Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sharing is Caring, Part 2

One of those glorious lessons you learn in your younger days is that sharing is caring. Apparently the US intelligence community is still working on this lesson.

In a previous post, I decried the lack of information sharing in the intelligence community, where intelligence is a cross between a valuable currency and a hot potato that needs to be passed around. Now with the advent of underpants bomber, we discover that someone either A) hasn't been sharing enough or B) hasn't been using what's actually been made available.

The security business relies on information. No information and security becomes some sort of haphazard game of tag in a dark room. You might actually tag someone, but you're also probably just going to randomly run into them in the process and wide up with a bloody nose as the person who's it rolls up and tags you.

Thankfully the guy was busted before he could get the contraption up and running. Nevertheless, the fact that it went that far should be yet another impetus to get everyone in government on the same page.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Epic Win

I'm probably not going out on too big of a limb here when I state that American Idol is probably one of the worst things to happen to television other than perhaps the end of The Wire or the existence of CSI: Miami. But what makes American Idol especially heinous (besides releasing Paula Abdul on the world instead of keeping her occupied where her damage was limited) is their effect on music.

American Idol more or less encourages the banal blandness that kills music. Most every time a music genre has taken a dive is due to becoming generic. Edginess is what drives music. If it loses the edge or just gets ruthlessly copied by money-making schemes (like American Idol) then there is a severe problem.

Now this attitude might stem from listening to way too much punk rock, or more specifically, that one time last week where I did nothing but drink coffee and listen to the Dead Kennedys while writing papers. Nonetheless, I can call them like I see them. There's a wide difference between yawn-inspiring bores like Carrie Underwood (who came out of the American Idol cookie-cutter machine) and artists like Lady Gaga who apparently take inspiration from Dr. Seuss, Marvin the Martian, and whatever damage is incurred after a semester at NYU.

Like serious damage incurred at NYU

And so this week I was proud of the Brits for rebelling against the system that continuously feeds them drivel and blandness that would make gruel taste like curry. Through a fairly effective campaign organized through Facebook by Joe and Tracy Morter, the British people managed to get Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" to the top of the charts to beat Joe McElderry's "The Climb." While I'm not the biggest fan of Rage Against the Machine in the world, I still respect them more than some cheesed up, processed product that is propped up by some blithering American Idol-like show. Facebook is useful after all.

The force of righteousness, powered by Zach de la Rocha's hair.

The force of evil. Trust me, there's evil in there.

Something similar should happen in the United States. There might be arguments for the fact that maybe people actually like Miley Cyrus's "Party in the USA." These are probably the same people who think that Sarah Palin advanced women's rights, so we can pretty much ascertain the weight of their opinion. There are probably hordes of other people like that in Britain; this is the nation that gave the world Oasis. But nonetheless, it would prove a point to the folks in charge of the music industry to find better acts and to perhaps think a bit more about expanding their repertoire.

Also, Paul McCartney thought it was cool, so I guess it's a good idea.
"Yeah, I love Rage Against the Machine as much as this cigar."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stop Ruining My State

The one good thing that I hope the Jersey Shore series can show people is that the image of New Jersey is being ruined by people who flock there from other parts of the United States, namely Staten Island. (Sidebar: If you want to see a special on the visitors from Philadelphia, just watch an Animal Planet special on apes or something and pretend there's a beach.) It's them who give the image that the rest of the bozos come up with about New Jersey that the sane and normal people have to live with.

That isn't to say that there are the fair share of bozos and nilly-headed space-using wastes of life that float around the area. There are plenty. I can go retrieve a picture from my high school yearbook if you need proof. What adds to the hilarity is the uproar that they actually protest the "negative" portrayal shown on Jersey Shore. If you check out the Facebook group "MTV Jersey Shore is a disgrace to the Jersey Shore and its inhabitants" you'd probably see plenty of people that embody the sad stereotype that they are protesting against. Just check out some of them who have their pictures available. I've seen some that rarely have a picture outside of a bar and rarely doing anything actually intellectual. Pro-tip folks: if you've ever actually taken a deep look at your sad life, you've probably realized that A) you probably have a crippling headache because that took all the brain cells in your vodka-tonic soaked mind to think about and B) your life is that vacant and superficial.

