Monday, December 28, 2009

Strength and Beauty

In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have doubted James Cameron. But since 1998, his obsession with the Titanic has led him to dwell in the depths of the ocean for the better part of the past 11 years. He disappeared from the public eye and seemed uninterested in returning to his specialty at crafting acclaimed Hollywood blockbusters. The last image I have of him is kookily shouting "I'm the king of the world!" in distasteful self-aggrandizement at his Oscar acceptance speech, even though he wasn't necessarily undeserving of such a statement.

Maybe I shouldn't have doubted Cameron. But in my mind, the odds were against him.

After seeing Avatar last weekend, I learned that an old dog can still learn new tricks (even with his head in the water). Because in all its sweeping, breathtaking glory, Avatar is not just a technical tour de force, but easily the most entertaining film of the year.

Amid big battles, Eastern mysticism, and post-9/11 political parallels, Avatar is of course a love story at heart. And for a film relying so heavily on 3D-rendered characters, Avatar's biggest surprise (and success) is capturing the human condition in the tribal, yellow-eyed alien race of the Na'vi. It's hard to describe, but for me Avatar unlocked some long-lost archetype that made me connect with the love story as if I knew it once before, long ago. My emotions took me by surprise as I seemed to relive some ancient experience.

But despite epic storytelling that deftly weaves action, adventure, and romance, Avatar's obvious weakness is its reliance on so many movies before it. The plot itself is an avatarish amalgam of Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, Last of the Mohicans, Donnie Brasco, Aliens, Gorillas in the Mist, and The Matrix, to name a few. To its credit, though, Avatar's execution is strong enough to overcome the plight of unoriginality, making the experience no less gripping and thrilling every step of the way.

Another film that Avatar recalls is Star Wars, specifically the heavily hyped but flawed prequels. Because when you walk out of the theater, you realize that Avatar is the film that Episodes I-III should have been—not just escapist and immersive, but awesome.

George Lucas, meet Jim Cameron. Old dog teaches older dog new tricks.

Related: Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cup of No

The longer I live in this city, the longer I'm amazed by people's addiction to coffee. Every morning, people rely on coffee to jumpstart their day. Otherwise-impatient people wait in long lines at Starbucks, and others make sure they get their caffeine fix as soon as they get to the office. But I just don't understand why so many people are slaves to the java bean.

What's funny is that I actually like the concept of coffee—just not its taste. Because on the surface, the appeal is understandable; what a better way to start your day than with a steaming beverage that awakens your senses and invigorates your body?

But in its darkest, purest form (black), I find the taste overly strong and insipid. Of course, I forgot to add cream and sugar, you say. Yes, that makes it better, but that doesn't say a lot about coffee itself, does it? Think about when you were young, and the only way to make Grape Nuts tolerable was to overload it with sugar. That didn't mean Grape Nuts was a naturally good-tasting cereal, because it's not. It just said more about what it was missing.

But as coffee and its trendy spinoff drinks like frappuccinos become more flavorful with a plethora of additives, at what point is coffee still coffee? Coffee is essentially becoming un-coffee-like when it starts to resemble hot chocolate, a Frosty, or another dessert-type drink in both taste and appearance.

So my question then becomes: Why not just cut to the chase go straight to the hot chocolate? Or is it all about the caffeine?

Man, people and their addiction to drugs...

Something else I find amusing is my parents continually asking if I've started drinking coffee yet, as if they're looking forward to the day that I inevitably get hooked on it, just like they are. (It's not unlike cult members pushing the Kool-Aid on their initiates.) And now that I think about it, maybe that explains my associative aversion to coffee—I view it as an adult drink. And I don't really like to think of myself as an "adult," at least not yet.

So, short of a major palate reversal or grim survival situation, this is one man who will always say no to the Joe—for life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Living with the Dead

A&E's Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal is the best investigative show on TV that no one's talking about. Below is a synopsis of the eerie supernatural series, now in its second season:
Psychic Kids examines the trials and tribulations of children who have extraordinary psychic gifts and sensibilities. Chip Coffey, a renowned psychic medium along with clinical psychologist Dr. Lisa Miller, travels the country interviewing, encouraging, and supporting these gifted children and their parents. Their mission is to educate and inform the kids and their families about these abilities.
I feel compelled to write about Psychic Kids because it's brought tears to my eyes almost every time I've watched it. It's heartbreaking to see the pain of innocent teenagers who are seen as outcasts by their peers, alone every minute of the day with their frightening gift. It's devastating to see children who are too afraid to fall asleep at night because they're constantly tormented by menacing spirits. And it's crushing to see how helpless parents are in protecting their loved ones, even as some don't fully believe what their child is experiencing is real.

The best thing about Psychic Kids is how it brings paranormally troubled kids together to realize that they're not as alone as they thought. They always get the chance to not only face their fears head-on, but to overcome them bravely with the support of their new friends. Chip Coffey does a phenomenal job of comforting, challenging, and encouraging psychic kids of different ages, instilling confidence while empowering them to control and conquer their fears.

By the end of the show, the kids walk away feeling good about themselves, ready to return to their lives and embrace their abilities, which they see now more as gifts than curses. The bonds the kids form and the support they show for each other is touching.

The more you watch Psychic Kids, the truly terrifying thing you realize is how widespread this phenomenon is. We all saw little Haley Joel Osment haunted by ghosts many years ago in The Sixth Sense, but few of us probably ever realized that this super-sensitive condition affects hundreds—if not thousands—of kids, whether they know it or not. Writes's Elizabeth Costanzo:
It is important for all parents to realize that children, especially young children, have open minds and pure souls which haven't yet been jaded by society's constraints or disbelief in the paranormal... Until the belief in the paranormal is crushed by the standards and norms of the adult world, most children, whether they retain any psychic gifts as adults or not, are more susceptible to ghostly visits. They haven't closed the door on the possibility of spiritual activity, and this is why more children than adults complain of "monsters" under the bed or in the closet and ghosts talking to them when no one else is present.

In addition, paranormal researchers and parapsychologists theorize that children are not only more willing to see spirits, but their youth and therefore, their proximity to the "other side" enables them to see and communicate with the dead... As a result, when a young child is "visited" by a spirit or ghost, the child is not necessarily alarmed at the presence because it does not seem "supernatural" in their eyes. The spirit world only becomes "supernatural" when we are conditioned to believe this.
Psychic Kids is different than other ghost-hunting shows. It's the polar opposite of the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, where instead of helping tortured souls cross over, you'll hear meathead ghost hunter Zak Bagans antagonize ill-tempered spirits with such appalling, ridiculous lines like "What if we stole your silver? Would that piss you off?"

