Friday, March 30, 2007

Where's Arnold when you need him?

Apparently, Terminator isn't that far off.

The machines rose up against the office today. A copier cut one of the editors' hands after shocking him while he was trying to remove a paper jam.

And due to a computer "error," our queues were rapidly purging themselves of anything older than 48 hours and not on "HOLD."

I use the dreaded quotation marks around error because I have a suspicion the computers wanted to piss everyone off. Well, OK, that's a little ridiculous, but still. It's a little eerie. Especially since I actually sat down and watched Terminator 3 in its entirety.

Skynet as a virus that infects all the computers in the world is a stroke of genius, and instantly made the whole scenario more believable. Even if they did copy a bit from The Net

I half expect this computer to shut down, only to reboot with an angry face, and begin letting me watch as it destroys my archives of notes and PDFs of all my stories slowly, with a chewing graphic.

No?

It's funny to think Macs would be this evil. It probably has to do with a Windows box somewhere down the pipeline.

All I really know is a) none of my stuff was affected and b) I'm going to let that copier stew a little before I send it anything to print.

Quickly, before my computer thinks I'm plotting against it! I must go! But parting advice to you would be get a a dog, apparently they can snif out Terminators. Or just Arnold look-a-likes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What an Eisenstein

OK So I was listening to NPR on the way home the other day, and this guy was critiquing some movie.

To be honest, I forget which movie it was, and who was reviewing it.

But one thing that struck me, one thing that I remember from Art of the Film and Film Criticism, was the reporter's mention of Eisenstein. I think the guy's name was Sergei, but to be honest (again), I don't feel like taking time to Google it.

Anyway so the guy's like "And montages which pay homage to Eisenstein and the Russian cinema."

Now, what montages do not pay tribute to Eisenstein? Film critics correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Eisenstein pretty much create the cinematic montage? With the people all running and screaming, and that insufferable pram bouncing down the stone steps.

If there was ever a piece of symbolism I grew tired of before I learned of it, it's the pram bouncing down the stairs.

It's in Ghostbusters, to be sure. But I know it's in a slew of other movies.

Damn you, Eisenstein. You and your stupid baby carriage.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Headlines

Here's a story that the YDR ran about York County switching to recycled toilet paper.

The headline: "Is a recycled TP plan a bum idea?"
And the chatter: "It's easy to make it the butt of jokes, but the county's move could be a cost-saver."

Everyone in the office thought this was a great story, until they realized it just means the paper is recycled before it gets on the role, not afterward. Then they all thought it was a stupid story.

While I admit, it's not really front-page news, it's pretty cool. If every county in Pa. switched to recycled T.P. and those awful air-powered hand dryers, do you know how much paper we'd save? My conservative estimates peg the exact amount around a heckuvalot, but I'm no expert.

Also, there are 13 universities in the Passhe (which, in my humble opinion, should really be the Pacshe). If every one of them supplied all public bathrooms with recycled T.P., and their "residence halls" (cough, dorms), too, well, that's also a heckuvalot. More than the counties, I suspect (because, really, over what do the counties have control... the courthouse, the 911 center, the jail).

Cheers, York County. Now to pass legislation banning incandescent lighting.

You know you want to.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I've used but one too many times, I think

I drink coffee now.

I vowed since the day I was eight, and grabbed my dad's travel mug off the hood of the rusting old SUV parked in our upper parking lot I wouldn't touch the stuff.

But to be fair, the coffee was way past cold, and I was only eight.

I've had tea for caffeine since then. Well I had a brief, torrid love affair with Pepsi, which ended with me swearing off soda for perceived health reasons. But tea. A good black tea, with a spritz of ReaLemon. None of that cheap, real lemon crap for me.

I prefer my flavor to come from a lemon-like substance conveniently bottled in a lemon-shaped container.

But then, oops, I lost the can of my Republic of Tea - Earl Greyer that I bought at Wegman's last year.

But hooray, my darling and wonderful girlfriend bought be a small tin of Barnes & Noble's house tea (which isn't really a house tea since its an actual brand, some English-sounding name).

But oh no, I drank all that, too.

Then she asked me last night if I would like a cup of tea. It was like she read my mind. I hadn't had tea in months. It was very good.

But coffee. I've had a cup here and there. Black. Wal-Mart coffee is probably the worst I've had, and Seattle's Best -- which The Spot brews -- the best (go figure).

