Monday, December 25, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Casino Royale

Casino Royale

When I first saw previews for the new Bond flick, I had trouble buying into Daniel Craig as the new 007. While Pierce Brosnan isn't a remarkable actor, I had gotten used to seeing him in the last few installments of the series. All of those films were fairly entertaining, with Goldeneye the best of the Brosnan era. But whereas Brosnan played Bond with a smartass confidence, Craig takes a much more raw approach which reveals more character than Brosnan ever did. Brosnan fulfilled a stereotype and caricature, never really providing any depth to the character. In Casino Royale, Craig is believable as a young, brash MI6 agent starting out his career, with a few missteps along the way to becoming an elite secret agent. Complex action scenes and fancy gadgets take a seat in favor of plot development during which the hero and villians take turns trying to outmaneuver each other. This was effectively accomplished in the setting of a super high-stakes poker tournament with millions on the line. It was good to see poker playing such a large role, as the poker scenes were interesting; several hands between Bond and the villian, Le Chiffre, are played out to dramatic effect.

As far as action movies go, Casino Royale is well done and worth seeing. With a new Bond on board, it looks like the franchise is headed in the right direction.

Monday, November 13, 2006

new Incubus - "Anna Molly" MP3

The new Incubus album, Light Grenades, is due out November 28th. The catchy and rocking first single, "Anna Molly", features cool guitar riffs courtesy of Mike Einziger and is getting played on the radio. While it's not quite as good or epic as previous first singles "Megalomaniac" or "Wish You Were Here," "Anna Molly" is still a concise, quality song.

MP3: Incubus - "Anna Molly"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An Amityville Halloween: Noah's Ark Style

Originally published October 2005

I've been watching some horror recently, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original and the remake, starring Jessica Biel), to Rosemary's Baby, to The Amityville Horror (both the original and the remake). I've always been fascinated by the supernatural, and I enjoy finding great horror movies even though I haven't really seen too many flicks that truly scared me (the original Exorcist comes close).

The story of the Amityville house (pictured left) that the movies are based upon is an exceedingly creepy tale.

An Amityville house website

I've been thinking about how much fun (or how intensely scary) it would be to spend the night in a haunted/ possessed house like the one in Amityville. Being a believer in demons as agents of the devil, I would like the chance to see what goes on for myself.

But, I'm far too much of a pansy.

So, I figure if I ever go to a house, I would spend the night with a sizable entourage (great show by the way). The members of this Crazy Crew would be carefully selected by yours truly. I would take 6 groups of two individuals each, for a grand total of 13 people including myself. Here are my selections:

2 Paranormal Investigators These would be Ed and Lorraine Warren, the famous investigators who have decades of experience with exorcisms, hauntings, and paranormal phenomena. They're sort of like the Mulder and Scully of real life, except they're married and their roles are sort of reversed. The Warren's stories are terribly intriguing, and I'm sure the old couple would have a calming effect on me, even if, in reality, they happen to be complete cooks and phonies. The fact they've already been in the Amityville house would call for bonus points, so they are an indispensable pair on my list.

2 Roman Catholic Priests

These would be the old-school badass kind of priests, not the ones that fondle 7-year-old boys. They would be highly trained in the rites of exorcism; one priest would be in his late 50's and would have a weakness for a good glass of scotch. The other would be in his mid-30's and a huge football and baseball fan. The older one would quietly refer to his numerous battles with demons as difficult but necessary, while the younger one would constantly say how "we always make Satan our bitch" and that "Lucifer was clearly behind the Curse of the Bambino," but that "the Boston Red Sox suck, too."

2 Physicians

One would be a 45-year-old male general surgeon with an M.D. from Johns Hopkins, Duke, Stanford, or any of the top Ivy League Medical Schools. This guy would also have played Division I basketball as a 6'2, 215-pound wing as an undergrad, walking onto the team but getting significant minutes by the time he was a junior. This would give us an extra able-bodied guy if a situation calling for drastic measures were to arise.

The other doctor would be a pretty female 30-year-old blonde psychiatrist with an M.D. from either the University of Virginia, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, or University of California - Los Angeles. She would have paid her way through medical school by doing tasteful cover shoots for fashion magazines, in addition to writing reviews for a mildly successful rock publication not unlike Spin. She would be the middle child of a family of 8, losing her dad at a relatively young age in a tragic seawreck (her father died while heroically rescuing his family from the wreckage of a sinking battleship). She'd be sweet but cool under pressure, serving as a nice complementary player to the entourage.

