Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vier Verruchte!

"Holy crap, there's posts listed under consecutive months on the timeline! Are you back for real?"

This the kind of question I might get if anyone sent me questions. I might get questions if I had a legit readerbase. I might have a legit readerbase if I did the bloggy things you're supposed to do, like include a giant list of blogs I read and websites I enjoy, so I'd have more links per page and get more favorable treatment from search engines. Yes, that's why everyone does that. Finally, if I did the things people are supposed to do to be successful, I might have a girlfriend and a successful career. A lot of things might be true if other things were true. And no, there's no regular posting schedule. There hasn't been much work this week. That's how it goes.

A Dirge for Four Loko
Much has been made of these beverages' demise. Personally I think it's a little more paternalistic over-reach from a government that's a little too eager to reach over, but this is hardly The Death of Liberty. That already happened when George Soros installed a Muslim in the White House. If they were really, truly, uniquely unsafe that would be one thing--but people have been mixing alcohol and caffeine forever. Quibbling over the amount (in milligrams!) of recreational drugs in essentially harmless consumer products? I don't see how that benefits society. I've had a couple Four Lokos, and would not recommend them to any human person, but this was my experience:

First, there is a hierarchy of flavors. I've sipped most of them; Blue Raspberry was the best, followed by Tangerine. Every one of them smells delicious when you pop the can; like fruit soda. Tasting it is different. I've never been a fan of Red Bull or other energy drinks, but it shared the sharp bite in flavor--you know, that weird kind of spiciness that might be from cinnamon or might be from chemicals not of this Earth. It's hard to tell. Every taste of Four Loko is an experience; a symphony in several parts. After the bite you get the flavor of the drink, which is basically that of a can of fruit soda with a touch of cough syrup. The Grape flavor tasted exactly like Dimetapp, which brought some nice childhood nostalgia. No matter what flavor you've selected, the second you try to swallow Four Loko will spring its little trap: a truly foul aftertaste that reminds you, "This is 12% alcohol!" and slithers down your throat like some kind of parasitic worm. I mean that in the best possible way. "I'll get used to it." No, you won't. Every single pull from the can will bring it back, as shocking and profound as the first time it touched your lips. The experience is almost bracing, like a blast of wind on the prow of a boat as it sails through an ocean of cough syrup.

That's the "good" flavors. I use the marks because Four Loko is fundamentally a Mexican drink. This isn't racist; it's reflected in the name, and most of the advertising I see is in Spanish. I saw garishly colored 24oz cans strewn around the local temp workers' depot (where dozens of Mexican laborers and hundreds of seagulls spend their days) long before I heard about kids going to the hospital. Mexican snacks are either weird-tasting and REALLY salty, or weird-tasting and REALLY sweet. Buy a bag of chips from your local Mexican convenience store and try to finish it. Point is, these things taste fuckin' weird under the best of circumstances. And sometimes you don't have the best of circumstances. Sometimes you have Watermelon or Fruit Punch.

These were the flavors at the absolute bottom of the totem pole. Watermelon was slightly better, so we'll start with that. It had all the structural hallmarks of Four Loko: the bite and the aftertaste and the stickiness, which are universal. The drink doesn't resemble an actual watermelon except insofar as they're both red. Imagine a person whose only experience with watermelons was that he had, as a child, once eaten a watermelon-flavored Jolly Rancher that had languished at the bottom of the school nurse's jar for years. That person formulated Watermelon Four Loko. I will say that while drinking this one, I began to appreciate the latent danger in these beverages. They're 24 ounces and four drinks, and between the lousy taste and vile aftertaste you really want to drink it as fast as humanly possible. Very easy to go overboard this way, especially if you've been pre-gaming. As for the Fruit Punch, I only sipped it. I should say this was the only one that didn't even smellgood. I don't really know how to describe the flavor; in the absence of human words to describe that vile brew I'll just use the Garth Algar formulation of "pralines and dick." The more I look at that, the more it works.

And the final chapter: aftermath. I consumed two whole cans over two separate evenings; one Watermelon and one Blue Raspberry. After the former, I was fucked up. I should note I was smoking pot on both these occasions. Honestly, I shouldn't even have to say that. I wasn't so much drunk as fucked up. My stomach felt weird, my head was simultaneously heavy and buzzing with caffeine. Time seemed to move very slowly. Eventually I went to bed and that was the end of it. On the second occasion, I had similar feelings of fucked-upness, though they weren't as pronounced and unpleasant. But when I went to bed...well, I had bizarre dreams.

I don't remember them really, but I kept waking up and falling asleep to the same things. At about 3am, I woke from some really harrowing apparition with awful stomach pain. I wasn't very sensible at that point, but I remember distinctly feeling like something was rotten inside of me. I went to the bathroom and returned to bed, and fell back into the same dreams. Trying to keep my eyes open, they started creeping into my waking state. I tried to fend it off and focus on my stomach, but eventually the dream becoming real was part of the dream--some character told me as much. When that happened, I realized my mind was really tied in knots and I needed to take action. Getting up from bed, I stumbled to the bathroom and knelt in front of the toilet. Never had to put my fingers down my throat, since I can usually will myself into vomiting if my stomach is upset. What came out was...well, it was blue raspberry. Whatever chemicals they use to flavor it didn't digest quickly. Nor the dye. What was most remarkable was the acidity; vomit is always pretty corrosive, but this went beyond anything I've ever felt in my throat. It was worse than bile. The burning at the time was awful, but for the next two days I couldn't swallow without serious pain--that's how bad it was. What came out of my mouth wasn't really vomit; it more closely resembled the acid blood of the monsters from Aliens. I'm surprised it didn't melt through the bottom of the toilet and down into the first floor. Once I was done puking, I went back to bed with my throat on fire but my stomach and mind at peace. The rest of the night passed without incident. That's how fucking toxic Four Loko is, apparently; it destroys your mind and burns your body.

By the way, the director's cut of Aliensis on Netflix on demand. One of the greatest action movies ever made, without exaggeration. Mechs, space marines and dual wielding! Can't do better. Two final administrative notes:
1) The title of this post is "Four Loko" in German, roughly. It's alliterative and way better. Surely that's got to be worth some money to somebody? Hmm?
2) I'll try and think up a good Christmas post, but happy holidays to everybody all the same.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cause ain't no ships at the dock

The title is more or less what inspires my blogging these days: underemployment. Specifically, when my side gig (which typically sends me work via e-mail on a daily basis) does NOT send me work for a given day, I end up with time on my hands and I have to spend some of that time writing. If not, I'll melt into a noxious stew consisting of self-loathing broth mixed with assorted chunks of neuroses. When you're self-employed, this is called "motivation." Two last points before we get our hands dirty: I really wanted there to be some neat stevedore lingo for ships, but it turns out "ship" and "boat" are pretty short words. Also, "stevedore" is a really great word and your friends will be impressed if you ever figure out a way to use it at a bar.

On the ephemeral nature of shit
Shit is fascinating in its duality; it's waste, but it's necessary. It will exist as long as life does, and a universe without shit would be a dead one. Delicious food eventually becomes shit. Good TV shows couldn't exist without shit TV shows anchoring the line-up. "Community" couldn't exist if NBC weren't also checking their demos with shows like "Access Hollywood." I'm just kidding--NBC's prime time lineup makes no sense, and their dismal ratings demonstrate it better than I ever could. Anyway, you take my point about how shit is inevitable. I go "Ugh" in my head every time my puppy adopts her poop-squat, but my feelings don't change what's going to come out of there.

Lately I've had the feeling that the world is a little overwhelmed with shit. Like somehow the great cosmic balance between value and shit had shifted. As though I'd spent 20 minutes on the toilet after eating a sushi roll. You know what it is, honestly? Justin Bieber. And not him specifically--it's not as though there's anything unique about this particular child pop star. It's the idea that entire sectors of our culture are dominated by the most vacant silliness imaginable. We live in a time where talented people labor in obscurity and the children of celebrities get paid mouthpieces. I didn't mind when Will Smith's son starred in the Karate Kid remake, because children in movies have to played by children. I minded when Will Smith's daughter released a pop single about her bizarre haircut (pictured above--she looks like the Gestapo agent from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" just after his conversion to Scientology). I minded when Bristol Palin started getting paid $15,000 per appearance for talking about safe sex. Has she even had safe sex? Ever? Under the official line, didn't she move directly from unprotected baby-making sex to abstinence once she got pregnant and realized her mistake? Could she put a condom on a banana? Has anyone ever asked her? Meanwhile, want to guess the complete renumeration I will receive for the year-long process of researching and writing a marine biology book? $15,000. One moment:

Attention, teen pregnancy organizations. My name is Tony Palumbi. I have, in my life, never had sex without contraception. I have also, pursuant to your interests, maintained a perfect lifetime record of NOT knocking girls up. I do not believe these things are coincidental. I would be happy to speak at any of your events for less money than Bristol Palin, that talentless slutwagon. By the way, Bristol, you're not a "single mom." "Single" is your dating status on Facebook. You're a mom whose family has millions of dollars to care for your infant. Single moms have real problems. You don't.

And we're back! I had an epiphany; an insight to the universe's inner workings. While walking Bella (my puppy), I stopped to let her poop in her customary kudzu patch. She has pooped in this location an average of 1.2 times per day for the last three months. It's not that big. Honestly, the entire area should be carpeted with "processed" dog food. She should be stepping in it every time, but it never happens and she never takes any care to keep it from happening. Why is this? It's because shit, among its many traits, just doesn't last. It's the lowest, most broken-down form of its component substances--the last phase before they're absorbed back into the environment. Bella isn't constantly stepping in poop because shit, unlike value, is ephemeral. It dissolves and is re-absorbed into the system. So the volume of shit waxes and wanes, but it decomposes at a rate proportional to its creation.

