Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Beard

Having absorbed enough outdoorsman culture from the week I spent in Seattle in January to start wearing a backpack instead of my "man purse," I was surely primed before my recent trip to Vail to easily absorb its mountainous stoner backcountry culture. After all was said and done, and two weeks have passed, I've got myself a beard. I've played with the beard idea before: once in freshman year of college, though it didn't really fill in well, and it was borne out of pure laziness rather than diluted laziness; and in sophomore year I donned the chinstrap beard after a messy ending to a strained relationship. Fortunately, my Wes Borland-chinstrap days only lasted a month or so--guys loved it, chicks not so much.

So begins a new era of beardery, one which will likely end before the weekend is up. For starters, I feel like I'm constantly surrounded by the specter of the early 80's. I find myself constantly distracted by REO Speedwagon and Jethro Tull songs, and as great as that sounds, I now know why those bands aren't around anymore. And additionally, my Moroccan boyfriend, Michael, hasn't been too hot on the beard, saying that "it doesn't not look good, you just look better without it" and "it makes you look...older." Nevertheless, I hope my bearding activities won't go unheralded by those at Man Beard Blog.

For the record, here's a picture I took with my phone's camera. I'm not sure why I look so surprised in this picture.

Monday, February 26, 2007


I went skiing out West for the first time over President's Day weekend, and despite delicious steak dinners, nightly hot tub dunks, perfect ski conditions, beautiful weather, and gorgeous scenery, I can say I absolutely loved it. I hope that sentence was as confusing for you as it was for me.

If you missed the title, I went to Vail. It's an amazing mountain (actually 1.5 entire mountains). I think it's only drawback is its relative difficulty to get to from the East Coast; between winter snow storms in the West, Midwest, and East, and the 2-hour drive through countless mountain passes to the resort, the stars pretty much have to align for you to make it there without any hiccups. For instance: my flight out of Dulles was cancelled. Also, beginner skiers might be better served to build up their confidence at other slopes; Vail is massive and quite technically challenging, and a wrong turn could leave you stuck on some frightening terrain as 65-year old men whisk by in tight flourescent suits.

One thing you always hear people talk about is the powder out West, and how skiing in powder is far superior to the groomed runs we're so used to. Well, for those who have only ever skied on groomed runs, I have some words to heed. Skiing in powder is fucking hard, it's also really fucking tiring. You see those videos of people that look like they're jumping out of the snow to make each turn, well, they are actually jumping out of the snow; you have to actually jump out of the snow to make turns. If you don't do it right, you lose your ski, maybe a pole, and fall into the snow. And getting your equipment back on after wrecking in powder can be a 20-minute ordeal. Not only are you 2 miles up with a bunch of awkward, rigid ski gear attached to you, but you're also struggling in waist-deep snow, which tends to suck you in the more you struggle, like quicksand kinda. The only benefit of powder is that when you do fall you don't have to worry much about hurting yourself, that is, unless you hit a tree, which of course are naturally drawn to areas with a lot of powder.

Vail offered the most tiring and challenging skiing I've ever faced. For starters, the altitude really effects your performance. The various peaks at Vail are all around 11,200 feet (Blue Sky Basin is ~11,500), and you can really feel it when your pushing yourself around and starting off a run. Your legs burn more, your heart races, and you just get out of breath fast. You need to drink a lot of water to keep from getting a headache from dehydration. Altitude also has some weird effects, like tripling the effect of alcohol, and giving you really strange dreams. One of my dreams the first night at altitude featured a naked woman with what looked like Mordor script being written across her chest. Further, the vertical drop between the peak and base is about 3,500 feet, which makes for some damn long runs, particularly the winding catwalks.
Aside from the physical challenges I endured, Vail has the most variety of runs I've ever seen. If you like easy cruising down groomed runs, hopping through powder in the trees, mogul-pocked fields, or picking your path anywhere along the face of a mountain, it's there waiting for you. And if you find a chance to stop, you can enjoy massive vistas of the Rockies fading into the horizon a 100 miles away.
All in all, it was an incredible trip.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

First Jesus, and now HYDROX

You probably well-remember HYDROX; that inscrutable, non-capitulating rival to the beloved Oreo, which mysteriously vanished from grocery store shelves sometime in the somewhat-distant past. Like me, you probably can't pinpoint when you realized HYDROX were gone, in fact you probably didn't even realize it until just now, but somehow you already knew. It's not like figuring out when "Black Hole Sun" was popular. I can link that song to stalking an ex-girlfriend of mine; we weren't yet dating--proof that stalking DOES work (try it kids!).