Psychic Kids respects the spirit world and wants to change the lives of the living who are down in despair. It's a ghost show that's frightening, enlightening, and uplifting, and it'll make you thank God you can't see dead people.

Well, most of us anyway.

Monday, November 30, 2009

New Muse album reveals how to defeat the Illuminati in three easy steps

By Ken Devine

LONDON—British rock band Muse are no strangers to singing about conspiracies and secret plots to rule the world, but anyone willing to glance at the liner notes to the band's new album will be privy to a solution once thought impossible: how to stop the Illuminati in their eternal, hell-bent efforts to control the world by forming a global New World Order.

Under strict interpretation of the lyrics to the trio's fifth album, Resistance, the 11-track concept album's simple, three-step solution involves exposing the clandestine Illuminati through incessant radio airplay, then having the masses run and hide once martial law is instituted.

The third and final step is a bit more complicated, as it involves sending a distress signal to an unnamed alien race, based on the lyrics, "Spread our codes to the stars...You must rescue us all." Supposedly, this will be accomplished similar to how Will Smith uploaded the Mac virus to the alien computer in Independence Day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Paramount defies all that is pure and good in preparing highly unnecessary sequel to 'Paranormal Activity'

Note to ghost hunters everywhere: Always leave your bedroom door wide open for effect

By Ken Devine

HOLLYWOOD—Milking what they can out of the most profitable movie of all time, Paramount confirmed today that production has already begun on a soulless, ill-advised sequel to Paranormal Activity, a cheaply produced, bump-in-the-night horror flick that's grossed over $60 million in profits.

Ignoring conventional wisdom and a horrendous track record for sellout sequels, Paramount Chairman Brad Grey says that they're determined to cash in immediately with an overproduced, commercialized follow-up that corrupts the integrity and originality of the sleeper hit.

"Not to take away from the first one, but the production values were horrible," he said. "All that shaky camera and poor lighting isn't acceptable for our quality films. We're also bringing in popular, recognizable actors like Ashton Kutcher and Megan Fox."

Oren Peli, who directed the first film but won't be back for the second, says that Paramount is neglecting the obvious warning signs.

"Three words: Blair Witch 2," he said. "I rest my case."

Others, like avid moviegoer Mitch Abramson, 27, share Peli's fear.

"It's sort of like when Wayne's World was bought out by Rob Lowe's shady corporate character," he said, referencing the 1992 film. "Before that it was just this cheap, homegrown show on public access."

Against all odds, though, Grey believes that lightning will really strike twice, even though there's not a raindrop's chance in hell the sequel, slated for a January 2010 release, will be successful.

"We're not concerned with the story or continuity in the sequel so much as just putting another film out there with the Paranormal Activity label," he said. "Really, the open ending from the first one is guaranteed to put enough people in the seats. Just look at the Saw movies."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

‘Guitar Hero’ maker countersues the shit out of No Doubt and Courtney Love for not playing their games

Ain't no hollaback boy: Gwen Stefani Sues Band Hero for making her sing like a man

By Ken Devine

LOS ANGELES—On Tuesday Activision, publisher of Guitar Hero and the newly released Band Hero, countersued No Doubt and Courtney Love for their ignorant, petty-ass lawsuits objecting that Gwen Stefani and Kurt Cobain avatars can sing and perform songs from other bands in a "virtual karaoke circus act."

The suits come despite the fact that, historically, every avatar in every Guitar Hero game ever is playable for every single song in the game. Every single one.

Put another way: You can't not play any song with any available avatar.

Somehow, the lawsuits arose even after both artists worked extensively with Activision to satisfaction in getting the likenesses just right, only for them not to read the damn contracts they signed after extensive negotiations with their representatives.

"We're extremely disappointed that after all the work we did with them, No Doubt was entirely clueless about how playable characters in our games work," said a puzzled Activision spokesperson. "I mean, is it really so wrong that Gwen Stefani can express her love of prostitutes in 'Honky Tonk Women' while sounding like Mick Jagger? Or the fact that she can kick butt while singing Carl Douglas's 'Kung Fu Fighting'? That image cracks me up just thinking about it."

Stefani and Love have described Activision’s actions as deceptive and dismaying, and Love insists that she'll "sue the shit out of Activision."

But the anonymous Activision spokesperson cited similar feelings from their accusers, and claims that they're not worried by the baseless lawsuits that will soon see the bottom of the judge's trashcan.

"We're not surprised about Courtney's unhappiness because she's a dishonest, vengeful psychopath who will do anything for power and attention. Just look at how she plotted her husband's apparent suicide."

"But we're disappointed that an actual sane artist like Gwen Stefani is on her side," he added. "She definitely hasn't been as cool as Slash and Tom Morello."

The spokesperson also said that Activision will really get the last laugh when the company wins its countersuit and publishes an update to Guitar Hero 5 that makes Courtney Love playable.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Worldwide soccer community outraged over Yankees being called 'World Champions'

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, on the verge of tears after being ridiculed for his suggestion that female soccer players should "wear tighter create a more female aesthetic."

By Ken Devine

Soccer fans all over the world are contending the "World Champions" label that the New York Yankees earned for defeating the Philadelphia Phillies Wednesday night in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter explained that the true football fans of the world are upset because baseball is not played in every corner of the world, but soccer is.

"The New York Yankees are North American champions at best," he stated. "Football is the only sport that can claim true world champions."

In an effort to detract from the Yankees' championship celebration on Friday with their fans in New York City, international soccer bodies have planned worldwide protests in every non-American city for the same day. Objectors will likely wave vituperative placards denouncing American baseball while burning effigies of Alex Rodriguez and George Steinbrenner.

Blatter also promised that petitions are in the works to prohibit the "World Champions" label in professional baseball, as well as banning the word "soccer" when referring to European football.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Area man, 41, ready for another year of trick-or-treating

By Ken Devine

WEST SALEM, OR—For most adults, Halloween is marked as a day of giving candy to kids. For Timothy Higgins, it's a chance to be that kid.

This Saturday will mark the 36th-consecutive year that the creepy 41-year-old hits houses up for candy. On this Halloween the soft-spoken West Salem native will be amongst trick-or-treaters a quarter of his age or more—just as he's been during the last decade.

"It's just something that I never really grew out of," the only child admitted sheepishly. "My parents never told me I was too old to keep doing it, but then again I never really told them where I was between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m. every Halloween night."

Higgins, a Print Specialist at Kinko's, says that the real trick in treating himself year after year is in his costumes. His wiry 5'4" frame and tender voice allow him to blend right in with tykes and middle-schoolers alike, and he always wears a mask to conceal his true age. His favorites include the alien, evil clown, and Scream masks, but this year the lifelong singleton wants to cut down on the creep factor with a new Obama one.

