Thursday, January 31, 2013

JJAMZ (at The Griffin SD, January 27, 2013)

JJAMZ at The Griffin SD

(Unfortunately, this photo of them setting up was as clear a shot as I was able to get all night.)

I was able to catch JJAMZ in concert this past Sunday, when they were playing at The Griffin roadhouse in San Diego. Not really my scene, but JJAMZ's 2012 album, Suicide Pact, had been on heavy rotation in my music player lately, so, when I heard that they were coming to San Diego, it seemed the natural progression for me to attend.

Kicking off the night was local band Clockart playing a few songs. Their sound was mellow, generally pleasant, befitting a beach town. The lead singer's wispy vocals tended to get drowned out by the instruments, but I think that's just their style of music.

Up next was JJAMZ. You perhaps know their song "Heartbeat," which was featured in the promo video for the Myspace relaunch late last year, as well as in the Express Holiday 2012 TV spot.

As much as I enjoy their album full of catchy pop songs–Suicide Pact is one of those rare few that I can listen to straight through and enjoy without skipping any tracks—I wasn't sure what to expect from them live. Videos I'd seen online of some of their previous performances suggested to me that lead singer Elizabeth "Z" Berg was maybe not the most sublime live vocalist. But, in person, she really did impress. A practiced performer, she knew how to command the stage and play to the crowd, strutting about, playing with her hair, at one point kneeling toward the crowd, and making eye contact and smiling when she spotted audience members with their camera phones raised. And those vocals? She's really good. Maybe something was lost in those less-than-pristine YouTube videos I'd seen. She definitely put her all into every song, and, although the arrangements were more or less the same, I found her singing more impressive in person than on the album, where she sounds comparatively more processed, ethereal, and restrained. I suppose the clean and steady "disembodied voice" sound of a recording is good and versatile for repeated use as the background music to one's day, whereas the more vital and spontaneous quality of a live performance is desirable when one is committing time and money to go out specifically to give one's full attention to listening.

After they wrapped up their set, the band members also hung around a bit for photos and hugs with fans, which was quite cool.

Their full set list was as follows:

"Never Enough"
"Get What You Want"
"Cleverly Disguised"
"Ceremony" (new song—you can check out a recording from a previous show, captured by YouTube user bluerocketm)
"You Were My Home" (Z Berg: "This is an old song, man. Of a different time in my life.")
"Square One" (apparently the first song they wrote together as a band)
"Suicide Pact"

Closing the show was the headlining indie duo of Adam Green and Binki Shapiro. I had never heard of either of them, which is no surprise, since my musical consumption tends more toward the pedestrian. Adam Green's Facebook page does have about three times as many likes as JJAMZ's, but that's not saying much, since neither has a lot yet (around 25,000 for Green). Binki Shapiro, meanwhile, was mistakenly referred to on JJAMZ's Facebook as "Bikini Shapiro," which I actually thought would have been the cooler name, until I heard one audience member dub her "The Bink," whereupon everything made sense. (In a funny coincidence, I read this article the next day about how, early in their careers, The Beatles opened for one Helen Shapiro.)

In any case, I got the impression that quite a number of those in attendance at The Griffin had, like me, come just for JJAMZ, and I observed many departing in staggered exodus throughout Green and Shapiro's set. In fairness, it was getting late, and maybe people were tired. I stuck around because I would have felt bad leaving early. I found them slightly irritating—Green with his affected awkwardness, all dorky dance moves and dorkier jokes between songs, while Shapiro played his subdued foil—but their music—mostly quirky, tongue-in-cheek love songs—though not especially to my taste, probably holds a certain charm for recovering romantics.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Parks and Recreation (Season 1)

I recently marathoned the first season (it's only six episodes) of Parks and Recreation. I had watched the first episode when it premiered years ago. Thinking it pretty awful, and finding most critics in agreement with that assessment, I had not bothered tuning in for the second. I later heard that it had become a good show—in fact, one of NBC's few highlights, by most accounts—and I would occasionally catch a new episode and think that, yeah, it was pretty funny.

