Wednesday, January 30, 2008

florida's being semi-good to the dems? how's that?

So, the news out of Florida yesterday was good news for the Dems. I'll let Straight Bangin' tell it because he's already done a better job than I could. Basically, Rudy Giuliani is bad for America. I'm not saying anything to upset anyone, and I'm not trying to be rude, I'm just saying what I think is a commonly accepted fact. Even on September 12th when God's Halo was shining brightly on both he and George W. Bush, I was never a fan. I had too many bad memories of minorities being shot to death with an absurd number of bullets and the police force being found completely innocent. There's not a lot someone can do to regain standing in my eyes once I've (totally factually and accurately) found them to be a racist. I mean, I've never forgiven Strom Thurmond and/or Trent Lott, either. Call it a personality flaw if you'd like, but I like to think that it's just little old me being ornery.

On the other hand, the guy I'd settled on voting for has dropped out of the race - goodbye John Edwards. I'll miss your populist approach, your gentle voice, and the memory that you should have been our nominee in 2004. This is actually the second person whom I'd decided to vote for that's dropped out of the Democratic Primary - does that say something about the people I've been choosing? Bad for me, I suppose. Now I have to decide...who's it going to be?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

school's out for the day.

So, APS canceled school today because the roads are icy. It doesn't look that way from my window and, in fact, we're going to gather a group, go up to the school after noon and play some basketball, but hey; who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? I'm down to take a day off if they want to give it to me. Plus, this way I get to grade all the stuff I didn't yesterday.

Anyway, the main point here is that a service called Zipcar is set to debut today at UNM. The Trib article that I've linked to, though, presents a lot more questions as opposed to answers, at least to my mind. In the order they appear in the article:

"Zipcar representatives said Friday they did not want to discuss the program until it was closer to being unveiled at UNM." Um, am I missing something? They're unveiling it today, right? I mean, how much closer can you get? Did they make a major announcement yesterday, and I just missed it?

"UNM students, staff, faculty, and the general public will be able to use the service..." They're going to let the general public use this service but centrally locate it on a college campus? I don't think that's going to fly, nor do I think it's the best idea. They also say that they've reserved spots from UNM for the cars, but that UNM isn't paying for the service in any way. I hope they're going to provide some additional security to watch over those cars while they're there, or else they're going to be in for a quick lesson regarding theft and vandalism on campus.

"The company's Web site says that each Zipcar can replace up to 20 individually owned vehicles." How do they arrive at that figure? I'm curious if they're renting by the hour and just figuring, well, we could theoretically rent to 24 people in one day, but people will at least need four hours of sleep, so let's just settle on 20. Hah!

I like the idea. I think it's cool. I'm wondering if people will use it. For now, we'll see. I'll post more on this subject when I've actually had some experience with the service.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

on recent events.

YouTube has worked with Google to bring us The Davos Question: What one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008? Not only is it a great question, a great concept for videos, a great democratic approach to some of the decision-making that some of the higher-ups sometimes forget to invite us to, but it seems like a fine topic for class! I'm excited to talk about this idea with my students! They should have lots of interesting things to say.

I want to snap a flick tomorrow so that I can submit it to this EFF Campaign - Stop the Spying. I might wait until Monday so that I can write it in huge letters on my blackboard at school.

One of the comic book news sites that I was checking obsessively during the "One More Day" debacle is apparently claiming that there's a feud going on between The Boondocks and Black Entertainment Television. Boy are they late to the party. I mean, I know things get more important when they get on TV, but as anyone who's been reading the Boondocks since it was a wee newspaper strip could tell you - wow, Aaron McGruder has some serious hatred for Bob Johnson and the feeling is mutual.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

more bad news.

The Lakers have suffered some bad news recently, but have been doing a pretty good job of playing through it. The way I see this, it could have been a lot worse. I'm happy to see that they're still playing well, because I think that the Lakers without Andrew Bynum are slightly better than a .500 team. And if they can keep on that pace, they'll be in all right shape (not great, not good, but all right) and seeding when it comes time for the playoffs. And that's when we'll have to see something amazing. That's when I'll be willing to declare them for real. Because they can go through the regular season doing this and doing that, but the playoffs are when it matters. We have to get out of the first round this year, and I have faith that we can do it. But beyond that, we should get out of the second round. I've said that before, but this group looks like they can play together in a way that hasn't happened in LA in a long time. And so I'm hopeful.

