Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BONUS: Epic Skatboarding Video of the Week

(Note from Dan: because Nick never learned how to ride a bike properly, which might have something to do with his homosexuality, he got into an accident and was unable to post a video last week. So now you get two videos this week! Score! Take it away, Jimmy.)

When I was in LA the other week, I managed to catch the exhibit that the Museum of Contemporary Art was running on street art, appropriately titled "Art in the Streets". I had the standard art-school skepticism of the the exhibit, but once you get past the queasy feeling of watching all of these legends of illegal art get completely co-opted by both the high-culture elite and a bevy of corporate sponsors, it's actually pretty amazing.

The show includes the predictable assortment of Banksy stencils, Shepherd Fairey prints, and Space Invader mosaics, but does certainly have a few surprises. - like a whole wing that was converted into a psychedelic black light cave, and a remarkably detailed haunted house-like recreation of a sketchy New York alley. Though one of my favorite parts of the exhibit was actually a small room full of beanbag chairs in which they were projecting a compilation of Spike Jonze skate videos.

Like anybody who watched an excess of MTV in the mid-90s, I've been a fan of Spike Jonze's music videos since before I knew who he was or that music videos had directors. I also have a similar fondness for his feature films and at least a healthy respect for his commercial work. I've long been aware that Jonze got his start directing skate videos and that he still makes them from time to time, but I'd never had any desire to watch any of them, for much the same reason that I don't feel any reason to watch anybody else's skate videos - they're repetitive and monotonous. How many different ways can you shoot a guy injuring his groin on a rail. It's like listening to a Ramones album if you're not really interested in punk music.

I assumed that even Spike Jonze couldn't come up with anything more interesting than fisheye lens shots of guys grinding park benches, but I couldn't have been more wrong. It seems that Jonze has figured out that what's always been missing from your standard thrash-and-grind skate video - PYROTECHNICS.


This video, which is the opening sequence to the feature-length skate video Fully Flared, has a lot going for it, not least of which is the kick-ass M83 track that supports it. Though mostly what I kept thinking when I saw this was just - jesus, how did nobody get horribly maimed in the process of filming this thing? Obviously the point of any great stunt is to look infinitely more dangerous than it really is, but I just can't fathom any situation where you could have cement blasting directly into your face without at least getting a little scraped up. Consequently the best part of this video is the super slo-mo grimaces on all of the skaters' faces as they try to shield their eyes and brace for the impact while getting smacked with little bits of dust and debris. It's exactly the kind of goofy earnestness combined with virtuoso cinematography and seamless visual effects that make all of Jonze's work so enjoyable.

I'm hoping that the folks at Palm Pictures will come out with a new DVD of Jonze's work that includes some of this, but in the mean time, if you need further evidence that the man's skate videos are every bit as good as the rest of his work, here's two more. Enjoy.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

H.E.L.P. ME

*Author's Note: Dearest Readers, you may have noticed my absence from this blog. Let it be known that while Dan is something of an asshole, he is not the reason I have not posted recently. Truth be told, I am a danger to myself and others (mostly myself though). After a recent accident that left me in the hospital, I'm now on the mend and have much to talk about here on Nerd Outrage.

Here's our music video of the week. In light of my recent accident and rehabilitation, I've decided on Human Education Against Lies' epic 1991 track Heal Yourself.


What I love first and foremost about this video is that if Do The Right Thing were a musical, this should have been the closing number. Maybe Danny Aiello could have contributed a verse as well. It's like the whole block decided to have a cuddle party, but cooler.

Second, I loved positive hip-hop as a child (my parents never informed me of the existence of gangsta rap. Talk about breeding ignorance). This is the cliff's notes of the genre, and you can spend a good evening wiki-ing every single performer and come out feeling slightly less guilty about supporting the degradation of the African American community's self image.

Third, this video makes me wish we froze fashion in the early 90s and just stopped. It's the baby bear of clothing. Pants are not too baggy or too tight, shorts are manageable, T-shirts aren't assembly line Photoshop jobs, and hats are appropriately floppy. Everything is just right. Now that that's settled it's time to do something about all this racism, sexism, crack addiction and the broken education system.

Was True Blood Always Terrible?

Please, for the good of the show, get naked.
 I've seen every episode of HBO's True Blood so far. At its best it's entertaining, funny and chock full of nudity. At its worst, it's silly, boring and chock full of nudity. All in all I have enjoyed the first three seasons of the show, despite its many flaws. But Sunday's (remarkably disappointing) premiere of season four got me wondering - has the show always been terrible, and I just didn't realize it? After all, this happened to me with Heroes, which had a pretty good first season and then turned into utter garbage over the course of the next two with the help of a writers strike (I did not watch season four). While I think it would be unfair to write True Blood off after one shitty episode, it has shown many of the same warning signs that, in hindsight, Heroes also displayed.

For starters, I'm comparing it to Heroes. That's red flag number one, because Heroes was fucking terrible after season one. But that isn't really a similarity. Let's compare, without doing any real research, the parallels between the two shows, shall we?

1.) Introducing lots of new, completely uninteresting characters. Does anyone really remember or care about any character introduced to Heroes after the first season? If you watched the show, you certainly remember Dania Ramirez, but do you remember her power? Or her character's name? Or - and you're lying if you say yes - her worthless brother? No, you remember her because she's mad hot. And that's fine. That's why she was on the show. Any compelling characters Heroes may have had were there from the start. The same goes for True Blood. The show has several awesome characters, but they've all been around since the beginning. Any interesting new characters - Russell, Simon - tend to get killed off or written out by the end of the season in which they first appear. Yeah, he looks great without his shirt on, but does Alcide really contribute to the show? Or Sam's brother, Tommy? I understand that in the case of True Blood these characters are from the books - which I have never and will never read - but at some point one would think that Alan Ball, the genius behind Six Feet Under, could say, "You know what, let's NOT bring in the girl that turns into a panther."

2.) Forcing the same shitty original characters down our throat. We'll call this the Peter Patrelli Corollary. There was some intrigue surrounding Peter in the first season of Heroes, but terrible writing and Milo Ventimiglia's shitty acting quickly put a stop to that. Tara is the obvious parallel here. She was mildly compelling and funny in the beginning, but 94 tragedies later I just. stopped. caring. And now she's a MMA-fighting lesbian in New Orleans? Okay. Whatever. That makes sense, I guess. Still not interested, and she's STILL wearing a bra during sex scenes. We know how I feel about that. Otherwise True Blood has been pretty good about its core characters being interesting (you've come a long way, Sam Merlotte), but Tara is so awful that she gets her own section. I honestly thought they might kill her off last season, and I was really, really disappointed when it didn't happen.