"I'm trying to be a little more approachable because I think that helps with any single moms who are out with their kids," he surmised. "Each year I ask Sheila at work if she wants to go with me, but she always gets this disgusted look on her face and tells me to 'grow the hell up.' I like Sheila."

Despite the fact that most parents forbid their kids from trick-or-treating by the time they reach high school, or that independent groundless speculation has verified that more people call the cops on oversized trick-or-treaters than they do for any other incident during the year, the candy-obsessed Higgins is unafraid.

"I realize there are risks, but I've been doing this for too long, and I know the neighborhoods like the back of my hand," he said. "Plus, I haven't grown since the eighth grade, so no one's ever really pinned me as an undersized, middle-aged man masquerading as young boy in a gorilla suit."

"But there is one old lady at the end of the block who always stares at me for a while before slowly dropping a couple Good & Plentys in my pillow case," he continued.

"God, I hate Good & Plentys. They're worse than Sugar Daddys."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Struggling ‘Saw’ franchise extended through 2021

Get busy livin': Jigsaw’s made his choice

By Ken Devine

NEW YORK—The twisted serial killer Jigsaw will live to see many more Halloweens, says Lionsgate, who announced today that there are currently 12 additional films planned in the unceasing Saw franchise, which has become a Halloween tradition since 2004.

The news comes despite the framing of the just-released Saw VI, which was widely believed to be the final installment in an already dragged-out horror series that could have well ended after two movies.

Moreover, the announcement flies in the face of the diminishing, half-life box office earnings of successive Saw movies, with public interest and originality almost as dead as the blood-drained and footless Cary Elwes at the end of the first film.

The call for a dozen more pieces to an increasingly complex, flashback-furthering puzzle also seems to pose a storytelling challenge, considering that Tobin Bell's gravely voiced archvillain died at the end of Saw III. By 2021, Bell will be a 78-year-old filming flashbacks for a character who was killed 14 movies prior.

"Jigsaw's back story is far from over," insisted Saw VI co-writer Patrick Melton. "If we delve into his troubled childhood, there's all kinds of directions you can go. Did he capture school bullies and rip their fingernails off with rudimentary classroom devices? Was he physically abused by his stepfather when he was 6? Is he even really dead? We're on the tip of the iceberg here."

In each film, Jigsaw physically and psychologically tests the will to live of his ungrateful victims using death traps that serve as ironically symbolic representations of their real-life vices. Some opt to perform a horrific act of self-sacrifice to save themselves, but most die trying.

According to Saw co-producer Leigh Whannell, the games have just begun.

"If you thought after six movies that we'd exhausted every possible way to inhumanly torture, dismember and eviscerate victims with barbaric, vomit-inducing death traps, think again," he chuckled. "I guess we’re all pretty fucked-up in the head, especially when you get us all together in a room watching Seven for the 800th time."

Despite the poor performance in theaters and waning interest in the formulaic franchise, Saw has garnered enough of a cult following to keep it afloat in theaters—barely.

"We're not sure who, but someone is paying to see these movies," admitted Paul Dergarabedian of "Like we saw with the Hostel films, there are enough sickos in the world who get off on the torture-porn genre. And now they'll be able to get their fix every Halloween for the foreseeable future."

With so many future films slated, continuity issues may arise with the 67-year-old Bell, a self-admitted misanthrope who has loyally agreed to reprise the role of Jigsaw until he finds himself on his own deathbed.

But in a case of life imitating art, Bell's contract permits him to commit such cruel and heinous acts in reality only if he's ever diagnosed as terminal—much like Jigsaw’s alter ego, John Kramer.

"It was the only way to keep him coming back," said original Saw director James Wan. "Tobin loves doing these movies as much as we do—maybe more. If he's serious about actually orchestrating an elaborate, fail-safe plot to punish anyone who's ever pissed him off, I can't think of a better way for a sick old man to go out."

"The set pieces are his," he added.

In order to hold the interest level of a fringe fan base while desperately avoiding the straight-to-video market for what is tentatively projected to be an 18-part series, co-producer Mark Burg all but promises more inevitable, trademark plot twists.

"Does Jigsaw have an identical twin? Did he ever clone himself? Just throwing it out there," he said devilishly.

Prepare to die: Cary Elwes, in the last movie we'll ever see him in

Burg also hinted that some long-dead fan favorites might return.

"Being the star of the first film, Cary Elwes holds a special place in all of our hearts," he said. "The critics said his performance was painful, but if you didn't tell me I was watching a movie, I would've believed he actually sawed his damn foot off to free himself from those shackles. That's real acting there."

On another note, Burg ruled out the idea of bringing back Donnie Wahlberg, who has severed all communication with Saw personnel after his detective character's head was helplessly and unceremoniously smashed to smithereens at the end of the fourth installment. This after being promised a hero's return following an unknown-fate hiatus from Saw III.

In January, production will begin on Saw VII, scheduled for an October 2010 release. Despite a brutal 28% average approval rating for the first five Saw films on Rotten Tomatoes, Saw’s creators are determined to press on.

"We make these movies for the fans, and I wouldn't say we're 'dragging it out,'” he said defensively. "If anything, I would call it 'fleshing out,' especially since we've refused to allow the running time for the last few movies to go past 90 minutes."

"Where there’s a will, there's a way," he added. "Which is pretty much the moral of our preposterously never-ending story."

Impossible: 'Saw 3D' will be the final cut for horror franchise

Never Say Die'Saw': Lionsgate Begins Developing Next Sequel, 'Legacy'

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bruins, Red Wings fighting like schoolchildren over 9-year-old miracle shooter

Detroit's Ken Holland knows prepubescent talent when he sees it.

By Ken Devine

BOSTON—The Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings aren't playing nice in claiming way-too-early draft rights to Oliver Wahlstrom, the 9-year-old forward from the Portland Junior Pirates who became an Internet sensation last week.

Wahlstrom scored a jaw-dropping, lacrosse-style spin-o-rama goal in a shootout competition at Boston's TD Banknorth Garden last Wednesday, in which he swept up the puck in stride, spun around, rotated the blade of his stick with puck on end, and whipped a backhand past a frozen, dumbfounded goalie.

With a buzz circulating throughout hockey circles, many have compared the precocious player to a pre-teen Jeremy Roenick, or even Sidney Crosby, who is now out of his teens. Walhstrom's pee wee team mostly consists of 12-year-olds.

Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli wants first dibs on Wahlstrom for the 2018 NHL Draft, which is shortly after the Cumberland, Maine native is legally allowed to drink in Canada. Chiarelli is claiming ownership solely on the basis of home ice, since TD Bank's Mini 1-on-1 Challenge occurred at the Bruins' TD Garden arena.

