Friday, July 31, 2009

what used to be coldstone.

I don't know the name of this place, but it used to be Cold Stone Creamery. Now it's some other generic ice cream place which feels that it's advertisements just aren't spicy enough without some inappropriately used quotation marks. So, you know, that's a plus for downtown.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

link of the day.

I have absolutely nothing to add to this blog post from Joey over at Straight Bangin'.

This is a lot along the lines of the fear that I was expressing when I wrote about the supposedly magical number of sixty. The problem with Democrats is that we've never been one solid bloc in the way that other parties that seriously run shit have been. Not just American parties, but political blocs from around the world. If we're going to be serious about pushing an agenda, we can't just cave every time some stupid-sounding new group pops up and wants to be the new big bad spoiler. I'm not talking about electing Democrats simply because they're the least bad option! I'm talking about electing people who consider themselves progressives: people who want to advance the cause! People who are proud of civil rights, equal rights, making things better!

Now, seriously, if you didn't click the first link while it was up there, click it now! You've got to read this.

Monday, July 27, 2009

for sale: illicit materials.

Once upon a time, the fair governor of our state of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, was running for President. (I know, it's hard to believe at this point in time that he thought he could compete with now-President Obama or then-presumed-President Hillary...) It was good for our state, I think, to get a little of that attention, and for him to raise his own name and political profile. I'm a fan of New Mexico and Albuquerque in particular, so anything that gets us more light is, I think, a good thing.

However, it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies when it came to Bill's Presidential campaign. I think Richardson's done some good things. Not just in general, but for New Mexico as well. There are those who disagree with me, of course, as there always are, but that's neither here nor there. I'm not here to talk about vague generalities. I'm here to talk about one particular time, of which I have specific knowledge, where it seems as though (if I have all my fact straight) Richardson made the wrong decision. Let me set the scene just a bit:

Smoking is gross. Like, seriously gross. Why anyone would choose to take up smoking in this day and age when the risks are so well-documented and well-known is literally beyond my comprehension. I just don't get it. There's nothing good about it.

And so, with that background, I think we can all agree (at least, assuming that you agree with the premise) on the conclusion that anti-smoking campaigns are good things. The subversive movie Thank You For Smoking was not only hilarious, but a great anti-smoking campaign in its own way. (Although I'll readily cop that I don't think that was its main thrust.) Anything we can do to educate people further on the risks associated with smoking is a good thing. And anything we can do to stop them from taking that first step into smoking, further, is an even better thing.

So a local marketing firm was tasked to do so. So far, so great. Combining tons of things I like: marketing firms make money, anti-smoking campaigns are great, and the local tag means that I get to feel good about smart people from New Mexico contributing to the world. When we get ready to throw Richardson in the mix, you'd think it'd be the perfect combination. You'd be wrong.

2 Large and 1 Medium

These are (the only two remaining designs of) the shirts that the marketing firm came up with.

2 Small

They're great, right? Clever, with a good message, something that everyone can enjoy. But here comes the rub. Turns out (like I said, if I got all my facts straight) that Richardson didn't really like the idea of something coming from his state while he was gunnin' for that number one spot with the word sucks on it. (Is this even believable? I mean, what kind of grown man has a problem with this kind of language in the 21st century?) So, as the story goes, the marketing campaign was shut down, the shirts were halted in production, and there were only a handful left.

Via nefarious means, I got my hands on a few of the shirts. As far as I know, there's a handful more out there, but they're all in the hands of people who want them. I only have these extra few. And, as I'm in the middle of cleaning house, I've decided to offer them up. If you want to own one of these bad boys, contact me! We can talk about price if it gets to that point. However, before you think about emailing, let me just say straight up: these shirts are seriously small. I think they might be kid's sizes. Seriously. (No, I don't know what they were thinking making them so small.) They're really small. But I think they'd fit a girl pretty well, if that's your style. I only have the quantities listed below the pics. I have no idea if anyone will want to buy these, but I figured I'd put them up here before I just donated them to Goodwill or sold them in a garage sale.

Like I said, hit me up if you're interested. They're great shirts, and you can explain the whole story when you wear them out and people comment on them. Get 'em while you can.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

npr on jay-z vs. the game.

Yes! My good friend from work, Travis, informed me yesterday that NPR would be putting up a story today and the Jay-Z and Game beef, wherein the participants are discussed as geopolitical parallels to the United States and Iran. Suffice it to say, an article that combines my interest in geopolitics, the recent obsession with Iran, the greatest rapper alive, and Mr. Name Dropper? This is too good to be true.

