Thursday, December 1, 2011

Go Watch The Muppet Movie

Right now. It is a movie and it stars the Muppets. If you haven't seen it yet, it is time.

However, if you can't immediately go, there is this. And it is amazing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

'Tis The Season

I was serenaded thusly this morning:

It's the holiday season
Thanksgiving Turkey
Is coming down the chimney

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Love My Smoke Alarm

Back at the dawn of time, prehistoric man would commonly wake up to find his cave on fire just before dying in the inferno. This eventually led mankind to move from caves to apartment buildings, which are equally flammable, but feature a device called a smoke alarm specifically designed to let you know if you are in impending danger of being cooked to medium-rare (Doneness may vary due to the strength of the blaze and the mass of the individual in question. Always use a thermometer to ensure precision). Simply by inserting that 9-volt battery you found in the bottom of the drawer where you keep your winter gloves under the hat your great-aunt knitted for you into the machine after first touching it to your tongue to make sure it still has a charge, you can be alerted of danger in time to escape to the great outdoors. But this clearly was not enough. Worried that the batteries might die and remain unchanged in the now-lifeless machines, someone came up with the idea of tying the smoke alarms into the power lines, ensuring that we apartment-dwellers shall always be safe.

As you may have guessed already, my apartment features one of these miracles of modern technology, and while I have not yet stress-tested it due to a desire to not burn my apartment down, I am certain it will alert me should that become a possibility. I believe this due to the impressive number of things it makes sure to alert me to on a daily basis. For example, I can always count on my smoke alarm to let me know that my oven is on. Smoke is not required for it to perform this vital task. I suspect that somewhere in my smoke alarm is a thermometer, and when it registers any sort of temperature, as heat is not native to Duluth, Minnesota, my alarm decides to warn me of this unnatural development. As it is hardwired into the wall, I do not even need to give it a nine-volt for it to perform this function, and I cannot prevent it from doing so, short of taking an axe to it. Which I have certainly debated doing from time to time. However, it does many other things too, this amazing multi-tasking safety device. For instance, last night it decided to alert me to the fact that it was 4:57 a.m. It did this, not by going off to signal any sort of danger, but by emitting an ear-piercing chirp that the Official Girlfriend somehow slept through for no reason whatsoever (We have two of these machines. The other remained blessedly silent the whole time) every ten seconds as I struggled with both it and my sleep-fogged brain in an attempt to figure out how to silence it for good (Cement shoes and Lake Superior being a leading option). I immediately recognized the chirping as coming from the smoke alarm because it had done that in the middle of the night once before, when it decided to let me know that the power was out and it did not have a battery installed in it, so it could not properly protect me. At this point, you may wish to re-read that sentence. That actually happened until I found a battery and jammed it into the alarm, at which point it shut up, leaving unanswered the obvious question: If it had no battery and the power was out, how was it yelling at me at a volume loud enough to wake the (probable) crack dealers in the vacant house next door?!? I still do not know this, but I am so happy with the security this device provides me that I am giving serious consideration to re-enacting the last fifteen minutes of The Shining with it. And then, and only then, will I finally be able to rest easily. At which point I will presumably die in a fire.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Things Dani Said To Me Tonight

"I had fifty-four minutes of moderate activity today. Half of it was now, and half of it was walking around Target."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm Not Dead Yet

Pardon me for my silence. I've been busy going from being frustrated over my lack of a spacebar and B and N keys to being shocked by the fact that I once again have these letters and/or spaces at my disposal once again, and am trying to retrain myself on the fine art of typing things. While I do so, may I make the humble suggestion that you watch the following video?

Please note that this features a minor amount of language, as I do not want to be held responsible for pain and suffering caused by such language causing you to fall off your chair. By clicking play, you agree to release me from all doctor's and legal fees that may result from said falling. You may wish to coat your floor in Nerf™ first, just to be safe. And because that would be awesome.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Overheard In Line At The Market

After the cashier informed a man who looked to be shy of 20 that he hadn't given her enough money to buy the soda he was holding.

