Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WHODATHUNKIT!?: Royal Wedding Edition: The 3 Best Things You REALLY WANT TO Know About The Royal Wedding.

Welcome to my attempt to cash in on the royal wedding.

If you, like me, said "Which royal wedding?" then you are part of an elite club that includes you, and me, and anyone else in the world who wonders why, if people love royalty so much, only Britain's royal family gets the publicity?

After all, according to "The International Commission on Nobility and Royalty," which is a thing, there are 87 different countries that have royal families, which came as a surprise to me because I would have sworn there were only about 10 countries in the world, all told, and I guess that explains why Olympic opening ceremonies are so long. (I just thought athletes like parades.)

The ICNR's list of 87 countries with royal families is a little misleading, though, and needs some explanation. First off, the ICNR notes on Asia are as follows:

ASIA (The "de jure" sovereign kings, emirs, etc. of various former little nations --- too many to keep track of)

That's why America is falling behind China, you fools! We're too lazy to count the royal families of all the nations. Do you think the Chinese are not counting them? Oh, they are. And we'll realize our mistakes only too late.

That notation made me wonder just how small those former little nations (which sounds like it might be a Disney Family cartoon, doesn't it? Former Little Nations: Join the Adventure as Baby Nations romp around the world discovering new things about each country! With their friends, Carrie The Cartographer and Boatie, these Former Little Nations will have your kids learning and laughing!)

Just how small those former little nations are, given that the list counts such countries as "Grenada," which is most famous for being the most ridiculous war-movie setting ever, and Luxembourg, which is most famous for my constantly getting it confused with Monaco.

The list also includes Zanzibar, which would be a good name for a new kind of candy treat.

With all those royal families, you'd expect that people would get confused when the media (meaning: Katie Couric) says the royal wedding, and everyone would start flipping through their People Magazines to find out if that suave devil the "Elective Prince of The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta: "de jure" over past territories and still an independent subject of international law: His Most Eminent Highness the Prince and Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing as of March 11, 2008" has finally found that special someone, but no! We just automatically assume that it's Britain's royal family.

Doesn't seem fair, does it, if you are the Elective Prince... etc. etc. Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing as of March 11, 2008"? No, it doesn't, and I hope he'll find at least some consolation in the fact that he can serve to let nerds prove that George Lucas wasn't being ridiculous when he had the Queens of Naboo be elected for a term, because the Elective Prince... etc. etc., Grand Master Fra' of Malta is also elected.*

*obligatory Star Wars Reference
But, all fairness aside**

**as Republicans like to say

I've caught "Royal Wedding Fever," the symptoms of which include a desire to get a bunch of hits on my blog from all those people who really do have "Royal Wedding Fever" and who will call in sick to work this Friday... the wedding is Friday, right? ... and watch in breathless anticipation as nothing much happens.

And when they do watch that, they're going to need something to talk about after they finish the topic of Kate Middleton's feather hats, which I understand can dominate the discussion for upwards of 73 straight hours -- or roughly 1/4 the time this wedding will take to be completed. And you, too, are going to need something to talk about, because you, like me, probably won't watch at all but will want to feel like you're a part of society by pitching in and saying something about the wedding, so I'm again providing that phenomenal public service that this blog does from time to time, to wit:

WHODATHUNKIT!?:
Royal Wedding Edition:
The 3 Best Things You REALLY WANT TO Know About The Royal Wedding.


In presenting these things, you might think that I'm hampered somewhat by not having read or watched anything about the Royal Wedding, by not ever having been to England, and by not actually being sure who "Kate Middleton" really is.

You would be wrong. I have never let a fact get in the way of a good opinion.***

***As Republicans also like to say.

And so I can therefore freely provide you with the following three AMAZING facts that will serve as conversational fodder/my blatant attempt to up my page rank during the upcoming festivities, secure in the knowledge that it just took me four tries to correctly spell festivities.

1. The wedding is in an abbey, so Kate Middleton's mom's dream that her daughter would have a 'nice church wedding' is going to be crushed.

Westminster Abbey -- hands down, the best abbey Joey has ever seen -- is a busy place -- it holds 1,500 "daily" services a year, raising the question Have the Brits found a way to get more days than the rest of us -- but it isn't just a church, per se. An abbey is a home for monks or nuns managed by an abbot, which means maybe I am missing something and this wedding is going to be hilarious:




So
, if an abbey is something that's headed by an abbot, then a fair question to ask is what's an abbot?****

****Nothing; what's an abbot you?


Nevermind
what that joke is supposed to mean. I looked up the definition of abbot, and found that it's:

a man who is the head or superior, usually elected, of a monastery.

You saw that coming, right? I sometimes can't believe that English counts as a language.

But Westminster Abbey is not just an abbey, and not just home to the world's most famous dog show (which will take place immediately after the wedding, Friday). It's also a little bit peculiar, as noted on its website:


Westminster Abbey is one of the world’s greatest churches, a designated World Heritage Site and ‘Royal Peculiar’, which means the Dean is directly answerable to the monarch.

That's according to its website -- yes, the Abbey has a website, and a Twitter feed, and a podcast. There's a lot going on at the Abbey, including the "Office For The Royal Maundy."

I don't know what the Office For the Royal Maundy is, so let's move on to:

2. The "Office For The Royal Maundy" is a church service in which the Queen gives money to old people.


Seriously: At "The Official Website Of The British Monarchy," the informational overload includes information about "Maundy Thursday," which is the Thursday before Good Friday, and which is also the day the Queen gives "Maundy Coins" to elderly pensioners in recognition of their service to the community.

This year's Maundy Coins (shown at right) were actually several coins in two purses, totaling 5 pounds, 135 pence, which is equal to 11 Bosnian Convertible Markers. "Bosnian Convertible Markers" are, of course, the money used in Bosnia, which I am pretty sure is still a country. *****

*****I am not US-centric. Why should we always convert money to simply "US Dollars"? Other than the fact that other countries' money seems fake, I mean?

