Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rock and Roll?

Why does every pre-teen have to 'rock?
from High School Musical to Hannah Montana, evry Disney Channel moppet now is either declaring that they rock or are indeed so focused on their own superstardom that they have tragically lost touch with their audience.
Rock music was at one point scandalous, but not any more, years or commercialism and corporate control ahve diluted the pool so much that theres not much happening on the surface.
Becoming a superstar has become the defacto career choice for every child. its a little depressing, and irritating too. I love rock and roll music in all its formats yet i am insulted by the factory produced songs that miley cyrus sings and the almost casual labelling of anyting with the stereotypical uniform on as a "rockstar."
Perhaps it's my love of what i would call 'real' rock music, and music done with passion that makes these 10 year olds proclamations of "rock and roll" so insulting.
Real music is done with passion, and becasue the world has moved you, or you wish to move the world, not because Disney wants you to have a CD to sell in addition to your work on "Wizards of Waverly Place."
Thank God that real music still happens, it's just harder to find in the world. The crap has a higher marketing budget.
And THAT does not rock.
It sucks.

How can 'bad' TV be so good?

I love great TV. Shows like "the Shield," "The Wire," "30 Rock," and "Dexter" make it easy to appreciate why several critics have declared this to be a 'golden age: of television. I would find it hard to disagree. There are some great shows on TV.
However for every shining front, there is tarnished underside. the underside that I refer to is the VH1 show "I Love money," a pig pile of contestants who at one point sought a loving mature relationship with either Flavor Flav, Bret Michaels, or New York (herself a former suitor to Flav)
these contestants now have embraced their emotional vacancy and dedicated themselves towards winning $250,000. In fact knowing that these 'celebrities' have realized that they must have the fuel for fame, money itself, before the can truly achieve the fame they so desire has made them comically desperate. The 'game show' (now rechristened a "reality competition") that "I Love Money" becomes tragically embraces a contest more concerned with cameras and hot lights than actual competition.
The show has weeded out some entertaining characters, such as the dim bulb buffoonery of "Mr. Boston" and the middle-aged desperation of "Rodeo." However the competitor that seems to be the most fascinating is "The Entertainer," a New Jersey resident who at 29 still lives at home in a small basement room. He openly admits he's needing the money to escape his parents oppressive thumb, and yet he seems to struggle with his own motives throughout the show, hooking up with fellow contestants, playing the game with passion but yet still honest about the money as prime mover in his desire for victory.
The show is a mess, and the contestants have very little to endear themselves to anyone. However if you can make the bargain with your soul to sit back and watch them turn on each other like rats in a coffee can, its a brilliant way to spend 60 minutes on a Sunday night.

Fruit Round-Up

When I was a kid we would play a game in wednesday night clubs at church called "fruit basket upset." In the spirit of that game, I will provide a candid and hard-hitting examination of all fruit and rate its overall quality.

Apple: very versatile. good in pie. many choices of flavors and styles (my favorite is Gala, although the tartness of Granny Smith is quite good( on a side note, WHO was Granny Smith, and what about her personality made her tha name given to an overly tart and crisp apple? was she a legitamate 'tart', a woman who is slutty and brash? or was she a strong assertive senior who's quick (tart) wit made her endearing?) )
Rating: 8

Banana: as far a fruit goes, it's easily portable and not too tough, peeling and enjoying it is much neater than the orange, yet lacks the scurvy fighting power and the flavor of its rotund counterpart. However, as a sexual metaphor, its as strong as you can get, easily surpassing the biblical "lost innocence" connotation of the apple.
Rating : 7.5

Orange: i think the juice of this fruit is more popular than the fruit itself. wedges are great for re-charging small soccer players, and entertaining others with the "orange mouthpiece" trick. Its kind of messy to peel and eat, being too sticky to be self contained. However It's unmatched in Vitamin C.
Rating: 6.4

Pineapple: exotic, and at times inaccessible due to an outer skin that's downright scary. once you CAN get past the prickles, the fruit is AWESOME. perhaps it knew that if it was easy to get to such good taste, it would be all over for the pineapple. So it developed the most ugly and fearsome exterior to scare away the wimps. bring a knife, and fight for it....its worth it. Heck, even if it had Scorpions* growing on the outside of it, it would be worth it.
*(Not the German Heavy Metal band)
Rating: 9

Grapefruit: like a big fat orange, it's messy, but much more delicious than the small guy. most people eat it with sugar, so it loses some points there. you should be able to eat it plain without making a sour face.
Rating: 7.6

Grapes: portable and easy to steal at the grocery store. (pop several dozen into your mouth while shopping!) if you are buying them thinking you can make raisins forget it. it takes WAY too long.
rating: 5.8

we will examine vegetables at a later date. Bon appetit!