3.) The misuse of good characters. Does Lafayette REALLY need to be a witch? Fuck and no, he doesn't. Lafayette was already the best non-Eric character in the show before they gave him powers. When someone is already a sassy, make-up wearing, drug dealing, politician fellating short order cook, he does not need to join a goddamn coven, even if Jesús (who fits into point #1 as well) insists that's not what it is. (That's SO what it is.) The whole witchcraft aspect of last season was a weak point. We don't need to bring it back. Lafayette was already perfect. The Heroes side of this coin in Hiro and Ando. Far and away the best part of the first season, the two of them started jumping their own sharks shortly thereafter. Why did Ando acquire powers? He was supposed to be the guy without powers. And did Hiro really need to to time travel? (Hint: NO.) Teleportation AND being able to freeze time is already pretty much the most badass combination of powers imaginable. He didn't need to be in feudal Japan for half a season. Oh, and didn't he revert to the 10 year old version of himself inside his own head for a while? Guhhh, fuck you Heroes. You're worse than Entourage.

Now, one bad episode does not make you Heroes. You need to string together multiple shitty, shitty seasons with some of the worst dialogue ever written to get there. But it can be a harbinger of things to come. Was True Blood always terrible? Well, no, not really. It's always been stupid, but it was entertaining, sexy and fun. And it's far and away the best vampire-based entertainment since Buffy. That said, I'm worried. The premieres have been excellent and fast-paced in the past. This was not. (Ten minutes in Fairieland was eleven minutes too many.) I'm certainly not going to bail on this show before this season finishes, but based on past experience, it's safe to say I've got one foot out the door. I hope they can convince me to stay. After all, it's not like Mad Men is coming back anytime soon.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Basketball Wives?


The 2011 NBA Draft in all its underwhelming, top tier talent deficient, foreign born player laden glory has all but wrapped up at the Prudential Center in Newark. As "meh" as it all may be, NBA fans might have to savor the flavor; if all the ominous labor unrest develops into a lockout between owners and players it may be the last televised NBA related programming for an indefinite amount of time, with the possible exception of the 3rd season of VH1's reality series "Basketball Wives".

I haven't actually seen a single episode of the series nor do I really intend to, but after seeing about a million promos for the show on VH1, I became mildly curious as to find out at least what NBA players where these mean, bickering, catty, tightly dressed women were married to. When I looked it up, I was quite surprised and somewhat cheated by VH1's extremely loose definition of the term "basketball wives". When consider a reality show based on "basketball wives" it would not be unreasonable to assume that the show would be related to women who are wives of basketball players (at the very least a married woman involved with the sport of basketball). It seems fairly straightforward and unambiguous. However, let's look at the credentials of the actual cast:
  • Meeka Claxton: Currently married to former NBA player Speedy Claxton. The newest wife on the show, she is currently the only basketball wife who is actually a wife. Unfortunately she just misses straight up basketball wife status due to Speedy's retirement in 2010.
  • Shaunie O' Neal: She is also the creator and executive producer of the show. She was married to recently retired superstar big man Shaquille O'Neal from 2002 to 2010. Apparently the series starts just after she gets divorced so while she was an actual basketball wife for many years, she does not fit the description by air time.
  • Jennifer Williams: Ex-wife of not quite NBA star Eric Williams. The pro was that she was at one point a basketball wife, the con was her husband was mediocre journeyman Eric Williams. Both points are currently moot.
  • Tami Roman: Married to former NBA All-Star Kenny Anderson from 1994-2001. Despite being a decade removed from her original basketball wife status, the fact that she was even married to a decent NBA player still puts her in the top tier of this weak lineup. In addition her experience as a member of the "Real World: Los Angeles" cast also gives her serious reality show credentials.
  • Evelyn Lozada: Ex-fiance of former NBA star Antoine Walker. I always thought ex-fiances only existed in romantic comedies when the woman/man realizes they should be with their real love and cancels the wedding. It says as of 2011 she has become engaged to NFL star Chad Ochocino, which would make her a football wife. Shouldn't that disqualify her already tenuous basketball wife status?
  • Royce Reed: Former girlfriend of NBA star Dwight Howard. The weakest case for basketball wife status. She did have a son with him, which helps her out a little, but then again does that entitle Larry Johnson's four baby mamas a show (hmmm...note to self: write treatment for reality show about Larry Johnson and his baby mamas/kids, "LJ at Play". Consider backup series with Travis Henry ("First and Ten").
  • Suzie Ketcham: Former girlfriend of former NBA center Michael Olowokandi. This is an even worse bona fide than Royce, at least she can take pride in having once had a relationship (and a kid) with a one of the biggest current stars in the NBA; all Suzie has is a former fling with the Kandi Man, one of the biggest draft busts in league history.
  • Katelyn Faber: Alledgedly sexually assulted by Kobe Bryant in 2003. Just kidding, but it's oddly not that far removed from the types of casual relationships that seem to qualify for basketball wife status; and given VH1's complete lack of moral compass when creating reality shows, it shouldn't be totally ruled out for season 4.
So there you have it: one current wife of an ex-player, three ex-wives of ex-players, one ex-fiance of an ex-player, two ex-girlfriends (of one current and one ex-player); and zero actual basketball wives. To the show's defense I guess it was just easier to go with the current title than "Women Who Had Relationships with NBA Players In Varying Degrees". I didn't bother doing a background check on VH1's other wife series "Mob Wives" but I suspect similarly loose definitions (this whole thing really gave me a new found apperciation for the integrity of the "Real House Wives of..." series; say what you will but they are actually housewives). Incongruous and disingenuous? Sure, but then again so is a supposed music video channel running mostly reality programming.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Take It Off!

I have recently started watching the Showtime series Californication from the beginning. In addition to being a smart, funny, well written and overall pretty darn good show, it doesn't skimp on the nudity. While this is certainly skewed in favor of female nudity, there's no shortage of David Duchovny's ass either. The primary reason for all of this nudity is the abundance of sex scenes. Duchovny's character, Hank Moody, seemingly has sex with a different attractive woman every episode. But even Californication, a show that no one would accuse of being conservative, is occasionally guilty of one of the biggest sins in entertainment today: the nudity-free sex scene.

Allow me to clarify exactly what constitutes an unacceptable lack of nudity in a sex scene. Every actress (or actor) has a right to not be naked on screen. Even when the script calls for a sex scene, you can pull it off acceptably without baring all. Stay under the covers. Use strategically placed limbs. Keep the lights really low. All of those are perfectly okay solutions, even if they are disappointing. What is not okay, however, is keeping underwear on during a sex scene that takes place in a bed. Depending on your definition of sex, I've had sex between 0 and 17 times. Not once has a bra stayed on. And I've asked plenty of other people, both male and female, none of whom consider leaving a bra on to be common behavior.

And yet, on TV and in movies, it happens all the time. In Californication, there have been a couple of particularly egregious instances. The one that sticks out the most vividly is in the first season when Hank is snorting coke off the ass of a hooker named Trixie - post coitus - who happens to be wearing a bra and panties. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I have never snorted cocaine off of any part of a hooker. But I cannot imagine any situation, in the grand history of snortable drugs and prostitutes, where a prostitute would put her underwear back on after sex and then proceed to have cocaine sprinkled onto and then snorted off of her body. That's just impractical.

But that's just one instance, and nowhere near the worst. Katherine Heigl wore a bra during several sex scenes in the overrated, emasculating chick flick known as Knocked Up.
What's more improbable, the bra or the fact that her character didn't abort Seth Rogen's baby in a heartbeat?
Heather Graham would have gone nude in those scenes. (And Heigl would be lucky to have a career as successful as Graham at this point.) But not Katherine. She's content to just keep making one shitty film after another in her underwear.