Obviously these doctors would come in handy in case of any physical or psychological maladies, and the more intelligent people with me, the better.

2 Comedians
This is a really tough call. I would have to go with Will Ferrell and Dave Chappelle. If things get hairy inside the Amityville house, I still want to be able to have a chance to laugh once in a while. Plus, if both of those guys lose it, then I won't feel as bad when I pee my pants after seeing the Anti-Christ.

2 Super-Hotties/ Models
If I wind up having to come to terms with the fact my life could be ending at the hands of Beelzebub, I might as well try and hit up the two smoking hotties that will have to accompany my crew on the haunted trip. These two honey babies, right now, would have to be Jessica Alba and Dagmara Dominczyk.

Alba is just ridiculously hot, and she strikes me as a pretty cool chick. Meanwhile, Dagmara is amazingly gorgeous to the point that any guy in her presence would zone out and start drooling uncontrollably (she played Mercedes in The Count of Monte Cristo and was in a John Mayer video, among other things).
Dagmara's website

Even if it doesn't look like I might die, at least I'll have them constantly distracting me from Lucifer's evil forces.

2 Well-Rounded Scholar-Athletes
These guys would be two males, most likely an astronaut who played football at Yale before getting his Masters in Quantum Physics, and the other a genius Harvard dropout who found his way onto the elite Delta Force black ops of the United States armed forces (the dudes that can kill 50 armed men with only a fig and a toothbrush at their disposal). The Harvard/Yale rivalry would occasionally be a source for half-assed debate and shit-talking, that is until the Delta Force guy would stop caring because he dropped out of Harvard anyway. That, and the fact he could still kick everyone's ass.

With various practical and highly-specialized skills (one was the son of a mechanic while the other was a general contractor during his high school summers) available to them, these guys would be the glue of the team. Also having great taste in movies and music, these two will always have something interesting to say, and they'll never feel awkward when the doctors or the priests start talking about their professions. They could be a threat to boink the hotties, but I'm willing to take one for the team. If they get out of hand, I'll kick them out anyway, because I'm the fucking brains behind this operation anyway, so why don't you cry about it?
I'm fairly satisfied with my Amityville Team, and I'd be willing to go to war with them any night of the week.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Departed

The Departed

I caught The Departed last weekend, and Martin Scorsese's latest does not disappoint. With a stellar cast (Nicholson, DiCaprio, Damon, Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and a funny Alec Baldwin) and plenty of suspense, this is as good as crime and gangster movies get. Unfortunately for Scorsese, due to the violence, subject matter, and lack of any strong female leads, he'll probably get shut out for the Best Director or Best Picture Oscars again, but this one is up there with his best films.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Baseball's biggest waste of money

The Yankees and their $200 million payroll were sent home yesterday by the Detroit Tigers. It was priceless seeing the dejected looks of all the Yankee players towards the end of the game. George Steinbrenner will surely go nuts after this latest collapse, with Joe Torre apparently the first to go.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

R.E.M. happenings

Last week, R.E.M. was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and ex-drummer Bill Berry rejoined the band for a three-song set. Bill has been sorely missed since he left R.E.M. in 1998, and I've always hoped that he would rejoin the band before all is said and done. Good to see them back together for at least a little while.

I also happened to miss
this article in which Mike Mills says that the next R.E.M. record will rock more, which is certainly good news.

Here is a review of the new R.E.M. compilation I Feel Fine.

My apologies for taking a bit of a summer hiatus from blogging, I'll try to keep this a little more updated in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

I finally saw the movie that's made a billion dollars at the box office during the past two weeks. The new Pirates flick was solid, enjoyable but almost excruciatingly long at two and a half hours. Johnny Depp delivers another entertaining turn as Jack Sparrow,and while the action scenes were entertaining, almost every sequence went on for five minutes longer than needed. There's no reason this movie couldn't have been 30 minutes shorter, making it better in the process.