The Shield: Bad Choices, Good People, Great TV.

The fall television season is now in full swing, as many of the shows that I enjoy have returned for the new (TV) year. Shows like The Office and Heroes I am excited about, they are great shows that I always enjoy, and when they are over, i want more. Hiowever, the best show currently on air (since David Simon's The Wire ended months ago on HBO) is FX's The Shield. Now three episodes into it's final season, Shawn Ryan's sometimes brutal, always compelling, look at corruption in the Los Angeles police department is scary good. When it debuted with much fanfare in 2002, it was compared to The Sopranos. However, on most every account, The Shield trumps David Chase's mega-popular crime drama. Both shows deal with an anti-hero who makes bad decisions as often as good ones. Both have stellar casts, and deal with gritty subject manner in adult terms. Both feature excellent, almost cinematic, uses of music in the telling of the story. However the tale of The Strike Team and it's leader Vic Mackey (played by Michael Chiklis) on The Shield, go above the somewhat conventional, albeit masterfully done, story of that NJ crime boss. Perhaps the most striking example of this is that whereas Tony Soprano is a mafia boss, Vic Mackey is a cop. Tony's actions are violent and law-breaking, they are supposed to be for someone in organized crime. The nature of these actions, and who they are perpetrated upon may surprise us, but hey should never shock us. Vic, on the other hand is a corrupt cop (or is he?) and watching him commit acts that (hopefully) most cops wouldn't commit is jarring and more brutal, if only because of the person who is committing those acts. But Vic isn't a villain, he's a loving father who is struggling to make sense of his now two autistic children, and an ex-wife who requires the same amount of care that his tightrope walk over the void on the streets demands. Vic is sympathetic, not because he's a 'cool' bad guy that we all secretly want to be like Tony Soprano, but because Vic isn't as clearly defined and he may have a heart of gold. His actions all seem to serve the good, even if those actions are bad themselves. The hard choices he makes produce some of the most stressful moments on television, As it is easy to root for Vic to win. The choices he makes are very grey, and he's strong enough and compelling enough to be a character that's not yet destined to one outcome.
The Shield is a story of a man weighing his own soul, and deciding his destiny with every choice. As a cop who walks a razor-sharp line, we can only hope Vic finds finds his life before he loses it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The quicker-picker upper

I Love coffee. I think it may be my favorite drink...ever. I'm kinda hedging my bets because i may have another drink that i am forgetting that I love more. Let me think about this.
...Okay, Coffee has been the most consistent think i have drank (other than water and milk) for the whole of my life. I have been on stretches where i drink a lot of soda, juice or tea (hot and iced both) but i think Coffee has been the anchor. Is it odd that i get excited that there's a fresh pot of coffee waiting for me in the morning? even during the evening, when i find myself waiting something after supper, coffee is usually my first choice. I love that it's easy to make, and yet so delightful. I love that since I don't drink it with sugar of cream (usually), I can drink many cups with only paying a few calories. I love that i can sit with the cup and nurse it, til it gets to be that perfect temperature then I slug it down like a shot. I love that it smells wonderful. I love that its not sweet. Its a little like life: constant, warm, perpetual. It also can be missed if you don't spend the time to appreciate it. so go pour yourself a cup, and enjoy it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I can't believe it, but Christmas is coming soon.
It seems like just yesterday i was packing the car full of presents to deliver to the many stops my wife and I must make during the 36 hour stretch of late December 24th through December 25th. It seems like time has moved so fast in the days, weeks, and moths following the last time i sang "Frosty the Snowman" or "Angels we have heard on high."
But it's already September and i have begun to get emails that are all about the holiday plans my family have. My family is unique that we try to cram in at least six-to-eight days worth of Christmas fun into the six-to eight hours that we all spend together on our traditional "family Christmas. I don't hate it, in fact I love it but It's very overwhelming. Before my wife and I were married i even made her sit and watch a DVD my sister had put together of previous Christmas spectaculars. By the end she was shell-shocked. I kind of was too, it was overwhelming watching all the Christmas's in one concentrated package. It was sort of like drinking Chocolate syrup instead of pouring it into milk and having chocolate milk.
Even though i was overwhelmed, I also realized how much i love the holiday. All my family is together and we are all happy, bad things are forgotten and we all focus on giving each other happy memories in those brightly wrapped gifts. As time goes on and family members pass away, I realize that we must all enjoy what we have when its there, because things change and people who you expect to always be around aren't.
Last year my Dad was in the hospital and missed Christmas. This year he'll be home and I am not going to take it for granted. i am going to enjoy every second of the day, every overwhelming, shell-shocking, crazy second.
I know that I don't want it any other way.
Happy Christmas to you and all your family.