This made sense. After all, while American culture has been turning out some real tripe, we've also managed to shorten our attention spans to the point where we honestly believe Lady Gaga's music is not identical to Ace of Base. Where we re-make movies that came out only 20 years ago! And while the New York Times columnists of the world tut-tut about these distractions, they're actually a defense mechanism saving Western civilization! The Internet and its eyeblink fads are the second prong of Al Gore's plan to save the world. He'll save the planet with his climate change initiatives and save humanity with the Internet. That man is amazing. And that's probably enough about Al Gore's prongs.

And while we're on the topic of shit...
I'd like to take a moment and talk about a particular flavor of shit: the San Francisco 49ers and their blighted season. For all their miserable failures, the Niners have actually met one of the goals for their 2010 season: figuring out Alex Smith. We now know for certain that Alex Smith will never be a good NFL QB. The world's been waiting on this verdict for years and finally we've got it! Why isn't anyone excited? I am, and I'm equally excited to see a 7-9 team win the NFC West while Frank Gore sobs into his "hope your hip feels better" ice cream. Poor Frank Gore. And poor Tony's Fantasy Team (title: JA-MAR-CUS), which was 8-0 before injuries exploded the roster.

My Patriots are having a surprisingly good season, but for the Niners fans there really is no hope. Even once this year is mercifully over...what's next? You have a question mark at coach (what's Mike Singletary's function aside from giving speeches?), a shoddy and disturbingly old secondary, and absolutely NOBODY at QB. And looming over it all is Jed York, the 30-year-old doofus who was born in a silver-spoon factory and was given full control of the team after his parents bought out Corrupt Uncle Eddie. Typically, when your team has identifiable holes, you rely on the GM to fix it. But Jed York is the GM, and he lacks two important traits: a) the ability to identify problems; b) the ability to fix problems (if he even knew they existed). So, in the words of the punk band Therefore I Am, "still there is no hope in moving on." The owner's not going to fire himself. Which leaves Niners fans...uhh...getting into baseball? I cannot wait for the offseason, when Jed York cites "the emergence of Troy Smith" as the reason why he didn't draft a quarterback.

Bella got her tail clipped over Thanksgiving. I didn't get it clipped; my parents' dog Carly did the honors by chomping the end of it. In Carly's defense, Bella was hitting her in the face over and over with that tail. She wags it so hard that her entire back half swings with it; this means that she can't walk straight if she's excited about something. But what it really means is this: she's missing a little chunk of flesh at the very tip of her tail, and if it bleeds...hooooly shit.

See, the tip of Bella's tail is all scabbed over. But she wags it SO HARD (if you've met Bella, you have known the stinging lash of her tail) that she inevitably smashes it into walls, corners, door frames, stair railings...basically any hard surface you can imagine. And when that happens, the scab gets broken open and Bella's wound starts bleeding. If it were anywhere else on her body, that would be fine. But it's on the hardest-wagging tail in the Western Hemisphere--when she really gets going, the tip is moving so fast that it's covered by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. You can't say where the tail is located at any given moment in time--you just have to predict based on statistical probability.

So what happens when an oozing, bleeding wound is placed at the end of a puppy's tail and accelerated to relativistic speeds? Decoration happens--all over the furniture, all over the walls, all over EVERYTHING. If Bella is not restrained and put in her crate within seconds after re-opening her wound, she will Jackson Pollack the pristine white walls of The Humboldt with dog blood. It's a nightmare. And it's not like she's really gushing blood; like any broken scab, it just oozes slowly. But even the tiniest 0.05 nanoliter droplet of dog blood, when accelerated to 30% of light speed, leaves a hell of a mark. And because it's getting re-opened twice a day, the wound heals very slowly. Because it's at the end of a long, furry tail, I can't even affix a bandage to it. Any tail-wagging just sends the tube of gauze and medical tape flying. This is a bizarre injury that was put together by God himself to test me. Like Job, only without real problems.

I'll leave you with this Youtube video of Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek." It's not a new song, and it's been sampled in some tragically bad hip-hop, but it demonstrates the proper use of Autotune. Turns out the trick is to be a genuinely creative person. Thanks always for reading.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A life-affirming weekend

It was a busy few days, climaxing with the wedding of my good friends Shabnam and Kyle on a fog-shrouded mountaintop above Malibu. Shab is one of the six people (six!!!) who officially Follow this blog, and I really appreciate it. I'd appreciate it even more if I knew the significance of the Follow feature, but here we are. Huge congrats to the both of them--not only for getting married but for getting married in unimpeachable fashion. I worked as a banquet waiter during college breaks for several years, and in those years I attended at least a hundred weddings of various sizes and flavors. No gay weddings ever happened over there at the Naval Postgraduate School, but I'm sure that was just a coincidence. In any event, this wedding was in my all-time top three, narrowly edged out by a pair of 200-guest barn-burners (one Irish, one Jewish--both peoples can really party). To have accomplished such a celebratory feat with less than a hundred guests and a day of foggy, drizzly weather was downright miraculous, and I say that as a hardened professional. Finally, even this bitter, salty soul was touched at all the sweet, funny awesomeness of the wedding. I don't believe I know anybody, including myself, who deserves lifelong happiness the way Shab and Kyle do. Their kids will come out of the womb princes(ses) of men.

As with most of life, weddings are gentle amalgamation of the choices you make the choices you don't. They got just about everything right--an absurd accomplishment for two people who were not only marriage rookies, but came from intact families! (No divorces/re-marriages for practice reps.) I counted five crucial mistakes they avoided:
1. Attempts at humor during the ceremony
Actually, they walked right into this one and emerged unscathed. I'm not sure how it happened--normally weddings are awful venues for humor. There's too many people with too much at stake, and public humor is tricky under the best of circumstances. But Shab and Kyle decided to fire a challenge fastball down the pipe on a 0-0 count, and it paid off. Both the wedding program and the vows were laugh-out-loud funny without undermining the sweetness of the whole event.

2. Having a clergyperson perform the ceremony
I don't think "clergyperson" is a word and neither does my word processor. Anyway, there's only two good reasons to have a priest or rabbi or what-have-you perform your wedding: a) you are super religious and this person has a close relationship with you and your intended; b) you are super religious and you feel like you MUST have this person do the honor or it's not official. Kyle and Shab are not super religious, and the wedding was officiated by a mutual friend from college named Nick Allen. Nick actually did a lot of work to make everything work and huge props to him, but he hammered home God's honest truth about weddings and funerals: personal relationships matter. I don't want some religious figure I barely know intoning about either my future life or my present death.

3. Attempts at humor during the toasts
I was pretty worried about this. Funny wedding toasts don't work; either they embarrass the bride and/or groom, or they're so peculiar that nobody understands the joke. Standing up in front of a hundred people and making them laugh is really, really hard. That's why stand-up comedy is one of the hardest things on the planet--and the difficulty increases exponentially as the crowd grows. After a successful flouting of the funny-ceremony rule, it must have been very tempting for Lyndsay and Drew (MOH and BM--that stands for Maid of Honor, and Best Man. Also Bowel Movement, which is fun). And both of them did the right thing by keeping it sweet, authentic and concise. The only violation of the rule was unintentional: Drew's toast was delayed because he was scrambling to try and find the iPad on which he'd written said toast. If you're asking "Who on Earth would write a wedding toast on his iPad?" then clearly you don't know Drew Wahl. I hadn't seen the guy in years, and I'd like to thank him for providing the whole wedding with a priceless "Oh, Drew, you preppy son of a bitch" moment. You forget how much you love somebody until something like that happens.

4. Wedding cake for dessert
I'll admit this peeve is heavily fueled by my waiting years. You see, the waiters don't pack a bag lunch. They take a minute here and there during the reception to duck in the back and wolf down some of the extra food. So they eat what you eat, including (usually) a slice of the cake. Let me say this for those of you who don't go to many weddings: the cake is a lie. It's made days in advance with ingredients selected not for taste, but for density and "hold." These are terms typically used to describe the benefits of hair mousse. Because the cake is not a dessert made to taste good; it's a structure designed to look good. The end result is a bland, spongy substrate tasting vaguely of corn syrup and maybe chocolate. The frosting is applied in vast quantities from a spray gun, and it is closer to toothpaste than anything else. The best wedding desserts are just normal desserts that people make--cookies, pies, turnovers, homemade cakes. Realizing this, Shab and Kyle had not one but TWO amazing dessert spreads. I tried a half-dozen items and all of them were delicious, but there were about 15 more desserts I could have tried. There was a cake, and it was cut in ceremonial fashion by the bride and groom, and slices of it were eaten by some poor deluded souls, but it was far from the focal point. As it should be. And that brings me to the last mistake they didn't make...