Peter Chiarelli's biggest pet peeve is a tangled phone cord.

"We saw him first, we saw him first" insisted the 45-year-old Chiarelli, now in his fourth season as Boston’s GM. "Finder's keepers."

But the Detroit Red Wings are also laying claim to the third-grader, arguing that they are even more justified than the Bruins are.

"Oliver likes our team better than their team—he's said that the Red Wings are his favorite," Detroit GM Ken Holland pointed out. "If he wants to play for us, he'll have a spot here waiting for him when he can hold a stick firmly with two hands."

Chiarelli, however, decried Detroit’s need for Wahlstrom in building the relatively distant future of our franchise.

"The Wings have been loaded for years, and there’s no sign of them getting any worse," Chiarelli complained. "We'll need him more than they will."

There is no legal precedent in the NHL's bylaws to stake a player almost a decade in advance on grounds of territory or fandom, according to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. However, Bettman has publicly mentioned that he's open to amending the draft articles.

"Rules are rules, but they should never prevent the next Gretzky or Crosby from living their dream," he said. "We'll take a look at things and see if there's not some resolution we can reach before 2018."

Holland added weight to his argument by noting that the famed Mike Legg, who first introduced puck-scooping goals to the hockey world in 1996, played for the University of Michigan, which is geographically closer than Boston and also in the same state.

"If Chiarelli wants to argue territory, he’ll have to think about that one," Holland said sharply.

Chiarelli fired back, though.

"Holland doesn't know about the legally binding clause in the paperwork that Wahlstrom signed for the shootout competition. Actually, I'm not even sure that the kid or his dad knows about it."

"Let's just say there might be a line in there somewhere about the 'sole property of the Boston Bruins organization' that could be interpreted in more than one way."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Inside Job

Once again, Buckeye hearts have been broken, and the Scarlet & Gray has been further disgraced after losing another winnable game to a big opponent at home. First it was Texas in 2005, then it was Penn State in 2008. Now it's USC in '09.

Last year I wrote how Jim Tressel's conservative playcalling known as "Tresselball" has been the culprit for Ohio State's big-game losses (now six straight to top-5 opponents). But after dropping a disappointing 18-15 decision to USC last Saturday night, I have to say that Tressel is only partially to blame.

On Saturday night the Sweater Vest did decide to play it safe more often than not, opting for easy field goals and punts when the Buckeyes needed points. He also continued to script an unimaginative run game, with 90% of the plays going straight up the middle ineffectively (especially near the goal line). And when he did decide to take a chance in the final minutes of the first half, he mismanaged the clock, which ultimately allowed USC to drive back down the field and tie it with a field goal in the closing seconds of the second quarter.

But like I said, it's not all on Tressel. Even with a typical vanilla gameplan, quarterback Terrelle Pryor had his chance to put USC away. But some bad reads as well as his failure to connect on key passes squandered first downs and touchdowns. And even though he operated out of the shotgun the entire game, there was not a single time where he used the zone-read to exploit his evasive scrambling ability. This is partially Tressel's fault, but for all the hype surrounding the sophomore signal caller, Pryor is yet to really prove himself, and he still looks tentative and uncomfortable running OSU's offense.

The one thing that was working was the defense. With the exception of Trojan scoring drives before each half (situations that Tressel put them in), Ohio State's D played lights-out for most of the game. Even the Bucks' much maligned O-line was controlling the line of scrimmage and winning the battles in the trenches.

USC actually played an uncharacteristically conservative game in an effort to ease their freshman quarterback in for his first road game in a hostile environment. But the classic USC confidence and execution was still there, as coach Pete Carroll went for it twice on 4th down to keep scoring drives alive. Jim Tressel didn't. And that pretty much says it all between the two coaches and programs: Ohio State plays not to lose; USC plays to win. The Trojans execute; the Buckeyes do not.

Much like the demeanor of their leader, Ohio State exhibits little edge, aggression, or killer instinct in their play. As evidenced with the too-close-for-comfort brush with Navy the previous week, they don't put teams away. Meanwhile, the always jovial Pete Carroll and his USC team couldn't be more different, remaining loose but fiercely competitive. In big games they play with swagger and confidence, and they have fun doing it.

Small Talk
Coaching deficiencies aside, the biggest thing that irks me about Tressel is his self-effacing, disingenuous communication with the press, always downplaying failures while never giving real answers.
"I haven't had a game yet where I haven't had a significant number of decisions or thoughts that we didn't really critique and see if we could do better," he said to the local media a few days after the USC game. "I'm not sure exactly what a wholesale change [to the offense] would entail."
Not only is Tressel willfully oblivious, but like a certain former president, he's just out of touch.

And with Buckeye fans railing against Tressel for the loss, he actually had the nerve to make this statement:
"Honestly...I feel terrible for them because there's no way they're happy. They’ve got to be some of the most unhappy people in the world, and I feel bad because we just made them less happy. And I hate to be a part of making someone less happy. I mean, they’re already miserable, and to make them less happy, I feel bad."
Is any other Ohio State fan who's not offended by this? After six straight marquee losses, Buckeye fans have every right to be upset. But instead of personally accepting blame or issuing a genuine apology, Tressel deflects the hot-seat pressure by backhandedly insulting his own fan base, labeling them with the predisposed condition of being "miserable" while ignoring the fact that they might be miserable BECAUSE of him. What an insult.

What Needs to Happen
It's simple: Things need to change, or Tressel needs to let someone else run the offense. Tresselball was good enough to win a national championship, and it's good enough to beat Michigan year in and year out. But for a team that possesses as much talent as Ohio State, that's not enough. It's not that Tressel is expected to meet almost impossibly high expectations each season, it's for him to do it competitively. But because the game of football has changed over the past decade, Tressel's current style will only continue to result in needless losses, pain, and further embarrassment for the institution that is Ohio State until his contract is up in 2013. That is, unless he swallows his pride, relinquishes control, and hires an offensive guru to take over the playcalling duties (Cincinnati's Brian Kelly comes to mind).

The good news is that by now, Tressel's continued failures are well-documented, and Buckeye Nation is finally aware about why Ohio State keeps stumbling on the national stage. OSU fans should be outraged about what has happened in the past few seasons with a coach who has stubbornly and unnecessarily squandered talent and success.

With this last game, though, the most painful thought that stays with me is the fact that Ohio State let a freshman quarterback come into Ohio Stadium at night and walk out with a win. With the electric atmosphere in the Horseshoe, that should never happen, and especially at a time when Ohio State and their hordes of fans NEEDED this win.