Although my first impression had been that it was no more than a reskinned The Office, I now find that it covers some pretty unique territory, providing a comical yet not altogether inaccurate window into the workings of local bureaucracy. This is of interest to me because, during this past election season, I was very marginally involved with a political campaign at the grassroots level. The second episode, "Canvassing," was a particular highlight, as most of my political action involved canvassing the local community to generate support for our initiative. The episode perfectly captured the apathy (often even antipathy) of the general public to anything even vaguely political, the largely ineffective tactics that canvassers employ to try to lead their targets toward a desired response, and the rapid sapping of one's enthusiasm after repeated rejection against all efforts.

Based on my personal experience, I must say Parks and Rec is startlingly true-to-life in capturing this world—a sometimes insular club, whose work seems to have almost no practical significance to the average citizen (nor, arguably, to effective policy), yet whose members nevertheless will fight tooth and nail to push forward the most inscrutable little bit of ordinance, because quite a number of them are simply true believers in the work that they do and the responsibilities that they hold. In Parks and Rec, this spirit is embodied in the character of Leslie Knope, whose sincere optimism and determination may come across as naive, if not even delusional, but also has a way of winning people over. It inspires, against all reason and red tape, and rekindles, even in those grown jaded, a will to action, as they recognize in her something attractive lacking in themselves. Somehow, impractical though her dreams may be, she is exactly the right person for her job—the one person who actually gives a damn about it. However much pessimism "the real world" may instill in us, I think there remains always some part of us that never stops wanting to believe, so why not cast our lot in with those who still sincerely do? If you'll indulge me, I feel this attitude is aptly summarized by one of my favorite quotes from another show I love: "Doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done, or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be."

* * *

Watching it now from the beginning, so that I can better follow along with the dramatic elements, I also think it's a strong show apart from any feelings one might have on the political aspects. Oftentimes, when I'm watching a BBC show, such as the UK The Office or Merlin, I wonder to myself, are there American shows that the Brits covet, the same way that TV enthusiasts here find their exports so cool and classy compared to our homegrown content? The answer, obviously, is no, because, when it comes to TV and movies, America has long provided the bulk of the world's entertainment (at least in the West), so Europeans are probably already accustomed to watching American television on their regular stations all the time, without thinking to label them as imports. Nevertheless, watching the first season of Parks and Rec, I thought to myself that this was one American show that I would be proud to show off to my British friends (supposing I had any). And, yes, that was probably an incredibly stupid thought, since Parks and Rec is, after all, undeniably a variation on The Office, and they would more likely be intrigued by something uniquely American, along the lines of South Park perhaps, rather than a clone of one of their own shows.

I suppose what I really mean to say is that, to me, Parks and Rec is an American take on a British show done right—far more so than the American The Office ever was. And that is maybe an even stupider thought than my last stupid thought, considering that, as a viewer, I don't actually get the appeal of many of the more popular BBC exports, such as Doctor Who, so who the hell am I to talk about "a British show done right"? And, furthermore, I've only seen the first six episodes of Parks and Rec, now in its fifth season, and maybe it all falls apart later and becomes just one of those typical American comedies, lingering on far beyond the story it has to tell and, along the way, trading realism and artistic integrity for cartoon plots and storybook contrivances. For now, I'm still excited to see more.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dear Readers

If you'd like to continue following my latest bloggings, you can check out my new site here. Thanks again!

Really, must there be a Super Bowl EVERY year?

Ugh. That time of year again.

Not that I'm "too good for sports talk"—you'll note that I do enjoy discussing plenty of sports on this very blog—but I just happen to have no interest whatsoever in the NFL.

"Sorry, Henry," a friend once offered, apparently perceiving my lack of interest in the topic at hand. "Is our football talk leaving you out?"

"No, it's all good," I assured. "I just won't have much to add, other than Marion Butts jokes, and I'm going to run out of those pretty quick. In fact, that was my only one."

And I held for applause that never came.

"Did you say 'marrying butts'?"

