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Monday, November 29, 2004
Commie Week # 1
While I was in Seattle over the weekend, I made a pit stop in the city's trendy Freemont neighborhood, north of downtown. With its bookstores, cafes and coffee shops, it's a lot like Portland's Hawthorne district...if Hawthorne was overrun with communists (!!!).
Amidst all the quaintness and couples sipping lattés, Freemont contains a good deal of Cold War-era relics. I took plenty of pictures so I hereby declare this Commie Week on Welcome to Blog. Everyday I'll be running a new shot of Freemont's not-so-subtle, socialist undercurrent.
This first one is of Freemont's lovable, huggable Vladimir Lenin statute. When I came across it on Saturday, it was splattered with pigeon poop. A concert-promo, partially torn off, was hanging on his chest like Superman's S. According to rumor, at 7 tons and 18 feet tall, it's the largest Lenin statue left in the world. Alongside the revolutionary are what appear to be rockets and flames.
According to what little info I could find on the internet, in 1989 Lewis Carpenter, an American working in Slovakia, found the statue lying face down after it was toppled in the revolution. He mortgaged his home and paid for shipping back to Washington. He was hoping to sell the sculpture but, apparently, no one was willing to buy it. Lenin is still up for grabs for the low, low price of $150,000.
I found enough material to warrant a feature on Freemont but I'm going to do this one in installments instead. Why, you ask? In the spirit of communism, each day of the week deserves a post instead of everything going into a single article. Moving along, here's another picture:
Maybe Lenin has a thing for the free market after all. I should have probably added a "Mmmmm...capitalist tacos" thought bubble.
The high price of leaping lords
Every year, PNC, a Pittsburgh-based bank, releases a price index for each of the gifts in "The Twelve Days of Christmas." This year's total is $66,334, up a hundred or so dollars from 2003. Still, that figure seems low. Consider the estimates for "maids-a-milking" and "lords-a-leaping." While the article blames outsourcing for the small $41 price tag for the maids, gathering together ten lords for some serious leaping would no doubt cost more than $4,039.
The price index considers the fuel costs associated with delivering a pear tree to the states but, honestly, doesn't give the whole lord thing much consideration. Let's run down the list of what it would take to make #10 on the list happen, shall we?
The only place I can think of where someone might track down a lord would be in the UK's Parliament and surely they have better things to do than bounce around on a whim. The cost of flying ten lords from Britain to Pittsburgh would cost well over four grand. I checked Travelocity a minute ago, and last minute Christmas airfare for all of them, assuming that they would insist on riding in first class, would run $32,110 on NW Airlines. Then, assuming you would only need the lords to leap one night, you would have to spring for lodging. Ten suites at the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel will set you back $1790.00, before tax. The lords would also run up high room service tabs, so you would need at least $200 for each, adding another $2,000 to the grand total.
To get these lords to leap would no doubt require a substantial amount of booze. Seeing that any self-respecting politician would insist on top-shelf bourbon and have a high alcohol tolerance, you would need at least ten shots per lord to get them in the mood for leaping. A bottle of 14 year-old Longrow bourbon is a hefty $70. It would probably take five fifths to get them good and drunk, so set aside $350 for hooch. To ease their minds, you would also need to pay off the media so this whole bizarre spectacle doesn't make the front page of the Christmas Day edition of The Sun. Let's set aside an additional $10K for media bribes.
Grand total to get ten lords in leaping mode for over-demanding "true love"? Roughly $46,250.
Now this figure is based on the assumption that you would want these lords to leap, at your place or in a nearby banquet hall. To get them to jump around in their offices would cost less, but there's no way your true love would be able to enjoy the sight, unless you had someone film them. The song uses the verb "give," which suggests they would have to be within spitting distance while they do their thing. Also, in "The Twelve Days of Christmas," they come in at number ten, which suggests you would actually need them for an additional two nights. Multiple this figure by three and you're looking at a whopping $138,750.
If you also factor in limousine rentals, high-priced meals in Pittsburgh's best restaurants, further compensation and the additional cost(s) if a lord decides to look up "escorts" in the Yellow Pages, you may as well start looking into mortgage rates. If your significant other means "give" seriously, you would have to hold the lords hostage and pay the cash necessary to keep them housed, drunk and perpetually bouncing.
In short, leaping lords don't come cheap.
I would have expected Johnny Depp's new movie, Finding Neverland, to be a complete disaster at the box office. The film was delayed from last year in order to prevent clashing with a big-budget Peter Pan adaptation. Since then, a certain Pan- obsessed pop superstar was brought up on child molestation charges. Given the film's already unnerving subject matter, wouldn't audiences correlate the two and avoid it like the plague?
Nope. Instead Finding Neverland opened to favorable reviews and had the second highest per-screen average in the country over the holiday weekend.
Depp stars as JM Barrie, the author of the novel. Working in London as a playwright, his latest work flops and, instead of spending more time with his wife or working on new material, he hooks up with the sons of Slyvia Davies, a recent widow (Kate Winslet). Instead of avoiding their friendship's undertones, the movie draws attention to them. Davies' elderly mother raises an eyebrow after discovering a full-grown stranger playing "cowboys and indians" with her grandchildren.
Barrie's wife is equally perturbed but Finding Neverland doesn't dwell too long on their unusual relationship, instead focusing on the innocent, imaginary world that would provide fodder for Peter Pan. Johnny Depp, toning things down from his beyond over the top role in The Pirates of the Caribbean, tries his best but Finding Neverland is focused purely on filling the screen with sap. Every scene is a pull at the heart strings and the whole thing feels like a made-for-Hallmark TV movie. Dustin Hoffman's curmudgeonly financer receives limited screentime in favor of mourning children, a dying mother and an army of adorable orphans. The ambitious production is further limited by a low budget, which drags down moments centered in Barrie's make-believe pirate ships and western towns.
The script also shies from another part of the true story. According to IMDB, Davies' husband was alive throughout Barrie's encounters with their children and was even there for the play's opening night. While the movie deserves kudos for skillfully addressing and side-stepping an unnerving topic, it's altogether too banal and sentimental. As the film's character rolled from one schmaltzy scene to another, I was left wondering if Davies' children ever grew up and sued Barrie for residuals for their role in devising Peter Pan's mythology.
6 magical pixies on clap-fueled life support out of 10.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
And they've supposedly been sold out of these things for weeks
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Grindhouse Film Festival
Portland plays host to plenty of festivals every year for international films, animation and locally-produced labors of love but rarely, if ever, for anything that falls under the label of "Geek Cinema." Where are the zombie and sci-fi events or something along the lines of Butt-Numb-A-Thon, an annual, 24-hour marathon in Austin that sells out months in advance?
In recent months, the Hollywood Theater has been doing its part with a recent Godzilla festival and last weekend's Grindhouse fest. For three days, the organizers presented a series of classic martial arts films that, for the most part, haven't been seen on American screens since the early 1980s. Even then, fans of this genre would have to tread into "Grindhouses," low-rent, run-down places that typically served more as shifty hotels than movie theaters.
The six films featured are all available on DVD but are still hard to find for those unwilling to shell out $27+ for an international copy. I've been trying to see Shogun Assassins since the name was dropped in Kill Bill 2 but Movie Madness doesn't offer it. Seeing that this was, as the website put it, "a chance of lifetime," I headed to the Hollywood and caught three of festival's six features.