The Maundy tradition is said to date from the Last Supper, following Jesus' command to love one another, his "mandate." (Maundy is a corruption of mandate, another reason why English ought not to be considered a full-fledged language.******)

******And another checkmark against English is the past participle.
In the past, the British monarch didn't just give a couple of pence to the lads; he would get down and wash their feet, too, but that tradition ended with James II. (James II was, I believe, the British Monarch who abdicated the throne to roam the world in a giant peach.)

3. Kate Middleton might actually be some sort of goddess and/or Antichrist who heralds the end of the world.

Scoff if you want, but don't scoff too loudly lest you be left behind when the world comes to an end. This part of the Royal Wedding hasn't actually been played up -- probably because the media (meaning: Rachel Maddow) are part of a massive conspiracy to keep you, the good people of the world, from knowing that the world is going to end if this wedding goes through.

To come to that conclusion, I have put several actual facts together in what will immediately become apparent is the only logical way, and they lead inexorably to the conclusion that unless we stop this wedding, it's over for humanity.

FACT ONE: Take a look at this actual billboard from the actual world:



That's the work of a group called "Family Radio," which doesn't seem like a church name, but neither does Westminster Abbey, so who are you to judge?

Family Radio sets out, on its website, a timeline from the Bible that helps prove that the billboard is right. Highlights from that include:

11,013 BC—Creation. God created the world and man (Adam and Eve).

....

1988 AD—This year ended the church age and began the great tribulation period of 23 years

....

1994 AD—On September 7th, the first 2300-day period of the great tribulation came to an end and the latter rain began, commencing God’s plan to save a great multitude of people outside of the churches
....

2011 AD—On May 21st, Judgment Day will begin and the rapture (the taking up into heaven of God’s elect people) will occur at the end of the 23-year great tribulation.

Fact Two: In 1988, George Bush was elected.

Fact Three: In 1994, the "Republican Revolution" occurred.

Fact Four: Neither Fact Two nor Fact Three actually plays into this, but I thought it would be fun to note that when people vote for Republicans they are bringing about the rule of Satan. Keep that in mind, everyone.

Fact Five: The world will not actually end on May 21; that's only Judgment Day. The world actually will go on existing until October 21, 2011, again according to Family Radio and/or God:

By God’s grace and tremendous mercy, He is giving us advanced warning as to what He is about to do.

On Judgment Day, May 21st, 2011, this 5-month period of horrible torment will begin for all the inhabitants of the earth.

It will be on May 21st that God will raise up all the dead that have ever died from their graves. Earthquakes will ravage the whole world as the earth will no longer conceal its dead (Isaiah 26:21).

People who died as saved individuals will experience the resurrection of their bodies and immediately leave this world to forever be with the Lord. Those who died unsaved will be raised up as well, but only to have their lifeless bodies scattered about the face of all the earth. Death will be everywhere.

Fact Six: God and/or Family Radio have the date wrong for the end of the world. Family Radio notes that the Bible says this "all the dead people scattering" period will last 150 days
The Lord also emphasizes these awful 5 months of destruction in the final verse of Genesis, chapter 7:

Genesis 7:24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.


Five months after May 21st, 2011 will be October 21st, 2011. It so happens that October 21st of 2011 is also the last day of the Biblical Feast of Tabernacles (held simultaneously with the Feast of Ingathering).
While five months after May 21 is October 21, October 21 is not "an hundred and fifty days" after May 21. October 18 is. So if you thought maybe you'd make it until Friday the week the world ends, guess again. The world will end on a Tuesday.

Fact Seven: Kate Middleton and I share the same birthdate, January 9. That's not really critical either, but it is kind of neat. Also born that day? Bob Denver and Richard Nixon.

Fact Eight: Remember how the world is actually going to end in October, not May? Well, guess who got engaged in October? (If you guessed "Kate Middleton," then you are half-right: Prince William did, too.)

Fact Nine: Kate Middleton's face has appeared on a jellybean.



Jellybeans are, of course, traditionally associated with Easter, which is kind of a religious holiday associated with something-or-other. I can't remember. But I'm pretty sure this jellybean thing means something.

And that is why I am off to England, to stop the wedding, with only the help of my loyal band of followers, the Former Little Nations and Carrie The Cartographer. We'll all get on Boatie and, joined by our special guest the Elective Prince... etc. etc. Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing as of March 11, 2008 will do our best to stop the wedding, save the world, and otherwise come up with what sounds pretty much like the back cover blurb of Dan Brown's next novel, am I right?



Monday, April 25, 2011

Han Solo took a shortcut? (Star Wars References.)

This comic strip, from XKCD:



Might have equally had what I assume to be Luke Skywalker saying, in the fourth panel, "I thought a parsec was a unit of measurement equal to 3.26 light years. So what you're saying is that you found a way to reduce the actual distance traveled for the Kessel Run, which of course would shorten the time as well, most likely, but that doesn't actually prove that the Millennium Falcon is a fast ship, but merely that you're better at celestial navigation than other pilots... which just goes to reason, since any starship that can get around this galaxy can go light speed, and light speed is pretty much the fastest that anything can go. So I guess it's important to us that you can find shortcuts like you did on the Kessel Run, even though the idea of a "shortcut" between planets is sort of a ridiculous notion, anyway."

Or, the author could have opted to reference a different movie altogether. But it's, like, why would that happen... in a world?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The 8 Best Video Games, #1 (MiniBest!)


I don't often post about video games on here, and there's a reason for that: they're for losers.

I'm serious about that, in the same way that I'm serious about thinking that everything I'm no good at is for losers. In my world, things divide up into three categories:

1. Things I Am Good At, And Therefore Like.
2. Things I Am Not Good At, And Therefore Say Is For Losers.
3. The Mysterious Third Category That I Will Explain In The Next Paragraph Or So.

The Mysterious Third Category actually could be titled "Things I Am Not Good At But Still Want To Like And So I Try To Do Them But Am Never Very Good At Them And So I Like Them But In My Mind I Create A Separate Category Of The Thing Which I Then Decide Is For Losers."

