Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What Was Nickelodeon Thinking?

Let me start off by saying, I'm a huge fan of Jhonen Vazquez' work. He's the artist who created a number of dark characters, the centerpiece of which is Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. And yes, Virginia, it's as twisted a comic as it sounds.

Johnny is not nice. He is a deranged serial killer, mass murderer, and spree killer who interacts with various other characters, more often than not torturing and murdering them. He elaborately and sadistically kills anyone who even slightly irritates him, then drains their blood and paints one of the walls in his house with it (to keep the Thing from getting out). If the situation dictates, Johnny is also willing to murder "innocent" people, though in his twisted mind, even they deserve their fate for some reason or another. The number of Johnny’s victims is in the dozens, if not hundreds--or perhaps even thousands. Authorities are unable to capture Johnny and seem unaware of his existence, though his crimes are often witnessed in public and reported by the few who manage to survive.

And this is only one of his characters.

Now I tell you this, because I stumbled across a surprising gem of a cartoon video that ran on Nickelodeon from March. 2001 to December 2002.

Invader Zim.

Zim is a member of the mighty Irken race, a species of aliens whose social hierarchy is based on height. Zim was banished to the planet Foodcourtia as a fry cook for the remainder of his life for destroying a sizable portion of an Irken city with a giant robot, known as the Frontline Battle Mech. The robot was part of Operation Impending Doom I, a major galactic conquest venture by the Irkens. Zim was overeager (as usual) and activated his robot before leaving his home planet, much to the chagrin of his leaders.

Upon hearing of Operation Impending Doom II, Zim "quits" being banished and arrives at the Great Assigning where Irken Elite soldiers are chosen to become Invaders, special soldiers whose mission it is to blend in with the indigenous life forms of their assigned planet and collect intelligence. Zim pleads with the Tallest to assign him a planet, and in a desperate act to get Zim as far away as possible, they assign him to a "Mystery Planet", which turns out to be Earth.

The show features the exploits of Zim trying to conquer the Earth while his arch-nemesis, a human child named Dib, tries to stop him.

Now...I gotta ask. How the hell did this come about? Who at the executive offices of Nick sat down, read Vazquez' work, and said:

"Wow. I bet this guy would make an AWESOME kids cartoon for our network!"

I mean, really. Johnny (or "Nny" to his friends. If he had any friends.) talks to inanimate objects. Like Nailbunny, who is a dead bunny he got bored with and NAILED to his wall. Nailbunny is Nny's CONSCIENCE, whereas his dark side manifests in two styrofoam Pilsbury Dough Boy statues he has, named Mr. Eff (guess what that stands for) and Psycho Doughboy. Mr. Eff wants Nny to be his friend and keep on killing mindlessly, while Psycho Doughboy wants Nny to off himself and end his miserable existance.

And reading this, they paid him to make a children's cartoon.

Did the fun stop there? No! They asked his friend, Roman Dirge, to write some of the stories for Invader Zim. Roman, if you don't know him, writes such cute and cuddly characters as Lenore, a dead girl brought back to life.

It sounds like I'm trashing Invader Zim; I'm not.

It's fucking brilliant.

It only lasted a season and a half on Nick, and frankly I'm surprised it lasted that long. It's like the Emperor's New Clothes; everyone at the production studios were clapping themselves on the back, saying what a great cartoon they made, then some little girl must have walked up to them and said:


Yeah. Not too bright, those Nick execs. But this would be a fantastic cartoon on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim!

I wish Nick would sell the rights to CN, and let Jhonen create more episodes. Invader Zim is hilarious, in the way that only sick, twisted adult fucks like me could truly appreciate.

Computer: Irken Invader Zim, for single-handedly ruining Operation Impending Doom 1...
Zim: Ruined? I blew up more than any other invader!
Almighty Tallest Red: You BLEW UP all the other invaders!

Yeah. It's that good.

iPod or Trapper Keeper?

Found this on C|Net:

Some New York City tourists apparently became trapped in the glass elevator at the new Apple store around 9 p.m. Thursday.

The elevator was stuck at street level, not below ground, so the young women were on display for Fifth Avenue passersby for about 45 minutes.

While the actual elevator door intermittently opened and closed, the door to the elevator shaft remained shut, preventing anyone from exiting the glass tube. According to the blogger, the trapped tourists were more amused by the incident than afraid, and at one point began dancing about.

While waiting for help to arrive, Apple employees managed to climb a ladder and drop bottled water down through the roof of the elevator shaft.

The New York Police Department, working with Apple employees, was eventually able to lower and pry open the elevator so that the young women could escape. Two of the trapped did burn and blister their hands from the hot lights in the shaft while climbing out, but no one was seriously injured.

Now I'm wondering...wouldn't it have been funny if the people trapped inside had mp3 players other than iPods? There they are, on display in this glass cage for everyone on Fifth Avenue to see...while they rock to tunes on their Sony Bean. Or Rio.

Then again, maybe that's why the elevator "malfunctioned" in the first place ;)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Muy Caliente!

I was in the company cafeteria today and sampled the seafood paella; the chef admitted it was kinda dry, so when I said 'well I could add some hot sauce' he readily agreed. There was a choice, and one caught my eye in particular: Serraro Pepper Hot Sauce. I held up the bottle and asked "how's this stuff?"

I had both the chef and a cashier shudder, and express their concern. Sounds like my kind of hot sauce!

Unfortunately it didn't live up to the hype. Apparently my southern-based pallet has a higher tolerance for heat than theirs does, and while the flavor was good for the paella it barely registered on my heat index.

Which reminded me of an old joke, one of my all-time favorites. I thought I'd share: The Chili Contest

Frank: "Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cooking contest. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge's table asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (native Texans) that the chili wouldn't be all that spicy and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted." Here are the scorecards from the advent:

(Frank Judge #3)

Chili # 1 Eddie's Maniac Monster Chili...
Judge # 1 --! A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.

Judge # 2 -- Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.

Judge # 3 -- (Frank) What the hell is this stuff?! You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put out the flames. I hope that's the worst one. These Texans are crazy!

Chili # 2 Austin's Afterburner Chili...

Judge # 1 -- Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.

Judge # 2 -- Exciting BBQ flavor; needs more peppers to be taken seriously.

Judge # 3 -- Keep this out of the reach of children. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

Chili # 3 Ronny's Famous Burn Down the Barn Chili...

Judge # 1 -- Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick. Needs more beans.

Judge # 2 -- A beanless chili, a bit salty, good use of peppers.

Judge # 3 -- Call the EPA. I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now.
Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I'm getting pie-eyed from all of the beer...

Chili # 4 Dave's Black Magic...

Judge # 1 -- Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.

Judge # 2 -- Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish, or other mild foods; not much of a chili.

Judge # 3 -- I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. That 300-lb. woman is starting to look HOT...just like this nuclear waste I'm eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?

Chili # 5 Lisa's Legal Lip Remover...

Judge # 1 -- Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.

Judge # 2 -- Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne ! peppers make a strong statement.

Judge # 3 -- My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead, and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I'm burning my lips off. It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw those rednecks.

Chili # 6 Pam's Very Vegetarian Variety...

Judge # 1 -- Thin, yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.

Judge # 2 -- The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, a! nd garlic. Superb.

Judge # 3 -- My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulphuric flames. I pooped on myself when I farted and I'm worried it will eat through the chair! No one seems inclined to stand behind me anymore. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone.

Chili # 7 Carla's Screaming Sensation Chili...

Judge # 1 -- A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.

Judge # 2 -- Ho-hum; tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. **I should take note that I am worried about Judge # 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress, as he is cursing uncontrollably.

Judge # 3 -- You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a thing. I've lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they'll know what killed me.
I've decided to stop breathing; it's too painful. Screw it; I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.

Chili # 8 Karen's Toenail Curling Chili...

Judge # 1 -- The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold, but spicy enough to declare its existence.

Judge # 2 -- This final entry is a good, balanced ! chili. Neither mild, nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge # 3 farted, passed out, fell over, and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself.
Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor fella, wonder how he'd have reacted to really hot chili?"

Judge # 3 -- Oh God.........

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fleet Week

Man, I haven't seen this many guys in white outfits since that one late night in the woods in Georgia...

Kidding, of course.

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the start of Fleet Week here in New York. Hosted nearly every year since 1984, Fleet Week New York is the City's celebration of the sea services. This annual event also provides an opportunity for the citizens of New York City and the surrounding Tri-State area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness first hand the latest capabilities of today's Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Team.

Fleet Week will include dozens of military demonstrations and displays throughout the week, as well as public visitation of many of the participating ships.

I'm all for giving the boys in...white...a chance to shine for the public. Heigh-ho, sailor, and a great job you're all doing! Mazel-tov!


I hate all you goddamned tourists and uniform-whores who clog up the streets of Manhattan, trying to get a glimpse of a Navy man in his dress whites. Trying to maneuver Times Square was like dodging rebel gunfire in Bosnia. Everywhere I turned there were pasty-pale people in flip-flops carrying Canon cameras, gathering sailors IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GODDAMNED SIDEWALK for a picture.

And you people NEVER just click the fucking button, do you? It's always an event, trying to pose everyone and make sure you're all in the picture. Who cares, you don't even know these guys! So WHAT if someone's head gets cut off, there's another group walking down the block right now!

Let's not even talk about the uniform whores. Usually it's just them trying to suck up to the NYPD, especially the horse-mounted patrolmen. They're usually single women in their late teens to late 20s, who suddenly can't find their way two blocks to their hotel and cluster around the nearest police officer for directions that seem to take a half-hour to understand.

Now they've turned their attention to the sailors, and look out because they've got cameras and they're not afraid to use them!

Although for the sailors it's like pennies from heaven. They don't even have to get them drunk, get them to pass out and take advantage of them; these women are actually WILLING. Imagine that. All the fun of a military academy without the hearings that tend to follow afterwards.

I'm such a cynic.

Look, I don't mind Fleet Week. Just do me a favor, would you?


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The God Squad

I found the most fascinating website this morning, and by fascinating I mean "it's incredible that people have this much time on their hands!"

It lists the religious affiliations for all the major superheroes in the comic book universes.

I shit you not, go look for yourself! http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html

It led me to wonder...what would happen if there was a God-fest? If all the Gods decided to have a Battle Royale, and got all their spandex devout together for a winner-takes-all throwdown? Who'd line up on whose side?

Let's see!

The Catholic Canon-balls (cute, ain't it?):
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Green Lantern (Guy Gardner)
Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) [ummm, is it a requirement for the Corps or sumpthin'?]
The Hulk [maybe you just have to be green]

The Protestant Protectorate
Captain America
Jade (Green Lantern)
Crossbreed (Image comics team, okay this sucks but Protestants were looking thin)

Methodist Mauraders
Supergirl (why bother listing anyone else?)

I know, these are all Christian faiths - but God Forbid you should call a Catholic a Christian, or confuse a Protestant with a Methodist. Maybe I'll just group them all together under "Jesus Freaks".

Then there's:

The Hebrew Headhunters:
The Thing
Doc Samson
Doctor Fate (Jewish doctors, imagine that)
Sasquatch (!?!?)
Colossal Boy
Marvel Boy
Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde
Firestorm (half Jew, Martin Stein)
The Atom/Ray Palmer
The Phantom Stranger
Iceman (Jewish Catholic)
Robin/Tim Drake (Jewish Catholic)

Now it gets interesting. Sort of.

The Tribal...umm...Tornados...yeah!Mirage
Manitou Raven
Manitou Dawn
Black Panther
(I smell an ass-kicking here, geez...!)

The Classical Pagan...oh hell. You get the idea:
Wonder Woman
Captain Marvel
Moon Knight

You know...I'm sure I had a bunch more to say, but after looking over all this data I just find myself saying...

...why? Why, God, why?!?!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Osama Said It? Well, Let Him Go!

I really want to file this under "Stupid News Stories Not Worth Reporting", but here goes:

DUBAI (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden said Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted in a U.S. court for the September 11 attacks, had nothing to do with the operations, according to a Web site audiotape released on Tuesday.

Wow. Well. The "evil" terrorist leader says that the ONE guy we caught had nothing to do with it. Nope. Wasn't him. Uh-uh.

Suuuuuure, Osama. We believe you. We just need you to come in to testify to that in court. I'm sure United Airlines will give you a free, first class ticket to fly in.

If not, I'll pay for it.

Moral Inferiority

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.
- Mark Twain

I found myself in the strangest of arguments this weekend.

The New York City subway system is a rich breeding ground for all manner of strange behavior. I honestly believe that you could spend a day riding back and forth, covering all parts of the city, and at the end of the day you'd have enough tales for a book.

I was on the uptown A train this past Sunday, and apparently got there just as a "discussion" began between two other passengers. One - a somewhat largish black male, had been sitting reading his religious pamphlet-du-jour, when the other - a not-so-largish hispanic male, decided that his already advanced state of intoxication was about to drop a level or two. He did as I'm sure any of us would have done - which was to pull out a small bottle of rum from his pants pocket and proceed to guzzle it thirstily.

The first man (we'll call him The Preacher), obviously put off by this, asked him if he'd kindly NOT drink that on the subway. To his credit, he was polite about it, although admittedly I'd probably have let it go and ignored it myself.

The second man (we'll call him The Drunk) was deeply apologetic, replaced the cap on his bottle and stuffed it back into his pocket.

It should have ended there, but didn't. The Drunk then had what I can only guess was an epiphany, and began to question the right of the Preacher to even ask him to put his bottle away. Then began a discourse on the illegality of drinking in public, joined by a debate on the probability of a police officer passing through the subway car at that particular moment, which was then followed by a conversation on individual perceptions, rights, and offenses which may or may not have been perpetrated by the other party.

Now...all of this was somewhat interesting. Distracting, at the worst. But my friend, seated beside me, took offense at The Preacher. "What business of his is it?" she asked, upset at his intrusion into other people's actions. I shrugged. "Well, he does have a point - it is against the law, and you're not supposed to be drinking on the subway. But whatever."

Yes, I was stupid. I know.

"But why is it his business?" she asked, angrilly. "So what if he wants to drink on the subway? It's a public place!"

I was still stupid. "Well, it's about respecting people around you. Sure it's a public space, but that doesn't mean you can do anything you want with no regard for other passengers. Maybe the other guy is a recovering alcoholic, and he's really bothered by seeing this guy drinking liquor in front of him. He asked nicely, the other guy didn't have to do it - he just asked if he would. I've done the same thing when I get women in the morning who come on the subway to do their nails; I can't take the smell of that nail polish in a closed subway car, and I don't think twice about asking them not to."

Of course, I got The Glare. "Well, I just don't think people should tell other people what to do!" she growls, now personally offended.

I started to say something like "get over it", or that "maybe people should be more considerate of other people, then you wouldn't have to worry about that."

But I wasn't THAT stupid.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Triteness, Cubed

Unless you've been living in a circular cave lately, you're probably aware that Apple has opened it's new "flagship" store here in New York, on Fifth Avenue. It was, typically, a quasi-celebrity event (I saw video with James Woods bragging about his Apple-ownership, and Kevin Bacon trying not to look bored).

I want to say that the glass cube, resting on the surface with the actual store lying submerged beneath the concrete, is meant to evoke the same sense of awe as the Louvre, with it's glass pyramid standing as entranceway to the museum below and around it (yes, Virginia, there IS a correlation).

What I can't help but think, however, is - as I look at this gigantic crystalline glacier of commercialism...

Resistance is futile.

It's a Borg cube, I swear it is. I've been saying from the beginning that Apple is the Borg, and now they've gone and proved it. But will people listen to me? Noooo, they all flocked to this store like it was the Second Coming of Christ, just to touch - TOUCH - the same Apple products they could get at CompUSA.

It's a store, people. Just a store. There's no Sistene Chapel here, no mystery to unravel. It's a store, with the same products you can buy online.

(Btw, I'm rather proud of all the subtle DaVinci Code allusions I've made here. I should be getting advertising revenue from this. Because I'm such a marketing whore.)

Really, I just think Apple should be perfectly honest in their advertising. People will still buy their products.

Apple. You WILL be assimilated.

Movie Review: Not The DaVinci Code

Yes, you heard me correctly. I did not go see the DaVinci Code.

I'm not really sure why I didn't. I guess I just didn't feel the need, seeing as how I couldn't pass anything resembling an LCD or CRT screen without seeing a review, a clip, or something somehow related to the damned movie. I turned on the damned History channel and watched them take the events in Dan Brown's prostituted book and try to make sense of them. A&E had insights on DaVinci's life, the story of the Illuminati...

For fuck's sake it's just a goddamned fictional book!

I admit it, I'm a little jealous. Most of my own writing is based on Christian theology and symbolism, and I guess I'm afraid that anything I try to get published now will probably get picked up just to ride Dan Brown's coattails. And I really don't want to be seen that way, to have everything I write compared to The DaVinci Code like its goddamned War and Peace.


So I didn't go see the movie this weekend.

I did, however, go see Silent Hill - a horror movie based off the popular video game of the same name.

Now...by and large, video game movies are supposed to be crap and campy. Tomb Raider, Doom, Resident Evil. But they're enjoyable crap. They know they're crap, so they don't try to seduce you with the hint of a story. You just get a lot of CGI monsters, people doing stunts that a crackhead on steroids wouldn't attempt, and a reason to laugh while watching an action flick. Or horror flick, as the case may be.

Silent Hill started out with potential. Fortunately they don't spend a lot of time on character development; you'll grow as annoyed with SuperMom as I was, and that's only in the first 10 minutes. Here's the story: Mom and Dad adopt a young girl, who has really bad dreams and sleepwalks out onto freeways. When she wakes up she can't do anything for minutes but scream "Silent Hill! Silent Hill!"

Somehow, Mom channels Sherlock Holmes and figures out that this refers to some obscure little ghost town in middle America. Dad thinks therapy and drugs are the way to fix Little Sharon, but nooooo, not Mom - Mom, possessed of that infinite well of "special" motherly wisdom that only infertile desperately neurotic clingy rich blonde women seem to have in these movies, decides that the best course for her little orphan annie is to sneak her off to Silent Hill (without Dad's knowledge) and see what all the fuss is about.

Cue the monsters, and the screaming, and all that freaky shit.

Needless to say Mom loses her daughter immediately after arriving in Silent Hill. It doesn't, however, take her very long to realize she's up Shit's Creek; I personally loved the scene where, after escaping from these weird lava monsters (I'm not joking) she runs back to the car (dead engine, of course) to call her husband and tell him "I'm sorry, I was soooo wrong, I need your help come get me!" on a staticky cell phone. Props to Dad, incidently; he knows his wife is crazy, and does everything possible from a distance to keep her from psychologicaly scarring his newly-paid for daughter. Inexplicably, however, he seems to stop caring about her once he himself arrives in Silent Hill, as every question is pointedly about his wife and not so much as a tear for the status of Poor Little Sharon.

The only reason to watch this movie is for the female cop who chases her down (...don't ask me WHY crazy Mom decided to RUN FROM THE POLICE OFFICER in the middle of the night, for NO REASON!) This chick is hot in a butch sort of way, and yes I admit I kinda liked it (spank me again, officer!) I thought I'd get some gratuitous nudity when the amorphic demon creature spews hot tar all over the cop, forcing her to remove her helmet, shades, and leather jacket (but not that tight barely-buttoned shirt, or those painted on leather pants - dammit!)

Seriously, she is the only reason this movie got any stars at all from me. She has some of the best scenes, like where she goes all Rambo on these three Jesus-freaks. Or when she's tied to a giant ladder, about to be lowered over a flaming pyre as a witch (yes, you heard me) she yells "What the fuck is wrong with you people? Why are you listening to her?!"

I could ask "why am I watching this movie?"

Save yourself the $10, don't even bother renting it when it comes out. Unless you're having a drinking party, in which case you can get pretty wasted by doing a shot everytime someone watching the movie says "what the fuck is she doing?"

The Trickster gives this 1 out of 5 stars.

Friday, May 19, 2006

WWJD? He'd Say It's Just a Movie, People!

Jesus H. Christ, people; get over it already.

The Davinci Code was not that great a book. It's controversial only because people like to keep their heads buried in the sand, and don't step outside their little boxes to read about all the different alternative views out there about their own religion. There is very little that Dan Brown presented in his book that hasn't been said before.

What he did, however, was turn it all into a decent work of fiction.

Wait, let me say that again: fiction.


Holy mother of god, folks; are you that threatened by what a movie might say about The Lord They God, that you have to raise an uproar and threaten to boycott/protest the movie over it? You don't like it? Don't go see it. End of story.

Instead what you're doing is adding to the hype of a movie that, by all accounts, is not all that interesting. You've become the reason more people will go see this, because they want to see what all the fuss is about. People who haven't read the book now want to see this movie, and do you know whose fault it is?


Calm down, play with your rosary beads and take a chill pill. Sheesh.

It's not like this is a Muslim cartoon, you know.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

...But I'm Still The Playstation's Bitch

Since I posted up Nintendo's ad, I feel obligated to show Sony's PS3 game promo. To hell with XBox, down with Microsoft!

Wii Might Have Been Wrong About It

Okay, so maybe I wasn't on the mark with the whole Nintendo-bashing I did a few weeks or so ago. I'm still a Sony-whore, don't get me wrong - but the Nintendo Wii, despite it's stupid name (Revolution, baby!) the controller and games they're coming out for it might just bring Nintendo back to the forefront of the console wars.

The Wii is emphasizing gameplay and innovation in design over graphical power, which the XBox 360 and the Playstation 3 have in leaps and bounds over the Wii. But...I've been paying close attention to the whole wireless motion-sensitive controller thing, and I gotta admit it's got some pretty cool sex appeal.

Check out this commercial they've come up for its debut in Japan, and decide for yourself. Considering it'll be priced less than the XBox 360, probably around $250...I might just be going back to Nintendo. Sorry Sony.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Empress' New Clothes

I've come to believe that no matter what the fashion industry puts out, women will buy and wear.

This is not a rant against women; guys are no different when it comes to electronics. If you gave me a black box with silver/blue metallic trim, a 2" LCD screen, 20 LEDs and a 20gig hard drive I'd buy it and figure out what it does later. So I'm sympathetic, I really am.

I just don't get it.

Case in point. This weekend I got sucker-dragged (you guys know what I'm talking about) into "shoe shopping". By sucker-dragged, I mean "Oh since the movie doesn't start until X, can we go early so I can pick up a Mother's Day gift for my mom?" Women have a knack for doing this, and we men are powerless to resist.

So we go into this store, and I swear I wish I could remember which one it was (because somehow shoe-shopping became just shopping in general, and that meant multiple stores) - its one of those on 34th, somewhere between 8th and 7th avenues in Manhattan. She's bouncing from rack to rack, I'm trying to calculate where she'll end up so I can navigate the shortest path to that section and save myself the zig-zagging, when I notice one particular table that gave me pause.

I guess the theme is nautical this summer; the item on display was definitely maritime in nature, with its blue and white stripes. I'm guessing it was something to wear around the neck, or the waist; who can tell? But I looked, lifted it up - it was vaguely rope-like, with a silver metal clasp at the end of it; there was a buzzing at the back of my neck as I tried to figure out what it could be. Then I got it.

"Hey", I exclaimed. "Why are they selling leashes?"

My friend gives me The Glare. You guys know the one, it's the one you get every time you make fun of women's clothing. Which I get a lot, because it's the only way I can entertain myself in those stores. "It's not a leash" she says, her eyes rolling.

Goddamnit, yes it it! I know a leash when I see a leash, and this is a leash! A short one, granted...but still a leash!

I just shook my head, put it down and walked away.

Later, as she's trying on shoes (for her "mother"), I say to her: "you know...I bet I could make a sole that was strapless, that had a gel of some kind that would stick to the bottom of your feet. I bet that if I sold that with a heel, and made interchangeable "tops" that would stick to the top of your feet...I'd make a mint off women, because you'll all buy anything!"

"No we wouldn't", was the natural reply.

You would. You really would. I've seen some of the shoes being made - and sold. I saw one shoe that I commented "it's both functional and fashionable. If you're out after a party and some guy is chasing you, you can reach down, tear this little flower thingy off the shoe and hurl it like a shuriken at your attacker!"

She didn't appreciate the humor.

Movie Review: Poseidon

Josh Lucas is NOT Gene Hackman. I don't know if that's good or bad; for you women, I'm sure it's good. I'm sort of neutral on the subject.

The story is simple. A luxury cruise ship, on New Year's Eve (well technically New Year's Day) is caught off guard by a rogue tidal wave of tsunami proportions. The wave broadsides the ship (why they tried to turn away from it instead of pointing the bow into the swell...) and flips it, sending everyone topside into the water and suddenly the hull is floating above the water.

Our heroes and heroines must race against the invading water and the sinking ship to make their way to the bottom, now the top, in order to escape through the propeller tubes. Not much has changed between this remake and the original "Poseidon Adventure", except the focus of the movie.

The original was all about characters. Gene Hackman, Shelly Winters, Ernest Bourgine, Red Buttons, Roddy McDowell...you came to know and love (or hate) these people as they made their way through the ship, overcoming obstacle after obstacle. When we watched someone die, we did it with a heavy heart.

I can't say the same for this movie. The people are too plastic, too plain in character; there's no personality, no flair, save Kevin Dillon's "Lucky Larry" - who is just as cheesy as his name implies, but at least he had a pulse.

None of that, however, matters; you won't care that you don't know, or like, these people because you're too caught up in the escape to notice. Unlike the first movie this version is all about action, action, action! From the moment the wave hits you feel as if the characters are on a clock; you can feel the tick tock tick tock of the countdown as they rush from duct to pipe to ladder to hall, trying desperately to outrace the surging water that literally follows on their heels.

You know this ship is going down, and the characters know it too. Josh Lucas' gambler is a man on a mission, rolling the dice in a last-ditch effort to save himself. The fact that there are people along for the ride is incidental, although at some point you will find yourself wondering why this man who cared nothing for anyone at the beginning of this trip now suddenly gives more than a damn about a woman (and her kid) he really only wanted to get into his bed.

There's also a very obvious Armeggedon moment involving Kurt Russell; I won't give it away, but you'll know the scene I'm talking about and I guarantee you'll sit there and ask "hey, haven't I seen this scene someplace before?"

Then, like me, you'll forget about it and just enjoy the visual ride.

The ending is corny and too convenient, the characters have no depth, and there's definitely one scene involving Josh that will have the ladies swooning and the men going "oh kiss my ass!"

But you won't care. Because it's that fun to watch.

The Trickster gives it a 4 out of 5.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I'll Be On Holodeck Four If You Need Me

Do any of you remember the whole "virtual reality" craze of the 80s and 90s? VR was the new frontier of computer graphics, the holy grail that everyone wanted to find. I can remember spending my hard-earned bucks at XS, the massive arcade in Times Square, just to play all of their virtual machines. I put on those bulky goggles, stepped onto the pad/into the chamber, and I was THERE, in the game. Virtual Pac-man didn't have the allure I'd hoped; virtual rifle arcade was fun, but keeping that damned rifle up was exhausting! Virtual racing was fun, but only lasted seconds - and as new and different as all those games were, the bulky equipment you needed always detracted from the feeling of immersion.

Which leads me to ask, given today's graphics technology...what IS virtual reality? Today's MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) games allow you live a virtual, online/computerized life if you so choose. Worlds of Warcraft, Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest, even the Sims - virtual worlds, 3-D environments, chat, interactivity with living people instead of AI drones; that was the vision we all had for VR. So why don't we CALL it VR? It can't be the immersion factor; there are gamers who spend more of their lives online, earning a virtual living and having virtual relationships, than they do in the so-called real, or physical, world.

So what makes it different that we don't use the term VR anymore? It's because we once thought we'd find a way to physically enter these virtual worlds - not just type on a keyboard or manipulate an avatar with a mouse, but we'd be able stand in the middle of a virtual landscape, turn from left to right and see the world around us.

We're not as far from that as I once thought.

Iowa State University has a six-sided, 10ft x 10ft virtual reality room that surrounds users with a graphics resolution of 100 MILLION pixels.

The University first opened its room, the C6, in June 2000 as the country's first 6-sided virtual reality room. The difference between the equipment currently in the C6 and the updated technology to be installed this summer, “is like putting on your glasses in the morning,” said James Oliver, the director of Iowa State’s Virtual Reality Applications Center and a professor of mechanical engineering.

The new equipment – a Hewlett-Packard computer featuring 96 graphics processing units, 24 Sony digital projectors, an eight-channel audio system and ultrasonic motion tracking technology – will be installed by Fakespace Systems Inc. of Marshalltown. The project is supported by a U.S. Department of Defense appropriation through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

The project began this spring with a prototype upgrade to one wall of the C6. The remainder of the work will continue throughout the summer. Oliver said the improved C6 will open in the fall. A grand opening celebration is being planned for the spring of 2007.

Oliver is leading a research team that’s developing a virtual reality control room for the military’s unmanned aerial vehicles. The researchers are building a virtual environment that allows operators to see the vehicles, the surrounding airspace, the terrain they’re flying over as well as information from instruments, cameras, radar and weapons systems. The system would allow a single operator to control many vehicles.

The C6 upgrade will move that project forward, Oliver said.

“The idea is to get the right information to the right person at the right time,” Oliver said. “There’s a tsunami of information coming toward you and you have to convey it effectively. We think this kind of large-scale, immersive interface is the only way to develop sophisticated controls.”

Now if they can get together with the Japanese and Koreans and incorporate some of those androids...we've got a Holodeck in the making, people.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Blaine, Blaine, Go A-Way...

Are you all as sick of David Blaine as I am?

Yeah that's right, I went there. Somebody has to say it. What does this man do, exactly, that lets him invade our space like he does? He isn't a magician. He isn't a stuntman. He's an exhibitionist, definitely that - but is he even entertaining us?

I admit to being one of the fools a few years back who were intrigued by him. His street magician act was filled with little oohs and ahhs, and he was genuinely fun to watch. I was there when he did his standing-on-a-pole act, where for 35 hours he stood on a 22inch platform atop a 90ft pole.

And at the end of it, after he plunged into a pile of empty cardboard boxes, I asked myself...why?

Why was this even interesting? Is it the rubber-neck syndrome, that we as humans are completely unable to tear ourselves away from anything remotely resembling a train wreck? There was no magic to his act, no skill; his leg was strapped into a boot, strapped to the platform! Where's the ooh factor? When he fell?

And now the latest, his water-sphere act. And they are acts, I won't call them stunts at all. Tests of human endurance, certainly; pointless, absolutely. There's no drama, there's no tension. The man lived in a water-filled bubble for days, big whoop. It was no more than a 10 minute WALK from my job to his bubble-headed act, and I had no desire to gawk at him. None.

David. Newsflash. We're really only watching - IF we're watching - because we're hoping to see you screw up. Trip, stumble, drown - something so that at the end of it all, we can nod our heads sagely and say:


New Math

I think someone took a bit of offense at my May Day blog. I can't imagine why. But, since the last thing I ever want to do is offend anyone...consider the following little joke an apology. Of sorts.
Last week a friend purchased a burger and fries at McDonalds for $3.58. The counter girl took his $4.00 and 8 cents that he pulled from his pocket and gave to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies. While looking at the screen on her register, he sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give him two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.

Why did he tell me this? Because it's a long way around to discuss evolution in teaching math since the 1950s:

Teaching Math In 1950
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1960
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1970
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

Teaching Math In 1980
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math In 1990
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20.
What do you think of this way of making a living?
Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math In 2006
Un ranchero vende una carretera de madera para $100. El cuesto de la produccion era $80. Cuantos tortillas se puede comprar?

Okay. I did say "of sorts", didn't I?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Movie Review: MI-3

Well, we know Tom Cruise likes to recycle.

The plot of this third installment of the Mission: Impossible filmology is this: Ethan Hunt races against the clock to save someone he loves from the bad guy while on the run from his fellow agents. Sound familiar? That's because they used this plot in the first one.

I'm over simplifying, of course; there is more to the story than this. But not much. Forget the characters; by the end of the movie, you wonder what they paid Laurence Fishburne to show up in this since he didn't have much of a role. Unless you have no common sense whatsoever, you'll quickly figure out who the mole is at IMF (there's ALWAYS a mole!). With the exception of the returning Ving Rhames, you won't get to know - or care, really - about the rest of Ethan's IMF team. I don't even recall if we ever heard their name throughout the entire movie, so don't look for a return if there's an MI4 on the horizon.

So why go see it? Because its a fun movie, that's why.

The movie starts on a frantic pace and never lets up. It's a stuntman's dream, with everyone moving at a clip that would make "24"s Jack Bauer stop for breath. Gone are the John Woo "frozen in time" slowdown moments; this movie has a staccato pulse that never stops.

Forget plot, forget story, forget trying to make any logical sense of it. Enjoy Philip Seymour Hoffman's pasty-faced, overweight doughboy of an evil villain; I've seen him in other films (except Capote), but I can fully understand why he deserved the Oscar for that performance.

MI3 is a fun-filled rollercoaster ride that won't strain your brain cells one iota. They don't even try to explain what the latest dangerous weapon is that Ethan and Co. are sent to retrieve; it's given the code name "Rabbit's Foot" and that's where it ends. Is it a bomb? Chemical agent?

Who cares. Go see the movie, and enjoy the explosions.

The Trickster gives it 3-1/2 bananas out of 5, 4 if you don't mind the lack of a story.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Start Your Day With A Bang

Not getting enough of a kick with your Starbucks extra-whip-double-shot-caramel-mocha-soy-latte? Looking for that little something extra in your coffee, to carry you through a tough morning?

Try a coffee bomb!

Early in 2005 Wolfgang Puck, the celebrity chef who has his own line of canned soups, cookware and frozen pizza, licensed his name to WP Beverage Partners, a company in Newport Beach, California, for use on cans of latte that heat themselves.

But Puck now says there have been reports that the cans are exploding, melting or overheating in consumers' hands. In response, his company, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, said it had asked retailers to withdraw the product until it could complete a safety assessment of the cans. Robbie Vorhaus, a spokesman for Puck, said that. "we want to do an investigation ourselves and find out exactly what's going on."

The technology was developed by OnTech Delaware, a company based in San Diego, and relies on a mixture of water and quicklime, which is mostly calcium oxide. When a button on the can is pushed, water is released inside a sealed inner cone filled with the chemical. The reaction produces enough heat to warm the latte to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius) in six to eight minutes. The latte cans hold 10 ounces, or 29.6 centiliters. OnTech says it has no direct evidence of cans' exploding or otherwise malfunctioning.

"The cans do not explode," said its chief executive, Jonathan Weisz. "This is a commercial dispute. The highest number of complaints we've gotten is people saying the coffee didn't heat up fast enough."

Can you picture it? Some poor java-junkie is standing there, an exploded can of Puck-a-Joe in his hand, his body drenched in coffee waste...and he goes:

"Heyyyyyyy...this coffee is COLD!"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I, Robot

How hot is this?

This is the improved model of the Japanese android, "Actroid" (actress-robot), first unveiled in 2003. The Actroid understands 40,000 phrases in each of four languages (Chinese, English, Korean and Japanese) and has nuanced facial expressions to match the more than 2,000 types of answers she can give - but it may refuse to answer some questions for ”privacy reasons,“ making an X with her arms and bowing apologetically.

She's even imbued with a sense of irony; when asked if she is a robot, she answers disconnectedly and with clumsy movements — followed by a "just kidding!" before reverting to smooth humanoid motions.

This version debuted at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo, where she/it acted as an exhibition greeter and offered information about the expo to guests.

Jumping onto the scene and trying to outdo their neighbors, Korean scientists have just announced the creation of their own female android, the Ever-1 (Eve + "R"obot).

The Korean Institute for Industrial Technology (KITECH) said the android, which has the face and body of a woman in her 20s, is 160 cm tall and weighs 50 kg. Ever-1 can move its upper body and “express” happiness, anger, sadness and pleasure. But the robot is still incapable of moving its lower half. Ever-1's skin is made from a silicon jelly that feels similar to human skin. The face is a composite of two stars, and its torso on a singer.

The 15 monitors in the robotic face allow it to interpret the face of an interlocutor and look back at whoever stands near it. Ever-1 also recognizes 400 words and can hold a basic verbal exchange.

"The robot can serve to provide information in department stores and museums or read stories to children; it’s capable of both education and entertainment functions," said KITECH scientist Baeg Moon-hong, part of the team that created the robot. "The Ever-2, which will have improved vision and ability to express emotions and can sit or stand, will be debuted towards the end of the year."

Now...I gotta ask. Why did the Koreans concern themselves so much with how the skin feels, hmmm?

And...how long before we start seeing a new version of robotic hentai hit the vids?

Urban War Zone

It's hard out here for a pimp. Or an employee at 395 Hudson Street.

For those who don't know, that's the address of one of New York's hip-hop radio stations, "Hot 97" aka "the O.K. Corral". The building also happens to house other businesses such as the Carpenters & Joiners Union, Thomson Financial and publishers Foundation Press.

Unfortunately for them, Hot 97's hip-hop visitors often bring drama with them. In recent years, the building has played host to a series of hip-hop-related shootings, including a 2001 incident involving members of Lil' Kim and Capone-N-Noreaga's crews which left one man injured and saw Kim's bodyguard Suif Jackson sentenced to 12 years in prison for firing his gun at least 20 times. Kim was found guilty of perjury after she told a jury that she was not present during the incident, and was sentenced to 366 days in prison.

In February 2005, Kevin Reed, a member of the Game's crew, was shot outside the Hot 97 lobby minutes after 50 Cent took to the airwaves to announce he was dropping the Compton rapper from his G-Unit stable.

And on Wednesday, a rapper named Jamal "Gravy" Woolard was shot in the buttocks outside the building, allegedly by a man who was upset that Woolard did not let him sit in on a Hot 97 interview.

Now...can you imagine being a poor working schlub who has to wake up every morning, knowing this is what he can expect on his way to work? I wonder; do they have service announcements in the building?

"Attention all tenants...please be advised that there is a hip-hop artist in the building. All necessary precautions should be taken to ensure your safety until they've left the area."

Or, standing outside the building on a smoke break and suddenly someone yells "Escalade!" You can tell the people who have worked in the building the longest; they're the ones who drop to the concrete like they were in Iraq and they heard "fire in the hole!"

I bet instead of putting water, bandages and a face mask in their employee emergency kits they put flak jackets, riot gear and tasers. Every employee probably has to wear an ID bracelet with their blood type and donor info on it.

Hey...do you think the companies offer hazard pay as an incentive to work there? Can you imagine the interview process?

"Well your resume looks good Mr. Smith, but we were wondering: do you have any combat experience? Can you handle a rifle?"

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

No Ma'am, I Don't Work Here

If there's a universal look for a retail worker, I apparently fit the bill - because everyplace I go, people seem to think I work there and can help them.

This past Saturday was a shopping blitz for me. I'm doing some home improvement (well, apartment-improvement) and needed several items from different stores. None of which, incidently, any of the stores in question had available which I gotta tell ya, really made my Saturday. Really. But I digress.

It started bright and early at Target. 8am, I got there when the doors opened because I had crowds and I had my eye on some large, heavy objects. I'm dressed in a black sweatshirt and khaki jeans, with boots. And yes, Virginia, I got asked the eternal question:

"Excuse me...do you work here?"

Now. Call me stupid. But it seems to me that every single Target employee I've ever seen, wears a red polo shirt with the word "Target" over the breast, with that bullseye logo of theirs. Bright red.

Me? No red.

Fast forward to later in the day. Now it's Home Depot, looking for wallpaper that apparently they don't carry. The fuckers. I can see the look on the little old woman's face from a distance, and I can see it coming. I'm hoping I'm wrong, but sure enough:

"Excuse me, can you tell me where the..."

Sorry lady. I don't work here. Nor am I wearing a BRIGHT ORANGE APRON, either! Geezus frucking crisco.

The Container Store, about a half-hour later. When does the madness stop?

"Where can I find....?"

Up your ass, people, that's where you can find it. Or maybe you can ask the people wearing the bright blue shirts, that say "Container Store". I bet THEY can help you.

Half the time I'm tempted to send them in a completely opposite direction. "And when you get there, you'll have to look behind the display for what you want. Trust me its there, I just restocked it this morning. Really."

I remember once some time ago I was in...Pergament. This was a pre-Lowes/Home Depot store. I was wearing a denim jacket, mirrored sunglasses, and headphones. Not those little inconspicuous headphones, but the old 1990s style that everyone can see, the ones that actually rested on your head and covered your ears like winter earmuffs. I was leaned against a display shelf, waiting for my girlfriend to pick out whatever the hell it was she was looking for while I dutifully held the basket full of goodies, when - yep - the little old woman came up and asked me:

"Do you work here?"

Funny, but I never seem to get asked that question at Abercrombie & Fitch. Hmm.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Damn, And I Just Interviewed There

The Chinese manufacturing industry is well known for its counterfeiting expertise; put out a hot-selling product today, I guarantee you a cheap knock-off of it will show up on the streets of Beijing within a week, selling for half the price (and half the life-span).

Some would-be Chinese bandits took it to the next level; they knocked off an entire company!

NEC, a once-great electronic/computer giant, is the victim of...identity theft, Chinese style. Reports filtering back to the Tokyo headquarters of the Japanese electronics giant NEC in mid-2004 alerted managers that pirated keyboards and recordable CD and DVD discs bearing the company's brand were on sale in retail outlets in Beijing and Hong Kong. The company hired an investigator to track down the pirates.

After two years and thousands of hours of investigation in conjunction with law enforcement agencies in China, Taiwan and Japan, the company said it had uncovered something far more ambitious than clandestine workshops turning out inferior copies of NEC products. The pirates were faking the entire company.

Evidence seized in raids on 18 factories and warehouses in China and Taiwan over the past year showed that the counterfeiters had set up what amounted to a parallel NEC brand with links to a network of more than 50 electronics factories in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In the name of NEC, the pirates copied NEC products, and went as far as developing their own range of consumer electronic products - everything from home entertainment centers to MP3 players. They also coordinated manufacturing and distribution, collecting all the proceeds.

Steve Vickers, president of International Risk, a Hong Kong-based company that NEC hired to investigate the piracy, said documents and computer records seized by the police during the factory and warehouse raids had revealed the scope of the piracy.

These records showed that the counterfeiters carried NEC business cards, commissioned product research and development in the company's name and signed production and supply orders.

He said they also required factories to pay royalties for "licensed" products and issued official-looking warranty and service documents.

Some of the factories that were raided had erected bogus NEC signs and shipped their products packaged in authentic looking boxes and display cases.

NEC said about 50 products were counterfeited, including home entertainment systems, MP3 players, batteries, microphones and DVD players. Many of these pirated items were not part of the genuine NEC product range.

The investigation also revealed that fake goods from these factories were on sale in Taiwan, mainland China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Europe.