And then there's my personal favorite (or least favorite, I suppose) instance of an actress shirking her responsibilities as dictated by the script: Jessica Alba in Sin City.
Behold, the first ever non-stripping stripper.
To be fair, Alba's character didn't have any sex scenes in the movie. But she was A STRIPPER. A stripper that is, in several scenes in the movie, dancing on stage IN A STRIP CLUB. A seedy, filthy, full of murderous badasses strip club. And exactly how many times is Jessica Alba naked on screen? Zero. Not a one. And I don't buy the whole career suicide angle when it comes to actresses doing nude scenes. Halle Berry still has a career. Julianne Moore still has a career. And the aforementioned Heather Graham still has a career simply because she'll get naked any time, anywhere. For untalented actresses - and Graham and Alba are indeed untalented - a willingness to take it off will lead to more job opportunities, not fewer.

And before you go and accuse me of being misogynistic, male actors have a nudity obligation as well when the situation calls for it. That said, breasts, which are more often than not aesthetically pleasing, aren't on the same level as frontal male nudity. A cock shot every one in a while keeps the audience on its toes, but too much of that and you're in porn territory. (And the reason I don't turn to porn for all my nudity needs is the same reason I don't drink 14 beers every time I want a beer. A little bit of situational boobage can be very refreshing.) I think a fair ratio is something like 5 racks for every one penis (also known as the Spartacus: Blood and Sand ratio). And only when the situation calls for it. After all, I'm nothing if not reasonable.
                                                

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eat Shit

I’m known as an adventurous eater. I’ve eaten bugs, brains, balls, and food that I’ve dropped on the L train floor. My general philosophy on food is, if it’s eaten by some culture somewhere, then I’m open to trying it. I don’t understand people that cringe at the sight of Andrew Zimmern eating maggots or Icelanders scarfing down some hákarl. People eat food because it tastes good, at least to their palette. There is no culture that makes dinner around the premise that what they are cooking is disgusting. And only a truly warped culture considers real food, even bugs, offal, and otherwise as more bizarre or unappetizing than frankenfood stuff like margarine or cheese product that is created in a Monsanto laboratory.

That being said, there are always developments in food processing that even more fascinating than revolting. Recently, the Japanese have been getting a lot of press from making food out of human feces. Somehow, this guy has extracted proteins and lipids from human shit, added soya and steak sauce, and made poop burgers. Leave it to the Japanese to find even more unthinkable uses for human waste.



The above video has been making the rounds on different social media outlets asking if anyone out there would eat such a thing. And let me put all your doubts to rest, I would certainly eat one. In fact, if poop burgers ever become reasonably affordable, I will video tape myself eating one and load it right onto this very website. Whether or not people will eat it, is not really that interesting of a question though. People eat all sorts of outrageously disgusting things all the time. Just go to a country fair in the south, or stop by your local 7-11 to see what sort of culinary abominations people are routinely ingesting.



I have so many more questions about this new coprophagic creation. First, how many poop burgers does the average human dump create? Could I open a restaurant solely from my daily deuces? Do the contents of my previous meal change the taste of each burger? The implications this would have on day to day meals is tremendous, but I’m sure in the hands of a talented chef, could lead to nearly endless possibilities in the kitchen.

Another important question is how often can nutrients be extracted from shit? If I am on a low carb Atkins diet, and my main source of protein is shit burgers, how long will I be able to harvest my own poopies for sustenance? Will I have to ship them to a lab for processing or will they be making a Kitchen Aid attachment so I can do this myself?



Finally, what would my shit even look like after consuming these poop patties? Would my shits have the solid, curving forms that I have become accustomed to? This is important, because it will be much easier to harvest solid, well formed shits, than the splattery residue that sometimes come after eating low quality protein.

Given the rise in popularity of eating locally and sustainably I can only imagine that the next step in all of this is to start harvesting your own shit and turning it into dinner, right from the comfort of your own home.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Feelin' Outshined

Having spent the last week in Los Angeles, it's difficult not to feel a bit of nostalgia for the 90s. Between the perpetually clear skies and the rows of immaculately placed palm trees, how could you not feel like you're living in an episode of Melrose Place (or maybe a Tupac video depending on the neighborhood). So as I was weaving through the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway in my rented Prius trying my best not to go careening off the edge, I couldn't help but get flashbacks to one of my favorite video games of that period - the classic motorcycle street-racing/beat-em-up known as Road Rash.


Though the game was released in several incarnations on the Genesis, the ultimate version of the game was the one that was released on 3DO in 1994 and later ported to PC and Playstation (full disclosure: I'm one of three people who actually owned a 3DO - a fact that this game is partially if not fully responsible for). It's certainly a testament to the game's primitive sense of realism that the entire time I was driving down the coast the other day I literally couldn't get the vision of myself hitting a tree and falling head-first into the ocean out of my head, nor the instinctive panic and desire to reach for a club when I saw a highway patrol bike.


Looking back on it, it's actually really difficult to overstate just how fucking great that game was. The graphics don't look particularly impressive by modern standards, but considering the whole game was sprite-based rather than the proper 3D polygons system that we've come to know and love, the game had an amazing sense of realism. Also, the live-action cinemas that the game played whenever you won, lost, "wrecked", or got "busted" were incredible - perfect 30-second white trash vignettes with gonzo MTV-style photography. The physics of the driving were also far superior to pretty much anything that existed up to that point, and luckily pre-dated the Gran Tourismo super-physics that requires that you have the driving chops of Mario Andretti if you actually expect to have any fun. The combat was simple but thoroughly satisfying. I mean, what more could a desensitized 12-year old boy want than the opportunity to relentlessly wail on motorcycle cop with a chain until he comically nose-dives into an oncoming car.

Of course, the thing that really set the game apart was the soundtrack. Man, did that soundtrack ever rock. Certainly it was one of the first games to license actual recordings rather than the synthetic blips and beeps or yore, but it was really the selection of the songs that solidified it as a classic. Not only did it include three of the best songs that Soundgarden ever recorded, it also contained one of the best and most eclectic mixes of early 90s alt rock ever assembled - from the thrash metal of Therapy? and Monster Magnet, to the washed-out shoegaze psychedelia of Swervedriver. And like any great piece of art, the game was infinitely greater than the sum of it's parts. The cheeky humor and the kick-ass tunage made what would otherwise be an above-average racing game into an epic hard rock fantasy world.

Which is why it baffles me that the folks at Electronic Arts, who just last year lovingly brought back the greatest basketball game of my youth, have not managed to do the same for street racing. And while it's true that the late 90s saw several moderately successful re-boots of the game, we have yet to see what game designers can do with the game on a proper 21st century gaming console, or even an iPhone and iPad for that matter. I mean, there's no shortage of crappy motorcycle games on the app store. Why not put some resources behind it, license some decent tracks, and actually make something worthy of my commute?

Who knows. Maybe I'm just being impatient, and the re-boot is already in the works. Or maybe the market is just over-saturated with games about automotive crimes. In any case, I guess I'll just have to content myself by throwing BadMotorFinger on the stereo and playing Mario Cart again.