5. Cake-facing your spouse
This is probably the most obnoxious wedding "tradition" in all of human civilization. I'd actually prefer the Middle Eastern tradition of cutting loose with gunfire from an automatic weapon. Even if tragedy strikes, there's a bunch more room on the dance floor. I'm not even sure how to muster a rational argument against cake-facing, so let's just do the Colin Cowherd thing and say it out loud: "I'm standing here with the person I'm going to spend the rest of my life with, who's spent months preparing for our special day of celebration. You know what would make this moment really special? Mashing some cheap industrial wedding cake right into her stupid fucking face!" Oh wait, you didn't say "fucking?" Well, you might as well have, because you just hit your bride in the face with a piece of shitty cake. There is nothing to be gained by cake-facing your new spouse. DON'T DO IT. As Shab and Kyle were cutting the cake, Nate Dogg (the future Dr. Mr. Dr. Terrell Stevenson) piped up next to me, "I hope they get each other in the face!" This is the sort of degenerate Western Civilization with a capital W and C is up against. But this was no bush league couple, and they served each other a ceremonial First Bite of Shitty Cake with class.

I drove all night to make it home from the wedding. This probably seems like a really bad idea, but it was actually a lot of fun. I was too cheap (read: poor) to book a hotel room, and having spent the entire night dancing and talking with old friends I was completely sober. Big mistake, by the way: my "stuff yourself and get wasted at the reception" instincts badly eroded during my banquet-waiting tenure. A good wedding guest should really not be able to make it across the parking lot after the reception, let alone find his car and get into it and operate a manual transmission. But there I found myself, and the next five hours were a blur of red console lighting and Australian death metal. I used huge amounts of caffeine for the first few hours, and supplemented it with weed for the last two (THC knocks you out eventually, but it works in the short term). It was a great night, all told.

And since I'm reminded of weed, I'll close this post out with a highly informative video on the debate surrounding Prop 19. The Taiwanese are visual learners, apparently. Talk about counter-intuitive.

I don't want to get into much detail here (and I have work to do before Monday Night Football starts, so we're wrapping up), but these are my three favorite things from this video:
1) Pot smokers clearly delineate themselves from law-abiding Californians by wearing bandannas, growing beards and driving authentic replicas of the Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo.
2) That has to be the smallest goddamn barn I've ever seen. Though I guess it has to be, in order to appropriately house the bounty of those 25 square feet.
3) As far as Taiwanese people know, the only black people in California are incarcerated. I don't feel bad at all for my racist slanty-eyes cheap shot before the video.

And finally, last last last business: Rob is gone for good. Nick and I will be rocking +30 moodlets for at least the next three days, so by all means come over and enjoy our good cheer (and the Giants in the NLCS!). I won't get into details because only the most corrosive kind of asshole would spread self-serving falsehoods about his home life to anyone stupid enough to listen--right, Rob? I'll just sum up my feelings using a context-inappropriate Eminem lyric: "Bitch, if you died, wouldn't buy you life."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Some Bob Dylan song

The title of this post should convey the ongoing passage of time. I understand Bob Dylan wrote a number of songs dealing with that idea, but...he also performed those songs, so I'm not going to listen to them. In a world full of talented singers and guitarists, Mr. Dylan couldn't have found SOMEBODY to perform for him? It's selfish, really.

Tumblr sucks
Some lazy asshole looked at a blog and decided, "You know what I could really do without here? The words." Enter Tumblr, the blogging service for the illiterate generation. Rather than developing ideas or doing work, bloggers can now simply post webcam pictures of themselves in various fun outfits, or showing off their nails, or showing off their abs. If that's too much trouble, just link Youtube videos or re-blog posts that other (possibly creative?) people have made. I understand an awesome part of Tumblr is its ease of use on mobile platforms. That is neat. But here's a thought: if a thought enters your head while you're away from your computer, try keeping it to yourself. If you feel the need to share, ask "why do I feel this need? Am I sharing to please myself, or because this is really worth sharing?" Not every thought that passes through your head needs to come out of your dumb fucking mouth. If you have ever posted your current physical location on Facebook, this discussion also applies to you.

Went to the Giants-Padres game Saturday with Nick. He got amazing fourth-row first-baseline seats as a birthday present, and asked me to go. I told him to take a girl, but he reminded me that neither of us even know any girls except my sister. So I went with Nick. And it was a great experience, except for the Giants losing and forcing a nail-biting Sunday conclusion (which they thankfully won to clinch the NL West). We were probably 40 feet away from Aubrey Huff and Adrian Gonzalez, and the best part? To get down to the "Club" level of seats, to which these swanky things belong, you have to go down a special staircase through security. Once down there, you access your seats via a corridor where only Club-seated patrons can go. It's got its own set of food vendors, beer vendors, bathrooms and all the rest; which means you never have to wait in line, except maybe during the seventh-inning stretch (speaking of which, MLB: the DH and the "stretch" have to go). You could literally get a beer during a pitching change, so Nick got five beers and ended up passing out on the floor of the CalTrain on the way home. Great day, except for Barry Zito. I hear big league pitchers walk in two runs during the first inning like...all the time.

Everything's going to hell at approximately the same rate it was the last time I posted. Not much to see here. I will say this: Meg Whitman should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell. ("Would you like a cookie, son?" "Ohh, look...they're little footballs!") I realize it's her right to spend ridiculous sums of money on her own political campaign, because money is the only thing that matters to politicians. But in so doing, I end up deluged with Meg Whitman ads, and those ads are among the worst I've ever seen. Why, you ask? To start with, Ms. Whitman's carpet-bombing strategy began in the Republican primary, where she used far-right populist Teabagger rhetoric to obliterate the reasonable, bookish former state comptroller who was campaigning without the benefit of 80 trillion moneys. Of course, the second her primary opponent was defeated, the Great Satan started carpet-bombing the airwaves with ads excoriating her Democratic opponent. He's a lefty liberal, and she's a moderate conservative with business smarts!

Except for this: because Whitman's only solution to campaign problems is throwing ad dollars at them, I am deluged with her messages and thus I remember them. Thus, I remember that the Great Satan was a far-right-wing populist during the primaries...but mysteriously became a moderate business-oriented conservative the second they were over. And I remember that no matter where I go, I cannot get away from this image of a pantsuited blonde with bad teeth and a face that's too small for the rest of her body. Also...EBay? Not impressed. That was a brilliant idea, something essentially unique on the Web even today, and it wasn't Meg Whitman's idea. Sorry, not much credit awarded for succeeding with somebody else's brilliant idea. The folks at Facebook took a done-over idea and executed it so well that hundreds of millions of people were practically compelled to use it. That's something I can appreciate. Fuck EBay. And finally, let me speak to the idea in Ms. Whitman's ads that "while Sacramento politicians ruined the state, Silicon Valley execs were conquering the world." Government and Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurship are two completely different skill sets. The former requires reconciliation and bitter compromise. The latter leverages your personality with relatively small size of the company to steamroll all opposition and direct all credit towards yourself. I wonder which Meg Whitman prefers?

Even on my personal Pandora station (loaded with metal, electronica and 90s grunge), I am hammered with ads for the Great Satan. I don't even know what the hell she'd do as governor; all I know is that the television tells me California is doomed unless I vote for her. So I don't have much of a choice.

I got a PS3; my only console from the current generation. My original PS2, purchased in 2002, is still working--I decided those fellows over in Japan know what they're doing. I'll expand the game library as I can, but for now the PS3 is purely a vehicle for Bayonetta. Released last year, it's an absolutely absurd action-combat Devil May Cry with J-Pop sensibilities. There's a cover of Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon," performed by a 14-year-old Japanese girl Frank would have loved back in the day before there were laws about that. I'm just kidding--it's still legal to tap 14-year-olds in Japan. You can go as young as 12 if you have tentacles.

StarCraft 2 was fun, but as predicted I dropped it after about a month. It's too much of an e-sport: and like most e-sports, it becomes so specialized that a normal human being can't enjoy himself anymore. Imagine a friend invites you to play soccer with him. You accept, and upon arriving at the field you realize that all the players are standing on their heads. They've determined that the best way to play soccer is to run with your hands and manipulate the ball with your feet in the air. And they're right; it's just a more optimal way to play, and you get your ass kicked if you try to compete using your feet to run AND handle the ball. This leaves you with two choices: either you can learn to run with your hands, or you can go home. It doesn't matter how much you hate playing upside down; it's more optimal and in order to compete you have to do things the optimal way.

That's SC2: either you play in the bizarre, scripted, predictable, highly-optimized style that the pro Korean gamers do, or you get your ass kicked. You're not losing because you're a bad player; you're losing because you haven't trained yourself to play in this specific super-optimal way, and the loser on the other end of the Internet has. "Tony, this seems like sour grapes!" It would, except that I've got an excellent record in SC2. I know the "right" way to play, because a friend taught me back in high school (another problem: people who played the first game are at a huge advantage). I just hate it, and I think it's silly and non-intuitive. You keep running around upside down; I'm going to play a different game.

The single-player campaign was about as well-done as anybody could have expected. Tons of cutscenes, tons of dialogue, fun mission objectives and character progression and whatnot. But, uhh...somebody forgot to actually make the dialogue good, or the characters interesting. All we know is that when Jim Raynor is drinking whiskey, he is Sad Jim (similar to Sad Keanu, but with a thicker neck). When he has a gun, he is Tough Jim. When he's yelling, he is Angry Jim. And when he's not doing any of these, he's an Enigmatic Blank Slate--the rarest of all video game characters! Props to Blizzard on putting in the effort from a design standpoint. There's a lot to work with here. It's just that nobody cared enough to take any risks. I actually applied for a job writing SC2 dialogue and cutscenes for Blizzard a year or so back; obviously I didn't get it, but obviously I would have been a bad fit. I want characters to be interesting because of what they do and say, not because of some expository dialogue about their pasts. I want the story to take me places I didn't expect to go. In college, we used phrases like "Show, don't tell." I guess that's a little highfalutin'.

