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Spider Mouse

August 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Marvel is bought by Walt Disney Corporation, and while it certainly is interesting news I can’t say that I have any emotional reaction. I had been a fan of Marvel comics for a long time, never really caring for the unsurprising and always predictable Superman nor for the infinite variations of the “Crisis on Infinite Earth” series that DC used to eat up issues in the 90s when it wasn’t pretending to kill Superman and Batman. Marvel comics always seemed to be the better bet character.

Namely because the writing was better. Batman had the motivation of revenge, which is cliched for everyone else, but for Batman well he kind of set the mold on that. Superman, doesn’t really have a motive other than being a holier than though douchebag. But the Marvel heroes ran different, they had psychological issues that went further than DC’s two posterboys. Spiderman had the guilt thing, and while the Punisher also had revenge his drive bordered on sociopathic behaviour. It was just better reading.

Now Disney owns Marvel, a comic company that despite introducing several characters into the pop-culture lexicon that some people don’t even know that they were comic books almost bankrupted itself in the later 90s with a focus on gimmick covers and too expansive story lines. DC didn’t help the comic industry as a whole by promising to kill off Superman bringing him back several issues later in a criminally bad story series that eventually resulted in the Shaquille O’Neal movie “Steel.*”

The nerds are all in a twitter because of this news. “Seriously, this will be epic fail
 [sic]. How can Disney not totally fark up Marvel beyond all possibility of recognition,”
says vsavatar on Fark.com. If I can remember in a few months I’ll email him and ask how marvel is doing and if he can still recognize it. This way when he sees that nothing has principally changed I can remind him of his words.

The problem for me is that these people are mostly fans of the movies and not the comics and to get Disney’s bank is actually a good thing. It’s not like the whiners aren’t the same people that were lining up for the Pirate movies.

And for all of you other people, you anti-conformist idiots that think Disney will whitewash wolverine into some kiddie comic book, guess what? Marvel has been selling those for years. You people gave up on Marvel years ago for being too mainstream, going instead toward Valiant, Vertigo, and Dark Horse comics because they were edgier. Stan Lee’s going to emeritus at Marvel until the end of his days, Ironman, Spiderman, won’t be encountering mickey mouse anymore than they already have (and it’s not like Mickey mouse actually does anything in the Disney world anyway). Get over your nerd rage.

*I would link to IMDB’s entry for that movie but it’s so bad that it’s even on par with Battlefield Earth, and the iconic Howie Long vehicle Firestorm in terms of suck. Not seeing this movie does the world good.

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Chipotle Grille

August 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday the wife, baby, the wife’s two friends, their three kids, and myself went to Chipotle grille for lunch. The thing that strikes me about Chipotle is that I have a hard time pinning down the exact atmosphere they are going for. Are they going for fast-food or sit down? Is the ambience purposefully that banal or was it a complete accident?

The setup is that they have combined the worst features of Cafeteria eating and going to Subway. You get to wait in line to order, then you have the distinct pleasure of watching people make your food. I don’t get queasy when it comes to watching some guy hand make a taco, but it did make me feel bad for the people that worked there.

Anyone who has worked the kitchen end of a restaurant knows the relief one gets when they are off the dining floor and into the chaos strewn kitchen. Sure, it’s busy, noisy, and hot but the eyes of the customers are off you. You can relax for a bit to yell at whatever co-worker is making your life miserable (if you are a cook, it’s the wait staff and vice-versa). However the best thing about the kitchen is that if you are a cook, or in some way involved in food preparation your appearance can be neglected. As long as you aren’t scummy when you start your work day it really doesn’t matter since you will be stained with sweat, grease, and food by the time you leave. Where are they supposed to swear and bitch about the customers?

So at Chipotle even the cooks have to worry about maintaining the ambience. It’s like faux-gourmet. I can watch the people scramble over making my food, yippeeeee. The problem with this is that while I’m sure some marketing people spent a great deal of time coming up with this concept it actually ruins the experience. If I watch a person make my food, I can tell exactly how difficult it is to make it. Thus I can also gauge how much I think it is worth it. And I’ll tell you what, I didn’t see a lot of jusitification for a $6.00 taco.

Scoop, scoop, roll. It looked about as difficult as the previous onomatopoeia reads. I wonder if they are supposed to be referred to as “Taco artists.”

