Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Whatchoo Talkin' About?

It really was only a matter of time. Our favorite midget actor in Utah County, after making commercials for payday loan companies and starring in low budget and low quality LDS mainstream movies has finally run into the long arm of the law.
It's certainly not as bad of a situation as old Super Dell Schanze ran into when he got in an altercation with some people, what with the pulling of the gun and all, but it's not something that he needs I'm sure.
Now for my semi-interesting Gary Coleman story. I was pulling up to my office and I saw this little short guy getting into a Saturn Sky roadster. I didn't want to look too closely as a) he was awfully short and b) I've heard that if indeed it was Gary Coleman, he was as curmudgeonly as Wilford Brimley. Anyway, through a couple of sideways glances, I determined it was him. I walked in to the office and a couple of people asked if I had seen Gary Coleman. I said "yes, and he drives a Saturn." He didn't visit our company, so he either was using the bathroom downstairs, lost, or visiting the corporate offices of the scrapbook company below us. Whatever the case, we don't know why he was here, it was just our brush with a former child star and gubernatorial candidate.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bent Over Backwards

Why does it take so long to buy a car? I'm not talking about looking at cars or finding out which one you want, test driving, and so on. I'm talking about once you get down to brass tacks, it takes forever to get out the door once you decide on what you want. You first have to go to your regular salesman. Then he sees what he can do. He brings over a ringer, whose sole job is to get you to buy a car and get the most money out of you in the process. Then the ringer will bring over a manager, because after all, the ringer can't do anything for you other than wear you down. The manager may approve it, or he may decide that you haven't been raked over the coals enough. If that's the case, then you go through the whole process again. Finally, after you get approved then you are only done with the process for the car buying. Following that you have to go through the same punishing process again to get a loan (if you decide to get the dealer financing) during which they try to give you something where they can add some more money. After that there's the old add-on process. You know, do you want to have undercoating, rust protection, etc, etc. After that, and only after that then you finally get the keys to your car. All in all, even at a luxury car place, it's a good quarter of a day process. At a regular dealer, you may have to pitch a tent and pack lunch and dinner.
The only thing that is in the favor of the consumer here is the dreaded walkout. George Costanza legendarily threatened it at David Puddy's Saab dealership, but to no avail. Even if you want the car that you're going in for you have to have alternatives so you can threaten the walkout. Otherwise they know they've got you and you're out of luck. It's best if there's another dealer in the area, but sometimes that isn't always your choice.
Seriously, it shouldn't take longer to buy a car than to buy a house. While I love how my dealer's service department has been, it took a long time to get that darn car. If there was a place that would let me buy a car in the same amount of time as it takes to go through Costco, I'd shop there in a heartbeat. I want to get in and out quickly, not take all day going over the particulars of the car as I repeatedly am worked over.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kraft Singles

Something that I just got thinking about as I'm listening to Gwen Stefani's "Early Winter" is how I haven't bought a pop album in ages. Even in the digital format I haven't got an album outside of a movie soundtrack for myself since U2 released How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. I have gotten a copy of one of Bocelli's albums and Paul Potts' debut CD for my wife, but nothing for me. It's been an interesting shift. Everything used to be based on the CD. You wanted a song, you can get it, but you have to pony up for a lot of other crap to get that one song. I've picked up the 4 songs that I care about from Gwen's Sweet Escape album and I don't have to pay for the stuff that just doesn't agree with me.
What will come of this? The death of the album probably won't happen, although I think the US market will become a lot more like Japan's. You see albums, but each album has 4-5 singles that come out before the album does. Then those singles get slapped on the album and it gets shipped out the door. Album sales aren't as important as the Maxi Single and everything is geared towards it.
What will come of this? After all, why buy an album at 10 bucks when I can get the 3 songs I like at 3 bucks. I think that at the end of the day the record companies could be done with as we know them. Songs will still be around as usual, but I think we'll see fewer songs, perhaps smaller albums (after all, they used to be ~10 songs - 5 per side of the record. The CD is what opened it up), and more using them to drive concert sales. With today's technology I don't know why people don't open things up and have burning stations at concerts. You have a soundboard recording of the concert recorded real-time and as people leave they can go to a burning station and pay 20 bucks to have a 2 disc copy of the concert they were just at. The record companies own at least a part of the IP of those songs. Wouldn't it be in their best interest to partner with the group on it? Columbia and Journey could hook up and Columbia would allow Journey to do this, but they would get $x per concert album sold as a part of their rights. It's win win. U2 has looked at this a bit with their Vertigo tour, but it didn't come to fruition. I can't see how that wouldn't work. I think we may also see more greatest hits style albums, where everything is a single and there isn't a bunch of filler to complete it. Maybe the return of the EP - a 4 song mini-album of singles - would also be in the cards.
I know there have been loads of articles speculating on what will end up happening, and we are still at the start of this cycle, but there will be a change. The only question is how much of one and how fast will it hit?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Captain Ahab

