Thursday, June 28, 2007

You win this round, ad men.

They've got me. I have no problem admitting it; the advertising has worked. When I first saw it, I didn't think I needed it. Now, I want it. I want an iPhone. I don't normally like trendy gadgets like this. I have never seen the need for a fancy cell phone, as I am using the Soviet Phone Mark II right now. I don't take pictures with my phone, because I'm not 13. I don't send text messages, because I'm not 13. I don't own an iPod, although I do like Apple's unconventional use of capitals in the middle of words. It reminds me of the Irish language. (For example, i mBĂ©arla means in English, and I like it when a word starts with a non capital followed by a capital. It keeps me on my toes, lingually.)

So, this phone does pretty much everything a device this size can. It also looks cool and sexy. Apple products are frequently described as sexy, which is the sort of thing that you typically use to describe Hollywood actresses, not electronics. Can an iPod inspire the same physical response as Natalie Portman? Probably not. (Maybe, if you're talking about the post head shaving scene in V for Vendetta.) Isn't that a funny use of the word, though? It's almost universal. Read any review of a Power Mac, iPod or iPhone. You're going to see sexy come up somehow.

I also like the fact that the iPhone has no buttons. There really isn't anything more aggravating than improperly sized buttons. The Soviet Phone is doing ok, because the phone is gigantic (in cell phone world). A lot of free ones are too small, which is problematic, since when you are trying to push (or mash, for our Southern friends) the number 3, you'll actually get 236 on your tiny lcd screen. Apparently, iPhone's tiny keyboard when you're sending e-mails or text messages (will this phone turn me around on this, assuming I buy it?) is smart enough to figure out what you mean even though you might not necessarily hit the right keys. I think that Marlo may have been a little early looking for a $700 phone at the end of May.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Things I don't really understand: Part I

I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent bloke. I try to read the newspaper, I like Wes Anderson movies, and I speak two languages. Three if you count l33t. But, as awesome as I am, there are a lot of things that come up of which I have no understanding. I'm not talking about things like why we care about Paris Hilton or how come people keep letting Larry the Cable Guy make movies. I mean simpler things. I'd like this to be a continuing series, but looking back at other potential continuing series, like Invented by Terrorists, I don't really have that many. Luckily, I haven't come across too many things that have the evil fingerprints of terrorists on them lately. Good news, everybody.

I will discuss a few of them that have been on my mind lately. Feel free to include some of your own.
  • Smoking. I hear it gives you a buzz and helps keep fat people thin, but think about the costs. It's expensive, makes you smell bad, and gives you cancer. The expensive and cancer part doesn't really affect me, so that's your business, but if you smell bad and get near me, I have to smell you. I don't want that. So, the moral of the story is don't smoke because I'd have to smell your stank.
  • Motorcycles. These are supposed to be fun and fuel efficient, but they're loud and the people who drive them drive like drunken chickens. You might be saying something like, "I have a motorcycle and I resent that!" If that's the case, I'm not talking about you. Unless you drive like a drunken chicken, in which case you should have been called out by someone else by now, jerk. Anyway, there are a lot of things you can do that are fun that doesn't impede me getting to the grocery store to buy milk and ribs. Boy, do I love milk and ribs.
  • Bumper stickers. Do you have a bumper sticker on your car? Why? Are you going to convince me to change my opinion on abortion with a line on the back of your Stratus? Or maybe you are proclaiming your support of the gay rights movement. A lot of folks like to put up the rainbow or the blue equal sign. That's all well and good, but what's the point in advertising that to people on the whom you're never going to see again on the interstate? Rarely do I have revolutionary socio-political realizations while driving. I'm usually trying to pass motorcycles.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Masterful Command of the Obvious (MCotO): My Microwave Oven

Sometimes when you start to heat up your hot pockets in the microwave, you can notice the LCD screen will give you information about what it's doing. It's usually something like "HIGH" to tell you what power level your little appliance is shooting radiation at your snack. Sometimes it's helpful; I'm sure that I have accidentally started regular power when I needed defrost. Really, those are the only two distinctions that are terribly necessary on this particular device. Are you going to freak out if you accidentally set your leftover pizza to "MED" instead of "HIGH"? Not really, because you can just cook it a little longer, unless you have a Monk-level case of OCD.

