Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Of the Carnal and the Catastrophic

I don't remember where I heard it, but I heard many years ago a theory that stated this: where there is lack of creativity, there is sex.

That whenever someone doesn't have an intelligent wit, creative mind or original sense of humor, they default to sex.

So when you are with a group of dudes, and EVERY SINGLE joke that goes back and forth is about gay sex -- or at least where that is always the default -- it means that you and your friends probably should raise the level of discourse.

My theory about this theory is one of reduction. When we are in a strange and foreign place, we wish to default to our homes. It's a safe place; a place we know.

The same things work when in our mental space. If you are a person who doesn't traffic in erudite discussion or highbrow humor, you probably get nervous when things get to that level, and if you aren't that bright, or just aren't that funny, you will often go to the lowest common denominator.

Ladies, let me let you in on a little secret: when guys are alone, especially if they are comfortable with each other, they will almost inevitably start talking about how they are going to have forcible homosexual sex with each other. It's just the way we operate. It actually doesn't start until college, because in high school you are way too afraid to even joke about being gay, lest the rest of the class think you are. But once you start living among other men, showering with them, and yes, having all sorts of gay sex with them, it becomes less taboo.

Anyway, I'm getting off-topic.

Because sex is one of our most base instincts, it is a sort of soft-landing pad for those of us who attempt to traffic in humorous discourse. However, I'm finding that the same is true for politicians who really have nothing to say but want to make a splash.

There has been a lot said about the relationship between sex and death, and I never really saw it. But they are similar in one way: they are probably our two most base obsessions, one we all want, one we all dread. It's easy to push the "sex" button, especially in media, with beer commercials, phone sex ads and "Two and a Half Men." Sex is something that grabs your attention and masks any lack of creativity. No one has ever watched an X-rated movie and bemoaned the lack of character arc.

The same goes with our survival instinct. So deeply ingrained in us is it that we will often act irrationally out of fear for our own survival. (We will certainly act irrationally because of the sex-instinct.) So when we feel our survival threatened, we will throw a lot of our rational thought out the window. This is why murder in self-defense is often not even a crime; anyone can identify with the survival instinct.

So now we have the Swine Flu, a disease that is sweeping Mexico and creeping up into the United States. And of course, a lot of politicians have decided to use this outbreak to scare up fear of Mexicans. ("Not only are they brown, but they are diseased!") Now I'm not saying Mexicans are bringing it into the U.S., and I'm not saying they're not, but as far as I can tell, most of the people who are getting it are people who have gone TO Mexico, and come back with it. There isn't a lot of data to support that Mexican immigrants are causing a pandemic here, at least not yet. If that changes, it changes.

But right now, we are seeing a bunch of people on Fox News TV saying that we need to tighten up border security due to this disease. So by that token, the U.S. citizens who brought the disease back should have been refused entry and left to get sick in Mexico, right?

And seeing all this, it occurred to me that people who prey on fear are not necessarily the most power-hungry or evil ... they are simply the most bereft of ideas. When former Pres. Bush couldn't push the PATRIOT Act through, he preyed on our fears. When Dick Cheney talks about Obama making the nation less safe, he does it because he has no alternatives that will make him relevant.

It is a natural instinct to want to be safe, and when our fear is impressed upon, it often makes our ears perk up to listen a little closer. But remember to question the guy promising doomsday scenarios just as you would question the snake-oil salesman promising miracles. It's ironic that we often reject hope out of cynicism, but take a big ole bite out of the fear sandwich without questioning who made it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Biiiitch Pleeeease

It took a little longer than I thought for the privileged, assholish movement of the so-called "left wing" to rear it's queer head. I used to be indifferent about Perez Hilton, and now I hope this no-talent shitdick dies in a bucket of AIDS.

I am all for gay marriage and would be completely against any kind of constitutional amendment against it. But this attention-seeking disease-receptacle is the reason that people in the United States hate gays. And Perez Hilton trying to teach people about "state vs. federal" would be laughable if it were funny at all.

The left-wing took a big hit today courtesy of a fascist who actually said he supports things that are "politically correct."

