Besides, if you go by the standard conversion of one picture equating to a thousand words then you're getting the equivalent of like a novel length, fifty to sixty thousand word, travelogue. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Zoned Out

Warning: The following entry contains links to a few Twilight Zone episode spoilers, if you haven't seen the episode(s) referenced I suggest you see them first lest you ruin the one time pleasure of catching a good Twilight Zone twist. 

Over the years, my 4th of July has, in a gradual and steady manner, developed a fairly set routine. The only other holidays with more firmly established rituals and expectations are probably Thanksgiving and New Years. For me I know exactly what I'm getting on Independence Day. Some activities include: taking the trip to my Uncle's house for the big family BBQ where I meet all my distant relatives from my aunt's side who I never remember the names of; eating more varieties and quantities of meat than I ever do all year; catching the local (extremely underrated) town fireworks show; sweating a lot from the heat; and of course watching "The Twilight Zone" marathon on Syfy (I still feel stupid writing their name out that way).

While "The Twilight Zone" is also often given a marathon on New Years Eve, it's the summer marathon that I've grown the most attached towards. For me the pale, severe, image of a gray suited Rod Serling is as much an essential part of the general tableau of Independence Day as BBQs, the American flag, fireworks, and the Founding Fathers hanging out over the Declaration of Independence. That being said, it pains me however to say that in recent years the "Twilight Zone" Marathon has lost a lot of its luster. Interestingly enough the cause of this decline is an ironic twist worthy of the "Twilight Zone" itself.

For as far back as I can recall, the TZ Marathon was my exclusive yearly source for catching episodes of the series. The earliest marathons where I was actually first introduced to the show were the New Years Eve marathons on local channel 11 (WPIX). Eventually the show moved to Syfy where the 4th of July tradition was established. The scarcity of episodes for the whole year contrasted with the sudden overwhelming deluge of them and only further added to the marquee event status of the marathons in my life. It became my yearly passion to catch and savor as much of these episodes as possible before the long drought until the next marathon.

This dynamic was completely destroyed a few years ago though when I received a DVD box set of the entire run of the series for Christmas. I do want to go on record that it was indeed one of the most thoughtful and generous Christmas gifts I have ever received in my life. However, much like the twist in "The Brain Center at Whipple's" the long term, unforeseen consequence of this fantastic advance in technology was that it completely obsoleted a previous way of life (the value of the marathons). Further compounding the effect of this gift was the availability of the entire series run on Netflix Instant streaming about a year or so later. The prospect of immediate hard and soft copy access to commercial free, uncut, remastered editions of every episode compared to catching random, formatted, episodes twice a year on TV was as lopsided a fight as Lee Marvin's sad final stand against his superior android boxing opponent in "Steel". The age of the marathon being appointment television had come to a swift end.

In a way, the situation follows the frequently explored "Twilight Zone" trope of "be careful what you wish for". Whether it's a dickish Genie ("The Man in The Bottle") or Satan ("A Nice Place To Visit"), people who end up wishing for everything they want or what they think they want usually find themselves far unhappier (or worse) than they were originally. Growing up I wanted to be able to catch every episode of the show I enjoyed so much, but now that I have it all at my finger tips my passion for it has flagged. Another common TZ trope my situation may fall under would be the "you can't go home again/your childhood is gone forever" message that comes up frequently. The most heartbreaking and obvious example of this would be the classic "Walking Distance" (which I think could also make for a really surreal episode of "Man Men"). "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville" actually walks a fine line between "be careful what you wish for" and "you can't go home again" where a man who has taken everything in life makes a Faustian deal just for the opportunity to go back and take it all again (with obvious unforeseen consequences). In my case the prime TZ marathons of my youth were from a simpler, happier, era before DVD box sets and streaming video where one had to work for and earn the simple joy of just catching what you wanted on TV; an era that is gone forever.

Of course there are examples of the contrary. Sometimes a big wish is just what you need and you have to have some faith in it ("The Big Tall Wish") and maybe sometimes you have to realize that the past really wasn't that great, there's no use trying to live in it, and you should move forward and grow as a person ("The Incredible World of Horace Ford"). Then there's the most important life lesson of all: always have a spare pair of glasses handy ("Time Enough At Last"). 

You know, all this writing about the Twilight Zone kinda makes me want to watch some episodes...

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Victor's Ultimate Birthday "Meh"-ga Mix '12

Now that we've had our fun doling out birthday mix CD cheers, it's time to move on to the jeers. As much as the top twenty Mega Mix is on its way to becoming a tradition, so is the dreaded bottom ten "Meh"-ga Mix. Believe me, I take far more joy in evaluating and selecting my favorite tracks than panning out the bottom percentile. The decisions become a lot more difficult and the whole thing probably takes me twice as long as the former (but since I'm only making half as may selections, I guess it actually takes the same amount of time then).