There are some other cases where it may be a little more serious. Popcorn, for example. Some people have a very specific time and setting at which their popcorn must be cooked. Understandable. This is not a problem with me, though; I worked at a movie theater in high school and now the smell of popcorn popping makes me coil into the fetal position while weeping and breaking out into hives. Although, if I ever am able to beat that, I would prefer my popcorn to be underpopped rather than overcooked.

The thing that caught my eye as I was reheating my delicious leftover stuffed shells (at the default setting, by the way) was that while the microwave was running, there is a little indicator that says "ON". Now, it's possible that I have a good deal more experience using microwave ovens than the rest of the population, but I happen to know that when the machine is running, it makes a sound and frequently activates a light that all serve as indicators that something is actually happening inside. I want to meet the guy whose idea it was to included that feature, and what explanation he gave as to its being necessary. Did they get letters asking, "When I put the food in, how do I know when the microwave is on?" I hope somebody stuck their head inside while it was running and prompted this.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I think that anyone who starts watching a television show or movie in the middle and has no problem in doing so is a sociopath. That's really the biggest weakness with the guide programs that come with cable and satellite these days: when you see something good that's already started, you can't just jump into it. At least I can't, because I'm not a sociopath. This does not extend to sporting events.

This is a neurosis that I think is a lot more rational than some of the others. Interrupting a story or a movie or a tv show is simply unacceptable. The entire picture must be taken as a whole. I know what you're thinking right now. "Where do you draw the line? Do you need to see it from the absolute beginning? What id you tune into a show that starts at 8 at 8:03? Do you simply watch nothing for half an hour?" And that's a good question. Let me explain.

Most shows begin with a cold opening, then show their introductory titles. Saturday Night Live is the most famous show that follows this format. When Darrell Hammond comes up as Chris Matthews interviewing Hillary Clinton pretending to be one of the Sopranos and concludes with deadpanning of "LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT!", that's the cold opening. The introductory titles are the cast credits with the sax music, then it goes to commercials. You have until the show comes back from commercials to start, or else the show is wasted. You can extend it until the start of the next commercials if it's an hour show. That's it, unless you've seen the episode before. Otherwise, you can't watch the show anymore. Or you're a sociopath. Your choice.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Personal Karma

Some time ago I institute a policy that if I saw a douchey looking guy with a girl who appeared out of his league, it was my obligation as an American and a human being to be a jerk to said guy to help him remain humble. It is my small way of trying to help balance out the universe. I'm only one man, but I think I can really make a difference.

I feel similarly about jobs when dudes get them who clearly don't deserve them. Like Ashton Kutcher (who fits in the first category as well) or Seth McFarlane. If I ever run into either of those people and they drop a pen, I am not going to pick it up for either of them. Also, I try not to laugh at their jokes and campaign against them. It's even worse when they suck at a job that I wish I had. Our buddy Seth has one, as does Scoop Jackson. I would feel a little bit better if they sat at home, crying into their poorly written tv scripts and sports columns, wishing they could be engineers. But it still doesn't make it ok.

The one who deserves it most, though, is Michael Moore. He's got that new movie Sicko coming out. I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 in the theaters, and I felt like those people who first move to the United States and see that there's a way to win a free trip to Disney World and then it turns out it's a pyramid scheme or a cult recruitment or something. I was completely duped. It wasn't a documentary at all! He's a big fat liar. And I know that's a lazy joke, but it had to be done.

I don't like to get political in this space, and although this isn't completely politically motivated, it could be construed that way when I say this: don't go see that movie in the theaters. I'd encourage you not to rent it either, but if you must watch it, do so in a way that will minimize the amount of money that Moore will get from it. Because he's a manipulative filmmaker who claims to be a purveyor of fact. I have a higher opinion of Chad than I do manipulative filmmakers who claim to be purveyors of fact.

