Archive for December, 2011
Near the end of the movie Big, Josh Baskin the Elder presents an idea for, as described by one of the suits in the meeting, a “computerized comic book”. I saw the movie shortly after I turned 14. Even then, when computers and electronics were the awesomest of everything, I hated the idea of a computerized comic book. For one, I was aghast at the price point Baskin was working with, just as the suits were. A retail of $24.99? For a comic book? And each new “issue” will run you $6.95? Yeeeah — I’ll pass. Baskin definitely hit a homerun with the building-that-turns-into-a-robot-that-turns-into-a-dinosaur, and I loved his ideas on the Squeegie Doll line, but he missed by a mile on this one.
Second, and more importantly, who in their right mind would choose a computerized comic book over the real thing? The cover, the pages, the colors, the smell, the feel, the crazy ads for x-ray glasses and Grit and Sea-Monkeys, the idea of putting each comic in its own polybag and saving them for your grandkids, or a rainy day — irreplaceable. About a year ago, I bookmarked a site that catalogued every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man electronically. For x dollars a month, you could read to your heart’s content. Knowing that the odds of me setting my hands on a Spider-Man #1 were non-existent, I thought this would be a great way to get to know all of the back issues I’d missed out on. You know how many times I’ve visited that site in the last year? Zero. I have no interest. I didn’t sign up because the appeal isn’t there. I’d rather read a real comic book about a Monchichi’s quest for a magical friendship bracelet than an electronic comic book.
Surprisingly, I have the same feelings about e-books – and until an army of weak-armed lemmings is somehow able to render real, live books extinct, I won’t invest in a Nook or a Kindle. If I understand the upside to e-books, it’s that they’re a) more portable than an actual book, and b) better for the environment. So portability and being environmentally-friendly are the biggest selling points. Have I missed something? Ok. First of all, if you’re complaining about the “bone-crushing weight” or “unwieldiness” of an actual book, you’ve got bigger issues than the fear of tearing a bicep muscle while toting The World Is Flat to your kid’s soccer game. Secondly — and I don’t have the up-to-date figures on global deforestation at hand — but in our quest to save trees, books are at the bottom of my list of things we should think about doing away with. I mean, we’re talking about books here. Books. With covers and pages and binding and smells and colors and a place on a bookshelf (the most underrated piece of furniture in any home), and getting to the point where we have enough books to form things called studies and libraries. Books are fun to read. They’re nice to look at. They smell good. They feel good. They’re fun to collect. They’re fun to share. They’re books – they’re not meant to be read on a rectangular computer screen and stored on a jump drive. Wait a sec – you mean I can get my Nook in three different colors? Hells yeah – now I’m a believer!
I’m not against technology – it’s made countless improvements to our quality of life. But how do you improve on a book? You can’t.
If you remember one thing from this post, remember this: anything read on a Nook or a Kindle isn’t a book – it’s a pdf.
Books: + 8 billion-billion
e-Books: – 453 (This number will increase exponentially if real books become obsolete, but I don’t see that happening.)
Fire up the flux capacitor – Election Day 2012 can’t come fast enough. This current pool of Republican nominees reminds me of the 1980 Oakland A’s. Aside from Rickey Henderson, can you name anyone else on that team? Me neither. What’s there to like about the Republicans’ chances next year? Mitt Romney’s head spins whichever way the wind blows. Newt Gingrich spends money like a hedge fund manager. Rick Perry is from Texas, which would be ok if George W. Bush wasn’t from Texas. Ron Paul is intriguing in a “my ideas can either be viewed as progressive or panic-inducing”, but he’s too old. Herman Cain reminds me of Tommy Gunn’s yappy promoter in Rocky IV. I wish he’d jump back into the race though, if only to take air time away from Romney. John Huntsman probably deserves more coverage, but he’s not holding down a platinum membership at Tiffany’s like Gingrich.