However, there is an edge to it. If you look at the seedings in the Western Conference right now it's disgusting to see how powerful the West is. Everyone at the top is lumped so closely together! There's a danger that, if the Lakers go on even a very little losing streak (three games would be bad, four to six would be disastrous!) they could very easily find themselves much, much lower in the pack. (Remember there was a time when they sat alone with the number one spot. Then, a mere 24 hours later, they were down to number 3 or 4. Scary.)

This very much relates to the last basketball-centric post that I went through; if the West has all this power, why is the East so bad? That's scary, too.

In other news, Heath Ledger has died. I don't know if I'm being totally heartless or what, but I just don't seem to care about it as much as I've seen some other people expressing. Heath was a great actor, I liked the majority of what he did and I'm amped to see him as the Joker in the new Batman, but I guess I'm a bad pop culture addict in this sense - I don't care quite so much when actors or actresses die.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

on there will be blood.

So I got to see the most acclaimed movie in America right now last night and all I can say is wow. I mean, obviously, Daniel Day-Lewis is going to kick ass. He's amazing, there's no one who disputes that. His resume speaks for itself, with his nominations, his wins, and not to mention, his role selections. It takes a selective man (and maybe his agent?) to make these choices, and only these choices and stick with it to such a degree. Just look at what he's done: My Left Foot, The Last of the Mohicans, The Age of Innocence, In the Name of the Father, The Crucible, The Boxer, Gangs of New York, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, and now this. With the possible exception of The Boxer, and that only because I haven't seen it and therefore wouldn't know and want to say, and The Ballad of Jack and Rose, which was more of a passion project that he did because his wife wanted him to do, I defy anyone to say that those movies aren't all masterpieces. Classics. Amazing American cinema. And there's no denying that Daniel Day-Lewis was a major force behind the status of each of those flicks.

And this last one's a doozy. Paul Thomas Anderson, whose connection to genius is well-documented, does a superb job of focusing all of the rage of disparate elements into a single burning that consumes everything in the film and everything in the audience's minds for two and a half hours, and violently so. The motif of blood runs throughout the whole movie with the obvious comparison to oil, which dominates every single character's motivations, but there's more to the film than just tracing the obsession with money and the ways they (everyone!) got it.

One of my favorite things about the film is the interaction between man and the church. Not just Day-Lewis' character (curiously named Daniel - wouldn't that be one of the things that you'd change?) and the pastor, Paul Sunday, played by Paul Dano. They have an enmity that radiates throughout the entire film, there's no doubt about that. And a lot of the conflict that we see in all of the interactions stems from that relationship. However, it goes deeper. Both Plainview and Sunday have complicated relationships on their own with the church. Plainview clearly hates the idea not just of God, but of worship, of faith, of fidelity, etc. He has no place in his heart or his mind for anything other than the world. On the other hand, Sunday likes to pretend quite a bit, but the truth is that he's very much the same: he's merely using the church as a means to an end, which is the same for him as it is for Plainview - money.

And therein lies what I think of as the point of the movie: money just might be as bad as everyone has always said it is. No matter what side you're on, it'll still destroy you. And it does, in fact, destroy both of the characters in this movie. It's a damn shame, but it's beautiful to watch. Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

on celebrity.

My mom and Brother Two got interviewed regarding a local institution going from open 24 hours a day every day to closing at 1 and re-opening at 5. Nice to see that the whole family gets the celebrity treatment.

video

Saturday, January 19, 2008

in accusation of the genre.

The most recent assignment I've done in my class with my eighth graders was reading Marvel's Civil War - a comic book, as I've been trying to do since I started teaching. I'm stoked that the Parent Teacher Organization gave me the money to get the books, and I'm amped that the school was supportive enough to allow me to teach a comic book in class. (Some co-workers definitely weren't happy about it, but the administration had my back.) However, there have been some definite problems with the experience.