People like them, too. It's like the unpopular kids/jocks dilemma all over again. These people have convinced the public to like them even though they aren't really that talented. Punk'd? Come on, Ashton. Do you really need to apostrophize the e? And Seth, give it a freakin' rest already. And Michael. Oh, Micheal. You had such potential, but you just couldn't avoid being a big fat hypocrite. Yes, I went there twice.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

All your lint are trapped by us

I was doing a lot of laundry today, because if I didn't my next wardrobe choice would have to involve pillow cases in some way. That eventuality has been sidestepped, so now I will not be looking like a street urchin at church in the morning. I did make a few observations, though, as I was handling wet clothes. One was that clothes function much better when they're not wet. The invention of the dryer must mark a critical point in human evolution. The impact of having warm socks is enough to put this on like the level of drinking glasses. (I mentioned evolution and church in the same paragraph!)

I need to ask, though, is there anything quite as satisfying as rebalancing a washing machine that is way out of whack? I submit that there is not. Returning a washing machine into proper levels of whack must have been the equivalent of slaying a dragon to the 1950s housewife. Or finding a $5 bill on the way to a Braves baseball game. It's the small victories that excited the 1950s housewife. At least, that's what I'm assuming based on stereotypes and old television programs.

The thing, though, that raised (NOT BEGGED) the most questions was the lint trap. Were there dryers way back when that didn't have lint traps? What happened to the clothes dried in such a dryer? Did everyone walk around covered in lint? What did that look like? I hope it looked like this.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Moments of truth

The thing that I had scheduled to accomplish for the day in the lab turned out to be a dead end, so I took care of a few really exciting things: getting a haircut and another gallon of milk. There was another twist to this food gathering trip, though. Cereal. I have decided, after a lot of soul searching, that I enjoy shopping for cereal. I don't really like paying for it; I'm still convinced it's a bit of a ripoff. Bananas or eggs are for more cost effective, breakfastwise. However, eggs take a bit of effort in the morning and you can't relive your childhood with bananas. Unless you're from Costa Rica.

So, as I stroll through the breakfast aisle at the grocery store, I survey the dry goods before me: the bags of generic filth on the left (with names like Jolly-Os and Cocoa Bits), Pop Tarts on the right, and the premium breakfast foods all in between, I had to decide where on that spectrum my early morning desires lie. It was a tough choice, I did look at the bakery for cinnamon rolls as well, but I decided that there were only six of them and I'd either eat two a day and feel like a cow as I try to engineer things, or the last couple would taste like cinnamon flavored rocks. Although they sound like they have potential, that's not really for me. I had to pass, sadly. The Pop Tarts lost me immediately as they were out of the brown sugar cinnamon flavor. There are a few others that would suffice as a secondary, but it would have to be in conjunction with the BSC. No dice.

As I mentioned, cereals are a gigantic ripoff if they are not on sale. Honey Nut Cheerios, which may be my favorite cereal, cost like $18 a box. Unless I can dive into said box, Scrooge McDuck style, I'm just not willing to pay what that cereal costs. There were a few possibilities on sale, though, which would test my mettle. You see, there are healthy cereals which do taste good, and there are sugary sweet cereals which taste amazing. There's an upper ceiling for oats, while the deliciousness of marshmallows in milk knows no bounds. So, I was presented with a dilemma: get something good for you, like Special K or Smart Start, or something just good, like Lucky Charms or Cookie Crisp.

(Also, did you know that they have a chocolate Lucky Charms? I can only imagine what went on in the lab where they made that cereal. "Sir, our experiments to make sugar coated sugar have failed." "Blast, we need to figure out a way to add sweetness to our cereals. Think about the children! All those kids, missing out on all that potential tastiness." "Sir! We've done it! Chocolate Lucky Charms?" "You mean making the marshmallows chocolate?" "No, the healthy parts." "BRILLIANT!")

I toyed with the idea of being responsible and getting Smart Start. But they came in varieties which I don't think apply to me -- should I have gotten the antioxidants or healthy heart kind? I was paralyzed at that point. So I looked over at Special K, which has red berries and also a chocolate variety. I have red berries now, and I have been pretty happy with it. I'll keep it in mind. Then, on sale for the same price, were the 'Charms and the 'Crisp. I caved. I got the Lucky Charms. I had to, really. It had Spiderman on the cover and I've kind of been wanting Lucky Charms for a long time. And besides, they're magically delicious.

