Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fuck, I'm Getting Old

Yesterday, my friend texted me with a message that poked at a growing, yet undesired new feature about my personality/being.   

While having drinks with her friend, the friend mentioned something to the effect of “I see Brett in the halls at work all the time, and he just passes me by like he doesn’t know who I am.”

Now, the old me would find this impossible.  After all, I knew the girl in question.  Granted, I only met her twice, but one instance was during a 6-hour barbecue. I remember our conversation clearly; we discussed work and music.  The old me would roll my eyes, chalk it up to an extreme exaggeration, figuring that she may have passed me once, but my mind was elsewhere and not paying attention, but after reading this text, all I could do was sigh and write back “yeah, that’s entirely possible.”

Now, let me be clear.  I have nothing against said girl.  She’s perfectly lovely.  If I am ignoring her in the halls, it’s not some attempt at being cool or some premeditated lack of gesture to suggest she’s not worth my time.  The problem is, I just have no fucking clue who she is.  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve met her twice, spent considerable amount of time with her at the BBQ, yet I have no clue who she is.  Why?  Because I’m getting old. 

Yeah, yeah, I can feel your eye rolls from here.  You’re only 32, you say.  That’s not old!  Well, I can wax poetically on my waning metabolism, creaky knees, and general growing cynicism, but the lack of facial recognition is becoming a horrible problem. One that never used to be one.  I always used to have a great memory, short term and long.  Friends would call me up to remind them of past events and would take my word for it because I was the one with the good memory.  I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs.  Never have really.  Yet now when I meet someone, I probably have to ask your name twice, because the first time I’m concentrating on the handshake and am too stupid to do two things at once, even if it's something as simple as shaking and remembering a name.  I know dogs that can do that, after all.  But I can’t.  But faces are easier to remember than names, right?  All faces are unique!  How hard can it be?  Well …

I’m getting old. 

Numerous times at the gym, people have waved at me, the suggestion that we know eachother and have talked.  Chances are I don’t recognize them, so I just smile back, nod, and hope they don’t notice.  Not long ago, while at work, a photographer came into the office to shoot, and upon noticing me, said “hey man!  Whats up!” as if we were old friends. My blank stare was all he needed to realize that I had no clue who he was.  When he reminded me that he lived in my building, I said “oooh, oh yeah, sorry, I’m horrible with faces.”  He said, “yeah, that’s what you said the last time.”  Ugh. (Thankfully, I’ve recognized him every time since). 

See?  I’m getting old. 

Oh, and if you have sunglasses on and I’m not normally used to seeing you in them, forget it, it might take me all day to realize who you are (this happened yesterday when I ran into an acquaintance in Santa Monica).  It’s really embarrassing when they instantly recognize me, express genuine happiness to see me, and yet I have no clue who they are until I’m told.  I’ve tried rationalizing this by telling myself that I’m probably more recognizable (or memorable) looking simply because of my tattooed left arm, but I think that’s probably a load of bullshit and other people just have much better short-term memory than me. 

See?  I’m getting old.

Sure, there are some people who I will recognize instantly (you know, like normal people do), but for the people I don’t, it’s not even because I’ve dismissed you or deemed you unmemorable.  As eluded to above, we could have long conversations, but I may not remember your face at all during our next encounter, even if I can then recall every single detail of our conversation once I’m reminded of your identity.  I’m not sure how to remedy the problem; maybe I should focus on a certain facial feature so I can instantly recognize it next time?  Maybe one of those wonder herbs that improve memory?  Or maybe I just need to suck less?

Or maybe I’m just getting old. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What People Do With Their Time

For my entire life, I've wondered about many complex things.  Is there a God?  How big is the universe?  How do you know when you've fallen in love?   But, most of all, I've wondered the following:

Will a day come when some visionary, some genius makes a gigantic yellow rabbit to place in the middle of a small European town? 

Well, finally, my wait is over.

Friday, July 29, 2011


This is, admittedly, a strange interest of mine, but I love scouring the world's newspapers for small articles about "minor" health epidemics or new vaccinations that might one day bring forth Earth's next great plague (we're overdue for a plague right?)  Yes, yes, I'm a hit at parties. A lot of fun to talk to, always.  Kidding aside, there's something about witnessing the genesis of a world changing event that is interesting to me, especially when, at one point, it was considered to be a "good thing."  That said, I never HOPE this actually happens, nor have I ever found one (the bird flu, pig bullshit seemed to nearly happen overnight).  But hey, we all have to kill time between meals doing something. 

Anyway, here's the latest installment.