But that's a pretty long title, and also, if I'd just come out and said that, there would have been no sense of mystery driving you on to read this post further -- and what kind of writer would I be if I just blurted out a bunch of stuff with no particular meaning and didn't give you a reason to keep on reading?*

*I'd be the Jonathan Franzen kind of writer.


The Mysterious Third Category includes things like golf, which I really really like to play, but which I am horrendous at. I am the world's worst golfer, and I say that with a kind of pride because it's good to excel at something, even if the thing you excel at is not excelling at something.**

**Yeah, try to wrap your head around that.

Because I love golf but am no good at it, I have subdivided golf into categories, which are:

a. Golf when I'm playing, and
b. Golf when anyone else is doing it.

And, as you'd guess, golf when I'm playing is fun and cool even though I'm no good at it, but golf when anyone else is doing it is lame and stupid and for losers, so if you watch golf, play golf, once thought about golf, looked at a golf course as you drove by, or just read this paragraph in which I said golf seven times*** then you are a loser.

***Did you compulsively go back and count them the way I always do whenever someone numbers something? We both need help.

Video games used to fall into category number one. Sort of. I wasn't ever really good at video games, not the way guys in 80s movies were good at video games. Guys in 80s movies were always so good at games that they could play them for hours, or play them while drinking large sodas at the pizza place, or play them in such a way as to get girls, or play them in such a way as to get to be The Last Starfighter.

And I was never anywhere near that good -- but I was able to play them, at least -- able to understand them and work the 1 or 2 controls that were required of video games in the olden days: track balls, a button or two, maybe a joystick.

Video games have advanced way beyond that level, advancing to the point where the average video game controller requires at least three hands to work properly, so that kids someday will Zaphod Beeblebrox themselves, maybe... I don't know how they're doing it now, working all those controls, or working the two different controls required for the Wii that not only require you to press buttons but to move around, too, and that's why I've drifted away from video games over the years.

Well, that, and I grew up.

And that, and the growing up thing, and also, video games got really hard, even without the controller. I can remember playing Super Mario Bros. 2, and exploring around in Mario's world and thinking "This is amazing, it's a video game that also lets me explore," which was kind of an expansion of the old Atari 2600 game Adventure, a game that I always loved but which lacked a certain element of graphics, and also a certain element of game play.

I always liked games that combined challenges with adventures, getting to explore a world and also try to do challenges, at least until I got caught up with modern games, which happened when I played Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. I got the game from a friend, who told me it was great for exploring and game-play.

You know what it was great for? Shooting a (*#)$%& monkey.

That's all I could do. My experience with Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was limited to: start the game. Slide down the hill, avoiding the pit. Go into the tomb. Shoot the monkey before it bit me. Slide across the vine...

... never advance any further.

I was able to play Lara Croft: Tomb Raider for about 5 minutes at a time, and never got further than sliding across that $(#&% river.

Things got worse from there: I couldn't get Spider-Man out of the warehouse, Ratchet & Clank kept sinking in quicksand, I shot one-- ONE-- stormtrooper*** in Star Wars: Battlegrounds or whatever it was.

***Obligatory Star Wars Reference.


And then, the final blow to modern video games: I played The Boy in Madden football, and I lost... 68-3.

And, yeah, I kicked the field goal just to not be shut out.

I had never lost to The boy in Madden football before, in years and years and years, but the new game required use of all the buttons and the controller could be moved to make your guy lean and there were all kinds of new tweaks that made it almost exactly like playing football...

... provided that NFL players were to sit around in a circle and move a small controller.

What's the deal with how complicated these games are? I'm not talking just about figuring out levels and how to win and strategies: I'm talking about games that require practice sessions to learn how to work everything. Because if the idea is to make it seem as realistic as possible, well, MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED.

Sitting in a beanbag chair waving a controller around pressing buttons does not make it seem almost exactly as if you're returning a punt or hang-gliding or figuring out whatever "The Cake Is A Lie" means. It just makes it more complicated, and serves as a barrier to people who want to play a game.

Did you ever sit down to play a boardgame with friends and see a packet of instructions as thick as your arm and decide to just do shots, instead? Me, neither; I didn't have those kinds of friends and don't live in a modern sitcom. But that's the point I'm trying to make here: Even the most complicated-seeming board games, like Axis & Allies and Monopoly and such were, at their heart, simple. The strategies could be complicated, but the play was simple.

I think video games got away from that. They got away from making things devilishly hard to figure out how to get past all those flaming barrels the monkey was throwing at you, or how to get past Bowzer, to making it devilishly hard to hit A+B plus RTCTRL plus turn the controller to the left plus wiggle the joystick and so on. They got carried away with the fact that they could pack 16 different controllers onto one thing and decided to make you use them all to play a game, sometimes at once. Videogames became not about reflexes or thinking, but about whether you were capable of using each finger independently of all the others.

Which I can't.

Let me emphasize that the fact that I could not get further than the monkey and the river on Lara Croft wasn't because I couldn't figure out where to go next. I could. I just couldn't get Lara Croft to do it. I couldn't manipulate the then-8 controls well enough to make Lara Croft do what I wanted to do.

The equivalent, in terms of the games I grew up with, would be if in Risk I'd decided to attack the Kamchatka peninsula, but wasn't able to lift the dice to roll. When I lost 68-3 to The Boy in football, I was completely unable to remember to fade back, hit a button to get ready to pass, watch the "Quarterback's Eye," hit another button to throw the pass, keeping it held down longer in order to throw a bullet pass, then hit a different button to switch control to the receiver, at which point I'd hit a combination of buttons to leap, catch the ball, stiff-arm, speed burst, and gain three yards.

I'm confused just typing that.

And maybe kids today can work those controls, but I can't, and kids today are losers.

So I decided, after recently rediscovering Pac Man and remembering that once upon a time I could control my video game avatar and actually play, to celebrate, over the next 8 MiniBests, the 8 Best Video Games, and today's is number one, number one being:
2001 Madden NFL for the PlayStation 2.

I picked this one as the first entry on this list because it was the last "modern" videogame I enjoyed playing and didn't need to practice at to play.