And that's why Gamespot's recent selection of Sarah Kerrigan from the original StarCraft as the Greatest Game Villain Ever makes me want to punch my puppy in the face. I got a puppy, by the way. I'd post pics, but I'm not a girl so I won't assume you care. Anyway, how can a secondary character from ONE GAME be the greatest game villain ever? Particularly when she was a protagonist for the first half of the game, and inhabited a moral gray area even once she "turned?" Kerrigan's in SC2, but she has only a couple lines of dialogue. She's the focal point of the final cinematic, but she's unconscious for the whole freaking thing. No agency, no evil. Sometimes I wonder if anyone else even gives a shit about these things. And then I stop wondering, because I know games are written by a disinterested hodge-podge of semi-literates assigned to other tasks, and they very much do not give a shit.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Last post before the Rapture

Today was an obvious day to post here. First, it lets me slide in under the one-month threshold for inactivity. I don't mean to quibble about degrees of laziness--like pregnancy, you either are or you aren't--but taking a step every now and then to cover your own butt from the worst accusations is a good idea. Maybe you love blow and hookers, but snorting blow off a hooker's butt is crossing a line. Maybe you're a slothful fucker with a blog, but at least you don't go a whole month without posting. You took at least one step down the road of dignity, and credit is due. If you'll recall, these were roughly the standards to which we held George W. Bush. The man did not personally destroy New Orleans--he may have appointed a known incompetent to a disaster-management position for the ideological reason of proving the government's incompetence, and New Orleans may have been destroyed as a result, but George Bush did not personally hold any black babies' heads underwater. For this, we salute him.

Another big reason to post today: the Nerd Rapture is coming tomorrow and there's no telling whether I'll even exist on Wednesday. I speak of StarCraft II, the long-awaited sequel to the world-altering original from 1998. If you weren't paying attention in '98 (or if you are female), it was just the biggest thing. The nerdiest kids in school played and discussed it endlessly. The coolest kids in school played and discussed it with the nerdiest kids, but kept it away from any girls. Remember this, ladies: the difference between a "cool" guy and an "uncool" guy is that the cool guy is lying to you. He is lying because you want to be lied to. The point is, that game rocked the foundations of an entire young generation and StarCraft II promises to do the same. An astonishing number of People You Know will pick up the game and, at least for a month or so, allow it to consume them. Blizzard releases have a broad cultural pull that few gaming events achieve. Seeing as they haven't released a typical game since 2002's WarCraft 3, our culture's been able to ignore them.

Aside: World of WarCraft was a huge success and has inspired more misleading newspaper stories than any piece of software not abbreviated "GTA," but most people don't play MMORPGs. They view these games like military-grade psychotropic drugs out of a William Gibson novel: products that will reduce you to gibbering street-corner lunacy with such immediacy that their use cannot be contemplated. And while they're making your fingernails fall out, they demand a monthly fee! Never mind that MMOs offer more entertainment per dollar than any other product available, including cable TV and pot.

Anyway, Starcraft is a big deal. I'm curious as to whether a game for PCs only (by which I mean Personal Computers--the game is available, in admirable Blizzard fashion, for both Mac and Windows machines) can really be successful in the modern marketplace. I'm sure it will be, but let's be real: games are sold for consoles these days. Most studios would recoil at the notion of a PC-only title, though strategy games are something of a different breed. It is hard to micro your Speedlings on your Xbox 360 whilst pounding beers. It is even harder to type "GG" at the end of a game while your bros are slapping your ass pink in congratulations. Much as Blizzard would love to make console games (and much as Activision CEO Bobby Kotick would gladly murder his own children for said games, then proudly announce to interviewers that he'd murdered said children because shame is for losers), when the development cycle for your product is longer than the life cycle of the console your options are limited. Diablo 3 will be released in 2020 for Windows Miasma, Ultra-Mac and the PlayStation 3.

I have to admit, I question Blizzard's decision-making process in releasing this title right now. If you recall, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (a dictatorship, not to be confused with the Republic of Korea, a democracy) recently threatened "retaliatory sacred war" over joint US-South Korean naval exercises to be held this summer. Dubbed Operation Invincible Spirit (a name that sounds for all the world like it came out of North Korea), it will consist of maneuvers and tactical procedures, carried out with the goal of wasting a shitload of time, fuel and money to no productive end. But here's my real concern: it's irresponsible for Blizzard Entertainment to critically undermine the national security of South Korea at a time when it's under the threat of nuclear holocaust. The country's entire citizenry will be utterly consumed with Starcraft 2 for at least the next two years, and it's doubtful that even a direct military incursion by North Korea would provoke much of a national response unless, somehow, the Internet got shut off. At which point the South Koreans will be pacing and fussing in front of their routers, waiting for them to restart as the tanks roll through Seoul.

The solution? Release Starcraft 2 tomorrow in America, and hold off in Asia. Since it took 13 years to release a sequel to the first game (and they still LOVE the first game over there), it shouldn't be a big deal to wait a little longer. We can hold off until Kim Jong Il is spirited by the Lord to the Great Frozen Head Depository in the Underground Bunker, and replaced by whatever egg-shaped, jump-suited ("It's a Speed Suit!") progeny he's favoring this month. I'm really not worried about the next guy--by all accounts, dictators' sons are like Michael Keaton's clones in the movie Multiplicity: each gets progressively loopier at a geometric rate. Kim Il Sung was a legitimately terrifying figure, but his son (Kim Jong Il) is a terrifying joke and HIS son (current heir-apparent Kim Jong-Un) is pictured at right. On a related note, I hear Fidel Castro's son is literally Woody Allen's character from "Bananas."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The "Avatar" Live Diary

This has been a long time coming, in part because the DVD took forever to come out and in part because my Netflix account has been straining to manage a busy throughput of pornography. I'm just kidding; Netflix (remarkably) doesn't offer any kind of adult content. Which begs the question: why doesn't Netflix offer any kind of adult content? I don't care what the real answer is; I just know that if they opened it up, CEO Reed Hastings would wake up the next morning with piles of cash stacked on palettes in his driveway. It wouldn't have been delivered by anyone; it wouldn't even have been income from Netflix. It would have been a natural phenomenon--if someone leveraged porn across such a large mainstream service, money would just accrete via Newtonian laws of gravity and physics.

Avatar is a bit different from the other movies I've tackled with running diaries: not only is it actually a good movie, but I've already seen it prior to this writing. I suspect this will improve the product. Let's get going; this is a long one, and I've had the DVD menu's video/music loop going for 15 solid minutes now. Surprisingly, the only thing I really hate is the menu UI. For shame, Mr. Cameron.

0:01 Exposition GO. "I was in the VA hospital, with a big hole blown through the middle of my life...and also my spine, because my legs don't work." Also, his brother was murdered "by a guy with a gun for the paper in his wallet." Sam Worthington thinks of events in simple terms.

0:03 Six years in cryo-sleep makes sense in the context of real space travel, but wouldn't it make quality talent hard to find? Oh wait, the military guys say "The pay is good...VERY good." Sam Worthington is now sold. What use a bunch of money is on a God-forsaken jungle planet, I don't know. Especially when it'll be 15 years (travel included) before you get to spend any of it. Interstellar travel is really a bummer when you think about it.

0:05 "One life ends...another begins." Sam Worthington and his brother both managed to get themselves shot in completely different ways in rapid succession. His brother didn't even shot in combat! They are lousy soldiers, the Jakesullys.

0:06 "They can fix a spinal if you've got the money...but not on vet benefits. Not in this economy." The VA is a government organization and thus operates pretty independently of economic concerns. Seeing as Jake got shot in combat, I'm pretty sure they'd pony up.

0:09 Sweet, the big intimidating speech from the big intimidating soldier. I'm not sure if they got a real actor to play him, or whether he's a CGI character straight out of Gears of War. Cartoon scar and all.

0:11 Our hero is introduced to a plucky crew of half-characters. Their half-stories will mature into half-subplots, then everything will get abandoned halfway through the movie. I don't blame you, Mr. Cameron. This movie probably should have been 4 hours long.

0:14 Shipping scientists back and forth between Pandora and Earth seems really inconvenient. By the time these Avatar program guys get out to Pandora, they've missed out on six years of research. Having an ignorant marine like Jake Sully on board shouldn't be a big downgrade, because in a ridiculously fast-moving field like xenobiology your knowledge is invalidated by the trip.

0:16 Unobtainium! We don't know what it's used for or why it's valuable, but we know it's awesome. We also know what Giovanni Ribisi apparently has $30 million of desk ornamentation. He's come a long way from The Mod Squad. Claire Danes, not so much. And she was so pretty.

0:18 "Maybe I got tired of doctors telling me what I couldn't do." Follow that up with a seething look perfected by the kid who played Ryan on The O.C.. Eat it, Sigourney Weaver. You a bitch.

0:19 It dawns on me that the Na'vi, for all their physical prowess, must have really small genitals. They go through some amazing contortions and wear really tiny clothes and never once does a ball pop out. "But Tony, maybe Na'vi don't even have junk like humans." Oh really? Well, every other fucking thing about them just says "blue person." Tiny dicks. Be aware.

