Thursday 30 September 2010

I'm a two-timer

Blogger, first let me say, I love you... you know that.
We've been together for what, two and a half wonderful years? and I want it to stay that way.

And since I want our relationship to be honest and genuine, I've got to tell you... I've been cheating.

With Wordpress.

Yes, Wordpress (not .org, just .com) - that more high-tech, professional, customizable, useful blogging site.

But let me tell you -- it didn't mean anything to me. Sure, it gives me way less formatting headaches and it's the software that real, legit websites use, but it just wasn't... you.

It started out as a professional thing... the Times Union uses Wordpress and with ASP blog on their site, I was just around it a lot, and got to know it a little.

Then I had to make my own blog for class and I just wanted to try something new. To see what I was missing.

It's not that I'm ashamed or embarrassed by you, you're just not always completely suitable for the classroom, you know? I mean, half of your name is a curse. You're a little wild, untamed and all over the place, and that's what I love about you.

Also, you're way better looking.

So while I do have to be around Wordpress for the rest of the semester, and now and then next semester... it's going to be strictly professional. There's just nothing there... and I'll never leave you.

If you take me back, that is.

And you will.... because you are a blog, not a person.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Kickass Kicked Ass

In line for the movies last night, my girlfriends and I argued for about 20 minutes over what movie to see. Pulling hard for "How To Train Your Dragon," I lost suddenly in over-time to "Kickass."

I didn't feel like watching another superhero movie. They're all the same - you take a unpopular kid struggling through high school, their parent is killed, and they somehow gain super powers to avenge the death, while fighting crime in the urban area they happen to conveniently live in, and eventually "get the girl."

"Kickass" was different. Have you ever thought, during a superhero movie, about what would happen if you were to attempt such a feat? I know that if I tried to dress up in tights and fight crime, I would probably get my ass handed to me and look like an idiot doing so. Those movies are cut and edited so nicely that the hero is always either in the middle of an intense action scene or changed, cleaned up, home, and safe. You never see the in-between time of a spandexed guy walking awkwardly down the street in New York City, asking people if they need help and soliciting laughs and headshakes.

In "Kickass," you see that. You see this kid end up in the hospital for weeks.

And I start to think, well, at this point, if I were this kid, I would have quit. I would be done with this. Because it's only a matter of time before someone puts a bullet in this kid's head.

And then Kickass delivers an awfully powerful line, reminiscent of Boondock Saints:

"The f*** is wrong with you, man? You'd rather die for some piece of shit that you don't even f***ing know?"
"Three assholes, laying into one guy while everybody else watches? And you wanna know what's wrong with me? Yeah, I'd rather die... so bring it on."

Nothing like some good ol' vigilantism to wash away the guilt of watching someone kill a bunch of people. This kid does something many people wish they had the guts to do - he risks his life for his fellow man instead of just standing there. Afterall, according to BDS (and probably the Bible), "the evil we must fear the most is the indifference of good men."

Plus, McLovin from Superbad is in it, so if nothing else, you can enjoy his hilarious facial expressions.

Be warned - this movie is extremely and incredibly violent... as you may have guessed from the title.

Wednesday 30 June 2010

My father belongs on a Twitter Sitcom

"The Beatles are s!@#, and so are these clowns [Matchbox Twenty]. I mean, 'She came in through the bathroom window' -these guys have to cover a Joe Cocker song because they don't have any good songs of their own!"

Quote compliments of my own father, Big Ben. He says this and I think... I should start my own "s!@# my dad says."

For those of you who don't know, this song - which starts after Bright Lights - is a Beatles song turned Joe Cocker song turned, as shown above, Matchbox Twenty song.

And for those of you who don't Tweet, Shit My Dad Says is #2 on my list of most hilarious Twitter accounts (@bpglobalpr is #1 and @fakeapstylebook is #3). The biography reads:

"I'm 29. I live with my 74-year-old dad. He is awesome. I just write down shit that he says"

The result is hilarious, offensive, advising quotes from this cynical (sometimes, strangely loving) old man.

And if something's so popular on Twitter why not stretch it out to another form of media and put William Shatner in it?

CBS will be airing "$#*! My Dad Says" (pronounced "Bleep My Dad Says") on Thursdays (7:30pm) this fall.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

New Alma Mater

Miss you, SUNY, and your unique, sometimes inappropriate sort of school pride.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Twitter sells out to Toy Story 3

Eleven years ago, my 8-year-old self shuffled to the movie theatre with my 6-year-old brother to see the new Disney/Pixar movie everyone was talking about.

