Friday, September 21, 2007


Fall's always a busy business travel time for me, but this year is looking to be unusually busy. As it stands right now, I'll be traveling a total of 26 days between now and the end of the year. Eep.

My travel schedule is roughly:
Late-Sept: Southern California
Late-Oct: Geneva, Switzerland (you can hate me for this)
Early-Nov: Southern California
Mid-Nov: Detroit, MI (you can pity me for this)
Mid-Dec: Southern California

I usually enjoy traveling for work, but it is tiring and can get boring and lonely. If I have any free time and have a car at my disposal, I like to drive around a place for a few hours to get a feel for what everything looks like and how the people are, and take a few pictures if anything strikes my fancy. I've been fortunate that my job has taken me to a lot of places I doubt I would see otherwise.

This year I've been particularly fortunate to go abroad to Spain and Switzerland for work. I've never been to Europe before this year, but counting my honeymoon next June (Greece), I'll have gone to Europe three times within the span of 11 months. That ain't so bad.

So if I had to give you the top 5 destinations I want to see before I die, as of right now they'd be (not in priority order):

1. Japan
2. Southeast Asia (Laos, Thailand, Vietnam)
3. Antarctica
4. South Africa
5. Saharan Africa

Maybe five isn't enough, because I really want to see China, New Zealand, Peru, Scandinavia, and India as well. Hmm...I'd better start saving.

Anyway, enough daydreaming. I actually have an entire label on the blog devoted to travel; my expeditions are loosely documented here. This includes New Mexico, Colorado, Spain, and a hodgepodge of others. Looking back at this I obviously haven't posted a lot of my photos from various other trips like Seattle, Chicago, LA, Minneapolis, and Santa Barbara. Maybe I'll do that later, if only for my own edification.

My visited U.S. States (35/50). Airports exluded.

create your own visited states map
check out these Google Hacks.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Movie Review!!!!1!!!1!1!

I went through quite a long period of movie-less activity recently, which was abruptbptbltpylbluly ended ...god "abruptly" is awkward to type... by watching three movies over the past week or two. They were of varying "goodity", which is a value derived from "goodness" using the "sexy", "guns", and "originality" coefficients. The movies I saw, and my ratings of them, are:

1. Hot Fuzz: &++
2. And the Band Played On: C-
3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: H
4. Bubba Ho-tep: R-

Did I say 3 movies? I meant 4. That's how good Bubba Ho-tep wasn't.

Now you might have noticed something peculiar about my grading scheme. Unlike the overgenerous school system, I operate on an extended grading scale that doesn't stop at "F" for "fucking failure" nor "A" for "altogether awesome." I just don't think there's enough gradation in there to properly encompass any movie you might see, from crappy Kazakh hardcore porn to mind-blowing action movies sent back in time to us from the future. My rating scale may or may not bottom out at "Z-----", which is five minuses below a "Z" rating. I'm also not sure where the top of the scale is. In fact, there is no top since it's my scale, but so far Hot Fuzz is close to topping it with an "Ampersand ++." In the future I may need to extend to exponentials and factorials of alphanumerics to properly rate movies, but we'll cross that turtle when we come to it. Movies are also awarded "Awesome Points" for being awesome, and the amount awarded is entirely at my unpredictable discretion.

Now that you fully understand my rating system, here comes the part where I tell you why I rated these movies as such, also known as the "content" of the blog post.

Here we go:

1. Hot Fuzz. RATING: &++ with 180 Awesome Points

Written and directed, and acted, by the same genius British minds behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz tells the story of a overachieving London police officer (not policeman), Nicholas Angel (played by Simon Pegg) who is transferred to a small, quiet village in the English countryside which it turns out is vying for the "Village of the Year" award, an honor that is perennially just barely out of its grasp. This is of little consequence as several suspiciously violent accidents start to befall the residents of Sandford and the supermarket manager, Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), is the focus of the potentially-criminal investigations. Let me pause here, because casting Timothy Dalton is a brilliant call. Not only does he perform outstanding in this character, but casting one of the worst James Bonds adds a measure of je ne se qua to the film's feel. So, Sgt. Angel's convinced these accidents are perpetrated by Skinner but can't get the homeboy police force to believe him. Angel is, however, joined in his quest for justice by one thick-headed officer, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). What makes the movie truly stand out is the combination of subtle British humor, wacky British humor, wry British humor, dry British humor, ...wait, I think I can just say "British humor and capture all of this. The movie also makes purposefully obvious tributes to American action movies, particularly Bad Boys 2 and Point Break, which are done so as not to be hokey nor unnecessary. As with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's previous accomplishment, Shaun of the Dead, the movie is chock full of both subtle and obvious foreshadowing, as well as using self-referential techniques within the film, which make the movie worth watching over and over. All in all, this movie easily earns it's "&++" rating.