They didn't know who Marion Butts was. They, the self-described fans of football, had never heard of one of the great San Diego Chargers to have played in our lifetime. It was down to me, the guy who misidentified Drew Brees as Peyton Manning in the recent Pepsi commercial, to educate them.

"He was a Charger," I explained. "Early 90s."

"Oh, I was just a kid then."

So was I. It seemed odd to me that a person's enthusiasm for football (or sports in general, for that matter), should actually intensify as they matured further into adulthood, because, in my case, boyhood was the only time in my life when I had even the remotest interest in the NFL, probably owing in large part to the objective excellence of Tecmo Super Bowl for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The conversation resumed without my participation. Nobody else seemed to care about Marion Butts. Well, at least I came away with potentially one more joke to work with. "Marrying butts"—somehow I was going to figure out a way to make that work.

Monday, January 28, 2013


After over four years of running a Blogger blog, I decided finally to move on. This WordPress blog you see now is the work-in-progress result.


I made this decision for a couple of reasons, including but not limited to: a dissatisfaction with the functionality of Blogger; a desire to, as much as possible, ensure that I would own whatever content I would produce from here on; a motivation to learn WordPress and then be able to add that to my résumé.

I had worked with WordPress before, but never for my own stuff. I had helped out with a few acquaintances' company websites, just inputting and editing text through the WordPress interface. I knew nothing whatsoever of how to code. Even so, I looked at those WordPress-based websites and couldn't help thinking that some of them were really quite crude and shabby-looking, not to mention functionally broken in many places. These were small startups or nonprofit organizations, of course, with little to no money to spend on building professional-quality websites. One would imagine the fact that they were coming to me for help of any kind said enough about their budgets. When I inquired in one case, however, I was informed that that website was designed by an outside freelancer, who would have to be paid again any time they wanted even just to add a new menu to the site. This seemed ridiculous to me because, as it was, many of the pull-downs on the site didn't even display properly. I figured, if a guy could get by as a professional based on work of this quality, then how hard could it be?

Well, after a week spent studying tutorials and trying to build my own blog, I've come to realize that it's not that easy. I tried to create my own theme to my personal specifications, but, as I've learned, that's really not something for a beginner to be pulling off in only a week. Not even close. Don't get me wrong—I still think that freelancer-designed website was of a low standard. Rather than coming to appreciate his skills, I've come to appreciate the guts (or peace with one's own limitations) that it must have taken him to publish something so substandard, which he could not possibly have been proud of. In my case, I've settled for now on using the "Magazine Basic" theme by Themes by I'm not especially fond of it, and I consider this only temporary, pending the completion of my own theme (or at least child theme). In other words, this is most likely how it will be for a good long while (unless I hate it so much that I switch to a different theme just for the change). For now, I'd rather concentrate on the content, and we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Not the Laugh Factory (Please)

Donated blood.

"You're a very serious man," the phlebotomist remarked.

Known me all of two minutes, and she already had me figured out, eh?

When it was over, she handed me a coupon for the Laugh Factory.

And here I thought she had me all figured out.

* * *

Seriously, though—yes, seriously—these Laugh Factory coupons, of which I've accumulated a number by now, are a total joke, by which I do not mean that there is anything funny at all about them. First of all, the coupons do not even provide for a free show but only admission; there is still a two-drink minimum that you have to pay for. Second, the Laugh Factory is not even located in my county, so even if I thought the deal was still good, I would have to trouble myself the long drive in order to take advantage. Third, even if the show were free, I would never go to the Laugh Factory; I'm a serious man, after all, and I hate laughter! Finally, at this most recent donation, the coupon was expired! When I go on the Red Cross website to check their current promotions, they no longer list the Laugh Factory but rather a coupon for Cold Stone Creamery, which I didn't get but actually would use. Argh! Not that I do it for the coupons, but still . . . .

Saturday, January 26, 2013

TV show Glee rips off Portal game song composer guy's cover of "Baby Got Back"

This is just a sad and disappointing story.

I know Jonathan Coulton is some sort of music god among geeks, but I'm not personally all that familiar with his work, whether inside or outside of video games. Regardless, he deserves better than this.