First of all, it's hard to read a comic book in class in general, I think. There's more than forty years of back stories that sometimes have to be explained, there's the cheesy comic book dialogue to deal with, and there's the sometimes-scandalous drawings of some of the female characters. These are all things that turn a lot of people off comic books for a long time, and thankfully I got past those stages and was able to get into some more serious type of story before I got made fun of for being a comic book dork.

Besides all that, though, I have quite a few complaints about the actual book and the supposed "story" it tells. I read the book while it was coming out monthly, but I was also reading approximately ten (maybe more) other Marvel books at the same time, notably Spider-Man, that made it a lot easier for me to follow the story. When it came down to reading the book on its own with some people who had never read a comic before, I was disappointed to see how little sense it actually made. It's really disappointing, for instance, to see Spider-Man in issue one saying how he was going to oppose this movement, because of the fact that he could come home one day and find his wife and his aunt impaled on one of Doc Ock's arms, then in the next issue he's unmasking in front of the whole world. No character development whatsoever. Not to mention, after that, in issue four, he's all of a sudden fighting with Iron Man to leave the Avengers with no sign of this at all except for Reed Richards making ONE comment that Peter was, "acting suspiciously." What's that about?

Just for fun, I went back and re-read some of my old crossovers, for contrasting purposes. Crisis on Infinite Earths, a bunch of X-Stuff (X-Cutioner's Song, Days of Future Present, etc.), and Batman: The Long Halloween. To be fair, I acknowledge that The Long Halloween took place in a setting where they didn't have to worry about fitting in with continuity or following the book with anything meaningful - although it's also worth noting that they did, in fact, do so.

However, both Crisis on Infinite Earths (which, by the way, I gained a whole new appreciation for while re-reading. It seriously might be the best limited series ever, in spite of my love for The Long Halloween) and almost all of the X-Crossovers had to worry about that and more. Crisis affected the entire universe, just like Civil War promised (and ultimately failed) to do, and the X-Crossovers were always a big deal and were referenced throughout all the rest of the universe.

So, if they could do it then, why not now? When there's so much hype, when there's so much support, when there's so much more than they had back in the day? For what it's worth, Steve McNiven is a hell of an artist, but even today, I think Crisis looks better. And there were none of the delays that we had to deal with now in the 21st century with Civil War when Crisis was coming out!

So why are our "event" comics this bad? Are we settling?

Friday, January 18, 2008

question of the day.

Seriously:

Am I the only one who thinks T.I. looks exactly like Rashard Lewis? I can't help but think this every single time I watch the Orlando Magic play.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

on the cool.

So, Lupe Fiasco has released a new album called "The Cool" and it sounds damn good.

Let me tell you a little story about Lupe Fiasco.

Once upon a time, Lupe was the most-hyped new rapper this side of Kanye West. And he released a song that everyone seemed to think was really amazing, pretty off the hook called "Kick, Push". The song wasn't really that great, but it hit right around the time that Pharrell Williams started calling himself Skateboard P and everyone thought it was going to give birth to a whole new set of rap - skateboard rap. (Nevermind the fact that almost all of the skateboarders I know [whom aren't my students] have listened to rap for almost as long as I've known them.) Anyway, it didn't really seem to work out, people just wanted a new name (skateboard rap) for an old label - backpack rap. And just like that, the next-biggest-thing was kind of forgotten. His name (and album) got mentioned on some best of lists in 2006, but other than that, he wasn't really spoken of.

While all this was going on, I wasn't really feeling him to begin with. I downloaded his first album, Food and Liquor and I thought it had some all right tracks. Of course, I kept the one with Jay-Z, but, interestingly, I thought the sequel, "Kick, Push II" was not only a better track than his single, but better put together musically.

All of this backstory is necessary so that you can be put in the following frame of mind: I don't think Lupe Fiasco is the shit. I wasn't on the train. He was just all right, and I was kind of upset about the fact that he was getting all this press for seemingly just riding the Skateboard P trend as far as it would go.