Go sketch some more drawings of ejaculate and penises on celebrities' faces like the good stereotype you are Perez. Gay marriage is now probably further away than it was this time last week. Hope you're happy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Apophis (Rhymes with "Office")

Have you heard of Apophis? Chances are you haven't. And chances are, you probably won't have to worry about it for at least another 20 years. But when the shit goes down, you better be ready kid.

Apophis (official name: 99942 Apophis) is an asteroid -- technically a "Near-Earth Object (NEO) -- that NASA had predicted had a small chance (2.7%) of hitting the earth in year of our lord 2029. (I'm sure Miley Cyrus will still be a major star by then, so an asteroid hitting us might not be so bad.) It turns out that NASA has projected a zero-percent chance of this asteroid hitting us in 2029. But there is a loophole.

Or should I say, a "keyhole." Wikipedia defines "gravitational keyhole" thusly:
A gravitational keyhole, or resonance keyhole, is a small region of space that if an asteroid were to pass through it, its course would be altered due to Earth's gravity in a way that could cause such an asteroid to collide with the Earth on its next orbital pass.
It turns out that there is a small window that exists, whereby even though the asteroid will miss earth in 2029, if it passes through this gravitational keyhole, the asteroid will return to possibly hit earth in 2036. (On, yes that's right, Friday, April 13th.) And if THAT misses, it still might come back to hit us in 2037.

So here's what the nerds at NASA tells us...
  • The chances of this meteor hitting us in 2036 is actually 1 in 45,000. Plenty of lottery winners have beaten those odds. We'll actually know these odds better when we get a better look at it in 2013.
  • If it misses in 2036, it's odds of hitting us the following year is 1 in 12.3 million.
  • If it hit us, it would be like being hit by 65,000 nuclear bombs. [source]
  • Impact would be equivalent to 880 megatons of TNT. The largest man-made explosion was created by Tsar Bomba (aka the Emperor's Bomb), detonated by Kruschev's Russia in 1961. Its impact: 50 megatons. The Tunguska Event -- the worst asteroid catastrophe in the last century -- was 5 megatons. The eruption of Krakatoa was 200 megatons.
  • Apophis is the ancient Egyptian god of destruction. But the geeks who named it got it from the bad guy on "Stargate SG-1." Nerds. They couldn't have called it Cylon?
  • The asteroid -- when it does approach us in 2029 -- will actually be closer to the earth than most satellites that broadcast TV shows and space radio.
So where would it hit?
The result is a narrow corridor a few miles wide, called the path of risk, and it includes most of southern Russia, across the north Pacific (relatively close to the coastlines of California and Mexico), then right between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, crossing northern Colombia and Venezuela, ending in the Atlantic, just before reaching Africa. Using the computer simulation tool NEOSim, it was estimated that the hypothetical impact of Apophis in countries such as Colombia and Venezuela, which are in the path of risk, would have had more than 10 million casualties.
Believe it or not, the nerds at NASA are actually trying to come up with "Armageddon"/"Deep Impact" scenarios to knock the asteroid off target with man-made methods. Some of them include (and I swear I'm not making these up):
  • Using a nuclear bomb to destroy the asteroid (which would actually be the worst plan because it would create shrapnel-like smaller asteroids that collectively would have a much higher risk of hitting earth).
  • Commandeering another no-risk asteroid to "bump" it out of the way, like curling.
  • Creating a space ship with "lasers" and then using these "lasers" to force the trajectory of the asteroid out of harm's way.
  • Using "solar sails" which would use light -- LIGHT! -- to change the asteroid's orbit.
  • Set off a nuclear bomb close to the asteroid, so that it does not make direct impact, but does push the asteroid off course.
  • Send up a fleet of laser-wielding ships that can stay up in space at all times and deflect asteroids on an ad hoc basis.
  • The most well-liked by some scientists: a "gravity tractor," which is basically putting a ship up in space, whose gravitational pull will yank the asteroid out of harm's way. (This would be used AFTER a kinetic impact, where a spacecraft of some kind bangs into the asteroid).
Part of the problem, of course, is the question of WHO is going to take the lead on something like this? I'm guessing even if the U.S. sent a spacecraft up in the air, Hugo Chavez would still be a total dick to us.