So far, the first is the better of the two, but I'll be looking forward to the next installment next summer.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Superman Returns

Superman Returns

I took in Superman Returns this past weekend with some anticipation, especially since it has been fairly well reviewed. I came away somewhat disappointed, as the second half of the movie dragged on after a promising start. The script seemed to fall apart after the Kryptonite island entered the plot, and the running time was far too long. Also, Kate Bosworth wasn't very convincing as Lois Lane.

It will be interesting to see what the sequels hold, especially since we are introduced to the son of Superman (an underdeveloped plotline which wasn't handled well by the writers). Batman is where it's at in terms of the superhero genre now that Batman Begins has re-energized the franchise.

Hope everyone had a great 4th!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Chessboxing? Are you kidding me??

I was perplexed to check out today and see that a sport called chessboxing was featured on the front page. You're got to be kidding, right? Leave it to the Europeans to come up with a ridiculous sport.

The rules of the "sport" are as follows:

Two competitors face each other in 11 alternating rounds, six of chess, five of boxing. A bout begins with chess, which is played on a board placed directly in the middle of the ring. Each round of chess lasts four minutes. After each chess round, the bell sounds, and workmen remove the chessboard for a two-minute round of boxing, the gloves go back on, the punching recommences. Participants win by way of knockout, checkmate, referee's decision, or if his opponent exceeds the allotted total of 12 minutes for an entire match on the chessboard.

I have to admit, as skeptical as I am of chessboxing, and as much as I am wondering if this is some sort of prank, the idea of watching some dude take out his chess frustrations out in the form of physical violence grows on you. "You just made me your bitch when you took out my queen, now I'm going to knock you unconscious!"

The amount of interest in these alternative sports is intriguing; just the other day, ESPN2 had a televised World Domino Tournament. Considering every player came from North America or the Caribbean, I wasn't exactly sure how the winners could claim to be the best of the world. The top prize was for a paltry $30,000 or so, which pales in comparison to the prize pools for televised poker tournaments, which fall into the same basic category of programming.

The games almost always draw spectators, so perhaps it is no surprise that the ESPN sports network has declared dominoes the next big spectator sport...

Domino matches "almost always" draw spectators? Sounds like a great reason to throw tons of money at a game few people play. Can't wait to see what the geniuses at ESPN throw at us next.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

NBA Champs

"i clearly don't belong anywhere near here," says a hideously out of place Jason Williams (cracker in the lower left corner) surrounded by other players who actually made meaningful contributions to Miami's title run.

Congrats to the Miami Heat for winning the NBA Championship in 6 games over the Dallas Mavericks.

This fourth ring vindicates Shaquille O'Neal, who has brought home the championship he promised Miami fans two years ago when he arrived to the Heat from the Lakers. This further makes Kobe Bryant - one of my most hated sports figures - look bad, since the Lakers have gone downhill ever since the Big Aristotle bolted for greener pastures.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Will Ferrell: Comic Genius

One of my friends just pointed out that the trailer for the new Will Ferrell movie, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, is up and available here. It comes out in August, and it looks like NASCAR and redneck humor will be a winning combination.

Ferrell is one of those rare comedians who makes me laugh just by looking at him. He's also provided some of the funniest supporting characters for the big screen in recent memory.

For some weekend laughs, here's
Ferrell doing the classic cowbell Blue Oyster Cult skit. Happy Friday.

Top 5 Will Ferrell Movie Characters

1. Ron Burgundy in Anchorman
2. Frank the Tank in Old School
3. Jacobin Mugatu in Zoolander
4. Chas Reinhold in Wedding Crashers
5. Big Gay Earl in Starsky and Hutch

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

gearing up for the World Cup

The greatest sporting event in the world is set to begin tomorrow, June 9.

The U.S. team, faced with a tough draw but fielding perhaps its best team ever, will open against the Czech Republic. (ESPN preview)

The issue for the U.S. is that historically they have never fared well in Europe. Here's to a good showing for the American squad.


My only problem with soccer players is that they can be a little too flamboyant. Too much acting and crying after fouls, and too many pretty boys, such as some of the dudes below.

I figured I would get in the World Cup flow by analyzing some of the more ridiculous hair cuts in recent soccer history, focusing on several prominent players who rock long hair, often to disastrous effect.

Long hair is certainly a gamble for any heterosexual male. For soccer players, nothing looks worse than getting beat by a striker when you're a fullback or whiffing on an easy chance as a scorer, except for when you do it with stupid looking hair. It takes a certain talent to pull off the look without coming off as a pansy - you have to be a badass or suffer the consequences. The sport of soccer has provided many overly confident dudes who have been more than willing to give it a shot.