But with HYDROX, I can only remember the feeling of confusing disappointment when I would open the kitchen cabinet, see what I thought was a thing of Oreos (it's not really a bag), but then see that it was instead HYDROX. I kinda remember thinking, "Okay, well, they're pretty much Oreos, right? I mean, Mom still loves me, maybe she's just too busy to realize she bought HYDROX and not Oreos, or maybe they were on sale or something. They're fine and all, but maybe I forgot to bring it up last time we got HYDROX instead of Oreos. Do I even care? I do care...I think."

Some of the more offbeat families were the HYDROX families. It was pretty clear upon stepping into a house that you were going to find HYDROX, in addition to other weird brands like Oh Henry!, generic Safeway "Froot Hoops," and those offputting pink coconut things. HYDROX families were typified by frantic, tightly-wound parents and kids with multiple siblings and no restraint for declaring possession. HYDROX were plentiful and frequent mainstays at these homes.

I've spoken before about the destruction and dessication caused by the Cola Wars, but what to make of the muted struggle between cookie manufacturing juggernauts Keebler (HYDROX) and Nabisco (Oreo). Sources close to Keebler will say that it decided to pull HYDROX out of the competition because of dragging demand due to the notion that the cookie contained poisonous chemicals ("hydrox" happens to be a popular molecular binding agent), but it may surprise you to learn that the Jews killed HYDROX. Yes, first Jesus, and now HYDROX.

Until the late 90's, if they wanted to enjoy a scrumptious creme-filled cookie snack, kosher Jews were relegated to eating HYDROX since the ingredients and processing of Oreo cookies did not lend itself to kosherness; maybe it was the Yellow #5. For years, all parties were happy: Sunshine Biscuits (original maker of the HYDROX) had its captive market base, the Jews had their kosher cookies, and RJR-Nabisco had its insurmountable lead without having to pander to a bifurcating vocal liberal religious minority. Things changed when rival Keebler managed a lunchtime hostile takeover of the Sunshine Biscuits corporate headquarters in late Fall of 1996, and act which forced RJR-Nabisco's hand and forever changed the face of creme-filled cookie eating across the U.S.

In retaliation at such audacity, and foreseeing a violent marketing push for HYDROX on the horizon, RJR-Nabisco's food engineers (read, "chemists") hurriedly reworked the Oreo formula to fit into kosher standards, and thus flanking HYDROX's devout market base. Ignorant of the corporate D-Day taking place, Jewish children everywhere thankfully ate up their new kosher Oreo snackfoods, just happy to be part of mainstream kid Oreo-eating society.

The move crushed HYDROX in a matter of months, leaving the elves at Keebler reeling; Keebler stock fell almost 25% that quarter, and Keebler magic plummeted 70%. Not long after, Keebler rose the white flag and pulled HYDROX off the shelves and out of production forever. Nobody noticed.

And that's how the Jews killed HYDROX.

Eat a dick, Mother Nature

I was away this weekend so wasn't able to voice my abject disappointment over not getting off work last Tuesday OR Wednesday. (See below post to really get a sense of my expectant glee)

I was let out two hours early last Tuesday and was allowed to come in two hours late last Thursday...wooooooo, thanks. I'm surprised I wasn't docked pay for those hours I was told I could take off.

This is now the third winter in a row without a full snow day in DC, and it's really pissing me off. What's the point of it being cold if you can't even get a fucking snow day? I want to take my big red saucer screaming down Wisconsin Avenue, how am I supposed to do that in rush hour traffic at 2:30pm? I can't. I just can't. Sigh.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bring it on!!!

This is the first time I've been able to get a view of the Doppler of what the East Coast is supposed to get pounded by (supposedly) over the next 1.5 days. I was pretty dubious, as anyone living here needs to be to avoid the type of humiliation the weather forecasters endure, but this system looks like a mammoth. I'm praying, absolutely praying, that I get one goddamn day off this winter, and I really hope this is it. Bring it on!!!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Horribly Overrated Movies

Forcefully inspired by a link in an article a friend sent around, I've decided to take out my frustration at mankind in this little post. It's my little "fuck you" to the world for all the ire it's unknowingly caused me--at least that the world of film has caused me. Here follows a list of movies that I think are so overrated and, well, overenjoyed, that they drive me to near-madness just thinking about them.

Rather than give a brief, ranked list of movies that are overrated, I'm going to go so far as tell you WHY these movies are due mockery. First, let me cleanse your palette; I'm sure your mind is already grinding away trying to predict what movies I've put on my big shitlist, and I want to avoid that, I want to surprise you, like that time I hid around the corner in a stairway with a rusty hacksaw as a friend unwittingly walked up the stairs.

Here's some exceptional movies:
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Star Wars Trilogy, Ep. 4-6
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
LA Confidential
Lawrence of Arabia
The Fugitive
Office Space
Indiana Jones Trilogy
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure*
Fight Club

*these movies aren't exceptional, they're CRAZY exceptional

Now that you're daydreaming about the AT-AT Hoth scene in Empire Strikes Back, I'll drop a load of fresh shit on your head.