The whole aesthetic of the place through me off. Stainless steel tables for that surgical clean look, the corrugated steel walls for that thrown together look, and the recycling bins and promises of humane animal butchery for college kid yuppie feel. The blasting music to hurry you in and out but endless refills of drinks and a nice variety of different Tabasco sauces to keep you in. It’s like a team of people got together wrote up a business proposal, translated it into chinese then german then back to english and had a team of infants paint over it. Whatever words were still remaining then became the idea.

They describe themselves as “fast casual” because that somehow differentiates Chipotle from Burger King. The real kicker is that no matter how much I rag on them I still have to say this: the food was pretty good.

Categories: daily observations

Paying for Free

August 27, 2009 Leave a comment

My first cellphone was a Nextel Phone, the company had just introduced the “push to talk feature” and it was my 21st B-day. The phone had almost nothing on it, it could make and receive calls, caller ID, and a contact list that I think could hold about 50 numbers. Voicemail was extra and camera phones weren’t around yet. I called it “The tank” it was as heavy as a brick and could be thrown at the ground without breaking. I learned to hate that chirp it made when one of my brother’s asshole friends would hit the button and interrupt whatever it was I was doing. However the phone worked for what it was supposed to be.

That being said my next phone was a VoiceStream (Now T-Mobile) Nokia stick phone that was smaller than my wallet. It was a delicate thing and I frequently knocked off the casing throwing it on my couch. This phone was similar to the previous as they both had green and black LCD screens. The Nokia was a great deal lighter and could fit in my pocket with a bunch of other things: keys, smokes, notebook, etc. The thing I liked about this phone was that it had some small games, blackjack some stone game where you drop them into cups (based on a board game of African origin). The two games while not anything spectacular were good to pass the time as I waited for movies to start or meetings to end. The thing about those games and the games on the next two phones I had was that they were free with the phone.

It seems odd to the younger people out there but these shitty little time waster games were just for that one purpose. To kill time. I don’t want to sound like a rambling old man in the tune of “when I was a kid…” Because i get it, even if I don’t like it. I willingly trade blackjack for a camera and some basic editing software. I can still kill time with them, I’m not really hoping to get the high score in blackjack and then brag to anyone. These phones have more computing power than the entire Apollo space program (the one where we landed on the moon) and what do we use them for: wtf, lol, etc.

Right now, I am typing this entry on our new laptop. My old laptop had some games on it too, freecell, Spider solitaire, solitaire, minesweeper and this one has those same games as well (although I don’t like the graphics upgrade on freecell, it’s really unnecessary). However this new laptop also has some games that would have cost me 50 bucks to play on my NES. The games are fun little timewasters as well, they are either late 80s arcade games (Breakout) or games I used to play on the internet while working for the cable company (Insaniquarium). But the games cost money now! When did this happen?

I don’t know anyone that has ever payed to play Insaniquarium or the highly addictive Diner Dash. Why would they? They were programmed on Flash, and used to be on my favorites list at Buckeye. I paid money for the laptop, if I want a new game for it I’ll go buy Civilization IV, but you must think I’m crazy if I’m going to pay 7 bucks to drop food in a virtual tank.

Categories: daily complaint

Wiki-Editting

August 26, 2009 Leave a comment

So it looks like information is going back into the hands of “wrinkly old white people” huh, Jimmy Wales, you fucking douchebag. Earlier this year I was criticizing Jimmy Wales who in USA Network’s “Characters welcome” series said that his goal was to remove the documentation and dissemination of knowledge from some mysterious cabal of white people. Well it seems now that the upper hand is on the other foot.

Wikipedia was in today’s news as they have now deemed it responsible to appoint a group of editors in order to monitor changes to entries on people that are still among the living. Why? Because there has been “entry vandalism” on various people. Senators Robert Byrd and Edward Kennedy were declared dead before they were alive and John Seigenthaler was accused of being party to the assassinations of both JFK and RFK. I wonder if Wales now sees the light regarding his idea of “open source” knowledge.

The idea of information being published without a caretaker to preside over the veracity of that information is kind of important in today’s society where access to a global fountain of information is so readily available. If you don’t like this, then you can pack up your stuff and go write for the New York Times. Fact checking is necessary, as disinformation breeds not only ignorance but stupidity.

Now there is going to be an editorial board, albeit one that is pretty low on standards but that sort of thing is necessary. It prevents people from being declared dead before they are, it prevents those people’s families worried about loved one’s health from realizing the worst then being relieved and then having to go through the grieving process all over again when they really do die. Gods forbid that someone with the know how actually censor false information before it gets out.