Here are some of my favorites and commentary:

David Beckham

Ah, Becks. You have to start off with one of the most recognizable sports figures and celebrities in the entire world. Females everywhere worship this man and his various haircuts. As a soccer player, he is vastly overrated, despite his sick left foot on set plays.

With that being said, Beckham is guilty of showcasing some of the most awful looking hair you'll ever see. I've never understood why this guy doesn't leave his bitchy Spice Girl wife when he's in the prime of his life and could hit any one of what must be a billion hotter hotties, but to each his own.

final analysis of the hair: UNCOOL

Francesco Totti

Totti is a badass. One of the best players in the world, Totti easily pulls off the long-haired look. I would love to be this guy. Exhibit A is just below, as Totti seduces the ladies with ease. Normally Italian soccer players are too full of themselves for their own good, but Totti backs everything up with stellar play and goals. Don't mess with Totti.

final analysis of the hair: VERY COOL

Alexi Lalas

I'm torn on this one. A posterboy for U.S. and MLS soccer in the mid-nineties, Lalas was easily found by looking for his freakishly orange and disheveled hair and absurd goatee. Lalas was on the Best Damn Sports Show Period a couple nights ago, and the funny thing is, he looks completely normal and respectable cleanly shaven and with short hair.

In the end, I have to give the guy props for making himself look like a clown and still managing to play decently.

final analysis of the hair: COOL (beard seals it)

Marcelo Balboa

Every time I see Balboa commentating on ESPN2, I cringe. He looked bad enough in 1994 when the U.S. team overachieved in the World Cup, but you would think 10 years later, after retiring, that he would take a clue from his teammate Alexi and get rid of the ridiculous hair. Doesn't he have a daughter that loves him? What about shame? The sport will not be taken seriously in this country until this clown finally gets a haircut.

final analysis of the hair: VERY UNCOOL

Carlos Valderrama

The Clown Prince of Soccer. The 90's sure featured alot of long-locked futbol players. This Ronald-McDonald-on-crack looking dude was always the center of attention thanks to his ridiculous fro masterpiece. Anybody that risks potentially damning their family names for centuries deserves some credit for the gall. Props to this eccentric Colombian.

final analysis of the hair: CIRCUS FREAK SHOW COOL

Jeff Agoos

Fuck you, Jeff Agoos. Another older player retired from the ranks, Agoos came off looking like a Steven Seagal clone, except whereas Seagal could kick a lot of ass when you get down to it, Agoos kicks NO ONE'S ass, especially in the 2002 World Cup during which he almost single-handedly led to the destruction of the U.S. defense. He would let attackers beat him and get past him almost as easily as the joke of a French Army allowed the German Blitzkreig to storm Paris in World War II. I would get so mad at this guy watching him cost my team, and his stupid looking hair did nothing but make me more furious.

final analysis of the hair: OFFENSIVELY UNCOOL

more to come...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

just because you believe God exists...

... doesn't mean you should be stupid around wild animals.

I would have loved to have been in the crowd when
some idiot entered the lions cage in a Kiev zoo and was mauled to death.

From the news article:
"The man shouted 'God will save me, if he exists', lowered himself by a rope into the enclosure, took his shoes off and went up to the lions," the official said.
"A lioness went straight for him, knocked him down and severed his carotid artery."

Maybe the Devil was out a day early, since today is 6-6-06.
Speaking of which, I was looking forward to the remake of The Omen, which comes out this week, but early reviews are fairly negative. Good horror flicks are tough to come by.

May you have a Satan-free day!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Verdict: Scientology is dumb.

Some may have heard recently that a South Park episode was pulled from Comedy Central and the dude who does Chef's voice quit because the creators of the show, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, parodied Scientology in a recent episode.

The Chef's voice actor (Isaac Hayes) quit because he's a Scientologist and refused
to be a part of something that poked fun at his own religion, despite a show with 150-odd episodes that has harshly lampooned every conceivable subset of global culture. This is a guy who's first album was entitled "Black Moses" and who was featured on at least one Wu-Tang CD.

