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Archive for December, 2009

Wax Off

In 1984, Karate Kid instantly became one of my favorite movies.  I Absolutely loved it and still do.  Thanks to Karate Kid, I can block a punch to the chest if I just “wax on, wax off.”  I know that any injury can be cured if I rub my hands together really fast and slap the damaged body part.  Don’t get me started on the acting.  Did you know that Pat Morita was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Mr. Miyagi.  No joke.

So when I learned that someone recently decided to remake KK, I cringed a little.  Now that I’ve learned more about the new film and the changes they’ve made, I am rooting for a complete and epic fail.  Here’s how I imagine the conversation to green light the new Karate Kid went…

Producer:  We want to re-make Karate Kid.

Studio Exec:  I love it.  The KK franchise has made us a ton of money of the years.  So who’s going to play Daniel Laruso?

Producer: Actually, we’re changing it up a bit, the kid’s name is going to be Dre.

Studio Exec:  Sounds urban.  Inner city youth battles gangs with Karate?

Producer:  Not exactly. We got Will Smith’s kid to play Dre, but he’s only eleven, so that’s a little young to be fighting gangs.

Studio Exec:  Okay, but we’re still in the inner city, right?

Producer:  Actually, I’ve never been to China, so I just thought we’d shoot it there.

Studio Exec:  Cool.  But isn’t Kung Fu the main martial art in China.  Shouldn’t the movie be named Kung Fu kid?

Producer:  Nobody will catch that.

Studio Exec:  You’re probably right.  So who’s going to play Miyagi?  Casting will be key.  I mean, Morita was nominated for an Oscar in the original.

Producer:  Remember, we’re in China, so its going to be Mr. Han and we’ve got Jackie Chan all locked up.

Studio Exec.:  China.  Right.  I love Jackie Chan, but he can’t act and he really doesn’t even speak English.  I’m guessing he’s not going to bring an Oscar worthy performance.

Producer:  No Jackie will not be getting any Oscar nods.  Ever.

Studio Exec.:  Well is he still going to teach Dre important life and spiritual lessons through the art of Kung Fu (Karate)?

Producer:  No, but the kid is going to accidentally kick Jackie in the face a few times and Jackie does this hillarious thing where he rubs his nose and makes a funny face.

Studio Exec:  Can we get the kid to kick him in the balls?

Producer:  Done.

Studio Exec:   One more thought.  Vampires are hot right now, can we make Han a vampire?

Producer:  You got it.  Let’s make a picture.

Okay, I may be reaching a little on the vampire idea, but I’m pretty sure the rest of the conversation took place.  Is it going to be as bad as I think?

Everything’s coming up roses

SlashWhat a wonderful world of instant information we live in.  Thanks to the series of tubesthat make up the internets, every bit of information seems to be accessible.  I find this to be helpful more times than I can count over the course of a month, and while I know not everything out there is accurate, I don’t typically do broad searches for things that require high levels of detail.

One example of how beneficial the internet can be happens every six months or so.  My friend Jon and I make cd mixes for each other when we get to hang out a couple of times a year.  (Go ahead, insert your own “Know how I know you’re gay” joke here.  I can take it.)  The presentation of these cds couldn’t be more different.  I hand him a jewel case that has a thematic name on the front, like “Jon’s Turkey Day Mix” or “Jon’s Summer 09 Mix.”  On the inside of the case, I’ve printed out the artists and song names.  On the disc itself, I write the mix’s name as neatly as I can (which admittedly isn’t very neat).  When he hands me his mix, it’s a disc with no writing on it that may or may not have a case to call home.  I put it in my computer and iTunes doesn’t recognize the tracks, which means it’s up to me to find out what the hell I’m listening to.  Thankfully, modern life has equipped me with the tools to handle such harrowing events.  For example, one of the songs on my last untitled mix began with the line, “Sweep up, little sweeper boy.”  I used the Google and started typing in that line.  After only two words, the rest of the line appeared.  I hit enter, and the second entry told me that Jon gave me “Shampoo” by someone named Elvis Perkins.  Ta-frickin-dah!  I did that for all 20ish songs and I was set (with a little sense of accomplishment too, might I add).

As you all know, this level of information has not been readily available for all too long.  There was no internet when I grew up, and it’s been fascinating to watch it turn into what it is at this moment.  During this whole time, I’ve held onto something as a test to see just how much information is out there, and I’m about to share that with you:

In the summer of 1992, that same friend Jon and I went with his parents to a beach house for about a week.  For the majority of the day, we watched MTV and saw the same videos over and over again.  Headlining at that time were the videos for “Evenflow” by Pearl Jam, the infectious “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane, and most notably, “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses.  I say it’s the most notable because it’s nine minutes long and it led to endless discussions about what the hell was going on in the video.  It tells a story, but suddenly the female lead is dead and we can’t tell when, why, how, or by whose hand.  We formed some theory about Slash (the guitarist) taking her out so that he and Axl Rose could continue their illicit love affair, but neither of us really believed it.  At the end of the nine minutes, the screen tells us that it was based on “Without You” by Del James.  Therein lied the answer to all of our questions, but how the hell would we find that?

Just a couple of years later, the days of card catalogs at libraries were a thing of the past, and everything switched to computerized systems instead.  While getting books for a class in high school, a light bulb went off.  I typed in the title and author, and upon getting zero results, tried them individually.  Still nothing.  Bastards.  Fast-forward a couple more years, and I gave it the old college try.  First, I used the school’s library system that also checked several other campuses’ volumes, but I came up with nothing.  Next, I went to the all text-based internet (via dial-up modem, naturally) that I used for what passed as email back then.  I thought I had a good shot since it had helped me find lyrics to an album by Argentine rock star Fito Paez. If it could do that for me, a little GNR should be no problem, right?  Wrong.

The new millennium arrived, and by this time, we had something very close to the internet we know and love today.  I don’t remember how, but I thought of my quest and tried it out again with a fancy-schmancy search engine.  I didn’t find it, but I found one other person looking for it too.  He had written something about the video and that he wished he could find “Without You” by Del James to get the whole story.  I felt like I was getting closer.

Well friends, every P-Dawg has his day.  Several months ago, I tried again.  The first thing that got my hopes up was when Google auto-completed my request (as it had for “Sweep up, little sweeper boy”).  Then the results came up, and I grinned from ear-to-ear.  The first site I looked at said that the author was finally going to read something he’d waited 15 years to find.  I clicked on the provided link, but that site no longer existed.  I clicked on the second one with brought me to Modcult.org, which said that the following story “might be of interest to your former teenage self.”  That link was dead too.  Crap.  Third time’s the charm?  Third time’s the charm!  There it is, everyone, all eleven pages of a story that I’d searched for off and on for 17 years.  The internet finally got to the stage that I hoped it would, revealing the secrets that I yearned for as an angsty 9th-grader.

I’ve had that link in my inbox for a few months now, and I think I’m finally about to sit down and read it.  I don’t know why it’s taken so long, but I think this is something I have to do.  Between now and when the clock strikes 2010, I’m going to re-watch the video that entertained me for untold hours and then cuddle up with my laptop.  I have a feeling that I’ll be disappointed and probably just as confused about the video as before, but thanks to the internet, I’ll experience that sweet sensation of closure. Look out, Axl, here I come!

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That’s Bullshit: Idiom edition


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That's Bullshit!I tend to think (and over-think) a lot about words and phrases.  And yet, there are everyday sayings that come to my ears or from my mouth that I’ve never stopped to analyze before.   (This is similar to my interaction with celebrity names that I learned as a child.  It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I said, “Wait a minute, her name is Sigourney?”)

Well today, my friends, I’m not letting one of these idioms pass me by without giving it some careful consideration.   That phrase is: “Let the cat out of the bag.”  To me, there’s a slightly negative connotation to that, as if the speaker might not be at liberty to divulge whatever secret s/he is spilling.  Even if you disagree with that part of what I’m saying, I hope we can all agree on my main point: We should be focusing our attention instead on who put the cat in the bag in the first place.  How does that guy not even get a mention?  At best, it’s terrifying a domesticated animal.  At best!  Then we get into whether or not the bag had any holes in it for the cat to breathe during its time of imprisonment.  I think the authorities would be very interested in that point, don’t you?  Even if the bag didn’t explicitly say, “This bag is not a toy,” we as a people are smart enough to know that by now. 

So next time someone says that they “let the cat out of the bag,” I’m going to interrupt him and say, “You, sir, are a hero.”  To anyone who thinks otherwise…that’s bullshit.

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Tiger


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For those who don’t know me, I am a fan of all things golf.  I was in Mexico when the Tiger story broke, so I didn’t have any access to American news media.  In fact, the first bits and pieces of the story came to me from a drunk dude at the pool bar, not necessarily the most reliable source.  When I got back home, I was surprised to find that even the strangest aspects of the story that I got from drunk dude were pretty close to the reported facts.
 
As the allegations of cheating (on and off the course) continue to trickle in, to me, the car accident continues to be the most facinating part of the whole story.  It looks like Tiger’s wife actually told the police that she used a golf club to smash out the rear window to rescue Tiger.  Bizarre.  There are so many questions that haven’t been answered.   But the thing that is absolutely driving me crazy, is that no one has reported on what club she used.
 
Was it a putter, a wood or an iron?  Steel or graphite?  I’m guessing if it was one of Tiger’s clubs it was a stiff shaft (see what I did there?). 
 
Most importantly, if it was the driver, was Frank (the talking head-cover) still there at the time of the window smashing?  YouTube Preview Image
 
Has anyone even seen Frank lately?  Maybe he needs medical attention.  No one seems to care.   We need to get to the bottom of this.  Something tells me he’d be willing and able to shed a lot of light on this story.

Not giving a shift


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question markMy homey Rockabye brought up an interesting topic over IM last week: why do certain punctuation marks on the standard keyboard require a shift key to type them when other seemingly less-common ones do not?  This made me stare at my keyboard for a while and come up with a few very strong opinions:

 

  • Whoever decided on what goes where did a good job with the shiftless period and the comma.  The period is going to end the vast majority of sentences, so it’s good to make that one as easy as possible.  And, might I add, all of the “dots” we type in urls (which certainly weren’t taken into consideration back in the day) made the period’s usage go up even more.  Second, the comma, depending on who you are and how liberal your usage is, can figure quite prominently in emails, documents, and blog posts.  I realize hitting a shift key is not a terrible hardship, but it is a tiny extra step that, when multiplied by the gajillion times I hit those two keys, would certainly add up.
  • Another one of which I approve is the hyphen key (after the zero).  I use “-” so much more often than the rare “_” that I would probably be devoting an entire angry bullet point here if they were reversed.  So well done…whoever.
  • The first shift-key-needed choice that comes into question for me is…the question mark.  Yeah, I use the slash from time to time, but not nearly as often the question mark.  Not only that, if I’m typing on my computer at work which has the separate number keys to the right, I can use the slash key above those instead of the one hogging the question mark key.  That said, those slashes are used in the aforementioned urls and they’re probably needed for a whole bunch of programming stuff I don’t understand, so there are likely large groups of people who like the slash’s shiftless status.  (I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever written “slash’s shiftless status.”  Hey, now I’ve done it twice!)
  • I probably use semi-colons more than the average person; I enjoy their unique contribution to the punctuation society.  That said, I still use the colon more often and think those two should be reversed.  It’s that simple for me: if it gets used more, it should be easier (even microscopically) to use.  But like my doctor always says, if you’re having a hard time finding the colon, just keep searching and you’ll eventually find it. 
  • I have no quarrel with the plus and equal signs.  I use both infrequently and would probably go to the ones by the number keys anyway.  They can stay where they are.
  • Now we get to my two biggest problems and my proposed solutions.  First up, the lovely parentheses.  I use these guys quite often (if you haven’t noticed), and yet I have to hit the shift key every time.  However, the bracket keys (next to the P) don’t require it.  I so rarely use those keys that  I honestly can’t remember the last time I did, and I’m pretty sure I have never used the weird bracket things sharing those keys with them.  Why do the brackets get their own keys when parentheses don’t?  That’s bullshift! (Thank you, thank you.)   I propose we swap those immediately.  I’ll get used to finding my parentheses elsewhere in no time.
  • Second, I use quotation marks fairly often.  Not only that, there are millions of people out there using them incorrectly every day to bump their usage up even more.  Here’s the problem: it’s the shifted version of the apostrophe key, which gets even more play.  What to do?  Oh I know what to do.  See the key to the left of the 1 that has some kind of backwards apostrophe (or accent mark) and what appears to be a tilde?  Yeah, neither of those need top-billing.  Here’s the plan: we make that key the question mark (right next to its cousin, the exclamation) and slash key.  The reverse apostrophe goes over the current apostrophe, and the quotation (with the tilde above it) goes where the current slash/question mark are.  Ta-dah!  Problems solved.
  • Lastly, do you see that key to the right of the seldom-used brackets? If your keyboard is like mine, then it’s a forward slash on the bottom and something I honestly don’t think I’ve ever looked at above it.  I’m sure someone uses it for something, but seriously, fuck that key.

So I guess I had a couple of thoughts on the subject.  How about you, fearless readers?  What did I leave out and where do you think I’m wayoff target?  (Ya know, aside from caring about punctuation placement on a keyboard.)

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The flash of love


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flashing stop signLast weekend, my lovely wife said that her mom would like our help in putting something together.  “What is it?” I asked.  “I think it’s something for her garage that makes a flashing noise when the car gets too close,” she replied.  Being from a long line of smart asses, I asked exactly what sound a flash makes.  Apparently it sounds just like her middle finger.  Who knew?

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Left on the roster


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Lefty LamarAs a fellow lefty, I’m glad that BKS brought up some of the injustices that we face.  To quote Jack Black in a Tenacious D song, “The tyranny and the bullshit’s gone on too long.”  Most of our plights go unnoticed by our northpaw brethren until we shed light on them.  For example, how many of you have to take off your watches in order to change the date on them?  That’s what I thought.

I’ve realized for my entire life that we lefties are in the minority.  Therefore, every time I see a guy on a tv show or in a movie writing with his left hand, I lean over to my lovely wife and say, “He’s a lefty.”  This also happens with waiters, department store cashiers, and every other category of person I might see writing.  And yet despite that daily eye-witness account of how few of us there are out there, I was still surprised by something I saw on espn.com.

Marc Stein is an NBA writer, and he too is a proud lefty.  He wrote a piece recently (see item 2) about the left-handed players in the NBA, and I just had to share.  At the time of his writing (a couple of weeks ago now), there were 430 basketball players in the NBA.  Of that, how many do you suppose are lefties?  I was astonished to see the number 29 as the answer.  That’s 6.7% of the league, below the national average of PCL (Per Capita Lefthandedness).  Fortunately, two of those 29 are on the Lakers (Fisher and Odom), so they’re doing their part.  29!

The thing that surprises me most about that statistic is that I’ve found being left-handed advantageous in playing basketball.  Most not-so-good players can only drive toward their dominant hands, so defenders get used to playing toward that side to cut off the drive.  With me, I can’t really go right, so my natural instinct to go left catches people off guard a little.  The same is true with my jump shot.  Defenders are used to the ball coming up and out from the shooter’s right hand, and so the slight hesitation that I cause by shooting with my left probably gives me a fraction of a second more to avoid getting my shot blocked.   That, in turn, leads to fewer “Get that weak shit out of here” taunts which are directly proportional to my feelings of inadequacy.

Speaking of sports and handedness, I was once urged to take up fencing by a guy in a college I sat next to for a quarter.  It was my very first quarter and he was a wise and worldly junior (and a Philosophy major at that), so his words naturally carried a lot of weight.  He told me that lefties have a natural advantage in fencing, and I nodded along to show that I found it interesting.  I think he was trying to get me to join the Fencing Club or something, but I remained non-committal.  You see, with my level of body control and coordination, I wouldn’t get through one meeting of the Fencing Club without seriously injuring myself.  So instead I just took that tidbit about my natural advantage as truth and stored it away.  If he was right though, I’d fully expect more than 6.7% of professional fencers are left-handed.

Thanks for bringing this up, BKS.  With our leftiness and MC Squared’s ambidexterity, we’re doing our little part to stick it to the Right Man.

(By the way, Marc Stein’s list shows zero left-handed Celtics, so that’s just another reason to root against them.)

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Left Behind


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I don’t really belong to any minority groups. I’m white, I’m middle-class, as of this moment I am not disabled. I used to be Catholic which is kind of a minority, but it definitely doesn’t have the street cred that Judaism does. Catholics tend to be on the other side of persecution.

Anyhoo, the one thing I can cling to is the fact that I am left-handed. Approximately 10% of the population is left-handed, but only 2% of women are. I should acknowledge here that I learned that statistic from an interview with Nicole Kidman in Marie Claire magazine, circa 2005.

Left-handed people live in a world not built for us. Scissors are impossible, we can’t see the designs on our mugs when we drink our hot beverages of choice, desks in college lecture halls are miserable. Oh sure, there might be a left-handed desk on the end of every row, but usually some self-RIGHTeous a-hole has already claimed it and you have to climb over his privileged ass to get to a seat where you’ll spend the whole hour craning your arm around like a contortionist to take notes.

Our handwriting is usually pretty bad too. Also, apparently when the press is trying to photograph you signing your first executive order as president, they get annoyed because we hold our pens strangely (and usually drag our hands across the stuff we’ve written, smearing our words and getting ink on our hands), forcing us to say stuff like “I’m a lefty; get used to it.” That’s right. Lots of us are Presidents. Our current President, Clinton, the first Bush and Reagan….10% of the population but 18% of US Presidents. Although women are over 50% of the population and 0% of US Presidents, but that’s a different post.

In high school, I bonded with a fellow lefty who would do things like tell the outfielders to back up when I was up to bat when we played softball in PE. “Move back folks, we’ve got a lefty here!” Another time, in history class, when our classmates were complaining that Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried was too graphic and I was getting really upset with them, he held up a sign that said “They can’t handle war. LEFTY POWER!” Last time we talked, he told me he was engaged to a left-handed woman to keep the “bloodlines clean”. He’s doing his part to create a left-handed super-race and I couldn’t be prouder. Then maybe the rest of you will know what it feels like to be a minority.

The name game

prisonMy lovely wife and I are expecting twins in April, so among everything else that comes with preparing for this life-changing event, we also need to come up with a bunch of names.  We’ve decided – as many of our friends have before us – to keep the names to ourselves until the kids arrive.

That said, I get asked all the time from people, especially when I say that we’re having a boy and a girl.  I have a few options on how to reply.  At first, I thought of funny famous pairings.  “We’re thinking of Batman and Robin,” I’d say with a straight face.  “Or maybe Ricky and Lucy.”  Fellow N2RH blogger BKS asks me often how the kids are doing, and she employs this strategy as well.  Most recently, she’s asked about “Sid and Nancy” and “Dawson and Joey.”  (That’s from “Dawson’s Creek,” Mom.)

In the past month or so, I’ve switched tactics.  When our friends Mina and Dan were over and the subject of names came up, I said, “I’m thinking of Mina and Dan.  It has a nice ring to it.”  I’ve used that for four or five couples who have asked, and it generally yields a good response.

I care a lot about names and think about them way too often.  I once wrote that I found it very ironic that our placeholder name in society for a woman is Jane, and yet I find very few Janes around (and only personally know one).  John, Jane’s male counterpart, is definitely common enough to fit the bill, but just this week I realized how unjustly maligned that name is.  Off the top of my head, I came up with this list of how that name is used:

  1. As an unidentified male dead body
  2. In “Dear John” letters when someone is being unexpectedly left by a partner
  3. A “Johnny-come-lately” or a novice.  (This has a very condescending feel to it for me, rather than just calling someone “new” or “a rookie.”  Do you agree?)
  4. A bathroom
  5. A prostitute’s gentleman caller

That sucks for John.  “John Q. Public” isn’t bad at least, but I find it unfair that John gets lumped into all of those.  Hang in there, buddy.

Speaking of names, my lovely wife’s grandfather called recently to tell me about an article he saw from Time magazine.  Not to doubt the man, but I had to look up the article myself to see if he was recounting it accurately.  Basically, it says that names have an impact on whether or not someone will go to jail.  The examples it cites baffle me: If your kid is named Michael, he’ll be less likely to end up in jail.  But if he’s named Preston or Alec, the odds are greater.  Everybody now: That’s bullshit!  I will bet a lot of money that there are 100 times more Michaels in prison than Prestons and Alecs combined.  What, did they steal money from the yacht club or something?  I don’t doubt that a person’s name can have an impact on his or her life – hell, just look at what happened to Shitface McPenisnose – but I think the examples in that article are way off.  Part of me wants to name our kids Preston and Alexis just to prove that article wrong (provided they stay out of jail).  I don’t think my wife would go for it though; she’s pretty set on Pebbles and Bam Bam.

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That’s Bullshit: Snowflake edition


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That's Bullshit!If there’s one thing my family does well, it’s lovingly poke fun at one another. One common fun-poking involves my dad’s overuse of the term “bullshit.” Somewhere in his past, he lost the ability to describe things as stupid, wimpy, ridiculous, outlandish, or frustrating. Instead, they’re all bullshit. To honor my father, I plan on having posts under the “That’s Bullshit” moniker for little things that I find (insert negative adjective here). My initial TB post has to do with snowflakes:

There is no way that all snowflakes are unique. I’m calling bullshit on that right now. We’ve all accepted that “truth” for too long, and I’m speaking up. Here’s my rationale: I believe that there is a finite number of snowflake permutations. Think about making one out of paper – there are only so many snips that can be made. For the sake of argument and to prove I’m trying to look at this objectively, let’s say that finite number is in the ballpark of 10 billion. Yes, with a B. With that giant number in mind, how many individual snowflakes do you think hit the ground each year in the U.S. alone? How about in the entire world? How about since the existence of Earth? You’re telling me that no two flakes have ever had the same pattern? How do we know that? Let’s examine the scientific method by which that “fact” was established. How many individual snowflakes did people look at under a microscope before making this claim? 1,000? 100,000? Even a few million would not be enough. I don’t believe the unique snowflake claim, and I doubt anything’s going to change my mind. So there.

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