Every boy I know grew up wanting to play football -- harboring dreams that they would someday be in the NFL, playing for a playoff spot and then the Super Bowl. Some of us****

****Specifically, me.

Have still not really given up on that; there's still a part of me that thinks "Well, with a little conditioning, I could probably start at quarterback and go, say, 11-5 with a 92 rating."

(That part of me is the part that doesn't recall that I got really winded the other day playing Chase with Mr Bunches.)

Madden NFL football was the first football game to give us a chance to do that without getting winded or having to go outside: prior football games that I actually owned looked like this:



and then this:




And then this:



But Madden NFL looked like this:



And by 2001, it had pretty much hit perfection: Just the right level of challenge in the game play, just the right level of complexity: It was possible to play it on the old controllers, the ones that didn't have 73 different buttons and a gyroscope in them, the plays were fun, the teams were pretty evenly matched. I loved the 2001 version of this game, the only one I ever personally owned. I set up a season and picked my team, the Buffalo Bills, and got them into the playoffs and everything -- picking apart defenses and going for it on fourth-and-long and otherwise managing to get the feel of what it might be like to play in the NFL the way I wanted it to be and without getting my head torn off.

Of course, no good thing can be left untouched -- EA Sports wants to keep getting new money from players, so they have to offer new things every year, and they tweaked it and made it harder and "more realistic" and... worse. Every new feature made the game a little tougher to play, but in the worst way possible: by making it harder to work the controls. The competition didn't get better -- it just got tougher to actually make the game do what I wanted it to do.

Again, that's like simply making the dice heavier; sure, it makes the game tougher to play, but not in a good way.

I blame, in this case, a complete lack of creativity combined with a complete lack of smarts on the part of Madden NFL lovers. EA Sports couldn't come up with new games that would appeal to football fans, but wanted to keep getting $40-70 per year from them. So they simply recreated the wheel each year, with some new unnecessary feature. And the gamers just went ahead and bought the new version, each year, to get updated stats and new uniforms, at full cost with a few options that they hadn't needed the year before to enjoy the game.

And at some point, EA Sports ran out of useful tweaks and simply added new tweaks like "quarterback eye," a horrible innovation where your QB has to look around the field and you have to wait until he looks at the receiver you want, until you get sacked, and a bunch of other stupid things.

Imagine if the thinking behind EA Sports' yearly Madden updates were applied to, say, books or movies or TV shows. Sure, in other entertainment, they release sequels and imitators, but if the EA Sports Madden Model were applied to books, then John Grisham wouldn't even need to change the names in his assembly-line thrillers. He'd have released The Firm, and a year later we'd get The Firm 1993, this time with some footnotes and an extra chapter that flashed back to Tom Cruise's law school days.

The Firm 1994, 1995, etc. would have kept going until there was no more story to add and instead we got a new way to shuffle the chapters, a cover that was slightly more green but could be changed to blue by sliding it counterclockwise... and so on.

All of it not adding to the story and making it more difficult or annoying to just read the thing.

Sometimes, things are good enough. And any update or change has to actually add something to the experience you're trying to create. Looking at the Madden NFL changes as time went on from 2001, it seems to me that the "experience" Madden NFL was really trying to re-create was the experience of trying to solve a Rubik's cube you're not allowed to look because you're driving a car on the freeway at rush hour at the time. Or at least that's what it felt like to me, losing 68-3. So excuse me if I'm not looking forward to future ideations of that "game" which I'm sure will include such enhancements as "requiring that you hop on one foot in iambic pentameter in order to tackle the runner."


Click here for more MiniBests!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

THIS is a THING!? Table of Contents:


THIS is a THING?! is my attempt to explain pop culture to you, without my actually having to endure the pop culture on my own; that is, I'll take something that's really popular among other people, and I'll try to explain it to you... but I'm not actually going to invest much*

*any


of my time or energy in watching, listening to, smelling, touching, or otherwise experiencing that thing.

Here are all the THINGS that are:

Instagram

Peeps Dioramas.

Fake Walk-offs from interviews

Lip Dubs.

Planking


Maybe Lady GaGa is planning to turn herself into a Tusken Raider? (Star Wars References)

I was skimming through The Superficial's comment roundup the other day, because sometimes i care about what other people think, if what other people think is funny and makes fun of celebrities, when something caught my eye.

Two things, actually, caught my eye, and the first has nothing to do with Star Wars. The first was this picture of Lady GaGa:



Which made me wonder what is going on with her face? Is that a photoshopping screwup, or has Lady Gaga gotten triangle cheek implants? (The latter is actually more likely than the former; I'm about 90% sure that the triangles are the beginning of Lady GaGa having some sort of replica of Red Square being built around her head in order to make a point about (and I'm quoting from her in the future, here) "Oppression... or something."

Luckily, I was able to wash that image out of my mind the same way you'll be able to: By looking at what someone humorously thought about Sean Penn's look as he walked around:


Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Six (?) Best Songs That Would Be Really Great If They Didn't Have That One Part In Them. (SemiDaily List!)


I think the title pretty much explains this one, doesn't it?

I love music as much as the next guy, unless the next guy hates music, in which case I love music a lot more than the next guy, and what's his deal, anyway? I can understand not being crazy about music, not caring about it one way or the other, really, not thinking much about it, but hating music? Really? Lighten up, next guy?

What really bugs me about music, though, aside from the lingering feeling that the Next Guy has issues that he needs to address, are when people take a perfectly good song and throw something into it that just wrecks the song, that derails it and leaves you scratching your head and thinking "What's going on there?" It's like they're trying to ruin the song.

It's hard to explain, so let me jump into the list and begin with an example of a really great song that just falls apart at one point and then tries to pull itself back together. Here's song number one on this list,

1. Englishman In New York, Sting.



What's Great About This Song: 99% of it. The chamber-music, quiet quality of it embodies what many people associate with the English, or, as they're sometimes called, "the British," but it's not I'm a Britishman In New York, so I'm going with English. Also, correct me if I'm wrong*

*Don't.

but aren't Englishmen specifically from England, while you could be British and from, say, Wales, because it's a part of Great Britain?**

**I think.

It's quiet, civilized, proper, and moves along briskly, just like the English.