However, upon listening to his second album (which I'm now in the process of downloading), I think I'll have to be eating some crow. This guy's got it. He's put together an intelligent concept album, focusing on this concept of "The Cool" that really traces it through each track in a way that I haven't heard since Kanye West put out his I Hate College Manifesto. It's well put-together, and Lupe's finally seemingly found his voice, choosing this time not to focus on raps for clevernesses sake, but rather using his voice to say something.

And that something is a concept that I'm interested in, with even Dave Chappelle getting into the gig, asking, what happens "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong" ? Not only keeping it real, though, but this very much applies to this juvenile concept of popularity: what is this thing that we're all chasing, that matters so much to people? And why does it matter so much?

This will be taken up much more at a later date.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

nick collison will always be better than kevin durant.

I know it's not hard to say right now, I mean, one's almost a veteran at this point and one's a brand new rookie with tons of expectations being thrust upon him, but I'm calling it right now: Nick Collison will always be better than Kevin Durant. Nick Collison was admittedly one of my favorite players way back in the day, so I might just be biased here.

But I'm not speaking out of animosity here: I like Kevin Durant. I like the enthusiasm he brings to the game, I like his smile, I like the fact that he's been gracious up in Seattle while they're getting the tar beat out of them every night in and out, and I like the fact that he was fine with getting drafter number two behind the 12 million year old man. I like the fact that he was so willing to show off their pseudo-friendship.

However, I have to agree with this (admittedly humorously-slanted) opinion on Hardwood Paroxysm on the Blazers getting the better of the two choices, even with Neanderthal being out for this entire year.

I do think it's worth mentioning, though, that Blazers fans are happy now to discuss this subject, but they weren't so ready to discuss the peril of choosing in the draft in the days after G.O. went down for the season.

This is not to say at all that I think Kevin Durant is going to be a bust. I think he'll be a solid player. But, just like I've come to accept from Lamar Odom, he'll go out there and get the job done - not much more. He'll have a game every once in a while that'll make people think, "Oh yeah, remember him? God, he has so much potential." But that thought will be wrong. Kevin Durant will be living up to his mediocre talent by playing at an above-average level a couple years from now in the exact same way that Lamar Odom is now.

*

On another note, MacWorld happened today. I haven't extensively checked the geek blogs since reading the comments as it was happening this morning, but my initial feeling was pretty much: meh. Underwhelmed. The MacBook Air, while seemingly very cool, I have no interest in whatsoever. It geeks me out a bit, I like to look at it and see what the guys over at Apple have been spending their time on, but other than that, couldn't care less. The iPhone stuff is good, but doesn't affect me because I don't have one, and have recently decided that I won't be getting one. The Apple TV is the coolest to me, because I can't wait for the day promised to us all through out the mid-90's when everything in our living rooms is integrated. Computer on TV, streaming YouTube, playing music, etc. That'll be a good day.

But despite Apple's best efforts to sell Apple TV, it doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon. People just aren't that interested yet. I don't think. But they will be soon.

It seems to me if this had been ready right when YouTube sold to Google for a billion dollars, it might have had more synergy (ohh! buzz word!) and captured some more of the market. As it is now, they seem like Johnny-Come-Lately to a party that people are still amped on, but nobody's talking about anymore.

Good for Apple for keeping up with their buzz on the event stuff, but I felt a little blah about it this year. Certainly nothing compared to last year's iPhone mania. (Not that I was expecting a match. How could anything?)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

on the leastern conference.

I swear to God, I was going to write this article, but that damn Marc Stein beat me to it!

I had this idea last night lying in bed, but I guess it pays to write for the giant. Not only did he beat me to it, he probably did it better.

However, I do think I have some things to say in addition to his take:

I think it says a lot about the poor state the Eastern Conference is in that the champs (of the entire league!) are in such a poor position and that the Eastern Finals Champs from last year are struggling so mightily against all kinds of teams...including the mighty Bobcats of Charlotte. All this despite a salary cap structure that's explicitly designed to avoid this sort of mishap. It's supposed to ensure parity.