"How much more? I can't count so good. Don't need that to get a GED. Don't need no diploma to make babies."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day

Baseball is back! Hooray! So without further ado, let's jump right into some season projections (Teams listed in order of projected divisional finish).

AL East

Boston Red Sox - What, you expected someone else? With their offseason additions, the Sox are the best team in baseball, and they should be announcing that Adrian Gonzalez extension any day now.

Tampa Bay Rays - It was a rough offseason in Tampa, losing Crawford, Pena, and pretty much everything in the bullpen that wasn't tied down, including the players. But they did an excellent job with the Garza trade, and have a group of promising young players ready to step up, led by Jeremy Hellickson. Matt Joyce should make for an solid platoon outfielder in right, and James Shields can't really be Jose Lima in disguise, can he?

NY Yankees - Maybe they'd be in second if I was less biased, but tough for them (And the Rays are still really good). Heck of a lineup, but there's not much depth there, and the rotation is beyond paper-thin. Great bullpen, though. Let's hope they don't all get hurt.

Toronto Blue Jays - If you are a right-handed hitter and can make contact with a baseball, have you considered hitting twenty home runs for the Blue Jays? You really should. It pays well.

On a more serous note, the Jays would probably win the NL Central this year, have lots of young pitching, and cannot be praised enough for dumping Vernon Wells' contract on the Angels.

Baltimore Orioles - It's a solid lineup, but they still need some quality pitching. That's where Matusz, Tillman and Britton come in. Also, this year is the year of Wieters. Really.

AL East

Chicago White Sox - Want.

Minnesota Twins - I worry that at some point both Justin Morneau and the cloner the Twins keep using on Brad Radke are going to break.

Detroit Tigers - Verlander and Cabrera are amazing. How many other Tigers can you name?

Cleveland Indians - Carlos Santana will get a full season to show what he can do (Hint: A lot), Shin-Soo Choo will be traded to accelerate the rebuilding effort, and Grady Sizemore will spontaneously combust.

Kansas City Royals - The Royals combine the best farm system in baseball with a front office that struggles to do anything right on the major league level. Hence Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer, who are, technically, horrible at baseball.

AL West

Oakland Athletics - They're counting on a lot of young arms, but I think they've got the depth to withstand some injuries and still turn in their typically stellar run prevention, which should be enough to make up for the offense. Anytime Chris Carter is ready, Billy Beane will find a spot for him. Any day now.

Texas Rangers - Pretty much the inverse of the A's. That is one heck of a lineup, but they don't have a single starter without an enormous question mark. I'll say that this is the year for Derek Holland, though. Also, Michael Young seems to still think he's good. That's cute.

Los Angeles Blah Blah Whatever - They took on Vernon Wells' contract while simultaneously getting rid of that problem they had involving a catcher who could hit. This is a really bad lineup. Prediction: A correlation of -1 between the number of games Jeff Mathis starts and the number of games the Angels win (MATH JOKE).

Seattle Mariners - Which is more likely: The Mariners finishing .500 or Milton Bradley killing a teammate?

NL East

Atlanta Braves - Maybe it's because I root for the Red Sox, but I find myself picking teams with good depth this year. So, yeah, the Braves have it. Mike Minor is ready to start in the majors now, and they've got a bunch of power arms rapidly moving through the system behind him. Also, that Hayword guy is kind of good, I hear.

Philadelphia Phillies - The league's best pitching staff is paired with a lineup that, with Chase Utley out, features one above-average hitter for his position, and no, it's not Ryan Howard. This is the year where he hits that cliff he's been moving towards for the last four years.

Florida Marlins - Will turn a profit.

New York Mets - The rebuilding effort begins by the trade deadline, when Jose Reyes gets sold off. It's not going to be pretty. But they're still better than the...

Washington Nationals - I read multiple articles this offseason about how the Nationals are going to surprise people. They're starting Livan Hernandez on opening day. I don't care how much money they spent on Jayson Werth, they aren't really trying.

NL Central


Cincinnati Reds - They've got a very good offense, even though Dusty is completely destroying every starting pitcher on the roster one by one. I'll call two of them have Tommy John surgery this year, and the Reds win the division at .500.