You've been warned.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Unreal: Republican Debt Ceiling Plan

So, essentially, Boehner's jackoff plan will heavily cut into entitlements (SS, know, two programs poor people heavily rely on) without having anything that even resembles a tax increase on the wealthy, who, of course, are an entire group of people who won't really notice the difference if their taxes are increased by 3 percent.

That sounds fair.

"I'm proud to be an American, it's where at least I know I'm free"

Is there an emoticon that does the jerkoff motion? 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Movie review! Another Earth

It's rare, these days, to find movies that cause you to think about them upon waking up the morning after.  And I suppose that reaction was fitting considering the amount of self-reflection Another Earth jams into its tidy 90 minute package.  This 2011 Sundance darling bites off a considerable amount and economically chews it's material, providing a beautifully shot, small indie character piece set during an extraordinary time, and it somehow does justice to both the large and smaller picture. 

Hey look, it's Another Earth. And some birds.
I had been looking forward to this movie for a while, so I was honestly dismayed by the mediocre reviews.  I figured if it was a Sundance award winner, and featured a plot I found compelling, it was a no-brainer. But due to the mixed critical response, I went in with pretty low expectations, assuming it was an ambitious attempt that fell under the weight of its own complexity. 

But after watching the movie, the only thing I considered was how it didn't resonate with the aforementioned negative critics.  Newcomer Brit Marling plays Rhoda Williams, an exceptionally bright seventeen year old who drunkenly steers her car into oncoming traffic shortly before she's expected to leave for MIT.  The only survivor, other than Rhoda, is John, an accomplished musician who is left to pick up the pieces after suddenly losing his loving wife and young boy.  On the same night as the accident, scientists discover a nearby planet that has the exact same dimensions and climate as Earth.  In fact, we soon learn it's identical to our planet in every single way, straight down to it's inhabitants.  It's a mirror world.  Four years after the accident, Rhoda is released from prison and, while trying to make sense of her life, takes a job as a high school janitor while covertly attempting to apologize to John, who unknowingly hires her as a cleaning woman.  Also, a private company is offering the opportunity to become the first human to travel to this Earth 2, only asking for an essay explaining why they are the best candidate. Naturally, Rhoda has a compelling story.

While the movie has a complex sci-fi element, it only exists as background for a simple, yet intriguing character piece about two people left grasping for anything, as their lives continue to spiral downward.  And this beautifully shot movie handles all its elements with subtlety and expertly navigates its vast world despite it's limited budget.  We never see rockets, stars, or anything that suggests a space mission, but we do get a sense of the wonderment of it all.  The filmmakers use background radio conversations and televisions shows to provide us a glimpse into the public view of the "other Earth."  We never get that enormous shot of people crowding city streets to view the new mirror planet, but we definitely get a sense that it is the only thing people are talking about through the limited scope. We see their excitement, fear, and uncertainty.  And while we constantly feel the weight of this life changing discovery, we are never once beaten over the head with it.  In fact, in the times the film does concentrate on it, we are only fed small details that are both satisfying and leave us wanting more. 

It's this delicate balance, along with some pretty direction from Mike Cahill (seeing the constant image of the "other Earth" placed next to our moon is always breathtaking, and a constant reminder that we are experiencing a frighteningly amazing time period), that makes this film truly interesting and special.  Because despite this world changing event, an event that changes life as we know it, we see the entire spectacle through the eyes of two struggling people, two people looking for an escape from their reality, and the parallels between the scientific world and the emotional one intertwine wonderfully for a simple, tidy, indie character piece that actually presents itself as more, despite the small scope.

Not to mention, it has a wonderfully satisfying and incredibly memorable ending.  

The only reason that I can see for the mixed response is that, perhaps, people were expecting a strict sci-fi movie, or got caught up in the lack of "realism" of how the sci-fi plot line was handled.  After all, this is a movie about two heartbroken people and the sci-fi element of the mirror world is only a vehicle to push their story, not the other way around.  So if you're looking for a realistic film about the discovery of a mirror world, you're going to be sorely disappointed. 

But whatever, go see it. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

HBO's Entourage and Los Angeles

This weekend, HBO’s once-hit, still semi-popular series Entourage kicks off its 8th and final season.  I’ve personally gotten used to, and have enjoyed, watching the exploits of Vince, E, Drama, and Turtle each summer, but as time has passed, the public’s perception of Entourage has altered from excited and interested to passé, much in the trajectory of a trendy, new clothing design, and with it, the same tired thoughts and criticisms of Los Angeles have bubbled through the cracks and to the surface, using the show as an example as to why LA is a complete shithole.

And let's face it, most people who have never stepped foot in LA are certain it's a shithole.  Hell, even people who live here, but are not from here, often qualify their location status by saying something to the effect of "I live in LA, but I'm not really an LA girl/guy," implying that admitting they like living in this shithole would somehow be detrimental to their overall persona.  