SHOGUN ASSASSINS: Based on the classic Lone Wolf and Cub comic series, the movie is a blood-soaked samurai free-for-all and deserves a spot among the world's coolest films. Ogami Itto stars as a samurai seeking revenge for the death of his wife. Along for the ride are his toddler son and a baby carriage/cuisinart loaded with booby-traps. Comprised of highlights from the comics, the two are endlessly confronted by a slew of assassins and shogun warriors. The film's action sequences are among the most gory and over-the-top ever put on celluloid. Limbs go flying as the two make their way across the Japanese countryside in search of the Masters of Death, three bodyguards in service of a corrupt Shogun. In one sequence, Itto takes on a female warrior capable of stopping swords with her hands and leaping out of a kimono like a rocket. In another, the carriage manages to take out a small army of would-be ninjas. If you only see one blood-soaked, old school samurai explotation flick in this lifetime, this is probably the one to see. Shogun Assassins is actually a combination of two films in the original five part series, which means I have three more of these to track down.
LADY SNOWBLOOD: Allegedly the inspiration for Kill Bill, this one follows a woman out to avenge the death of her parents. The action sequences are inspired but the film trudges along through a series of slow subplots. The finale, set in the middle of a masquerade ball, and Lady Snowblood's encounter with an elderly enemy in a dilapidated hideout, make it worth seeing. I would have enjoyed it more had I not caught it on the heels of Shogun Assassins.
MASTER OF THE FLYING GULLOITINE: After his two disciples are killed, the blind master seeks revenge against the one armed boxer responsible. 93 minutes of mayhem follow as he takes on a Hindu fakir with the ability to extend his arms ten feet and a martial arts school that trains its students to run on walls. The film's main draw is the title weapon, a flying contraption that works as a sort of truncating boomerang. The martial arts battles are epic and everything else is ludicrous. Great stuff with an iconic theme song.
I also wanted to catch 36th Chamber of Shaolin, the nexus for the Wu Tang Clan, but didn't make it to the Sunday screening. The next time it hits the big screen in Portland could be 2060. It's a shame that festivals like this come around about as often as Halley's Comet.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Lee Harvey Oswald: the video game
Like Hollywood, over the years video games are recieved their fair share of criticism from the moral right. BMX XXX along with the Doom and Grand Theft Auto series have been flogged for their wanton depictions of sex and violence. Controversy over Night Trap and Mortal Combat in early '90s eventually led to the establishment of the ESRB game industry ratings system.
As gamers have grown up, titles have become increasingly more debauched to meet the grown-up tastes of their audience. While an argument could be made for the GTA series, JFK Reloaded, recently released online by a designer in Glasglow, could be above reproach. It was released today to coincide with the 41st anniversery of the Kennedy's assassination. A description, from the website:
"Pay just $9.99 to unlock control of LEE HARVEY OSWALD, perform the assassination, watch action replays from any angle, and explore a shot-by-shot anaylsis."
The game drew the attention of the Associated Press this morning and contempt from senator Ted Kennedy who called it "despicable." Managing director Kirk Ewing defended the game would "stimulate a younger generation of players to take an interest in this fascinating episode of American history." The game's site is equally unapologetic, offering screen shots while arguing the game's intent is to prove the validity of the Warren Commissions' findings.
But what about other games that use other bloody historical incidents as fodder? Players have been orchaestrating troops in the Battle of Gettysburg in various titles since as far back as the mid '80s. A title based on the movie Platoon was appeared on the NES system in 1988 and, more recently, EA Games released Battlefield Vietnam earlier this year. Desert Storm appeared in games almost immediately after the end of hostilties and one title, released in 2002 for the Playstation and Xbox, offered players the opportunity to assassinate Saddam Hussein.
Nevertheless, it's hard to defend a game that puts players in the shoes of one of the 20th century's greatest villians. Even more callous is the company's current contest, which offers $100,000 to the player that can most closely match up Oswald's bullets. Again, from the site:
"Entering is simple. After you have paid to unlock your copy of JFK Reloaded, you are given 10 Competition Entry Tokens, allowing you 10 attempts to match Lee Harvey Oswald’s shots. Within JFK Reloaded, click on the Enter Competition button, and you will be asked to confirm that you want to spend one of your Tokens. Once you have confirmed this, it’s like pushing a coin into a slot-machine: there’s no going back. Your competition-entry run will start, so concentrate, and think like a sniper!"
Could this become the video game equivalent of Janet's Boob? Since it's a minor release for PCs, probably not. There are far more grisly independently released games available on the internet ranging from a title devoted to clubbing baby seals to another based on a 1989 grade school massacre in Scotland (actually, that one could be an urban legend). This whole thing will probably be forgotten by tomorrow morning, provided no one tells Joseph Lieberman.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
The Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi Show
Puffy Ami Yumi have been my favorite Japanese pop band since they made a stop in Portland a few summers back. Yumi Yoshimura and Ami Onuki, along with a slew of producers and studio musicians no doubt lurking in the shadows, combine a '60s rock with electronic beats and j-pop to create infectious tunes that conquered radio stations in their native country. Hints of rockabilly, disco, classic rock, country, surf all are apparent on their five CDs. But in the states "Puffy" is a name associated with a certain rap superstar that is better at throwing parties than throwing out rhymes. Ami Yumi are largely unknown in the US and played clubs during their 2002 tour.
Last year, the band recorded the theme song for Teen Titans, a Cartoon Network series now airing on the WB but more kid-friendly j-pop acts like Shonen Knife or Morning Mesume might have leant themselves more easily to an animated off-shoot. For CN to produce The Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi Show, let alone throw their weight behind it in a marketing campaign that has extended to posters on the walls of Portland's Regal Cinemas, is fairly unusual. On the other, the station hit pay dirt with its after-hours Adult Swim block with the sort of programming usually found only in Spike and Mike festivals.
As strange as a cartoon show devoted to an obscure j-pop ground might sound, the show itself is essentially a straight-forward combination of Josie and the Pussycats, the Powerpuff Girls and anime. The series follows Ami and Yumi's counterparts as they perpetually tour the world with their manager and pet cats. In one episode, the two dart around an unnamed metropolis contending with an obsessive fan. In another, they encounter vampires ala Scooby Doo. Ala the Powerpuff Girls, the show manages to appeal to kids while wooing 20-somethings with in-jokes and clever nods to '70s Saturday morning fodder.
Much like the Jackie Chan Adventures and Samurai Jack, Hi Hi attempts to incorporate Puffy Ami Yumi's Asian roots. Puffy and Ami introduce each show (they aren't responsible for the voice work) and, while their characters look more western-bred, this is a staple technique of anime and their cartoon doppelgangers throw out the occasional Japanese phrase. In one episode, Ami becomes obsessed with the Yu-Gi-Oh-like giveaways in a brand of cereal. In another, Yumi trains to become a ninja.
Perhaps more unsettling though is the bumpers the station used during the show's debut last night. During commercial breaks, Cartoon Network's Friday night bumper spokespeople dressed as clichéd Japanese game show hosts and, in one spot, bowed repeatedly while screaming "HAI!" At what point does culture-embracement and tongue-in-cheek good fun become, well, racism? McDonald's drew criticism while promoting Happy Meal toys for Mulan, an animated Disney feature that debuted in 1998. In one spot, Ronald McDonald performed jump kicks while pitching Chinese-themed McNuggets and limited time only dunking sauces. More recently, a group calling itself the Media Action Network for Asian Americans petitioned Fox to ax Ms. Swan, a recurring character on Mad TV.