I use wikipedia. I use it to remind myself of things that I should have remembered or to look up stuff that I am pretty sure will be there and isn’t up for contention. In the case of the latter though I more often than not double check the information. I could skip this series of mouse clicks though if I was assured that the knowledge was verified by some other person.

The use of wikipedia in my classes resulted in the drop in a full letter grade for the assignment in question. I attempted to instill a mistrust of that system for the reasons stated above. At Trocaire I demonstrated by adding a few choice phrases to the entries on Rene Descartes in order to illustrate why the site cannot be trusted.

This isn’t the end of free information. The other shoe isn’t going to drop and all the sudden Wikipedia is going to be like the Encyclopedia Britannica where a board of editors pours over the entries to make sure they are correct. That would be nice, but it’s not. This is still the internet after all. No matter how hard a person, group, or government tries it can’t be censored. Admittedly this is a good thing, but freedom of information should also take with it skepticism or the next thing you know we will all think that Eric Von Daniken was right after all.

Working at the Erie County Fair

August 25, 2009 Leave a comment

The Erie County Fair ended yesterday and I for one, could not be happier. To say that I don’t like the fair is a bit of an understatement. I have avoided going to it since 2001 which was coincidentally the last year I worked it. I worked three different positions at the fair all of which contributed to my not liking it to the degree that if it didn’t seem to be a cute idea to have Gwen meet the animals (which she didn’t exactly like anyway) then I certainly wouldn’t have gone.

Job I: Newsie. I forget how this job came about. It didn’t pay that well but I was 14 when I started it and it paid pretty well for that age. The job was simple, grab a stack of newspapers from the Buffalo News stand and then walk around selling them to whoever would buy them. We had a quota of about 50/day and that was usually taken care of in the morning. This was also the time when the Buffalo News had two editions: a morning and an evening; which usually meant that it was the same thing with a different crossword puzzle tucked in the back of the sports section. This job involved a lot of walking, all day from 8am-4pm we would be on our feet walking the entire length of the Erie County Fair Grounds which is a large place. The first year I did it the paper cost 35 cents every day of the week except Sunday which cost 1.50. Most people paid with two quarters tipping me the rest. The next year they raised the price to .50 which killed the tip and any reason to continue working there.

T-Shirt Sales: One of the advantages of being a Newsie was that I had almost no supervision. They expected us to meet the quota and then we were off to our own devices. I used to run from place to place until I met the mark, after that I walked and talked to people. One of the people I met was a guy selling t-shirts, the bootleg kind, and for the two years I humped around newspapers I would stop by and talk to him for a bit. He offered to hire me the next time the fair rolled around.

It seemed like a better job, where the news was walking this would be sitting. The problem became that the t-shirt guy was a bit of a slave driver. I worked more hours (something like a ten hour shift every day for 12 days in a row) and it was all cash. Cash is nice because you don’t have to report it if you are so inclined, but that also means that if the boss wants to be a real dick you have no recourse. Never minding the fact that he was selling bootleg merchandise. I worked with one other person who was supposed to be the manager of the stand. The guy had two and he worked the one in the air conditioned “Agri-center.” We had no supervision, this would have been alright if it were just me…as I had not the cunning and devious mind that I have now, but my partner was bad. I should correct that he was not only bad in the fact that he had no problem buying us lunch and dinner out of the register, but he was also an idiot about it.

Let me put it this way, I skimmed a couple times. But where I would sometimes take 1 out of every 20 dollars, this jackass would just collect entire customer payments and stick them in his pocket. Which isn’t exactly stupid since the boss didn’t have an inventory list (basically the shirts were just silk screened white cotton tees–I would guess that the cost to make them was around .25 and he was selling them at 3 bucks a piece), but he also was vocal about it. I know that I am justifying my actions by relating that my “manager” was worse but there are bad criminals and then there are bad criminals. This guy was just stupid about it, you don’t brag that you stole 100 dollars on a Tuesday then talk about how you plan on taking that much every day. I guess he was trying to voice his actions so that I could become some sort of tacit accomplice. He always followed this by reminding me that he was from the Bronx, I guess that made everything ok.  I never said anything, perhaps I should have.

Maintenance: A fancy word for garbage collector. I received this job through my co workers at the movie theater. They said that there was nothing worse than working the movies during the fair as the quality of movie customer (which was low to begin with) dropped significantly when the carnies came. If you’ve ever been disgusted by the people that always seem to populate Walmart then imagine having to serve them. The Carny is a strange bird and I know a woman that slept with one.