But despite the often times nonsensical rhetoric, these people are right about one thing: LA is a shithole.  

It has to be the most aesthetically displeasing city on the planet. It’s smoggy, dirty, cutthroat, and sometimes plain gross. But, despite this, Los Angeles is also a metropolis with an incredibly unique culture.  You often hear the term “only in LA” uttered with either positive or negative connotation, and for good reason.  I’ve lived in Los Angeles for eight years and have had countless experiences that I can’t imagine having in any other city, both good and bad.  But regardless of the cultural or personal value of said experiences, they were all certainly compelling and interesting enough for a story told over a drink at a bar. And it's this lifestyle, this uniqueness that Entourage celebrates. The show is a humorous, fun tribute to the one of a kind, Los Angeles/entertainment-based culture and should not be ashamed of being what it truly is: a love letter to Los Angeles, and all the potential good and fun this city brings.

The Entourage narrative has consistently been criticized for the main characters always “winning.” After all,  for many of the seasons, the main issues plaguing the characters were certainly king’s problems, as the paramount issue generally concerned whether or not Vince was an "A-list" or "B-list" celebrity.  Though the show handled the "problems" as seriously as a comedy can, Vince's life was still better than 99 percent of the population, regardless of his relative success.  And though his crew would have ups and downs, most of the episodes ended with the characters rejoicing in their near misses, their successes, and would celebrate their accomplishments with snowboaring, drives to Vegas, counting money, and drowning in seas of large breasts.  

Year after year, critics have wondered why the creators of the show haven’t injected more pressing/detrimental problems on to Vince’s life, like a drug addiction, which finally was introduced in season seven, and to me, made it a crashing bore.  Because, though Entourage guised itself as a buddy comedy with four friends that genuinely cared about eachother (and they succeed somewhat on this level), it was never a story about the downfall of a star and his friends, it was always a celebration of Hollywood success.  And it shouldn’t have to apologize for that because it was as entertaining as any decent sitcom heading into it's twilight.

Chuck Klosterman (who I adore and respect) thought, for the final season, it might be interesting to see Vince’s career completely tank and the boys moving back to Queens, remaining friends, yet with none of the toys they have accumulated in Los Angeles.  But I respectfully disagree.  Entourage is at its best when it’s an escape.  It’s no secret that the entire world has an obsession with celebrity and how the other side lives.  If tabloid sales are any indication, people are often overly curiously about the glitzy Hollywood lifestyle and read these magazines in an effort to live vicariously, even if distantly, through their favorite celebrities.  And that’s what Entourage is.  A television tabloid about a fake movie star that gives audiences a glimpse into what a movie star may encounter during his daily day, without dealing with the minutiae of shooting films and the perils of being a celebrity.  Essentially, Entourage is probably like watching a highlight reel of Mark Wahlberg’s (an executive producer on the show’s) life.  It generally concentrates on the fun side and legitimizes people's desire to achieve celebrity.  It may not show all sides of the lifestyle, but I'd have to say that it's also pretty accurate.  In addition, the Entourage MO may cater to an audience's very superficial want, and if you want to take issue with that, fine, but it's still funny to watch Ari completely blow up and for Drama to stress out about a petty issue like the size of his calves. 

Listen, if you want a fictional show or book about the perils and seediness of Los Angeles, there is hardly a dearth of material.  The entertainment industry, for most, is a struggle.  It's a hustle.  It's a gigantic pain in the ass and 95 percent of the people involved never come close to living a life like Vince and his friends. But that life does exist, and it's fun to see it "first hand," even if its just a fictional TV show.  And sometimes we just want to watch a show where our heroes win.  We just want a half hour where cynicism doesn't infiltrate our storyline because we are so used to it in our real life, and don't always need brutal reality in our entertainment. 

So, in short, that's all Entourage is.  An escape.  And, sure, the show has gotten lamer over the years, but that said, I always liked hanging out with Vince and his friends and will miss it when it's gone. But, regardless, I will continue to enjoy living in their sunny setting, shithole and all, and refuse to apologize for it.

Oh yeah, and if it's below 65 degrees, I'm gonna complain that it's cold.   

Friday, July 22, 2011


I've never been to Oslo, but I imagine it to be a lovely place.