Anyway, long story short, we're all gonna be dead in 2036. God bless!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Five Worst Movies I've Ever Seen

Trailers included...

5) American Dreamz (2006)

4) Natural Born Killers (1994)

3) Atanarjuat (aka The Fast Runner) (2002)

2) Heavy Traffic (1973)

1) I'm Bout It (1997) [Trailer doesn't exist, here is a clip of the movie itself]

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Great Firewall of China

If you want to know what it's like to surf the web with the censorship of the Chinese Government, click the logo below, for Firefox's "China Channel" add-on.
Chinese Firefox LogoAnd then praise the Lord that you don't live there.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

OMG Enough Blessing America Already

Apparently at Yankee Stadium the other day, the douchily named Bradford Campeau-Laurion was apparently escorted out of Yankee Stadium when the song "God Bless America" was being played, and he refused to honor it because he had to go to the bathroom. I'm not sure how true this story is so I'll keep my comments brief.

It's not often that I agree with the out-of-touch ACLU, but this enrages me ... but probably not for the reason that you might think.

I don't think that it was right by any means for the officers to kick the man out of the game for not observing the song. It sounds to me like a couple cops on a power trip. And the cops' story that they "observed a male cursing, using inappropriate language and acting in a disorderly manner while reeking of alcohol"? Have they ever BEEN to Yankee Stadium?!?! Or any sporting event in the last decade?

But that thing that infuriates me the most is that this wasn't even a flap over our national anthem. This was over "God Bless Fucking America," a song that is not our national anthem, wasn't observed in any way at ballgames or any other sporting events before 9/11, and -- here's the kicker -- is one of the shittiest songs ever written.

Yes, I was upset about 9/11. Yes, I love this country more than any other. No, I don't think that a song with numerous awkward pauses, a crappy melody, half-baked lyrics and a climax of "white with foam" should have replaced "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" just because some people are still trying to look patriotic 7.5 years after the fact. Just because Rudy Giuliani and Sloth from the Goonies Ronan Tynan have tried to turn it into our de facto battle cry, that doesn't make it fucking so. Even Woody Guthrie thought "GBA" was shit, which is why he responded by writing "This Land Is Your Land."

If we were really going to replace or supplant our national anthem, we'd be much better off doing it with "America the Beautiful," a song much more skillfully written, more beautifully melodic, and with a fifty-times more swelling and dramatic crescendo.

In fact, check this, the third and eerily-prescient verse of "AtB":

O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine!

You aren't finding anything close to this in Irving Berlin's crapsterpiece.
"God Bless America" is nothing. Not a patriotic anthem, not proof that you are a good American, nothing. And if you don't like it, then get the fuck out of the country, traitor.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Marshall Blathers

I had a discussion the other day with a dear, dear friend about Eminem, and his value as a rapper and as a musician. She finds him to be great, I countered with the argument that I always have, which is that his being white has a lot to do with his popularity. (If G. Rap Giancana and Pharaohe Monch were white boys, they would have been on the cover of Rolling Stone years ago.)

So anyway, Eminem released a new video, and here it is. (By the way Em, quit being a bitch and disabling embedding of your videos):

I liked it the first two times I saw it, when it was called "My Name Is" and "The Real Slim Shady." Once again, Marshall decides that he wants to be "controversial," directing his ire this time toward such ripe targets as Brett Michaels, Sarah Palin, Amy Winehouse, Jessica Simpson and other personalities that were edgy fodder a year and a half ago. There is a "Jailhouse Rock" parody and a "Star Trek" spoof! Was this video directed by Weird Al? (May his name be praised.)

Not only does the song kind of blow, it shows Em at his most desperate.

There are two sides to Eminem: the serious martyr side, and the goofy celebrity-hating side. When he was a younger rapper in the mid-1990s, he was a pretty typical freestyle battler. He would show up on mixtapes every once in a while to drop a few hot verses, but his freestyles were seldom better than anything from Big L or Madd Skillz. But with a little help from Dr. Dre, he got enough exposure to become arguably the most well-known rapper of the decade. (Apologize to Kanye and Lil Weezy.)