Milwaukee Brewers - Absolutely no depth, no farm system, two re-signed, injury prone players, the worst-hitting centerfielder in baseball, the worst hitting and fielding shortstop in baseball, and their new ace is out because he got hurt playing pickup basketball. Sounds like second in the Central.

St. Louis Cardinals - Would've been first before Wainwright got hurt. Drop them down another spot when Carpenter goes down.

Chicago Cubs - Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro actually provided some excellent cost-controlled production last year. Quick Jim Hendry! Overpay them and break their kneecaps!

Pittsburgh Pirates - The Pirates finally have some exciting young talent in McCutcheon, Tabata, Alvarez and Walker. Unfortunately, all the pitching prospects are still a ways away. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's not quite time yet.

Houston Astros - Godawful.

NL West

San Francisco Giants - No, Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell are not going to do that again, and Miguel Tejada might challenge Betancourt for the title of 'Worst-fielding shortstop in baseball'. Aaron Rowand is a sunk cost. But Brandon Belt is a rookie of the year contender, Kung-Fu Panda should bounce back, and no one outside of Philadelphia is messing with those pitchers.

Colorado Rockies - There's no real offense outside of Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and Seth Smith, but those forst two guys are rather good. Also, I have a bit of a crush on Jhoulys Chacin, even if I can't pronounce his name.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Chad Billingsley is rapidly turning into the new AJ Burnett, but Clayton Kershaw is a beast. And at least they got rid of Carlos Santana for Casey Blake! Who needs a competent catcher? What I mean is that Ned Colletti is a terrible GM.

San Diego Padres - The pitchers should be fine, and I'm excited to see what Cameron Maybin can do, but the offense wasn't good with Adrian Gonzalez. And he's gone now.

Arizona Diamondbacks - It's nice to see that even with a new general manager, the Diamondbacks are still finding ways to block Brandon Allen from getting playing time. Unfortunately for them, the interim regime traded Dan Haren, who is an excellent pitcher, for Joe Saunders, who should probably be a middle reliever. On the Pirates.

Well, that was fun. And just remember, making predictions is a fool's errand, but these ones are clearly infallible. I'll probably post some other thoughts and/or awards projections tomorrow. Until then, enjoy the baseball.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Things I Heard On TV

Girl (extremely serious): You mean the oldest vampire in the history of time is coming after me?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rebecca Black Is Not The Problem

If you haven't seen/heard it yet, here you go. I'll wait:

(Link in case the video doesn't post right)

Okay. Done with that? Let's start with a thesis: This is the worst song ever. Yes, worse than "Muskrat Love". If you doubt me, go back and listen to it again, especially the bridge at around the two-minute mark. This song has blown up, hitting the top-100 on iTunes, passing 15,000,000 views on YouTube and spawning many articles discussing it (And an excellent cover by Bob Dylan), as well as some potential discussion of Black signing a record deal. However, this is not because people like the song. Despite my occasional misgivings about the subject, we have not quite devolved to that point yet. Rather, this song seems to be the focal point for the long-simmering backlash against the entire teen pop genre, which deserved to die many, many years ago. With that in mind, there is the potential for this song to do a wonderful thing for the world.

You see, Black is not actually a singer, and this song is not actually released by a record label. Black is a teenager whose mother paid a (presumably decent) sum of money to Ark Music Factory, a company that lets people be in their own music video, thus realizing the pinnacle of contemporary culture. The performers have the song written for them, and based on this video, have little input whatsoever into what the finished product will sound like, as Black's voice has been auto-tuned out of existence (And the tiny bit that remains seems to insist on pronouncing 'Friday' as 'fried egg'). I don't know how they handle the video, but it presumably isn't a much more involved process. Then the teenager can go hone and show their friends the music video on YouTube. It's all very exciting. This process leads to complete dreck being kicked out, not for totally valid artistic reasons (Like 'We Built This City'), but solely as an obligation for cash considerations, which is what the pop music industry has been about for quite a while now. This is just a slightly more honest way of doing things. And that is where the fun starts.

