Posted on Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
Though I knew about AIDS far earlier, I first learned about AIDS from the TV show 21 Jump Street on February 7th, 1988. In the episode "A Big Disease with a Little Name" Johnny Depp's character is assigned to protect a student with AIDS at a local school that doesn't want him there. As the story progresses, they did a pretty good job of explaining what was known about the disease but, more importantly, they were careful to put humanity above all the clinical details and cold facts. It made for a compelling story which has haunted me ever since.
Because when discussing H.I.V. and AIDS, it's essential not to forget that what we're actually talking about is real people with hope, dreams, and fears just like everybody else on earth.
So on this World AIDS Day I encourage everybody to not only review the facts, but to also show their support for those who are living with AIDS. Through the miracle of modern medicine, AIDS is not the death sentence it was back in 1988, but the prejudice has never truly faded away...
But above all, be a compassionate and caring human being. That's the way they handle things on 21 Jump Street, and the world is a better place because of it.
Posted on Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
As a television addict, there's three things that make me a homicidal mess.
1) Television networks canceling great shows before they have a chance to find an audience.
Television advertisers are Grade-A assholes who want to grab your attention at any cost. Even if it means hearing loss. Is it any wonder people want to record shows on their DVR and fast-forward through the crap?
Well, today Congress approved legislation that will hopefully fix this annoying bullshit. The Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act will force advertisers to adopt technology which prevents overly-loud commercials within one year. Now the bill lands on President Obama's desk so he can sign it into law.
And he had better fucking sign it.
If some Hollywood special interest group blows him so he'll take a pass, I will be very disappointed.
Next up on the bullshit list? DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME!
Posted on Friday, December 3rd, 2010
Today I was late getting home from work because my backup decided to crap out and start over from scratch. Not wanting to sit and watch the blinky lights on my backup drive flash for a few hours, I decided to clean my office then walk down the road to get some dinner.
That was a mistake.
Not because the dinner was bad. The dinner was fine. I had a grilled cheese on sourdough and highly recommend it.
No. The reason it was a mistake is because this is a small town and you run into some crazy-ass people once the work-day has ended and everybody's running loose on the streets. Now, don't get me wrong... I fully confess that I am about a crazy-ass a person as you'll find here... but that doesn't mean I'm in a mood to tolerate it in others. Especially when I have to go back to work tonight.
But it's small-town America so whatcha gonna do?
And so I return to work after a nice meal and full dose of street-crazy, collect my freshly-minted backup drive, and go home.
Where I turn on my television and find out that I only thought I knew what "crazy" was about. Turns out I don't know Jack-shit about "crazy" because there's currently somebody cornering the market on bat-shit crazy, and he doesn't live anywhere near me...
Photo of Senator John McCain courtesy of the AP Newswire... and Geritol.
Now, I've already said my peace* on McCain and his false concern for the brave men and women honoring us with their military service (which you can read here). McCain doesn't give two shits about the people in our military... he's just exploiting his self-proclaimed "concern" so he can pander to his fellow homophobes when it comes to Don't Ask Don't Tell (assumably for political gain, but who knows... he may just be a gigantic bigoted asshole and I'm over-thinking things here).
Fortunately I don't have to unleash a new rant on what a piece of shit McCain is** because John Stewart has got that covered. Beautifully...
Sigh. Just get over yourself or die already old man. Or... or... hop in a time machine and go back to the 1920's or whenever it was people were okay with your delusional ramblings.
The rest of us are trying to move on.
* Please don't try to tell me that it should be "said my piece." I don't care what the dumbass hoards on the internet say, at a wedding you "speak now or forever hold your peace." Holding your piece means something entirely different, and I need both hands to type (no matter how much fun holding my piece may be). In any event, I've not held my peace... I've said my peace... so deal with it.
** Sorry for the potty-mouth, but I ran out of what tiny measure of respect I had left for Senator McCain when I realized that he is responsible for unleashing Sarah Palin's dumbassery upon the world.
Posted on Saturday, December 4th, 2010
Just a friendly reminder to everybody... BACK UP YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS!
I have now had one person in Real Life, one person on Twitter, and another person on Facebook all lose their photos because a backup failed or something went wrong with their computer. This is such inconceivably horrifying event, that it makes me even more relieved that I am so dang paranoid about backing up everything.
One backup simply isn't enough. My Apple backup solution "Time Capsule" has died once, and become hopelessly corrupted twice (Dear Apple, YOU SUCK! FIX THIS!!). I have had drives go bad on more than one occasion. I've even physically lost a backup drive (and still have no idea what happened to it).
So I have four backups. One external dual-drive RAID set to mirror all data to both drives. Two external backups for my RAID backup that I rotate off-site. And an account with Amazon's Web Storage Services. Because even though I was on vacation just two months ago, the memories are already fading, and the photos are all I have...
Arriving in Valletta, Malta at Dawn
A Side-Street in Sidi Bou Saïd, Tunisia
Overlook from Villa Rufolo Gardens, Ravello, Italy
Looking up at the Mountain Village of Corte, Corsica, France
Oh how I love "Vivid Color Mode" and "Active-D Lighting" on my Nikon D-90! Everything looks like a postcard.
I cannot imagine losing the 40,000+ photos that have documented my life... so I make no apologies for being an annoying doom-sayer paranoid freak when it comes to advocating backups. It's an investment that is well worth the cost.
Posted on Sunday, December 5th, 2010
Welcome to a very special TRAVEL edition of Bullet Sunday!
Yesterday I received my billionth email asking me where I'd recommend as a travel destination "for an American who (FILL IN THE BLANK HERE)." I kind of hesitate to comment on questions like this because, while I have traveled to quite a lot of places, there's tons of places I haven't been. Like India, most of South America, most of Africa, and a bajillion other awesome places are unknown to me. But I'm always happy to encourage my fellow countrymen to travel, so here's a list which is confined to only those places I've been (click on the name to visit a Blogography link)...
• For an American without a passport: Maui, Hawaii. Hawaii is one of the most exotic and wonderful places to vacation on the face of the earth, and I never hesitate to recommend it as a travel destination. I've been dozens of times, and usually find the weather to be terrific (only rarely has it rained my entire vacation). Of all the islands, Maui is my hands-down favorite but, if you've got time I definitely recommend island-hopping, as there's something wonderful on all of them.
Runner-Up: New Orleans. Easily in my top-ten favorite world cities, The Big Easy is an experience for the senses.
• For an American without a passport who hates the beach: South Utah. I have seen a multitude of amazing places around the world, but when it comes to breathtaking scenery that's not to be missed, some of the best you'll find is right here in the USA. Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Goblin Valley, Lake Powell... the list of astounding attractions in South Utah is never-ending, and every one of them is worth a visit.
Runner-Up: Washington State. Maybe I'm biased, but my back-yard has some of the most beautiful scenery on earth any time of the year. Anybody with an appreciation for the Great Outdoors should have Washington State on their short-list.
• For an American who has never traveled outside the USA: Italy. This answer is kind of vague, but I'd be hard-pressed to pick a single part of Italy as being better than any other. If you like culture and history, try Rome. If you like romance and a touch of the exotic, try Venice. If you're a foodie or a wine persons, try Tuscany. If you are obsessed with art, try Florence. If you just want to be overwhelmed with beautiful scenery, try the Amalfi Coast. Regardless of where you go, you're assured of amazing food and culture... and you're probably not going to have and language troubles or culture shock.
Runner-Up: The United Kingdom & Ireland. Again, I'd be hard-pressed to pick one area over another, but if you're looking for low culture-shock and an amazing vacation, the UK & Ireland are worth a visit. If you want shopping, theater, and art, try London. If you want history and beauty, try York or Bath. If you want to visit my favorite city on earth, try Edinburgh. If you want to see lush green countryside, try Wicklow and Ireland.
• For an American who wants to get away from it all: Bali. Of all the places I've ever been, the one place I would want to go to get away from it all would be Bali. The Balinese people are some of the most wonderful, kind, and sharing people, which is attraction enough... but they also happen to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. There are numerous resorts (including a Hard Rock property, natch!) if you wish, but there are also a lot of smaller villas and inland locations if you really want to escape. Every time I'm reminded of anything Bali, I yearn to return. I can't give it any better endorsement than that!