Comedy Central pulled the episode from rotation because Tom Cruise, a "renowned" Scientologist and royal fuckass, threatened to not publicize his upcoming third take on Mission Impossible. Maybe this time they'll get it right. Funny that Comedy Central is owned by Viacom, which also owns Paramount, who is producing Mission Impossible 3. It's also ironic that Hollywood demonizes the cronyism in politics that it inexorably emulates. How hollow the ivory pillars of Hollywood are...

All of this might be understandable if Scientology were itself reputable as a religion or belief. In fact, were it just a belief it would be pathetic enough, but that it's considered a "religion" is simply incomprehensible.

But who am I to derogate another's beliefs without at least understanding them? So let's take a look.

As I am consulting Wikipedia, I have to mention that this is the third time now that I've needed to remind myself of the basic tenants of this religion; the reason for which you may understand by the end of this post.

Scientology was founded about 50 years ago, i.e. after World War II, by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard liked to write about spaceships, aliens, and the spirits of living things. Throughout his life, Hubbard stood in the shadows of good science-fiction writers like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and H. G. Wells (who conceived modern space rocketry). Unlike Wells, he thought he knew what was best for everyone, so he decided to gather all the weak-minded people he could find to believe in his creation story.

[Everything in quotations below refers to Hubbard's own words]

75 million years ago, the Galactic Emperor Xenu (though Hubbard also referred to him as "Xemu" and as "Zenu," perhaps it was a typo), feeling that his Galactic Empire was vastly overpopulated (~76 planets with 178 billion people each) shuttled billions of humans to Earth on intergalactic spacecraft that were exact copies of the modern day Douglas DC-8 aircraft, "except the DC-8 had fans, propellers on it and the space plane didn't." Note that DC-8's have turbine engines, not propellers.

The pretense under which the billions of people were brought to Earth by Xen(m)u was that all of these billions were called for "income tax inspections." Upon arrival for these inspections at their local city hall, Xen(m)u had psychiatrists paralyze every single person with a combination of alcohol and glycol (antifreeze). The populace was then loaded onto the somehow-retrofitted DC-8's and transported to Earth to be stacked around volcanoes and ultimately destroyed by detonating hydrogen bombs within the volcanoes - they were all detonated simultaneously, for dramatic effect, I suppose.

I'm not sure why Xen(m)u chose a plan with such logistical headaches when he could have just send everyone into a black hole, or a star, or space itself, but I guess Hubbard was just a fucking moron.

Xenu or Xemu

Upon the calamitous explosions on Earth, the souls of the people (now called thetans) were collected by Xen(m)u using a cosmic vacuum cleaner and then place into a movie theater to watch, for 36 days, a "three-D, super colossal motion picture." Huh. Apparently this movie was pretty bad, because it implanted "various misleading data" into the memories of the thetans, "which has to do with God, the Devil, space opera, etcetera." Hubbard also states that the interior design of all movie theaters to be due to this brain-washing (though souls don't have brains). This is particularly interesting, since movie theaters have changed drastically in the 90 years popular cinema has been around. In fact, movies didn't have sound until 1927. Sigh.

Xen(m)u's cosmic vacuum was clearly stolen by Mel Brooks in Spaceballs

What happened between this pointless holocaust 75 million years ago and today is flat-out uninterpretable, due in large part to ridiculous and inconsistent naming, anachronisms, and the total lack of an understanding of how to structure and convey a story in the English language.

I should add that all of this was preceded by the creation of the Universe 4 quadrillion years ago, or 300,000 times older than the current scientific consensus. In this creation myth Hubbard describes what essentially is a generic Dark Ages painting; lots of light, a chariot, and a cherub with a trumpet.

Fuck, this is wearing me out, it's just so godamn stupid.

Strangely, the Church of Scientology denies knowing about the whole Xen(m)u thing, and refrains from speaking about it at all costs. It's either because only the top level acolytes of Scientology (called "OTVII") are ready to learn about Xen(m)u, or that this inane, nonsensical, unorganized science fiction story would embarass the Church and undermine the efforts of recruiting more idiots.