Friday, June 17, 2011

But all that I want is a Shady Lane...


French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (dude who wrote "The Little Prince") once said that "perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." That about sums it for my feelings about the song "Shady Lane" by Pavement from their 1997 album "Brighten the Corners".

"Shady Lane" is definitely my favorite Pavement song (although full disclosure, I'm at best a casual fan of Pavement. I felt like I was the only person in NYC under 35 last summer who didn't go to one of their seemingly endless set of concerts after they united and were officially declared "Indie-est Band Ever") and really a top tier song overall in my personal universe of music. As a whole it's a well crafted pop song. There's a real pleasant, breezy, jangle filled, catchiness to it with a pleasant splash of weirdness and idiosyncrasy to keep things interesting. For some reason it reminds me of "The Adventures of Pete and Pete", fun and nostalgic but inherently off center (I think the track would have fit like a glove on the show's soundtrack).

Then the song ends and that minute and a half long outro begins. I didn't even know it until I looked it up, but it actually has its own name on the album "J vs. S". For a song that dives right into the music and lyrics and wastes to time in getting started, it sure takes an unnecessarily long time wrapping things up. Personally it's this completely incongruous, languid coda that saps most of the energy and good vibes of the initial part of the song. Now, I'm a fan of a well placed long outros and pairings as much as the next guy; I can't imagine "Layla" without that long piano outro and any playing of "Need You Tonight" always feels empty to me without "Mediate" immediately following up. However when it comes to "Shady Lane", that outro just doesn't do it for me.

Aside from the momentum killing sharp contrast in sound, I find it takes up a disproportionate amount of space on the track and makes what should be a perfect two and a half minute song into a hefty four minute one that clearly overstays its welcome. This extra running time in turn makes it occupy a needless extra chunk of precious mix CD time any time I put it on a mix (which I do occasionally since it is indeed a great song). Even the fitting Spike Jonze directed music video doesn't bother taking up time with the outro and ends it at the ideal point.

In the end though it's just a minor complaint, the damage isn't irreparable and the song is still golden. Perhaps I should look into more of this "Independent Rock and Roll" that the kids are listening to these days.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Kitchen Confidential": It's Been Done

As someone who has worked in and out of restaurants for the past decade, I am a fan of Tony Bourdain's writing. I have done the majority of what there is to be done in the restaurant business. I've washed dishes (for one shift - never again). I've worked in a kitchen (making cheesesteaks on 3rd Ave, as a living cliche). I've bussed tables. I've run food. I've waited tables and I have been a bartender. I have worked at good restaurants and I have worked at shitty restaurants. I have worked at successful bars, and bars that were on the verge of bankruptcy. And I have worked for and with every kind of asshole imaginable, as well as for and with some of the best people I have ever met. Given my experience, I can personally confirm just about everything Bourdain has said about the behind the scenes aspects of restaurants, which is one of the reasons I enjoy his work as much as I do. By his own admission, it was written for people like me.

What I did not know when I began reading Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell this week was that the first part of the book, which takes place in Paris, was essentially Kitchen Confidential: Paris, 1928. The novel, which is semi-autobiographical, details Orwell's experience working as a dishwasher (or plonguer) in a busy Parisian hotel kitchen, and then later the kitchen of a small, poorly run restaurant. The entire account of an impoverished, overworked existence in Paris in the late 1920's is fascinating, but the part I found to be the most enthralling was the fact that, in 80 years, essentially nothing has changed when it comes to how restaurants work.

Okay, so chances are your waiter won't be wearing a tux these days. But little else has changed.
 Obviously technology, and therefore working conditions, has improved since 1928. But the framework of a restaurant? The mentalities of its employees? That hasn't changed one bit. Cooks still hate the waiters. Waiters still simultaneously hate and envy the customers while kissing their asses. Dishwashers still resemble slaves (though technology has aided them more than anyone). One rockstar line cook can still keep an entire operation afloat. The appearance of cleanliness is still much more important than actual cleanliness. And everyone still hates the owner, who still makes an obscene profit when doing things correctly, and who remains the only customer whose food the kitchen truly gives a shit about.

Now before you go and read Orwell's novel and recoil in horror, I feel obliged to clarify a few things. While they are still never as clean as they appear, restaurants are cleaner than they have ever been. Between mechanical dishwashers, cleaner water, and an actual understanding of germs that has led to the establishment of health codes, restaurants are no longer the cesspools they once were. There are still roaches and mice in every single building in New York, but they are more likely to interact with your food in your own apartment than they are in a decent restaurant. And though it is unlikely that the person preparing your food is wearing gloves, chances are his or her hands have been washed recently.

As for working conditions, a 14 hour day, especially in NYC, is not unheard of, even today. But breaks are longer, and such double shifts are infrequently assigned more than once a week. (Unless of course you are one of the poor, unfortunate souls employed by the BR Guest Hospitality group, who treat their front of the house staff like sub-human filth. If you must eat at one of their overpriced, overrated restaurants, please tip well and give your server a hug. They'll need it.) And, given the much more reasonable hours, most restaurant employees don't drink 2 liters of wine per night. But they do still drink more than your average office drone. It just comes with the territory of being on your feet all day.

So while I'm certainly not suggesting that Anthony Bourdain ripped off George Orwell (though really, hasn't every writer?) when he wrote Kitchen Confidential, I am suggesting that Orwell's book is very much worth a read, especially if you've spent some time in the business. It's amazing how little has changed. Except for rule about only cooks being allowed to have a mustache. Even in Williamsburg, that doesn't come up much these days.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gangsta Video of the Week

For those of you not familiar with the rap duo M.O.P., which stands for "Mash Out Posse", perhaps it is time to get familiar. Chances are you have heard this song, which is called "Ante Up", and hit #25 on the Billboard Top 200 list in 2000.
Produced by DR Period, the song, which is on the album "Warriorz", features one of the hotter beats of all time, and lyrics that range from jackin' foo's to kidnappin's foo's. The video, while a refreshing change from the tricked out cars and large-posteriored women - actually, the more of these, the merrier - that were the norm for that era of hip hop videos, is still pretty blase. There are some concert scenes and some street walking scenes set throughout NYC (M.O.P is from Brownsville, Brooklyn), but ultimately nothing to really distinguish it from other rap videos from the late 90s and early aughts. Enter stianhafstad, a self-described film student from Norway. Nearly three years ago, on June 28th, 2008, he changed the internet forever by putting together the masterpiece below. With almost 7.4 million views, there's a decent chance you have seen this too, but in case you haven't, please, take 90 seconds of your life and devote them to this right now. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Wasn't that absolutely tremendous? M.O.P. needs to make this the official video for "Ante Up", regardless of what that might cost in terms of paying Sesame Street, who I'm sure would never go for it. Even if they can't do it legally, they need to be pimping this left and right. 7.4 million views isn't nearly enough, especially when you consider than no one has only seen this once. Either you have never seen it, or, like me, you have watched it countless times. And it would only serve to benefit all parties involved. At the very least, M.O.P owes it to this kid, because his video has more Youtube views than all of the other videos of "Ante Up" combined, remixes included.