The whole "cover of a cover" thing is perplexing, as far as how copyrights should be handled. I suppose it makes sense to say that you can't steal from a person what they never technically owned in the first place. On the other hand, Coulton's arrangement was so extensively reworked from Sir Mix-a-Lot's original, and Glee's version so identical to Coulton's, that you'd think some credit from Fox to Coulton would be in order.

I actually used to watch Glee and thought the first half-season was pretty brilliant. A few episodes into the second season, I had seen enough and dropped it cold–removing it from my TV watch list, even when nothing else was competing for my time–which, come to think of it, I almost never do that far into any remotely serialized show. Regardless, I even feel like Glee deserves better than what it is doing to itself through this shameful mess.

But I absolutely love Coulton's "viral PR hackitude" response, rereleasing his version on iTunes, now as "In the Style of Glee," and donating the proceeds to charity. Talk about owning it (even when you don't really).

Friday, January 25, 2013

My take on the Lance Armstrong confession

The latest from AP ("Armstrong meeting with USADA appears unlikely"):
In a testy exchange of letters and statements revealing the gulf between the two sides, USADA urged Armstrong to testify under oath to help "clean up cycling." [...]

Armstrong attorney Tim Herman responded to USADA's first letter, sent Wednesday, by saying his client's schedule is already full, and besides, "in order to achieve the goal of 'cleaning up cycling,' it must be WADA and the (International Cycling Union) who have overall authority to do so."

My take: Isn't this notion of Lance Armstrong helping to "clean up cycling" rather like expecting Osama bin Laden to help "clean up al Qaeda"? Just sayin', dude kind of was the thing, wasn't he? (Please don't put a hit out on me, Lance Armstrong!)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Star Wars Director We Were Looking For?

Hopefully the movies themselves will be less anticlimactic than the saga that has been the belabored reveal (reportedly) of the new Star Wars director.

About the choice of J. J. Abrams, I honestly don't have any strong feelings, which, I suppose, is to say that I'm not exactly inspired by this news. I have actually liked all of the movies he has directed so far. Coming out of viewing Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek, I had almost nothing negative to say about the jobs he did on those . . . because I had almost nothing to say about them, period. Solidly well-made though they were, they lacked that certain je ne sais quoi that could have pushed me, past liking them, to loving them. Nothing about anything Abrams has ever done has left an impression on me of him as an auteur, which, I suppose, is to say that I haven't found any of his films to be especially inspired. He seems like kind of the safe choice. Is that what I want for Star Wars–a director who will get things done, know maybe when to just get out of the way of the momentum of this now seemingly self-propelled juggernaut of a franchise, and deliver a movie that I'll almost assuredly enjoy (but maybe not treasure)?

Well, we'll just have to wait and see what he does. In the meantime, Star Trek into Darkness is presently topping the list of 2013 movies I'm looking forward to seeing. (Well, maybe after The Wolverine . . . . )

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Bad News About Quinoa

Resolving to rebuild myself into a better, healthier me this year, I began consulting some nutritional blogs on how to improve my eating habits, including swapping out white rice for organic quinoa. That particular experiment didn't last long, which is a story I can get into at another time. For now, suffice it to say that the quinoa diet is not going to work for me.

Interestingly, not long after my failed transition to quinoa, I now read a rather alarming article on some potential negative consequences of adopting a quinoa-heavy diet. From Yahoo! News ("How many Bolivians are dying because foodies love quinoa?"):
Quinoa is a massive crop that for millennia has honed its extraterrestrial nutritional powers in the dizzying altitudes of the Andes. In recent years, this curious substance—like coke before it—has also become a major export for Peru and Bolivia.

But, as the Guardian recently reported, the foreign market for the good seed has driven the street price of quinoa up so high that most Bolivians and Peruvians can no longer afford their homegrown staple. For the people who used to live on it, protein-dense quinoa is now more expensive than chicken.