0:21 Blue Sigourney Weaver tosses Blue Sam Worthington a big plant pod and he just sinks his teeth into it. Delicious fruit! Good thing that was edible, because you didn't ask and you certainly don't know shit about alien botany. The Gears of War guy even TOLD you that everything on Pandora is a lethal hazard, and you're just eating the first plant you see. Suppose that's poisonous and your avatar just drops dead. Oops.

0:23 Sam Worthington walks in on Gears of War guy liftin' weights and spittin' tough guy cliches. "They could fix me up if I rotated back, make me pretty again, but you know what? I kinda like it." Also, that would take at least 12 years of space flight, by which time Mr. Gears would be pushing 60. He gets in a few parting cliches, complete with some air boxing in his mech. More on the mechs later. I have many important thoughts to share.

0:27 Sorry, I got caught up watching the gunship fly over Pandora. There's nothing I can say about the big exterior shots in this movie. They're amazing and everyone knows it. Michelle Rodriguez ably plays the exact same character as Pvt. Vasquez in Aliens. Did you know the actress playing Vasquez wasn't even Mexican? She's Jewish. Amazing.

0:31 Blue Sam Worthington runs into a big rhino thingy in the jungle. Given that Pandora is a low-gravity moon and the Na'vi are appropriately gangly, where does this giant thick-boned monster come from? And how could a whole herd of them operate in a dense jungle like this? On a savanna, maybe.

0:33 Big scary predator, as we run the gamut of Interesting Pandoran Wildlife. Life all Pandoran wildlife, it is oblivious to gunfire. Maybe the marines' shipment of Guns that Actually Work is still on the six-year journey from Earth.

0:35 First appearance of Blue Zoe Saldana (who's just Zoe Saldana, since there's no non-blue version of her). This is a weird character, because Zoe Saldana is unbelievably hot...but her character isn't as hot, because she's full Na'vi and has their facial structure. All in all, she's 92% as hot as Krista from the movie Ferngully. Which, if you weren't aware, has a nearly identical plot to "Avatar."

0:37 Blue Sam Worthington fights off a pack of space hyenas, attractively rendered by the Unreal 3 engine. The shot where one of them gets lit up in slow motion by firelight shows its seams pretty badly. Zoe Saldana makes a big deal out of finishing one hyena off, though she just killed five of them.

0:39 Blue Sam keeps running his mouth at Zoe Saldana, though she's an alien who has no idea how to speak English. Oh hey, turns out she speaks pretty fluent English. You're smarter than you look, Blue Sam.

0:42 Mysterious jungle jellyfish! They show up at critical plot junctures to totally change the minds of the Na'vi. They are ignorant savages, so the simplest natural displays can sway them. Okay, now the jungle jellies are all over Blue Sam like a shirt. That seems like magic. The Na'vi are also smarter than they look.

0:45 we're introduced to Tsu'tey, whose name I will probably have to keep typing out. His relationship with Zoe Saldana is never clear. Are they siblings? Are they supposed to be mated one day? And why does Blue Sam insist on making human gestures at aliens? They don't understand.

0:48 A really nice touch as Zoe Saldana complains at her mother--equal parts cute and petulant. Just reminding you that this movie doesn't actually suck.

0:50 Jake Sully returns, temporarily not blue! They never make it clear how much sleep people need when they're doing this stuff. Jake is "sleeping" while he's in the avatar...but the avatar needs to sleep too. Does this operation require 12-16 man-hours of sleep per day? If so, why aren't the avatar pilots put to sleep immediately when their avatars crash, to minimize downtime? Also, we get a nice shot of a resentful Dorky Scientist, jealous at Jake's success. This is an interesting subplot, but don't worry--it'll vanish completely in about an hour.

0:52 Here we learn the real source of the conflict: the native village is built on top of a giant unobtainium deposit. Neat! I don't recall exactly, but I believe they leave this as a pure coincidence. Sinister Executive states, "If there's one thing shareholders hate more than bad press, it's a bad quarterly statement." Well, seeing as it would take years for a communicade to reach Earth and even more years for the actual ore to reach Earth, aren't we dealing with long-term issues exclusively? Whatever. They want this stuff and are willing to resort to a reasonable amount of evil to get it. Not too much evil, though.

0:53 Sigourney Weaver says explicitly that Zoe Saldana and Tsu'tey are supposed to be a mated pair and rule the clan eventually. But they're brother and sister, right? I can think of at least two things that are wrong with this arrangement. Also, more resentment from the nerdy scientist. Whatever.

0:57 "We're gonna need accurate scans on every column," speaking about the structure of the big tree. "Roger that," Jake responds. With what shall he scan them, dear Leader? He's using a borrowed loincloth. It's even more embarrassing than the time I had to borrow a short-sleeved dress shirt for a wedding.

0:58 The legendary floating mountains of Pandora! That's really cool! There's nothing to support them; neither stone nor physics. I'm sorry, but if you have floating mountains in a sci fi movie I expect an explanation. It doesn't have to be good--we'll set a Geordi LaForge engineering idea as the baseline of acceptable nonsense.

0:59 The whole "flying on big lizards" thing is cool, but I question the goggles. What exactly is the point of eye protection made of twigs? A bug could still hit you right in the eyeball and disrupt zahelu or whatever.

1:01 "The days are becoming a blur." This means it's time for a slowed-down, narrated montage. You gotta have a montage. Even Rocky had a montage. We also hear, "Norm's attitude is improving." Say goodbye to your subplot, Dorky Scientist. It was fun.

1:02 Oh man, triumphant music rears its head in the montage! We must be getting close. After a bit it gets soft and tender, as Blue Sam and Zoe do fun things together. She shows him a helicopter lizard: the most useless animal on Pandora. Then Sigourney Weaver puts him to bed, which works because his legs weigh about 15 lbs. combined. Blue Sam and Zoe end up cheek to cheek while she instructs him on archery--and suddenly, we're feeling something. When did that happen? When did the Na'vi become real people, just like us? Wow. And finally, after Blue Sam makes a fuss about killing some stupid animal, Zoe knows he's achieved Supreme Intergalactic Oneness. Like in Ace Ventura 2.

1:06 Blue Sam climbs the floating mountains. As he does, stones break away...and fall? What the fuck? Also, the majestic floating mountains are dotted with majestic FALLING WATER. Giant stone mountains can float, but water? Get out of here, you clown.

1:09 Blue Sam makes his way among the flying lizards, across rocks suspiciously lacking in flying lizard guano. Maybe it's like the rocks, and just floats out of their scaly sphincters.

1:11 Blue Sam's efforts to tame his flying lizard reminded me of the horse-breaking missions in Red Dead Redemption, only if you got to fuck the horse when you were done. Come to think of it, that might have actually made RDR worth playing.

1:13 Blue Same is now Jakesully. He banged his first dragon, so he's officially more than just the blue version of a non-blue person.

1:16 We are introduced to Turuk, the super-dangerous predator of flying lizards. Why, on a planet filled with solo flying lizards and other flying things, would a predator go after a lizard with an armed Na'vi aboard? It's smarter and more dangerous than anything else in the sky.

1:18 "It's hard to believe it's only been three months, and I barely remember my old life." Well, you certainly remember your old accent; these voice-overs make Sam Worthington's mouth go all funny and Australian.

1:20 Mr. Gears, once a big proponent of this project, has apparently decided he's against it. Not sure when this happened; maybe around the time Dorky Scientist decided to abandon his beef with Jake and Sigourney Weaver stopped being interesting.

1:22 Aww snap, the scene in the purple trees with Retard Helicopter Lizards flying everywhere and giving themselves motion sickness. It's nice and pretty and Jakesully gets to bang Zoe Saldana. Though she's apparently supposed to mate with Tsu'tey, she really doesn't hesitate at all. She's pretty much begging for it the whole scene and nobody seems to consider this taboo. All the conflict and duality in Jake's character is compressed into a whispered-to-himself "What are you doing, Jake?" after banging Zoe. Good talk, self.

1:26 Jake almost dies because he's eating oatmeal. A real tragedy, since oatmeal is great for your heart. It also makes you wonder why a guy who's about to spend 12 hours unconscious (and has no legs to begin with) needs a hearty meal.

1:27 The giant excavating machines are STRAIGHT out of Ferngully. There is no Tim Curry pouring like liquid sex out of the smokestacks, but, uhh...Giovanni Ribisi looks nice in that shirt. The Na'vi are caught completely by surprise by these machines, though we know they've been chugging for three months. These guys suck at being attuned to nature.

1:29 Jake and Zoe get in some trouble for banging. Tsu'tey is upset, but nobody else seems too scandalized. See why I said there was some ambiguity here? Not much of a tradition. Also, the Australian accent is in full effect when Jake gets upset.

1:32 Jakesully broke a camera on a tractor, so now he's an enemy of the state. To be fair, he and Sigourney Weaver are really not making this easy on the corporate guys. These folks need a bone thrown their way. They want unobtainium, and you should figure out a way for them to get some of it. Compromise! Work it out. Giovanni Ribisi yells, "they're just goddamned trees!" Sigourney Weaver disagrees. Who'll be proven right???

1:36 He's kinda mean, but Giovanni has a point. I actually like the guy and wish his character was more important. He's not a bad guy, but he's got a job to do and somebody else would do it if not him. The entire Pandora settlement is financed by this metal, and he needs more of it. And since it's called "unobtainium," it's probably hard to find.

1:39 The flying human armada, especially the big ship, is pretty awesome. James Cameron has a true gift for Space Marine aesthetic. If they ever make a StarCraft movie, he needs to direct it and we cannot have a discussion about this unless the discussion is an attempt to define the length, width and breadth of this idea's awesomeness.