So I went hunting for the Great White Whale today. Except replace "Great" and "White" with "any" and "type of." Let me just say that if you ever get a chance to do this, jump at it. While I'm someone who can step on a boat and get seasick, this was an incredible thing to do. I have heard that in the Pacific it can be a challenge to see the whales, but just off of Massachusetts, we ran into a couple of stragglers and then a giant pod of 12 whales. It was amazing seeing them do their thing. I got sunburned like you would not believe because we had packed the sunscreen in our checked luggage on account of our flying home today and the TSA's liquid rules (which brings me to a tangent: I am not a fan of al Qaeda for one reason above all - they make our lives miserable with new restrictions. I'm just waiting for a pants bomber to come along and then we won't be able to travel wearing pants for who knows how long). Anyway, here's a couple of pictures - they aren't all the best, because the whales got right up next to the boat and I had my daughter in one arm, camera in the other, and zoom lens attached. Suffice it to say, I didn't need that as much as I thought.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dweebs of the World Unite!

I was at Harvard on Friday night and I was ready to see an historic campus, a school with an international reputation for some of the finest scholarship anywhere in the world, somewhere that I was once thinking about going to school at. Instead I found the world's geekiest party. It was the night they were releasing Harry Potter 7 to the world and as a result I was thrown into some sort of crazed Dungeons and Dragons Fiesta. The crazies all came out of the woodwork and I can't imagine any other single place on the planet that had more sanctioned nerdity concentrated in one place than at Harvard that night. They had a concert, a line that wrapped around a city block for the book (which my wife was able to get the next day easily - not a Wii was this), and a huge group of people. I was amazed. I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Cuba Badding, Jr

Who remembers when Cuba Gooding, Jr was actually a respectable actor? I certainly do. He did Jerry Maguire and won an Oscar for it. Of course, that by itself doesn't mean that you are a reputable actor. After that he added Men of Honor, What Dreams May Come, and As Good As It Gets, all movies that may not have been fantastic or box office hits, but that were certainly the kind of movies that you could see an Oscar winner in. Since then however, let's look at his filmography:
Snow Dogs
Boat Trip
and now: Daddy Day Camp.
Ugh, this movie looks worse than the original (Daddy Day Care). If you don't believe me, take a look at the trailer:

When did he decide either that he was Keith Hernandez and it doesn't matter what he does or that he needed a paycheck so badly to slum it for money? This is just sad.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Weekend YouTube

Here's a little clip from one of my favorite Japanese television shows. Karakuri funniest English is funny no matter who you are.

Boston Engrish

I'm staying at the Westin Boston Waterfront during my time out here, and in general it's a pretty good hotel. Nice clean lines, good bedding, and so on. It's a bit out of the way, in the sense that it's across the river from the main part of town. Boston is so small that it's really not a big issue though. You can walk from one side of downtown to the other in probably 10-15 minutes. Anyway, one thing that's a bit off kilter here is the restauraunt, Sauciety. Yeah, it's a cute play on words (pronounced society, so named because their gimmick is that you choose your sauce) like CityZen (citizen) in the DC. It's not as good, but it's fine for what it is. The humorous part is their description of the restaurant concept:
Sauce: a flavorful accompaniment to food
Society: an organization of people engaged in a common activity or profession
Sauciety: a place where people come together to share an experience involving flavorful sauces.
The math there is almost as bad as JR East's legendary "Train + ing = Traing" campaign. Just a thought I have, and it might be out there, but maybe you get rid of that. Just call it Sauciety and let the people decide what the concept is. It's not too difficult, trust me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Public Indecency