The actual radio piece can be heard here and I think it's necessary that you listen to it before reading this article because, while it's far from my rightful place to argue with Marc Lynch (whose name, by the by, NPR apparently does not spell right in the original article, and who, semi-unbelievably, doesn't have a Wikipedia page), there is at least one thing that he says that I find incredulous.

Just to get it out of the way, he loses credibility as a rap fan (despite his self-labeling as having, "always been a rap fan") when he calls Ja Rule an established superstar, whom 50 Cent destroyed, and again when he defines Snoop Dogg as one of the, "most important, rising powers, or rising powers." However, the piece turns into one of those great (and hilarious) comparisons that you might have in a college seminar class when he draws lines between the Game and Iran and waging war: "He might not win, but he can hurt you if he drags you down into this extended occupation, this extended counterinsurgency campaign."

If the Game is geurilla warfare, I want a detailed analysis from Lynch on the beefs of the past. Talk about LL Cool J! Talk about NWA! Talk about Roxanne Shanté! (Realistically, he could skip the Biggie/Tupac war because, honestly, haven't we had enough of that?) God, the fun that he could have with the moment Eminem entered the game (first [truly, commercially] successful white rapper, backed by Dr. Dre, starts beef with nearly everyone on a superficial, but with some others on a more realistic level) would be worth an RSS subscription alone!

Bottom line is that while this isn't any kind of super-serious analysis and it mainly says things that fans of geopolitics already knew about the world and that fans of hip-hop already knew about this beef (and, honestly, I hesitate to even label this with that word) it's still a fun little intersection. Good work to NPR for having a little fun with a subject that most people attempt to suck all the interest out of.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the juncture of youtube and selling out.

Back in the day selling out was easy. Nowadays selling out seems to actually be kind of hard to me. Let's expand.

I can't really tell if this blog post is mainly influenced by my own getting older, the world becoming flatter/more digital, or some combination between the two. But, seriously, I do think that, whereas when I was a kid in school, quote-unquote selling out was seen as a visceral crime, something to be punished in the most extreme manner possible, it's now something that is literally impossible to track, much less want to punish.

Specifics - I was moved to write about this when Hank Green published this video on YouTube and it led me to watch the embedded one below:

That video was cool, right? Nice animation, cool lyrics, great music, and a good little twist at the end. But here's the thing...the whole way that I got linked to this video was through John and Hank Green's VlogBrothers project where, apparently, they were suffering some criticisms of selling out.

Now, as I was previously saying (and as Alan Lastufka says in his video on lyrics), I'm not sure how to even take this anymore. I mean, the way in which Web 2.0 and the so-called new media are changing te landscape of how we interact is so complicated that it's hard to track these old ideas anymore. It used to be that a band would sign with a so-called indie label and that would be OK, but when they signed with a major label that was selling out. But...what's a minor label anymore? What's a major?

As a test case, let's look at the Shins: Was it selling out when the Shins licensed that song to McDonald's? How about when they let Garden State push their music so hard? Is it selling out for them to leave Sub Pop? (I mean, a label is a label is a label, right?) Or is it OK because they're leaving for an even smaller one? (Sub question: Is Sub Pop still truly an indie label?) I mean, all of these moves were designed to enable the band's music to reach a wider audience, right? And that certainly can't be a bad thing!

But what about when James Mercer kicks out two of the founding members? I mean, that's got to be selling out, right? Kind of...? I don't know! James still has the time and the wherewithal to do radical tracks for the Dark Night of the Soul project...and that's got to be worth something, right?

So...that doesn't clear anything up! What does it mean in the 21st century, when practically anyone can produce their own album (and this Taking Leave album is hardly the first to be produced by people who didn't even physically interact - see, for example, the Postal Service, right?) and consumerism can operate on an individual level to accuse those same people of selling out? Does that mean that if I write a book and get it published that I shouldn't mention on here that I want everyone to buy it? I mean, really? Are we that scared? Does the mere presence of money or a product mean that things have this shady value?

Obviously, I think not. I think it's awesome that we've moved away from multi-national companies essentially enslaving people in order to get their music out. I think it's rad that people can put their own stuff out. And I think that, if we expect art to continue to be made, we need to make a real effort to support those people whose art we truly value.

The concept of selling out, I think, has lost a lot of its threatening meaning in this new world where we can feel much closer, on a personal level, to those people whose art we're looking at, listening to, reading, etc.

Friday, July 17, 2009

the hofbräuhaus menu.