Despite the difficulty, I still feel it's necessary and that people are curious to see the results. I've always preferred reading negative and the "Jeers" over the "Cheers" in TV Guide. In addition it's another excuse to put together another mix compilation; can't pass up that kind of opportunity. As to the mix, I do wonder if it is actually better for a song to be selected for the bottom compilation than just be the solid majority songs that aren't good or bad enough for either mix compilation. After all, I remember the tracks of last year's worst of mix far better than all the superior songs that avoided relegation. Is it preferable to be memorably notorious than forgettably solid?

It's something to ponder while listening to these personally "blah" tracks.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Victor's Ultimate Birthday Mega Mix '12

The first of June has comes around again, which can only mean one thing (well aside from International Children's Day): it's the release of the 2012 edition of "Victor's Ultimate Birthday Mega Mix"! Now, my personal rule is that it takes at least three successful years before I dub anything a legitimate "tradition" so I won't go as far as to call this one as such. However with another successful turnout of five mix CDs it would appear that VUBMM Day is well on it's way to becoming a cherished international holiday and essential fixture of summer (of course this is all also based on the assumption that I will keep on living for years to come).

Once again, I would like to formally thank everyone who acknowledged my birthday last month from the emptiest of casual Facebook shout outs to those who hung around with me to my sleepiest/drunkest of moments. Special thanks go out to the mix makers as none of this would have been possible without your contributions. If anyone else would like to be considered next year, all you need is a mix (and perhaps a tolerance for harsh criticism).

Once again, as for my listening process, all the mixes were carefully evaluated on an individual basis via my car stereo over multiple weeks and countless miles of commuting on the New Jersey Turnpike.



And don't forget, the fun continues tomorrow with the release of the 2012 edition of the "worst of" mix!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Chart It!

For no particularly compelling reason, outside of the simple pleasures of writing up a crude pie chart in PowerPoint, I felt like charting the punctuation of all the recent birthday messages that were posted on my facebook wall. Seeing as how birthday facebook messages in recent years have become this sort of crazy personal social barometer, there are countless ways one could measure and interpret all the data from this random yearly poll of your online "friends". I didn't really look that deeply at things, just counted up the punctuations.

As the ugly colored chart clearly shows, of 30 posted messages, an overwhelming 13 birthday wishes ended with a simple (!). It's not really all that surprising, since it's both stylistically accurate and the usual shorthand for showing enthusiasm. I found the double (!!), tied for the second most with 5, to be interesting. I find there to be a real deliberateness to the double. I imagine a hastily written message with a quick lean on the exclamation point key would often yield three or more exclamation points (there were 4 greetings with a trio of exclamation points, unfortunately none with more), a two pointer seems less random. Tied with the two pointers was the no punctuation greeting, which I find to have a classier, restrained quality. It's likely the popular choice for those who eschew the exclamation point, which I have to agree has become far too ubiquitous in modern writing. Rounding out the list is the period, which two subdued well wishers ended their well wishes with. Also there was one emoticon, which would technically fall into the non-punctuation category but I figured deserved individual recognition. I do recall getting more emoticons in past years, maybe it's due to the recession.

I hope this demonstrates that I do pay attention to and appreciate every birthday post (probably more so than you if you're one of those sad people that just rotely send out greetings based on whomever's birthday facebook tells you it is), even the ones by you weirdos I never see.

Friday, March 23, 2012

May The Brackets Be Ever In Your Favor


It looks like the two biggest media events of the weekend will be the Regional Finals of NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament and the release of the movie adaptation of "The Hunger Games". It's oddly fitting that both are going on at the same time. March Madness and the Hunger Games themselves have many striking similarities. They're both nationally televised, single elimination tournaments, featuring mostly teenagers selected from set regions across the country that captivate the country once a year with their drama and surprises (cynically one may argue that they are also both slightly rigged by powerful, malevolent institutions).

Given the interesting parallels I always wondered while reading the books (well, technically listening to them on audio book while commuting, props to Carolyn McCormick for a boss narrating job) whether the Hunger Games (it's not like the Olympic Games, it's just one big event, shouldn't it be just the Hunger Game?) were treated anything like March Madness in Panem.

First off, I would assume that only the folks in the Capitol (and maybe some of those loyalist lapdogs in District 1 and 2) would actually watch it as a form of entertainment rather than a horrifying reminder of the government's absolute power over them. Given that, would there be many of the fun trappings of the Big Dance? I would imagine productivity amid the offices of the Capitol go down due to the organizing of pools and filling of brackets, but considering that the Capitol is just a grotesquely decadent Sodom of the privileged maintained by slave labor, I can't imagine too much office work, or really work of any kind, being done (maybe a a decline in lurid orgies and vomitorium assisted bacchanals).