We fell in love with the cowardly T-Rex, a potato going through a mid-life crisis, a worn out cowboy that sounds very much like Forrest Gump and a cocky astronaut.

Three years later, they're back for the 3rd toy story, with more toys, more laughs, more effects (3d!) and more... shameless promoting?

As if this movie wasn't already talked about enough - there's a FB page "Move out of the way children I've been waiting 11 years to see Toy Story 3." But Disney/Pixar went ahead and for the first time to my knowledge, BOUGHT a trending topic on Twitter.

Quick Twitter lesson for the confused: Trending Topics are a list of the currently most mentioned items on Twitter - they can range from the names of politicians to "world cup" to "oil spill" to "Justin Beiber" to "The Sandlot" or whatever movie happens to be on ABC Family at the moment.

Simply, Trending Topics are dominated by the people of Twitter. If Obama is giving a health care speech, "Health care" will probably be one of the trending topics. A popular movie, even, on its opening night, might be a Trending Topic.

So I think it's the start of something horrible to see a "promoted" TT. Here is Twitter saying, "Look! This is important and people are talking about it!" When really, Disney/Pixar just threw a bunch of money at this site, to put "Toy Story 3" on the list... a list it probably would have been on anyway.

Fictional character Aldous Snow dominates my playlist

I'm completely embarrassed by how much I enjoy the "Get Him to the Greek Soundtrack."

Warning: some lyrics are super offensive.

The movie is about a record company employee (Jonah Hill) whose task is to get rockstar Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) to LA for a concert. Brand recorded several songs for the soundtrack, most as the frontman for fictional band Infant Sorrow. The band was featured in his earlier movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", in which he played the same character.

I was shocked by how good some of these songs sounded. I was thoroughly enjoying the catchy, upbeat song "The Clap"... until, a second later, the part of my brain that processes words caught up with the part of my brain that processes music and said... "actually, this song is about catching STDs...."

In a movie all about a musician, the tracks recorded play an important role. This role is to define the character of Aldous Snow as a preposterous, obnoxious, inappropriate, bad-ass musican, while providing some solid jams and sweet ballads to set the tone of the movie.

What you get is songs with two dimensions, the first being music that goes well with the scene. "The Clap" is played during an exciting outdoor concert in Times Square, while piano ballad "Bangers, Beans and Mash" plays during a more sentimental scene.

The second dimension is the lyrics... which often have nothing to do with the scene. While "The Clap" seems, at first, to have something to do with music... it's actually about gonorrhea. The lyrics to "Inside of You" are, as you can imagine, ridiculous... "there's got to be some part of me inside of you."

Jackie Q's few featured singles are completely over-sexual (and hilarious) to define her character as "that sexpot pop star." The clip of her music video made me realize that today's pop stars still, for the most part, have some class - or, at least, could have less class.

When I first heard "Bangers, Beans & Mash" in the movie, I thought "people are going to cover this." Actually, there was a contest through YouTube, in which fans could submit their covers of the song and the winner would attend the premiere of the film (June 4th) (already happened). So the tune is well on it's way to being the most covered song of all time (maybe) and I plan to contribute to that by figuring out the piano part tomorrow.

Enjoy Jason Segal & Maroon 5's version of "Bangers, Beans & Mash"... which, by the way, is not dirty; "bangers" is what Brits call sausage.

Monday 14 June 2010

SillyBandz: Now more useful than currency

"SillyBandz are so cool. You can't be cool unless you have SillyBandz," my 7-year-old cousin informed me.

I am finally cool -- this weekend, I obtained the light pink silicone pig I now sport on my arm.

For such a stupid fad, they are rather amazing. I take off the band, untangle it a little, put it on my laptop and there it is - a pig, exactly the way it looked when it was in the package. Not stretched out or deformed, but perfect.

I wonder, how are these things made??

Well, keep wondering, because even with my internet searching and stalking skills, I cannot find it for the life of me. I'm pretty sure they just pour the melted plastic into a mold and once it cools, you have sillybandz. I have, however, found one ridiculous but entertaining rumor: Sillybandz are made of used condoms?!

Back in my day, our rubber bracelets only came in circles... but packed their share of scandal. When I was 12 and sporting a few purple and black rubber bracelets, my mom asked me if I was wearing them to play sex games.