I've grown accustomed to it. Much like I grew accustomed to beer sophomore year of college. Or accustomed myself to Scotch earlier this year (is it weird I still think of a year as starting in August and ending in May/June?).

Mmmm coffee. Sweet java. Plus, drink a lot and it will make you hyper.

Plus plus, there's a coffee shop around here -- which I have yet to frequent -- that grinds their own beans. Or do they roast and grind their own beans. I don't know. But it's a cool little shack at which I've always wanted to stop on my way to work, but I've never left the apartment early enough.

I guess I was first introduced to coffee during my tenure at Lakewood 84 Truck Stop. I would get a Starbucks Double Shot every morning, to wake me up at 6 a.m. when I had to play coffee wench and refill the pots every 30 seconds.

By the way, who knew truck drivers carried around kegs disguised as coffee mugs. I honestly have no clue how they fit those mugs in cupholders, unless the entrance into the trucking world included some gift basket-cum-cupholder.

Also, who knew Starbucks Double Shot was basically taking heavy cream and pouring it down my throat, letting it slosh and stew in my stomach until it eventually permeated my fat fatty fat fat. But it woke me up. And, much to my chagrin, Exxon stations do not come with espresso machines standard.

But black coffee -- no calories (well, OK, calories, but you know what I mean). No HFCS. No fat. No sugar. Just good.

Like my beloved British tea, but more accessible. (Plus, for Christmas, El Editorio bought us a rather fabulous coffee brewer and bean grinder, and a whole bag o' beans from that local shop I mentioned -- Merlin's.)

But when I'm dying after four hours of court rote, a small (I refuse, Starbucks, you can't make me say it!) black coffee hits the spot, which, probably rather unironically, is the name of the establishment I "frequent." They also have great sandwiches, which are sadly a little too pricey for my meager salary to handle. But boy are they good. Every time I have a court day, my mind wrestles with itself, Steven Seagal vs. Kurt Russel, battling it out to "forget" the turkey and cheese sandwich I made the night before, or be economic and bring the sandwich with me.

Kurt Russell always wins, although it splits evenly because they alternate stances. My mind is pretty screwed up sometimes. I bet it can't wait for the remake of Escape from New York (some idealistic writer/director/producer thinks they can do better? Well, let me tell you. The finest bookshelf made from cow manure is still a pile of cow manure). Know what I mean?

Doublewalk

I love optical illusions.

Which is why this is hilarious. A doormat that says both "come in" and "go away," depending one which way you slap it down in front of your door.

Perfect. Now, to devise a rotating platform I can control via remote control. And then put up a Web camera, looking down the hallway.

As if simply seeing a mat that says "go away" would dissuade pests from knocking.

Perhaps some sort of water gun, to shoot to lazy kids who chuck The Merchandiser down the hall, only vaguely in the general direction of my door.

Darn kids.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Life

Watching The Amazing Race is killing me.

Slowly, painfully killing me.

And while I absolutely love National Geographic Adventure, it to is pounding nails in my coffin.

I want to see the world.

I want to live in wicking tees and khakis and sleep under emergency blankets in airports and live out of a backpack, drinking from a Nalgene in the hot African sun.

I want to be in a forest so dense I can't breathe, so hot and humid it feels like I'm walking through water.

I want, I want, I want.

Someday, maybe I'll make it out there. Out there. For now, I eagerly await my monthly dose of daydreams, and watch jealously as people run all around the world.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's Day

The right way to commemorate St. Patrick's Day:


The wrong way to commemorate St. Patrick's Day:


For more right ways to commemorate the day, see Shamrock Shakes, painting road lines green, and dying rivers green.

*Google logo courtesy Google Inc., reprinted without specific permission, but hoping they will see I meant no harm

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You know his name

Picked up a copy of Casino Royale Tuesday at Wal-Mart (shudder).

While the experience of actually buying the DVD left something to be desired, the experience of watching the movie was all I'd hoped for.

Bond delivers. Or, rather, Craig delivers. The director delivers, the screenwriters (who include Paul Haggis) deliver. The whole movie is just good.

And as I put the movie on the shelf next to the dozen-or-so DVDs I own, I couldn't help resisting the urge to banish Die Another Day to another shelf, or at least to the end of the row.

I bought it, I think, because it was on sale. But it just doesn't hold up to Casino Royale. At all.