Runner-Up: Santorini, Greece. Now, a lot of people will tell you that Santorini is overflowing with obnoxious tourists and should be avoided. That's a shame, because it's only partially true. Yes, a lot of tourists come here... the place is beautiful in a way that will make your head explode, so who can blame them? BUT it's only part-true. In the late morning, tourists landing from cruise ships flood the island in staggering numbers. But then they leave and things settle down so you can wander through amazing cities like Fira and Oia or explore the countryside in peace, away from it all.
• For an American who wants to experience a foreign culture: Thailand. Where to begin with the country that changed my life? It was Thailand where I was first exposed to Buddhism and a culture so wonderful that I've spent my entire life trying to apply it to my life. And, as if the wonderful Thai people aren't reason enough to visit, you'll find a multitude of experiences unlike any other. Stunning temples and architecture. Beautiful beaches and sights. Fantastic shopping and attractions. From the bustling cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, to the amazing resorts at Pattaya and Phuket, to the wonderful small villages of Pai and Chiang Rai... there's something for everyone in Thailand, and it's a destination I can't recommend highly enough.
Runner-Up: China. Even in larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai, China is unlike anywhere on earth. Head out into the countryside, and the culture-shock grows exponentially.
Runner-Up: Japan. If ever there was a shining example of ancient traditions embracing a modern world, Japan would be it. Tokyo is probably my favorite mega-city on the planet, and much of what makes Japan such a mind-boggling place can be found here. But for the adventurous, heading out into the smaller cities and village in the countryside can be a cultural revelation you'll never forget.
• For an American who wants something completely different: Warsaw. I fully admit that the reason I travel to a great many places is because there's a Hard Rock Cafe there I haven't been to. The benefit of this is that I am often exposed to amazing places I would have never seen otherwise. Warsaw was such an unexpected and mind-boggling city that I am haunted by it still. Despite having a truly tragic history that will make your heart break over and over again, Poland has to be one of the most inspirational and wonderful places I've ever been. For weeks after returning I could not shut up about my trip. You will have to work for it, however, as it's not overly tourist-friendly. I usually avoid going on organized tours because I like to explore on my own, but Warsaw is a place that cries out for more than just seeing the sights. You have to get a good guide who will walk you through not just the things to see and do, but the history behind it. An unforgettable experience, but not for the usual reasons.
Runner-Up: Romania. As hard as it is to believe, the Romanian Uprising was just twenty short years ago. As the only Eastern Bloc country to overthrow its government by force and execute its leaders, a trip to Bucharest will definitely be different than your average vacation. For a taste of even more "different" you can head out into the countryside for touristy destinations like Transylvania or charming cities like Braşov
• For an American who wants monumental bragging rights: Giza. Um, yeah... of all the places I've been, the one that most gets people's attention is having been to see the pyramids in Egypt. And while the pyramids may be a bit less impressive in person in an age of skyscrapers and mega-malls, I assure you it's an experience you'll hang on to for the rest of your life.
Runner-Up: The Great Wall of China. Another ancient wonder, walking along The Great Wall is not only one of those life-defining moments, it makes for great bragging rights.
Runner-Up: The Eiffel Tower. There are many, many reasons to visit Paris, but any time I even mention Europe, people seem to be obsessed with wondering whether I've been up the Eiffel Tower. To me, it's a wonderful experience in a wonderful city, but not something that captures my imagination as much as it does for everybody else. Oh well, it seems to be something worth bragging about, so here it is.
And there you have it. A mini "sampler" of places to go from the places I've been that I highly recommend. But it's important to know that there are literally hundreds of other places I've been that I'd also give my heart-felt endorsement to. Ultimately I can only speak for myself here but, if that carries any weight with you, I have archives full of my other travel adventures...
Travel 2003 • Travel 2004 • Travel 2005 • Travel 2006 • Travel 2007 • Travel 2008 • Travel 2009 • Travel 2010
Posted on Monday, December 6th, 2010
Windows of Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy...
Posted on Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
Well, apparently it's totally winter now.
Don't you hate it when it's snowing so hard that by the time you get to cleaning off the back-end of your car, the front-end where you started is covered in snow again?
Yeah, me too. But that didn't stop this from being my post-work super-fun activity this evening...
Snow blows. But it sucks too. It pretty much sucks and blows.
Which, unfortunately, doesn't cancel each other out as you'd expect it too.
I don't want to live in a universe where stupid snow doesn't adhere to the laws of physics.
Posted on Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
If I wasn't so enamored with one-word blog entry titles* this post would probably be called something like "Give Peace a Chance" or "WAR IS OVER if you want it" or some other John-Lennon-inspired genius to set the stage for my upcoming rant.
If I really wanted to get descriptive, I suppose I could have gone with something like... "A wish to be included in holiday festivities on my part doesn't constitute a war on your part." Though, since this is me we're talking about, it could have just as easily been "Take your stupid war and go fuck yourself with it."
Which sounds like something John Lennon would have totally said if he was a creative person like me. Alas...
But before we mix it up, here's a calendar for December...
From a holiday standpoint, it's a pretty packed schedule as you can see. And I'm sure there's a bunch more holidays that belong on there that I don't know about.
But since this is the United States of America... AKA The Land of The Free... AKA The Melting Pot... where people of all ages, races, creeds, colors, sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities, national origins, and religions come together as one, it's not a big deal. Because while we may celebrate separate holidays, we can certainly come together to celebrate each other's happiness during the season! This is the USA, after all.
Errr... apparently not.
Apparently there's a "War on Christmas" of which I was previously unaware. Apparently, some people feel that all of December belongs exclusively to the Christian holiday of Christmas, and the mere existence of other holidays is some kind of attack. Apparently communities wanting to have public festivals which are inclusive of all faiths by calling them "Holiday Celebrations" instead of "Christmas Celebrations" have declared war. Apparently any time anybody wants to do anything for the holidays that's not Christmas-specific, they're ruining Christmas. Apparently.
It is, of course, a complete load of horse shit.
This is nothing more than a scheme by hateful people who benefit financially by keeping everybody divided and miserable. THEY create a war, then sit back and laugh while other people fight in it. How very Christian of them.
I remain dumbfounded that there are people who actually buy into this crap. Is their faith really so weak that it takes the threat of imaginary war for them to feel anything for their beliefs? Is their faith really so shaky that they think Christianity will disappear if they don't go into meltdown when somebody puts up a stupid billboard that questions it? Really? Because that's just sad. I question whether you can even call it "faith" when it's more like lack of faith. Because anybody who is strong in their beliefs and confident in their God wouldn't be the least bit threatened just because a parade was renamed so everybody could come together and celebrate their holidays... including their Christmas.
Oh well. I'm not a Christian. I don't celebrate Christmas. I do enjoy celebrating the holidays with my friends and family of ALL faiths during the season though. I haven't declared war on anybody. So, seriously, from the bottom of my heart... "Take your stupid war and go fuck yourself with it."
It's what John Lennon would have wanted.
*I didn't used to have one-word titles for my blog posts. It's just that one day I had an entry where one word was all I needed. The next morning I woke up and got an email telling me that I was "stupid" for not using more descriptive titles on my blog entries so that they would be better indexed by Google and improve my search engine ranking. Obviously, I needed their web consulting services because I was too big an idiot to figure this stuff out on my own. Since I don't give a crap about my "search engine ranking" I thought this was pretty funny. And very, very rude. So I wrote back and told them to blow me.
I've been using single-word blog entry titles ever since. I'm stupid that way.
Posted on Thursday, December 9th, 2010
I am not offended by foul language. If you've read my blog, met me in person, heard me interviewed on web radio, or listened to my live comedy album, you probably already knew this.
Even so, I try to be very careful about not using curse words in mixed company. Just because I have no problem swearing like a drunken ten-year-old doesn't mean I want to force my potty-mouth on innocent people. I'm a fucking saint that way.
So... when a public conversation calls for a profanity-laden explicative, what to do?
Well, if you're me you wing it.
Unfortunately, I'm not good at "winging" anything, so my improvisational cursing never goes well.
Today in a rushed search for a replacement word for "crap" I somehow came up with "crackers." Yes, crackers. And that's not even my worst offense. A couple of weeks ago I managed "frog" for "fuck."