2. And the Band Played On. RATING: C- with 5 Awesome Points

Meh, this movie was a bit of a shame. From what my taught Moroccan fiancee, Michael, tells me, the book upon which this made-for-HBO movie is based is fantastic. However, the film obviously doesn't get the adaptation right. In short, the movie portrays the onset of the AIDS blight that struck in the early 1980's and how the U.S. government, including the NIH, CDC, and White House, deftly kept it under wraps, since it was a "gay cancer." Only after about 25,000 Americans had died did President Reagan first utter the word "AIDS." Sadly, all of this is blindingly true, and it's scary because this tragedy could easily repeat itself. For such an important subject matter and one of considerable political tenderness, the movie does a disappointing job of explaining anything in any detail, and ultimately leaves you stuck trying to figure out if you're really watching an Oxygen Channel 2-hour feature or a Dateline NBC special investigation reenactment rather than being perplexed by what went wrong with the AIDS epidemic. The film boasts an "all-star" cast (Ian McKellen hit .315 in the majors) featuring Anjelica Houston, Richard Gere, Ian McKellen, Phil Collins (seriously), Steve Martin, Alan Alda, and a bunch of other people for which you'll find yourself saying "hey, I know that guy from something..." Problems immediately begin when you realize several scenes have been cut for brevity's sake but that leave you wondering what the hell is going on and who the characters are before they ultimately die of AIDS. For instance, Richard Gere portrays a nameless character credited as "The Choreographer," but it's not clear how he knows one of the main characters, who he is, why he's important, or why he's in the movie at all. The only saving grace for this movie, and the only reason I don't give it a "H.5 +", is that the subject matter is worth knowing more about. Although these days it's not particularly unimaginable to think the government is keeping important information from us, but it's valuable to understand there's plenty of awful precedent.

3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. RATING: H with 35 Awesome Points

As supersexyrawcool as the film noir genre can seem, actually pulling it off is another thing entirely. This is what, in my opinion, doomed Sin City to pointlessness. Similarly, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang misses the mark by 9 letters, getting an "H". I originally rated it "J", but then remember Val Kilmer, surprisingly, did a tremendous job playing a sociopathic gay private investigator. It also gets bonus points for positive "sexy" and "guns" coefficients. However, its negative "Robert Downey Jr. taking neurosis too far again" coefficient drags this back down a bit. Basically, as with every noir, we get a guy, a girl, some faceless bad guys, a big city, and a couple of murders. There's some funny lines in the movie, and some interesting plot twists that, admittedly, I am never able to follow in movies, and a good bit of unrealistic gore and violence. I think that, and the picture [caption: Robert Downey Jr.'s gotten himself into yet another mess] pretty much sums up the entire movie, so I'm done.

4. Bubba Ho-tep. RATING: R- 1 Awesome Point

.......... ............ .......... I'm sorry, I blacked out trying to figure out how many other movies I could have watched instead of this one. You'd think that any movie with Bruce Campbell would have some measure of subculture appeal one way or another, but this movie succeeds thoroughly in this absence. Bubba Ho-tep starts off with some fat old guy (Campbell) who thinks he's Elvis Presley waking up from a coma or something in an East Texas nursing home. Then an Egyptian mummy with a cowboy hat and torn jeans starts walking around late at night sucking the residents' souls out and killing them. Seriously. So Elvis and a black guy who thinks he's JFK devise a plan to torch the mummy using some sort of makeshift flamethrower, but something goes wrong and JFK eats it, but then Elvis ultimately bakes the mummy, but who then comes back to "life" somehow, but then Elvis wins again somehow and destroys it for good. It's all really fucking stupid. There was one funny line though: "Now the two key words for tonight- "caution" and "flammable."" That soft chuckle was certainly not worth 2 hours of my time, nor the 4 awards and 6 nominations it has gotten from such venerable institutions as the Fant-Asia Film Festival. Fuck it, this movie gets an "R-".

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pillowfight '07: Michigan vs. Notre Dame

As a devoted Michigan fan, I've naturally been de-testacled this season after successive losses to unranked opponents, one of which shall remain nameless for the rest of my life, to open the season 0-2. This is the first time Michigan opened its season with two straight losses at home since 1959. That's almost 50 years. It's truly a season of historic ignominy for my favorite teams. Michigan sucks as bad as it has for a half-century, the Orioles lost a game by 27 runs, the first time in 110 years, and the Ravens can't seem to beat the perennial cross-town underachievers (Redskins) nor the perennial convicted criminals (Bengals).