So that being said, I tried to watch the show juiced up on coffee. This did not last long due to the fact that my attention span was fairly short and I was too jittery to sit still and type. So I put that off, got to other things, and forgot about it. But now that there was a mass snow storm and shopping was out of the question, I decided to pour a glass for myself and provide some analysis of MTV's masterpiece, Jersey Shore.

But of course, I had difficulty sitting through the first minute of the show. The first minute. I could not sit through sixty seconds. That's the amount of time that it take Peyton Manning to throw a touchdown and also somehow set up his team to be in field goal range, and I couldn't sit through watching twenty-something life rejects and their life drama.

Oh snap...your unattached guy left with some unattached girl who left because, you, another unattached girl, had gotten some dude's phone number. This is why I cannot take anything that happens seriously on this show. And it is quite funny that they actually take such things so seriously. I mean, I'm a jittery person and I don't even find myself bothered with the crap they bother themselves with. Granted, I do more in a day than "work" at a t-shirt shop, but nonetheless...

Pro-tip, Sammi: the phrase is "knock a bitch out" or "knock a bitch down," not "knock a bitch up." I'm pretty sure that phrase and ability is only reserved for males. The women's movement can only go so far, and I'm sure if they saw this show, it was not what they had in mind for the future of women.

Judging by how much I'm laughing at the misery Ronnie and Sammi are experiencing at this point, I might qualify as a sociopath. I usually don't take pleasure in people's misery...okay, not this much pleasure. But to actually take their "relationship" seriously is preposterous. The amount of tears they shed isn't anywhere near the amount I've shed when I realized my first fantasy football team wasn't going to make it through the season. I've probably had closer relationships with lady who works at the Administration building cafe. These people investing so much emotion into what are more or less glorified hook-up opportunities bring me irreverent amusement. That or it tells me that I'm soulless and have a heart made of ice formed from the tears of children.

Pro-tip Situation and Vinny: try not to pick up chicks that require a ride home from one of their mothers. Just saying that's a good policy to avoid statutory or a very angry father busting your head in.

MTV is doing an excellent job selling the whole Ronnie-Sammi relationship thing. Except I'm not buying it at all. I was probably right and have a heart of ice.

Ha ha at MTV with the fireworks while Ronnie and Sammi were sweating up the sheets. And what's with the term "smushed?" Come on, folks, get creative.

I wonder if the guys on this show have actually had a deep thought in their lifetime. Somehow they felt that the needed to "freshen up" their tan and haircuts, and go to the gym. I can understand the gym; that's not a bad idea. Haircuts and a tan? I'm pretty sure that mocha hue that you're sporting isn't less mocha-like than it was a few months ago.

"Mike would bang a Gatorade bottle if it had a pulse at this point." Oh snap. It's on, son.

Watching them dance sometimes is like watching a Discovery Channel program on an exotic nation. They even have a routine for the fist pump, which involves hitting the ground to "feel the beat" or whatever.

Snookie can't walk back in her heels. What really possesses girls to go out and party in heels? You know there is a high chance of not being able to walk straight, much less in heels. What's the point of wearing them if you know that they'll torture you? If you really look good, you'll look good regardless of whether or not you're wearing heels or flats. Might I suggest flats? It'd make the walk a lot easier. Plus, you won't be one of the masses walking around carrying your heels while stumbling around in your bare feet. As someone who's wandered around in Adams Morgan a couple of times, I've more or less discerned that it's better for all parties involved.

When you have to say "I think his/her name is...", that should be a major red flag. At least get the name straight.

Man...pizza looks good. I can't believe that I'm fantasizing about those huge Adams Morgan pizzas now. I never thought I'd say that, but damn, those slices of pizza were good. And I'm a major pizza snob.

Two guys, four girls...such a dilemma. Other dilemma: Saying "more cuter." Then again, if your nickname is "The Situation," we're not exactly expecting much out of you. And we're not expecting you to actually not be shallow either.

I love the use of war terms here. "Grenade," "heavy fire," and "bulletproof vest" apparently are all terms you can use while you're hooking up. While as a war nerd, I think it's somewhat interesting and hilarious, nonetheless, the metaphors are lost at this point.