Clearly this is a big frogging problem.
Isn't there a translation dictionary for stuff like this so I can faux-swear properly? If not, there really should be.
Posted on Friday, December 10th, 2010
This morning on the way to work I stopped by the mini-mart so I could pick up a package Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. For some reason, I woke up craving Reese's, and I knew that I'd spend my entire day being distracted by my desire if I didn't just give in and buy the dang things.
But since it's kind of silly to be eating candy first thing in the morning, I decided to hold off a bit. So I set the Reese's aside and started work. Sure enough, all I could think about all morning was eating those dang peanut butter cups. I finally relented around 10:30 so I could get on with my life...
The delicious peanut butter centers of my Reese's were dried out. So instead of rich, creamy peanut butter, I ended up with some kind of chalky peanut butter-flavored residue in there. Blech. Now not only did I have to force myself to eat this crummy excuse for a candy bar, I was still craving a good Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.
This got me to thinking about Star Trek. Well, not the the REAL Star Trek, but the Captain Picard-infused Next Generation version of Star Trek. On this show they are blessed with an amazing bit of technology awesomeness called a "replicator." You simply tell it what you want, and it materializes it out of thin air...
But that's not even the most amazing part.
When you think about it, the amazing part is that whatever you get out of the replicator is going to be perfect. Every damn time!
Because when they program the thing, they're not going to program it with a crappy cup of hot Earl Grey tea... they're going to program the most amazing fucking cup of hot Earl Grey tea ever made. And that's exactly what you're going to get each and every time. Because, technically, you're getting the SAME cup of tea each time.
And, of course, when they program in Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, they'll program a freshly-made bar right off the line with a flawlessly delicious and creamy center.
The list goes on and on. Ever grab a handful of almonds only to have one of them taste like it's going rancid? Not in Star Trek! Ever take a big bite out of an apple only to find it has water-core and tastes like crap? Not in Star Trek! Ever burn the toast? Not in Star Trek! These people not only know the miracle of getting food to appear out of thin air... they don't know what imperfect food tastes like! Everything they ever eat is sublimely perfect. There's never any nasty surprises.
It's like the most amazing thing ever... consistently perfect food.
After flying cars and lightsabers, I'll take a replicator please.
And a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.
Posted on Saturday, December 11th, 2010
It takes me 5 minutes to drive home. I ended up stopping half-way because the snow accumulation on my windshield was so thick that the wipers stopped working. That's pretty bad. Then again, on the way to work I saw one car in the ditch and two others smashed on a street corner. That's really bad.
Once I finally made it home, I was done with snow.
Until I decided to walk to the cemetery and see if there was enough light to take a few photos...
And now I'm done with snow.
Posted on Sunday, December 12th, 2010
It's Bullet Sunday off the rails, baby! OFF THE RAILS!
• 'Tis the Season... for GOOD! So many potentially wonderful things are happening all the time all around us. Even when we least expect it. Even when we receive terribly sad news that makes it impossible for us to believe it. At least I hope so. Clinging to that is about all that's keeping me sane right now.
• 'Tis the Season... for PAIN! Heaven only knows that there is some truly awful people out there... and, unfortunately, sometimes you marry them. Yes, it sucks. Yes, you need to get yourself a dang good lawyer to take care of business. Yes, there is going to be hard feelings and resentment. But having shit-bag lawyers add to a terrible situation is disgusting on levels so heinous that it should be grounds for getting your slimy ass disbarred...
I've been seeing this local television ad run every holiday season for years, and I get more pissed off every time it airs. Nothing quite like taking a season of good will and good cheer... then shitting all over it by encouraging people to solve their problems by becoming bitter, vindictive douchebags like this bitch. For all we know, SHE was the problem. A total whore that cheated on her hard-working, faithful husband by fucking anything with a penis. Thanks a lot, asshole lawyer.
• 'Tis the Season... for CONFLICT! Speaking of divorce... my eternal love and devotion for Elizabeth Hurley has been well-documented on this blog. Which is why I was so horribly conflicted when I saw the following on her twitter feed this morning...
I am genuinely sad that things didn't work out for Elizabeth Hurley's marriage. Not just for her, but for her husband Arun Nayar and her son Damian. As somebody who has been mildly obsessed with Elizabeth Hurley for fifteen years, of course I am upset for her. How could I ever want anything except for her to be happy? But... on the other hand... as somebody who has been mildly obsessed with Elizabeth Hurley for fifteen years... I've felt equally awful over having coveted another man's wife. But it's not like I can help myself here...
I totally have a chance here. Right? Right?
• 'Tis the Season... for TOAST! Google is starting to really push their browser-based operating system (called "Chrome OS") with rather shocking videos like this one...
WTF?!? NO! OH GOD, NO! NOT THE TOAST!!!
What a sad, terrible waste of perfectly good toast. I could watch crappy Chrome netbooks being smashed all day long, but did they really have to sacrifice innocent slices of toast to make their point? Toast has never done anything to us but taste great with butter and jam... surely they could have used some useless food product like broccoli or cauliflower in the making of this video? I mean, sure, we can always make more toast. It only takes a few minutes in a toaster. But is this kind of violence against helpless bread products really necessary? This is sad. Sad and wrong. Why does Google hate toast?
And now it's time to get back on track. There's only so long you can go off the rails before Real Life calls you back.
Posted on Monday, December 13th, 2010
There's only so many disappointments you can take in a single day before life kind of loses its luster.
Fortunately I have chocolate pudding to take the edge off or I don't know what I'd do.
Probably cash-in what's left of my retirement and buy chocolate pudding. Costco has 36-count Snack Pack on sale for like $8.50, which means I could probably afford to buy a dozen cases or so. That's enough pudding to take the edge off just about anything. Well, except the fact that my retirement savings is now worth a mere dozen cases of pudding. There's not enough chocolate pudding in the world to take the edge off that...
This kind of circular pudding logic messes with your head.
Posted on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
Ever feel like all you ever do is move side to side... never forward?
Yeah, that's me lately. Or forever. I get those mixed up.
Posted on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
I'm a vegetarian.
Because I'm a vegetarian, I am not a huge fan of McDonald's. The one thing McDonald's made I could eat... the TOTALLY AWESOME McVeggie Deluxe... should have been expanded to every McDonald's in the world. Instead they removed it from the menu at the one place you could get it: the wonderful Times Square McDonald's. Oh well. I still stop by for McFries every once in a while, because they're some of the best fast-food fries you can get. They used to have the best fried pies you can get, but now they have shitty baked pies. Bummer.
Anyway... despite my not being a fan of McDonalds (nor being a fan of the subsidized cheap beef they use which is destroying the planet) I still believe they should have a right to sell whatever they can get people to buy. Even if it is unhealthy dead cow products. I may choose not to eat their vegetarian-hostile crap, but a lot of people like it so good for them. If eaten in moderation, there's nothing wrong with treating yourself to a Big Mac every once in a while.
And then today I read in The L.A. Times that McDonald's is being sued because "The Center for Science in the Public Interest" feels the toys in their Happy Meals unfairly entice children into "eating food that can do them harm"...
The lead plaintiff in the case, a mother of two from Sacramento, goes one step further by claiming McDonald's "uses toys as bait to induce her kids to clamor to go to McDonald's."
The word you are searching for, YOU MORON, is "no."
That's right... if you don't feel McDonald's is healthy for your kids and don't want them eating there, JUST SAY NO! When I was a kid I clamored for a flamethrower. My parents, WHO ARE ACTUAL FUCKING PARENTS THAT CHOSE TO RAISE THEIR KIDS INSTEAD OF HAVING A RESTAURANT DO IT FOR THEM, felt a flamethrower could be detrimental to my health and told me "no."
Idiotic bullshit like this drives me fucking insane.
Kids "clamor" for all kinds of crap that can "do them harm."
It's the job of the parent to read labels and research products and do all the stuff parents do to protect their kids from harm. Yes, the parent! If a frickin' cheap-ass toy is enough to totally usurp your parenting authority, you've got bigger fucking problems than a stupid Happy Meal. I hate to think what lawsuit is coming next. Are you going to fucking sue
The word you are searching for is "no."
If you don't know how to use it to keep your children from harm... or use your brain to figure out a healthier alternative to placate your kids over a frickin' toy... you might want to consider putting your offspring up for adoption. Odds are they'll be a lot better off.