What Goes Wrong: Drum solo at 2:36; Did Sting owe his drummer a favor? Is that supposed to poetically illustrate the cognitive dissonance***

***I can use big words, too, you know.

of an Englishman living in New York? Because it doesn't work. It's the equivalent of someone suddenly smacking you in the back of the head during a discussion of poetry, and then going back to what they were saying. You can't shake it off and it lingers with you the rest of the song, turning a nice little musical number into an annoying piece of work. And even if that was the point, it's a stupid point to make; we can gather that an Englishman in New York might find the experience somewhat unsettling without being rabbit punched, Sting. A true poet does it with his words. W.H. Auden didn't come over to people's houses and beat them about the neck with J. Alfred Prufrock's love song.

Get what I'm talking about? See if number two helps clarify the point.

2. You Dress Up For Armageddon, The Hives.



What's Great About This Song: Most of it. I'm off again/on again about The Hives' particular kind of garage/grunge rock; The White Stripes did it better and The Strokes were hipper, but The Hives can still put together a good song when they try hard enough. Armageddon has a sort of early-Green Day Hitchin' A Ride beat to it with just enough clashy-guitars and shaggy shouted choruses to enjoy this song that appears to be about a guy who's turning down a (possibly crossdressing?) Goth because of their differences. It's got a good beat and you can dance to it, but I don't recommend doing that in your car, because you should be driving.

What Went Wrong: Quiet part with a pause beginning about 2:15, and ending with "But I disagree." The actual lyrics are:

Who is the man with the microphone?
Today he is here but tomorrow he is gone

But I disagree

And not only does the tone of the song shift for just a few seconds to a quiet, creepy kind of thing, but those lyrics make no sense in the context of the rest of the song -- even if I'm wrong about what the song's about.***

***I'm not.
Is it a newsbreak? Is the quieter tone meant to emphasize the raucous nature of the rest of the song? Either way, it's annoying and makes me less likely to listen to the song when it comes up on shuffle.

2A.: Well Alright The Hives:



What's Great About It: When I first posted this on a Sunday morning, I was going off memory rather than my usual written-down-over-time lists, and later on that morning, after a walking on a treadmill for a while -- the spot I typically get my best ideas -- I remembered this song, and how much I liked the stomp-and-rock feel of it, until...

What Went Wrong: ... at 1:40 they slow it down to mope about for a bit, and I don't get why they felt the need to do that, because while that might work on some songs, on this one, it doesn't at all. It's like that moment at a dinner party when the conversation's been going well and the talk is lively and then one member of a couple says something kind of mean about another couple that hints at a fight which occurred on the way over and which is clearly going to be continued after the party, and everyone tries to ignore it, but things never really get back their verve.

Now on to one that really hurts:

3. Modern Love, by David Bowie:



What's Great About This Song: Almost... almost... everything. I love this song, which should be a part of every person's musical library. Even Next Guy's. It is, to put it simply, The greatest rock song ever recorded. Even with the flaw. And I've said that since it came out. For over 20 years, I have listed, at the top of the Greatest Rock Songs Ever, two songs:

1. Modern Love, and
2. Faith, by George Michael.

Three-through-infinity have changed, but positions 1 and 2 never changed. So it's very hard for me to say

What Went Wrong: It's that sax solo. At about 1:45, the sax solo comes in and takes front and center, and I... hate ... it. I grit my teeth through it and try to rationalize it: Oh, it was the 80s; everybody had a sax solo. Clarence Clemons even had a hit record. But it makes it so hard to love this song. It's like when Brett Favre started sexting, or when Obama gave up being president and began counting the days until he could go back to Chicago. You really really want to forgive them, but the best you can do is try to look the other way.

Especially when he lets the sax guy do it again at the end of the song. On to song number 4:

4. Folding Chair, Regina Spektor.



What's Great About This Song: Ever since I first discovered her song Fidelity I have been a diehard Regina Spektor fan, and I have a whole special playlist on my iPod for her songs -- the only artist to merit such a position. And Folding Chair is among the best of them: the hopeful upbeat manner of the song jibing perfectly with the lyrics to create an optimistic but still somehow realistic view of a relationship that's just beginning.

What Went Wrong: Really, Regina? You had to sound like a dolphin? Do you know how hard it is to get people to listen to a song after that happens? I know you were trying to be playful, but it comes off as amazingly lame. When, in writing the song, you inserted [Make dolphin sounds here] you ought to have chuckled and then hired help to follow you around to ever avoid thinking that again.

Also, you really sound more like a seal.

Speaking of people misjudging their singing:

5. Dearest, Buddy Holly:



What's Great About This Song: Not only is this song kind of ahead of its time for the 50s -- it seems oddly out-of-place with what I imagine I know about that era -- but the Juno soundtrack was the only lasting good effect of Diablo Cody's short-lived Hollywood career, and this was on it. It's a sweet, kind of dreamlike ode to someone the singer is in love with; the whole song feels like it should be set to a montage of people romping in the summer sunlight. George Lucas should've used it for Anakin and Padme's love interlude on Naboo.

What Went Wrong: At 1:10, Buddy kind of turns from a guy in love to an overly-breathy stalkerish serial killer, mumbling scarily I love you... I love you... into the microphone. Listen to it carefully, and then imagine hearing that over the phone late at night. And oh my god, the call is coming from inside your house!

6. All My Friends, LCD Soundsystem.



What's Great About This Song: I don't really get LCD Soundsystem. I picked up this album after The New Yorker wrote an article about how they record in rooms lined with aluminum foil and quoted the lead singer (?) as follows:

“LCD live was set up to be an argument about what’s wrong with bands and why bands should be better,” Murphy said. “Nobody onstage can hear anything the audience doesn’t hear. No click tracks, no guides… If it’s an organic sound, it absolutely cannot be put on a sampler… No sunglasses. No rocking out… No pretending you’re cool.