This job was psychologically taxing. We worked 14 hour days everyday of the fair. All of it was on the books, so at 7pm on the third day we were on overtime. The week started on Wednesday and ended on Saturday. The second week began on Sunday, which meant Tuesday we were on overtime and by friday we were on double time. I talked about this job when I was teaching because I wanted my students to know that I have done the shittiest of manual labor. However it’s mostly a lie…

Technically the job was supposed to be about collecting garbage bags from the bins, and walking around with a broom, poker stick, and butler collecting trash. Mostly it was about sleeping in the park, playing euchre and chess, and reading books from the library mobile and the education building. I was a dilettante chess player when I started that job, but the time I was done I was beginning to see a couple moves ahead.* We didn’t have official breaks but the management compensated us for it but we took breaks. Work started at 7 which meant a cleanup from the night before and then we took the pre-breakfast break which meant hiding a couple picnic tables in the park from the fair goers, then it was breakfast break, then post breakfast break. A quick patrol of our area then pre-lunch, lunch, post-lunch breaks. Another quick patrol and then pre-dinner, dinner, supper, and post supper breaks. Then we played games or found free food, or whatever until 9 when we left.

I used to buy newspapers from the newsies in the morning and by the time it was noon I had read everything in it. We had full blown 20 person euchre tournaments, and when I was 21 we worked in some time at the beer tent as well. We self-supervised each other. I often left the fair grounds to go home and sleep when the ground was too wet but we always let everyone know where we were going in the off chance that some management might come looking for us. One time a bunch of us broke into the RV displays and spent a good couple of hours there. Until the RV people came around to show them to paying customers, those windows are hard to climb out of.

I did this three years in a row until the Fair itself outsourced the job to a company that did one of the Olympics. They were smart too, they broke up the day into shifts which killed the overtime I counted on. I skipped that year knowing that the money wouldn’t be worth it. By 9pm on the last day of the fair we were the walking dead. Mentally exhausted from working that much in so short a time period we barely had the energy to go to JPs on Clark St, and raise a glass to the longest period of time between fairs. While it was the most grueling of all the jobs at the fair it was also the best. We bombed the Kiss 98.5 “B.O. Geo” with ‘I Got It’ balls interrupting their broadcast, I spent three hours at Channel 4’s news truck one summer that I had just interned there, and one day for kicks I left the fair and punched in at the movie theater. Being the only time I ever worked two jobs at the exact same time.

It’s difficult to go back because it never changes.

*Not that I became some sort of master at the game as friends in Toledo will attest but I was vastly improved.

Categories: personal update

Sigh…Healthcare

August 20, 2009 Leave a comment

In response to a student from the University of Boulder Colorado the President referred to the public health care option dismissively saying that it was not the corner stone of his healthcare plan. Which is odd because I seem to remember that being precisely one of the points of the Health care plan to begin with. I know that for some of my Right Wing, Republican, and/or Conservative readers out there this blog may seem a little left leaning* so this is the post wherein you begin to side with me at least on one issue.

That issue: the fact that the democratic party is a joke. The last time anyone passed anything through congress that was controversial was the Iraq war, and you know what? Every single Republican was in lock-step with each other. It was a party line and there wasn’t a single Republican I can remember that stood up and said that they weren’t for this war. In fact, for the last eight years the only divisive issue in the Republican camp seemed to be who was going to lose to Obama. Which brings me to the question for my right wingers out there: did you guys tank this election on purpose to expose the incompetence of your opposition?

Watching Bill Maher the last few weeks I was angered at the lefties who laughed at the outrageous objections to the health care plan: death counselors, socialism, the federal government meddling with medicare. I was angry because those objections while, ridiculous and coming from right wing radio not politicians, are not being met at all. This from the same party that used to make fun of President Bush for being stupid. What’s more stupid a guy who can’t pronounce “nuclear” or an entire party that can’t figure out a plan they can all agree on then try to pass it.

The thing is that I voted for the president for this platform primarily. To watch it go down in flames because of a lack of solidarity among the party that allegedly supports him is infuriating and reminds me why I am not a registered Democrat. It shouldn’t be this hard. How is it that you can’t convince the general public after all the fiascoes regarding the banking industry, the automotive industry, that the “small business” health insurance companies need to exist. Furthermore how is it when you have UPS, FedEX, and that other one (the yellow one); competing and viably surviving even though the USPS is in existence that private businesses can’t compete with the government. How can you not explain to people that “death squads” is actually end of life counseling and has been in place for a long time? Or that social programs do not equal communism? Or that federal government already handles medicare?