A quick search on Google yielded nothing but praise for Hi Hi but is the show one watchdog group away from controversy?
At 4 PM PST, 7 PM EST, the Oregon Ducks will once again engage in their yearly gridiron battle royale against their northern rivals, the name of which will not be spoken here. The season has been painful, I know. I was in Autzen last weekend, seated in the fan section for UCLA. In the fourth quarter, these reckless Bruins devotees didn't hesitate to rub their team's impending victory in the noses of 50,000+ Duck fans. With their blue bear hats and homemade signs held high, they chanted "U-C-L-A! FIGHT! FIGHT!" and gave one another high-fives. The celebration drew the ire of those behind us. They tossed hot dog wrappers and empty cups, most of which wound up hitting my parents.
I have no words for coach Bellotti and the Ducks on this cold November Day as they enter Reser Stadium other than "if you guys win, that would be downright swell." With a 6-5 record, a bowl game of some sort surely awaits. Is the Blockbuster Video Bowl still around? Does Plaid Pantry have one yet?
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Let's Get Ready to Assemble
Late last year, I visited a certain furniture behemoth in Renton, Washington expecting to scoff at everything under its roof. Instead, I walked out with a shopping cart filled with inexpensive retro/furture goodness.
Swedish Nazis, dead bodies, crazed shoppers, child labor, assembly-line showrooms and a Quicktime video of a mechanical butt machine in action, it's all in Welcome to Blog's 50th feature, a look inside the wonderful, scary world of....
The Dukes of Hazzard movie
There is a Dukes of Hazzard movie being filmed, as I type this, somewhere in Louisiana. Here is the cast list:
Seann William Scott: Bo Duke
Johnny Knoxville: Luke Duke
Jessica Simpson: Daisy Duke
Burt Reynolds: Boss Hogg (an inspired choice, but why not Danny Devito?)
Willie Nelson: Uncle Jesse
Here are a few factoids:
- Dolly Parton turned the role of Daisy Duke's mother.
- Simpson beat out Britney Spears, Mandy Moore and Jessica Biel for her part.
- At one point, Paul Walker and Ashton Kutcher were considered to play the Duke cousins.
Here is the first image leaked from the production. It began popping up around the internet over the weekend.
What you'll notice from this photo, if you look closely, is that there does not appear to be a Confederate flag on the roof of the General Lee. Also: Simpson did not dye her hair. To see a larger copy, click here.
It will be released on July 29th, 2005.
If Starsky and Hutch is any indication, uh, no.
And now for something completely different...
A few weeks back, I asked you, the readers of Welcome to Blog to determine the fate of a pair of pumpkins that have been sitting on my porch since mid-October. You were given the option of setting them free but, overwhelmingly, you chose one of the far more macabre options. Shame on you. This is all your fault and these pumpkin guts on your hands too.
Until Wednesday night, I can say with some certainty, I have never ignited a pumpkin. Oh, the opportunities this blog has allowed me. Thanks, internet!
Setting two pumpkins aflame is a more difficult than it sounds. Initially, I was going to try cheap whiskey but two readers wrote into suggest a combination of Styrofoam and gasoline instead. Tim went so far as recommend a lengthy process involving drying the pumpkins and using something called "silica gel beads." Not willing to risk blowing myself up, I went with Dan's idea.
Years ago, an enterprising high school friend of ours discovered that rubber cement is extremely flammable. It would be perfect for this executi...er, innocent art project. The next challenge was how to deal with the neighbors. I'm currently renting a house and the landlord owns a workshop next door. The neighbor on the opposite side glares a lot. To pull this off without running the risk of eviction or a visit from the fire department, I was going to have to conduct this lil' photo shoot under the cover of darkness.
I waited until after midnight on Wednesday while I was in the middle of editing photos for the IKEA story. Not sure what would happen, I applied on a small amount of glue to both pumpkins. I pulled the trigger on a campfire lighter. [QUICK DISCLAIMER: I am a professional or something. Don't try this at home, kids. If you do, don't tell your parents how you came up with the idea.] The result:
Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. The flames reached an apex of about 8 inches and burned for roughly a minute. Still, the pumpkins remained only slightly charred. With 3/4 of a bottle of rubber cement left and nothing better to do with it, I decided to be more adventurous for the second round. I poured on the remaing adhesive and decided to pose them alongside a coconut pirate I bought in Newport.
I've asked once and I'll probably ask a million times more: can I please have some sort of a federal arts grant? Doesn't this shot belong in the MOMA? C'mon! If not, how about this next one?
I'm so glad my parents found the link to this blog. Hi, Mom! The flames this time initially grew to two feet and came close the pirate's wicker hat. In case you're curious, I only applied the cement to the top of the pumpkins, it was raining at the time, the wooden walkway was slopping wet and I had two water buckets waiting in the wings in case things got out of hand. Was it wise to stage this there rather than on the lawn? Probably not but I needed an elevated surface in order to take pictures.
The second wave lasted around two minutes. Because I'm sure you're curious, here's how they looked afterwards. If you're under the age of 18, avert your eyes.
I think these pumpkins have learned their lesson. May God have mercy on us all.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Confessions of a Halo Junkie 2: La Venganza
I arrived late to the Halo party. The game was originally released when the Xbox debuted but I didn't pick up a copy until last winter. Immediately I became addicted to it and many a night were sacrificed in order to rid the galaxy of the Flood, a mutant hybrid that mutates other species into mindless drones ala the Thing. I beat the game and finally kicked this life-consuming pixel monkey off my back.
I was clean and off Halo for a good seven months. Then, last week, it happened. After over a year of delays, a sequel had arrived. As the old cliche goes, once a junkie, always a junkie. I tried to resist but the ads were all over the place; on the internet, endlessly aired during reruns of the Kids in the Hall. There was they no getting away from them. Halo 2 was even popping up on Regal movie screens around town. I did my best but I couldn't resist "the hunger," as they call it. Like so many others, I went to the local Game Crazy and slapped down $5 to reserve a copy of the sequel.
Last Tuesday I rushed home and dropped the disc in my syringe, er, Xbox. Master Chief, after successfully destroying Halo in the original, had made his way back to a space station orbiting Earth to celebrate his defeat of the Covenant. No sooner had the medals been broken out than a battleship appeared on the horizon. Their defeat at the Halo had been only temporary and a new batch of needler-wielding aliens were already on their way to conquer the planet. Undaunted, MC turned to his commanding officer and said...
..."I need a weapon."
ROCK! Five minutes in and I was already planning how to get through the next week with no sleep. Then the game actually started. Somehow everything was...different. This Halo was stronger than the original but less pure. The graphics seemed less spectacular than the original, somehow more cartoon-y, and they occasionally stuttered as if the Xbox could barely keep up.
And neither could I. The levels were more intricate and complex, making them dizzying and confusing. The ability to wield two weapons at once was great but with the difficulty level amped up and with hoards bloodthirsty aliens lunging at Master Chief, I felt like I was going to need the sort of "up pills" the military pumps in jet fighter pilots. As one member of the design group described the game:
"Halo 2 is a lot like Halo, only it's Halo on fire, going 130 miles per hour through a hospital zone, being chased by helicopters and ninjas. And the ninjas are all on fire, too."