To watch Die Another Day is to get a crash course in the Bond archetype. The opening credits are some swoony song, and feature mostly the silhouettes of naked or scantily clad women. Bond is portrayed as a super human, vodka-downing, womanizing machine.

But Casino Royale? Sure, Craig's Bond drinks, but none of it is careless, stereotypical "vodkamartinishakennotstirred." It's all planned. At one point Bond orders a martini, and the bartender asks how he wants it and he practically explodes on the man. Because he's losing.

Because he's alive. He isn't some suit to put on and act like you're hot stuff. Craig gives Bond life.

There is so much more about this movie I love, I can't get it all down right now.

But anyway, yeah, the DVD was great.

And don't let Wal-Mart trick you into buying a full-screen version; I found my widescreen copy nestled behind four copies of the FS. You just have to hunt.

(I'd buy it on iTunes, but it's a Columbia film, and I'm betting as a rival computer company, Sony will hold out for a while)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spanning my wallet

I enjoy the simplicity of opening iCal at home and having all my crap I entered at work match.

Up until now, I've used Spanning Sync to get this done. Spanning Sync syncs Google Calendar with iCal, and since both apps have basically the same interface (even the same color choices for different calendars), I was in heaven.

Until Spanning Sync grew up. LIke the ungrateful teenager, it has gone from a free beta to a $65 (lifetime, or $25 per year) app for which I really don't feel like paying.

I'll probably do the one-year thing, because who knows, in a year there may be a better app for doing what I want, or even a .Mac-price reduction, in which case I'd switch to a proprietary system in a heartbeat (as much as I love Google, I love Apple more).

Sad day, I guess. For now I'm grinding my teeth whether to pay the $25 at all, but I doubt I'll find a better (or comparable) app for less (or free).

I'm the tax man

Shazam! I filed my tax return the other night. Sans paper.

That's right, because I make under $30k per year, the federal government wants to be nice to me and allow me to file with any number of online providers, including the venerable Turbo Tax (with which I've filed all of my returns since turning 16 and working and having a W2 form -- aside from the past three state returns. More on that later).

So what does the robotic tax guy tell me? I get back $500. Woo! Oh, wait. It's all going toward my debt.

Between school loans, a camera I fell on and broke, and just the extra treat for myself, I figure I better use this blessing to slice a sliver off of my god-given, American right to live beyond my means.

It's actually really cool, usually I get back $200, tops. I guess what with earning my living and all, I've been giving Uncle Sam more of my livelihood than when I was hosting at Ehrhardt's and working at an Exxon station.

I haven't done my state return yet. And I don't know if I have to do a local return. I've never had to before, but I don't live in good old Pike County anymore (the only county in Pennsylvania to technically be part of the greater New York Metropolitan area). I'll have to ask someone around here if Adams requires them or not. It's a pretty rural county, so I suspect not.

You see, while the federal government subsidizes 10 or 15 tax preparers, PA just puts its own software on its site and makes you muck through it. I've used it before, but I like Turbo Tax better. It's more intuitive (which it damn sure better be -- the company that owns it is Intuit).

But I'll probably file that sucker this week, and hopefully I won't owe anything (I think one year I owed like $1, which is dumb because PA doesn't care about anything $1/<).

But it feels good to stay ahead of the curve and have it done well before April 15.

UPDATE:
I've filed my state return, and I don't owe anything. Big surprise.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

In Soviet Russia, journalism amateurs YOU

I admire France. I really do.

For all their snob, for all their "we're better than you," I would kill to live in rural France, surrounded by hills and châteaux, and towns where some doctor discovered Perrier. But barring amateur journalism just seems a bit... fascist... to me.

I mean, seriously, you're going to fine the dude that videotaped some old guy getting the crap kicked out of him? Sure, he probably should have put the camera down and helped, but it's at least important in cases like Rodney King's, in which corruption was thwarted. Right?

This reminds me of one of my favorite Yakov Smirnofisms:
In Soviet Russia, two TV channels: channel one is propaganda. Channel two is KGB telling you to turn back to channel one.

My thoughts on television

So one of two things can happen with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

NBC can lose faith in Aaron Sorkin, which may or may not have already happened. While I like the drama, my TV-critic girlfriend scoffs at me for it. Oh well. I also own the entire series of The Tick on DVD. And not the stupid, animated one. The live-action one with Patrick Wharburton.