Posted on Thursday, December 16th, 2010
As somebody who endeavors to take the high road in most things, I ended up deleting the blog entry I hammered out for today. Sometimes it's better to just let sleeping dogs lie.
At least for now.
As always, I reserve the right to unleash my righteous fury at a later date.
Posted on Friday, December 17th, 2010
Posted on Saturday, December 18th, 2010
When it comes to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, my personal opinion is that this is a good thing. People who do us the honor of serving in this country's military deserve to serve as who they are. But I'm not in the military, have never been in the military, and don't plan on serving in the military in the future, so my opinion has always been based on my personal belief of "respect an equality for all" rather than any kind of practical knowledge. And yet... all the people I've talked to who are in the military seem to feel the same way. So, yay, it's time to move on.
And yet the opinion of those serving in the military TODAY has been shoved aside by opportunist politicians catering to their homophobic voter base...
Original Senator John McCain photo by Wigwam Jones via Flickr
Which is disheartening because the attitudes of crotchety old men like John McCain isn't keeping up with the progressive attitudes of modern society...
Fortunately, this country is moving forward despite those who would hold us back.
Unfortunately this is not always the case. This country seems to have a history of shitting all over those who would serve to protect us... and, just when you think things are changing, something comes along to prove you wrong. Like the politician assholes who are currently working to filibuster the Ground Zero First Responder Health Bill. Or assholes like (surprise!) Senator John McCain who thinks the lives of our heroes is some kind of game.
I am trying... desperately trying... to understand the mindset that would cause somebody to deny much-needed monies for health care to those who risked their lives to save others when this country was attacked. The most common complaint was something like: "Well, that's what they're paid to do! They signed up for a dangerous job and are now crying for more money TO DO THEIR JOB? We shouldn't have to pay for that! I wish somebody would give ME a bonus for doing MY job!"
Give me a fucking break.
YOU TAKE CARE OF THOSE WHO TAKE CARE OF YOU!
There's nothing more to be said. Because if you don't take care of those whose job is to selflessly save lives, GUESS WHAT? Nobody is going to save lives! These heroes accept that they could die doing their job. They know that what they do is dangerous, yet choose do it any way. The least we can do is make sure their sacrifice doesn't ruin the rest of their lives if they should be fortunate enough to survive their service.
And now that first responders continue to suffer horrendous long-term respiratory problems and other health issues from being exposed to the wreckage of Ground Zero, they need to be taken care of when their insurance and worker's comp runs out. Again, it's the least... the very least... we can do for those who boldly go where angels fear to tread. So a bill was drafted, money was found by closing a tax loophole on foreign companies with U.S. subsidiaries, and all we needed to do was pass it. Sure it's expensive, but you do what you gotta do when it comes time to take a stand for what is right. You find a way and you do the right thing.
Except a bunch of asshole politicians think the lives of our heroes really is a game and decided that filibustering for political gain was more important than doing what is right. Despite an impassioned plea for them to do just that...
And so heroic first-responders are left hanging for no other reason except they're apparently not politically important enough to be worth saving. At least until it's politically advantageous to do so. Or some unfathomable tragedy befalls us and it comes time for them to have to run in and save our ungrateful asses.
Typical. So mind-bogglingly typical. Just politics as usual in Washington DC.
If only there was a way to mark all these politicians as "not worth saving" when tragedy pays a visit to their house...
Alexander (R-TN), Barrasso (R-WY), Bennett (R-UT), Bond (R-MO), Brown (R-MA), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Collins (R-ME), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Gregg (R-NH), Hatch (R-UT), Hutchison (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Johanns (R-NE), Kirk (R-IL), Kyl (R-AZ), LeMieux (R-FL), Lugar (R-IN), McCain (R-AZ), McConnell (R-KY), Murkowski (R-AK), Reid (D-NV), Risch (R-ID), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Snowe (R-ME), Thune (R-SD), Vitter (R-LA), Voinovich (R-OH), Wicker (R-MS).
What repugnant pieces of shit.
Without regard to their own safety, there were people who worked tirelessly to search for survivors and help where needed when America was in its darkest hour. Now it's their turn. Their darkest hour has arrived. These people are facing health crises and financial ruin as a direct result of their service. It's time to return the favor and help them now that they need us. It's time to do what's right.
Posted on Sunday, December 19th, 2010
It's a wacky kind of Bullet Sunday on this cold December day...
• Pink. Genius writer Blake Edwards passed away this week. He was the creator of a number of important works such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and Days of Wine and Roses, but will forever be best known as creator of The Pink Panther series of films he made with Peter Sellers. Out of the opening title sequences from those movies came one of my favorite cartoon characters ever... The Pink Panther...
I used to love those cartoons. For the longest time I've wanted to purchase the DVD sets so I could watch them again, but could never justify the rather high price ($60 at Amazon!). Fortunately, they're also available for rent at Netflix (alas, no instant streaming), so I'll have to get on that one of these days. As for Mr. Edwards... thank you for the laughs. May you rest in peace sir.
• Larry. Call me a hater, but I have never liked Larry King. I found his interviews to be to absolute crap. Half the time Larry seemed completely unprepared and left me wondering if he even knew who he was talking to. The rest of the time he was just plain boring. I never understood why he was so popular... except that he somehow managed to attract popular guests on his show. Probably because doing Larry King is so easy and risk-free since his interviews were always so embarrassingly superficial. Definitely not because he was any kind of appealing personality. He always came off as either a creepier version of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons...
... or a freaky alien...
Needless to say, I'm not sorry he's now retired. And while I'd definitely say that Joy Behar is a step up from Larry, I don't think she's particularly winning when it comes to interviews either. So I don't know what CNN is going to do now. Hopefully find somebody who knows how to give a decent interview.
• Shaun! A couple years ago when I was in Germany, I was introduced to a new television series starring Shaun the Sheep... a character from the Wallace & Gromit short fim A Close Shave. As you'd expect from an Aardman Animations production, the show was fantastically funny and clever... and dialogue-free!
Well, after waiting and waiting and waiting, they finally released the complete first season on DVD...
Highest possible recommendation. Seriously, you've got to see these short episodes. I bought it from Amazon, but episodes are also currently available for Instant Stremaing from Netflix!
• Lens. Every once in a while you get a glimpse of where technology is taking us... a little peek at what's coming down the pipe. This week it was something called "World Lens" for iPhone. It uses the iPhone's camera to "read" an image for text. Then, depending on the filter you select, the app will process it for translation or some other trickery... like reversing the letters in any words it finds. It then pastes the output onto the original live image...
The app is free from the iTunes Music Store. Currently there's $4.99 English->Spanish and $4.99 Spanish->English filters with more promised. To see it in action is pretty spectacular...
One day, they're going to be able to put stuff like this on a contact lens or as a chip implant in your brain so you can just look at something and get it translated directly. And I'm guessing audio translation isn't that far off. The future is all magic from here on out. Or it could be. If we let it.
And there you have it, Bullet Sunday begone!
Posted on Monday, December 20th, 2010
Yay! It's a lunar eclipse!
Boo! I live in shitty Central Washington where it's overcast and snowy.
So when I run outside to look at the fabulousness occurring, this is what I see...
Which sucks, because THIS is what everybody else gets to look at...
It reminds me of the "super spectacular" total solar eclipse that happened when I was in Middle School... probably, oh I dunno... 1979 or 1980. Our school didn't have fancy tinted plastic viewers so you actually got to LOOK at the sun being eclipsed. Oh no... we got to poke a small hole in a piece of paper and hold it up to the sun so a beam of eclipsing light shined on a piece of paper. This is how I got to see the awesomeness of the "once in a lifetime big event"...
Which sucks, because THIS is what everybody else got to look at (right before they got super-powers)...
It's like I'm in Middle School all over again.
Middle School so totally sucks.
UPDATE: For anybody who missed it like me, there's a fantastic video over at Vimeo!
Posted on Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
If you'd rather read a much more literate, intelligent, and less profanity-laden missive about net neutrality than you'll even find here... I urge you to read an open letter written by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in The Atlantic.
Otherwise? You've been warned.
And so... the FCC's "net neutrality" proposal has been passed.