So I wanted to see what that was about, because pretending is about as close to cool as I can get. I then picked up the album that had All My Friends on it and I really liked the song -- the driving beat, the lyrics about where your friends are and being nostalgic and lost in adult life, the repetition of the piano chords...

What Went Wrong: The repetition of the piano chords... the repetition of the piano chords... this song goes on for seven minutes. That is a long time to basically hear the same two notes over and over, and it deters me from listening to the song at all, for the same reason I don't like hourlong TV shows: I feel it might be too much of a commitment from me. When the song comes on, I think "Am I up for this right now? Am I ready to be this intensely committed?" and the answer is usually no and I skip ahead to Convoy. Cut that song in half and I'd consider moving it higher on the playlist. As it is, I can't always promise I'm going to devote 7 minutes of my life -- that's nearly 0.000000001% -- to this song, and that, in turn, makes me even less likely to go listen to other LCD Soundsystem songs, because I expect they, too, might end up being kind of needy and clingy and keep talking to me forever and not let me get on with my life.

So congratulations, LCD Soundsystem: You made a song that exactly mirrors what I was like in seventh grade.

Read more Best Of Musics here.

Read more SemiDaily Lists here.

Welcome a new TBOE reader! Oh, and some stuff about cooking (POP!Best!)


Or maybe two new readers: A Twofer Sunday! Or something.

Hot on the heels of my posting The Best Cookbook, in which I opined that

We have, then, reached a point in our culture where cooking is purely for entertainment,


and also noted that

Cooking... has all the other hallmarks of an art that isn't practiced by most people. We have more TV shows about chefs and cooking than we do about detectives with troubled homelives, and we have shows about restaurants and how to find them, and we have shows where cooks go to restaurants. We've done from dinner theater to dinner as theater...

Which I thought was clever, and which also spurred on a Chicago chef and a New York food writer to use me as their muse; in a New York Times article titled (less cleverly) In Chicago, The Chef Grant Achatz Is Selling Tickets To His New Restaurant, food writer Pete Wells expands on my thesis:

BY this point, nearly everyone agrees that dining out has replaced going to the theater and that chefs are rock stars. So why don’t restaurants sell tickets? Grant Achatz, the highly praised chef of Alinea in Chicago, has asked himself the same question.
Grant Achatz didn't just ask himself the question I thought of first, but he answered it by deciding that (as the NYT headline spoiled for you) he's going to sell tickets to his restaurant, called Next (which is a pun -- because not only is it Grant's next restaurant but it's the next thing in restaurants. I'm starting to really like Grant.)

Tickets will go for $45-$75, assuming you don't buy them from a scalper and assuming you don't get confused and buy old tickets to a Charlie Sheen live show, and can be resold; the cost of the ticket includes the whole shebang, as nobody in the restaurant business says but they should: drinks, food, and whatever else it is people get in restaurants that don't have playlands (the only kind of restaurants I eat in anymore.)

And, apparently, restaurants sans playlands feature more than just mere food and drink from this era: Grant Achatz is going to time travel:

The menu will change four times a year, with each new edition featuring the cuisine of a particular place and time. When the restaurant opens, Mr. Achatz said, the theme will be Paris in 1912, with painstakingly researched evocations of Escoffier-era cuisine. Three months later, the kitchen will turn out a fresh set of recipes — evoking, say, postwar Sicily, or Hong Kong 25 years from now, with modern techniques employed to imagine the future of Chinese cuisine.


One side effect of all this rock starrery is to put the hurt on waiters:

But the plan would also have value for Mr. Achatz and his main partner in Next and Alinea, Nick Kokonas. By law, restaurants may distribute tips only to those employees who work in service. But the service charge included in the ticket price “gives him control over the money,” said Bill Guilfoyle, an associate professor of business management at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. “He can give it to whomever he sees fit.”

Mr. Achatz could pay cooks more than members of the wait staff, a reversal of the usual pecking order that could allow him to recruit shining kitchen talent.


Really? Waiters make more than cooks at restaurants? Is that true of every industry, that the person who carries things for you makes more than the people that make the stuff? Because I thought that the rule of Less Talent=More Money applied only to banks and Fox News contributors.

Of course, the idea that cooking is entertainment didn't originate with me...





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Saturday, April 16, 2011

But when will we see "High School Musical 2" uncut? (Star Wars References)



I've been sitting on this one for a few weeks, hoping that I could finish watching it, but I haven't yet.

Remember that there are, by my estimate, over 33,000 movies made every second. (That's gotta be close, right? I mean, just consider how often J.J. Abrams combines Stand By Me with Signs to come up with a supposedly original movie like Super8*

*According to Entertainment Weekly's summer movie preview** which I tepidly paged through last night before rewatching the "Ladder to Heaven" episode of South Park, the movie Super8 will feature a widowed cop trying to reconnect with his son while four geeky kids filming a movie find an alien by the train tracks. So I'm not making up that mash-up stuff. It's real..

**Also, Sweetie says that we cannot go see Thor for our anniversary in May, which I was upset about until I read in the preview that Thor isn't actually a god in this movie, he's an alien.***

***That, too, is not made up.

So with 33,000 movies per second to choose from, including classics like Casablanca (never seen it) and Citizen Kane (never wanted to) and The Godfather (found it boring) and Revenge of the Nerds (a classic that will live forever), you can guess which movie fans opted to remake on their own, submitting fifteen-second clips online to form the entire movie in a grand homage ... no, that's not right.

In a tribute to..., no, not right either.

In something to something:

Star Wars.

Of course.

That, as I hastily glossed over, is the conceit and concept behind "Star Wars Uncut," a title I don't get: A Star Wars fan (which we all, by international law, are deemed to be) decided to cut the movie into fifteen second snippets and then have people around the world film their own homemade versions of them. The clips were then submitted, the best were voted on, and the results tallied and assembled into:

Star Wars Uncut.

(I know it was anticlimactic, but I forgot I already told you about the title.)

You can watch the entire movie on the Star Wars Uncut website. For a taste of what you're getting, here's a clip from "today's scene," titled Look, sir, droids!