I can't imagine how long this video took him, but dammit, if anyone deserves to get famous for their contributions to Youtube, it's this Norwegian film student. I urge you to go spread his gospel, as well as the gospel of M.O.P. They both deserve it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

BUY THIS NOW!

You want to play Magic: The Gathering. Admit it! If you are a chick, you read all about why you need to start tapping some mana. If you are a dude, you know the allure of commanding an entire dragon army is impossible to resist! But despite your urges, you’ve ignored them for one reason or another. Perhaps the 169 pages of rules intimidates you. Maybe you don’t know which of the 10,000+ cards to put in your deck. Or, it could be that you are afraid of the stigma of being a Magic player. Let me assure you, we are not all anti-social weirdos who need to take a bath, only most of us are. I can personally attest that I currently play more Magic than I did in college and have gotten WAY more "play" now than I did in my college years! A+B=C, bitch!



Whatever your excuse, come June 17th, you will have them no longer. Why? Simply put, Wizards of the Coast is releasing the most amazing MtG related product of all time! Let me introduce you, my dear readers, to the COMMANDER pre-constructed decks!

Commander is easily the coolest MtG variant out there. The rules are pretty simple; each deck must contain exactly 100 cards and save basic lands, you may only have ONE of each card in your deck. Being a singleton format creates an environment where each game is different, not only because the odds of drawing a particular card between games is vastly lower, but because you have to create decks that are far more diverse than in a standard 60 card deck.



The beauty of this product is that Wizards has created the decks for you, and they did not cut any corners. Each deck retails for $29.99, but if you were to buy all the cards individually, you’d have to shell out at least $60. Can you say PROFIT? And while the decks are not going to be the most powerful thing this side of the Tolarian Academy, they are certainly decent. If you invested another $25 in cards you could easily have a deck that can compete with most other decks out there.

These Commander decks are officially released on June 18th and can be purchased at any gaming store, but if you don’t want to deal with snooty nerds you can easily find them at Target AND Wal-Mart. If you live in NYC, I highly recommend that you go to the official Commander release at the TWENTY SIDED STORE in Williamsburg. Lots of hot chicks will be there, guaranteed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Classic Victor: Welcome to Con Air

It appears that nobody on staff has a fully flushed out article that's ready to go for today, so it looks like it's time for another edition of "Classic Victor"; where I feature (rerun) vintage articles from my primary blog "Victor Sells Out" with a similar "Outrage" bent for all you current readers to enjoy.

Today's "Classic Victor" comes from all the way back from the last decade, June 28, 2008, a simpler time when Lebron James was a nationally beloved NBA superstar, a young Katy Perry was singing about kissing girls, and you could get a nice subprime mortgage with balloon payments right off the street for a song. The post itself is a lovingly critical look at many of the narrative flaws of (still) my favorite Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay blockbuster that isn't by Michael Bay, "Con Air". Any particular reason for picking this entry? Not really, but as TNT has shown us time and time again you don't really need any particular reason for "Con Air" to be on:



Last weekend on TNT (We Know Drama!), I caught the second of back to back airings of that quintessential, dramatic, exploration of the human condition known as "Con Air". After watching it in its complete entirety for the first time since it came out on cable (can you believe it's been about ten years?), I have to admit it's probably my all time favorite Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay blockbuster. I would be completely wrong, however, since, as I later found out, this was a Jerry Bruckheimer/Simon West effort. Yes, despite all the explosions, notable stars, improbably simplistic storyline, and blockbuster earnings synonymous with a Bruckheimer/Bay production, this summer blockbuster masterpiece was actually directed by the auteur of such box office heavyweights like "The General's Daughter" and "When a Stranger Calls".

My revelations about this movie however were not just limited to the final credits. Watching it carefully again through the older, possibly wiser, eyes of 2008 Victor as oppose to 1998 Victor I picked up on a few interesting, confusing, and sometimes downright troubling aspects of the film I missed as a high school freshman. Just a few things.

One minor thing I noticed about the movie right from the opening minutes is when Nicholas Cage's Cameron Poe and his wife, Monica Potter, start slow dancing in that bar in Alabama before all the events that lead him to prison for 5 or 6 years, Trisha Yearwood's version of "How Do I Live" is playing in the background. The Diane Warren penned classic was written specifically for the film in 1997 and led to the great LeAnn Rimes/Trisha Yearwood "How Do I Live" rivalry (the Bird vs. Magic of female country ballad showdowns) that led to Rimes' version getting the charts victory but Yearwood's version winning the head to head Female Country Vocal Performance Grammy. What bothers me is the song is being played from the jukebox, which means that in the fantasy universe of Con Air, "How Do I Live" came out sometime around 1990-1991. If the song came off non-diegetic, off screen you could just chalk it up as background music, but once it's part of the scene it becomes a total anachronism. Not a huge detail but now I have to go into the movie with the mindset of it being an alternate universe or another planet that is exactly like earth except for that one detail.

One big thing I noticed about the movie, unfortunately due to my recent experiences as a first year law student, was how completely wrong the legal issues were in the film. I immediately recognized that Cameron Poe had a textbook case of self-defense. The scene where he's being confronted by the three rednecks is staged like a poorly written criminal law essay question. There was no provocation on the part of Poe to incriminate him and the camera shows that there was an obvious, imminent deadly force being used by the one redneck with the knife; which is the only time you're allowed to use deadly force in kind. The whole hands as deadly weapon thing is also a total movie thing. The wikipedia criticisms page echoes my sentiments and adds a few other apparent legal fallacies in the film (no parole for federal inmates, the question of federal jurisdiction versus state court) along with additional beefs for the improper medical portrayal of Baby-O's diabetes (I'm sure Wilford Brimley is furious).

On the topic of Baby-O, the sympathetic prisoner friend of Poe; I wondered what sort of horrible crime he committed to be there in the first place. Oh sure it's easy to think he's a swell guy and pull for him to get the insulin on time and admire the heroism he shows towards the end of the film when he takes a bullet for Poe, but as they laid out on the beginning of the film, the plane is supposed to be full of the worst people in the prison system. Despite the nice guy routine and the diabetes, Baby-O must have at least committed some sort of serious crime, to be locked up in a maximum security prison. Or perhaps there was just a special cell block at San Quinten for hard luck cases where good people got raw deals?

The movie's real strength is in its motley cast of inmate villains (because it's sure as hell not coming from Nick Cage's boring Southern fried hero). The best movies are the ones like this where a group of characters come into a crazy situation with elaborate and wild back stories (and nicknames!). You got the evil rapist (Johnny-23), evil mass murderer (Billy Bedlam), the evil black militant (Diamond Dog), the evil arsonist (Pinball), the evil serial killer (Garland Greene), the evil criminal mastermind (Cyrus the Virus), and that transvestite guy, among many others. As crazy as the idea of John Malkovich being in a big summer blockbuster action movie (how come no one ever mentions "Con Air" in "Being John Malkovich"?) he actually pulls of the villain role perfectly. He's charismatic, ambitious, badass, and unflinchingly villainous to the core. And how can you tell he's going to be unwaveringly sinister? The filmmakers use the oldest trick in the book: Bald Guy With Facial Hair.