Alas, this editorial proves to be little more than a lengthy and obnoxious diatribe against sanctimonious "foodies" ("foodists," even!) and their much-touted wonder-food, which author Virginia Heffernan swears she has given a fair shake. She spends several self-indulgent paragraphs trying to knock down vegan straw men–weak stuff that never should have made it past the editing process–taking forever to draw the conclusion foreshadowed by the portentous headline, which she then almost immediately backpedals away from, acknowledging that the data is inconclusive.

There are only two certain points to be found here, which don't really connect to one another, despite the author's best efforts to make it so:

1) Junk food is increasingly taking over the diets of Bolivian kids.

2) The author doesn't like people preaching to her about how to live her life (and she won't hesitate to use her Internet soapbox to tell you that).

To the author's credit, she does helpfully link to the relevant stories and blogs that sparked this recent quinoa controversy in the first place (and that largely shut it down before she ever even got to it).

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Scallenge

From CBS Boston:
Sick of hearing that the average Joe could beat him out on the hardwood, Brian Scalabrine was on a mission.

And given the results of last week’s “Scallenge,” it was mission accomplished for the “White Mamba.”

Scalabrine, who retired over the summer after a very serviceable 11-year NBA career, took on four of Boston’s best ballers in 98.5 The Sports Hub’s 1-on-1 “Scallenge,” put on by morning hosts Toucher & Rich. [...]

Scalabrine — who spent the last few seasons of his career seen as the “human victory cigar” — easily defeated all four of his opponents, throwing down monstrous jams and sinking smooth jumpers as he beat them all by a combined score of 44-6.

Reminds me of that time BloodRayne director (and former amateur boxer) Uwe Boll invited his harshest critics to vent their frustrations upon him in a series of boxing matches, and then pulled no punches, pummeling the five nerds foolish enough to take him up on the challenge. Also reminds me of a dream I once had, wherein former NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning challenged me to a one-on-one and promptly thrashed me 11-1.

As for this Scalabrine guy, I haven't regularly followed the NBA in years, but I definitely took notice every time I saw him come in for the Boston Celtics. For the most part, he seemed to be used only as a situational defensive substitution brought in for single possessions during the closing seconds of games. As the lone white guy (and extremely so) on a team once known for having most of the league's best white players, and often as the only white guy on either team, he kind of stuck out. And, although clearly someone must have thought highly of the redhead's ability to do whatever the hell he was supposed to do, seeing as how they were bringing this benchwarmer in cold at a pretty critical moment, I always remained skeptical, based on nothing more than his physical appearance, that this goofy-looking ginger really belonged in the NBA. Well, I guess he showed me too.

Monday, January 21, 2013

To Blog

In a post-Twitter age, what place remains, you ask, for a traditional blog, especially one run by a lone individual writing mostly about his day? Well, truth be told, it probably isn't a space that needs filling. I don't expect the Internet will be made a richer, fuller, more complete experience by the contribution of my blogging. After all, I tried that before and found, ultimately, that I had precious little of substance to say, though no less, I might argue, than most people. Of course, most people also don't keep blogs.

Perhaps microblogging really is the more suitable form of online expression for most. People can share with connections their momentary musings or witty observations through short tweets or Facebook status updates. Maybe 140 characters is as much as most of us can bear to write, or to read.

I dabbled with Twitter myself. I began by tweeting the same sort of material–jokes, mostly–that comprised most of my text messages, only now, with Twitter, I was sharing those jokes with the Internet public. Reading back my own tweets, however, I realized that my jokes were routinely of such a politically incendiary nature that to hear them coming from me would likely have shocked and deeply offended anyone outside my most inner Circle. So, that plan nixed, Twitter became just a place for me to troll celebrities, which proved unfulfilling, because none of them ever responded.

I also tried my hand at Tumblr. Although it seemed primarily a place to share images and maybe very short text posts, it also offered all the features and functionality of a conventional full-length blog service. The only significant difference between Tumblr and, say, Blogger or was that Tumblr was natively integrated with a social network, which made it more convenient for sharing. I posted a few lengthier text posts and was disappointed when nobody would take even the minimal effort to like, let alone reblog, anything I wrote, except for my shortest, most inane, most poorly thought-out text posts, which were really just mirrored tweets. Approaching Tumblr from the consumer side, however, revealed to me a personal hypocrisy. I wasn't altogether (or at all) interested in wading into the Tumblr network to explore other users' posts. Even when I set my Tumblr to track the "Cinnamoroll" tag, hoping it might be a good source of daily cute, after a few days I couldn't be bothered to look at, let alone like or reblog, any more Cinnamoroll pictures. I did not have the time to keep up with all the images that would come my way each day, and, more importantly, I totally did not care. Was it any wonder then that other people weren't bothering with my much lengthier text posts?