You see, no label can touch this and try to pretend that they're signing Black as an artist. Rather, any record deal would have to be as a novelty act, also known as a blatant cash grab. But this calls into question the validity of the entire teen pop genre. You see, none of these performers have talent. They are selected for looks and exploitability, thrust into an auto-tune program to sing something written by a 40-year old man who probably lives in Sweden or something, and shipped out into the world to be eaten alive by fame and the press. They don't actually have the skills to write or sing something decent. They are raw meat. This is different from Black solely in the fact that the major labels put more money into it than Black's mother, so they receive a marginally higher-quality finished product. Beyond signing Black, there are now problems with existing artists. Anyone who puts out anything that sounds even remotely close to this song from here on out is going to be absolutely crucified. The backlash against this song has been so fierce and immediate that the entire genre is going to have to distance itself. And there's even the chance that it could sound the death knell for teen pop as a whole. Which I would be okay with.

But there is going to be a cost to this righteous rage. Forgive me if I start sounding like the 'Leave Britney alone!' guy here, but this needs to be said. It isn't the name of (insert horrific songwriter here) who is going to bear this. It is Black whose name is on this, even though she was only marginally involved in the whole process. Really what she is guilty of is being a teenager and therefore stupid, and having parents dumb and rich enough to indulge her whims. The problem is with Ark Music Factory, the people who are actually responsible for this song, and with the entire music industry that has participated in the process of foisting talentless hacks on us under the guise of 'music'. The major labels, one and all, are at fault here. This is simply one ridiculous example of something they have been doing for years. But Black is going to be the one who takes the fall here, and internet justice is harsh. I hope I'm wrong here, but there's a reasonable chance she is going to be destroyed by this process. If and when this happens, remember who is really responsible. It's not the stupid teenager. It's the adults who look at the stupid teenager and see only money.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This Guy Is In Midseason Form

Full extension to prevent anyone from getting hit and he doesn't even spill a drop! Try telling me anyone on the Astros could do that. Someone get this man a contract.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Psychological Analysis of Avril Lavigne

Based on her newest single, "What the Hell". The lack of a question mark is hers, not mine. I read some Freud once, so I am totally qualified to do this. At least I'm as much of a doctor as this guy (Well, I can't find the video I want to go there. I'll give this an update when I do). Anyway, we're going to go through this song line by line. If you really don't like yourself and wish to hear it, here you are. And Avril, if you're reading this, I promise this will hurt me as much as it hurts you. If you're wondering why, click on that last link with the volume turned up. And now it begins.

You say that I'm messing with your head

Though we do not know the identity of the accuser here, we cannot completely dismiss their opinion of Avril's actions. And as people who are messing others around are often acting out some issues of their own, this is not a promising beginning.

All 'cause I was making out with your friend

Well Avril, you see, until very recently you were married (I, ummm, had to look that up. I swear). So, presuming the other in question is your ex, he would seem to have a legitimate complaint here.

Love hurts whether it's right or wrong

Clearly Avril is now trying to deflect the blame/guilt she feels for her make out session. "It's not my fault! It's love's fault!"

I can't stop 'cause I'm having too much fun

In Infinite Jest, 'too much fun' is used to describe self-demapping via an overdose of one's personal addictive substance of choice. Given the fact that she can't stop, it logically follows that Avril is planning suicide through excessive making out.

You're on your knees begging "Please stay with me"

Clearly Avril feels some anger towards her ex still, as she presents him as desperate to keep her around, even after she has confessed her suicidal plans and addiction to making out. Perhaps we should be psychoanalyzing him too. But anyway, their relationship being rather dysfunctional w/r/t ending might be due to the fact that he produced the majority of her new album after the divorce (See previous parenthetical). I'm sure that wasn't awkward at all.

But honestly I just need to be a little crazy!

Giving your problem a name is the first step, Avril. Good for you.

All my life I've been good, but now

Here Avril is claiming she is merely breaking the repressive societal bonds which have held her in check for the majority of her life, forcing her to adhere to a moral code she evidently does not believe in, though she still chooses to uphold it by giving it the designation of 'good'. Though considering she has been a famous music person/thing since her teens, I don't know how much we should believe this claim.