It's about as subtle as making him wear all black and having him wring his hands menacingly while ominous background music plays.

The film's ending at first glance is inline with all other summer blockbuster picture endings, with the hero triumphing over all the seemingly impossible odds. All the other criminals are either dead or captured and Poe gets to meet his darling wife and cute kid and he gives her the rabbit (on her birthday no less!). However when Poe is shaking hands with U.S. Marshall Larkin on the destroyed Vegas Strip and admiring a job well done, isn't some guy going to point out everything else that went completely wrong? Like the dead undercover DEA agent? Or the dozens of National Guardsmen and police officers that got ambushed at the airfield? Or the dead prisoners that had nothing to do with any of this? The death of that drug kingpin that they were trying to interrogate and investigate? The civilian casualties involved when a plane horrifically crashes into a crowded major city? The millions upon millions of dollars of damage to the Las Vegas Strip? The fact that Steve Buchemi's incredibly dangerous and demented serial killer is now set loose again? But, hey as long as Poe got to meet his family on time.

Despite all the criticisms I do want to set the record straight. While it seems that all these questions and flaws should make me not like the movie as much, somehow I end up liking it even more! A prerequisite for an exploding blockbuster action flick is a healthy amount of confusion and implausibility. Too much will make it unwatchably incomprehensible to enjoy, while too much realism will drain it of all its fun. For a piece of high concept fare like "Con Air" there was a perfect balance. Maybe in another ten years my thirty something self (gross) will find some other unnoticed facet of this cinematic gem.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The 50 Coolest States in America, Part 1: #50 Delaware

Hello, and welcome to the first part in what may or may not be a 50 part series here at Nerd Outrage (NOTE: it will not be a 50 part series): the 50th coolest state in the country, Delaware!
It's #52 if you're counting Guam and Puerto Rico
Yes, it's Delaware. The first, and, unquestionably, worst state in this fine country. Why is Delaware the worst state in the country? Well, there are several reasons. For starters, there is nothing there. It's a not so vast wasteland with hicks intermittently sprinkled throughout. There is no culture. There are no landmarks. There is no reason whatsoever to enter the state. (For the record, before I go any further, these complaints do not extend to Wilmington, which is essentially a Philly suburb. Wilmington is alright.)

Now before you go and accuse me of hating on a state that is kind enough to not have a sales tax, permit me to tell you a story about Delaware. More specifically, this is a story about the events that occurred during a week in August of 2003 in the theoretically cozy coastal hamlet of Dewey Beach. There are seven central characters to this story: my mother, my father, my aunt (mom's younger sister), my uncle (her husband), my uncle's childhood friend Mark, me, and my friend from college, who shall, at his own request, be referred to as The Sarge.

This family vacation, during which my parents celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary, was my aunt's idea. Her neighbor at the time had a time share at a beach house in Dewey Beach that he let us use for a week, and she insisted we take him up on the offer. It seemed like a nice enough idea in theory, so off we went.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Selling the Drama

If there's one thing I'm a nerd about it's movies. You will definitely catch me standing in line for a Korean torture porn flick or Herzog directed 3D documentary on any given weekend.

So, I just saw the trailer for the upcoming independent film Snowtown, based around the grisly serial murders perpetrated by a group of wayward Australian youths. Led by the charismatic yet psychopathic John Bunting, Bunting was one of Australia's most prolific serial killers, with a total of 11 bodies to his credit. Other crimes such as fraud, torture, and cannibalism are also on his CV.

While the film looks like it will be great - tense, dark, realistic - I have to say I'm extremely upset about the soundtrack. Bunting was known to be infatuated with the 1994 album Throwing Copper by American alt rock act Live, a middle school favorite of mine. So great was Bunting's love that he actually would play the album while torturing and murdering his victims. Yet, there exists not a single note from any of the album's 14 tracks in the actual trailer.

Are you kidding me? This is psycho pop gold! Any single from the album could have worked! Songs in trailers are meant to be literal, and these tracks are literally begging to be thrown over a flashy quick-cut of violence and mayhem. This is how you get people to the movies!

So, armed with only my wits and a pirated copy of Final Cut Pro, I decided to re-cut the trailer for slack jawed American audiences who only understand catchy riffs and break-speed editing. You can find the original here. Good luck with that snoozefest.


video


See? Much better. Sure it looks more like some weird psycho-killer buddy movie as opposed to the examination of a sociopath's violent explosion into a poverty stricken environment, but so what? I'm doing these Aussies a favor and putting a little gold in their coffers (or whatever currency they use now). Somebody had to right the wrong, and that's what we're here for.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

THE BEST CLAYMATION VIDEO OF ALL TIME

You may have seen this video before, but you’ve almost certainly forgotten about it. Please refresh your memory.


GREEN JELLY - THREE LITTLE PIGS by noriko75

Wasn’t that amazing? Remember Claymation? Isn’t it really fucking cool? Well, there are a few other really fucking cool things you probably didn’t know about Green Jellÿ (one them being their name is pronounced, Green Jello).

Fact One: Green Jellÿ has been sued by Kraft Foods, Kellogs, Metallica, and almost by Hanna Barbera. Why? Because Green Jellÿ is at once, more badass than Metallica, healthier to consume than Kraft and Kellogs food products, and has produced way better animation than Hanna Barbera.

Fact Two: Tool singer Maynard James Keenan and drummer Danny Carey used to be in Green Jellÿ. They left the band to write overrated art rock about fisting.

Fact Three: Claymation Rambo

Fact Four: Ümläüts ärë reallÿ nëät.

Be sure to join me next week when I discuss other shock rock luminaries such as GWAR, GG Allin, and the very underrated Rammstein!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Power to the People

Since I was in college, I've remained a reluctantly devoted reader of the snobbish internet
music mainstay known as Pitchfork Media (now known simply as Pitchfork - or P4K if you're nasty). We've certainly had our disagreements over the years, and they often recommend the kind of unlistenable, pretentious crap that can't possibly be appreciated by anybody outside of a few East Coast art schools, but I can also credit them with turning me on to much of my favorite music. And while I could probably write an entire post devoted to the maddening paradox of a subjective rating system that's supposed to be accurate to a tenth of a point, I generally think they remain the best source there is for credible and well-informed music criticism.

So when I went to their site the other day to get their take on one of my favorite new albums of the year, Torches by Foster the People, I was dismayed to find myself confronted with an empty search page.


Not only did they not review their debut album (which was released two weeks ago), they also didn't touch their chart-busting single, or their eponymous EP from earlier in the year. The only record in the Pitchfork universe of this band existing at all is a singular tweet from one of their SXSW reporters, apparently giving a very positive endorsement to the band's performance there - making their exclusion from the site that much stranger.

So, you might be saying to yourself: wow Jimmy that's the pettiest fucking argument I've ever heard. And you're probably right, but for better or worse, Pitchfork remains pretty much the only singular hub of information for music geeks such as myself. More than any other site, their blessing has the power to vault bands from total obscurity to Madison Square Garden, and, as FDR (or maybe it was Uncle Ben) reminds us, "with great cred comes great responsibility".