But the song with which he broke through was a crude -- if clever -- harangue against basically anyone who was popular at the time. He speaks of having mammary-related relations with Pamela Anderson (Lee at the time), impregnating Spice Girls and stapling his high school English teacher's scrotum to his leg. This apparently was the "Slim Shady" persona that we were all supposed to find naughty and incorrigible!

Given the novelty nature of this first single, Eminem by all rights should have been relegated to the nerd-rap category next to MC Paul Barman. But Em did a smart thing and immediately positioned himself as not just a nasally blonde jokester, but rather as a tortured and self-reflective storyteller. He ceded his cartoony voice for one of deep rage on songs such as "The Way I Am" and "Stan." In these songs, the pressure of overnight success clearly has gotten to him, driving him and his fans to extreme measures. Ironically, he blames the same media that contributed to his meteoric rise for his torment at that time.

To me, it's this Eminem (is it the "real Marshall Mathers"?) that is the most tiresome. Not only is there something terribly annoying about the meta-nature of rappers making videos for MTV about how the media gives them no respect, but this Eminem is humorless, not clever and woefully uninteresting to me. The delusions of persecution -- whether by Eminem, Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern -- are disingenuous at best and fraudulent at worst. Personalities like this thrive on being seen as dangerous, and use it as a bullet-proof shield against any criticism; basically someone can put out a bullshit album, and when the media takes a dump on it, the artist will say that people are "haters" and are out to get them. It's all very phony and annoying.

So usually, when Em comes back to the fanciful whimsy of celebrity-skewering, it's a guilty pleasure. But this one is just so lazy. He talks about Kim Kardashian's fanny (that's American "fanny," not British "fanny"), Lindsay Lohan's lesbianism, Ellen and Portia, and even John Mayer (he whom, although it seems everyone thinks is a douche, actually seems kind of like a relatively cool guy to me). There is no insight here that you wouldn't already find in a Perez Hilton post, and no target that he would have to be afraid would bite back. (Em has yet to talk smack about anyone with any kind of rhetorical savvy.) Even the video is subpar, substituting extravagance, porn stars and special effects for satire.

So I fear that Eminem has leaped above the proverbial shark, and if this is what he's become, we may have already seen his best days. It's too bad, really, because there was a time that he was at least interesting, even if just sporadically so.


I came across an article at Passion of the Weiss, where he ranks the 10 best rappers of all time. They are listed as such, with my own approval/disapproval:

[Note: missing are Sage Francis, LMNO, Brother Ali, Sole (kinda), Sixtoo and yes, MC Paul Barman, who is kind of annoying, but you can't deny the multi-syllabic technique.]
10. Eyedea (yes, he looks like Eric Devendorf, but he's probably the best battle MC of the bunch)
09. Cage (possibly)
08. 3rd Bass (MC Serch yes, Pete Nice no)
07. The Beastie Boys (no, no and hell no)
06. Slug from Atmosphere (terrible freestyler, decent studio rapper, makes a heck of a song)
05. The Streets (no, but I'm not really into that UK Grime stuff; still he's cool as hell)
04. Edan (fuuuuuuck yes)
03. Aesop Rock (good sweet lord yes, probably should be #1; the only guy out right now whose lyrics actually give me chills)
02. Eminem (for technique, I'd probably put him top 10, but my reservations are listed above)
01. El-P (there is no better lyrical display by anyone of any race than Funcrusher Plus)

Don't believe what Rolling Stone and Spin tell you, babies. Let Unkie Herb lead you in the right direction.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

St. Sanders Shreds!

My new favorite YouTube thing. Listen to these "amazing" solos from guitar legends...

Eddie Van Halen


Eric Clapton

Carlos Santana (his keyboard player at the 1:12 mark is INCREDIBLE)


G-N-R, with vocals!

Metallica's "One"!

and of course, KISS


Yngwie Malmstein