1:43 Michelle Rodriquez (not a Jew!) bails out of the attack in the most futile gesture of civil disobedience ever. Zero lives saved, zero trees saved and a bunch of other Marines pissed off. Still, her character couldn't stay credible and open fire. You get a pass, Mr. Cameron.

1:44 The Great Tree finally falls, and...well, aside from a lot of crushed blue people, nothing really happened. The world wasn't destroyed. The big "network" appears to soldier on. There was no greater calamity here. So, uhh...I guess Giovanni Ribisi was right! It was just a big tree. Moving on.

1:48 Michelle Rodriguez rescues the good guys, throwing out a "tree-hugging traitors" line to bait the guard. Apparently nobody, including the angry Marines on her gunship, noticed her bugging out in the previous scene. Making her civil disobedience all the more futile.

1:50 Mr. Gears earns his Total Badass merit badge by running out in the funky atmosphere to shoot at the good guys. He mortally wounds Sigourney Weaver, whose most interesting line of the past hour has been "Oh, shit!" Aside: I really like the fact that the Pandora atmosphere is unbreathable to humans. This is a nice element of realism: a non-toxic atmosphere with the wrong balance of gases for human survival.

1:55 Was Sam Worthington drunk when he recorded these voice-overs, or was his dialect coach sick that day?

1:55 Jakesully captures Turuk to become the second biggest badass in the universe: Turuk Mak'to. The biggest badass is Kurak Mak'to, and that is such an inside joke that I won't even explain it. There are like three people on the planet who MIGHT laugh.

1:58 Tsu'tey is the chief of this particular Na'vi tribe after his father's does he have to marry his mother? Does he have other options? I don't know the answers. I do know that Sigourney Weaver's "I'm not really naked" vine wrap looks absolutely ridiculous. If she can't wear clothes, why bother at all? Old ladies with bullet holes in them aren't sexy. I kid; Sigourney Weaver is always hot. In any event, she dies and it's sad.

2:02 Big speech by Jakesully. Stirring stuff. But it turns out that Tsu'tey (doing the translation) is a really lousy public speaker and butchers his delivery, so the Na'vi get lost. The moment is rescued by Jake jumping on his Turuk; the babes love that. A brief montage follows, where Jake skips the awkward translated speeches and just shows them his ride. And Na'vi across Pandora agree that his ride is the most pimpingest of all flying lizard mounts, so they join his crusade. We talking pimpin' since been pimpin' since been pimpin' etc. etc.

2:06 Mr. Gears delivers a counter-speech where he prepares to blow up the tree of ancestors or whatever. The first tree going down didn't do a whole lot; why will this be different? It's even more specialer?

2:11 Final battle is ramping up. Mechs have been deployed. Let's talk about mechs. These ones are cool and realistic in several ways, but they make the crucial (usually Japanese) mistake of giving mechs hands. Nobody would ever build a mech with hands, and then build special guns to be held and fired by those hands. That just doubles the number of things that could break or go wrong. Any real mech would have weapons built in, or at the very least attached to modular hardpoints. I have spent a lot of time thinking about mechs and you need to respect that.

2:14 Not sure why, in a jungle setting, you have to rush the line of human marines (using guns) with your own line of horsey-riders with bows and arrows. The guys in the air came from above and behind--that might be a good idea.

2:16 Thrilling aerial chase/battle scene with Jakesully and Michelle Rodriguez (in a badass war-painted gunship). I kind of wonder where Jake's original lizard mount went when he upgraded to Turuk. The critter can't find another rider; it had to be heartbroken, or as heartbroken as a cold-blooded animal can be. It's like somebody who dates an American Idol contestant--you're just gonna get upgraded and it sucks.

2:18 Tsu'tey dies. Bullets...his only weakness! Incidentally, he'd jumped off his lizard into the back of the Carry-All. Donald Rumsfeld could have plotted a better exit strategy.

2:21 In their darkest hour, the Na'vi are bailed out by the forest goddess Eywa and her animal minions. Best surprise comeback since those suits of armor beat the Nazis in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. What's the Greek term for a forest goddess? Deus ex machina?

2:23 Dorky Scientist pulls on a mask, grabs a gun and runs out into the jungle. They needed to get him out of the scene so Jake and Mr. Gears can get a 1v1. We'll see him again at the end of the movie.

2:24 Jakesully stumbles while riding the giant mega-gunship and has to grab a missile to hold on. I really wanted them to launch the missile so he could ride it like the third level of Contra 3. Meanwhile, the gunship blows up and Mr. Gears is alone in a mech.

2:27 Zoe Saldana, riding a big predatory thing from earlier in the movie, disarms the mech and breaks its gun. Maybe the gun should be attached to the mech, so these things don't happen? Nah.

2:29 Jake has missed two killing blows on Mr. Gears now, but Zoe Saldana finishes him. Not since Kobe Bryant in Game 7 has such a poor performance been bailed out for a win.

2:32 White Jake and Blue Zoe are together, and for the first time we notice the fundamental weirdness of their relationship. She's twice his size and blue and weird. Human beings would NOT be attracted to Na'vi under typical circumstances, so it's good they both met as blue folks. Zoe's trying to be really nice here, but all she can think of is "Oh my god, what the hell is wrong with your legs?" Invalid Na'vi get dropped off the top of the Big Tree.

2:34 Jake lets Turuk go and presumably returns to slumming it up on his old mount. They kick the humans off the planet, including a chastened Giovanni Ribisi. I'm sure the humans will slink off, defeated, and never return to the ridiculous economic bounty of which they've already invested countless billions. Conflict resolved. And Jake gets his own ridiculous leaf shorts to ease his transition to full-time Blue Person. It works because he wasn't already dying; Eywa sees right through that shit and she's not going to give you a pass just because you were hilarious in Galaxy Quest. Eyes open, credits roll.

Looking back on this diary, I feel a little bad. It's a good movie and it's still moving and satisfying on the third viewing. The payoffs still work. Cameron created the first work of Serious Science Fiction in a long time, though I'm sure nobody will take the hint and we'll spend the next decade saddled with poorly-shot shit heaps featuring vampires and werewolves. Eclipse comes out today, and the action shots in the trailers are enough to make me cringe. It's awful and it pains me that modern technology is not being put to work making better movies. Criticize James Cameron all you want, but he's doing things that nobody else is willing to do. I imagined a Cameron-directed Dune and now I have to take a cold shower. For reference, the picture below is an example of what happens when people who aren't James Cameron try to make serious sci fi epics. Thanks always for reading.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Anelka don't like people playin' on his phone

I'll admit I didn't envision two back-to-back World Cup posts. Had it not been for a family trip to Yosemite last week, there might have been a buffer post--about what, I don't know. You would have seen a late Thursday post about...I dunno, Cthulhu or something. He might have been eating a video game or playing Norse-themed heavy metal. Like the four chords that comprise all of rock music, this blog is about making art out of a few simple components. But the South African events of the past week have been too awesome to pass over. The extent to which nations' collective personalities are played out in their national soccer teams is remarkable.

France: Vive la revolution!
French forward (they are called "strikers" in soccer to pad the sport's record number of awkward synonyms) Nicolas Anelka was kicked off France's national team after mouthing off to coaches behind closed doors. This is weird enough--in America even "beloved" athletes like Magic Johnson routinely get their coaches fired and nobody cries foul--but then the entire team responded by boycotting practice (awkward soccer synonym [ASS]: "training"). Now the squad is in total crisis, with the President of France holding his Sports Minister in South Africa to broker a peace. I have a couple thoughts here:
**What the hell is a Sports Minister? Apparently in France this is a real job supported by tax dollars (ASS: "Euros"). In America, a Sports Minister is one of those guys who delivers the opening prayer at the start of a NASCAR race. "Dear God, please protect these mighty athletes as they turn left over and over. Let their ankles not cramp up while pushing the gas pedal. And most of all, God, we ask You to hide our Caribbean romps with sexy boys, lest everyone discover what awful hypocrites we are, Amen."
**This whole situation could really be shot by Dave Chappelle for "When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong." In this case, Anelka could have kept his mouth shut and taken his share of blame for a disappointing French squad. He kept it real. His coach could have written the explosion off as an in-the-moment emotional outburst; but he kept it real and sent the mecontent back home. His teammates could have swallowed the whole unpleasant episode and re-purposed their anger towards--I don't know, maybe the big international soccer tournament they came to play in? But no; they, too, kept it real. This may be a shitty soccer team, but damned if they aren't the most Real motherfuckers in the tournament. Their first-round exit will be just as real.

Bottom line: the French are just too good, as a people, at keeping things real. They are so eager to let the perfect be the enemy of the good that they've never kept a government for more than 80 years without cutting somebody's head off. There are strikes and boycotts (ASS: "stand-ups" and "disbuyings") on a daily basis. The team is just reflecting the culture from which it derives. It so happens that the culture is full of confrontational douchebags. But the origin of the word "douche" tells you everything you need to know about that.