Is it ignorance, incompetence, or apathy? Or is it just that you would rather squabble over whose beak can get the wettest? Why don’t we just scrap this whole democracy thing and elect a dictator for a six months until we can all get our shit together.

*Although a majority of my scattered comments reaching back all the way to when I started this thing in 2004 accuse me of being anti-left. Although I attribute that to the left not being able to take a joke.

Categories: daily observations

The Private Correspondence of Nicolo Machiavelli

August 18, 2009 1 comment

Just a note to the people that are interested in my continuing series on Wiker’s shitty shitty book about other books that offend his worldview, the library needed it back because someone else decided that they would place it on hold. Unbelievable as this is, it means that I have to wait 30 days until I can get it back and then we do Wiker’s take on Hitler’s mein kampf. We’ll see if it’s even possible that he can screw this up.

One of my goals academically is to read everything that my favorite philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli, wrote. I have done a pretty good job so far having read The Prince, The Discourses, The History of Florence and the Affairs of Italy, The Art of War, his two plays (although there are rumored to be others that are lost to time), some of his short stories, some of the official reports he made while on official duties for the city of Florence, and whatever letters I could find in various collections. It was with great excitement that I discovered a collection of his letters in the local library under the title The Private Correspondence of Nicolo Machiavelli (No I don’t know why the author spelled his first name with one ‘c’).

That excitement was quickly scuppered when I began the book. Instead of a collection of his private correspondences, it is instead a long essay with excerpts from his letters contained within. It’s like going to see the movie Jarhead, expecting to see an action filled war movie, and getting about two scenes of action with a lot of boredom both onscreen and off. I expected letters, I wanted letters, the title of the book promises this. Instead it’s a damn essay. Written by Orestes Ferrara in 1929, the book is primarily an address to the Italian American society of Washington D.C., the point of the book is to dispel the common misconception of Machiavelli’s philosophy and illustrate what kind of person he was as a counter point to where history has placed him. This kept me reading.

Then I stopped reading. I stopped because the political nature of the world in 1929 started to fill in my head. The emergence of fascism in Italy, and the possibility of war with that nation was becoming so apparent that it needn’t take a Machiavelli to see why the book was written (you see what I did there? Genius absolute genius). The book however is flawed in this respect. Take this quote, “Machiavelli, in his letters, revels in jokes at his own expense, brags of his skepticism, and mischieviously enjoys caricaturing his friends and sometimes the events which he describes,” this from the author of the book and then from Machiavelli’s grandson, “Niccolo, in all these compositions, was very licentious when speaking about either ecclesiastical or secular personages, and also his intellectual temperament was such that he considered every event as a consequence of natural or occasional causes.”

We can glean from both quotes that while Machiavelli was often sent on dangerous or grim missions he could still poke fun at the various situations arriving in the highly charged atmosphere of the Italian Renaissance. What does that do for his reputation? Nothing that I can see. The book is an address, but for the purpose which it aims it does not accomplish. One part of the introduction states that the author has “avoided making reference to some letters of a licentious character,” this doesn’t help. One of the characterizations of Machiavelli was that he was a philanderer, which is true. One letter that I do have a copy of tells of an interesting story where he hired a prostitute that he couldn’t see cause of the darkness, and when he did see her in the light she was so ugly he vomitted!

If you are going to gloss over the faults of a person in say the Glen Beck manner one might want to refrain from mentioning that you are doing so. It doesn’t help especially if “we believe that the study of the correspondence that he had with his friends will convey to every reader if not the real facts of his life, at least sufficient data to destroy the numerous legends around his personality. This has been our only purpose.”

All of that being said, the book isn’t worthless. I mean it fails in it’s stated thesis, but there is some interesting commentary from the writer, which would be all the more interesting if we could read the letters. Of which I am going to have to attain a separate book for and then hopefully be able to match up my notes with the letters in question. Which will be difficult as the book is severely fragmented with regard to abrupt shifts in the periods of the philosopher’s life with little regard to the context. I said it wasn’t worthless but the value is only of interest to one like myself.

The most valuable piece of information that I took from the book was that Machiavelli also wrote a book on language called “Dialogue Concerning Language.” Which now becomes the latest book I must read to complete the set. It has proven unicorn like in its elusiveness. As one of my least favorite disciplines in Philosophy, linguisitics/language philosophy, it will be interesting to see what my favorite has to say on the subject. Perhaps that will boost my interest in retaking that logic class that I did so bad in during grad school.