"You better call me." "I will." Ha...yeah right. And I'm the King of Great Britain. I wouldn't be waiting by the phone for that phone call, ma'am.

If your first step to "growing up" is on an MTV show, you really have to step up the "growing up" process a bit. I figure that there'd be some steps you'd be taking at your age to adulthood.

"Typical fraternity college losers." And what are you doing with your life, my friend? I don't think you're doing much better.

And then there's the scene where Snookie gets socked in the face. MTV probably shouldn't have used it as a selling point for the show. That is a given. Also glad that they took the time to display a message about abuse to women. Glad that they could sneak a meaningful message into the show.

And that ends the show and the review. Hope you enjoyed that diatribe. See you whenever I feel like reviewing the next episode.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jersey Shore Review

After "watching" the first two installations of the show Jersey Shore on MTV, I figured a few things out:
1) I more or less got the idea of the show -> the Real World in NJ
2) I have to keep watching it and commenting on it for the, er, good of the public
3) I want to keep up with it
4) I want to take a break from the pile of work I'm doing and not think an intelligent thought for about an hour.

So here we go again, except now I've been guzzling coffee for a while since it is that time of the year when projects and finals are swirling in the air. I imagine the assessment that follows will be perhaps a bit different. So sit back, relax, tell the children to go to bed, and enjoy my running account of the show:

Oh, joy. The morning afterward. I've honestly never seen guys with hair that well-coiffed in the morning, shirtless, in the kitchen and eating cereal. Then again, I don't really seek out shirtless men in kitchens eating cereal.

It really is hard to try to sit through the show in one sitting without pausing for at least a beverage refresh. The sheer idiocy of the "characters" is sometimes too much to handle.

I suppose I'm not the only one who found the irony of Nicole wearing a ballcap that says "Pornstar in Training" while literally sucking on a pickle. I do not make this shit up. Go right now to the show page (the link is at the top of the post) and fast-forward it to 4 minutes. I wonder what she wants the world to think when she sits on the couch and talks about sucking the juice out of pickles. At least she's got big glasses to protect her eyes.

What is with the "sensitive" "relationship" music? Did we forget who these people are and where we are? I suppose so.

I love the manufacturing of drama. But I suppose it has to be interesting. I'm sure a documentary on my hunt for free beer at a party would not be the most scintillating hour of television.

The boyfriend whose girlfriend cheated on her is visiting. Hooray for more manufactured drama.

So the "crew" decides to go to Headliners, which apparently is yet another loud ass place with lots of lights and fake tans. Angelina and her friends, who came to visit, are there where Angelina's boyfriend will meet them. Once there, amidst the loud music and other stuff, Angelina and her boyfriend Mike sit down and have a drink at the bar...which somehow later escalates into the two breaking up. Wonderful.

[Sidebar: We later learn that her boyfriend is going through a divorce. I think a good idea for the future is to wait until the divorce is final. Just saying.]

While there, Nicole runs into some dude she hooked up with named Mike (not the same Mike that Angelina broke up with). At this point, I discover that Nicole has the facial complexion of a cardboard box. Is it healthy to be that tan? I hope it's fake, as I don't think brown spray paint is that harmful.

I really have to doubt the actual basic reasoning skills of JWoww or whatever the hell her name is. Does she know at this point that she is on a television show and that, unless her boyfriend doesn't have cable or the internet, he's going to find out someway that his girlfriend was getting frisky with some tanned-ass gel-laden dude? Then again, they didn't exactly assemble brain surgeons here.

Emotional disturbances suck, but I'm pretty sure you really don't have to be fully functional to work at a T-Shirt shop on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. Of course, Angelina's boyfriend breaking up with her is so much for her to handle that she can't show up to her job and mope. Instead, she cooks up the worst "I'm sick" excuse known to mankind. I've seen better excuse making in my four years of college. This whole situation exposes the level of brattiness that Angelina possesses...and also the level of sheer idiocy and stupidity.