Thursday, July 21, 2011


Fuck.  What a word.  Easily the most expressive word in the English language.  Did you hurt yourself?  You probably just screamed ‘Fuck.’  Looking forward to something this weekend?  Then you probably told your friends you are “really fucking excited for the weekend.”  See a hot girl or guy?  You’re probably thinking about fucking them.  It goes on and on and on.  You hear the word everywhere.  I mean, everywhere.  It’s inescapable.  Sure, it has its place, but I think the boundaries of the word “fuck” are well known at this point.
So why is the MPAA so strangely strict about its usage?
The MPAA’s old fashioned view towards my favorite word has long been a thorn in my side, and Mark Harris over at Grantland wrote a nice article today regarding the absurdity of it, and provides some examples of how society isn’t nearly as appalled by the word as governing bodies might think they are.  But as with many issues plaguing America (though this one is admittedly minor), this is another example of society moving quicker than our adaptive skills.  Perhaps, once upon a time, the word carried such a negative connotation that it would be considered, not only offensive and crude, but also detrimental. But I strongly believe the only thing keeping that belief alive is the subconscious ignorance towards the advancement and liberalization of society that has further accepted the concept of freedom of speech, especially in regards to art form.
The word “fuck” isn’t simply a word that expresses vulgarity;  it’s a term that generally indicates brutal honesty.  It’s a word that’s often used during visceral reactions to both physical and emotional pain.  It’s a word screamed in anger.  It’s a word generally used as an adjective to enhance the emphasis of a phrase.  Regardless of what old fashioned people might think, the word has become dominant in the lexicon and the absence of the word in our art does not depict our society accurately.
Harris discussed the difference in response to the R-rated version of the hit movie The King’s Speech and the PG-13 version, which eliminated the “fucks” that caused it to be rated R in the first place.  Though he didn’t really discuss the fact that the PG-13 version came out LOOOOONG after the original, therefore there was general interest fatigue, I believe his overall point was correct:  the elimination of the word had the opposite effect of its intention.  The Weinstein Company figured the PG-13 rating opened the film up to new audiences that were offended by the word, and refused to let their children see it because of it.  But it didn’t, and as Harris hypothesized, it actually may have alienated audiences.  Why?  Because audiences don’t want something censored and homogenized.  They want something honest and true.  Is this a sign that families are ready to accept the word as a part of life, and trust their kids to understand its nature?  Maybe.  Is it a sign that we, as society, are mature enough to judiciously utter it properly? Probably.  But, if nothing else, it’s just another piece of evidence that suggests the public isn’t scared of the word, or horribly offended by it any longer.  And for the ones that still are, they are in the vast minority.  And this isn’t a sign of the downfall of society; it’s just one of societal evolution in a world that has grown to accept that fact that it is a word that has taken on different context over the years.  It’s not simply just an offensive word any longer.
So, sorry traditionalists, the word ‘fuck’ is just a part of our lives now.  Sure, it still may be considered vulgar by some, I understand it’s still not accepted in certain arenas, but simply attempting to eradicate it (when our culture has completely absorbed it) is foolhardy and dishonest.  Not to mention impossible.
So, let’s just officially embrace it.  Long live “fuck!” 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Free Condoms!

The safer the sex, the cheaper the healthcare!

As a part of the Affordable Care Act (new healthcare law), a panel recommended that all insurers be required to provide free contraception for women.  And regardless of what the Roman Catholic Church may opine, this seems to be a great idea for a number of very simple reasons.  Prevention is a subject often lost in the healthcare debate as its easy to dwell on new remedies, cheaper implementation, rising insurance costs, paperwork, etc etc, but obviously things like a healthier diet would lead to less illness and, therefore, less of a strain on the already fragile healthcare system.  The same obviously goes for contraception because, well, less unwanted pregnancies and STDs will obviously lead to less need for hospital visits and medication, especially among low income families. And the cost for providing contraception is much less than future costs of treating the various results of sex. 

Since such use should be promoted for the overall health of both the nation and the healthcare system, providing citizens with any financial reason NOT to use contraception can only be counter productive in the long run.  The free distribution of items like condoms or birth control pills clearly takes cost out of the equation, and provides greater likeliness for use.  Obviously this is not a cureall, but its a step in the right direction. 

I can already see the conservative base bitching that this type of policy only encourages sex when it's their goal to scare the living daylights out of people educate teenagers on the "consequences" of their promiscuous actions.  But obviously, and this is supported by statistics, its human nature to desire sex and, if teens are going to have it anyway, they might as well have safe sex and severely cut down the number of unwanted issues.

Bravo, hope this happens. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This sucks, though hardly shocking

I'm a huge fan of calorie listings on restaurant menus from both a health and policy standpoint.  Since it became law for chains to place their calorie content on the menus, I've been both scared off and appalled by the things I used to order (oh, CPK, how I miss your mediterranean spring roll!).  So, it has definitely been a useful tool when choosing my meal at restaurants.  Though, of course, it would be more helpful if the counts were, ya know, accurate.