I didn't know that some sex-crazed kids my age thought it'd be cool if they assigned each color bracelet a sex act. According to this "snap" game, when a guy "snapped" a bracelet off a girl's arm, she had to do whatever that bracelet meant with him, ranging from a hug to a lapdance to doing it. So it's a good thing no 12-year-old boys got a hold of that black one...

So my question is: how long until this generation comes up with sex games for SillyBandz? Looks like they're one step closer...

Friday 4 June 2010

See you in two years, Dave Matthews.

Every June, in Darien, New York, as Dave Matthews fans gather, so do rain clouds.

For the past few years, it's been a consistent drag to check the weather forecasts and learn that one of the best nights of the year will be somewhat ruined by torrential downpours.

This year was no different. It held off for The Felice Brothers' set and the first few songs, and even Dave remembered the previous years' storms and commented,

"It's not even raining yet. Hopefully it'll pick up later, it's like a tradition here."

They played "JTR," which goes, "rain, rain, rain down on me," and the sky must have heard. During "Everyday," the crowd got soaked.

But when people ask me, "How was the show?" I answer with "awesome," only to quickly add, "Well, it poured, but it was awesome."

It's quite possible that the rain itself makes those concerts even better. I've been to dryer shows, and had a great time dancing... but there's something incredible about being completely soaked and uncomfortable, and finding joy and reason to dance and celebrate anyway.

That's exactly what many Dave songs are about. As I danced on the lawn and watched it quickly turn to mud, I heard the lyrics:

Jump in the mud, aw,
get your hands dirty,
love it up, everyday.

So there we were, in a bad situation, and making the best of what was around. Because you can wait forever for the prime weather conditions to enjoy a concert; OR, you can take whatever you get and love it anyway.

Dave Matthews Band has announced they are not touring in 2011, which has broken many of our hearts and began rumors that they are done forever (I do not believe it). So I'll see you in June, 2012, Dave, at Darien Lake.* I'm sure rainclouds will be there as well. I'll pack sneakers, ponchos and zip-lock bags for cell phones; you supply the jams and it'll be a great time. Bring it.

*Well, after I see you at CMAC July 6th, 2010!

Saturday 15 May 2010

Bon Jovi: The most exciting thing to almost happen in my hometown

About 24 hours after arriving home from college, my mom tells me:

"Oh, by the way, Bon Jovi might be playing a concert in Le Roy."


Le Roy, NY is the microscopic rural town that I call home. It's the epitome of the American small town: everyone's related, football games are a way of life, and when you get in trouble as a kid, your mother knows in less than four minutes via word of mouth. The biggest concert we've ever had here was the male acapella group Ball in the House, who's claim to fame was recording a song for a Cool-Whip commercial (ironic because Le Roy is the birthplace of Jell-O).

According to The Batavia Daily News online, Bon Jovi is playing at Darien Lake PAC (about half an hour away) on August 13th, and agreed to play in LeRoy on 14th as a fundraiser for the
village. Apparently one of our own has worked security for the band and asked Mr. Bongiovi himself, who agreed to play for a low price if the details can be worked out.

Could a town this size successfully host a Bon Jovi show? It seems any location that would be able to hold a large crowd, as well as parking, would be easy for the Le Roy native to
easily slip into unnoticed, or listen to without buying a ticket.

Every night my mom and I take a walk around our 5 mile block, and my new favorite game has become "where in Le Roy could accommodate a Bon Jovi concert?" So far, the leaderboard reads: Mercy Grove (home of the Mercedarian priests), my best friend, Ciera Carhart's farm (although in Stafford), or one of the countless gigantic, empty fields around here. I think it's fairly obvious that holding a concert on a farm is an ingenious idea -- in 1969, someone decided to have a concert on a farm and 41 years later, people haven't stopped talking about it.

It seems though, that at some point, these plans were misunderstood. Maybe we were halfway there, but more than a prayer was needed to make this event happen. There will be no Bon Jovi concert in Le Roy this summer, according to WBTA1490. All the excitement has been shot through the heart.

Maybe we were wrong, maybe Mr. BonGiovi hasn't gotten tired of selling out the biggest venues in the nation. But don't let him fool you - I think he desperately wanted to play a small-town show. Afterall, he revealed to the world a few years ago that he's just a simple country boy (from Jersey).

So I'm going to make a Bon Jovi mix to drive around to this summer, and I suggest my fellow LeRoyans do the same... it would just be wrong not to. And look on the bright side - now you're free to go to the first of Tom Petty's TWO Darien Lake concerts this summer (which for some reason, kind of creeps me out.... but that's for another blog.)