So they can cancel the show, force the writers to close open plots and burn off the remaining episodes over the summer. But since they ordered the whole season, I find this unlikely.

Because no one wants to end a show without closure, and I'm sure they've filmed one or two, if not all, remaining episodes.

The second option, I guess, is to move the show to another night when it comes back from hiatus.

I, probably like many American cough potatoes, see this as a death knell for television shows. Sure, once in a while a show does better on another night, but most of the time they just sort of dry up.

But the move might be good for the show. If you think about it, the target audience for Heroes is preteen, teen and 18-24, and any show you put on after a hit like Heroes is bound to want the same audience, as they're more likely to just stick around another hour.

So of course Studio 60 wasn't really right for that entire audience. While my liberal, tree-hugging, Mac-loving, fat ass liked the show, the same can't be said of many others. It's a show about adults, and what high school or college student wants to watch a boring story about adults. I have other reasons for liking it, I find a backstage look into SNL fascinating, and geeze I just like the story.

Anyway, this new crap, The Black Donnelleys, seems more tailored to the Heroes crowd. At least some of them. I like Heroes, but I do not like The Black Donnellys.

Because it seems to me someone said, "Hey, let's make The Departed into a TV show. But with young people. And a love story. Boom."

But they couldn't tell a story of Irish kids in Boston, because, let's face it, it's cliché. And they couldn't tell a story of Italian kids in NYC for the same reason? Solution. The ol' switcheroo.

That and I find the story telling, while inventive, a little trite and predictable. How do you narrate a show without having some bodiless voice hovering over everyone, omniscient and omnipresent?

Desperate Housewives found a rather ingenious way to do this: kill a character and then have her narrate the rest. She's dead, she's a ghost. Of course she's omniscient. It's a fun way to poke fun at the voice over in general.

Having a prisoner who just happens to know the whole story you want to hear, and tells it to you while trying to get you to like him and realize he's not a bad guy, why's he in prison, just taxes me.

While moving Studio 60 to another night won't really affect me (I'm subscribed to the season via iTunes), I just wanted to speak my piece.

Oh, and in August, I don't think anyone saw Tina Fey's show doing way better than Aaron Sorkin's. In fact, I think most people thought of 30 Rock as a joke. Which it is, but it's a damn funny joke, and I wish it wasn't on during Grey's Anatomy.

Besides, I still refuse to believe anyone called 30 Rockafeller Center "30 Rock."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

High School chemistry classes are your friend

Matt & Ian are back. And I'm liking the extremely minimal interface they've provided.

I don't know if it's temporary or the new permanent design, but I vote to keep it. It's interesting they've been doing this since November and no one's said anything (to me) until tonight (when my brother IMed me with the URL).

But kudos to them. Their comic brought me into the world of Web comics, and the paperless humor they provide. Machall: Volume Whatever is on my list of things to buy just to preserve, if not read over and over. Other list items include all the Josh Joplin albums, every form of the movie Gattaca, and (until recently, when I received a copy) The Postal Service's Give Up.

Back on track: Read the comic. especially this one.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Wood and leather

Is it contradicting that I'm a minimalist who enjoys the deep flavors and tones of hardwood? Do those philosophies clash?

Is it wrong that while I love my Mac's sparse lines, my IKEA lamp's simplicity, but at the same time want to sand and restain my desk a darker color?

Maybe it's my childhood. I grew up in a mahogany living room. The floors -- while not mahogany -- were hardwood, the walls were mahogany, the eaved ceiling was mahogany (my dad's since redone the ceiling to drywall and installed two skylights), the beams running across were stained dark red/brown to match everything else. The wood railing surrounding the fireplace was mahogany.

It was dark, and warm, and I will never forget it. Everytime I step into a wooden room I feel nostalgia. Caitlin and I went to her church this past weekend. And while it's been remodeled since my last visit, it still has fabulous wooden eaves and beams. And it made me think of home.

For whatever reason, I want it to be 1943 without the war. People just dressed differently back then, and it looked better. Everything looked better.

The buckles on your luggage actually worked, instead of being some disgusting faux-clasps with snaps or magnetic hooks underneath.

I hate that. If you're going to take the time to sew buckles on a bag, dammit make them work.

Drywall, while clean, efficient and nice, is just a little cold for my taste. My house is going to have a den. Like my grandfather's. And the den is going to be warm. Wood and leather, and not much else.