Thus I've come up with three plausible reasons for denying this otherwise worthy band a slot on the P4K homepage, and why they're all complete horseshit.

1) They're on a major label

This argument is so absurd I can't believe anybody in the year 2011 would even entertain it. Thanks in part to institutions like Pitchfork, indie labels are now doing bang-up business, and the major labels are now the scrappy underdogs, struggling to make ends meet (or at least do whatever they can to co-opt the success of the indies). Nevertheless, there are still those who believe that as soon as the corporate money of one of the Big Four touches a band, their artistic integrity (whatever the fuck that is) immediately becomes suspect. FTP is indeed on Startime, a semi-autonomous imprint of Columbia Records, whose roster also includes Pitchfork favorites Peter Bjorn & John, Passion Pit, and the Walkmen. And indeed for some artists, working with a major label might stifle their creativity; but for others, the money and support of the label allows them to reach new levels of grandiosity and awesomeness; and for still others, the soul-crushing from the major label provides the angst that the artist needs to make their unique brand of mopey art rock. Though in all cases, the records generally speak pretty well for themselves. Being indie and lo-fi doesn't mean that your record is great any more than being polished and well-produced means that your record is shit.

2) They're too commercial

It obviously makes sense that the average Pitchfork reader doesn't care what the new Adam Lambert album sounds like or where Lady Antebellum is stopping on their next tour, but where do you draw the line. Oddly, Pitchfork doesn't totally shy away from reviewing commercially successful artists. They review pretty much any mainstream hip-hop artist. They also inexplicably still review every new release from U2 and Coldplay. No doubt Foster the People's album is slicker and poppier than most of what's on the racks at Other Music, but the story of their success could not be more earnest and grass-roots, and there's no sense that FTP is doing anything other than trying to make intelligent, danceable electro pop for the kinds of hipsters and scene kids that make up Pitchfork's readership. The fact that FTP frontman Mark Foster got his start composing music for TV commercials is also possibly a reason for disqualification, but considering the kinds of brand whoring that indie bands are doing on the regular these days, I don't see how it's a problem to return the favor.

3) We didn't discover them first and they're already popular, so fuck em

It's not enough that Pitchfork simply provides an outside opinion on the music they review anymore. There's now a sense that they practically own the bands that they plug, rewarding them with good press and a slot on their annual summer festival. I mean, if Animal Collective were a company, Pitchfork would no doubt be the majority shareholder. But in the case of FTP, Pitchfork could claim no stake. The band's single "Pumped Up Kicks" managed to get to the top of the iTunes Alternative chart back in early January, based mostly on the support from various blogs and indie radio stations like KEXP and KCRW. So by the time their EP was released later that month, Pitchfork had already missed the boat. At this point they would just seem like bandwagoners.

Which is really a shame. If Pitchfork wants to write a review about how Foster the People are derivative, sell-out hacks, I'd love nothing more than to read it. This is actually the kind of debate that makes sites like Pitchfork interesting. I remember when everyone thought Vampire Weekend were nothing but lame preppy toolbags, but I also remember when Pitchfork boldly refuted those claims, and gave their two albums ratings in the high 8s. Or conversely, when they slammed Cold War Kids for being soulless and irrelevant in spite of overwhelming popularity. That's the reason I read this stuff to begin with. So I'd hate to think that the best source for music journalism on the internet has become nothing more than an insular bubble for art-school douchebags to give each other a verbal reach-around.


Monday, June 6, 2011

A Not So Clever Move


I am barely entertaining the ridiculous notion of a spoiler alert here. Yes there is going to be some spoiler talk about "Jurassic Park" (aka "Billy and the Clonasaurus"). So if you haven't read/seen that book/movie get out of that rock you've been living under for the past 20 or so years and start experiencing the outside world.

So as I was saying, Jurassic Park: awesome movie. Robert Muldoon (played by the late Bob Peck): most awesome character in said awesome movie. From that terrifying opening scene where the raptor eats that park employee to his untimely demise (more on that later), as game warden and official badass in residence of Jurassic Park he spends the entire movie looking surly, being suspicious of everything, and advocating non-stop for the killing of all the dinosaurs.

We all knew the weaselly, cowardly lawyer Gennaro (actually as a lawyer myself I am appalled at this film's use of ugly, offensive, lawyer-face) was going get killed. It was a just a question of when and how embarrassingly; but if anyone was going to get out of Jurassic Park alive, it must surely have been the always rough and ready Muldoon (interestingly enough both Gennaro and Muldoon survive in the book). While everyone else was screaming or freaking out or bleeding or being racked with guilt over their well intentioned but monstrously misguided attempt at playing God; in every scene Muldoon was as solid as Ayers Rock, armed to the teeth, and prepared to do some serious damage. Well in all except one scene...

It obviously came as a huge shock to us all when we saw Muldoon get ambushed by raptors, but the real surprise for me that still lingers to this day is the manner in which he died. Most people who have seen that scene at one time or another must have had the same question I had: "why did Muldoon waste all that precious time complimenting the raptor?" It may have objectively only been a few seconds, but watching, it felt like an eternity; more than enough time to quickly flip that shotgun around and at least give yourself a fighting chance. No one will really ever know what the motivation was but here are four potential theories on what might have been going through Muldoon's head:

He just didn't have enough time to beat the raptors. Muldoon's pause and line may have just appeared slow for cinematic effect and that in real time it was actually an extremely quick series of events (although the idea of "real time" in a movie seems a little crazy). I mean, raptors are pretty damn fast and that second one did get the jump on him. Maybe I'm just underestimating the situation, Raptor attacks are pretty hard to avoid.

He wanted to die a noble death. Perhaps when that second raptor got the jump on him, Muldoon realized that he had been fairly beaten by a more than worthy nemesis. At that point rather than draw out his likely defeat any further, he promptly tipped his hat to his victors and essentially gave up. The light struggle at the end may have been an involuntary reaction. In addition to his noble capitulation, he may have also been heroically trying to buy even more time for Ellie who was trying to get to the power substation by having the raptors take their time with him. This would appear to be congruous with the Muldoon I know.

He was the victim of his own tragic hubris. Having been such an accomplished hunter and game warden, Muldoon may have over valued his hunting abilities and thought he could get away with uttering a sweet one liner before turning and blowing a raptor or two away and being the hero. The man clearly had a boner for killing dinosaurs and he may have found himself enjoying the sudden opportunity to bag the second most dangerous game a bit too much to be more careful. This is probably the most far fetched of theories, given how serious Muldoon was and the dire nature of his situation at the time, but it's not completely dismissible.

He just straight choked. It happens to the best of us. You find yourself at crunch time and suddenly you screw up under the unexpected pressure. Unfortunately for Muldoon, there was no second chance for him to get it right. If he really did fold, I mean, could you really blame him under the circumstances? He's stuck in this super tense, life or death, cat and mouse, game with this lethal, lightning fast killing machine (that may be working in a pack) in the middle of the dense hot jungle and he probably hasn't slept all night either. I think most of us would have been too busy crapping our pants to even say "clever girl" when that second raptor showed up.