Monday 29 March 2010

Killing for God: The Hutaree and My Favorite Film

On Monday eight individuals were indicted for plotting an attack against the government. The Hutaree is a Christian militia from Michigan who plans to fight against the anti-Christ and the government.

From their website ( joke):

"We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ...Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment."

Their plan was to first, kill a policeman. At his funeral, they would then attack the many attending policemen - who, in their eyes, are footsoldiers of the evil government.

Shocked and disgusted at this American Christian version of jihad, I heard my mother say:

"Amazing. They're killing people just because 'God told them to.'"

This is the premise of my all-time favorite movie.

One might say Boondock Saints is different. These adorable Irish vigilantes only kill criminals - murderers, drug dealers, rapists - because God tells them to. They are essentially carrying out capital punishment that the law fails to, and therefore, are just in their actions.

While it's my favorite movie, the subject matter is perhaps taken much too lightly. Because in real life, some people actually think God tells them to kill... and in this current case, it's not criminals being put to death, it's any cop they come across, or anyone sporting a uniform or a badge.

One frightening resemblance between the Saints and the Hutaree is the language they use to describe themselves and their missions:

We will reach out to those who are yet blind in the last days of the kingdoms of men and bring them to life in Christ.

And Shepherds we shall be, for Thee, my Lord for thee. Power hath descended forth from they hand, that our feet may swiftly carry out they command. Flowing like a river forth are we, and teeming with souls shall it ever be.

-Boondock Saints

Boondock Saints makes it easier to understand, I think, how a group of people could believe they're right in killing others. But I think it's still amazing and shocking to see exactly the idea we've been fighting against overseas for years - holy war against the "evil" American government - happening right on our own soil, from our own people.

Looking beyond the cock: The positive side of Chatroulette

If you take away the masturbating men and the frequent requests for shirtless females, Chatroulette can be a channel of cross-cultural education and bonding.

The idea of the site is simple: you log on, hit a few buttons, and you're communicating with another random Chatrouletter via video, audio, and text. This was created by a 17-year-old Russian boy who wanted to make videochatting a more interesting experience for himself and his friends.

He could not have forseen the ways people would use this site: from broadcasting live porn to live concerts, college kids thousands of miles apart putting off homework together or smoking weed together, or Americans and Canadians arguing over certain things Americans and Canadians like to argue over.

My friends and I decided to check out this site and we met Rafa, a 19-year-old Spanish insomniac, waiting for morning to come so he could take an exam. He spoke to us in broken English and we typed to him in elementary Spanish, using hand signs and drawing pictures to fill in the gaps between our words. He described his view of Americans and our culture; we told him about typical American perceptions of Spain & Europe.

This is not a conversation I'd normally be able to have at 2 a.m. at UAlbany.

We met other characters that night: a guy pretending to be a cat, another who performed original rap songs for us, someone who rated us on a 1-10 scale of how entertaining we were.

Every "next" button is taking a chance. You might run into a naked creep, or a group of students hanging out, or Ben Folds live in concert with 2,000 people.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Blame It On the Pop

For a music snob, I enjoy this 2009 mash-up much too much. For the sake of honesty, I'm willing to abandon all that makes me a cool indie music guru, and confess that I think mainstream music in 2009 was not complete crap.

Degrading, overly sexual, explicit songs is what bugs me most about mainstream music, and I feel 2009 seemed to stay away from that, at least a little. Songs like Jay Sean's "Down" and Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad" surprised me by how clean they were, once I actually took a conscious listen to them. Our leading ladies, Lady GaGa and Beyonce are bold and sexy without being slutty - something I think women can really appreciate. Sweet, innocent Miley Cyrus is holding onto her place in the public eye as well as our common room wall without acting like a hussy.

As for this mash-up itself, the music theory junkie in me goes crazy over the continuous melody created from 25 different songs - did he change the key? Was it a miracle? Or are all pop songs in the same key? DJ Earworm earns my utmost respect for this creation.

Here's to the feel-good music of the past year, that makes me question my own indie cred.

For Mom: Love Story

note: This blog is for my mother, who brought me into the world, raised me, and is currently paying for my education. The least I could do was write a blog at her request.

"Love means never having to say you're sorry."

Before it was a widely-used phrase, it was just a sentence, written by a man, in a book.

Erich Segal, author of the best-selling novel turned hit film, Love Story, died Sunday of a heart attack.