I might infuriate the wrath of women worldwide with the next statement, but let me explain. I'm tired of women breast feeding in all the wrong places. Just because you cover up with a blanket does not help me digest my meal at the restaurant, concentrate in class, or worship at church. Just the other day at Rumbi I was innocently sitting at a table enjoying a tasty rice bowl when BAM! the lady at the table next to me whips out a breast and starts junior on his all natural diet. Now ladies, I understand that babies need to eat. I also understand that sometimes their needs comes at an inopportune time. Those understandings in place, I'm not accepting of the fact that it must happen within two feet of my lunch.
A few years ago I was in a dance class, in which every day one of the students paused to feed her baby in the corner. That alone is disturbing to me, what might be even more disturbing to you is that she didn't even bother to cover her naked breast. I complained to a friend in class who immediatly scolding me for not being understanding of "a natural event". She was right I don't understand how popping your nipple out is wrong by itself, but popping it out with a baby attached is fine. I agree that it is a natural event, so is going to the bathroom. I submit that if I made a habit of urinating in the potted plants at Rumbi I'd promptly be tossed out.

Multi Review Fiesta

I've read quite a few books between my last book review and now and if I make them separate posts, I doubt I'll end up reviewing them all. Therefore, I'm going to try mini-book reviews to get things back under control, followed by going back to normal. Without further ado, on to the reviews!

The Godfather. What needs to be said about this book. While it has been made famous because of the movie, the book is just as good. It has more details about the periods in general as well as more references to the sexual prowess of Sonny (that's a bad thing). It just covers the time during The Godfather without really going into The Godfather Part II. I think it's one of those ultra-rare situations where the movie and the book are on the same level. The biggest difference for me as a result of seeing the movie before reading the book is that I pictured Al Pacino, James Caan, Marlon Brando, and so on as the characters in the novel even if Puzo's descriptions weren't exactly those actors. Such is the inherent problem with movie novels and so on. Nevertheless, it didn't distract from the book at all. If you can handle all the talk about Sonny during his time in the novel, pick this one up. It was a nonstop read for me - I started somewhere over the Atlantic and was about done when I arrived in Salt Lake, and this was with a 6 month old in my lap most of the time.

Ah Tom Clancy, how awesome a novelist you are. I think it's pretty safe to say that if there was only one author that I could read for the remainder of my days, it'd be Tom Clancy. I love my nonfiction and my Dan Brown and all, but Tom Clancy is the best. It had been a while since I last read his books, mainly because he hasn't written a novel for several years now, and I picked this off my shelf and flew through it. I'm in the middle of Red Rabbit right now, which is good, but not this good, and it's reminded me just how amazing vintage Clancy is. His characters pop, his writing crackles, and his Rice Krispies pop. I think that a lot of non-Irish/British people have forgotten just how heated "the troubles" were, but this is a blast from the past. It was realistic to have a splinter group of the IRA attack Prince Charles and Princess Di back in the day and it was also realistic that Charles wasn't a laughingstock and Di wasn't dead (admittedly, a bit of a low blow) but that they were instead a happy and heroic addition to the British royal family. I was hooked on this book from the opening page and lost quite a bit of sleep getting to the end. Because of the nature of Clancy's books, I would venture to say that this is the most action-packed book he's made (well, maybe not including Red Storm Rising). I'm rambling here, but if you're giving Clancy a try, read this first.