As a card-carrying member of the party of Common Sense, it doesn’t pain me to say that there isn’t one candidate in this not-very-roguish gallery who can oust Barack Obama. Not one. Likewise, I don’t get giddy when I say I’m 99.9% sure that Obama is a shoo-in for a second term. I just want to get this over with so we can start talking about 2016, and what could be a presidential race for the ages. Rahm Emmanuel. Chris Christie. Hilary Clinton. I wish it was happening now. I wish there was a steel cage involved. I guess I’ll have to be patient.
2012 race: -234,401
2016 race: +234,401 (The universe doth balance itself out)
Here’s a song with an interesting message:
During my senior year of high school, my friends and I plugged in our instruments and attempted to cover AC/DC’s (yeah, I have to cite the band because people like my dad read this) “Back in Black”. Though we assembled in a garage, it would be a stretch to use the term “garage band” to describe our collaboration — the term “band” implies you’ve assembled a group of people that sound even remotely cohesive, and that wasn’t us. We had one guy that was proficient on guitar, a guy that was ok on bass, and two guys who royally sucked on their instruments – the rhythm guitarist (me) and the drummer. In our defense, the drummer and I had just started playing our instruments three months before, but we could have at least had the good sense to practice a little bit more. On top of all of this, we didn’t have a real singer – in fact, I believe I handled vocals that night. Suffice to say, Sebastian Bach wasn’t quaking in his butt-less chaps. What did I sound like, you ask? To best achieve the noises my St. Ides-addled throat was able to conjure up in the fall of 1991, I advise a three-step process: 1) grab a possum by the tail, 2) jab a fork into its ball-sack repeatedly, and 3) record the sounds it makes and then play them backwards. To say I made AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson sound like Susan Boyle would be a gross understatement.
Of course, it was obvious before the first note was struck that we were doomed – but we made sure our names were etched forever in Lucifer’s ebon registry by deciding to add a keyboardist to our lineup. That’s right – a keyboard. In an AC/DC song. Can you hear the wind whistling through my head? Not sure if the keyboard was a Casio, but it was definitely straight out of Toys R Us’s 1989 “Have a Radical Christmas!” catalog. Anyways, being the rock savants we were, we thought it’d be cool to double not only Angus (or was it Malcolm?) Young’s opening guitar riff with the keyboard, but every other guitar part in the song except the solo – which I can’t confirm or deny we ever got to because the first ten seconds were so mind-numbingly bad that I blacked out. Looking back, we should count ourselves fortunate that Zeus Almighty didn’t materialize in my friend’s garage and ram a lightning bolt up each of our asses for such an egregious affront to great music. Words fall well short of describing the atrocious, steaming pile of monkey poo that we splattered all over one of rock’s most recognizable anthems – but if I may make an LOTR analogy, it would be like taking the Balrog from Fellowship and equipping it with a pair of penny loafers, a fanny sack and a t-shirt that says “I Love My Miata”. Good effing lord.
It wasn’t about the keyboardist – he’s a great guy. And it wasn’t about the instrument – when employed correctly, a keyboard can be a huge asset to a rock/metal band’s sound — see Dream Theater for further reference. No, it was just a horrible decision by five dopes who should have known better. God, I can still hear that infernal keyboard. Its hellish timbre is burned into my soul, a lasting reminder to never tamper with perfection: “Plink! P-p-plink! P-p-plink! P-p-p- plink-plink!”
The following summer, four of us (sans keyboardist, who knew a dead-end deal when he saw one) got together and actually made it through Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” from beginning to end. Since the cloves-smoking, sloe gin-swilling septuagenarian high school janitor who gargled with thumbtacks was unavailable, I once again assumed singing duties. I’m happy to report that I improved, to the point where one could describe me as a “poor man’s Don Johnson doing a poor man’s James Hetfield”.
Garage bands: + infinity
My singing: - infinity
Here’s a cool song with a keyboard: