Jul 25, 2010

Viral Levi's Ad

Kinda makes me want a time-lapse camera.

Ron Livingston's Cosplay Cat

Mental Health Break - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Mental Health Break - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan


I never played 'Braid' last year, but that said, I came across what is being touted as "this year's 'Braid'" and, alas, I want to play it. The fact that I can't because I own a stupid PS3 and not an XBox won't stop me from giving the game some free press. It's got a great art style, it's creepy-looking, and it has a giant spider.

'Limbo' was made by a Danish studio called PlayDead, and for some reason it makes me think of 'Let the Right One In.' It's not about vampires at all - at all - but I can't help but think of them similarly, for some reason. I guess it's because of the parallel of children in danger.

Either way, check it out on XBLA ($15) and tell me how good it is.

Jul 22, 2010

The 27 Club: Almost Out!

Lately I have been on a tear of writing about sensitive and/or depressing topics, so, here, on the eve of my birthday, as it winds down, I'm going to talk about something a little different: DEATH.

Yep, but not just any kind of death. I'll be talking about "The 27 Club." No, it's not the crappy religious program on the lower channels (that's the 700 Club, although it is fixated on death of all kinds, mostly of old people).

The 27 Club - or Club 2-7, as it'll be known, henceforth - is a collection of musicians who died at the age of (you guessed it) 27.

I'll be 28 in less than an hour and will have eclipsed Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Jim Morrison in years. Now, it has nothing to do with talent (or curses), and if it does, I'm in the clear. Put my BEST writings up against Jimi Hendrix's worst songs - "Dolly Dagger" comes to mind, sorry - and you still have a mind-boggling difference in talent. Ditto with the other folks on the list.

Here are some other members of Club 2-7: Brian Jones (of The Rolling Stones); Robert Johnson (yes, THAT blues guy); and, well, quite a few musicians I've never heard of, including the sound manipulator for The Mars Volta and the leader of Badfinger.

I'm not a superstitious person, and I don't believe in any nonsense about curses, but remember the fact that Club 2-7 is in the pop culture consciousness gave me reason to pause and reflect on life. I'm a lucky man, even if I'm not famous. I've got a lot to be thankful for, and I'd rather spend my birthday being grateful about my life than thinking about death (in all its forms). I hope I don't become obsessed about the future, death, and general loss of youth, but you never know.

So, in closing, here are a few things that keep me going. Feel free to post yours in the comments section (and forgive me this once for this):
* My wife, LP, who helps me keep life in perspective, enjoy good days, not take too much stock of the bad days, and with whom I hope to see everything worth seeing in this life. I love you.
* A big...family, with whom I don't always agree but love nonetheless. You keep things interesting. Love you all.
* Friends that, on the spectrum, feel a whole lot more like family than anything else. Who else but bros can ice bros?
* The deer and the stinky one.
* Long books, short movies, hot wings, cold beer...you get the idea.
* Video games and a giant slushy on Friday afternoons.
* Training for a marathon I may or may not ever participate in.
* College Football season. A good-to-fairly-good Falcons squad. MLB Playoffs.
* Europe
* et cetera, et cetera, et cetera...

Jul 20, 2010

The Primaries in Georgia

I'm from Georgia, so I'm mildly interested in the gubernatorial primaries going on today. Everyone's focused on Roy Barnes, the guv who was ousted in 2002 because he went out of his way to be shitty to the people who voted him in.

But I'm not overly concerned with Barnes at the moment, because all of the vitriol is on the side of the Republicans, and elections are always more interesting when they're like reality TV. Right now, the Repubs are engaged in a battle to see who can reach the bottom of the ideological cesspool most quickly.

And yet, it's still all of the same old, tired, right-wing douchebaggery. Abortion rights, immigration, and taxes. That's it, folks. If you want to see anything of any real importance to the country at large, look elsewhere, because in the heat of election season, anything but real issues will be discussed.

However, what is impressive is the level to which the Republican candidates are flinging acid at these hot-button causes. It's like they're involved in a rap battle with pro-choice and pro-immigration people, even though Dems in the state are fairly conservative themselves on these issues. It's an interesting form of pseudo-conservative cannibalism going on at the highest level of Georgia's government.

The other night at the gubernatorial debates, the Rs all fought for who could win the right to be called the most xenophobic candidate in the country. John Oxendine said he'd sue the federal government about illegal blah blah blah. Ray McBerry proposed that local sheriffs should round up illegals and bus them to the steps of the White House. What this has to do with solving the problem, I don't know, but it seems like an awfully expensive process for a bunch who value monetary restraint. Of course that's a pot-shot, though. The Republican party hasn't cared about conservatism, really, in decades.

The night's winner, hands-down, is Eric Johnson. He said (no shit), "If we have to set up a Guantanamo Bay of Georgia, I would do it." Wow. I'm not surprised in the least bit, but you've got to admit that threatening to hold illegal immigrants without trying or deporting them is some pretty harsh rhetoric. What's surprising is that he's only running at a measly third in the most recent polls.

Wait, hold on. Maybe I'm way off on this, because didn't Roy Barnes - a Democrat - recently say he would support an Arizona-type immigration law for Georgia? Not only would he try to pass a law like that, but he says he doesn't believe it's a state issue, so he'd expect the federal government to pay for it! It'll be interesting just to what level the immigration debate will stoop if these two assclowns get the nomination (which won't happen, because Eric Johnson doesn't have a chance in Hell). Oh, do I pick the extreme right-wing idiot, or the Republican? I don't know.

This is obviously simple campaign rhetoric at its worst, but you cannot tell me there's a shred of difference between Roy Barnes and his right-wing counterparts (except for his shameless teacher-courting offensive, of course). And, despite the fact that there are more Democratic candidates - I will not dare call them left-leaning - it all seems like an inevitability that Barnes will secure the Democratic nomination. He's so far ahead in the polls that I was hoping the people opposing him might slip up and say something left-of-center, for once. Shame on me for my naivete.

It should be noted that Karen Handel has been softly endorsed by Sarah Palin, so naturally she has vaulted ahead of former leader John Oxendine. More on her later.

Jul 19, 2010

Advice from a Cartoon Princess

I found this enlightening PSA over at Boing Boing.

Jul 16, 2010

Meta-Criticisms of Barack Obama

The mainstream message (from the Right) about those on the Left who are dissatisfied with the presidency of Barack Obama is that they bought into - to quote Sarah Palin - "the hopey-changey" stuff too wholeheartedly, that they are mere idealists who did not see this communist/fascist/socialist/atheist/muslim era coming and have been blindsided. It's obviously a simple way of sniping at the Left, and it is effective. It makes them seem childish and unversed in actual political issues, which I haven't found to be the case with many critics of Obama.

The dissatisfaction has been with the President's policies, for the most part. The Ann Coulters and Sean Hannitys of the world convey the message as if Democrats din't understand what a Barack Obama presidency would entail, that the full knowledge of a "liberal" presidency might have scared them in the first place.

This is where the message has been thoroughly distorted. The problem that surfaces has to do with unfulfilled promises and ineffectual leadership, as Digby best articulates in an article released today:

Therefore, his [Obama's] political advisers should know that when the country is still reeling from unemployment and foreclosures after nearly two years, the passage of an inadequate stimulus bill, which unrealistic benchmarks and a giddy victory party ensured would be the only chance they got, the only people who will consider that a "success" would be beltway insiders. They should have realized that a health care bill that nobody in their right minds would have designed from scratch, the worst aspects of which liberals will be asked to defend for years to come, would be met with dampened enthusiasm by those who watched the process devolve from a sense of progressive purpose to an exhausting farce. They are expected to be able to predict that financial reform without accountability for what's gone before, combined with the administration's unwillingness to confront the civil liberties abuse of the last administration -- indeed expanding on them in some cases -- would show a lack of fundamental concern for justice among those who care about such things.

An extensive quote - sorry - but one necessary to articulate the fundamental flaw in how the country has been run for the last year-and-a-half. Obama has ostensibly carried on many of the policies of his predecessor and has been at least as secretive about, well, everything, so that some backlash should be expected. What the President (and many of his advisors) do not seem to grasp is that the same rules of governance do not apply. Plenty of people argue that George W. Bush enacted several dozen anti-conservative policies while occupying the White House, but he encountered very little resistance from those on his side, because the Right tends to contain cheerleaders and people concerned with a unified vision. Even if he didn't really follow Reagan's modern conservatism, he still had an (R) next to his name, so that was enough.

The same sort of people do not occupy the Democratic Party, and that is perhaps where Obama's most embarrassing shortcoming lies. He expected the entirety of the Obama-voting-populace to support the presidency no matter what. In a country as divided as ours, he expected some measure of loyalty, despite some potentially disappointing decisions. Let me take this opportunity to state that John McCain would have been no better. At this point, he's just a pair of fucking political clown shoes, but I digress. But this is not a time for blind faith in the government. Barack Obama is not a mirror image of President Bush, and maybe that's why he's having so many problems. What the Right refuses to accept and the Left refuses to forgive is that Barack Obama is not a liberal version of Ronald Reagan. He may be viewed as such in twenty or thirty years, but he has given the public no credible evidence that he has transformed politics in any measurable way.

Jul 11, 2010

Killing Mockingbirds: Harper Lee's Vision, 50 Yrs. Later

It has been over a decade since I myself read To Kill a Mockingbird. My thoughts at the time were like those of many uninspired high school students who read it for some Lit class or another. I was inspired, emotionally affected, and pleased to see Southern racism skewed (I grew up in a town that was probably not unlike Maycomb).

I cannot honestly say that I would read it in the same way now. Atticus Finch (portrayed by Gregory Peck in the movie) is ostensibly the white savior character in the novel, and he seems to go to great lengths to defend the homicidal racist whites in the town. Honestly, it's a novel that doesn't stand up as well as a novel promoting racial equality as it did fifty years ago.

That being said, I don't know that all the criticism is deserved. What can be said of many "message" works like Mockingbird are guilty of turning the subject - in this case, African-Americans - into topics rather than flesh-and-blood characters. The book has a purpose, a political undertone, and in that respect the book may be considered bad...but not necessarily racist.

The unintended consequence of trying to "do" something about racism is that it suffers from not being quite as progressive as it could have been. I won't fall into the pit of saying that we shouldn't judge older works by today's morality (because the book certainly could have gone farther in making its case but didn't), but I will defend To Kill a Mockingbird strictly through its own merits.

Books, like people, can achieve great things without being great moral arbiters themselves. In my experience, Harper Lee's novel has inspired hundreds, maybe thousands, of young people to pursue careers in law, specifically civil rights law. That's great (depending on how you feel about lawyers).

Furthermore, the book chronicles how even the most progressive small-town Southern people felt about racism in the south at the time. I'm fully aware of the fact that Atticus Finch was, by no means, the most progressive embodiment of racial equality, but he was also probably a fair representation of how people similar to Atticus Finch actually thought. The problem that many critics have with Atticus Finch as a character is not that he defends racists - he does - but that his idealism had some unintended consequences. He spends much of his time humanizing white people but very little doing the same thing for blacks of the era.

This is problematic. Certainly I will not come out and say that Mr. Cunningham is a good man, but perhaps what Lee was doing in writing the book was mollifying the white establishment while still trying to push the "progressive buttons" in the Civil Rights Movement. It's what causes Atticus to seem too in-the-middle for a modern audience. He would simultaneously defend Cunningham and protect Tom Robinson from being lynched, and in that he goes way overboard in making the whites out to be misunderstood. They really weren't; they were racists. Plain and simple.

It's a difficult issue to tackle, definitely. I would like to say that the book shouldn't be judged simply by the political message (or lack thereof) contained within, but the problem is that the political message is central to the story. It becomes difficult to buy into the novel if you revile Atticus Finch as a character. If his plight is too much, too overbearing, too loyal to the White South, then you probably won't enjoy the book. However, I also don't think we should paint To Kill A Mockingbird with the same brush as, say, The Jazz Singer, because the novel only fails in unintentionally producing a distracting message, rather than genuinely exploiting African-Americans for the benefit of white people. It is probably the reason why "message" books rarely work in the long run.

Jul 9, 2010

My First Thoughts on: Borderlands

I'm a postapocalyptic sort of guy, though not necessarily the kind who enjoys Mad Max-style cinema/books/games. However, I was intrigued by BorderLands. It's a sort of RPG/FPS hybrid, sporting literally hundreds of guns and requiring players to level up along the way. I must mention I'm not an RPG guy either, so this game caught me doubly off-guard.

I've only put about four hours into the game, so I'm not that far along, but...it's growing on me. I didn't really like it at first. There are things in the game called Skags (which look like Zuul and Vinz from 'Ghostbusters') that I don't particularly care for, mostly because you have to kill about a thousand of them between the beginning of the game and getting to Level 10. I like to shoot people, man!

Once I got to about level 7 or 8, though, the game began to pick up steam for me. I enjoy the environment now, and the cell-shaded visual style is quite appealing. Parts of the desert are beautifully disgusting (if that makes any sense) and I find myself just sort of wandering around and shooting skags for no particular reason (thank you, sniper rifle[s]). I've got to say that, though I'm not a fan of these sorts of situations normally, Borderlands has got me a little bit hooked. It's a nice change after the environment in Infamous. Rather than urban decay, though, I get desert decay. I'm not a fan of the map or the compass system that guides you around. It's inexact and can get you damn lost if you're not careful.

Though I probably won't end up playing the gall all the way through, I'm looking forward to getting farther into it. What are your thoughts on the game? Anything I need to be aware of?

Jul 8, 2010

The [Original] Predator Told as a Rap

EMBED-PREDATOR -DJ MaYhem & Mouthmaster Murf - Watch more free videos

The SCREAM 4 Footage...

...in which nothing happens. Still, we now know Scream 4 is actually being shot, and depending on how you feel about it, you will either be elated or repulsed (or somewhere in between, like me). Be forewarned: nothing happens in the thirty-second clip, save for some meandering around this small town.

Jul 6, 2010

MouseTrap Never Works (OK Go Parody)

Jul 5, 2010

What Will Be Our Generation's Gay Marriage?

I know the topic title is a bit awkwardly phrased, but my hope is that it's a forgivable offense. I've been thinking about the passage of time and its consequences a lot lately. Marriage has done that for me (I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but that's all right, I suppose).

In contemplating the future, eternity, and everything else, I began to wonder about the great generational fights of the past. Worker rights, womens' rights, the Civil Rights Movement, gay marriage...and then I stopped. Logically, where do we go from here? What is going to be the great battle of my adulthood?

Part of the problem is that I wonder if there is going to be some agenda that I will oppose as vehemently as some oppose gay marriage. I can't think of anything that will cause me to ratchet up my defenses and get out sheets of posterboard and Sharpie markers.

But I also think that's the point. It will be a topic I didn't see coming. I bet the millions who are so against the concept of the freedom to marry any adult one chooses did not see this coming. Not thirty years ago. Not twenty years ago. Not ten years ago. They went about their business with the knowledge that, given everything else, at least God's prohibition against homosexuality would be endorsed by the government.

What we're seeing is a battle for the idea of inalienable human rights. I have not seen any real convincing arguments against gay marriage. Ninety-nine out of a hundred are based, obviously or obliquely, on religious doctrine alone. Droves have been convinced from the guy in the pulpit - very rarely is it a woman - to go out and vote down any bill endorsing even the remotest rights for gay marriage. Many of these people, ironically enough, detest the government taking a stance in any aspect of a person's life, and yet when it comes to the legal (or spiritual or sexual) bond between two adults, they could not be more persuaded by the concept of governmental authority in the matter.

I can see this situation very clearly, and I am thoroughly in favor of giving gays any marital rights straight people have. Furthermore, I don't know how any person opposed to the measure can be blind to its inevitability. Someday - and it may not be in the near future, but it will someday come to pass - this fight will be considered a hideous mark on the face of individual liberty in America, just as it now seems ludicrous that there was even a fight over the movements mentioned at the outset of this post. They now seem indicative of American experience as a whole, and many of us - I refuse to say all - could not imagine it any other way.

But that brings me to the logical question of: what next? Polygamy? Maybe, though I'm not opposed to polygamy, on social, religious, or personal grounds. That's another post entirely, but suffice it to say that it troubles me not one bit whether a man (or woman) marries one woman or ten and makes it legal. Plus, I don't believe the fight will be as scornfully fought as the ones which have preceded it.

What may occur is an embittered struggle over representation in government. This, of course, is nowhere near as important as the right to be recognized as a first-class citizen, but it can't be very far off. Atheists, gays, women, and minorities are woefully underrepresented - discouraged, even - from holding office and being able to be open about religious or sexual orientation. Perhaps that can change.