England: Oh my God, we're all doomed
England hasn't won a World Cup since 1960. The preceding sentence is the single most important thing to remember about the English soccer team, the English people and the entire English nation until the Cup is over. It's all they think about; not even the Cup itself, but the fact that they haven't won in fifty years. English soccer fans are so traumatized that, like Boston fans of decades past and Cleveland fans of decades present and future, they destroy their own chances. Whenever anything goes amiss for England, the fans get a look: Oh God, we're doomed. The players get the same look, because they grew up as fans. They know the history. They know they're doomed too. And because of that, they tighten up and fail and under-achieve. They are so convinced they'll let themselves down that they can't help but deliver on that one promise, if nothing else. Contrast this to the USA team, who only seems to get fired up by giving up early goals. Having grown up on insipid American sports movies, which promote the scrappy never-say-die underdog and actually conflates giving up an early lead with moral rectitude. If you were winning at the start, you'd be the evil black-clad Norway team and Coach Bombay is NOT HAVING THAT. Our guys don't take leads very well, but at least they don't utterly collapse when shit goes wrong.

So the team is in trouble, facing elimination if they don't win against Slovenia (national motto: "All our women are either REALLY hot or REALLY ugly"). They know it; everyone knows it. And characteristic of the English people, they are busy working themselves into a giant neurotic knot because of it. The knot can't be un-worked because...why? Oh right, because (characteristic of the English) they can't even bring themselves to talk about it. Team leaders called a closed meeting after the disastrous 0-0 tie with Algeria, but their overbearing Italian coach wouldn't even let the players speak. That is how conflicts are resolved. If an Englishman loses a thumb in an accident, I assume he waits until he has a headache so he can go into the hospital and ask for some Aspirin. Don't want to bother the doctors about all that blood. And I don't want to read too much into this, but why in hell is an Italian coaching the English national team? Do you think that at the Empire's height an Englishman would have let an Italian tell him how to do anything? This is a civilization in decay.

Sadly, England is all about under-achievement. And I can't blame them. This is a people who were told in 1940, with their empire in collapse and their homeland under attack by a massive and intractable foe they'd allowed to thrive, that should their civilization endure another thousand years "this was their finest hour." Way to set the bar low, Winston. It's like when Nick regales us with stories of his athletic prowess in the 8th grade. Is that really how you want to frame the narrative?

North Korea: Wait, we have to go back?
I always thought it was funny that both North and South Korea managed to qualify for the World Cup. Doesn't it reflect kinda poorly on the South Koreans? Those guys don't even have food, and they do just as well as you. Maybe a little less StarCraft, a little more jogging? Hmm? I kid, I kid; North Korean soccer players probably have access to both food and shoes while the World Cup season is going on. The real question is, where do these players come from? I don't know if the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (out of four words in the country's name, three are lies. I assume North Korea is truthfully located in Korea) has its own pro league, though I can't imagine the games are very competitive. I picture two squads; the Pyongyang Chosen of the Dear Leader and the DMZ Capitalist Pigdogs. They have something of a Harlem Globetrotters-Washington Generals dynamic, reinforced by the fact that all members of the Pigdogs except for the goalie are executed before every game.

The North Korean squad hasn't acquitted itself very well in international competition. Players have expressed shock and astonishment at the other players, "who stand nearly as tall off the ground as the Dear Leader himself," and the rowdy fans "who are allowed to stand and make all kinds of distracting noise." The prevalence of night games has also contributed to the players' discomfort, as most have never played under electric lights and get freaked out by multiple shadows they cast on the field (ASS: "pitch"). Frankly, they may just be suffering from a lack of moral support; North Korean soccer fans are notorious for traveling poorly.

It's hard to gauge the mood inside the DPRK camp, what with all the razor wire. But the players seem determined to soldier on. "It is crucial that we make the elimination round," stated defender (ASS: "backer") Park Kae-Soon. "I think we are allowed to stay here as long as there are games to play. We want to play more games." The mood has to be somber after today's 7-0 thrashing at the hands (that turn of phrase really doesn't work for soccer) of Portugal. Even athletes from the tiniest nations have a lot of pride, but there can't be a good vibe when you know everyone's going to be executed. The good news: maybe the Head Coach/Chief Political Officer can argue that losing at a game of capitalist oppression is winning at class struggle. I just hope he can sell the Dear Leader on it.

I'll leave you with an animated GIF that captures how most Americans feel about the tournament's physicality. This is courtesy of my friend Adrian, who cares more about soccer than any fat American has a right to. Some of these flopping motherfuckers are starting to make baseball players look tough.

Friday, June 11, 2010


The 2010 World Cup's inaugural weekend is complete. The games so far have been of varying quality, without any real shockers or barn-burners as far as I can tell. I'm not entirely sure what would constitute a "barn-burner" in soccer terms. More than three shot attempts that had a realistic chance of going in? Any game that actually ends with a decision one way or the other? It's possible we had an amazing epic game already, and I watched the whole thing without realizing it.

Like many American children, I played soccer for a little while. Like most American children, I eventually picked a "real" sport focused on that. In my case, the "real sport" was...swimming. Not too flattering to the Beautiful Game, but she's no spiteful mistress. She took me back as long as I agreed to get up at 7:00am on weekend mornings to watch the World Cup. And I did it, because I want to put my best foot forward and make this relationship work. And what do I hear when I turn, at 7:06, to the broadcast?


It's like every game is being played inside a giant beehive. The noise comes from cheap plastic trumpets called vuvuzelas, which grow naturally on various trees and shrubs in sub-Saharan Africa. It's true; you can just pick them off the vine and (after a brief drying period) start annoying the shit out of your neighbors. Many of the continent's political crises can be traced back to vuvuzelas. The Ivory Coast (home of Chelsea star Didier Drogba, who wears the same flashy Nike cleats that I use for Ultimate) is currently fighting a bitter civil war that started when vuvuzelas were permitted in their legislature. Hours later, the opposition party had decamped to a jungle stronghold and everything turned to shit. Even now, UN peacekeepers are trying to get the sides to lay down their obnoxious fucking trumpets and come to the negotiating table. As a compromise, kazoos will be provided to the warring parties.

Every single human being who's watched a World Cup broadcast hates these things. Maybe not the African fans, but how many TVs are there in Africa? That's right, I said it. I'm all for cultural sensitivity and the fan experience, but this is ridiculous. If you're running the World Cup, how could you decide that the needs of 30k trumpeting assholes at your live event trump the TV distribution to the whole goddamn World? These are the most-watched broadcasts on the planet. Is it really that hard to ban giant plastic trumpets from the games?

I have heard an argument for cultural sensitivity; this is, it has been said, how African fans like to watch their games. I respect this argument, but there are a couple obvious problems with it:
1) How much of a tradition is this, really? The wikipedia article states that the stupid things weren't even popular in South Africa until the '90s. So they have the cultural legitimacy of parachute pants.
2) Not all cultural products deserve respect. Japanese wood prints have existed for a thousand years and are inextricably linked with Japan. However, starting in the 19th century an entire tentacle-rape wood print industry (women having sex with octopi and whatnot) sprang up. We need to respect one of these things and not the other. You figure it out.
3) As noted in the article linked above, this isn't even a South African tradition. It originated in Mexico, which should surprise nobody. Mexican culture places a premium on cacophonous noise for its own sake; this is why they adore fireworks 365 days a year and have the loudest weddings ever. Related story: on Sunday I went to my sister's college graduation. The vast majority of students received a faint smattering of applause from family members when their names were called--everyone had been asked to keep it low-key until the ceremony was over. However, whenever a student with a Hispanic surname was called an EXPLOSION of noise followed. Not only did the student's family scream--not only did they bring noisemaking maracas and other devices--but there were 20 people making noise at a time.

You can't fool us, South Africa. The world wouldn't tolerate mariachi music piped into the stadium and they should demand an end to the vuvuzelas. You ended one of the most insidious regimes of the 20th century without a shot fired, and you're willing to sell all that national respect for a cheap plastic horn that, in addition to irritating the shit out of spectators, also spreads disease by spraying saliva out of a meter-long cannon all over the crowd? I was trying all weekend to think of a silver lining, and came up with this: in big set-piece moments when they get REALLY loud, the horns are kinda epic. They are vaguely reminiscent of an orchestral trumpet section. But only if the entire section consisted of 10,000 imbeciles who'd only been handed their instruments that morning and had never met each other. And if their instruments could only play B-flat. Speaking of which, isn't anyone worried that a World Cup crowd will eventually produce a massive coordinated Brown Note and cause the entire world to shit themselves? I'm worried. We'll wrap this affair up with a quick soccer Q and A, since I have done lots of research and am massively knowledgeable.

What's up with the players escorting children onto the field?
In modern soccer, this tradition goes back to the early English Premiere League. Under-privileged children are selected by charitable organizations to be escorted. The idea is to raise money and awareness for good causes and to do something nice for the kids. The tradition actually reaches back further, though; to ancient Greece, where the first organized soccer matches were played. In those days, young boys were escorted onto the field by patron players. It wasn't so much a charitable gesture as declaring the stakes of a wager.

What's up with the big USA-England game? Did we own those limey fucks?
It wasn't really that big, given that they played only one pool-play game and probably won't see each other in the elimination rounds. It was more a psychological test for both sides. But it wasn't a fair test. See, if we'd lost it would have been no problem. A bummer, nothing more. But if the English had lost...holy shit, it would have been a disaster over there. An English soccer fan is similar to an Ohio pro sports fan (any sport, any team): a broken, neurotic husk who's just waiting for his team to shoot themselves in the foot. The 2008 film Doomsday was actually set in a near-future England just after a major World Cup collapse. Harrowing stuff.

Why are teams in the World Cup allowed to tie?
This is just you being an American jerk. The World Cup has a stage of pool play, where teams play each other in a round-robin format and accumulate "points" based off results. So whether or not you declare a winner and loser in each pool game, the top two teams move on while the bottom two don't. Just shut up and enjoy the games, because when elimination comes you'll have the winners and losers you want.