That's an apt description. After dying a million times on the first level, I reduced the difficulty level and wasted hours leading him past the initial invasion of the station and the subsequent bombride-through-space cut scene. After wasting hours on the first Arbiter level (that spinning elevator is a $!@#$!!), I sat down last night to play to find that the Xbox's hardrive had decided to make me do it all over again.
Maybe I'm getting too old and my ADD isn't severe enough for this new wave of amped-up, first person shooters. Nevertheless, this doesn't change the fact that I'm still addicted, even if the Halo high is no longer as sweet as it once was. As a writer for the Mercury put it a few weeks back, "For gamers, this game is like Jesus coming back to life and giving everyone sacks of gold and Cadillacs made out of candy." Or something like that, I couldn't track down the original quote.
Nevertheless, this isn't a problem that a few case of B to the E can't solve. I'll just hook up a steady drip-feed
Halo 2: 7 life-consuming pixel monkeys out of 10
Yet another immature Miss Teen Oregon post
A few weeks ago, I ran a post on Kari Ann Peniche, 2003's Miss Teen Oregon/USA. In October, the beauty pageant kingpin, er, queenpin, was stripped of her crown after she stripped off her clothing for Playboy. Just by including the words "nude" and "Peniche" on the blog, the number of daily hits quadrupled for the week of 10/25.
So what's the purpose of this post? To see if lightening will strike twice, of course. I wonder if it will make any difference if include "nude" and "Peniche" more than once. Hmmm....
"Nude." "Peniche." "Nude." "Peniche." "Nude." "Peniche." "Nude." "Peniche." "Nude." "Peniche." "Nude." "Peniche." "Nude." "Peniche." "Nude." "Peniche." "Nude." "Peniche."
That should do it. If you've come to Welcome to Blog in search of nudity, sorry. If it's any condolence, if you check back in a few days though you may just get to see a picture of a pumpkin on fire.
With that out of the way, in an attempt to prevent this post from being too utilitarian, here's a comment I found in feedback for something dating back to mid-July. "You Are All Idiots" wrote in several weeks after a blurb on Brook Roberts, Miss Oregon 2004, was posted and went off on a bit of a tirade in reaction to these comments. Unfortunately, no one ever saw it.
Here it is, wrestled out of the depths of the internet for your viewing pleasure:
"I find your comments about someone you don't even know to not only be down right ridiculous but also hilarious... If you knew anything about this beautiful Miss Oregon, you would know that she is just about as bright a young woman as they come. It is unfortunate that you are all so insecure in yourselves that you must patronize someone who is outstanding both inside and out. Her dedication to helping abused children alone makes her two billion times the person that the rest of you must be. What have you done for others? If I were you, I'd stop talking negatively about successful people and attempt to find a life of your own. Maybe if you could find a way to be successful in your own right, you might appreciate and admire the success of others. Now, get off your couch, stop hugging that tree, put down your protest signs, break your marijuana habit, shave your socially-unacceptable body hair, take a shower, and go do something meaningful."
She's right. I really should shave my body hair, kick my pesky tree hugging habit and do something meaningful...like dress up like Barbie and smile until my face gets stuck in a perpetual smirk. The whole penis thing could be a bit of a problem though. Here's a belated thanks for your advice, YAAI!
Monday, November 15, 2004
There's no stopping what can't be stopped
Are people actually wearing these things? Or does Authentic GOP's clientele consist entirely of Republicans out to further irritate their liberal friends with gag gifts?
This one is my "favorite" but the Ronald Regan shirt comes close. For the rest, click here.
Flaming pumpkins it is
The results are in from last week's "pumpkin court" poll and the verdict? Guilty as charged. The sentence? Death by fire.
Strange, I figured "set them free" was going to take it. Instead, only three voters chose that option. A commentary on Welcome to Blog's readership or yet another thing that can somehow be pinned on GW? You decide.
So now I have to figure out a way to set two pumpkins on fire and post pictures of said pumpkins on fire on the internet. If anyone has any tips, feel free to pass them along.
(BLOGGER'S NOTE: On Saturday I was out of town watching the Ducks lose to UCLA and the hard drive in my computer crashed on Sunday. This means I'm running even further behind on blogging than usual. Despite the unpopularity of his last movie review, I've once again passed off a movie review to Jeremy, a coworker's kid.)
Why is it that I can walk into Movie Madness and snag everything Paul Verhoeven and Robert Rodriguez have ever put on film but I can't get into an R-rated movie just because I'm 12? This is pretty stupid but I've found a way around it. I'm lucky because I'm tall (already 5'5!) and I have an old army jacket. All I have to do is smear Crisco on face, along with hair from Chairman Meow (our cat), and I'm in, no prob. If I dress sloppy, the clerk at the ticket office always thinks I'm just an underfed hipster. If an usher stops me I just say, "Pabst" over and over again. I guess it's some sort of password. Anyway, I watched Seed of Chucky three times over the weekend so I skipped social studies to ride the MAX downtown this afternoon and see Birth.
Why a crappy art film? Because Nicole Kidman is in it and she totally gets it on with someone in my age group. Actually, he's a year younger. Pretty cool but I looked Niocle up on the Internet Movie Database after the movie was over. I thought she was pretty young but she's really, really, really, really, really old. Like, 37! That's almost as old as my mom! BLEEEEEECH!
Birth is slow, super slow, like one of those crappy old Disney films they show in Biology with the cheesy narration that's, like, all, "Watch the delightful squirrel as he stuffs a million nuts (LOL nuts!) into his fat, happy cheeks." So Nicole's guy falls over like a wuss while running around in the snow at the beginning and the whole thing flashes forward ten years. Her hair is really short and she looks like a boy and she's all sad. Who can blame her? Nicole is about to marry some guy even older than her and her best friend, played by Anne Heche, looks like an alien. I kept expecting Anne to pull her face off and say something like, "GARRRRGH! I AM ANNE HECHE AND I'VE COME FROM THE PLANET ZAPHOD TO EAT YOUR HEAD, NICOLE! GARRRGH!"
Maybe that will happen in the sequel, After Birth (HA!). Instead of Anne pulling her face off to eat her head, Nicole goes crazy after the kid tells her he's her dead husband reincarnated into a chubby weirdo. They go out for ice cream and ride around in horse carriages while staring sadly at each other (YAWN!) while her family gets really angry (COOL!). In one awesome scene, her fiancée loses it during a wedding rehearsal and slams a piano into a wall. In another, Nicole hops into a bathtub with the kid. This pissed off all the critics but they should calm down because they did it all with special effects and blue screens. Losers.
All in all, Birth sucks but they do show Nicole's boobs and that's pretty cool but she's got the old guy on top of her and they show his butt so it's actually pretty lame. The only good thing I can say about this movie is that it gave me a great idea: I should really macking on rich older chicks. Instead of moping around in boring horse carriages like the kid in Birth, I'd get them to buy me everything on my Amazon wishlist. Not just Halo 2 but a Nintendo DS, a Mercedes like Nelly has and the Sacramento Kings. PSU is swarming with really old women and some of them are even old enough to buy beer! One of them is sure to fall for the "I Am Your Reincarnated Husband Now Buy Me a Bunch of Stuff" trick.