Scarface: Boom. In how many college dorm rooms did you see the poster of Al Pacino with the machine gun? 95% seem like a fair estimate? Of those people, you know how many people have actually seen the movie? Zero. Here's a typical conversation about the movie.

Me: Scarface huh?
Scarface poster-owner: Hell yeah.
Me: What's that movie about anyway, I've only seen bits and pieces.
SPO: Pacino plays this badass, you know? "Say hello to my little friend!" (with accompanying machine gun pantomime)
Me: Yep, that's right there on the poster.
SPO: ...

If you asked these people about the plot, they'd simply tell you it's about a drug dealer in Miami, and that rudimentary response is only thanks to playing 100 hours of GTA: Vice City. I did finally saw this movie, and its plot is as static as its camera work. Anyone watching it can tell that even the cameraman is coked-up by how fixed and immobile every single goddamn shot is. When the plot finally does pick up about 2.5 hours in, you don't even care because you're either too drunk, too stoned, too coked-up, or just in the other room eating a sandwich having forgotten you were watching the movie to begin with. Finally, after much fanfare, Al Pacino gets shot to death and you're happy it's all over [SPOILER, whoops].

Meet The Parents/Fockers: Begin scene. Awkwardophile Ben Stiller butts heads with stone-cold coolster Robert Dinero. Only, rather than in Ronin, Bobby D plays the same role in the exact opposite movie. Stiller endures homicidal dogs/cats, gasoline fires, lie detector tests, pot-smoking in-laws, and alien rectal exams; this movie is horrible. Bobby D must have been coerced into doing these movies to prevent his family from being executed on Christmas Day, that's the only explanation I can conceive of for how he got involved in these movies at all.

(LEFT): This may as well be a picture of me 10 minutes into the movie.

$hrek 2: A good friend of mine, one who I trust(ed), recommended this movie to me, and HOLY SHIT. I can't even look him in the eye anymore. The top page of the script the voice actors read before joining on must have simply stated their salary and had a long line underneath for their signature. There was absolutely no plot to this movie. As far as I could tell, a big green JPEG walked and talked about something in a Scottish accent for 90 minutes and then asked for $9.50 out of my wallet.

(ABOVE): "Can we have some more money?"

Deathwish: Much is made of Deathwish for its ushering common violence and the revenge saga into modern cinema. If you, however, actually watch this movie, you'll be treated to an experience comparable to listening to the "Video Input 4" setting on your TV at maximum volume for 2 hours. A fair estimate would be that there's 30 lines of dialogue in this entire film, 10 of which, at least, include "oh yeah?", "what?", and "hey" in them. Saying this movie has a soundtrack is inappropriately generous since it rudely interrupts only at the few times when you'd expect there to be no music.
(LEFT): Charles Bronson proves to the film crew that he can, indeed, balance on two feet.

Animal House: The seminal college comedy, right? Fuck that. The only funny parts in this movie are courtesy of John Belushi's coked-up mumbles. If Animal House ever comes up in conversation someone inevitably mentions that "Kevin Bacon was in that movie, you know?" Yes I do know, everyone knows that. Kevin Bacon was also in Tremors, which was a far awesomer movie. I think that the most poignant moment in this movie arrives about halfway through when the delta tau deltas go to a downtown bar and one of the female characters remarks that she's studying "primitive cultures," which is immediately followed by a shot of black people dancing. Not that this blatant racism ruins the comedic value of the entire movie, but I also don't think 85 minutes of waiting to chuckle at John Belushi cokingly swing across a rope during a parade merits eternal commendation. Eternal condemnation, though? Yes.

Star Wars Trilogy, Part 2: Except for my dream of having a tube system send me anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes, I've never seen something so overanticipated and underrealized in my life. The original Star Wars trilogy circumscribed the sci-fi genre for a mainstream audience for the first time. It combined elements of comic books heroism, mythology, history, and science fiction in a concoction so potent even the Fonz wasn't too cool to enjoy it. Ironically, every actor in the original series except Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams (I consider those Colt 45 ads a smashing success) fell flat after Return of the Jedi. The ironic humor is lost, however, in Star Wars: Episodes 1-3, that so brazenly belie the spirit of the original movies and, for all intents and purposes, may as well have sodomized the original three. Not only do "special effects" not make a movie, not having a plot also does not make a movie. People are already thoroughly bored and confused by international politics, why would we care about a fake intragalactic congress? I think their DVDs should simply relegate the first 2 hours of each one to the "Additional Materials" section of the menu screen. to avoid wasting people's time trying to follow the nonexistent plots.