Yes, the hardest part is thinking back to that magical night, and what should have been but will never be. Loss where there should be victory; shame where there should be glory.

Urban Changing OSU Philosophy
Deconstructing: The grisly demise of 'Tressel Ball'
Ohio State must figure out how to utilize Pryor's athletic gifts
Pin down Tressel? It's harder than it sounds
Thorny victory for OSU
Buckeyes, The Vest do it their way

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Two Towers

"If our own government was responsible for the deaths of almost a hundred-thousand people...would you really want to know?"

Over the course of the past eight years, I've devoted a considerable amount of time to studying the vast number of inconsistencies in the official account of 9/11. What I've discovered is that if you spend even half an hour examining different sides of the puzzle, the official story is downright impossible, and at times absurd.

Yesterday Asia Times posted an article entitled "Fifty questions on 9/11." Below I've linked to this article as well as another key one. If you read these and watch the comprehensive video segment from the third link below, you'll see that the evidence of a conspiracy is not only overwhelming, but damning. And then the truth becomes nine parts conspiracy, one part theory.

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth
The Coincidence Theorist's Guide to 9/11
The 9/11 Myth
Fifty questions on 9/11

If you're an eternal skeptic dismissing this possibility with an unbelieving head shake or knee-jerk reaction, understand that I'm not pointing any fingers—just presenting evidence that strongly supports an alternate version of events.

It's important to note that 9/11-type events and false-flag operations are not new. Look no further than the Reichstag fire, the Gulf of Tonkin, or Operation Northwoods. History repeats itself, and someone always benefits.


"A building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are given power by people. A symbol in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world."
—V for Vendetta

One little victory: Ahmadinejad has a point...

Monday, August 17, 2009

White Lightning

In August 1999 I purchased my first computer. Actually, my dad bought it for me before entering my sophomore year in college, but it's the only computer I've ever owned. I'm ashamed to say that it cost about $3,200. Here are some of the original specs for my Dell Dimension XPS T550:

Operating System: Windows 98 Second Edition
Hard Drive: 19.6 GB (I almost chose the 10-gig one at the time)
Processor: Pentium III 550 MHz
Memory: 64 MB
Video Card: 16 MB NVidia Diamond Viper TNT

Obviously, all of these features are laughably Stone Age in the computing world. Up until 2007, I was actually running the relatively unstable and no-longer-supported Windows 98, much to my disadvantage. My 550 MHz processor has long been surpassed by dual-gigahertz technology, and almost any video playback has been fairly choppy thanks to my awesome Diamond Viper video card, what with its 16 megabytes of unbridled power.

Can you believe this bad boy cost over $3,000 at the time? Not something I like to think about. But what's funny is that it only took a few years for the system to become outdated, as faster processors, bigger hard drives, and better operating systems took over. By the time I graduated from college, I was subject to constant teasing and ridicule for still running Windows 98 on a 550 MHz processor. But in a display of resiliency, I embraced the suck, and dubbed my computer "White Lightning" for all its blazing speed and glory.

This isn't to say that my computer hasn't seen its share of changes over the years. There have been many. The most significant was the long-overdue upgrade to a new operating system (though Windows XP was hardly new in 2007). Yes, White Lighting has also had DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives replaced, a big boost in RAM (now carrying the maximum 768 MB), partitioned hard drives, and the replacement of peripherals (monitor, keyboard, and mouse). It's battled through a few viruses and malware infections here and there. It even survived Y2K.

Yep, White Lighting has been through a lot. But throughout it all, I've stuck by it, and it's stuck by me. It's never run faster, and I'm proud of how I've streamlined it in optimal fashion (nightly shutdowns and a general level of TLC go a long way). And with over 5 gigs left on the hard drive, I do believe it's still got some years left in it. But when you spend over 3 grand on something, this is the kind of lifespan I expect. Most others aren't so patient.

The funny thing is, there's been a newer computer sitting in my closet since April, an extra Dell from work that they didn't have any use for. It's ready to go whenever I choose to hook it up. All I have to do is transfer my files and shut White Lightning down for the last time, but I just haven't gotten around to doing it. Because, really, what's the rush? White's been with me this long, and I can't give up on him now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Twitter This

I have to say, I'm not a fan of Twitter. In particular, there's one thing that keeps annoying me about this site:

Who actually has enough free time on their hands to follow a stream of celebrity and non-celebrity updates from day to day?

Social media continues to evolve, but just because we can post our every action of every waking second doesn't mean we should. Twitter is narcissism at its worst. And I can't speak much better about its devoted followers.

When you think about it, it doesn't seem right that Twitter stole a popular feature from Facebook and made it its own. The thing is, status updates on Facebook are great because that's not the only thing you use Facebook for. But with Twitter, you're limited to posting banalities like "At Central Park" or "This bar sucks." WHO NEEDS TO KNOW THAT? Who cares?! Like boring blog posts, these are glorified text messages, but Twitter fails where text messages succeed.

Speaking of texts, isn't it amazing how hardly anyone answers their phone anymore? The texting phenomenon has truly revolutionized how we communicate. When you miss a call, people don't even bother leaving messages, because what's the point? No one wants to spend one minute calling their voicemail and waiting to hear what you had to say, only to call you back (or text you, which they could have done in the first place). We rely on texting more than ever simply because it's a quick, asynchronous way to get the information we need.

These days, the less engaged, the better.

The 12 most annoying types of Facebookers
Local Couple Resolves Argument Using Telephone

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

There Is a God

First, Chinese Democracy. Now, The State on DVD!!!

Apparently there's a 15-year wait on anything cool that began in 1993.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Celebrity Sighting #7

A few weeks ago in the Hamptons, we were walking in the small town of Sag Harbor when my brother remarked "That was Matt Lauer." I turned to look behind me, and it checked out (even though I couldn't see his face). He was with his son, just walking along the sidewalk, enjoying the beautiful day.

I immediately recognized the coincidence in the Ohio University t-shirt I was wearing, which is where Matt attended college. I thought it would've been cool if he'd noticed, but then again, it was just Matt Lauer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Do Not Attempt

Last week my dad asked me if I'd hired movers for my new apartment that I was moving into Saturday. I shrugged it off, thinking it was unnecessary for our situation. After all, we were in a small NYC apartment and only had to move a few blocks and avenues over.

Plus, it seems like the New York thing to do is move yourself, just as I've helped friends and co-workers move with U-Hauls since I've been here. Save some money, right?

Wrong. I couldn't have been more wrong.

What started out as an empowering, spirited project last Saturday quickly turned into a grueling, 14-hour nightmare. It was the Move from Hell, and for some reason none of us saw it coming.