Oh, I'm on Facebook too, of course, but my news feed quickly became just a place for "friends" (read: people I met, like, once at an event) to plug their ventures. That's perfectly fine and valid, but what's slightly irritating is when occasionally they ask me to help shill for them. I mean, I'm usually all about going to bat for my friends, but if I hardly know you, please don't message me asking my help to promote your nephew's baby pictures so that you can win some dumb contest. Yeah, I did "like" that one baby picture, but I don't think I even meant it; it's just that all our mutual friends had "liked" it, and I didn't want to be the one conspicuous holdout. But that's as far as I'm willing to take it. In fact–y'know what?–on second thought, I'm just going to unfriend you and trust that no one will even notice.

As for Pinterest, I don't even know what that is or how it works.

So what has been the takeaway from all that? Well, mainly, I learned that I'm not all that interested in engaging with the social aspects of the blogosphere (likes, hashtags, and reblogging and all that). I also realized that the traditional personal blog does fill a need, even if it's only a personal need, as a journal of sorts (or diary–I'll own to that) for me to collect and record my thoughts beyond 140 characters. And it's public because, well, I've never seen the point in writing something that nobody will ever be able to read, even if, in practice, nobody would ever care to read what I've written. Thus, here I am. Not here to fill any vacancy, but, nevertheless, here I am.

Yeah, yeah, I know–tl;dr.

If nobody gets it, it's probably not funny

Before I escape now from the world of Omega Warzard, I would like to resolve one last potential hanging dangly.

If you've been reading since near the beginning, you may recall one of my earlier posts "The Wall," in which I detailed a joke I had made that had, to my chagrin, so clearly sailed over the head of a coworker. I won't make you reread that ancient post; here's the entirety of our exchange reprinted:

Random co-worker: Why's it always so damn hard?
Me: Has it been longer than four hours?
Random co-worker: Hungry?

In the original post, I expressed some frustration, not only in this case but in general, that my witticisms were of such a high level (read: obscure) that not only did people often not understand them, but they would not understand that I had made a witticism at all. Typically, in the best-case scenario, they would simply move on without dwelling on it, and then my joke would be lost in the ether, wasted. The worst-case scenario would be that they would actually hear my remark clearly but not comprehend its cleverness and instead think I had said something nonsensical and therefore stupid. Well, okay, maybe the worst-case scenario is that they do get the joke but simply do not find it funny. You'll note, in any case, that, in all three of these most common outcomes, they never actually respond with any kind of acknowledgment of the joke, and so I won't even know whether they got it or not. That's the frustrating part, I suppose - not knowing, when they don't laugh or offer a rejoinder, whether it's because they missed it entirely, because they didn't quite get it, or because they simply didn't care for it. And I certainly am not the sort of person to double-down with unasked for explanations of my own jokes (although I very often wish someone would ask). Why, is there anything more pathetic than one hoping that explaining one's joke will somehow earn that laugh that the joke itself failed to get?

Moving along, since I never actually explained my joke in the original post, allow me to explain it now. I know nobody asked for an explanation, but there were also no comments that read "haha" or "good one, bro," which leads me to believe that nobody got it, but that everybody was just too embarrassed to admit that they didn't understand the joke. Because, let me assure you, once I explain and you understand it, you'll be LOL-ing out loud.

So, you see, when my coworker asks, "Why's it always so damn hard?" the "it" he is referring to is life. But I spun it to instead refer to his erection, my response "Has it been longer than four hours?" referencing those Viagra ads that warned users to consult a doctor for erections lasting longer than four hours. Mind you, he did not actually, as far as I know, have an erection; the humor was in my deliberately misconstruing his words and thereby drawing incorrect and unflattering conclusions regarding his penile state.