Whatever the case may have been, we can all still agree that "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" would have been a hell of a lot better if Muldoon had come back (and if they cut out that whole unnecessary segment at the end where the T. Rex runs amok in San Diego, beyond lame).

Friday, June 3, 2011

I WIN!

Important news everyone; I WON A MAGIC: THE GATHERING DRAFT TOURNAMENT LAST WEEKEND.

Maybe this tournament was held amongst five of my friends at my kitchen table, and maybe 80% of the participants were smoking hand-rolled cigarettes of dubious legality, but nevertheless, I won. And that’s all the matters.


Actually, what matters even more than my victory is how it happened. Namely, I beat the piss out of my good friend and MtG connoisseur, Ben. A few things you should know about Ben. Ben is old, like at least forty. Ben is bald. And Ben talks incessant amounts of shit. I guess I should also mention that before our most recent gathering, Ben had won every single tournament he participated in. So maybe his shit talking was warranted. But not anymore!

Not only did I beat Mr. Ben. I raped his soul. I won three games in a row against his old bald ass and swept his shit talking corpse out the door! I don’t think a beating has been this thorough since Jack Dempsey almost killed Jess Willard in 1919 (which is right around when Mr. Ben was born).

So thanks Ben. Thanks for showing up and getting a pwning to pwn all pwnings. But most importantly, thanks for signing up for the next draft so you can get pwned yet again!

Full draft report to come next week. Unless I lose.

And finally, eat my ass Ben Schulson!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Subway: Eat Shit

Earlier this month, the Subway Sandwich Corporation became the largest restaurant chain in the world, passing McDonalds. There are now, as of May 7th, 2011, 33,749 Subway restaurants on the planet, and that number has probably gone up since then. As a portly gourmand from Philadelphia, this both saddens and angers me. It saddens me because it means that we, as a human race, settle for inferior goods. It angers me because, holy shit, Subway is fucking awful, they put my beloved Ryan Howard in their commercials, and finding a better sandwich is, in most cases, not difficult.
If this looks appetizing to you, you have my pity.
Now I know that fast food exists because it's cheap, it's easy, and, well, it's fast. To its credit, Subway is all of those things. What Subway does not, however, have in common with McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Wendy's, Taco Bell and all the other fast food restaurants out there is that it does not taste good. Big Macs are delicious. Popcorn chicken and biscuits are delicious. Everything at Wendy's is fuckin' good. But Subway? Jesus that shit is terrible.

Allow me to elaborate on why that is, for those of you thinking to yourself at this very moment that Subway isn't that bad. Perhaps, to the untrained observer, that the process behind making, as well as the finished product, of a Subway sandwich is a perfectly okay one. And healthy too! Wrong and (usually) wrong. For starters, a sandwich's components shouldn't be weighed and measured. It shouldn't be made by someone who's wearing oversized gloves and making $8 an hour; it should be made with love. It should not contain mysterious factory meat and come on bread that was shipped, unbaked and in sleeves (more on this later), to be heated up in an oven inside a "restaurant" that is lit like a hospital and has the unmistakable odor of oregano mixed with something much more sinister. Not only do all other fast food places taste good, they smell good too. Not Subway.

Then you have the one place where Subway differs from its peers in which it takes great pride: the healthy aspect. To be fair, Subway is, without question, a healthier alternative to other fast food. One glance at their nutrition chart will tell you that. But there are conditions to this healthiness. No cheese. No mayo. 6" sandwiches only. Any of the Subway sandwiches that might be the least bit appetizing, such as the meatball sub or anything with tuna, while better for you than a Big Mac, do not fall under the healthy umbrella. The majority of the toasted footlongs are over 1,000 calories, and every single one of them has more than 20 grams of fat. (And half of them even have transfat!) Jared lost all that weight by eating turkey and veggies on a roll AND exercising his ass off. And he got paid handsomely to do it. Those are not exactly typical circumstances.

Despite all of my above gripes, I don't think anything about Subway bothers me more than the bread. No, not even the "Big Philly Cheesesteak", which looks disgusting, but at least they spelled "cheesesteak" correctly. You see, the bread makes the sandwich. If you have good bread, you are more than halfway there. And make no mistake, the bread at Subway is AWFUL. They like to say it's fresh baked on the premises. LIES. It is heated on the premises, in a process that I suppose could technically be referred to as "baking". But baking on premises implies that the entire process occurs there. Subway ships unbaked dough, in plastic sleeves, to all of its restaurants worldwide. That shit is NOT fresh. And it certainly does not taste good. Anyone that has had a real hoagie on a real roll knows that.

The existence and mass-proliferation of Subway worldwide is an affront to real sandwiches everywhere. As someone that grew up (and out) on real hoagies and cheesesteaks, Subway is an insult to my very being. It tastes terrible, it smells terrible, and it really isn't that good for you. And Jared is fucking annoying. And I hope whoever wrote that "$5 footlong" song has to listen to it on repeat until their brain hemorrhages (I'm betting this would take all of 28 minutes). Oh, and one last thing - who the fuck names a restaurant "Subway"? I get that they sell subs, but I have trouble conceiving of a place less appetizing than a subway station, though it clearly hasn't deterred millions of uncultured blobs from consuming it repeatedly. Fuck you, Subway. I hope all 33,749 of your outposts burn to the ground.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Music Video of the Week: Great White Hope

So, as we learned earlier this week, Gil Scott Heron was NOT, in fact, the godfather of rap. Quick quiz then, hotshots. Who was the 1st rap artist and song to appear on MTV? Oh...you said Blondie’s Rapture? Well, yeah, I mean, I guess you’re right. It turns out that rap was for many years a Whites Only genre as far as mainstream exposure went. As my exhibit B I present this music video of the week, Wham!’s Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do).

video

Now, George Michael first comes to mind with a lot of things. Cannabis, crack cocaine, prescription pharmaceuticals, sex in public bathrooms, usually while on all of the above. Probably the last thing you do think about with him is his contribution to art of hip hop. However, here you have it. Originally released in 1982, only a year after Rapture, the song was originally meant to be a breakout hit for the group, but did not find full exposure until their second single, Young Guns, made it big in the UK.

Despite it’s absolute ridiculousness, the song and video make some pretty revolutionary statements. In fact, you could even say they were ahead of their time. The message of the song could apply to your average 99’er/Williamsburg freeloader. At a time when the country was in the throes of Thatcherism, and unemployment was at a record level, the brave boys of Wham! encouraged the welfare life, living free off the government dole. Their playful take on the gyro lifestyle more than likely ruffled the feathers of may left-wingers. As an office slave, I can certainly say that at a time when I should be grateful to have a job, I would welcome a 26 (or more) week vacation, with a free check coming my way every happy Monday.

Furthermore, GM and co. tell us to reject modern living, with its trappings of middle-class comfort. Instead, focus on your passions, whether that be the novel you’ve meant to write, the garden you want to plant, or leather fetish you just haven’t gotten around to exploring. Oppressed, fabulous, workers of the world unite!

Gil Scott Heron told us the revolution would not be televised. He was wrong. Furthermore, it will be broadcast wearing women’s slippers.