It didn't start out bad. I got the U-Haul in the morning and drove to the Bronx with my brother Chris to pick up a leather couch with a needed pullout bed. Driving through the heart of the Bronx was certainly an experience, but the trip went off without too much trouble besides dealing with the weight of the couch and temporary parking issues.

We returned to our apartment around noon to find our girlfriends already hard at work cleaning and boxing things up. Although I'd gathered enough boxes for the move, the first major problem was fairly obvious: NOTHING WAS BOXED UP. Chris hadn't been home in a few weeks, and I'd admittedly put it off because I wasn't in the mood to start packing things up until I was in true moving mode.

Two words: procrastination kills.

By the time we'd packed most items up and put the first load in the truck, four hours had already flown by, and I was supposed to return the U-Haul two hours after that (which obviously wasn't going to happen).

Nope, our day was just beginning.

I have to say that driving a 14-foot U-Haul in New York City was easier and less daunting than I'd originally thought. Not being able to rely on a rearview mirror was restrictive at first, but I learned to trust my side mirrors. Navigation was a little trickier with the one-way streets, and I struggled a bit with yielding to pesky pedestrians, narrowly missing a few. But overall it wasn't a whole lot different than driving a van, other than maneuvering between double-parked cars.

I will admit that I committed my first hit-and-run, but it wasn't totally my fault! ("Go, go, go!")

Parking was our next major obstacle. When we arrived at the new place (which is on a 2nd Avenue hotspot), nearby parking was nonexistent. After circling the block a few times, we decided to park as close as we legally could, which was only, oh, a good 70 yards away.

The distance greatly exacerbated our situation. It took only a few trips back and forth to realize what we'd gotten ourselves into, grossly underestimating the time and effort it takes in the countless stages of the moving process: packing our things, moving them out of the apartment, loading them in the truck, unloading them on the street, moving them inside the apartment lobby, and finally moving them three stories up and into the new apartment.

Oh yeah, and then there's all of the actual unpacking and arranging, but that's neither here nor there.

There were enough stages here where I started to become angry and exasperated—"How have I not put those shelves in my apartment yet??" "How can we possibly have all this stuff???" It all seemed to repopulate on its own. As the day wore on, I grew delirious with the item respawning that was surely taking place. Every time I thought we were making progress, I quickly saw that there was always something else to move.

It just wouldn't stop.

As the torture continued, expressions like "in over our heads" and "epitome of underestimation" kept running through my head. Also, there were words like trying, frustrating, exhausting, miserable, demoralizing, soul-crushing, and never-ending. It was that bad.

We were in too deep. But it wasn't too late to ask for help.

Chris's girlfriend Laura, who had been slaving away with us in her pointy-toed copper heels, came up with the idea of hiring some more manpower to help us finish the move. Initially I was opposed to the idea, if for no other reason than to not admit that we couldn't do it all on our own. But I was outvoted.

So she and Chris set off to a nearby New York Sports Club and found Bruce, a stocky, mid-30s half-Irishman who was willing to help us out. Bruce turned out to be a godsend, especially when it came to lifting and twisting the bulky couch up to the fourth floor. Once we'd gotten the first load in by 8:30 p.m., he even agreed to meet up with us at the other apartment to move the heavy stuff out, which he did.

When he left at 9:30, he told us he had to go meet his girlfriend, who was about to give him "the ax." Then he refused to take the money (plus a nice tip) that Chris and Laura originally promised him. His reason: We actually helped him by giving him an activity to take his mind off the imminent dumping. He left on a somber note, but gave us his number so that we could catch him under better circumstances when he'd be bartending nearby.

Even after Bruce was gone, we still had stuff in our apartment, and the whole place still needed a good cleaning. But it was getting late, and we had to take care of the second load. So we decided to cut our losses and come back for everything a few days later. (That would end up taking another handful of hours.)


"What'd that take us—15, 20 minutes?"
"Four hours."

When we were finally done, my brother quoted this line from the movie Gung Ho. It was 1:30 in the morning, and my forearms looked like I'd either been tortured or was suicidal; I had the matching cuts, scrapes, bruises, and rain-dripping hair to prove it. Also, my oversized, light-blue Hooters t-shirt was soaked in sweat, dirt, grime, blood, and all the bad memories from that day. I've always liked that shirt, but after all we'd been through, I never wanted to see it again. And I won't, because I tossed it.

The next day we walked out to the U-Haul, only to be slapped in the face with a $115 parking ticket for parking in a temporary, almost-invisible construction zone. However, when we returned the truck, the U-Haul attendant waived the day-late charge. That was one of the few breaks we caught.

Looking back on it all, I like to think that despite the laborious undertaking, the whole event built a lot of character. Maybe when I set out with the desire to move ourselves, I was seeking that sense of accomplishment in the true can-do spirit of New York City.

Two words: classic mistake.

Two more words: never again.

Given the back-breaking work, I have a newfound respect for professional movers. I'm also incredibly indebted to our very own moving staff. We couldn't have done it without the huge help of Laura or my amazing supergirlfriend Erin, who endured everything and toughed it out all the way to the very end of the 14-hour ordeal.

Looking back on it, the thing that I can't figure out is why I didn't listen to my dad in the first place. He's helped me and my four siblings move several times throughout our lives, and he was invaluable less than two years ago when he helped me move from Nashville.

Dad, all I can say is: You were right.

You were so right.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Celebrity Sighting #6

Out of the five celebrities I've seen in New York since moving here, none have been in my neighborhood. Until now.

It was early Saturday morning, and I'd left my apartment to wait for my brother at the U-Haul I'd just parked on 97th Street. Within seconds of walking out my door, I spotted a couple sitting outside the cafe Salata. And specifically, an attractive, middle-aged blond woman sporting big black sunglasses. With one look I had that instant realization that I've had with so many celebrities before: It's Heather Locklear. But with the sunlight revealing the lines on her face and the makeup trying to cover it, this was an aging Heather Locklear.

Heather was sitting with an unknown (to me) male friend and his dog on a leash. When they were done eating, they walked down 97th Street and entered what I'm guessing is his apartment. Then she was gone.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Over the Line

In recent years sideline reporters have increasingly pushed the boundaries when it comes to interviewing coaches during games. It seemed to start a few years ago in college football when sideline reporters like ESPN's Erin Andrews would catch up with coaches on the trailing teams halfway to the locker rooms, just before they were about to ream their teams for blowing a two-touchdown lead before halftime.

"Coach, what went wrong? Can you talk real quick about the second-quarter collapse?"

It's a good thing you're a pretty face, Erin.