(ABOVE): "If the Catachingians balk at the resolution we've pushed through the Lower House on tightening security restrictions on steel imports, I don't see any way that the Gangli Federation won't try to retaliate by selling off excess space credits in order to devalue our foreign-held assets and ultimately destabilize our economic grip of the outlying planets' mineral production."

Silence of the Lambs: I guess this movie was revolutionary for some reason, but I still haven't figured out why. Was it the cum thrown on the chick's face scene? Was it when the tragic hero/serial killer inexcusably escapes his creepy cage and builds a little human deli counter for himself? Oh, I get it now; it's the shock value. Know what else is shocking? Cap'n Crunch pounding Little Debbie in the ass. Now give me a fucking Oscar and millions of dollars. I've earned it. Further, I think that playing a maniacal murderer is probably the easiest character to interpret. Why? How many of them have you met? Yeah.

Finding Nemo (Cars, Over the Hedge, Happy Feet, The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., etc): Disney/Pixar/Ultraconglomerate Animated Picture Films Studios really keeps striking gold with these movies. Their production is obviously not driven by artistic integrity, since they're all carbon copies.
(LEFT): "Did you know that we're animated by single, bearded, 30-something men? Teehee!"

Here's how your generic computer-animated movie goes:

Intro: Anthropomorphized object/creature innocently going about its life in its recognizable natural surrounding + song.

Event 1: The stupid anthropomorphized object/creature's friend or relative gets in trouble and it must set out accompanied by its character foil against seemingly impossible odds to straighten everything out + song.

Lesson 1: Anthropomorphized object/creature meets its match and nearly pays with its life; said object/creature reflects on the consequences of its foolhardiness and what is at stake; a grave lesson is learned + song.

Event 2: With renewed enthusiasm, anthropomorphized object/creature continues on its quest, probably leading even more objects/creatures of similar but different types due to its newly acquired leadership skills + song.

Climax: Anthropomorphized object/creature faces its enemy and physically, rhetorically, and ideologically defeats it convincingly.

Outro: Anthropomorphized object/creature's friend or relative, in addition to those it met and conspired with in its quest, rejoice in scripted song and dance in its recognizable natural surrounding.

Spiderman: There was a time when I tried to collect every Spiderman comic. Why? Because Venom was fucking badass. But instead, let's use the most unrecognizable and downright uninteresting villain from the comic book, Green Goblin. I heard this phrase a few times back when it was out: "No, not Hobgoblin, Green Goblin." And to boot, how 'bout we put the jockey from Sugarbiscuit or whatever into the most venerable comic costume of all kind and let him shit inside of it. Great idea. I think the best characters in this movie were Kirsten Dunst's tits. Aside from the minor detail of characters, is it me or did the CGI web-slinging scenes look like they were clipped straight from the video game that had obviously already been produced before the movie was cast? Spiderman also featured intriguing textbook examples of both overacting AND underacting, sometimes at the same time and from the same actor. Hilariously, the ending--having the Green Goblin being pelted by angry, unafraid New Yorkers who apparently missed the part of the movie where he terrorizes the entire city--was rewritten to what you saw on the screen after the September 11 attacks on the WTC to be more patriotic. It's obviously not hilarious that 9/11 changed the movie, it's hilarious that the movie's script was so loose that it allowed the entire ending to be rewritten! Please don't make Venom in Spiderman 3 look like he's from a SciFi Channel original movie. Please...

Life Taxes Spontaneity

I was driving somewhere sometime earlier this week, and I caught this advertisement on the side of some bus. In one of my usual dyslexic stupors, I read it as "Life Taxes Spontaneity," which caught me off-guard because not only was it unexpectedly depressing, it was also on the side of a bus. Of course, the ad actually read, "Life Takes Spontaneity," and it was probably an ad for Mastercard or something. Pointless as the story is, it seemed kinda interesting to me, nonetheless. I used to be more spontaneous, back when I didn't have to be in the office every day, Monday-Friday, at 8:30am for mandatory start-your-day-off-right meetings. Of course, I used to be more irresponsible and care-free, too, from which that spontaneity likely blossomed (e.g. I used to go out 5 nights/week and get into work ~10:30am). That caused me some great troubles at certain times, and accompanying those troubles was a lot of stress. I guess spontaneity makes life more interesting, but if "interesting" means "stressful," maybe it's not the right way to go about being spontaneous. Or, maybe you just can't be spontaneous without being irresponsible and stressed out. Whatever, who knows. I'm gonna go buy some CDs and Slim Jims and drive around the beltway until I feel like stopping.

(Above left) Mr. Gore worries that the the photographer might blink unexpectedly.
(Above right) Mr. Osbourne summons a demon.