Except it's not true net neutrality at all. It's a loophole-ridden pile of crap that's woefully inept and incomplete. I'd go so far as to call it "useless" but a bunch of Republican politicians are losing their shit over the mere suggestion of a free and open internet, so I guess it's not entirely useless. Though I must admit to being shocked that these same politicians stopped sucking special-interest penis long enough to notice. You'd think that fellating all those telco/cable/wireless company heads and stockholders would occupy all their attention.
In the meanwhile, internet freedom takes a hit and we all get fucked...
I am sick and tired of these bullshit fantasies that consumers will somehow ultimately steer the internet regardless of any restrictions that are put upon it. I keep reading things like "Well, if an Internet Service Provider (ISP) adds restrictions their customers don't like, then those customers will get a new ISP. And if ISPs don't provide what their customers want, they'll go out of business. The internet is self-regulating, and doesn't need any 'net neutrality' forced upon it! All that will do is inhibit ISPs from investing in services they provide but don't control. The internet is already" neutral without government intervention, let's keep it that way!"
It's such a laughable load of crap that I could barely bring myself to type it, but that's the argument anti-net-neutrality proponents keep pushing, so there you have it.
Except REALITY teaches us that this simply is not the case. History is replete with examples of big business fucking over people to make a buck. In fact, it's so commonplace that anybody who believes companies will be net-neutral of their own accord when there are billions of dollars to be made as internet services continue to convergence must be insane or clinically stupid.
Look, I understand that companies want to make money. That's the American Way, and the reason anybody goes into business in the first place. I get that. I support that. And if Internet Service Providers want to have tiered data plans so that heavy users pay more than infrequent users, then I would probably be fine with it. "Pay for what you use" and all that.
But this is not what we're talking about. It's about ISPs controlling access to information. It's about ISPs giving preferential access to their networks for wealthy companies willing to pay for it. It's about back-door partnerships and secret agreements which define how we live our lives. So yes... if a SINGLE Internet Service Provider started restricting access to say... Google Maps... and instead redirected you to MapQuest against your will... that ONE provider probably would go out of business as everybody moved to providers with unrestricted access. But we know that's not how it will happen. One company will start doing it. Then another. Then another. Then another. Soon, you may find all your internet options restricted because there won't be any net-neutral ISPs available. Or maybe there will be, but they won't be available where you live.
Remember when checking a piece of luggage used to be included in the cost of an airline ticket? But then one airline started charging for checked luggage. And before you knew it ALL airlines were doing it? Sure there are exceptions... Southwest, I believe, still hasn't given in to temptation... but does Southwest fly to my local airport? No. It's the same way with ISPs. Inevitably there may be some independent ISPs that choose to remain neutral and say no to the massive amount of cash they could make... but do you want to risk that they'll be one of the choices servicing your community?
Do I trust our government? Not really. Do I want our government running our lives? Definitely not. But there are roles the government was built for... like promoting the general welfare... by making sure companies don't sell things containing toxic substances... by making sure companies aren't polluting the environment... by making sure companies conduct business fairly... by making sure companies don't exploit their workers... and so on. Not that I'm saying the government does any of those things exceedingly well (ha!) but many of the more protective regulations we have in place serve a purpose and, generally speaking, we seem to be better off because of them. The internet has become such a critical, intricate part of our lives (both directly and indirectly) that it deserves the same attention. Not promoting the general welfare by protecting the internet's very existence through net neutrality could have horrific consequences for the citizens of this country and the world.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Net neutrality is freedom.
Allowing companies the option to take away this freedom under the banner of "freedom" is a mockery of the very foundation this country was built upon.
Not that this is anything new now-a-days, but I'd rather things not disintegrate completely right this minute.
Fight for net neutrality.
While you still can.
Posted on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
And so I was craving a cheese sandwich.
But I didn't have any bread or cheese at home, which meant a trip to the grocery store after work. This was a huge mistake for oh so many reasons. It was crappy outside because it snowed today... Then the roads were crowded because it was 5:00... Then the store was packed because everybody was off work...
Then I got in the wrong checkout lane.
And I mean seriously the wrong lane. And things only went downhill from there.
All in all, a pretty shitty day for Dave2.
The cheese sandwich was awesome though.
Posted on Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
What the deuce?
As anybody who has read Blogography for any amount of time already knows, I positively loathe Pat Robertson. The bastard is bat-shit crazy, and regularly says stuff so outrageous that you have to question his sanity. Except I don't question anything. I know he's insane.
And "crazy" is the least of his sins. In January of this year, I wrote "It's not just that Pat Robertson is a stupid, hypocritical, uncaring, opportunistic, lying piece of shit, it's that he's just plain evil." This was in response to him saying the Haitian people made a pact with the devil in order to end French colonization, and that's why God decided to devastate the country with an earthquake. Like I said, evil. He's right up there with Nancy Grace and Ann Coulter...
Then today something astounding happened.
Pat Robertson took a time out from being an evil lunatic, and actually had a moment of lucidity...
Like I said, what the deuce?
Much like Pat Robertson, I don't condone drug use. I honestly think it leads to more problems than it will ever solve for the vast majority of the population. But, so long as people don't abuse it by driving while high... and so long as they smoke their marijuana in the privacy of their own home where I don't have to inhale it... who gives a shit? Should we really be spending billions of dollars to incarcerate those who would rather get high off pot than drunk off alcohol? If people want to get high and aren't harming anybody else, then they should be able to do that. It's called "freedom."
And who knows? Not only might the legalization of marijuana save us on prison costs... it might also save us tons of money in the "war on drugs." Maybe if people can get legally high, they won't have a need to turn to harsher drugs that are harmful. That would be swell.
And let me tell you... if pot were legal, I'd be buying some right now.
That's about the only way I can deal with the fact that I am actually agreeing with something that Pat Robertson said.
Posted on Friday, December 24th, 2010
If Christmas is your holiday, I hope it's a happy one for you!
Oh great. Now I want a candy cane. Doesn't that sound tasty?
Posted on Saturday, December 25th, 2010
Not just today, but every day...
...and good will to everybody.
Posted on Sunday, December 26th, 2010
If Boxing Day is your holiday, I hope it's a happy one for you!
Oh great. Now I want to pummel somebody with padded gloves. Doesn't that sound fun?
Posted on Monday, December 27th, 2010
Thanks to the holiday weekend, I saved my ammo for a rare "Bullet Sunday on Monday" edition!
• Wallpaper! I had forgotten to convert my DaveToon iPhone wallpaper backgrounds to the iPad, so thanks to my friend Göran for the reminder! They're free for your personal use, but cannot be sold or used for any commercial purpose. Just click on the version you'd like and it will open in a separate window. From there, you can drag the image to your desktop, or right-click (control-click for Mac) and save it wherever you like.
If you want to know how to get the pictures onto your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, Apple has a helpful support document.
If you are using Android or any other mobile platform, you can still use the wallpapers... I recommend grabbing the iPad version and cropping it to your display resolution.
Click for iPad (1024 x 1024)
Click for iPhone 4 (640 x 960)
Click for iPhone/iPod (320 x 480)
Click for iPad (1024 x 1024)
Click for iPhone 4 (640 x 960)
Click for iPhone/iPod (320 x 480)
Click for iPad (1024 x 1024)
Click for iPhone 4 (640 x 960)
Click for iPhone/iPod (320 x 480)
Eventually I'll get more wallpapers converted and come up with some new stuff. Until then, enjoy!
• Ask Dave! I would be remiss to not mention that the remarkably awesome FREE Ask Dave! app for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is still available! It hasn't been optimized for Retina Display yet, but still looks pretty awesome. Hopefully I'll get around to creating new custom versions for next-gen iOS devices like iPad,
• $3.99 No More! I've decided to stop buying Marvel Comics. Marvel blows. DC Comics listened to comic book fans and dropped their cover price of ongoing series to $2.99 ($1.79 at discount) back in October. Whereas Marvel is STILL soliciting their titles at $3.99 ($2.39 at discount). And I'm simply not going to pay over $2.00 for a comic book because nothing coming out of Marvel is worth it. Even though the stuff that's going on in their books is pretty awesome...