Then again, I'm sure there are many who order meals based on higher calorie content because they feel like they are getting their money's worth (I mean, why gets something with only 400 calories when you can fill yourself up with 1600 calories for the same price.  What a deal, really).  So perhaps this is good news for those types. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Soccer's Role In America

If you didn’t watch the Women’s World Cup final yesterday, you really did miss an amazing performance that encapsulated every single thing that is great about sports.  But if you’re looking for clichéd hyperbole regarding Japan’s comeback, Rapinoe’s pass, and the greater emotional boost for a country that’s experienced extreme turmoil over the past four months, you can go to a number of other, traditional sports websites and read a version of the same, tired article.
But just as in 1999, after the USWNT won the World Cup, and also following this past year’s 2010 Men’s World Cup, the inevitable question of whether or not soccer has finally found a home in America has already been asked numerous times.  And, of course, the answer is…no.
Soccer is a beautiful sport, no doubt.  It requires elite athleticism and skill, it’s a wonderful test of endurance, and probably the only sport where a team’s fortunes can turn on a dime.  It’s definitely the lone sport that has the potential to feature absolute, one-sided domination, yet the scoreboard may remain at 0-0, not reflecting the action on the field.  And I, as a sports fan, have really come to appreciate the game over the past few years. 
But there are numerous reasons as to why Soccer is not popular in America.  For one, it’s not our sport and many Americans are resistant to entertainment that is perceived as “foreign” (which is why many Americans consider soccer to be “effete”) two, the NFL, MLB, and NBA are firmly entrenched here and people only have so much time, and three, and perhaps most importantly, the best players in the world play in European leagues and that’s not going to change anytime soon.  Similarly, our best athletes (and potential soccer players) choose other sports.  This is no knock on Landon Donovan, but if soccer was the most popular sport in America, I doubt an athlete of his caliber would be on the team due to the increased competition. 
But then why are World Cup games popular?
The reason the matches have resonated with the public has little to do with soccer and a lot to do with 1) the stakes at hand, 2) national pride, 3) the novelty of a sport that isn’t ours, and 4) the perception that we are the underdog (even though we were ranked #1 in the world for women’s soccer).
In a country where NFL football is easily the most popular sport (followed distantly by baseball and basketball), it’s ironic to think that America’s greatest sports moment was actually a hockey game.  Draped against the backdrop of the Cold War, the US 1980 Olympic hockey team, comprised of a bunch of college kids, took down the heavily favored Russians, who were athletically superior in every single way.  The beauty and power of that win, aside from political implications, can be directly attributed to the fact that America could assume the role of the underdog in a high stakes atmosphere, a role we so rarely get to play, and one that is a prime catalyst for communal unification. But, despite this event, professional hockey never achieved real popularity in the states.  Similarly, the 2010 Men’s World Cup soccer team enjoyed the same benefit.  In times where many Americans believe that America’s grip on world power is slipping, the 2010 World Cup provided a global stage to focus our nationalistic, (maybe jingoistic) belief that Americans are “tough” and “outwork” other countries to earn their success (whether BS or not, this is the thought process behind many, look no further than the strongly supported “American exceptionalism” ideal).  Soccer is not our sport, but the idea that America might come together and beat the favorites, in the most high stakes sporting tournament in the world, played directly into the national zeitgeist of “yes we can.”  And this was reflected in TV ratings and national pride throughout the tournament.  Not to mention, during a time period where our collective attention span is that of a four year old, the World Cup provided a brief platform for everyone to grab the bright shiny object without tiring of it.  And THAT is what made the World Cup (and the Women’s World Cup) popular.  It wasn’t the game as much as the stakes and the moment. 
If you take away the stakes, the fact that it’s the best against the best fighting for their country’s honor, then you just get another sports league in a country where said sport was never popular.  Sure, it might increase interest for a moment or two, and there are probably reasons why soccer, as a sport, doesn’t resonate with American audiences (though its pace does seem more “American” than something like baseball), but the fact that we are only exposed to soccer during intense tournaments really takes the wind out of its sails when trying to sell the public on an entire league where most of the games will be, in comparison, meaningless and inconsequential. 
It’s easy to fall in love with a novelty when you only are exposed to it for a few weeks and every game is “do or die.”  And I strongly believe that’s all soccer will be to this country: a sport that features a great tournament every four years that allows us to play the unfamiliar role of underdog, while also encouraging us to concentrate our national pride into something much more harmless, but in many ways just as emotional, as war. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I long figured Los Angeles's CARMAGEDDON would be our Y2K.  In other words, much ado about nothing. 