[Auto-tuned Tarzan howl]


I'm thinking what the hell

Thinking? I doubt it.

All I want is to mess around

Good for you. You've identified a want. That's a baby step towards being human. You know what? I'm content with offering a diagnosis now, because reading these lyrics is beginning to affect my quality of life. Based on my incredible background in the science of the mind (Not to be confused with 'Virus of the Mind,' which was a (bad) song by Heather Nova), I can say that Avril Lavigne is very clearly suicidally depressed. This could be for one of several reasons, which I will now list numerically:

1. The recent failure of her marriage, coupled with spending significant amounts of time with her ex in the recording studio.
2. The fact that the hook someone wrote for her song is that Tarzan thing, because good lord does that sound terrible.
3. The fact that said Tarzan thing is very clearly auto-tuned, implying that she can't actually sing it.
4. The fact that she lives in a world where someone would even want her to sing that.
5. The fact that she clearly either has the emotional make-up of a confused 12-year old or
6. Is pretending to relate to confused 12-year olds expressly for the purpose of manipulating them into giving her money.
7. The Tarzan thing again.

My Recommendation: Kill it. Kill it with fire.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mike Versus The Fine Arts, Part Deux: Avenge The Revengeful

I am a bit of a neophyte to this whole 'Theater' thing, having grown up much more on forms of art which featured the open destruction of instruments, which really didn't alter the tones they were producing all that much. For some reason this form of personal expression has never really seemed to gain the love of audiences everywhere, or even NEA grants, though it's hard to see how G.G. Allin is much different from Robert Mapplethorpe (Also, I cannot recommend google image searching (Yes, this is a verb now) those names. If you do, it's on you. I am just the messenger here). So, despite being the world's leading authority on most subjects, I am willing to admit that there are one or two people out there slightly more familiar with musical theater than I am. Your grandmother. Probably someone somehow involved in the production of Glee. John Hodgman. In fact, my background with musicals of any kind is mostly limited to a strong loathing of White Christmas, which definitely deserves it. So I am not necessarily the definitive voice to weigh in on this pressing issue, but as Hodgman has thus far remained silent, I must do the duty he is shirking, which is to say this: Renegade's performance of Parade is the best piece of musical theater I have ever seen.

This is not to say it is perfect. No, the only perfect piece of theater is my upcoming 9-act opera about dinosaurs with rocket launchers, which will (most likely literally) destroy all other plays. And mankind. But until some theater troupe finally gets the balls to put on THE GREATEST ACT MANKIND WILL EVER SEE, Parade can have top billing. Now, why am I telling you this right at the beginning of the blog post, you may be asking? Don't most great authors (Like Hemingway) save the climax of a piece (Dying in the rain) for the end of the work, hoping to keep up suspense among the readers (Clinically depressed/alcoholic English majors)? Probably. But here, I am hoping to set a (meta-)frame up for the rest of the piece. Because, you see, most art has flaws. Moby Dick had the cetology of whales. Bruce Springsteen had Hungry Heart. The Beatles had Paul McCartney. And Parade, while excellent, is not perfect. It has the chance to become more than it winds up being, and fails to take the extra step. So, lavish praise out of the way, let us now criticize.

(Note: I will probably (Unless I forget) be referring to characters by the first names of the actors portraying them both because I forgot my copy of the programme in the car, and because I am familiar with them primarily by first names due to the presence of The Official Girlfriend in the cast, even though most of them are not familiar with me. This will likely make me look like some sort of creepy stalker. But I'm not, as far as the police department knows.)

/puts on serious face

Parade is set in Atlanta in 1913, and framed with scenes featuring some battle imagery, which is pretty clearly symbolic, as Atlanta was either not involved in any armed conflicts that year, or was very sneaky about them if it was. This refers much more to a city that is still fighting a conflict that ended long ago, the Civil War. It has often been said by people in the North that the South never truly stopped fighting this war, carrying on a lingering resentment of the victors in the North, who were able to let it go because we're way better people than the Southerners. The main part of the play focuses on Jewish factory foreman Leo Frank, uncomfortably living far away from his home of Brooklyn. When a young girl dies in his factory, this resentment comes forth in a flood, the murder investigation becoming the excuse for an outpouring of long-smoldering anger. This is largely possible because the townsfolk do not see Frank as a person. Rather, he is an emissary, representative and veritable effigy of another , the hated North. And this is where the play has its greatest failure.