Not only that, but Stein does a good job of pointing out all the pre-season blather we were forced to endure before this one began about how the East was closing the gap, it was no longer a foregone conclusion who would win the title, there were finally real contenders in the East. The only ones who've lived up to that billing are the Celtics, and even they're showing signs of slowing down their tear that has had the rest of the league trembling. (Well, except for Detroit. But they don't tremble for anyone.) Chicago, while I still have no doubt their season will turn around, is crashing and burning. LeBron even acknowledges in the Stein article that the East doesn't produce the best winners and his team's play backs this up. The Knicks have been consistently terrible, but this year, they've taken it to a whole new level. And the afore-mentioned once-mighty Miami Heat...well, they're having enough trouble just keeping a whole team on the floor. The best news they've had recently is that they'll get another shot at one of the cellar-dwellers of the West.

Why is the East so bad? (I mean this question seriously. If you have any ideas, please share them!)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

on one laptop per child.

I know it's a while back at this point, but for Christmas, my mom got herself a gift and did the world a favor at the same time. Y'all know what I'm talking about. So one of the coolest things that I got to do over the break was put together one of the one laptop per child boxes and play with it right away, just like an actual intended target of the product would.



Upon taking the laptop out of the box, two things immediately sprang to mind: First of all, it was remarkably simple. Pure aesthetics aside (which isn't exactly as easy to say as it sounds - the thing is beautiful to look at, even when it's in the box, disassembled), the packaging complements the idea: simple. Secondly, if I knew nothing about computers, I would still be able to figure this out. Just the bag with the computer inside of it and a separate bag with the power cord. Perfect.



Upon taking it out of the box and getting it plugged in, the screen almost immediately sprang to life. The lack of color was a little disconcerting, but I think that's only because I'm a spoiled American.



Finally, though, getting to the internet was a lot harder than I figured it would be. I was able to access Google right away (I'm pretty sure it's the default start page - which is as it should be) but when I tried to access the network at my mom's house (which is encrypted) it didn't seem to be working out. I tried several different times to get onto the network, and access pages other than the generic Google start page, but it never went through.



After I left, Brother Two got the network issues all taken care of, and I've played with the computer since then. All in all, it's a great product - well-designed, well-intentioned, and exceptionally useful in the world in which we're living.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

more on the bad.

So, my friend Kyle linked me to this hilarious take down of the already-infamous One More Day saga and I just have to share it with everyone and anyone I know. If you care at all about comics, you need to know about what's happening with Spider-Man right now, and if you don't care about comics, you should know what kind of jerk is running a major company that some people care about.

The main points I think that most of the fans that have something against this move want to stress are pretty simple. A) There seems to be ample evidence that no one (other than Joe Q) wanted this done. B) Joe Q knew of this seemingly insurmountable evidence. C) He simply chose to ignore all that, just because he didn't like Spider-Man being married.

That's pretty much a wanker decision.

I'm not sure someone who would make that decision should be in the position to make that decision. I mean, it's like saying, you have the power to set off these nukes, but they'll kill everyone on the planet if you do so; do you want this power? And if they answer, "Yeah, I can't wait to blow people up!" Well....Maybe you shouldn't give that person that job. (Hmmm...sounds familiar.)

The numerous interviews that Joe Q has given since this story came out have really made him come across like a spoiled little child, as well. It's sad to see someone who's always (previously to this point) been a pretty good rep for a hobby that gets a lot of bad rep anyway devolve this way into a petty, simple fanboy. I've always railed against that term, because I like comic books and I think they deserve to be taken seriously, and I think the label (and the behaviour that some people do to deserve that label) is bad for the genre. But this time, at the very least, it applies.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

link of the day.

So, a little while ago, I received my beta invitation to the supposed YouTube-killer, Hulu.com. I've been playing around with it today, and I have to say that it's pretty impressive. The streaming is virtually flawless, I haven't noticed some of the lag that I notice sometimes of YouTube. Now, granted, these guys don't have millions flooding their site, because they're still in the testing phase, so they don't have to worry about a billion and a half hits to "Dick in a Box" slowing their site down. However, I do like the way it looks and I think there's some good things even beyond the pure aesthetics of the site worth bragging about.

First of all: they have the first season of Buffy! Awesome. It'd be better if they had the whole series, but I think that'd be problematic, especially after season five's switch.

Secondly, I'm now watching The Jerk with Steve Martin via their site. Pretty neat feature, I especially like the fact that it's working fine on my PC with Firefox. (Netflix, I'm looking at you, you incompatible bastards!)

Third, as I've mentioned here time and time again, I'm against hegemony. I think the more choice any one person has in regards to any one activity (video watching over the internet, politics, even places to eat), the better that person's life is going to be. Even more important than that, it's a healthier reflection on a true democracy. Choice has always been at the heart of our country, it should be promoted as it used to be, as opposed to restricted, like some of the powerful people think it should be nowadays.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

on the fishbowl.

For as long as I've been old enough to know these kind of things, I've known that my town is quite the fishbowl when it comes to basketball. We love basketball. Texas has football, the east coast has lacrosse, the pacific northwest has crew, and we have basketball. Not just the town, the whole state. We're kind of crazy about it. I know this. And it doesn't upset me at all. I think it's great to be passionate about something. However, it does worry me when we bring in a new coach for the basketball team, and he has immediate (and perhaps unrealistic) expectations thrust upon him. Normally, that just means that a few years after we bring him in, we have to buy him out of his contract, for failing to live up to our gargantuan expectations.

When I read this story from the Albuquerque Tribune, though, it made me think that maybe these expectations are doing something different this time. Maybe we're finally getting what we deserve: a coach who will do anything to fulfill those expectations. Not that that's always a good thing. (Keep in mind those rumors about the General. I wouldn't have liked to have seen that. [I know I've read the rumors somewhere, but now I can't find a link. It'll remain empty until I do so.])



When I saw the picture, I grimaced a little bit. I'm uncomfortable with the idea (and reality) of coaches touching their players under any circumstances other than for purely instructional reasons. I think a lot of this has to do with Bobby Knight. He's complicated the issue for everyone, both coaches and players, not to mention fans and casual observers.

As someone who's recently started coaching, it worries me to see this, not least because if I did anything like that, I'd be fired. Right away. No questions asked. And I don't necessarily think that's wrong, but I do think that it heightens the era in which we live.

However. And here comes the kind of jacked up part that reflects where I'm from. As a basketball fan (and a New Mexico native) I realize that sometimes emotion gets in the way and when someone's trying to communicate a point, things come across differently in pictures or videos than they were intended. Not that that excuses any poor behaviour. I just realize that it happens.

The Teacher disagrees and says that it should never happen. (She also says that one person can never cost a team a game, whereas I disagree, but that's beside the point.) I think that by playing the Devil's Advocate, I might be disagreeing with her, but I think it's a point worth making: sometimes those kind of methods get through to kids that otherwise wouldn't be reached in another way. Is that a poor point to make? Am I tacitly endorsing this awful behaviour that I always rail against? I hope not. I'm not trying to do so, at least.

But I do think there's something to be said for coming into such a high-stress occupation, and getting the job done, no matter what. It's sometimes admirable. And sometimes, unsavory methods have to be used. As long as it doesn't cross the line (what line, you ask? I don't have the answer to that) I'm not sure I have a problem with it. We'll see if there's any fallout from this photo.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

link of the day.

Big news of the day from Engadget is the rumor that Netflix is going to team with LG to release a box for your television set. Most likely it'll be embedded with their DVD players and it'll allow you to stream movies from Netflix directly onto your box. Pretty neat, but it makes me wonder if it's going to come with Wi-Fi or if they're going to want an ethernet connection to DVD players from now on? Either seems good, but I think it's likely that it won't be able to connect very well to any wireless networks, at least at first. Should everything go that way? I think it'd be a lot more realistic here in the States, maybe in Europe, but the rest of the world? Well, I'm not sure they're being marketed $700 DVD players anyway.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I'm typing this while watching the 'Final Cut' of Blade Runner which is damn good. More of my fear of robots taking over the future, it was noted.