Seriously, the time for digital comics is here. Offer comics for $1.00 each direct with no printing costs, no shipping costs, no storage costs, no distribution costs. I would by at least double the books I do now... maybe even triple. Not only that, but I would be ten times more willing to try a new book for a buck than I would paying $3.99 for a printed copy. Assuming that there are a lot of comic book fans like me who set a monthly budget for comics, the net would be a win for comic creators and fans alike. Sure I'm going to miss having printed copies that I can hold and flip through... but if I'm going to stop buying them anyway, surely this is better than nothing?
And I'm afraid that's all she wrote for this week. Next week we'll have a very special New Year Edition of Bullet Sunday. Hope to see you then!
Posted on Tuesday, December 28th, 2010
Tonight I'm going to discuss the hot mess of a film Black Swan.
I never intended to see this movie because A) I don't like ballet, and B) I find Darren Aronofsky films to be very hit-or-miss (
Sooooo... tonight was the night...
Needless to say, this review will be riddled with spoilers. If you haven't seen the film and are planning to, you might want to bookmark this page and come back later.
For the most part, I found Black Swan to be pretentious crap with fantastic performances and some admittedly disturbing scenes. Despite wanting to enjoy it, I was mostly bored through the predictable story and unimpressed with the heavy-handed presentation. The only reason I can honestly say I'm glad I saw it is so that I can knowingly roll my eyes into the back of my head when people start talking about what a fantastical work of art it is.
And I suppose I should get that problem out of the way first, because THEY NEVER LET YOU FORGET IT...
30 minutes into the movie I wanted to stand up and scream "OKAY, IT'S ART! WE FUCKING GET IT!" because I was so sick and tired of the massive film grain that was so obviously meant to give the picture an art-house cinema look. I mean give me a break... usually when movies are this bad, they're deemed to be in need of restoration. Studios spend millions trying to get rid of abusive grain when re-issuing old films because modern movie audiences are accustomed to a cleaner picture. But Aronofsky is apparently so desperate that Black Swan not be mistaken for anything but art, that he takes it to an entirely new level.
And I get that. As somebody who started out in photography using a film camera, I totally miss the beautiful, warm, classic "feel" of film that's been lost in the digital age. But there has to be limits. When I spend more time trying to ignore the grainy haze obstructing the picture than I do on the story, you've failed. Artistic visual choices I totally understand. But, just like JJ Abrams' absurdly stupid overuse of lens flair in nearly every fucking scene of Star Trek, I didn't agree with the choice here, finding it more "distractive" than "artistic."
That's kind of a shame, because if there's one thing that truly shines here, it's the actors. Natalie Portman's wooden and shitty performance in the heinous Star Wars prequels can forever rest directly on George Lucas's shoulders, because she is genius working with Aronofsky. Her vulnerable and damaged brand of crazy is nothing short of remarkable here. And it doesn't stop there. Barbara Hershey played her abusive-obsessive mother with such beautiful restraint and subtlety that it was disturbing to watch. There was nothing forced or synthetic about it, which makes me look at her work in Beaches in an entirely different light. Mila Kunis turned in an unexpectedly great performance as well (SHE'S MEG ON FAMILY GUY FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!). And then there's Winona Rider. I have no idea what it is, but every time I see her on screen I am inexplicably mesmerized, and her tiny role in Black Swan was no exception.
Sadly, none none of the awesome acting can save the story, which was remarkably unremarkable despite special effects and bizarre pandering to make it appear that way.
Natalie Portman plays Nina, an aspiring prima ballerina who hammers away at her dancing with a fury so intense that she's borderline crazy before she goes literally crazy. Nina's golden ticket arrives when she is given the lead performance in Swan Lake. It's then that her never-ending drive to achieve perfection ultimately consumes her, and the movie takes us along for the ride right to the bitter end (which, if you know the story of Swan Lake, is exactly what you'd think it is).
As I mentioned, Nina has serious psychological problems... assumably brought on by her controlling and equally crazy mother, but amplified by her overwhelming obsession to perform flawlessly at the ballet. This eventually starts to transform her with ever-escalating psycho-delusions which are meant to echo the transformation she undergoes from White Swan to Black Swan within the performance of Swan Lake (even though they are different characters, they are played by the same dancer to illustrate the mirrored duality of good vs. evil, or so I'd imagine).
The reason we know this is because THEY BEAT YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH IT OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!
I gave up on counting the direct references, which usually go something like this: "Oh Nina, we know you can play the graceful White Swan perfectly, now you just need to let yourself go so you can transform into the seductive Black Swan!"
And let herself go she does... falling deeper and deeper into her transformation until she destroys herself getting there.
The film tries some trickery to make you wonder how much of Nina's world is real and how much is just her twisted delusions. It's very cool at first, but it ultimately goes over the top and fails. At one point Nina goes into her mother's room where dozens of mommy's painting self-portraits come alive to torment her. Until this point, you only get flashes of crazy, but now it's bluntly spelled out for you. Nina is fucking insane. Any blurring of the line from this point onward is pointless because you've already got The Big Picture. Even worse... it doesn't matter from then on what's real and what's not. It doesn't matter if her dancing partner Lily is trying to be a friend or is instead a vicious, conniving rival who is intentionally messing with her head. It doesn't matter whether her director is just trying to get her best performance or is instead manipulating her in some kind of seductive game. It doesn't matter whether her mother is just concerned and over-protective or instead an abusive, crazy oppressor. It doesn't even matter if her mother is even real or instead just a delusional invention. None of it matters at a point when it very much should matter.
But it doesn't, and so I stopped caring.
Instead I was just bored. If I liked ballet even a little bit, I could have at least found entertainment in the many beautifully-filmed dance sequences. But, alas...
I truly wish that Aronofsky would have had a lighter touch when crafting this movie. Something tells me that it could have been so much more had only he not tried so damn hard to make "art" and just let it become art.
As an example...
At one point Nina goes out with Lily for a wild night of clubbing with drugs, alcohol, and men — all in defiance of her mother. The evening culminates when Nina brings Lily home for some hot lesbionic sex — also in defiance of her mother. In order to make sure they're not disturbed, Nina props her bedroom door with a wood board so Mommy Dearest can't open it. The next morning she oversleeps and awakes to see the board has been moved, the door is ajar, and Lily has gone. NOW... since the board was moved, the only assumption you can make is that Lily was really there and Nina didn't imagine it. EXCEPT... when Nina arrives late to the theater, Lily acts as if she never went home with her (delivering the movie's best line in the process). This leaves the viewer wondering... "Did Nina imagine it all and never prop the door, or is Lily lying to make her (more) crazy and steal her role?"
Had the film continued down THAT road, we could have had a beautifully fucked-up ending where the viewer is left to decide what was real, what wasn't, and what that all means to them... instead of what it means to Aronofsky.
Except, as I said, it ended up not mattering what's real or not when you've got over-the-top scenes of Natalie Portman literally becoming the Black Swan at the end (an "homage" to Jeff Goldblum in The Fly?). Way to spell it out. I would have totally missed the symbolism if you hadn't done that. So instead of letting Portman's performance stand on its own, we get special effects to take the audience by the hand and lead them to the only conclusion possible. In my humble opinion, this sucked all the power out of her character, but c'est la vie.
Black Swan ultimately fails as a film and lost my interest. Still, I give it a C- for the awesome performances.
Darren Aronofsky has been hired to direct Hugh Jackman in Marvel Comics next Wolverine movie. Granted, he has no choice to be fairly direct with such a mainstream film, but I'm hoping he can elevate the material to something worth watching. He is, after all, still the guy who made Requiem for a Dream and Pi, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Though Black Swan leaves me with more doubts than I had before I saw it.
I'm fickle that way.
Posted on Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
2010 -> AUDIO -> VIDEO -> DAVE
All things considered, 2010 was a bitchin' year for 80's music whores like myself because OMD, a-ha, and Duran Duran all came out with awesome new albums. Then 80's throwback Goldfrapp dropped an album straight out of Xanadu. Two of my indie favorites, The Weepies and Matt & Kim came out with some great new stuff. And I discovered an amazing band (new to me!), Mackintosh Braun, thanks to Grey's Anatomy (of all places). As if that wasn't enough, Daft Punk managed to put out a soundtrack for TRON that didn't suck. It all added up to a lot of music purchases for me this year.