More quotable goodness! At least the March special makes sense, I mean, kind of, but what's with the rest of these? Hofbräuhaus is apparently famous, there's only three of the restaurants in America, starting with Las Vegas (OK), continuing to Pittsburgh (lucky for me, I guess) and finishing in Kentucky (wait, what?). I don't get it, but I don't care, either. Fame doesn't save you from being singled out for using quotation marks inappropriately.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

dark night of the soul.

It's a fact that Danger Mouse is a celebrity. When he dropped the Grey Album it became an instant-classic and plenty of labels wanted to scoop up his talent. EMI Records has a great track record, by the way, of screwing with their artists. So, what do we get when we combine Danger Mouse, EMI, visionary director David Lynch, and the brains behind Sparklehorse?

Dark Night of the Soul! Except...not really.

"Danger Mouse is a brilliant, talented artist for whom we have enormous respect. We continue to make every effort to resolve this situation and we are talking to Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) directly. Meanwhile, we need to reserve our rights."

Ah yes, the reserving of rights. The Kleptones summarize my feelings on that pretty well what with the vomiting noises in the background and all.

The thing about this is...why? Why does great art have to suffer and go through all this red tape, when it's already been made and it's ready to make everyone some money? I mean, it's not like the music isn't available. And it's not like everyone who's interested in this album doesn't already know that! So now what's happening is that the consumers who were perfectly willing and ready to hand over some of their cash now have to be inconvenienced to steal the product that they were willing to buy. Everyone loses.

As it stands, controversy aside, the actual material itself is brilliant, as one would expect it to be. The opening track, featuring the Flaming Lips, captures the tone perfectly. After that, things get a little scatter brained, but, like I said, it's kind of in the way we'd expect when these sorts of people team up. Things continue along in roughly the same vibe until track five, "Angel's Harp" featuring Black Francis on vocals and track six, titled "Pain" which features Iggy Pop. They're great tracks, don't get me wrong, but there's a sonic shift that occurs at this point in the music that seems a little out of place, until the second to last track, which features Vic Chesnutt. The album is mostly a mellow affair, although there are elements to the production that shows how many directions Danger Mouse's brain seems to stretch in - see, for example, the sounds that have been described as a money machine behind James Mercer's vocals on "Insane Lullaby," track nine.

Dark Night of the Soul certainly isn't going to be for everyone, and it's not going to be a cultural touchstone in the way that the Grey Album was. (Unless people fall in love with one of the songs, propel that song to single-dom [BTW, I feel like I could write a whole other blog entry on the songs, reviewing them one by one and going over their likelihood to become commercially viable singles, most of them are that good] and this results in the album getting a lot more promotion. Which isn't impossible, but very unlikely.) However, it is an important piece of art that deserves to be better-supported. While Greg Gillis, AKA Girl Talk, gets to put out his albums simply because the record industry is scared of changing the status quo, that same status quo is squashing the ways in which other pieces of art can be released. We need some change.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

zowie bowie walks on the moon.

Sam Rockwell is my main man. I say this not to garner a pause, but rather, so that everyone who reads this will know that I might be biased toward the subject of his acting skills and toward any movie in which he appears.

That being said, he's got a new flick out, which I first learned about from the guys at Live From APT (which I wholeheartedly urge you to add to your blogroll, BTW) which is called Moon.

Moon is a sci-fi film in the old definition of sci-fi: it's mainly a meditation of human issues, examining what people do when they're put into certain situations, which we think of as extraordinary now, but the author thinks might crop up some day. (Or not, I suppose. I think there's probably a realm for sci-fi authors who don't think that their dilemma is a plausible one, but I think that realm is probably pretty dang small.) Regardless, it brought to mind some of the greater, older films and books (obviously Kubrick, but also Bradbury and Asimov, and that classic Dick) that trumpet humanity over all other things, be they robots, space, magic, or just that ominous place called the future.

The plot concerns Rockwell's character nearing the end of a three year contract that he signed with a company that places him alone on the moon, looking over a vast energy-generating operation. The movie starts with a commercial for the company and they brag that they are the number one source of clean energy for the world. Obviously this is an enviable business position and the movie could have gotten into the more sinister connotations of such a company and what they might do to maintain that position, but instead of dressing up as a conspiracy movie, it simply sidesteps that notion with deft implications, and a one-man tour de force from Rockwell.

Since he's the only one up there (with the exception of his HAL-like computer, voiced by Kevin Spacey in a killer side role), his existence is obviously a lonely one. He communicates with his wife via pre-recorded messages, since the live link is broken, has been for a while, and hasn't yet been repaired. His wife and he have a small baby girl, and when she gets on camera, we can tell that Rockwell thinks that his three year commitment was a mistake.