Leo's wife Jenna (Jena? Anyway, not the character's name) has been raised in Atlanta, and spent her whole life surrounded by the smoldering remnants of the war. She does not seem to be very close to Leo, who is clearly dismissive of Atlanta and its residents, and misses Brooklyn. But when the trial comes, she launches into a defense of her fairly-estranged husband, fighting with both those who seek to convict him and with Leo himself, who does not believe the help of someone he clearly views as inferior could be of value. Why? Because for her, the North has a human face.

It is easy to demonize a group of people. For example, from 2000 until 2008, it was clear to me that America was a bunch of ignorant Rednecks fully intent on running the country directly into the ground and picking fights with any nation who wouldn't grovel when we glanced in their direction. And yet, most everyone I met was really nice. When you meet the demon in person, it often turns out you share much more than you disagree on. This is how it is for Jenna. For her, the demon is a man. He is not The North, he is not the Jew. He is a man who goes to work every day to try to get ahead in life, like just about everyone else. She has been raised in this resentful atmosphere to the point where it must permeate her every pore, and yet for her the demon is a human. And as the first act rolls on, this internal conflict comes close to the forefront, but always pulls away just before it can truly be addressed. And when act 2 comes, the character has been completely neutered, and spends the rest of the play as The Good Wife, a character from whom all the interesting facets have been removed. There are not many characters out there who even have the chance to get close to the heights this one just misses, but it is a miss nonetheless. This pains me far more than any of the sad songs she sings.

The lesser place where the show misses the mark is with Andy's governor in Act 2, a man who is pursuing the truth while knowing it likely will lead to his political downfall (That he also helped cause the mess seems to be strangely unaddressed). This is a much more common sort of character conflict than that of Jenna in Act 1, and also a less rewarding one, but still not an opportunity to be treated as briefly as the script does, essentially referencing the situation for about 90 seconds before moving on, leaving this as another lost chance (Man, these both deal with internally conflicted characters. I must really sound like a Democrat right now (<--THIS IS WHY I'M NOT A POLITICAL SATIRIST)).

Now, these are more criticisms of the play itself, not the specific performance. This is because I know little of acting (Though I do know enough to know that Expectant Dads will be the greatest movie ever), and clearly much about writing, so most of what I have to say has focused on the area of my expertise. But there is one more point I am wholly unqualified to discuss, and that is the music. You see, it turns out musical theater often features music (Who knew?!). Parade is no exception to this apparently time-honored tradition. I suspect I am in the minority of the audience when I say that the songs did not really stick with me, but I also suspect I am in the minority when I go to a musical theater performance without really looking forward to the music part of the proceedings. I make no claims to being normal. There were two parts that stood out even to me, though. The first is a rather excellent drunken number performed by Andy in Act 1 as a reporter. The second, more lasting one is the decision to drop the musical accompaniment for the first couple bars of the closing refrain, with pretty much the entire cast on stage belting it out. This was an extremely striking moment, and thoroughly excellent, closing out the performance on a high note. And for a performance that hits the heights this one does, that note is a fitting way to remember it. When I think back on it, Jenna's character conflict in Act 1 brings to my mind nothing less than Dostoevsky's 'Grand Inquisitor' from The Brothers Karamazov. You're not getting praise much higher than that in these parts unless you figure out a way to reanimate DFW (No, not Dallas Fort Worth). Odds are if you're reading this you're related to me and live in Vermont, but if this is somehow not the case, get on down to Teatro Zuccone and watch a showing of Parade. And try the Two Hearted Ale. They go well together.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Great Moments In Conversing With Dani While She's Half Asleep

Her: What time is it?

Me: Ten after seven.

Her: You've gotta get going soon.

Me (Looking at clock): Quarter after seven.

Her: Oh. You're okay then.