Here is a list of my favorite albums from 2010:
#1 History of Modern by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
As a long-time fan of OMD who was overwhelmingly underwhelmed by their "last" album back in 1996 (titled Universal), I was almost dreading the announcement that a new album was coming out. The last thing I wanted after 14 years was another disappointment. But a part of me was hopeful, and that hope was rewarded in spades with History of Modern. Easily one of their best albums, it's a return to glorious form for original members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys. Each song feels like a love-letter to their fans and serves as a reminder as to just how good OMD's music is. I love every track save one (the badly misplaced New Holy Ground) and would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, as it changes with each listen. Right now I'm in love with Green and History of Modern, Pt. 2, both complex and haunting tracks that stick in your head. Last week it was Sometimes and Sister Marie Says. All I can do is hope that they tour the USA and bless us with an equally-awesome follow-up album in 2012.
#2 Sidewalks by Matt and Kim.
When I first heard Matt and Kim's debut album, I remarked that it was if I had discovered music again for the first time. Then they broke into mainstream with their brilliant follow-up, Grand, and my love for Matt and Kim was sealed. They have a... joy... for music that you just can't find anywhere else. When I heard they were coming out with something new, Sidewalks, I was prepared to be blown away once again. Oddly enough, that didn't happen. The once raw and unrefined sound that made Matt and Kim be Matt and Kim had been replaced with something more polished which had worn away all the rough edges I came to love in their sound. Kim's wildly unapologetic brashness when banging on those drums had been subdued to levels so small that it was almost as if her kit had been put on half-mute or something. And so I spent the first week being mildly disappointed. But I never stopped listening. I played it again and again and again. And fell in love with Matt and Kim all over again. From the minute I hear the opening bars of Block After Block, I'm hooked. This is an amazing album in its own right, even if it deviates from the Matt and Kim sound I had grown accustomed to. For their next effort, I'm hoping they take a half-step backwards while they're moving forward.
#3 Foot of the Mountain by a-ha.
For reasons I cannot understand, a-ha is relegated to one-hit-wonder status here in the USA (they're the Take On Me guys!), even though they went on to create some of the most amazing music I've ever heard. So when the boys announced they'd be breaking up after their Foot of the Mountain album and tour, I was more than a little upset. The first thing I did was get my hands on the CD as an import since a-ha doesn't get their stuff released here in the US. The next thing I did was buy a flight to New York and tickets to their farewell show. All I can say is that if the band simply had to retire, they couldn't have picked a better album or tour to go out on. Much like OMD's effort, Foot of the Mountain is a true return to the sound that made everybody fall in love with a-ha. With the exception of the mind-bogglingly bad final song Start the Simulator (WTF?!?), every track is gold. My favorite song is Mother Nature Go to Heaven which has the band firing on all cylinders... Morten Harket's haunting vocals being lovingly tempered with Magne Furuholmen's keyboards and Pål Waaktaar's guitar and lyrics. It's everything I love about the band summed up in 4 minutes, 9 seconds. Add the beautiful title track and seven other amazing songs and you're left with my third favorite album of 2010, but it's probably the one I'll remember the most since it's their last.
#4 Where We Are by Mackintosh Braun.
This album came out of nowhere from a band I had never heard of. I was watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy and, not for the first time, found myself Googling to find out what the awesome song was that was playing. Turns out it was Could it Be by Mackintosh Braun. A quick trip to the iTunes Store and I was running through the tracks like mad, floored by the dreamy sound that was oozing out of my speakers. I bought the album without hesitation, and it's been in heavy rotation ever since. The following week, Grey's featured another track Made For Us, which is yet another winner. Hell, every track is a winner. My favorite is Familiar which is not only plays like something out of a dream, but has a stunning musical progression that builds and falls like waves cresting in your mind. I kept hoping that I'd get tired of Where We Are so I'd be moved to purchase their debut album The Sound from 2007. Mostly because I wanted to appreciate each work separately. But I never got tired of it, and ended up buying The Sound anyway. It's a less mature album (and surprisingly simple in parts), but still an enchanting listen. Where We Are one-ups it, and I expect great things from the band in the future.
#5 All You Need is Now by Duran Duran
Back in 1985 Arcadia dropped "the best album Duran Duran never made" with So Red the Rose... 25 years later, Duran Duran is back, and managed to come up with a last-minute 2010 miracle: All You Need is Now... easily their best effort in 17 years. With this release Duran Duran is back in full-form, giving us a great title track plus gems like Leave the Light On and Being Followed. It's no Rio or Seven and the Ragged Tiger, but it made this fan very happy that it wasn't another Liberty or Thank You either.
(Honorable Mention) Tron: Legacy (Soundtrack) by Daft Punk.
While electronica house music has never been a favorite genre, it would be hard to ignore the works of the French duo Daft Punk. They're crossover success on YouTube with Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger made them an overnight sensation back in 2007. Even so, I had serious reservations about them doing the soundtrack for Tron: Legacy. The last thing I wanted was some house dance music fucking up an otherwise amazing film. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. From the moment the first track Derezzed was leaked, I knew in my gut that Daft Punk was a truly inspired choice to score the movie. Turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg, and the entire album was filled with mind-bending electronica that listens like nuclear-infused ear candy. While I may not listen to it often, Tron: Legacy makes my "honorable mention" for having the good sense not to fuck up the movie it supports (any problems that movie had were not due to the soundtrack).
It's not over yet! Albums 6-10 are in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Thursday, December 30th, 2010
2010 -> AUDIO -> VIDEO -> DAVE
I'm going to split my list of top ten video entertainments for 2010 between television and movies. I'm only including stuff I've seen, which is why films like True Grit (which I understand is great) aren't showing up.
Here is a list of my favorite television shows from 2010 :
#1 Raising Hope.
As perfect as a television show gets. Flawless cast. Priceless writing. Endlessly entertaining. Hysterically funny. Nothing I could say would do the show justice... just tune in and watch it.
#2 The Human Target.
To be honest, I don't quite have the words to describe how much I love this show. Loosely based on a comic book of the same name, The Human Target is the story of Christopher Chance, an ex-assassin who now works as a bodyguard for hire. His dark and mysterious past is always coming back to haunt him, but with help from his business parter (an ex-cop named Winston played by Chi McBride) and fellow rogue assassin (Guerrero played by Jackie Earle Haley) he tries to make up for past wrongs. Part of what makes the show so great is that it has a low bullshit factor. Bad guys die when the shit goes down. This is a welcome change from the unrealistic approach taken by other shows in this genre. Two new characters were added this season, which is a little annoying since it messes up the dynamic of the show, but it's not a deal-breaker for me.
It's Murder She Wrote for the 20th century! Smart, clever, and funny, Castle stars Nathan Fillion as famous mystery writer Rick Castle who gets inspiration for his novels by helping out the police, led by the brutally hot Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic). Hilarity and murder ensues.
#4 The Walking Dead.
Somewhat based on the comic book of the same name, this show is about a small group of people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse of unknown origin. It's totally brutal and kicks copious amounts of ass.
#5 Tower Prep.
I started out as a big fan of Lost but eventually grew tired of the show meandering without purpose because the writers didn't know what the fuck they were doing. Enter Tower Prep. Billed as a school for kids with special abilities, students are recruited for some mysterious purpose with no memory of how they arrived. With no escape possible, a small group of students make it their mission to figure out the secrets of this mysterious place and find a way back home. Unlike Lost, the writers behind Tower Prep actually seem to have a plan for what's happening. Don't let the fact that it airs on Cartoon Network and stars a bunch of kids fool you, this is a great show.
ALSO GOOD IN 2010: The Big C (smart, smart, smart television), 30 Rock (Consistently funny. Thank you Tina Fey), Community (Defining excellence in television comedy), Grey's Anatomy (Still managing to surprise me), Modern Family (Isn't running out of steam yet!), Fringe (I initially didn't care for this show, but am really digging it now), Breaking Bad (Um. Wow), Mad Men (Declining, but I can't help watching it), Cougar Town, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Burn Notice, White Collar, Psych, Project Runway, Graham Norton, Top Chef, On the Road with Austin & Santino, Rules of Engagement, Hot in Cleveland (BETTY WHITE!!), Doctor Who, Hawaii Five-0.