As the movie hasn't even reached it's halfway point, we get the major conflict which will carry it though to its conclusion: Rockwell discovers himself, out at another station, in a vehicle, almost dead. He brings this other back to the main station and demands that the computer give him some answers, but it's actually the other who does that job for him. Together, they work out the main problem, which I won't spoil here, even though it's not a huge revelation.

The way they get through this dilemma, however, is interesting, insofar as what it says about the society that would put them in that place for that reason, with those expectations. (Never let it said that I don't know how to write a vague sentence.)

The movie's strengths, obviously, rest with Rockwell, who is required to carry everything. He does a great job. The story itself, while interesting, doesn't really get rolling until half way through the movie, though, by which time some audience members might be gone. The flick was only playing at the Guild in Albuquerque, though, so I'm sure anyone who's going there to search this out will be there for the long haul.

All in all, this is another in a long line of great roles and performances for Rockwell, and a solid first stab for director Duncan Jones, who is also otherwise known as David Bowie's kid. I hope that he'll have a bigger cast in his next movie, but that he'll still have the same kind of aim.

Bottom Line: Three Stars out of Five.

Friday, July 10, 2009

cleanliness is next to godliness.

My brother sent me this picture. Apologies for the small size, but it was snapped with a camera phone, and his intentions were pure.

This somehow makes me feel even less safe.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

artest v. wallace.

I'm not going to get into this with the Artest vs. Ariza argument that's been going on in every Lakers fan's mind for the last week or so since this deal went down. Suffice it to say that I loved Trevor. I thought he was a solid piece of the team, and I would have been perfectly content to bring him back for a good amount of money, and that I would have hoped Lamar Odom would have been all right with taking a little less, for the good of the team. But from what I've read, it's not Trev's fault, but rather his agent's and that's a damn shame. So, what's done is done, Trevor Ariza is no longer a Laker and Ron Artest is one.

And then, over the course of the weekend, we started to hear that Rasheed Wallace would become a Boston Celtic. This, to me, is a good move. It's a good place for Rasheed, it's a good fit with the Big Three, and Wallce will do the work there that makes him so unique, contributing to the team in ways that have been well-documented. But with all the love for Rasheed heading over to Team Green, I can't understand the ambivalence toward Artest in LaLa.

Let's look at things just a little bit: Ron's involvement in the Brawl at the Palace was absolutely a shame. It was black mark on basketball in general, and it did terrible things not only to his reputation, but to a Pacers team that honestly seemed like they were this close to greatness. But...has he really gone off the deep end since then? His relationship with the Pacers deteriorated and there were some sad things said. He played well for the Kings, transforming what had been a lackluster team effort into a focused intensity. He went to the Rockets and, again, everyone was worried: "Will he be able to co-exist? Will he flip out?" And, of course, he didn't. He was fine. He brought a great, semi-veteran maturity to the team, and, let's not forget, his presence got them out of the first round for the first time in the T-Mac era. (I know it wasn't solely due to him, but his contributions shouldn't be overlooked.) I'm not even thinking about denying that Ron Artest is a little bit odd. But I find it baffling that people think he's not a winner.

On the other hand, we have Rasheed Wallace. Don't take this the wrong way. I love Rasheed. I love his fire, I love the fact that he delivered a championship to a Pistons team that seemed like it was destined to be great but never the greatest. (I don't love the fact that they beat the Beatles Lakers team.) However, all I can think of when it comes to Rasheed is what Joey said. Roscoe is a monster. No doubt. But he's nothing compared to what he could have been. But, seemingly, everyone and their mother seems to think that the Wallace deal makes the Celtics the faves in the East, while the Artest deal might be bad for the Lakers.

Does the addition of Wallace (with Garnett being healthy) mean that the Celtics get past the Magic this time? I honestly don't know. The Magic are a lot thinner without Hedo, but the addition of Vince shouldn't be overlooked. What about the Cavs? I don't think the Shaq deal was a huge plus for them, but it can't be denied that Shaq is a monster upgrade over (other) Wallace and Pavlovic. I mean, no doubt. The East, suddenly, has a little bit of stackedness going on for it.

Meanwhile, on the left coast, Artest is a more polished version of Ariza. (Let's keep in mind already that I said I love Ariza! I would not have given him up. But business people have to make these tough decisions and I'm glad that I'm not in their shoes.) I mean, what can Trev do that RonRon can't? Artest is a lockdown defender and strokes the three to a dirty degree. His two-point shooting percentage might leave a little to be desired, but at least the dude can create his own shot, to a reliable degree.