At the time this initially struck me as kind of amazing. Why were coaches putting up with this intrusion—this interference—when the game was only half over? After all, they'd be taking questions from the media when was all was said and done anyway. But with impatient-yet-obedient body language from the coaches, you could tell they were seemingly under contract to cooperate and politely spit out trite answers to trite questions, which to this day remain pretty much the same: "We just need to get our heads in the game and go out there and execute," is what they spout off before quickly darting off at the first break in conversation.

As astonishing as all this was, it soon became the norm for on-field reporting, and I think we've all grown accustomed to it since. But what I saw Saturday night during the Penguins-Red Wings game made me realize that this inside-the-huddle immersion has crossed the line.

Between a face-off during the hockey game, NBC on-ice reporter Pierre Maguire actually had the nerve to step over from his private booth at center ice onto the Detroit bench and ask coach Mike Babcock about a play that had just transpired. I don't remember the specifics of the exchange, but it doesn't really matter. It's just that the mere timing of his question—on Detroit's bench before the next face-off—really shocked me and made me realize that this style of reporting has gone to the next level—from intimate to invasive.

This simple act got me thinking "what's next?" Erin Andrews chasing Jim Tressel into Ohio State's locker room, pushing past security and unrelenting before the dismissive Tressel answers her question about why he continues to call predictable plays? Or Maguire in Detroit's locker room, pounding on the bathroom door for Babcock to come out and tell him what his strategy for overtime is?

"It took me a while to pry the bathroom door open on Mike Babcock, but Detroit will definitely be switching things up for the overtime period," he would say shortly thereafter. "Expect a conservative trap formation where the left winger forces the play. Just watch."

Exaggeration aside, it seems like it's only a matter of time before these walls are completely broken down and we have full transparency that borders on flat-out spying.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Devine's Law

The Law of Locker Room Proximity:
When getting dressed or undressed in a near-empty locker room, you will inevitably choose a locker next to one that the next guy entering the room will come up and unlock, even when every other locker is unattended at the moment. Conversely, when returning to your locker after a workout, there will be a guy next to your locker, even when the rest of the locker room is near-empty. Personal space be damned.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ghosts and Survivors

Sometimes I feel like the world's coming to an end. With each passing day it seems like another company is letting thousands of workers go, another bank has gone under, or a once-popular product is now extinct. Everywhere I look, I see our world changing for the worse. And I have a hard time envisioning what will eventually stop the bleeding. Even as an optimist, I only see the dominoes continuing to fall.

I see big and small signs of the times. Just yesterday I read that by 2010, companies like Old Navy, Borders, and United Air Lines will cease to exist. Newspapers and niche publications are disappearing overnight. And the car brands Chrysler, Pontiac, and Saturn will no longer be manufactured.

Then there are the smaller things. A few weeks ago I learned that my favorite music magazine, Blender, had been canceled. A week later I received a returned renewal check from them for $9.97. This means that the last-ever issue of Blender featured Kelly Clarkson on the cover—I wouldn't exactly call that closure. Also, lately many food items seem understocked in the delis and grocery stores. I can't seem to find cashews anywhere these days.

To date, over five-million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007, with over two million occurring in 2009, and 80,000 in the month of March alone. The unemployment rate, currently at 8.6%, was last this high in 1982 when Reagan was in the middle of his first term. By the end of that year unemployment spiked to 10.8%—a figure not seen since the Great Depression. It took nearly five years for that number to stabilize at 5.4% toward the end of 1987.

So as bad as things are now, they've been worse. And in following this historical precedent, the economy has been proven to rebound, albeit over a period of time. I'll take that as a sliver of hope.

But for all the millions of people who've lost their jobs, my question has been, and remains: Where are all these people going?? We're truly living in nightmarish times, and it's so bizarre to see our economic senses heighten as corner cutting, penny pinching, and general conservation become the new mindset of the most excessive and indulgent nation on the planet. In some ways this efficiency is a good thing, and it's in line with many of my more frugal attributes. But by and large, I see it as another troubling sign of the times.

The real kicker for me was last week when my company laid off a third of our workforce. Friends, colleagues, and company vets alike were all unceremoniously let go, just like that. Coupled with survivor's guilt was the realization that even a company that's been constantly growing since its inception—and defiantly in the face of this recession—wasn't unaffected or invincible. No one is safe. Ghosts and survivors.

So is our world really coming to an end? Well, it's not 1984 just yet, but these hard times will only get harder. In true Darwinian spirit, it's survival of the fittest, but something tells me the real fight has yet to begin.

All of it has reminded me how fragile our mighty nation is once the economic infrastructure and monetary system bottom out. And in particular, this quote:

"Give me control of a nation's money, and I care not who makes her laws."
—Amschel Rothschild

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Us and Jimmy

My brother and I getting high-fives from Jimmy Fallon after last Friday's show.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

So Subliminal

Recently I was watching 24 and noticed something strange at the end of the episode. There was a promo shot of Kiefer Sutherland followed by a quick transition flash and then the FOX logo. I freeze-framed it to discover this:

This screen captures no less than 66 subliminal messages embedded within a few frames! And if you read between the lines for similar promos, you'll see that 24 isn't the only show they do this for. Has FOX no shame?

Here's a breakdown of all that's here:

Adjectives that actually apply to 24 (42):
  • SO BIG
Adjectives that really have nothing to do with 24 (12):
Adjectives targeting female viewers (6):
Adjectives meant for the text-message generation (2):
Adjectives geared for '80s surfer dudes (4):
Conclusion: FOX really has everyone in mind here. And then some.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Almost Famous

A few years ago I was in a movie shot in Tennessee. It was a small movie, but a movie nonetheless.

Three-and-a-half years and one name change later, this movie has finally come out. I present to you: The Grift.

Below I've posted video caps of my 10 seconds of fame as an extra—if for some reason you had a hard time spotting me.

Exhibit A: Back of my broad shoulders and top hat

Exhibit B: With face obscured by lead female's wide-brim sun hat, my unmistakable right hand can't be ignored.

Exhibit C: Gesture-free shot of my chest, complete with ketchup stain from earlier meal.

Yep, definitely worth sacrificing a whole Saturday.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Saving a Life

A few weeks ago I was reminded of a high school peer who tragically passed away before his senior year. Although he's entered my mind over the years, I'd never really thought about what his life would have been like had he survived that car crash in 1997. What would he be doing? Who would he have loved? What kind of man would Bobby Pollick have become?

In imagining his alternate future, one word came to mind above all others: robbed. A person robbed of a long life; a family robbed of a precious, lifelong relationship with their son. Though I can't begin to comprehend the depth of the pain, I know this is when life is a million miles from being close to fair.

All of this brought me back to a half-repressed memory of a near-death experience long ago. It was when the life of someone extremely close to me was almost robbed. To this day I find it strange that I haven't dwelled on this event more, because while its notion is terrifying, its ending was absolutely life-saving.