I guess that would just leave even more time for focusing on the Games, constant armchair analysis of the favorites, looking over the field for possible sleepers. It's funny to think that in the case of the Games, when someone considers who this year's George Mason would be they may literally be referring to an actual former tribute named George Mason. Personally I think Katniss has all the makings of a dangerous sleeper pick poised to make a deep run: coming from an unheralded mid-major district (with only one champion in the past 73 Games for crying out loud), fundamentally sound, undersized, but with impressive range. Though, I guess it's not a true tournament, there are still a myriad of ways to gamble on the outcome: selecting the winner, over/unders, elimination order, etc. Aside from the official presentations and pageantry would there be plenty of additional analysis and insights from sports journalists and discissions on morning sports talk radio about participants and scenarios? Would there be a Capitol version of Joe Lunardi with a weird mustache and blue skin, breaking things down with his science of Hungertology? Does that make Caesar Flickerman their Dick Vitale?

Also it would be pretty awesome and apropos if they played "One Shining Moment" as the sole remaining tribute is airlifted out of the arena.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Random Wikipedia Fact of the Day!


According to Wikipedia, the famous red leather pants clad butt on the cover of Loverboy's 1981 hit album "Get Lucky" (arguably the second most iconic 80s album cover derriere behind Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA") did not belong to the band's frontman Mike Reno, despite the obviously male hand and all indications from the video for "Working For The Weekend". The photo is actually of the photographer's then 14 year old daughter.

So for all you die-hard, particularly homophobic, Loverboy fans out there who caught yourselves at one time or another uncomfortably questioning your own sexuality because you were inexplicably attracted to what you assumed was Mike Reno's tight, sexy, ass you can rest easy; you're just a pedophile.


Bonus Loverboy Fact!: "Working For The Weekend", by far their most memorable song, was nowhere near their highest charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 (topping out at just #29). The fairly mediocre rocker "Lovin' Every Minute of It" (which, if you listen to the lyrics may possibly be about a vibrator or some sort of sex robot) went all the way up to #9.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sweetness Is My Weakness


While it has been a couple of years since they debuted and though they are seldom really seen today, I still feel I have to belatedly profess my strange affection for the series of TV spots for the sugar substitute Truvia. While there was nothing particularly worthwhile about the commercials visually, I was utterly drawn in by the idiosyncratic charm of the individual jingles performed in each ad. I have always been a fan and supporter of the well written commercial jingle, which has become a critically endangered species as of late, so I was already halfway on board. However, what really made these songs stand out for me was their uniqueness. Each ode to the wonders of Truvia is sung in this odd, quirky acoustic-folk style in a non-traditional, slightly unpolished sounding voice (for those of you who wish to know it's some random actress-singer named Therese Hegler). As for the lyrics, they are these odd little first person love ballads to Truvia's natural, calorie free delights, with accompanying dramatization, about being in a miserable relationship with a psedo-personification of "sweetness" (who sort of comes off as a terrible boyfriend in each song) and then finding a a new love (a zero calorie true love!) with Truvia; strange rhyme schemes and weird metaphors abound.

The jingles walk an extremely fine line between shaggy charm and irritating quirkiness. If their youtube clips are any indication (the clips tend to skew about 1/3 to 1/2 dislike rate along with comments that range from "So fucking adorable. i love this commercial" to "i wanna punch that voice") they are fairly polarizing. While I normally hate this sort of overly precious (dare I say "adorkable") work, there's something weirdly genuine about these ads. I think it's because the product is so mundane (it's just another kind of Sweet'N Low) and the melodrama of the jingles are so needlessly high (seriously who has that kind of wonderous life change just from switching to sugar substitutes?) that there is a legitimacy to its cute lack of coolness, I can really believe that they are not trying hard to cool at all. It's a hell of a lot more real than that insufferable old Zooey Deschannel cotton ad.

I recall seeing at least two different adverts on TV, but from what I've gathered there are at least four different commercials. If I had to rank them by some subjective personal metric from least favorite to favorite:

Sweetness comes off as manipulator, a toxic emotional vampire that sort of delights in playing head games with the protagonist. The "guilty crumbs in my bed" line creepily infers a weird sexual relationship. In regards to the video, I don't frequent guilt laden stare downs with chocolate bunnies are all that common a complaint among modern women.

Sweetness is now a serial philanderer to which the protagonist finally resolves herself to escape his chocolate covered charms. Also, four women sharing one tiny desert? They have some serious issues with food that even Truvia won't cure.

Sweetness is just a straight up jerk here, plain and simple. I like the line about Truvia not landing on "my hips or my thighs" followed later with "it's better than flirting or french fries" (although I have to disagree, few things in this world are better than french fries).

This is the most literal representation of sweetness, it has made the protagonist's butt fat; a valid cause as any to leave a relationship (perhaps this is some sort of sick feederism based relationship?). I consider this the best because it's the most straightforward and relatable with the target audience. As an ad it works the best.

For those seeking a fuller effect, check out the medley with the lyrics.