I have very mixed feelings about The Cobra Event. On the one hand, it's compellingly written and a pretty good mix of thriller, non-fiction, and prophetic semi-warning. On the other hand, it's extremely disturbing. The long and the short of it is that there's a madman who wants to wipe out a good part of humanity using a bio-engineered virus that is pretty darn gruesome. It replicates the effects of Lesch-Nyhan syndrome in the infected people. Some things seem somewhat tacked on, like a good solid token romance, pivotal in all novels for some reason or another, but there's some solid historical research that serves to put the present of the novel in context with our actual past. While the vast majority of the novel isn't too disturbing, once you get past the fact that people eat themselves, there is one section that really kind of sent me over the edge, and that has to do with something (and I don't want to truly spoil it here) involving an autopsy. It still sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. Take a gander if you like a good read and won't suffer from the glavin! reflex.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Paahk yah caaah

While I have besmirched the reputations of many a city planner and/or group of drivers in my life, I think that in general they can all step aside now, for I have discovered what could possibly be the worst combination of those two groups and pedestrians: Boston. I love the city. It's actually very cool, but driving the streets is a punishment straight from the bowels of a medieval torture chamber.
Problem the first: the roads make no sense. They are one way streets in large part, however that can be overlooked because of the same mulligan that all older cities get: cars weren't around when they were first built. Tokyo, of course, doesn't get that mulligan because it was only burnt to the ground back during World War II and they chose to rebuild the streets and buildings exactly where they were. That is idiocy whether it was MacArthur's fault or random Japanese city planner's fault. Anyway, back to Boston. They have a lot of one-way streets that end for no apparent reason. They're going, nice and normal, and suddenly they hit a building. Then you have the mess of freeway that they routed underground. The path's still above ground, although they have routed a lot of roads over the newly created greenery making it much less annoying than it had the potential to be. In addition, I haven't seen any speed limit signs and the markings on the road appear and disappear at random. I don't know if it's the result of gnomes or just lazy road work, but sometimes you have 5 lanes of traffic in 1 lane of marked traffic.
Add to this that the drivers are crazy and that pedestrians don't have a care in the world and you have a bad driving experience. The pedestrians just meander across traffic as though they're at BYU. They don't pay attention to lights or anything else. Fortunately they don't get hit, but they do serve to make traffic far worse. Give me New York traffic any day. Sure, every cabbie in the city has a death wish, but you know exactly what's needed. If you're a pedestrian, cross wherever you want as long as a car's not coming. The rules are clear, as are the penalties. Cross all you want, but the car will win every time. Forget it and you become a cabbie's hood ornament. Bottom line for Boston so far? It's great, but only rent a car if you're a very patient person (or if you're going to Cape Cod, you can't walk or take the T there).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Culinary Prostitutes

My wife and I were helping my sister-in-law move to Salt Lake this past weekend and her apartment is actually quite nice. I was very impressed by the quality of the interior and by the price she was paying. I wasn't as impressed by the neighbors nor by the neighborhood. It seemed a little rough around the edges, with the possibility of a burglary of domestic dispute happening at any moment, but it'll be good. That's not the reason for this post however. Instead, this is because just a mile from her house we passed the Ho Ho Gourmet on 33rd South. I've never been there, and have no idea if it's any good or not, but I have to say I love the name of it. I wonder what their clientele is like?

Guilty Pleasures

I think that the Cheeth has already pilloried me for this particular guilty pleasure, but what can I say, it's right up there with...other things...that aren't coming to mind...right now. Anyway, I am quite a big fan of the J-Pop. I think that you could probably blame my living in Japan during the beginning of the Utada Hikaru (see her music video for Final Distance above) era as part of it. Of course, there's other reasons, from stores playing it to the internet facilitating it through the wonders of getting J-Pop without living in Japan. I know that it's looked down upon by a good part of the population, and I'll give them that. Nevertheless, there's nothing like a little B'z, Glay, Ayumi Hamasaki, or Kuraki Mai to give me a bit of that Japanese music fix.

Kuraki Mai - Never Gonna Give You Up

Ayumi Hamasaki - Endless Sorrow

Glay - Yuuwaku (this particular song from their catalogue is in honor of Ishii kun)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Classic Music Videos: Part the First

So my wife is having a girls party tonight, which leaves me with nothing to do other than cruise YouTube for random miscellania collected by people across the world. Well, in my search for music videos to listen to the music of one hit wonder bands, I came across this one, "Tired of Toein' the Line" by Rocky Burnett. It's quite possibly the best music video made by someone from the US.