Appears I'm, FINALLY, not wrong. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Derek Jeter's 3000th Hit And The Puzzling Reaction

Last week, Yankees superstar shortstop, Derek Jeter, launched a homerun into the left fields stands for his milestone 3,000th hit.  And while that, of course, is a story itself, an interesting sub-story has emerged due to the actions of the lucky fan, Christian Lopez, that caught the home-run.
As any baseball fan knows, any milestone ball is worth a ton of cash at auction, and people-in-the-know estimated that the Jeter ball was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 250,000 dollars.  But Lopez declined the option of keeping it and returned the ball to Jeter, who he claimed was its rightful owner.  In other words, Christian Lopez isn’t a greedy asshole and did the right thing.
The Yankees, of course, showered him with praise and lavish gifts that included luxury box seats for the rest of the season.  That all makes sense and is par for the course.  But because the IRS has a job to do, the taxes on those seats were believed to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5k-14k, pending on whatever.  And this is where the story gets interesting to me.
Sponsors have come out of the woodwork to support Lopez.  Check it out:
•Beermaker. Miller High Life, which calls itself a "common sense" beer, offered to pay the estimated $14,000 tax bill for memorabilia and tickets that Lopez got as thanks from Jeter and the Yankees. "Miller High Life believes you should be rewarded for doing the right thing, not punished," says Brendan Noonan, brand manager. The company also offered to throw a beer party for Lopez and "legal drinking age friends." No decision, yet, from Lopez.
•Retailer. Modell's Sporting Goods has dubbed this "Christian Lopez Week" at Modell's, and will donate 5% of Yankee merchandise sales to Lopez. Minimum guarantee: $25,000. "We don't want anyone to think it's a publicity stunt," says Mitchell Modell, CEO of the chain known for aiding local causes. "We just want to celebrate this guy who has Yankee blood in his veins."
•Sports marketer. Steiner Sports Marketing, with ties to the Yankees and Jeter, is auctioning sports memorabilia on its site, with profits going to Lopez. Minimum guarantee: $25,000. "This guy's been good," says CEO Brandon Steiner. "I wanted to do something good for him."
•PR firm. JCPR, which specializes in financial public relations, is giving Lopez free PR advice. Owner Jennifer Connelly says a friend of Lopez's mother approached her when the family was overwhelmed with requests. "Who knows where this will take us?" she says. "We're a pay-it-forward kind of firm."

While this is all nice, I suppose, what does it say about society when people are SHOCKED that Lopez decided not to be greedy and to do the right thing?  In fact, so shocked that they are willing to throw money at him to celebrate his unselfishness?  This is like giving the class bully a free trip to Disneyworld because he didn’t steal his meek classmate’s cookies.  Now, I understand that Lopez’s name was probably buzzing on Twitter/Facebook/Google+/whatever, and that companies always jump on whatever is popular in the name of profit, but the simple fact that a good deed is worth the huge publicity, and that companies believe that the public would respond to such a thing, is troubling to me.

I’m not saying that Lopez shouldn’t be commended for denying greed, but I think the grand celebration surrounding it suggests more about our pessimistic, jaded society than it does about celebrating selflessness.  If not holding a ball for ransom is now tantamount to giving a kidney to a dying friend, we are in more trouble than I thought. 

It's Great That People Still Surprise Me

Who wants to go rob a hair salon with me? ....

A Russian man who tried to rob a hair salon ended up as the victim when the female shop owner overpowered him, tied him up naked and then used him as a sex slave for three days.

Viktor Jasinski, 32, admitted to police that he had gone to the salon in Meshchovsk, Russia, with the intention of robbing it.

But the tables were turned dramatically when he found himself overcome by owner Olga Zajac, 28, who happened to be a black belt in karate.

She allegedly floored the would-be robber with a single kick.

Then, in a scene reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, police say Zajac dragged the semi-conscious Jasinski to a back room of the salon and tied him up with a hair dryer cable.

She allegedly stripped him naked and, for the next three days, used him as a sex slave to 'teach him a lesson' - force feeding him Viagra to keep the lesson going.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Public Opinion and The Debt Ceiling

Public opinion is useful for some national questions that influence policy, but not others. Gay rights? useful. Polls gauging the popularity of social programs? Useful!  But polling even somewhat complicated economic issues?  Stop.  I'm sure 98 percent of Americans have no clue how the debt ceiling works and probably equate national debt with their credit card debt (and they are completely two different things, even if the government sometimes, stupidly, compares the two.)  So, stop polling the public on what to do about the debt ceiling, or if you do, don't listen to the results and post them as if we should abide by them. They are pointless.  You might as well ask them questions about nuclear fission or poll them on how best to remove organs. 

The Influence of Harry Potter Going Forward?