It was around 1990, and my family was vacationing in Myrtle Beach like we always did in those early summers of my life. In a lot of ways, the tourist trap of the surrounding Myrtle Beach area was a kid's fantasy, with no shortage of arcades, water parks, putt-putt golf, and magic castles.

One afternoon my dad took my brother and I to race around a bumper boat track. It was the first time I'd been to one. It was also the last.

A few laps into our race, my brother Chris was ahead of me, with my dad trailing behind. I remember watching Chris as he approached his next left turn around the inside perimeter. Instead of keeping his eyes ahead of him, he was looking back at me with an "I'm in first place" smile. That's when it happened.

Without seeing the upcoming turn, his boat collided with the corner of the ramped guardrail, launching it in the air and quickly overturning it. In a matter of seconds, Chris went from a smiling face to face-down in the dark water, capsized.

Our fun-filled afternoon had taken such a sudden turn for the worst that in the seconds following, I was in a partial state of shock. Before the incident could fully register, my dad rushed up to Chris's boat, unbuckled himself, and jumped into the water. I just sat there in my boat, stunned with disbelief.

Just 10 seconds later, my dad emerged clutching Chris, both okay. Apparently he was also sitting there dazed, still buckled in underwater trying to collect himself. It was then when my dad quickly unbuckled his belt, pulled him out, and saved his life.

My dad's done many great things in his life, but this is by far the most heroic and unrecognized.

We immediately got out of the water and left the place. I remember being the only dry one as my dad and brother walked away leaving a long water trail behind them. "That really scared the shit out of me," my dad blurted in a rare, profane admission. "Better not tell your mother about this."

To this day, we haven't. In fact, I don't recall ever talking about it again with him or my brother. I suppose it's easy to forget a near-tragedy like this, both because of its unpleasantness as well as the fact that the course of our lives was quickly corrected. But these things should never be forgotten. Because the truth is that most of us undervalue the fact that every day, we have another 24 hours to walk, breathe, and live, always underestimating how a lifetime can be stolen in a matter of seconds.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Day That Never Comes

After 15 years, 14 studios, and 13-million dollars, it finally happened. On November 23rd, 2008, Guns N' Roses released the most-rumored, ├╝ber-anticipated, and oft-ridiculed album in the history of rock music: Chinese Democracy.

For anyone not familiar with the back story, suffice it to say that Chinese Democracy is the biggest boy-who-cried-wolf album of all time. Originally slated for release circa 1999, the album has been perpetually promised and delayed by the maligned Axl Rose, a rock 'n' roll has-been notorious for his maniacal perfectionism. But after enough empty deliveries, the music world called Axl's bluff, and Chinese Democracy became a myth, if not a joke; nothing more than a magnum opus in the mind of its troubled creator.

On the day of its release (a rare Sunday), I walked into Best Buy on 86th Street in an anticipatory state, half-excited but half-unsure if anyone else could sense the weight of the momentous day. History was being made, but with the hustle and bustle of New York City, palpability for these things tend to get lost in the melting pot.

Although the album was quickly accessible and well-placed in the center of the store on its own display rack, the overall experience was anticlimactic. I walked up and tried to admire the prominence of the exhibit, but it was mitigated by the fact that I was the only one who seemed to care or notice at the time. It didn't matter, though, for I was finally holding a piece of history in my hands.

Because Chinese Democracy was actually leaked to MySpace a few days before its official release, I briefly thought about going about my standard operating procedure, which is sampling the music first and then buying the CD or just downloading a few songs that I like. But then it hit me: It didn't matter how much I might dislike Chinese Democracy—with this kind of mythology, I had to own it regardless. Because in the age of iTunes, it was an instant collector's item that deserved a physical purchase. And in a time where truly great rock albums are in decline, it's worth even more.

My full review of Chinese Democracy:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Distant Memories

Over Christmas vacation I saw my grandpa for the first time in a year. Although he's been suffering from dementia since 2005, seeing him over the break made a lasting impression, especially since it was the first time not having my grandma at his side.

For the past four years he hasn't really remembered me or my family at all. It's unbelievable to sit in front of a person I've been around my whole life who has no idea who I am. This is someone who watched me grow up; someone who came to many of my sporting events; someone whose lawn I mowed countless times; and someone who's passed down his wisdom and life lessons to me. And there I am in front of him, a complete stranger.

When we visit, my grandpa always starts by asking about our physical appearance, be it my build or length of my brothers' beards. A few minutes later he asks the same questions, making it impossible to carry on a lasting or meaningful conversation beyond the weather, the food at the retirement home, or what he's watching on TV. But his fish-like memory notwithstanding, he's not overtly confused about who we are or what we're doing there. He just plays along, over and over again.

As a half-stranger, it's odd to realize that while his memory is mostly gone, his personality isn't. His sharp wit remains intact and allows him to crack jokes just as he always did. This past Christmas, I learned that his perception is still present, as my off-color utterance about the "cold as balls" weather did not go unnoticed: "Listen, young man, I'll be doing the fine talk around here." Yessir.

But perhaps the saddest thing is that the one person he does remember is no longer with him, as his wife passed away last July. When he asks if she's sitting behind him in the backseat, or when she's coming back to his room, the nurses and my parents tell him the half-truth that she's not there or that she's in heaven. After absorbing it for a few seconds, he seems fine with either answer. Even at her funeral, he was unsure whose it was.

One thing I keep wondering about is what's going on inside his head during all of this. Like when my dad is driving him to our house for dinner, I can't help but imagine that while my grandpa remains quiet, he's freaking out in his mind thinking, "Where the hell is this stranger taking me??" The only time he gets confused is when we tell him it's time to take him home, because at that point he thinks that he lives with us. Confused, but never unnerved.

Another terrifying thing about all this is that my grandfather on my dad's side has been stricken with an even-worse case of dementia in the last two years. Which begs the question: Who's next to come down with this soul-robbing form of identity theft? My parents? Me? Because once you have it, there's no going back. It all reminds me of this line from The Notebook:

"It is a barren disease, as empty and lifeless as a desert. It is a thief of hearts and souls and memories."

Reading that makes me realize how our memories are the most precious things we have. In all that we do in life, it's all for naught if we can't remember anything about the lives we've lived—the places we've been, the things we've accomplished, or the people we know and love. The value of our memories is far beyond priceless. Without them, there is hardly any self-awareness or self-identity. Without them, life is just existence.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year

Hopefully you think differently of my blog!

On a musical note, you'll notice on the right sidebar that I've added selected album reviews I've done, as well as a list of recent songs that I can't stop playing.