Here's one that's just the song with pictures in front of it. I would put this ("The Night Chicago Died" by Paper Lace) up against anything else as the worst song ever made. You can rest assured that Satan has this in Hell's Jukebox on permanent rotation.

Will iT Blend?

As I still have far too much love for the iPhone for this to warm the cockles of my heart, it's worth taking a look at in super-slow-mo. Apple's got to be happy it lasted as long as it did and Blendtec has to be happy that it blended. As for me and my Blendtec blender, however, we'll stick to food and food related items and not kill lustworthy electronics.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Two in the Bush

The Washington Post had a fascinating article last weekend about President Bush. While he's not turned into a quivering mess like LBJ or a scheming megalomaniac like Nixon after Watergate broke, he is concerned about his place in history. At the same time, he's calm and goes forward with the belief that even though things are bad now, he's doing the correct thing with the nation. I think this is actually the part of Bush that has scared people the most throughout his presidency, his belief that he's doing what's right. Ultimately we don't know for sure now, it will take quite a few years to find out what the long term effects of his presidency are. He had the potential to be one of the greats, a Reagan or a Lincoln or a Roosevelt. Instead, he'll probably end up in the middle chunk with most of our presidents. Not as bad as a Carter or a Hoover but instead just there like a Polk.
How much of that is the result of his presidency and how much a result of the times? I think that the increasing polarization of politics has to some degree hampered Bush. Some of this was his own doing and some of it came from the Clinton era. As a result, he hasn't had a unified war front like past presidents have enjoyed. That, in turn, has led to a "wait the Americans out" strategy from the insurgents, which they most likely will be able to do. We can only hope that we've taken care of enough of the battles by the time we leave (which will be sooner rather than later - when you start hearing it compared to WWII in the length we've been there, even though casualties are improbably light, you know that the end is probably going to be nigh for political reasons) that they won't be able to pop back up. Of course, that's what was said about Vietnam, and they only lasted 2 years after we left

Friday, July 06, 2007

Gender Equality

One of the worst trends that I can think of in fashion is the pants that women wear that have a word written across the butt. I can only assume that it is fashionable for one of two reasons: advertising or "notice my butt." On the Juicy Couture line, as they write Juicy on the butt, it could be advertising. However, with other sayings like "Pink" or "Notice these Cheeks," it's just annoying. Nevertheless, in the spirit of men and women should be just alike, men need these too. Not across their butts, as that's not really something that people look at. Rather, it should be on the front of swimsuits and/or velour shorts. That way it draws attention to men in just the way they want it and it's annoying and/or humorous at the same time. Give these mockups an idea. Then, if you see the Gap or Eddie Bauer come out with them (I'm thinking that (Project) Red could use them - Sha(red) or Bla(red) could both work well on them), know that Sorro should be getting 15% of all sales on those bad boys.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Who Needs The Qwik-E-Mart? I Do

I wish this was at a 7-11 here. If I was them, I'd be tempted to keep it around permanently, albeit a bit tuned down for a more everyday use. Nevertheless, this has Simpsons products of all kinds including Krusty-Os and Squishees as well as your more mundane Pepsi and Coke. It's all a stunt to promote the Simpsons movie, which should be quite good (it better be!), and a better promo I can't think of.

Gassy Indigestion

I'm nothing if not somebody who hates to fill up his gas tank at current prices. While my car isn't a natural born guzzler, it's no Geo Metro either. That being said, the way I drive in the city just kills my mileage. I could blame it on the car - it accelerates far too quickly and is a nimble mid-size thing, but I love it anyway. I'm lucky to hit 20 MPG, even when I do better because I don't do very good. Of course, on the highway my luck changes for the cheaper and I end up somewhere between 25-30 MPG. Nevertheless, I hate $3.15 gas (well, $3.05 filling up at Costco). That's why this chart from The Oil Drum was somewhat enlightening. It just shows me that while ours sucks, it sucks less bad than elsewhere, and I like the sound of that!