So what do Scientologists actually believe? They believe:

  • Mind-altering substances of any kind are prohibited, this includes alcohol and cigarettes. Note that Hubbard assisted his research (I can't imagine what he was actually doing that he called "research") by gorging on rum, uppers, and downers. Hubbard's assistant at the time wrote that he "was existing almost totally on a diet of drugs."
  • Psychiatric and psychological treament is forbidden, and psychiatrists and psychologists are evil. I guess this is because Xen(m)u used psychiatrists to paralyze all the humans. What the fuck...
  • The souls of humans are immortal. This is brilliant, I wonder if Hubbard had heard of other organized religions?
  • People have lived many past lives and will live many future lives. Same point as above.
  • A newcomer's mental readiness must be evaluated by a trained Scientologist and an E-Meter, which is the same device as I used in Intro to Electromagnetism in Sophomore year to measure the resistance across two battery nodes. This actually begins the brain-washing of the newcomers.
  • Birth must be silent! That's right, no one can speak, because any words spoken at birth may be retained by the newborn baby (who by the way doesn't know any languages yet) and associated to his/her detriment later in life. Hmm....sounds like psychology to me Hubbard. Or maybe he just meant that trained psychologists are evil.
  • Newborn babies must not be washed, but rather wrapped up tightly and left alone for an entire day. Read that again.
  • Breastfeeding is prohibited! In supplement, Hubbard recommends a mixture of barley water, homogenized milk, and corn syrup or honey. Honey can cause infant botulism - nerve-blocking and respiratory and musculoskeletal paralysis. Of the mixture, Hubbard said he "picked it up in Roman days." Corn syrup, made from maize, was not present outside of the Americas until after colonization by Europeans began.
  • Scientology is fully compatible with all religions. This is despite what we learned from the Xen(m)u incident I guess.
  • "Fair Game." This idea was introduced by Hubbard, and incites Scientologists to use criminal behavior, deception and exploitation of the legal system to resist "Suppresive Persons", i.e. people or groups that "actively seeks to suppress or damage Scientology or a Scientologist by Suppressive Acts". He defined "Fair Game" as:
    "ENEMY — SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed."

Sadly, the last bullet is consistent with the Church's practice, being characterized by fighting numerous extremely long and costly legal battles, and even being implicated in the death of at least one Church member.

An evil psychiatrist and her helpless, misguided patient

I'm not even halfway through the material, but I think I've made my point:

If, by now, you are not convinced that Scientology's underlying principles may qualify not as a legitimate belief structure, but only as an honorable mention 5th grade science fiction contest entry, then I suggest you contact the Church and schedule an E-meter reading.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Summer Blockbusters

Very brief reviews of a couple of big movies I've seen in the past couple weeks:

Mission: Impossible 3

I thought this one was the best of the franchise (M:I2 was awful and the first was entertaining). Even though I hate Tom Cruise almost as much as cancer, I was impressed by the action scenes and the cast did a fine job as far as popcorn action movies go.

The Da Vinci Code

Not sure why all the critics hung this movie in their reviews. I found it suspenseful and adequately-acted, with some occasional cheesy dialogue and the sometimes overbearing soundtrack score being my only complaints. Ian McKellan was great, as usal. And how can you go wrong with Tom Hanks? As long as you don't look too critically into the story and take it for what it is, which is pure fiction, you'll enjoy this one.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Walkmen perform at 9:30 Club

by The Monitors

I could have sworn I stood in the middle of a circle of people having a screaming contest with megaphones last night, but apparently I went to The Walkmen show at 9:30 Club in D.C.

There are two things that are initially striking about seeing this band live:
1. The lead singer is not the dark-haired moody that you picture from the albums but is a tall, blonde, Lacoste-wearing frat boy. He may as well be an SAE at Florida State.
2. They are LOUD.

The first item isn't too hard to get over, especially in comparison to discovering that the Caesars' bassist is about 60 years old. But the problem with The Walkmen live (and I've seen them twice) is that their sound is very disorganized. I like my music loud, but it seems like they fired their sound tech and turned every knob to 11.

What's great about their album tracks is that each song is carefully crafted, often very slowly building up emotional steam and growing louder and becoming unraveled as the song reaches climax. And the instruments are very well laid down, one doesn't drown out another, and it adds to the potential energy.

But this is entirely lost in the live show. There is no control of volume, nor control of vocals, and it really confuses the ear terribly. I don't think a live song should mimic the album, but this band's greatest strength is drowned in a poorly conceived stage show.

They must have played about 6 new songs, and since the album came out only 2 days earlier, few people would have a chance to hear it. We all heard them at the show, but I couldn't tell you which ones are winners because the sound was so cacaphonous.