Searching bots from ghent ooo on Vimeo.



The movie really is more entertaining than it might sound; I've watched it up to the part where the jawas meet Luke to sell some droids to Uncle Owen, and I can honestly say that it's better than 98% of the home movies I've made. (I still consider my magnum opus, titled "Mr F On The Swings" to be the greatest piece of filmmaking Western civilization has ever seen.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Six Best Things I Didn't Know I Wanted Until I Saw Them On TV, #6.



I'm a little reluctant to actually finish a MiniBest, as I traditionally like to cut these things off before the end, but I take some solace in the fact that I'm no longer limiting this MiniBest to things I've actually seen on TV, and I blame that, actually on TV.

Or, rather, on TV's lack of creativity when it comes to ads -- because if ads were better, I wouldn't be so inclined to skip past them and continue watching whatever show it is I'm currently fixated on watching (The Big Bang Theory) but would watch the ads.

But ads are pretty lame, and TV continues to not make interesting or funny ads, and continues to also not take my innovative solutions for how to get people to actually watch ads, which include:

1. Creating ads that can only be viewed when you're fast-forwarding, so that when you hit FF to skip past an ad, the Inter-ad appears and plays in, say, three seconds. Decide to skip that Burger King ad because the King is kind of creepy, and end up with a McDonald's ad exhorting you to go buy a baked apple pie.*

*McDonald's has probably trademarked Baked Apple Pie, given that they've trademarked just about everything else, including the prefix "Mc," which McDonald's once successfully pointed out in court was it's to use exclusively. So I'm using this at my own risk.
2. Putting little moving ads from corporate sponsors down in the corner of the TV screen, where they currently put tiny ads for their own shows, and allowing viewers to click on those ads to have them play; they could roll through little text/promotional spots that might catch your eye as you watch the show.

Both of those are genius ideas that someday will be adopted but will still not lead to more interesting commercials, so I'll probably still tune them out and not be introduced to exciting new products that I've seen on TV, and will have to continue using the better part of my "work" day to seek out new things to want to buy.

Which is why the Internet exists. That, and, of course, porn. But I never look at that.**

**Honestly, Sweetie, I don't. It was probably a virus.

Today, I looked up, because I was curious, clocks. I wanted to see what kind of innovations there'd been in clocks, because I think sometimes humanity has a tendency to leave well enough alone and not improve things because we think they're good already -- but if everyone thought that way, we'd still be driving around in buggies led by horses, albeit buggies led by horses that are guided by GPS and have MP3 players in them, because even if cars hadn't been invented I'm pretty sure Steve Jobs would have still come up with the iPod, since he did that purely out of spite, the way he does everything.

I went looking for clocks to see how clocks had developed because clocks have been around a long time and are simple enough devices that uneducated carpenters can build them and then get rooked out of the prize money by the elitists who dislike him, so I assumed that our society would have come up with something better or more original or ... something. I assumed our society would have come up with something that was something-er about clocks.

What I found was actually somewhat depressing: most innovations in clockery over the course the centuries have involved new and kind of creative ways to make sure we actually get up when the alarm goes off. Some of those are clever, like the Sfera Hanging Alarm Clock, which hangs on a cord above your bed, and raises a little each time you hit "snooze" so that eventually you have to sit, then stand, up.

Some of them are even more clever, like Clocky, an alarm clock that wanders away before you can turn it off:



But all of them are just clocks, albeit clocks that move. They don't change the way we look at or think about clocks at all.

Then I found a list of the "10 Coolest Clocks," which amounted to clocks that were shaped like things, or which ran on unusual sources of power like oranges or water.

These clocks, too, which I found by searching for "most inventive clocks," were just clocks in different shapes.

It's not just me that wanted to see something more than just a clock, who wanted to see a different way of looking at time. Stephen Hawking (who steals material from Dane Cook) unveiled a clock called the "Time Eater" back in September 2008. Created by a horologist, the clock is described like this:

the unique clock, which has no hands or numbers, was revealed at Corpus Christi College. Dubbed the strangest clock in the world, it features a giant grasshopper and has 60 slits cut into its face which light up to show the time. Its creator John Taylor said he "wanted to make timekeeping interesting".

But looks like this:





So it looks, more or less, like a regular old clock, with a grasshopper sitting on it. And before you get all excited about the hyperbolic description of the clock as demonstrating that "time is relative," consider that the "Time Eater" clock is only accurate once every five minutes.

It took five years to make and is less accurate that simply estimating the time.

Again, I'm not sure what I was looking for -- but none of those things were it. None of them really made me think about something in a different way, which all of the inventions on this list (silly as some were) did: say what you want about rolling ice cream around the backyard, but it does show you that making ice cream isn't that difficult, and PajamaJeans raise the important philosophical question "Why don't we make clothing more comfortable?"

The thing is, it seems like we should have newer, or weirder, or different, clocks. Our world isn't the same world that James Harrison's world was, but we're using the same clocks. He had to invent a clock that would let people know when ships were going to run aground. Nowadays, we can get information around the world in a millisecond and can use GPS satellites to tell us exactly where our horses and buggies are, so clocks don't necessarily serve the same purpose.

(I note, too, that clocks don't necessarily work. I have five clocks in my office, and as I write this, they read: 10:02, 9:59, 9:58, 9:58, and 9:52 a.m.)

(That, more than a solid gold grasshopper, proves that time is relative.)

So I was looking for clocks that demonstrated how they fit into this world, rather than the world of my grandparents or their grandparents, and so on. Clocks that demonstrated a newer understanding of time, or provided a way of looking at time differently.

Which we do, now, you know, even if you don't realize it. Moe, on The Simpsons, once commented that his deep fryer could "flash fry a buffalo in forty seconds," to which Homer responded "Forty seconds... but I wanted it now."

That's
part of how we look at time now -- forty seconds is an eternity, and if you don't think so, go watch a video that's forty seconds long. (I bet you, like me, didn't even watch the full videos above.) When I make microwave popcorn, it takes 3 minutes -- and I think that's pretty long, so long that I considered buying pre-popped popcorn. I almost never pop my own corn on the stove, even though I like that better, because it takes too long.