Birth: 3 evil, head-eating Anne Heches out of 10.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
The Road to Mount St. Helens
Three weeks ago, I hopped in the car and headed north to visit my friendly, neighborhood volcano. Along the way, I encountered an eerie high school mascot, an a-frame house filled with mud, a peculiar tribute to Harry Truman and a 15-foot tall Bigfoot*. To get a look at this and other pastoral weirdness, click here for Welcome to Blog's 49th feature, The Road to Mount St. Helens.
* Yeah, it's the same one Sho posted a shot of weeks ago. Although, you can never have too many pictures of a gigantic Bigfoot statue, right?
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
TV commercial - the dealio
I got a call back from Comcast Spotlight. Running ads on Comedy Central and Cartoon Network in the Portland market, between the hours of midnight and five, is just as inexpensive as I was lead to believe. Airing a commercial during a specific program or time slot would run an additional 20% though.
Here's where it gets tricky. The ad would have to be delivered on "Beta SAP" or via DV or mini DV. What do these things mean? DV = digital video tape....ok, I have no clue. My experience with video editing begins and ends with editing camcorder footage on VCRs.
It would also have to be approved by the staff. According to the person I spoke with, this isn't much to worry about provided the ad is submitted in the correct format, isn't too sloppy and doesn't contain anything too offensive. If Spartacus Leather and Fantasy Adult Video can get airtime, there's no reason why Welcome to Blog should run into problems.
To do this myself, I would have to track down a digital video camera and a copy of iMovie. The later wouldn't be difficult but I doubt there's a business anywhere in town that rents cameras and I'm not willing to invest several hundred dollars in a complete lark.
So, if those that wrote in were serious, drop me a line in the feedback area or via email at email@example.com. Be forewarned though. The only thing I can pay you in exchange for your time and effort is funsize bags of Reese's Pieces.
The Election Night article *was* picked up by Blue Oregon. It was posted yesterday. While it's the same article that's been sitting on Welcome to Blog for a week, albeit in a more condensed version, here's a link anyway.
To celebrate, here's an article that attempts to ask the vital question: who would various characters on the Simpsons have voted for in the election? Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders, obvious Bush backers, but what about Homer? Andrew Scheer, a conservative MP in the Canadian Parliament, thinks he swings right. His argument:
"As a middle-income earner, 2.5 kids type of guy, I suspect he's probably a Republican. He sort of fits that demographic pretty well. And there was that one episode where he was quite enthusiastic about his gun ownership."
Yes, that last post was supposed to be the last one on the election. I lied. To make up for it, here's a link to a Mary-Kate Olsen Flash animation riff on Pac-Man. Can you guide Mary-Kate through a maze filled with cocaine while avoiding the disembodied heads of her Full House co-stars? There's only one way to find out. Extra points can be scored by gobbling up diet pills and dollar bills.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
One last post on the election
From what I've read and seen, the pundits are all pointing to morality as the ultimate culprit for Kerry's loss last week. A story in the Sunday edition of the Oregonian backs up these claims. The paper interviewed four random Bush voters from various walks of life, one of them a coworker of mine. So what reasons did they give for lending their support to the GOP? Across the board: "stem cell research, gay marriage and abortion." According to the article, exit polls show that one in five voters put moral values above war, terror and the economy.
In recent years, comedians ranging from George Carlin to staff writers for the Simpsons have had a field day pointing out the Bible's infinite number of contradictions. What continues to baffle me is the "pick and choose" aspects of modern Christian values. So many are willing to overlook the "live and let live" teachings of Christ and the nitty-gritty dictates of the book of Deuteronomy. As my REL 211 professor, a practicing minister put it, "the laws outlined in the first few books of the Bible are all outdated and have no practical purpose in the real world." Did this statement also stretch to the Ten Commandments? I was afraid to call him on it.
A talking head on MSNBC a few days ago was speaking on the topic of religious fundamentalism in Iraq. Among the soundbites tossed out, "these are people that would sooner see Hussein back in power than their sister walking down the street in a mini-skirt." Why does this sound so familiar?
While the Good Book has little to say on the subject of stem cells, it's very specific on sex with family members and stoning the infants of your enemies. It seems that modern Christians have adopted a weird amalgamation of various convenient Biblical passages and what they've picked up on the 700 Club. A major war overseas that results in tens of thousands of lost lives? No big deal when compared to the death of a single unborn fetus.
This is a heavy subject to tackle on a blog, especially when it's following on the heels of a mock review for The Incredibles and another devoted to destroying pumpkins. It's just incredibly frustrating to watch voters adhere to the hypocritical dictates of their faith instead of the major issues of the day. There are many reasons to vote for Bush but the fact that he prays every morning should be the last on the list.
Strong words for a blogger that voted for a mule? Sure, but at least I essentially abstained from voting rather than support a candidate I disliked simply because a few of his priciniples matched my own.
Meanwhile, it begins.
Remember these three? The white one was carved and hauled off by the garbageman over a week ago. The other two are still sitting on my porch.
Hmmmm...what to do with two perfectly good pumpkins in the middle of November? Since I can't decide, I now call Welcome to Blog's first ever pumpkin court to order. You, the readers, get to play jury. Their crime? Surviving Halloween and they're clearly guilty. Now you get to decide their punishment...or if they should be punished at all.
The destiny of these two pieces of fruit rests in your hands. Choose, but choose wisely. Unlike real court, everyone doesn't have to agree on the verdict. Their fate will be sealed by whichever option wins the most votes.
Yes, it's time for another poll.
Review: The Incredibles
(NOTE FROM ME: My workload has picked up in recent weeks and I'm falling behind on a few of my blogging duties. In an effort to keep on schedule, I've decided to outsource Welcome to Blog's movie reviews. This one was written by Jeremy, the 11 year old son of a coworker. All it cost me was half a pack of American Spirits and a copy of the Laura Prepon issue of Maxim. If all goes according to plan, this entire thing will be contracted out to various middle schoolers by the end of the quarter, leaving me more time to play Super Nintendo ROMS while preserving the current, juvenile level of blogging you've come to enjoy. The opinions of Jeremy do not necessarily reflect those of the editor of Welcome to Blog).
Hey there, assholes. My name is Jeremy and I'm going to write this review of The Incredibles. Some jerk coworker of my Mom gave me a bungload of stuff and all I have to do is come up with 500 words on this cartoon I saw on Saturday.
Woah, that's 48 right there. This is going to be so easy. Now I'm up to 64. Hey, 64 was number 65!
OK, OK, OK, the Incredibles was pretty cool but pretty boring too. The Incredibles are a family of superheroes like the ones on Teen Titans and they fly around. Or they did fly around until this one guy tried to kill himself but then got all pissed when the dad superhero tried to save him. He sued him and this lead to all the superheroes losing their jobs. At the start of the movie, the Incredibles are sad because they have to hide their powers and can't fly around. Oh yeah, the Mom can stretch really far, the son can run really fast and the daughter can turn invisible.