I didn't get the chocolate ones. I don't think I could have handled it, I'm not 6 anymore. But tomorrow morning, while I'm eating them, I can pretend!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I see now, baseball is a metaphor for life. It's boring.

This is baseball season, unfortunately. We are in the wasteland of sports that is the summer, and although there are folks who are probably excited about tomorrow night's NBA playoff game, I'm sure it'll pass. I watched some of the NCAA baseball tournament today, and the vile Mississippi State Bulldogs ended the noble Clemson Tigers' quest for a national title this afternoon. But I finished following it on the radio. If you have read any of my work, you know I have rather strong opinions about the commercials. (I write this as if I expect somebody new to come across this page today.) I did see a Sonic commercial I did enjoy the other day, involving some uncertainty as to whether or not one of the characters knows how many letters there are in the standard Roman alphabet. (That's our alphabet, by the way.)

I was going to take this in the direction about how annoying commercials on the radio are, even more so than on television because you don't get the odd Geico or Sonic commercial that makes the whole free tv worthwhile. (Apparently, it costs like thirty bucks to get a commercial on the radio, because they make Alltel look preferable. [Actually, that's not true. Alltel is still much worse.]) I realized, though, as I was getting ready to write about the commercials on radio, that my life was pretty hollow right now. Like those delicious, delicious Easter bunnies.

I was also given a depressing description of the way life goes. I described my days as spending some time in the lab, coming home and talking to folks online afterwards while occasionally watching Law & Order. My mom basically said that's how life goes, except I'll have more money then. You know what? No dice. I don't want to be that guy who wears shirts and complaining about mortgage rates. I want to be the guy who wears shirts and talks about how I wish I were born in the 1820s so I could wear monocles and top hats. If my life were boring, then my blog were boring. Then I would be wasting your time, wouldn't I? I have an obligation to talk about the 1820s rather than mortgage rates, and it's a responsibility I don't take lightly.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Come and get your intense, passionate hatred

I can't take it anymore. I just can't. Every time I see a commercial for Alltel, it makes me hate the hate the Jacksonville Jaguars. Chad, the personification of Alltel, goes on wacky misadventures with the personifications of Cingular, Verizon, T-Mobil and Sprint, and of course, Chad always comes out on top, with the other folks coming off as big nerds. Except, the problem is those misadventures are so inane and the plots make so little sense and Chad is so unlikeable that it's really fortunate for Chad and my desire not to sleep in jail that my super powers don't include the ability to murder with my thoughts.

The most recent one, I think, is where a woman finds Chad on the street and asks him about the plan and then a van pulls up with the four stooges and confronts her about leaving them with her kidnapped pug, Fluffy. Except (plot twist!) it's not her dog, it's some large burly looking man (playing on the femininity of the dog and its name) who chases the four of them away. There are a few questions this raises (note: it does not beg it): why are the four other companies working together, why does Chad wear his hair like that, and who is this burly guy and why would they think his dog belonged to this woman? I hate these commercials so much it makes my teeth boil.

There are others, of course. One involving a "What level dungeon master are you?" "Dungeon masters don't have levels! (snort) Dork." Which on its face is fine, except until this point in the series, we haven't established that the four should be considered as nerds in the sense. It's just a non sequitur that looks like it's trying to hard to be funny. Which it clearly isn't. This exchange follows some pinching. Or precedes it. What difference does it make. There's also something involving slamming a laptop shut, but that's in another commercial.