DISAPPOINTING IN 2010: Outsourced (Holy crap. Take a movie a really liked, strip it of everything that made it great, and you get this pile of FAIL!), The Event (Boring, plodding, meandering, bad television).
COMPLETE SHIT IN 2010: Survivor (Look, the formula for this show is dead-simple... find interesting people, make them play games. The end. Stop fucking up the show by having Jeff Probst inject himself into the drama at Tribal Council. Stop influencing the natural progression of things with producer-meddling bullshit. Stop picking boring-ass people to be on the show).
Here is a list of my favorite movies from 2010 (with ALL the films I remember seeing this year):
#1 Iron Man 2.
Look, I know that this was a massive drop from the sheer awesomeness of John Favreau's original Iron Man. I know it didn't crack the vast majority of "best of" lists this year. I know a lot of comic fans criticized the movie. I know. I know. I know. So how DARE I have it as my #1? Simple. I just don't care what anybody else thinks. I loved this film. Robert Downey Jr. embodies the role of Tony Stark so brilliantly that he's easily my favorite movie version of a super-hero ever... even surpassing Batman, my favorite comic book character. Add in yet another great performance by Sam Rockwell, plus Scarlett Johansson in her skin-tight Black Widow costume, plus an over-the-top Mickey Roarke as the villain Whiplash, and you've got a movie I am compelled to enjoy. I've watched Iron Man 2 on Blu-Ray no less than a half-dozen times, and will undoubtedly watch it dozens more.
#2 Toy Story 3.
It always amazes me how Pixar manages to pack such heartfelt emotion into a computer-generated cartoon, but they never fail to deliver. Near-perfect, Toy Story 3 is an amazing finale to two of the best films ever made. I love how Lasseter & Co. are not afraid to keep moving things forward as opposed to constantly re-treading the same stories over and over again. And, when you consider the fact that all the human characters are computer generated and could stay the same age forever, it's even more remarkable. This sequel sequel has the toys treading waaayyy outside their comfort zone and finding the value of friendship in even the worst of circumstances. Touching and funny, it makes me hope there's more Toy Stories to come.
Yet another comic book adaptation, and one that still surprises me it was ever made at all. Kick-Ass is the story of an ordinary teenage kid who decides to become a real-life super-hero. Things quickly get out of hand when he gets tangled up with Big-Daddy and Hit-Girl's mission to take down crime kingpin Frank D'Amico. Things also get more interesting. As a hyper-violent, foul-mouthed, and deadly "hero" of entirely another kind, Hit-Girl ends up stealing the movie. Assuming you can stomach all the bloodshed, it's bloody good fun.
In many ways, I'm not 100% convinced that I even liked this film, which is just part of the reason it's so darn compelling. Another reason would be that the story wasn't dumbed down for the typical movie-going audience. There was real complexity and ambiguity that you just don't find in the dreck that usually comes out of Hollywood. Even putting aside the mind-bending special effects, Inception has a lot going for it.
#5 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
This is one of those rare instances where I am very glad I saw the movie before I read the book... for one reason only: Noomi Rapace's absolutely brilliant portrayal of troubled punk-rock hacker Lisbeth Salander. Being able to picture her as I read the novel made it that much better. Easily one of the best movie characters ever, Lisbeth gets embroiled in an investigative reporter's quest to unwrap a mysterious murder in the powerful Vanger family. Since the film is Swedish, of course there's an American remake underway, though I can't for the life of me understand why. Maybe too many Americans are just too damn stupid to have to deal with subtitles? In any event, I genuinely pity whatever actress they get to fill Noomi's shoes on this one. There's just no way they can measure up. Dark, disturbing, violent, and wholly wonderful, I can't wait to see the two sequels (which, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were released in 2009 in the rest of the world, but are flowing like molasses here in the USA).
ALSO GOOD IN 2010: The Social Network (A much better film than the subject would imply, I loved it), The Illusionist (Wonderful animated feature from France that's a bit depressing but ultimately rewarding), Salt (Angelina Jolie brings it in this taught action-thriller), The Kids Are All Right (A much-deserved slap in the face to assholes everywhere who think their definition of "family" is the only one that matters), Exit Through The Gift Shop (surprisingly smart and entertaining), MacGruber (Go ahead, mock me, but this film was funny as hell), Red (Actually improved a bit over the comic book it was based upon. Not great movie fare, but highly entertaining), Despicable Me (Clever, fun, animated delight that ISN'T from Pixar... who'd a thunk it?), Last Train Home (Brilliant film from China that's guaranteed to move you), TRON: Legacy (As a fan of the original, I am compelled to enjoy this flawed sequel with lots of eye-popping visuals, but little character), Let Me In (Color me shocked. A fantastic remake of a fantastic Swedish vampire film that puts that Twilight shit to shame).
DISAPPOINTING IN 2010: Black Swan (My review is here), Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (It had such awesome potential but Michael Cera IS NOT SCOTT PILGRIM!), Alice in Wonderland (It has Tim Burton and some excellent production values... but didn't click with me for some reason. Maybe if I see it again but skip the 3D this time?), Jonah Hex (I have no fucking clue what in the hell they were thinking. While not a huge fan of the comic book it was based on, the source material is literary GENIUS compared to this bullshit, The Ghost Writer (I struggled not putting this film on my "GOOD" list but, despite some tense moments, I think it ultimately falls a bit flat).
COMPLETE SHIT IN 2010: The Last Airbender (What. The. Fuck. A joyful, fun, exciting, amazing cartoon had the very life sucked out of it to create this horrendous pile of shit. Shameful. Just shameful.), Skyline (Who greenlit this crap? HELLO, YOU NEED A STORY BEFORE YOU SHOOT THE MOVIE!).
Posted on Friday, December 31st, 2010
2010 -> AUDIO -> VIDEO -> DAVEAnd now, at long last, comes that one entry for people who are curious as to what I've been up to, but only like to read one blog post a year. All-in-all, it was not a terrible end to the decade. Picking and choosing all the good stuff that happened in 2010 (out of a blog that is already picking and choosing all the good stuff) kind of makes me think it was a great year. Alas, I know better, as there were boatloads of crap I had to deal with that never end up at Blogography. Oh well. It's okay to pretend, isn't it?
• Realized the right tool for the job won't actually get me a free date with Elizabeth Hurley.
• Opened my big mouth and got the entire wine-connoisseur world pissed at me.
• Found out that somebody stole my monkey.
• Discovered that Canadians are responsible for the pussification of America, and showed them how REAL AMERICANS GET SHIT DONE!!
• Seattle FINALLY got a Hard Rock Cafe, and I got my 125th visit.
• Released my medical findings on a cure for the common cold to Twitter (and so much more).
• That Crasher Squirrel has been showing up everywhere...
• Just like Lindsay Lohan's cootchie...
• Explained why Roger Ebert is WRONG about video games not being art.
• Attended THE blogging event of the year... TEQUILACON 2010 VANCOUVER!
• Took a dump on Lost and then went out for pizza with RW, which ended up having far-reaching consequences you'll find out about later this year.
• Summed up my position on the BP oil spill.
• Saw the Worst. Movie. Ever.
• WAY TO GO BLACKHAWKS!!
• Had more fun than should legally be allowed at Bitchsterdam 2!
• Saw one of the best episodes of television ever (thank you Steven Moffat, The BBC, and Dr. Who!). I can honestly say that I think this is the only time I cried in all of 2010.
• Explained to haters who don't like being referred to as a hater that they kind are.
• Was inspired beyond my ability to express by the final words of a legend.
• Took a Mediterranean vacation and saw such remarkable places as Barcelona, and Malta, and Tunisia, and The Amalfi Coast, and Rome, and Portofino, and Corsica, and Monaco. As if all that wasn't enough, I got to have breakfast with Mickey Mouse!
• Remembered The Golden Rule and became the biggest evil dumbass inhuman monster of them all.
• Partied down in rural Wisconsin... a good place to be!
• Went to Albuquerque to gamble away my money at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino there.
• Found out my iPhone can take some pretty decent photos if I bother to stop and look around because there's an app for that...
• Took a look at porn and handjobs in the interest of airport security.
• Want to know where to go on vacation? Here are some of my suggestions!.
And that was pretty much what happened with me in 2010. How about you?
Hope your 2011 is a good one, and thanks for reading!