Joke explained. Cue LOL-ing.

And that's all, folks!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Les Miserablog

*sigh* The years, the waste.

After five years of this foolishness, I've decided finally to move on from this Blogger blog. It had been at least half-dead for a while, and now I'm merely promoting it to full-dead.

That's the short version. Here's the longer:

Blogger just isn't good enough for me anymore. No, it's not because the design and customization options are too limited. I'm no coder, even less so an artist. I don't know what to do with the options I've already got. This has always been a fairly unassuming personal blog, for which Blogger's simplicity has always been a fine fit.

The issue is that, especially since acquiring the Nexus 4, I've become quite invested in Google's ecosystem. I do email through Gmail, browse with Chrome, word process in Drive, keep my schedule on Calendar, and have even moved most of my music collection onto Play. I'm logged into my Google account at all times, and I love that, whether on my laptop or phone, I can conveniently access all my services without having to enter in my username and password every few minutes.

Given that Blogger is a Google service, you wouldn't think there would be an issue. Unfortunately, this blog of mine is associated with a Google account that I no longer use for anything else. And, unfortunately, Google offers no elegant way to transfer the blog over to my primary Google account. Thus, I'm logged into my primary account at all times, EXCEPT when I want to update my blog, and then I have to log in as a different user with an account that, frankly, I sometimes wish I could abandon altogether. I don't mean to exaggerate, as though it takes more than a few extra clicks or keystrokes, but it is nevertheless an inconvenience, which grows daily more irritating as I meanwhile grow to appreciate the simple conveniences of an interconnected ecosystem.

And there are other factors. Very rarely, I will post something that I will feel proud enough of to wish that I could show it to, say, a prospective employer. Only, if I did show them this blog, they would also see all sorts of other things I've written that would probably get me in trouble. So maybe it's time to make a clean break toward something more professional.

Really, the only thing that kept me from moving on sooner was that I have actually managed, over the years, to cultivate a modest readership here, which I would hate to leave behind and don't know if I would be able to duplicate at a new blog. But the reality is that the majority of my hits don't actually come from repeat readers but from random visitors stumbling here via search queries that, more often than not, my blog doesn't even help to resolve.

Still, if you've read this far, I want you to know that, in all sincerity, I truly do appreciate it. For a blog with no connections, and which I don't promote at all, the random reader comments have always been enormously gratifying, and I read and remember them all. It is, of course, such an encouragement to the ego to think that a complete stranger would take an interest in anything I have to say. So, once again, thank you so much for reading!

But, moving on toward tomorrow . . .

Miserable Pile of Secrets is nothing now! Another story must begin!

Just a Fraggin' Civie

The post-match in-game diss after beating down an opponent in Street Fighter was, once upon a time, one of the most empowering moments one could have at the arcade, before fighting game writing became all iterative banalities and pandering self-references (well, and before arcades died off). From the trailblazing age of video game "translations" done by non-writers who were surely not fluent in at least one, if not both, of the languages they were supposed to be working with, who could ever forget such classics as "Go home and be a family man" (even if the opponent was female), "I will meditate and then destroy you" (even though the fight is already over), "Seeing you in action is a joke" (says Blanka, of all people), and my personal favorite, "My strength is much greater than yours"?

Another of Capcom's arcade slugfests, Saturday Night Slam Masters (known in Japan as Muscle Bomber - The Body Explosion), the pro wrestling game that mashed together beat 'em ups and 2D fighters, was unique in having the broken-faced loser of a match give a few words. On the bottom here is what you would see whenever Gunloc, the well-rounded American character, was defeated in a tag-team match:

Fraggin' Civies

Yes, you read that right: "YOU FRAGGIN CIVIES."

What. The. Frag?!