Some idiot UM fan made this tshirt before the season started (obviously). Now we all know where to point those fingers.

This weekend Michigan faces one of its archrivals, Notre Dame. Thankfully, Notre Dame is equally awful, having lost their first two games this season as well. Of course, it'll be the first time in history that's ever happened. Lucky me. Watching this game should be like watching blind, retarded sumo wrestlers play checkers in space.

There's a lot of talk this time around about which team is worse rather than the usual "which team is better" madness. For some reason Notre Dame fans think their quarterback's extra 6 quarters of gametime experience over Michigan's freshman QB (our senior got hurt last week) will make the difference somehow. Oh, and thanks to the Big 10 for filling our bye week with an out-of-conference game; that should really give the injured players the respite they need midseason. But, for some reason Michigan fans think that this is a fluke and we'll turn it around all the sudden against the hated Irish. I'd love to believe that, but as far as I can tell this fluke is less the gastrointestinal variety and more the Dune Sandworms variety.

This is not a fluke.

No matter what happens on Saturday, what I am absolutely 100% sure of is that everyone can look forward to watching a 4.5-hour football game, compliments of the ABC network, Doritos, Carmax, and Cialis.

And that's why it's called Pillowfight 2007*. But hey, Go Blue.

* I didn't come up with this.

Friday, September 07, 2007

busy week = mind melt

As the title implies, I've been pretty busy at work. My work isn't interesting to read about---or anyone's work for that matter, unless you're Batman---so i'll spare you...for now. Random thought, but what in the hell ever happened to Pacey from Dawson's Creek? I'm not sure what his name was (past tense is indeed appropriate here), but the last movie I remember him being in was The Skulls, which I think came out in 2001. I wonder what's worse, being a jobless Dawson graduate (Pacey) or being a jobless Dawson graduate AND having your career driven into a ravine and being impregnated by a inculcating madman (Holmes). I guess I answered my own question. If you can't tell from the sharp rise in multisyllabic words I've been using lately, I've been studying for the GRE and putting a lot of time (read: 2 hours per week) in what I call WordBlasting. WordBlasting is where you take a list of several hundred words, intravenously-introduced Peruvian blue cocaine, 7 minutes, and a cool, damp cloth. It works wonders, believe me. I'm planning on asking for my $565 back from the USDA Grad School where I took test prep classes recently. The only problem is that I tend to pass out for about 6 hours after WordBlasting, but when I wake up, boy do I know my vocabulary. Sure, I'm usually bleeding from one ear and have a mysterious amount of change in my pockets when I come around, but it's imperative that I improve my GRE English score. I mean, it's not just because I need to do well on the GRE, who doesn't need to know words like "prolix" and "interregnum?" I can't tell you how many times Tony Cornheiser has described The USC Trojans' uniforms as "incarnadine," and Anderson Cooper has referred to Iran's nuclear program as "sub rosa." MathBlasting is a little different because it tends to involve things like the quadratic formula and the rhombus. These godless machinations require artful square root signs and articulated spatial relations skills, so I have to make sure my head's a little clearer. Nothing's worse than dropping blotter acid while MathBlasting and winding up with two parallel lines shooting straight out of my chest. Want to know the 12th power of 2? It's 4,096. What about the hypotenuse of a triangle whose legs are 9 and 40? It's 41. Do you know how I know that? Because I have to for the GRE, and because I get emails all the time from ETCW! fans demanding that I make simple calculations in my head for them. I don't get it either, but that's how useful all of this is in real life. No matter how much drugs I do, nothing can prepare me for the two essay questions, one of which fools me every time with deceptively cogent logic like, "Garyville is a small town with a big factory. Because it has a big factory, it absolutely must have a man who owns a saddle. Unicorns don't allow men with saddles to ride them, so it is unquestionable that no unicorns own more than 1 acre of property in Chuckton, the town 10 miles down the road from Garyville." Honestly, for the life of me, I just am unable to identify the logical flaws in that argument. By the way, have you ever wondered what would happen if you secretly walked up behind someone at their computer in your office and blew an airhorn? Or threw a brick at their head? That would make for some good, incarcerative YouTube. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that someone keeps stealing my staple remover? I'd staple it down to my desk, but then how would I get it off? I bet Confucius wondered the same thing at some point. Actually, I bet he didn't, not because there was no such thing as a staple remover back then, but because I'm way smarter than he will ever be. "Man with hand in pocket not always playing with coin." What the fuck Confucius? You fucking pervert. I'd better lock up my daughters around you. Wait, maybe this has something to do with why I always end up with coins in my pocket when WordBlasting... uh-oh.