To their credit, they delivered "The Rat," "Bows & Arrows," "Wake Up," and "Thinking of a Dream I Had" excellently, and it really got the crowd moving, including the requisite inhibitionless fist-pumping white guy with the crazy afro.

All in all, I give this show 3.0 stars out of 5.0, with Andrew W.K. being 5.0 and The Cardigans being 1.0.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Intellectual Steve pulls a fast one on the Borgata

So, last week Intellectual Steve and yours truly headed up to Atlantic City and the Borgata to play some poker. Steve had gotten a free room from the kind, altruistic folks at Boyd Gaming, and he asked me a couple weeks back if I was down for the trip. I'm not one to turn down a free room and a good time, so I was there with gambling bells on.

We set out from his cozy pad in Riverside, MD and drove confidently towards the sordid, putrid marshes of the shittiest state in the Union. We had delusions of turning a few hundred dollars into thousands with little effort and expense, and we hoped to catch a free comedy show in the process. The world was our little oyster, and the pearl inside had a big black "B" and the Ace of spades on it.

the Borgata has been literally built and paid for by misguided blackjack bets.

Little did we know that our dreams were to be shattered, and that we were in for a rude awakening.

The trip got started on the wrong foot when Steve made the executive decision to start off the night playing blackjack. Historically, this spells disaster for your two heroes, as previous trips have featured Steve playing solid while I play like a drunken donkey and piss away all my chips as soon as I lose a couple of hands. Milk (blackjack) was a bad choice!

I always tell myself that I should never play blackjack, but when a friend of mine plays and asks me to join, who am I to ruin the fun and say no? I agreed to play along, which oftentimes is little better than riding shotgun with a notorious drunk driver and offering to pour him shots of Jager to "take off the edge" while he speeds to the nearest bar that sells discount six-packs of Natty Bo before 2 AM closing time. Blackjack is an evil game, and Steve and I had no problem taking on the Devil of all gambling Hell. Despite my better judgement, I took a shot with the understanding I would quit as soon as I turned a $25 profit.

The blackjack devils immediately sent a crystal clear message to the protagonists of this little tale by bending Intellectual Steve over and taking hundreds of his hard-earned dollars. A clear and ominous sign was sent out within the first 5 minutes of ill-advised play when Steve split 8's twice and also doubled down one of the splits, sending out $80 of his red soldiers against the dealer's paltry 6. Tragically, the 6 turned into an ugly 20 and Steve was down in the hole. Having learned that hard way that I suck at the game big time, I continued to bet $10 a hand like a little girl, losing a little before making a comeback and turning a profit for the session.

this looked alot like me and Steve, except Steve had a look of horror on his face, we looked more distressed, and we didn't look anywhere near as flamingly gay.

I ended up cashing out up $25 as I promised myself. Steve did not fair quite so well, as he fired $100 bet salvos into the highly-oxygenated Borgata air only to bust like a Ben Affleck movie, or watch the dealer destroy his 20's with blackjacks and fuck up his double downs with bricks and sick 5-card 21's. I had seen this before, and I could feel his pain.

Steve was getting whored, so I suggested we play poker. He sheepishly obliged in order to get a change of pace and halt his profuse hemorrhaging of chips. We took seats at a $1/$2 no-limit table before I got beat badly in a hand to the tune of $100 (my AK vs AQ, and the douchebag with AQ hit a Q on the turn after we both flopped Aces) and demanded we move to a limit table (no limit is for pansies, I always say). Not even 5 minutes elapsed when Steve took out his cell phone, and stood up from the table.

Intellectual Steve: "Hey man, I'll be right back, I just need to make a quick phone call."

me: "Sure dude, I'll be right here."

Well, Steve was bluffing, as he never returned. The game broke, so I went straight up to the blackjack tables, where I assumed Steve must have returned to resume his sadistic thrashing. Lo and behold, he was firmly planted in a seat, with a pile of greens and a look of desperation in his eye. "Oh hey, are you still playing?" said a mildly uncomfortable Steve, who was sweating his hundred dollar bet and barely paying attention to my answer when I explained the game broke as a direct result of his absence from the table downstairs.