I didn't get her at all. What was her deal? She was sadder than the rest of the Incredibles because some boy at school didn't want to make out with her. She reminded me of this one girl in my social studies class. She's always drawing unicorns on her folder and never talks to anybody. Her unicorns suck so me and my friends jammed Gogurt in her hair during a test on the War of 1812. It was hilarious but our teacher nearly crapped all over herself. We got detention for three days but it was soooo worth it. She couldn't get the Gogurt out and had to cut off most of her hair. Now she looks like a boy and the girls keep pushing her out of the locker room during gym class.
Back to the movie. The dad superhero lands a job working for a secret agency on a tropical island. This is the best part because the bad guys lair is super cool. You know those heads on those islands in Australia? He's got those things sitting in his dining room. Even better, that room has a huge waterfall of lava that turns into a hallway when people need to get in there. And he has a another room where he can toss people into a force field.
The bad guy can control these big robots that look like basketballs and he has rockets in his shoes and lazers on his arms. When I get out of high school, I'm so totally going to get a jumpsuit like that. That way I can track down Zack. He's this dickwad in my pre-Algebra class that's always spitting on me. I want to beat him up but he's, like, 300,000 feet tall. He broke this one kid Kyle's arm after he accidentally dropped a slice of pizza on his Pumas. Every Wednesday, we get pepperoni pizza brought into the cafeteria. It's made by Pizza Hut and it's really good but it cost $2 bucks. Total rip-off.
OK, I was gonna tell you all about Trey and more about The Incredibles but I've already got 500 words. Go see this cartoon because it kicks ass, way more ass than A Shark's Tale and that stupid movie about the green ogre and Pussy in Boots, er, Puss in Boots.
I said pussy. HA! HA! HA!
The Incredibles: 8.5 cascading lavafalls out of 10.
Monday, November 08, 2004
GTA: San Andreas
Around the time I found myself in the river with police copters circling overhead, I wished I had gone to the tattoo parlor instead. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Just roam around the city with a car full of associates looking for rival gang members to shoot. What started as a simple drive-by quickly became a killing spree. Before I knew it, we had the entire Los Santos police department and a SWAT team on our tail. Now my friends were dead and I faced with a choice: drown or die trying to reach the Las Venturas shoreline.
'Course I swam for it, mofo.
Is GTA: San Andreas chock full of violence and cruel stereotypes? Sure, but so were the others. The game, relocated from its predecessor's alternative reality Miami to a Boyz in the Hood-era LA, is bigger and badder than Vice City. The difficulty level has also been raised several notches. After CJ, the game's gangsta protagonist, woke up in a hospital, I beat the drive-by mission. Now I'm stuck on the level where he and a Doughboy knock-off decide to raid a military armory guarded by reservists armed with machine guns and Humvees. And this is was one of the game's introductory levels.
While San Andreas is in dire need of easy setting, it remains an unequivocal masterpiece. Improving on the already near flawless (overlooking graphics) Vice City, it adds a slew of little touches that vastly add to the gameplay. CJ can interact with people in the street and spray-paint over the tags of rival gangs. Vehicles can be customized with hydraulics and bass-thumping stereo systems. In addition to dodging bullets, CJ has to worry about his sex appeal and respect level while staying fit and eating meals. While this was the most tedious element of the Sims, in San Andreas it's actually fun. If the character eats too much, he gets too flabby. Not enough, too thin. If he wanders into a taco joint and goes on a binge, he pukes on the floor. CJ can also be modified with clothing, tattoos and haircuts.
The plot has also been upgraded. Unlike the protagonists in other installments, CJ isn't so much a one-dimensional thug as a hardknocks parole out to avenge his mother's death. In one mission, CJ hunts down a crack dealer in an effort to clean up his neighborhood (and get potential recruits off the pipe in the process). Other characters are allowed more depth and not every moment is played for laughs. Much like appearances by Ray Liotta and Dennis Hopper in Vice City, a slew of and mostly b-grade celebs turn out for San Andreas. Samuel L. Jackson, the heaviest hitter, lends his voice to corrupt cop out to manipulate CJ into doing his dirty work. George Clinton, David Cross, Chuck D, Andy Dick, Peter Fonda (?), Ice T, Bijou Phillips, Chris Penn and Axl Rose all make appearances.
Most of the praise goes to sheer scale and detail of San Andreas. The playing field is six times larger than Vice City and tosses three more cities into the mix. Along with LA (San Andreas), bizzaro world versions of San Francisco and Las Vegas factor in. Much like Vice City, the game is loaded with era-specific pop music. One station is devoted to alterna rock while another dishes out a steady stream of The Chronic.
But San Andreas still falls victim to the same irritating quirks of the other installments. If you character dies, he's forced to restart the mission, sans weapons. Stealing a car and driving all the way back to the beginning can be an exercise in irritation during more difficult levels. A "save anywhere" feature would make the game run much more smoothly. The targeting system also still needs work.
But these are minor complaints for a game that allows you to fire a bazooka at the Hollywood sign (er, the "Vinewood" sign).
GTA: San Andreas: 9 out of 10 perpetually bouncing lowriders.
The thrill of victory, the pain of defeat(s)
Last year, I put together a photo feature on the "mysteries" of Canada. It was recently picked up by Canaduh, a humor site. You can find it here. Hooray!
Meanwhile, a link to "Me Vs. the Toilets of the Future" was rejected by Boing Boing last week. "Aftermath: Election Night in Portland" was rejected by Blue Oregon and, last month, the editors also turned down "John Edwards: Man of a Million Faces."
At least the Canadians like Welcome to Blog. *sniff* Yet another reason to relocate? Naw. It's too cold up there.
Update on Welcome to Blog: the TV commercial
A few weeks back, I discovered that running an ad on late night cable is dirt cheap. I began daydreaming about cobbling together a 30 second spot for Comedy Central but figured I would never bother to pursue it any further. At the very least, it made for interesting blog fodder. A few readers sent in comments and suggestions. Here's one from Bryan, currently stationed overseas:
"I'm pretty much counting on you to do this. You alone can restore my faith in America in these troubled times."
And how could I turn down the opportunity to boost military morale in Iraq, even if on a minuscule level and despite the fact he was obviously being factious? Regardless, I know consider it my patriotic duty to make this thing happen.
I finally made my way over to Comcast Spotlight earlier this afternoon, a skin and bones site that offers scant info on what it takes to air an ad. After running around the site for a good 15 minutes, I finally tracked down a number for the regional sales office. I left a message but I doubt I'll get a call back. If I do, the conversation will probably go a little something like this:
THEM: "You want to air an ad for a what now?"
ME: "A blog. It's sort of like a newspaper column that I self publish on the internet."
THEM: "How many times would you like to run this ad."
ME: "Oh, just once."
THEM: "I've never heard of...what did you call it? A blog? If you actually want to do this, the production expenses could be quite costly."
ME: "I was hoping to edit it on my computer, transfer it to tape and send it off to you guys. That's what many small businesses do, right?"
THEM: "Hold please."
15 minutes later...
SOMEONE ELSE: "You want to air an ad for a what now?"
Only time will tell.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Lame Office Meeting Doodle Fun Thing # 6
Seeing that I'm hard up for material at the moment, here's the triumphant return of this long forgotten Welcome to Blog series.
(YO)tels of the future
And now for something completely random.
I wanted to spend a night in a capsule hotel while running around Tokyo but wiser heads prevailed and we wound up booking reservations at a more traditional inn. Despite the unbeatable price ($20 - $35 a night, US), there's no real sound buffer between the "rooms." Plus, they're the roughly the size of a coffin.