Why does everyone hate Italy?
The Italians would tell you that everyone hates them because they're the defending champions and they're the best. One of these things is true. In fact, everyone hates the Italian team because they are douchebags. They flop like a mixture of Vladi Divac circa 2001 and Derek Fisher circa 2010. They are known for their defense, and routinely employ it to secure 0-0 ties (why risk losing if you don't have to win??). Essentially, they are that friend everyone had at 12 years old who played every video game exclusively to win. No amount of "Dude, don't be a fag" and "Dude, stop playing like a bitch" would persuade him, because he didn't understand what he was doing wrong. You eventually had to drop him from your friend circle, and then you watched him go to Princeton and get into investment banking. And you nodded soberly, because the Self-Important Fuck gene is bred deep. That's the Italian team, only they also grow long greasy hair and awful beards. It took just over 30 seconds of World Cup play for the first Italian player to take a cartoonish dive. I bestow upon them the most dire curse that can be leveled at an Italian Catholic: fuck you, and I hope black people marry into your family.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Dork Olympics

If you know me well, you know I'm extremely competitive. If you don't know me well, you know I'm extremely competitive from reading the last sentence. So we're covered on that front. I bark at teammates, talk trash at opponents and generally make myself insufferable. And woe betide you should you ever enter the Smash ring with The Pika. Two men enter, one psychotic static-charged mouse leaves. But because I'm so competitive, I find myself measuring my own abilities against my peers' in every arena. Particularly when it comes to dorkery, something you may not be serious about but which I hold in the highest regard. Anyone can point to something and say "that's fucking dorky" (ex: your roommate buys special video-game glasses, then doesn't wear them while he plays his PS3 because they're "for PC games only." Second ex: coughing up for a lifetime subscription to either a porn site or Lord of the Rings Online, because "over years it makes a lot of sense") but dorkery is damn hard to quantify. This is a problem requiring my special attention. As a solution, I propose the inaugural Dork Olympics!

They will be held over the first two weeks of March 2012. This gives us some time to prepare without losing the public's valuable attention (they will be riveted) to an excessive run-up time. As for the date, March nails the sweet spot in between the NFL season (when dorks are busy maintaining a half-dozen fantasy teams) and the baseball season (when dorks are busy maintaining a half-dozen fantasy teams with EVEN MORE STATS). And the Dork Olympics will obviously be held indoors anyway, so who gives a shit what the weather's like? You could hold the Games--capitalizing the G gives me goosebumps!--in Boston if you wanted to. That's saying something, seeing as the typical Massachusetts Spring day involves 30-degree temperature swings, sleet and 80% humidity.

The location will vary year-to-year. This is an annual event, in part because dorks are impatient but mostly because we'll need the money. Ain't no "NBC throws buckets of money down a well" TV contracts here, though ESPN will probably pony up a bid. They show bowling on ESPN, so clearly the suits know what sets pulses racing.

Opening ceremony: none. Dorks hate ceremonies. No true Dork Olympics would include any kind of formal preamble. For one thing, any event billed as a "ceremony" is probably something you can't wear shorts to. For another, a legitimate opening ceremony consists of marching and dancing and celebration. All of these things require substantial energy and some even cause you to sweat. Not happening. Though honestly, the activities in the (hypothetical) ceremony are beside the point. Dorks would never reach that stage in the planning process, because labor in the service of Appearance is anathema to the dork lifestyle. This is how the entire conversation would go:
"Should we have some kind of opening ceremony?"

EVENTS! A partial list...
Standing Hot Pocket: Competitors are given a single regulation Hot Pocket (Pepperoni Pizza flavor, as it precipitates the least diarrhea), fully wrapped, and a regulation microwave oven (700W). They must open the package, extract the food item and cardboard handling sleeve, and place the food item INSIDE the cardboard handling sleeve. From there, the Hot Pocket (Bolsillo Caliente on ESPN Deportes, the channel with the most unintentionally funny name on cable) must be inserted into the cardboard sleeve, placed inside the microwave and cooked. Specifics of sleeve placement, in-oven orientation and cooking duration are left up the athletes themselves; this is where the skill and training comes in. Total time limit: 5 minutes. Entrants are scored on a two-tier system: points awarded for preparation speed relative to other entrants, and a judge score. Impartial observers will both examine and sample the submissions. Their ballot aggregates three factors: Sleeve Placement, Crust Integrity and Even Cooking. Any ties will be adjudicated by a special run-off contest: boiling water. The tied entrants are given a fully-equipped kitchen and 15 minutes. There are no points awarded in this special round; if you can boil water, you win. "But Tony, what if two guys can boil water?" Let's cross that bridge when we come to it. I'm not worried.

Gaming: Single Player
There have to be at least two gaming events. I'm sure you understand, as gaming is central to dork culture. If you don't understand that, understand this: I could have written like 400 more words on Hot Pockets, and for you I didn't. I've split up the events into Single Player and Multiplayer, since there are distinct skill sets and I've put more thought into this than I should have. In Single Player, the game will be some form of platformer. Some latter-day Mario title would be best, since the old NES and SNES ones would confer an unfair advantage to dorks who grew up during their heyday. We are all familiar with these dorks; the cousins who got impatient when we played Mario because we didn't constantly hold down the Run button. I'm not running because I haven't memorized the whole goddamn level because my parents aren't awesome enough to let me have an NES, asshole.

The Single Player scoring system, like that of the Standing Hot Pocket event, is bifurcated. The player's performance in the game is one element of the score, and the other is his behavior while he plays. See, dorks have oddly twisted egos and while they lack the self-confidence to approach even a homely young lady, they are quite convinced that nothing bad that has ever happened in a video game is their fault. As they play the platformer and (inevitably, because this is the Dork Olympics and we'll make it hard) fail at the occasional jump, protests of I HIT THE FUCKING BUTTON and BULLSHIT will reverberate throughout the empty middle school gymnasium where we're holding these events. It doesn't matter that the dorks know they can score points by holding back the kvetch. They won't be able to help themselves because they reject, on a deep psychological level, any and all blame for these failures. When I worked on the same QA team as Rob, he would routinely shout these things while we worked on the game in a quiet room filled with our co-workers. This will work.

Gaming: Multiplayer
This event will proceed triathlon-style. Three games, to mix up the skill sets and to mitigate regional advantages (I'll explain in a minute). First game is Counter-Strike. It's gotta be; this is a universal fixture of dorkery and no dork made it out of high school without at least one month-long CS binge. For the competition we'll use the updated Counter-Strike: Source. Anyone complaining that 1.6 is better will be severely beaten and removed from the arena. That version is older than my car. I'd have somebody blow glass dust into my eyes if I wanted them to bleed. Since this is an individual event and CS is a team game, scores are simply kill counts. You shoot somebody, you get a point.

The second event is StarCraft 2. It will be out and beloved around the world by the time we host this event, so we're covered on that front. Entrants compete against all other entrants in a round-robin format (everybody plays each other once). This is why we need to eliminate regional advantages, by the way. If it was just StarCraft, the Koreans would win every time. Just Counter-Strike and white high schoolers dominate. If it were just The Sims, lactating housewives dominate. We need to keep it fresh. The winner of the StarCraft 2 portion will receive a child-care gift package from Huggies, so he can take it back home to Korea and feed his neglected starving children...whom he neglected and starved to play StarCraft. (Cue Elton John) It's the ciiiiirccllee of Korean liiiiiiifee.......

Final event: Soul Calibur 4. This Japanese fighting game has the benefit of being slow and easy enough for non-Asians to actually interpret what's on the screen. Also, the female characters are so "architecturally unsound" (if you get my drift) that some of them actually require scaffolding. I picture miniature construction workers hanging on for dear life as Ivy's Jovian melons sway to and fro. Fighting games are a good choice here because they play out mano-a-mano in a way that most games don't. When you defeat somebody in Soul Calibur, you have metaphorically placed your balls all over his face. It's a bit like dunking, but (again) without all the sweat and exercise.

Closing ceremonies: This will just be a party. Pizza and soda and free T-shirts. We'll have beer, too, because there will be European and Asian nerds. American dorks don't drink much because it triggers the I'm Breaking a Rule psychological response. In less repressed cultures dorks are less repressed too. Incidentally, this is an excellent reason to live abroad if you are an American dork. That, and people will think you're cool just because you're American. How little they know. The free T-shirts are really the glue that holds the closing ceremonies together, because dorks NEED free T-shirts. They need them because, as clothes wear out, they must be replaced by new clothes. You're not about to go out and buy clothes for yourself and your mom can't anticipate ALL your wardrobe needs, so free clothes are crucial to a balanced life of dorkery. Worst-case scenario, you can't get any free clothes after college and settle for ordering """""hilarious""""" gaming shirts online. I started out with "hilarious" in one set of quotes, but these shirts are such ass that I needed to keep adding them until achieving the desired effect.

So that's my big idea from the weekend--it took a little longer than I expected to hammer out the crucially important details, but you don't need to thank me for the effort. I does it all for yous adorables little goofballs. Polish your dork skills, because the inaugural competitors will probably have to be my personal friends. You'll all come, right? Did I mention the T-shirts already?

And finally, as a postscript, a track from the upcoming Parkway Drive album (released on Jun 29). It is my jam. Disclaimer: management takes no responsibility for whiplash or any other injuries suffered as a result of this song.