Steve continued to take a pummeling. He couldn't get a winner to save his life. After a table change in vain to change his fortunes resulted in more profit for the evil Borgata gaming conglomerate, Steve and I decided to lick our wounds by drinking at the bar and relaxing for a bit.

After all, drinking always makes things much better, right??

We looked to grab seats at the bar, where strategically placed video poker machines entice drinkers to gamble even more, as if losing the family mortgage at the craps tables weren't enough. These casino fuckers are relentless.

Luckliy for Steve and me, I had stumbled onto a little trick to use the casinos video poker machines against their nefarious masters. You see, the B Bar at the Borgata will give you free drinks as long as you are playing the retarded video poker at the bar. So, I discovered a system where you throw 5 bucks into the machine, and bet 25 cents a credit ONLY when the bartenders come up to you and ask you for your drink of choice. The goal is to refrain from gambling and losing any money in between drink orders. This way, you never have to pay the absurd $8 a beer or 20 fucking dollars for mixed drinks, or whatever those bastards charge us poor suckers. It's pure genius, and Steve and I have been using it abusing it as soon as we found out about the policy.

They might take hundreds from us at the blackjacks tables, but we're going to get drunk for free, bitches! It feels damn good to be cheap sometimes.

As soon as we arrived at the bar to implement our scheme, we discovered that the only two available 25 cent machines were broken, as a technician of some sort was opening the things up and repairing them. Both of us waited patiently until they were repaired, with Steve jumping on the first one while I waited for the second to be fixed.

It was here when Steve busted out a brilliant move from his gambling playbook.

Without hesitation, Steve took out a crisp 5 dollar bill and inserted it into the vacuum of a slot machine. He immediately hailed the services of one of the metrosexual bartenders and ordered one of the most expensive items one the drink menu, a tart but delicious glass of red wine, normally a whopping $15. Steve pretended to be feverishly playing the video poker to make sure the drink was free, and was doing a damn good acting job.

Despite his theatrics, Steve is still a true gambler. He was ready to win a few quarters while getting free shit, so he pressed the "Deal" button and was dealt four cards to a straight. Fucking fantastic!

Now, I had noticed that the machine was still acting funny, since the lights on it kept turning on and off, and the graphics kept resetting at odd times. We even had to give it a couple of love taps to make sure it was working properly.

"I don't know about this Steve, I'm not sure it's working, you don't want to lose your five bucks in the machine, you know they'll screw you over for it," I said, honestly not really caring if he lost that much.

Steve, however, did not give a rat's ass, and as soon as he had the chance, he drew one card to get his straight. His hand was K-Q-J-10-5, so he held everything but the five. We gazed intently into the machine while the computer distributed the card, dust and grime gleaming off the screen. The new card was an ugly 6. Steve had lost.

Just then, the machine lights turned off again, only this time the screen completely reset. Steve's remaining $4.75 in credits was nowhere to be found. It was gone, possibly forever.

It was our good fortune, however, that a casino floorlady happened to be overseeing the technician's repairs. I quickly told Steve to get with the program, pretend to be pissed as hell, and tell the floorperson that the malfunctioning machine had robbed and embezzled him of his $5. After the requisite verification and questioning, the casino rep filled out a form for the lost monies. Casino refunds are a big deal to the house, and casinos rarely give them out unless you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are owed money on account of incompetence by the casino.

suck it! Steve walked away with a cool 5 dollar bill, quite similar to the one pictured above.

The beauty of this whole play was that Steve had played a losing hand of video poker. He clearly had a busted straight. The last time I checked, 6-10-J-Q-K did not make any sort of legitimate straight in any English-speaking modern societies.

Calmly imbibing his glass of otherwise ridiculously expensive red wine, Steve thanked the floorlady as she apologized for the inconvenience and handed the con artist a brand new 5 dollar bill.

"Do you want to keep playing?" I asked the shady wine drinker.

"No - let's get the fuck out of here!" he retorted; he was already walking quickly for the exit as soon as he realized he had shafted the casino out of a glass of wine AND a whole quarter.

I had a huge smile on my face. Steve had just dumped hundreds playing a table game he could not walk away from. As soon as he got a few cents from the casino illegitimately, he was happy as a kid in a candy store. For a few moments, we were big winners in the casino that night. I'll never forget the day Steve took the Borgata down, even if it was just a moral victory.

Cheers, brother!