Other things seem like an eternity -- like driving to work, which takes 30 minutes but seems far longer when there's traffic, because if I'm in traffic I feel like I'm being impeded, and remember, studies have shown that elapsed time is largely perception based.)

So while our perceptions of time have passed -- we have 15-minute long TV shows now -- the way we measure time has stayed the same: We still have clocks with circular hands going around in a 12-hour measure.

Is that the best way to measure time? Are digital clocks the best we can do to show the passage of time and measure its impact on our life?

Imagine, if you will, a few simple changes to clocks. Say, a clock that shows not just hours and minutes, or hours, minutes, and seconds, but milliseconds.

Or a clock that only measures hours.

Which of those would you choose to use? The first would give you a sense of urgency, the second a sense of leisure.

Expand beyond that completely, to remove hands and numbers from clocks, and that doesn't measure time based on celestial motions at all... like a water clock:



Or a clock that doesn't measure time in hours and seconds, but in longer terms, like the 10,000 year clock:




That's a prototype from The Long Now Foundation, which wants to build a 10,000 year clock as a monument to long-term thinking.

A lot of innovation and invention comes from looking at something and saying That doesn't seem to be quite what I need, or I can think of a better way to do that.

Can it really be that we can't look at clocks and think of a way to improve them so that they're more useful to the way we live or want to live? That the only thing we can think of to do is to make clocks force us to get out of bed in the morning?

I've never yet found an area of human life that can't stand to be improved somehow, from dishwashing to space travel. I don't believe that clocks or timekeeping is that area, the one area where (ironically?) time stands still and we have to do things the same way we ever did.

It's not as though a new clock would have to be a quantum leap forward into something that we don't recognize as a clock; PajamaJeans, after all, aren't a new kind of clothing so much as they are simply an advance into a better society.

It just seems to me that there should be newer, better, more creative clocks out there: clocks that are particular to certain occupations, or clocks that are embeddable in our contact lenses or earrings (where you could press it and the sound would travel through your ear, telling you what time it is but being inaudible to the world) or clocks that ...

... I don't know. That do something different. I'm a little disappointed that we don't have that, and a little letdown that I can't think of something that would represent a clock breakthrough. I've come up with tons of other ideas, but I can't come up with something I think is truly new now, and that's depressing me.

On the other hand, I do kind of want to go buy a Clocky. That might cheer me up.




Previous entries on the list:

1. The Incredible Gyro Bowl.

2. Pajama jeans.


3. The Play & Freeze Ice Cream Ball.

4. Quirky.com

5. Joulies.

Click here for more MiniBests.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why You Should Follow Me On Twitter


Typically, I've used my Twitter account -- @whyihatepeople-- just to put links to posts from my various blogs. But I've made an effort over the past few days to make it something more than just a blogvertisement*

*Note: I'm following the rule that everything on the Internet has to have a stupid name.

And now it features pictures that you won't see on my blogs, and comments that you won't find on my blogs, and also stuff like my series of Tweets while I rewatched Revenge of the Sith:



That's good stuff, there -- you won't find anything like that anywhere on the Internet, I'm sure.

Follow me on Twitter
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Monday, April 11, 2011

The Six Best Things I Didn't Know I Wanted Until I Saw Them On TV, #5


Like number 4, I didn't see this one on TV, either, but dammit people, we're talking about inventions that save lives here, so I can't be bogged down in technicalities.

Technicalities like "technically, this invention does not save lives but I still want it."

Thing-I-Didn't-Know-I-Wanted Number 5 is:

Joulies.

Joulies, which I read about on a science-blog app that I have on my phone -- I read it over breakfast in the morning -- are like high-tech ice cubes, only they do the exact opposite of ice cubes. Which makes them not like ice cubes at all, I suppose, only it seems to me that they really are like ice cubes, only in reverse. I'll let you decide; here's how their website describes them:

Coffee Joulies are miniature thermodynamic heat storage devices. They cool your coffee by absorbing excess thermal energy when it is too hot. This energy is stored inside the Joulies. When your coffee reaches the right temperature, the Joulies slowly release this stored energy, keeping your coffee at the right temperature

You had me at miniature thermodynamic heat storage device. But for those of you who need convincing via video, they've got that, too:





Not convinced by diagrams and chamber music? PopSci has more information:

Each Joulie is a small metal shell filled with a phase-change material that melts at 140º Fahrenheit... So the Joulies absorb heat from the coffee till they reach 140º, and then start emitting heat. The effect (if you put in enough Joulies for your volume of beverage) is to maintain the coffee at the desired temperature for long enough to savor it.

Finally, science is doing something for me. I mean, what has science been up to, other than inventing velociraptors? Not a whole lot. It's about time, science. I was about to tell you that we should start seeing other disciplines. Sociology's been looking pretty hot lately.



Previous entries on the list:

1. The Incredible Gyro Bowl.

2. Pajama jeans.


3. The Play & Freeze Ice Cream Ball.

4. Quirky.com

Click here for more MiniBests.

The Six Best Things I Didn't Know I Wanted Until I Saw Them On TV.

Get suckered in by TV ads... and stay for the philosophy of it all...

1. The Incredible Gyro Bowl.

2. Pajama jeans.


3. The Play & Freeze Ice Cream Ball.

4. Quirky.com

5. Joulies.

6. It's about clocks, or something. I don't know.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Welcome a new reader!




The Best Of Everything is not just a chronicle of pop culture; it's a leader in pop culture, as evidenced by the fact that Chuck Lorre obviously reads this blog and uses it as a basis for his material.

Just watch this clip from his show The Big Bang Theory:





And then consider that three years ago, I wrote about what actually is The Best Number.

(That post is no longer on the site; to get the answer you'll have to read the hilarious book Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?, available by clicking this link.)

By the way, I know Kaley Cuoco isn't the new reader (but you can't prove she doesn't read this blog), but would you rather look at her or Chuck Lorre? Yeah, I thought so

Click here to see all the other people who obviously read this blog
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