Chad Ocho-Cinco: Hello Money! Goodbye Soul

I am all for drawing attention to yourself. I have spent a good part of my 36 years on this earth acting like a goofball, and some of these times I was actually intending it. However for all the self promotion and craziness that I aspire to reach, I draw the line at changing who I am for money. This is perhaps why I am more than irritated by NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson's recent attempt to make himself bigger than the game he claims to play for the love of it by legally changing his name to "Chad Ocho-Cinco."
Let's examine the facts:
1) His jersey number is 85 and in Spanish that is "ocho-cinco" (at least i think it is, i don't remember much of the Spanish classes i took so long ago)
2) Chad Johnson is not (to the best of my knowledge) Spanish, Mexican or any other group that speaks Spanish as it's primary language. Nor does it seem to be a tribute to his heritage.

Apparently, the only reasons he would have changed his name are
1) He wants to be more 'worldly' by reaching out to Spanish speakers.
2)He forgets his number a lot and "chad eighty-five" was taken,
3) some company who he endorses paid him A LOT of money to eliminate his family name to make money by being a news story for a few days. After all if Prince and Puff Daddy can make news by changing their names, why cant overrated football players from sub-par teams?

Based on these conclusions, the former "Chad Johnson" is either a huge idiot or a huge sellout. I would tend to believe it's the later, although Id rather be the idiot. After all, Ive been doing that for years, and I didn't have to buy all my old jerseys either.

Old Games new ways

I have a Nintendo DS videogame system. It was a gift from my wife a few Christmases ago and I love it. I am a self-confessed videogame nerd so I love the idea of having a portable videogame system that plays some really great games, and and also looks cool. Recently I purchased a game for my DS called "Clubhouse Games." This is a game that is a compilation of 42 card, board, and standard traditional games such as bowling or darts. Its a simple game compared with the high intensity of a shooting game, or a multi-leveled 3-d platformer like super mario 64. despite its simplistic nature, i find myself playing it a lot. Its simplicity is really what makes it so fun. I can relax for ten minutes and play a game of hearts, or Chinese checkers, or I can play a version of Blackjack or Texas hold-em when i feel the need to remind myself how unlucky I am at cards. Either way, the game is a winner, I enjoy it and although I will go back to the crazy advanced games, I will always love playing that same game of solitare that my mother taught me years ago. Thankfully I am able to play it while laying back in my easy chair.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Re-thinking the Oreo.

The Oreo cookie from Nabisco is the number one cookie in the world in popularity. This is according to the countless boasts about how popular the chocolate sandwich cookie is in advertisement's and the number of people who claim it as their favorite. Now chocolate-chip cookies are just as popular with people, but they are as diverse as can be and they are also easily made at home. chocolate chip cookie recipes are like house rules in Monopoly, they are too numerous to mention and as individual as the family who use them.
But when it comes to cookies that you can only buy at the store and cannot replicate accurately at home, the Oreo is the top dog. They have their imitators in the "Hydrox" cookie, and their look is aped in the "duplex" cookies you see on every store shelf, only feet from the Nabisco original. When it comes to taste, every copycat might as well be miles away, over on the shelf for household cleaners or in the row where the new brooms are kept. Oreo stands alone.
In recent years i have noticed the many attempts by Nabisco to expand the base of the Oreo. There have been more spin-offs of the Oreo in recent years than I can imagine. You can only walk done the row in the grocery store and find the Oreo stands alone on a shelf, not because it has no competition, but because it has invited its brothers, sisters, half-brothers, cousins, and all related cookies to the party. There is quite simply, no room on the shelf for the others.
Maybe this is Nabisco's plan, to eliminate competition by taking them out of your line of sight. after all, when you have to choose one cookie bag to buy, Nabisco would prefer that your choice be between the original Oreo, Double-stuf Oreo, Chocolate-dipped Oreo, reverse Oreo, Vanilla Oreo, Oreo Cakesters, Oreo double stuf: mint, Oreo double stuf: Peanut butter, and oh yeah, chips ahoy.
Maybe we really need this many options when it comes to the Oreo, but I don't think we do. The release of the "double stuf" variation years ago was perhaps a good choice, after all what do fat Americans love more than 'stuf'? But the dozen or so variations on the theme seem to have diluted the market. Its like The original Oreo isn't good enough anymore, if we end up with original, we some how feel bad because we have missed out on some of the good stuff (or "stuf".) Oreo's are delicious cookies, and have been a treat for many years, we don't need to have a thousand sub-par copies to remind of this.