Love Story, for anyone who has not read or seen it, is mother of all tear jerkers. Two young lovers get married despite a family's resistance, and then one of them falls ill and passes away much sooner than expected. Every time I watch Titanic, I think that perhaps the ship won't sink this time. Every time I watch this, I hope that she'll survive. (Both always end the same way.)

Segal's daughter spoke at his funeral, "That he fought to breathe, fought to live, every second of the last 30 years of illness with such mind-blowing obduracy, is a testament to the core of who he was -- a blind obsessionality that saw him pursue his teaching, his writing, his running and my mother, with just the same tenacity. He was the most dogged man any of us will ever know."

So if you can take anything from that movie, or from the author's life, take the simple message that none of us know if we're going to have 23 years or 72; either way, do your work and love your family with fierce passion, and have the tenacity to do so all your days.

Friday 15 January 2010

How to Help Haiti Without Being Anderson Cooper

For a while now, I've had a deep adoration of CNN's Anderson Cooper.

The past few days, he has been traveling around Port-au-Prince, flying in a helicopter above the city, going to make-shift hospitals, watching people bury loved ones in mass graves and unorganized cemeteries, picking through the mass chaos in the aftermath of Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

I know this because for the past few days, I have been sitting, injured, in my house watching him, while periodically checking Twitter and drinking gallons of green tea... feeling useless.

We can't all be Mr. Cooper, who I'm quite sure has not slept since Tuesday, or Dr. Sanjay Gupta, treating infant's head wounds on live TV. But it's not very hard to lend a hand in this crisis.

Some genius, taking into consideration Americans hot love affair with text-messaging, came up with the idea to link texting and philanthropy:
  • Text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 to Haitian musician Wyclef Jean's charity
  • Text "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross
Both will charge to your cell phone bill. It literally takes a few seconds. Or 5 minutes, if you're technologically challenged like my parents...

If you're looking to donate online, try:
Be sure to check out the organization first though, don't get caught by a scam. Donate only to organizations you are familiar with, and make sure it's them.

That evil, life-possessing game of Farmville is now also allowing users to donating to Haiti, along with Mafia Wars. Despite my previous blog about the evils of online games, Farmville has now been (at least temporarily) redeemed in my eyes.

If you are one of those people that has an ipod, you can also donate through your iTunes.

If you're one of those people who would rather help with actions than just donating, well, you'll need to sit tight for a bit (unless you are also a Marine). The Red Cross is not accepting volunteers to travel to Haiti right now, as the place is already crowded and chaotic. Although it's early to think about, I think donating a Spring Break to volunteer in Haiti, helping to build it back up, might be a great thing college students could do to help, come March and April.

In the upcoming weeks I'm sure there will be many food, clothing, and supply drives. UAlbany students can check out what the school's Haitian Student Association is doing to help here.

On CNN tonight, Anderson Cooper will be reporting live from Port-au-Prince at 10pm, check it out, and see what's really going on; it's really something to watch, and not just because I love Anderson Cooper.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Avatar: James Cameron's Remake of a Disney Classic

For a movie supposedly unlike any other, I felt like I'd seen it before.

Don't get me wrong, the graphics were incredible and pioneering. Yet, it all seemed familiar: a powerful nation trying to force "savages" out of their home, a native princess falls in love with an explorer and teaches him to respect nature and the circle of life, a talking tree that helps them both... oh, yes. Disney made an animated version in 1995.

While the movie was very much about the mindlessness and arrogance of imperialism, I thought James Cameron portrayed his Going-Green powerfully. The natives of Pandora, the Na'vi, understand that their energy comes from their earth and travels through the life around them. To quote the movie: "They know that all energy is borrowed, and one day you have to give it back." This shouldn't sound like a magical world or a profound concept - this is how earth works, with all energy flowing from one thing to another, someday leaving our bodies and returning to the earth. Pandora, essentially, doesn't have much that earth lacks. Contrasting Americans' apathy and indifference toward their environment with the Na'vi's deeply spiritual attitude towards life and their ecosystem, Avatar caused me, at least, to feel like our earth was under-appreciated and lame, and current efforts to save the planet's health are a joke. A striking shot in Avatar was to see humans boarding a craft to return home as the hero narrates, "The aliens went back to their dying planet."

So on the note of learning to love our planet and all that lies on it, and the striking similarities between this new blockbuster and one of my favorite Disney classics, here's a video created by someone who agrees with me.