Still, with a little tweaking, the capsule concept could cease being a purely Japanese phenomenon. But will anyone else stay in them?
A British design firm is betting on something they're calling a "YOtel". YOtel capsules are much larger than their Japanese counterparts and contain tiny bathrooms along with Sony flat panel screens, Wi-Fi access and iPod hookups. All in all, they look like futuristic airplane lavatories modified into hotel rooms. You can see more of the design concepts here.
The YOtel site suggests a single night would run $130. Maybe this is a steal for a room in central London but that much cash should still buy something slightly larger than a dog crate.
EasyHotel, another British company tossing their hat into the ring, seems to have the right idea. Their capsules lack all the bells and whistles but they still offer private baths. A night in a 90-square foot cubicle in Kenesignton near Hyde Park runs a mere $9 a night. They're planning similiar hotels in Paris and Amsterdam. The Kenesignton location is scheduled to open its doors in mid-2005.
Sure, why not?
From Boing-Boing on the topic of red vs. blue states:
Secession. Divorce. Splitsville.
Personally, I think we made a huge mistake not letting them go when we had the chance back in 1862. Well, no time like the present to correct an old mistake.
Then, [the red states] would finally be free to have the kind of society they've always wanted; church and state can be fused so they build the kind of theocracy they've dreamt of, with Jesus at the helm. Then the new USAR (United States of America Red) can ban books, repeal civil rights, persecute gays and have all the wars they like. They want prayer in schools? More power to them. They can ban abortion and post the Ten Commandments in every federal building in their country. Bring back slavery, if they want. We'll be free to live with our like-minded countrymen who believe in science, modernism, tolerance, religion as a personal choice, and truly want limited government intrusion in our personal lives. Why should each side be driven mad by the other any more, decade after decade?
Call the Culture War a tie and everyone go home.
To read the rest, click here.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
In the waning hours of Tuesday night, I ran around town taking pictures of various campaign shindigs. The Oregon Republicans had clogged a standing-room-only banquet hall in the bowels of the Front Avenue Marriott. Meanwhile, across the river in the Portland Convention Center, area Democrats were unleashing their anger on a room full of blue balloons.
The laughter, the heartbreak, the booze, the last gasps of campaign season and...the Lars Larson Mobile. Click here for Welcome to Blog's 48th feature and a look at how both sides of the political spectrum were handling the aftermath of Election Night.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
And I'm too tired to head down there
Protesters and police have spent the evening clashing heads downtown. According to the Portland Indy Media Center, riot cops were chasing down demonstrators on Front Avenue around 7:15. There was talk earlier this evening of "taking" the Brunside Bridge ala the protest in March of 2003. At least 6 people have been arrested but the night is still young.
The spoils of victory
For many readers of Welcome to Blog, this face should be familiar.
So here he is, enjoying the spoils of his party's victory/victories (!@!&%^!) while in the middle of an unprecedented 27-hour workday.
Sometime around 3 AM this morning, I spotted him wandering around in the background during a live C-SPAN interview with his employer. What was this professional, DC journalist doing? Throwing soda at the wall and dancing with a trash can. I spoke with him this afternoon as he was approaching his 36th straight hour of consciousness. He was drunk, claimed he couldn't sleep but was somehow still remarkably coherent.
Dan Rather, eat your heart out.
The day after yesterday
- He won by a wide margin. "The greatest number of popular votes of any presidential candidate in history."
- The Republicans picked up more seats in the House. They'll control the new Senate, 55-44.
- Measures 33, 34 and 38 were all shot down by wide margins. Measure 36 and 37 passed.
- Despite being pandered to for months, the youth vote didn't show up at the polls.
OK, fine, the number of people under the age of 30 that voted went up from 18 to 21 million. Still, I didn't see any members of Eminem's black sweatshirt clad minions stomping around my neighborhood.
- Speaking of which, what were the DJs at KNRK talking about this afternoon? Not the election but how to change the radio stations of stolen cars in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
- Spotted on the back of a delivery truck in SW: "VIVA LA BUSH! YEAH, BABY!"
- Sheesh, it's enough to make a liberal want to relocate north. Oh wait, Canadian officials are already going on attempting to stop fleeing Democrats seeking asylum. Since that isn't an option, maybe this guy (see: "Exit this Roman shell") has the right idea.
- It's going to be a long four years. On the bright side, everyone will have plenty to gripe about. And I won't have to change the URL. Like 48% of America I'm in terrible mood right now but I guess my demeanor could be worse. See also: this and this (under "breaking news").
As I type this, protesters are gathering in Pioneer Square and riot cops are on the scene. According to feedback area on the Oregon Commentator's blog, earlier today demonstrators involved in the No on 36 campaign rolled around the UO campus while covered in fake blood and carrying crosses.
- Is the end nye? Sure.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Election Night in Portland
In 30 minutes I will finally be allowed to leave work. From here, I'll be heading around town with a camera to soak in as much of the drama as possible. Here's a list of places I'm heading that will no doubt turn me away at the door. !#@#!! lack of press credentials.
The Oregon Repulicans' shindig: Downtown Marriott
Tom Potter for Mayor: Melody Ballroom, 615 SE Alder Street.
Jim Francesconi for Mayor: Northwest Labor Council, 11th & Madison.
The Portland Mercury's "KERRY WINS!" event: Doug Fir, East Burnside & 7th.
Rock the Vote & Willamette Week: Bossanova, 722 E Burnside.
Wyden, Wu, Adams, Fish, the no on 36 campaign, etc: Portland Convention Center.
Elections? What elections?
Things are strangely quiet here in Beaverton. About 5 PM our call volume went down a good 60%. Many of my coworkers are on the edge of their seats with eyes glued to the office HDTV. Are they tuned in to MSNBC? KPTV's local coverage? Naw, the Home and Garden channel. The Kings are playing on another TV.
Bush - 170
Kerry - 112
And now the main event: ZOMBIE VS. MONKEY
The fate of a nation is up for grabs.
The entire world is watching.
Who will win?
The candidate that looks like a zombie or the one that looks like a monkey?
My attention span is too short for Election Day. What I need is a spot online that will display up-to-the-second poll numbers as they come in. The best I found so far (or at least the best looking) is over at CNN's site. It's already 2:32 on the west coast, 5:32 on the other coast. Can't they call at least one state? Pretty please? I'm tired of waiting.
UPDATE (2:41): BOR-ING! I'm going back to XE.
Monday, November 01, 2004
Electon Day Eve
The season of South Park debuted on Wednesday and made an argument that the democratic process should be outright ignored when the candidates aren't up to snuff. A quick rundown on the premise: PETA invades South Park elementary and forces the administration to get rid of their mascot, a dairy cow. The students are allowed to come up with the replacements and Cartman decides to make a joke out of the election. He convinces everyone to nominate a "douche" and a "turd sandwich" as the candidates.
The election quickly becomes heated as the parents become involved. Eventually, Stan becomes so sick of the fervent campaigning of both sides, and the low caliber of the candidates, that he decides not to vote.