I really can't say for sure, but I'm guessing it's meant to be understood as "You freaking civilians" in the vernacular of wherever in America Gunloc is supposed to hail from (according to the Saturday Night Slam Masters attract mode, "Slam Town, USA," wherever that might be). But what would "You freaking civilians" even mean? Who are these civilians or "civies," whom the beaten Gunloc is addressing with such contempt? Are they the pro wrestlers who just handed Gunloc and his Russian partner, Biff Slamkovich, their asses? Are they the fans in attendance crying out for blood? Might they even be the players at the joysticks, who let their characters down? Or is this merely a gratuitous allusion, like most of Gunloc's pre- and post-fight dialogue (his team win quote is "You two couldn't even survive basic"), to some undeveloped backstory for the character as a military man, much like a certain Street Fighter who was once rumored (arising from a localizer's fancy) to be a relative of his? I have no idea.

Baffling though they may have been, Gunloc's words nevertheless stayed with me. I began to warm to "Fraggin' Civies" as potentially a great, tongue-in-cheek name, if not for a band, then perhaps for a no-holds-barred Internet discussion forum in the vein of the sadly now-defunct Higher Voltage (AKA HerV, which does live on in some form here). Man, that was the forum that had Kerri Hoskins herself (Mortal Kombat 3's Sonya Blade, now Kerri Branson, a mother of fourpersonal trainer, web and graphic designer, painter and promoter of the artspillar of the community, champion for children with special needs, and all-around real-life superhero) participating in a thread that began as a bunch of gamer geeks sharing nudie pictures of her from her modeling days. But I digress, and let us speak no further of that.

I never for a moment had any intention of starting an Internet forum, but I considered using "Fraggin' Civies" as the name for a blog. Aside from the potential of it being again somewhat confusing who the "fraggin' civies" would have been (I envisioned my readers and I being fellow fraggin' civies), I realized that the words could be even more badly misconstrued to mean "going on a murderous rampage upon civilians." Even though I wouldn't mean anything of the sort, these are and regrettably have been sensitive times, and the appearance of insensitivity can be insensitive in itself.

Compounding the awful, I also learned, in the course of doing research for this blog post, that Gunloc may have been originally modeled after Chris Benoit, the posthumously disgraced Canadian pro wrestler, who, in a steroid-fueled rage, murdered his wife and seven-year-old son before taking his own life. Gunloc vaguely physically resembles a young New Japan Pro Wrestling-era Benoit, and Gunloc's nickname, "The Florida Wild Horse" (I guess "Slam Town, USA" is another name for Miami Beach, Florida), may have been a play on the "Wild Pegasus" identity that Benoit was using around that time in Japan.

So that all seemed to put the kibosh on my dreams of one day having a blog named "Fraggin' Civies" . . . .

Then again, at the end of the day, I am just a fraggin' civie. Of flags and lines on a map and pieces of parchment, I comprehend little. Only give me my words, and I will own them and do my utmost to make them stand for something positive. And if I stand alone, one man clinging to a dream and a liberty now grown untenable, then so be it. But if what I'm saying makes even the slightest bit of sense to you, whoever you are, wherever you come from, if you are my kind—and whether you are is up to you—then I welcome you, my fellow fraggin' civies. Now let's do this thing!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Brought to me by Macy's

*sigh* I'm so lame that I only "discover" "new" music through TV commercials, occasionally CW shows, and *double-sigh* shopping at Macy's. (Don't worry, I didn't end up buying anything.)

Speaking of which, I recently bought my first smartphone, and having a music search engine (e.g. Google Sound Search, Pandora, Shazam) on me at all times has proven a wondrous addition to my daily life. Remember how, back in the day, any time you heard a hot new track while out and about, you would have to just listen really hard and savor it while it lasted, knowing that you might never hear it again? Indeed, I am sure you must have had that perfectly normal experience many times, as I did. After the Internet debuted and people could actually look things up, life got better. You could commit yourself to memorizing a key lyric in whatever song you were hearing, then later use that information to try to track the song down online. Ah, how strange it is to think that, not so very long ago, that was simply how we lived . . . if indeed you could call that living! But, now, how convenient it is to just fire up Sound Search and have the song ID'd for me in seconds, the info also saved in my history for future reference! Oh, what an age we live in!