I'm sad to lose Ariza. No ifs, ands or buts about it. But if we had to lose him, I'm OK with getting Artest in return. Meanwhile, I'm not sure that Wallace signing with the Celtics improves them (even with Garnett!) enough to get them over the hump of a sizable Big Two (Cavs and Magic are nothing to scoff at) opposition, both of whom went further than them last year.

Monday, July 6, 2009

why did sarah palin resign?

Well. What a wacky weekend. It all started on Friday, when Sarah Palin announced, quite unexpectedly, that she was resigning from the office of governor for the great state of Alaska. Seeing as (quite possibly literally) no one in the world saw this coming, it was a big topic on the talk shows. There have been a lot of people to weigh in with their views (including Rove, who says the move is a 'risky strategy') but I think we all know, the person I'm most interested in reporting on: John Green. Of course, John had some things to say about Palin's resignation. Let's let him say those things.

Yep. He's pretty smart. However, let me disagree with him just briefly. While I agree that she obviously didn't resign for the reasons she gave (which, as an aside, were even more convoluted than John makes it seem...) I really do think that she resigned because she thinks it's a good move in her jockeying for position in regards to a Presidential run in 2012. (This being said, I'm not comforted [if that's even the right word] by the FBI's recent denial of their investigating Palin for corruption charges. If they were, they'd certainly deny it. If they weren't [or aren't], I guess it's good of them to deny they are. But the denial itself means nothing to me. It's still open as a supremely distinct possibility. And, as John said, if I turn out to be wrong about this, and there is some huge scandal that's brewing and ready to explode, I won't mind apologizing for being wrong.)

Here's why I think Sarah Palin did this and why I think she thinks it's a good move for 2012:

Sarah Palin has never, not once, not one single time, done what we'd expect out of a smart, expedient, traditional politician, when faced with a choice. (OK, maybe once. When John McCain offered her the chance to be his running mate, she took it. That was the smart and politically advantageous thing to do.) But seriously. And I'm not trying to be super-liberal guy here, bashing on Palin. I'm just trying to look at her record and call it like I see it. I've never seen her make a choice that another politician would. From her debate prep to her post-election comments, from the corruption trial that involved her husband to the ways in which she interacted with the special needs community, I've never seen or heard of Sarah Palin doing what advisers would say is the right or smart or politically correct (not as in P.C. but as in politically advantageous) thing to do. That's not an aspersion, necessarily, and, again, I'm not trying to play politics (no pun intended) with the labels of 'right' or 'smart' - I just think that she's untraditional. (And, since I've gone out of my way to clear myself of any bias previously, let me say now, I don't care for those positions that she's taken.)

Palin is now (or will be at the end of July) in position to make a lot more money, as John noted for point two in his video. I think she's going to use that advantage to push her agenda and remain in affluent political circles, despite the fact that, as of August 1, 2009, she has no real place in those circles. I think that if an ordinary politician looked at the calendar and saw that the Presidential race of 2012 was, in fact, more than three years away, they would keep the political job they have as of this moment, and, perhaps, serve out its full term. I think that this would be a smart move on a politician's part. However, I think that Sarah Palin thinks she's gotten too big for Alaska. The key line to read in her Facebook address is this: "How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it’s about country." That seems to me as clear an indication as anything that she views her resignation as a step forward in serving the country.

I can't imagine anyone else doing this or seeing it that way. To Palin, that previous sentence, if uttered by someone in the mainstream media as opposed to here on my smalltime blog, would be picking on her, or applying a double standard. To me, she's the one who's doing so.


I do want to append this video that I ganked from the boys at Live From APT (which is a killer blog, add it to your roll if you haven't already) wherein Anderson Cooper tries to make sense of this move with Palin's Communications Director on the phone. The key line to take is a direct quote: "She has no plans for anything at this particular time." Truer words have never been spoken.

Friday, July 3, 2009

more quotable goodness.

In Pittsburgh, there's this extremely famous sandwich shop called Primanti Brothers. Nice name, right? A little culture, good food. Except...they pronounce it here puh-manny. It was so bizarre that when we got there, I asked Kat if she was taking me to a knockoff place. Regardless, the food is exactly what they say it is and it's the perfect place to go at the end of a night of tying on a good drunk, as many Yinzers told me. All this goodness, however, doesn't save them from being exhibited in this spot of shame for my most well-documented pet peeve.

I really was tempted to try for some pun on fresh and delicious, but I'll let it speak for itself.