It’s not a surprise that the final Harry Potter film is on pace to make over 30 million dollars on midnight showings alone.  After all, it’s the culmination of the most popular young adult series of all time.  Actually, simply calling it that doesn’t do it justice.  It’s the final movie, and the shutting of the door, of an absolute 15-year phenomenon, and for an entire generation of fans, it essentially marks the end of their childhood.

Can you guess when the first Harry Potter book was released?  June of 1997.  Though I probably would have guessed around this date if asked, to think it came out when I was just a senior in high school gives me appreciation for its longevity.  When I was growing up and first yearned to read, I was fed books like “The Mouse And The Motorcycle,” by Beverly Cleary and “Freckle Juice,” by Judy Blume.  Though the books were enjoyable enough, they even felt somewhat dated and unrelatable even then.  Though we enjoyed movie trilogies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, we didn’t have the group of magical books that we’d beg our parents to buy at midnight the day of their release.  We didn’t have that book that we’d stay up all night reading with a flashlight, not only because we wanted to know the end, but also so we wouldn’t feel left behind at school the next day.  Harry Potter was a true unifier and a story that an entire generation could call its own. And it should be noted that the Potter franchise never got stale or passé during a time period where EVERYTHING seems to run its course at hyper speed.  No matter what, it could do no wrong. 

I actually only read one of the novels, but it was easy to understand its power on the generation below me.  And from 1997-2007, this Potter generation literally grew up just as Harry did.  They had Potter themed birthday parties, went to Potter themed summer camps, involved themselves in numerous websites, even attended the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, inspired many to read and dream, and perhaps partially contributed to the lower generation’s high sense of self.  After all, if three teenage magicians could save the world, why can’t they?

But not only did Potter fans get to enjoy Rowling’s books, they also received ten years of quality, top-of-the-line Hollywood adaptations that, from what I’ve been told, actually do justice to the books (I’ve seen all the movies thus far, and have been captivated by each and every one.)  So, really, Potter fans have been fed Potter related entertainment for the past 14 years.  It’s been an omnipresent fixture in their lives and has always given the fans something to truly look forward to.   And after this weekend, that will officially be over.  Fans who started reading the books at six, seven, eight, or nine are now just about to enter true adulthood, and this may act as their final sendoff as, in many ways, the end of the Potter series is a symbolic end to their youthful innocence, a time when they may have thought playing Quidditch was possible, even though it involved flying.

And it also marks the end of an era for Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson who literally grew up before our eyes over the course of the past ten years.  Regardless of what they do with their careers from this point forward, they will always be defined by these roles, and they will probably provide the face of the characters for future readers who pick up the books: which leads to my next question.

Though there will still be Potter related material, mostly on the web, available to fans, I do wonder how these books will be perceived in the future, and if future generations will enjoy them as much as the current one did.  And my best guess is they will not.  The Potter franchise took advantage of the first generation that grew up with true interactivity and many ways to feed their Potter addiction.  Part of the fun of Pottermania seemed to be the anticipation of future Potter material, which obviously won’t be an option for subsequent generations that read the books.  During the books’ run, discussions of the fate of Harry, Ron, and Hermione could be found anywhere.  Its secrets were kept hidden by the author (who wouldn’t even tell her own children), and when important character deaths were revealed, they seemed to be actually mourned by fans.  Clearly, a future generation cannot, and will not, have this reaction.  And though Potter was set in a magical world, it did seem to key on themes, thoughts, and fears of the generation that read them, and I wonder if the themes are universal enough to capture the attention of future generations, or if they will only stay popular because the generation telling them to read it wants to keep it alive for nostalgic reasons.  Because even for reasons I cannot explain, I did feel a certain disconnect to the characters, even while I enjoyed them.  This could simply be because I discovered them at an older age, and wasn’t as enraptured by the magical element of the story (or the silly names of the characters), or perhaps it’s because the story was never meant for someone like me, and may not be truly meant for the generation that hasn’t been born yet (even if this is unintentional).  After all, all works of fiction are influenced from the environment that surrounds the author, and as circumstances of the world change, nuances of story and perception do as well. 

Either way, Harry Potter is officially a part of the world lexicon and its influence will not die with the release of the final movie.  But knowing that this is probably the last new material we will see from the franchise (unless Rowling gets inspired), it puts to bed a story that truly defined a generation.

I’m sure for many (and for me in some ways); the end of the movie will be bittersweet.   