I guess I should start worrying when my own political ideologies start to reflect those of a 9-year old cartoon character. Call me a fool but last Monday I voted for a fictional animal instead of John Kerry or George W. Bush. Despite the fact that this is "The Most Important Election of Our Lifetimes," I'm not only one I know that decided to throw their vote away. The brother of a friend serving overseas wrote in KITT from Knight Rider. Someone I went to college with threw away his ballot.
While I'm no fan of Bush, and despite bashing his administration at almost every avaiable opporunity on this blog, I'm not convinced John F. Kerry is the answer to this country's problems. Furthermore, months of enduring the snide, uber-passion of his supporters eventually wore me down to the point of switching from being a reluctant Kerry voter to an apathetic non-voter. At the Edwards rally last month, I was approached by a man that asked me, "Would you like to donate money to defeat Bush." When I shook my head, he snarled an insult and moved on to the next person on the street.
In some parts of this country, you will be mocked and despised for voting Kerry, others for voting for Bush. The fact that this election has so polarized the country to the point where I person's character is determined by who they're voting for is repulsive.
How can people be blind advocates of a candidate that has somehow managed to be even less inspiring than Al Gore? Until August, Kerry's campaign consisted almost entirely of mindlessly trumpeting his service in Vietnam. Part of the problem was that no matter who was selected as the Democratic candidate would have to cater to the nation's terrorism fears and couldn't take a bold stance on much of anything.
If Kerry wins tomorrow, the quagmire in Iraq will not disappear, the economy will not improve and Iran and Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons will not cease. Some pundits are speculating that stocks will crash if Kerry wins. Furthermore, he has no plan for Iraq and, much like Bush, he seems to be rolling the dice that an election in January will somehow, magically, solve this on-going, 12-digit farce. If Iraq continues down this road, what are we going to do? Continue to drop billions over there? No matter how bad it gets, I don't think either candidate will pull out. My prediction is that if Kerry wins, he will be just as controversial and despised as his predecessor.
Using South Park's analogies, the douche is too wishy-washy and the turd sandwich is far too reckless. When your forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, you still find yourself picking an evil. This is why I'd sooner see a dancing mule in the White House than either one of these candidates.
More on the Freddy Krueger album
Halloween has come and gone? So what? That doesn't mean you can't enjoy this.
KUFO's Paranormal Party at the Crystal Ballroom - (10/30/04)
Some people can look at something like an advertisement for the all-girl KISS tribute band Black Diamond, laugh for two seconds and move on with their lives. EI am not one of these people.
So on Saturday night I attended the KUFO sponsored Paranormal Party at the Crystal Ballroom. Why? Because of the obvious metal kitsch factor and the fact that an event like this would no doubt draw in all sorts of weird people dressed in weirder costumes. Plus, I didn't have anything better to do.
The Smurf near the front entrance was a good (if you can call something like this, in any context, "good") sign of what awaited upstairs. An overweight, extremely hairy man, dressed only in a diaper and a white hat had painted himself entirely blue. I should have fled down Burnside to extinguish my now burning eyes with Dr. Pibb but, hey, I paid $12 for a ticket. I had to at least cross the threshold.
As I headed upstairs, a wife was consoling her husband, dressed in a beer can costume. I could only make out this bit of their conversation: "I didn't know it was gonna be like THIS." Maybe he was nursing a stab wound under his costume. Either way, God was no doubt trying to send me a message I couldn't be bothered to listen to.
I made it to the balcony and hid in the bar. This seemed like a safe vantage to observe the scene down below. Out of the crowd I was one of maybe four people that hadn't bothered to dress up and had obviously attended to people watch. The other three, all bored hipsters on the cusp of yuppiedom, were downing microbrews in the front row and acting like royalty in box seats at the Roman Coliseum. Along with pointing and laughing at everything in sight, one of them had procured a headless Barbie doll. He used it as a pointer to draw his colleagues attention to the highlights on the main floor.
The lineup, Black Diamond and the Iron Maidens had managed to fill about 3/4s of the Ballroom. Underneath a ceiling with dangling paper skeletons was a crowd mingling and mostly ignoring the band's double entendres and the tongue-wagging posses of Mrs. Gene Simmons. Where were the smoke machines? What's KISS without pyrotechnics and a moment where Simmon's spits blood? The very least they could have done was break out a Whistling Pete or one of those cardboard chickens that shoots flaming eggs. Somehow these girls had made crossdressing as spandex-clad demons boring. As they rolled through the bands hits, I spotted:
-A doctor in bloody scrubs frenching a Catholic school girl.
-A hobbit/Friar Tuck.
-A hunter with an arrow through his eye.
-At least two pudgy Spidermen.
- A Nazi officer sitting in the lap of a guy dressed in a black and white prison costume. During their "session," a guy dressed who sound like Jay from all those Kevin Smith movies wandered up and shouted, "OOMPAH LOOMPAH DIPPITY DOO!" As they continued making out, he repeated himself before wandering away, dejected that they had not paused to acknowledge what was obviously The Most Brilliant Bit of Wit Ever Spoken.
Then, as Black Diamond rolled through Love Gun, an family, dressed conservatively, strolled in. Mother, father, two "daughters" in their late 20s/early 30s, all drinking from clear plastic cups filled with red wine. They acted like the kids from Village of the Dammed and must have been what made the guy in the beer suit fleeing for the exit.
Then, out of nowhere, a gigantic Metal Man, dressed in red spandex jumped into the chair next to me and began launching a machine gun assault of political diatribes at the woman next to him. Over the music I could only make out bits and pieces, which all sounded like "YeahalltheguysarevotingforBushwhereIworkand
During this, Black Diamond silenced the crowd. Acting like a monk atop a remote mountain, the lead singer passed down this bit of wisdom: "We've been pursuing our dreams and here we are. As you go after yours and work your heart out, don't forget to ROCK N' ROLL ALL NIGHT AND PAR-TAY EV-ER-RAY DAY! WOOOOOOOOOO!"
After rolling through the prerequisite, she smashed her black guitar and handed it to a man in the front row that looked like Kyle from Tenacious D. About this time, Metal Man rushed downstairs and onto the stage and revealed his true identity: KUFO DJ. He and his coworkers had dressed as members of Motely Crue. I think he was supposed to be Vince Neil.
It was time for a costume contest.
A nude devil girl took home a resort getaway for sexiest costume, a man dressed in a pot leaf won for best overall costume. Among the losers, two Oompah Loompahs, a suicide bomber, a man in an elaborate cell phone costume that couldn't stop saying "Can you hear me now?," and "The Chick Magnet," a fratboy that had duct-tapped Barbie dolls all over himself.
After a Grim Reaper voice-over, the Iron Maidens wandered out. Their amps were covered in crop-circle/feminist symbols. They had two smoke machines, waived large British flags while covering "Two Minutes to Paradise."
On the way out, I discovered that the devil girl was actually wearing a body suit and found myself stuck behind the cell phone as he struggled down the stairs. His antenna became caught on a low portion of the ceiling. Through a speaker in the front, he had to ask for help. Two members of the staff grabbed his arms and guided to the door. Many a late night must have gone into the construction of that thing.
Outside, the police had just arrived. A zombie with a painted-on head wound was screaming and the Ballroom's security staff was on edge. Despite this, I didn't stick around to watch what might ensue. A guy in yellow glitter suit down the street was playing a trumpet while wearing a hat shaped like Goofy. How could I pass up a performance like that?