I still can't figure out why there are so many bad commercials out there, and beyond that, bad commercial series. I can't honestly be the only person who hates that. If any of you say, "Hey, I like those commercials and/or Chad!" then you don't deserve to vote. I don't think I'm being too harsh. Alltel might be approaching Taco Bell levels of obnoxiousness. And truthfully, I'm kind of astonished I lasted this long before complaining about this. Oh good, look what's on tv now: a Taco Bell commercial. It is a good thing I can't murder with my thoughts.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

317 days

I like to think of myself as a reasonably cultured individual, as much as I can be considering I was born in the United States to parents who aren't dukes and in a city without an opera house. I have a pretty solid understanding of foods and what sorts of meals are good ideas in certain cases and I know enough about wines and liquors not to look stupid (for example, Wild Turkey bourbon is not actually made out of wild turkeys). I'd read a couple of books (no, they weren't comic books) and I've seen a lot of movies, many of them "old fashioned" types. I own more than one movie made before 1950 on purpose. However, there are gaping holes in my movie watching that are egregious, and I feel like I need to atone for that in an oddly public way. These are movies that I have never seen, in order of decreasing egregiousness.
  1. Die Hard. I have never seen a single Die Hard movie. Ever. Any of them. I have never seen Bruce Willis walk across broken glass, my exposures to Alan Rickman are limited to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Dogma, and as a result, my standard for action movie series is Lethal Weapon. Now Danny Glover is a communist, Mel Gibson is a racist while Bruce Willis is still busy being hardcore. Where did I go wrong?
  2. Rocky. Again, I have never seen any of them. No running up the steps in Philadelphia, no "Adrian!" and no Dolph Lundgren (who went to Clemson, by the way)/Mr T/Burgess Meredith. It took me a while to understand the "It's over Rock!" "It ain't over, just get me something to drink" Lipton Iced Tea commercial (I had to use context clues). It was, as a result, hard to get excited about Rocky Balboa. I almost feel like I'm still just a boy since I haven't seen one of these.
  3. Psycho. Everybody everywhere knows about the shower scene, the staccato strings and the amazing cinematography to imply the stabbing. It's like grown to be part of our collective culture, and I'm pretty sure if you were to go to a foreign country and make the "Rhee! Rhee! Rhee!" sound, they would answer back with (insert vaguely racist stereotype of a foreign language) "Ah, Psycho!" but they probably wouldn't understand why the p is there. And it's Alfred Freaking Hitchcock. If he had just made this movie he would have been a legend. Or The Birds. Or Vertigo. Or Rebecca. But he made all of them. And, interestingly enough, I haven't seen any of them, either. (I have seen Rear Window and Dial M for Murder, though.)
  4. Caddyshack. I know it's about golf and considered one of the funniest movies out there, like on the level of Animal House or something. I own Animal House, so I have that one covered. But something involving gophers or sprinklers or both, and I feel like I need to rectify this one, probably more than some of the ones above it. I just can't put this higher than Psycho, and the first two are like 8 movies, so they earn their spot simply by proliferation.
  5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High. All I really know about this movie is that Cameron Crowe made it and it has one of the most famous nude scenes ever. Phoebe Cates removing her bikini top to Moving in Stereo. She's married to Kevin Kline now. Wouldn't it be weird to be married to a sexual icon like that? I wouldn't know where to begin imagining that, since I've never seen the movie. I heard it [the movie] wasn't that good though.
  6. Harry Potter. I haven't seen any of the movies or read any of the books. And I put this one last because I don't care. Everyone around me seem to be freaking out about it all the time. This also revives the Alan Rickman component of this, who I wish was in more stuff. (I have also seen him in Something the Lord Made and Galaxy Quest, two movies which makes me want to rephrase: I wish he was in more stuff I actually want to watch.) It also sort of revives the nudity component, because I hear that the kid who plays Harry appeared naked in a play involving a horse somehow. Also, I think it's kind of funny that every pedophile in the country is counting down to the girl in the movie's 18th birthday. I, for one, have no idea how many days it is until then. I'm not putting a picture of her up, because that's just too creepy.
I feel like I have my work cut out for me, and those are only the ones I could think of off the top of my head right now. I own a few movies that I've never actually watched, but they don't quite look like they will make the list. (One of them is Battlefield Earth.) I did finally see the Da Vinci Code movie, but I still haven't read the book. It was ok. And I never know what to say about it, because I heard from somebody I trust that it was a terribly written book and then I hear people say that it was really well written, and it makes me wonder if those people are stupid. I guess it could also be that they are just egregiously missing out on very important cultural touchstones, so that good writing isn't judged by Dan Brown any more than good action flicks are judged by Lethal Weapon.