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Would They Go To Islands. Subject: Barack Obama

If not familiar with Islands or the point of this post, click here:

Not that Barack Obama is ever out of the news, but he’s front and center again this week due to the debt ceiling discussions.  And while defaulting on debt would probably paralyze the entire world’s economy, the more pressing question in my mind is whether or not Barack Obama would join me for lunch at Islands.
While it’s true that Obama is a people pleaser, and has eaten at small town diners while on the campaign trail, this is not an election year, nor does he really have to impress me to win the hearts of voters.  So, unless I invite him on national TV like I was a poor character from a Dickens novel (would you please join me for a spot of lunch, Mr. President, pretty pretty please, suh), he would probably feel no obligation. 
Not to mention, Obama seems like a health-conscious man, which eliminates 95 percent of the Islands menu, severely limiting his choices.  But there is one small detail about Obama’s life that suggests a place like Islands might interest him.  He was born in Hawaii! (well, maybe not according to the birthers…but according to normal people!) 
Here’s a scenario I envision:
He’d balk at my initial invitation, but once convinced, he’d enter Islands and discover something even the great explorers of America could not:  the fountain of youth.  He’d regale me with stories about his childhood, strolling the beach with his grandparents, drinking out of coconuts with his friends. “Is that a parrot,” he’d ask, while noticing the fake bird over a booth of lunching senior citizens.   “I once had a pet parrot as a kid.  I used to visit him in the jungle on weekends.  I called him Pete,” he’d continue. Then, he’d lean back in his chair and recall the island breeze as the overly cold air conditioner blew brisk air across his face.  He’d notice the Tiki hut and tell me how it reminded him of both Hawaii and Indonesia on hot summer days. I’m sure he’d excuse himself to the bathroom, take off his shirt, and wedge himself under the sink nozzle to remember what it was once like playing under a waterfall…when things like arguing with congress weren’t even thoughts in his mind.  Then, once the check was paid, he’d thank me for the brief opportunity to feel carefree and that, hopefully, one day he could return to Hawaii to live out his days in peace.  But if he couldn’t, at least he could visit this fine chain restaurant anytime he wanted to feel young again.
He’d agree to go to lunch with me, only to suggest a different place, and then would convince me by telling me he’d pay.
VERDICT:  He would not go to Islands. 

More Republican BS: The Debt Ceiling!

The congressional bickering, in regards to the debt ceiling, has reached a fever pitch this week in what has to be one of the most bullshit pieces of political theater in some time.  We all know the debt ceiling will be raised, hell, the 14th amendment essentially supports America always paying its debts.  Corporate America, democrats, and even some republicans admit that defaulting on our debt would be catastrophic to the already fragile American economy.  Economists, like Paul Krugman, suggest that job creation should be our number one priority because interest rates remain low, essentially meaning that America’s short term debt is not nearly as big of a deal as unemployment.
So, why have Republicans held the country hostage with their unreasonable demands and a threat to not raise the debt ceiling?
Because they are assholes.   Assholes that could benefit from a poor economy during the 2012 election. 
Republicans claim there is a deal to be made.  As long as the deal provides them everything they want, and they are not above lying about public opinion in an effort to get it. Yesterday, That orange asshole, otherwise known as Speaker John Boehner, addressed the press and claimed the republicans would not support a deficit reduction plan that involved higher taxes on “job creators” (rich people) because the American people wouldn’t support it.  One, that’s blatantly false, as poll after poll has shown American support for these increases and, two, this is an example of how absurd the conservative rhetoric has become.  Their unwillingness to budge even has conservative columnist David Brooks at a loss, who cannot believe that Republicans wouldn’t accept this deal considering it involves spending cuts that will slash trillions off the deficit.   Even conservative hero Ronald Reagan sharply increased taxes in 1982 when the economy called for it.  Obama isn’t demanding a return to the 95 percent tax rate, he and the congressional democrats are just asking for the elimination of the Bush Tax Cuts that did nothing to create jobs in the first place.  Why not implement policy (or eliminate it in this case) that would bring in billions in revenue and not harm the upper one percent even a little?  Obviously it’s not a panacea for the deficit issue, but it certainly is a good, painless place to start.
Republicans will not hear of tax increases as part of the solution and instead support some nebulous “changing of the tax code.”  But, though the tax code is entirely too complicated, I sincerely doubt Republicans will suddenly demand big business start paying through the nose by closing loopholes, because , well, when has the modern conservative party ever asked Wall Street or big business to make any sacrifices period?  Their stubborn unwillingness to compromise shows that they really have no interest in the health of the American economy and American government. In fact, their economic theories seem to be based more on theology than reality.
But here’s the reality:  A bad economy is a good thing for the republicans.  It can only help their prospects in the 2012 election unless the democrats can somehow pin the blame on the republicans.  But since it’s well known most people blame the president for economic tough times, a poor economy definitely works in their favor.  And that’s all this is.  Just another power grab.  More political BS. 
And as for creating jobs without spending?  Well, perhaps we can find some fairy dust when fracking for natural gas.