At this point is when I finally understand what the t-shirt shop has to do with the entire thing. I believe that the guy who owns the shop also owns the house they live in, so the rent payment is the cast working for the guy at the T-shirt shop. It makes more sense now. Thank you Angelina for clearing that up.

And the inevitable finally happens: Jenny's boyfriend finally breaks up with her. Or so we think.

Around this point, I got unbelievably, uh, "tired" and decided that reading and working on the pile of papers that I had to turn in was important. So I stopped watching. Plus I think I was out of scotch.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Guests in Your Own Home

In the film The Good Shepherd, there is a scene where Edward Wilson, Matt Damon's character, meets with Joseph Palmi, played by Joe Pesci (and based on real-life mafia figure Sam Giancana) on what is ostentatiously a Florida beach home. They're sitting around and talking on the shore and discussing possible machinations for the CIA and whatnot with that Fidel fella in Cuba. Eventually Palmi asks Wilson:

Let me ask you something... we Italians, we got our families, and we got the church; the Irish, they have the homeland, Jews their tradition; even the niggers, they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have?

To which Wilson cooly responds:

The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.

When I first saw the film, it was a slightly chuckle-worthy moment. It was probably the most brazen demonstration of WASP privilege I've seen in a movie. Other than that, I haven't thought about it much.

Earlier today, I wrote a post about the attacks on Pearl Harbor that happened 68 years this day. Some of the responses I have gotten about the post compare it to the Enola Gay controversy and warn me about "looking at things from the Japanese side" and the problem that whole debacle faced.

Hold up...I'm a bit confused here. The Japanese side? I was under the impression that I was writing about Americans in that post, not the Japanese. I didn't mention anything involving the Japanese naval aviators who were involved in the bombing or the Japanese admiral in charge of it. I was discussing the effects of what happened to Americans as a result of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Sure, they were of Japanese descent, but does that really diminish their American "credentials?" Many of them had been born in the United States and some had even been second generation. I was in no way advocating for the Japanese when I was writing about the Japanese-Americans.

After being notified that I misinterpreted a tongue in cheek remark on the internet (sorry dude), it really got me thinking. Why was such a nerve touched off in me? I'm pretty sure I get more offensive remarks on my facebook wall daily or comments on my status that would probably horrify a nun into combusting. And yet, I raised an eyebrow over something that was totally meant seriously. Why?

Perhaps that it reminded me that some people think that a portion of the population in the United States, including me, might possibly never be fully welcomed by some people into the paradigm known as "America." I can speak without the slightest trace of a foreign accent (or hell, adapt a Baltimore or southern accent), slug as many Budweisers as I want, and watch football as much as I want and yet I will still be looked at first as a foreigner and not as a full American. Even though I am an American citizen by birth, my loyalties will always be questioned by some. Of course, we are also deeply worried about the loyalties of Irish-Americans and their ties to Ireland as well, so I suppose it's not all that bad.

Some people might be a bit irritated when I advocate for the Asian-American position in discussions. I myself find myself somewhat irritated at times, as I feel that I have lost many of my ties to that community. Nevertheless, I am reminded by others that is not the case and that I remain part of that grouping, no matter what I think. As such, I must continually advocate for the Asian-American view, if only to remind people that yes, we might be Asians, but we are Americans nonetheless, just like everyone else. The United States is our home as well, and we intend to stick around.

The Other Side of the Coin

Today, as I hope most of you out there know, is Pearl Harbor Day. I suggest you look it up if you haven't. There most certainly will be commemorations in local newspapers getting the memories of veterans down in print. Flags will be lowers to half-staff to honor those who died on that day. Yet as we honor those who gave their lives that day, perhaps we are also forgetting another group of people who would see their lives utterly destroyed by the events of Pearl Harbor: that of the Japanese who lived in the United States.

Japanese-Americans were already having a rough go at it since the 1906 Gentleman's Agreement, an informal agreement between Japan and the US to restrict Japanese migration to the US, and the Immigration Act of 1924, which banned Asians from immigrating to the US entirely. These were just indications of the general dislike, to put it mildly, that the "native" Americans had for the Japanese newcomers.

Then Pearl Harbor came along. The Japanese had been maligned in the press and by government officials in the prior years due to atrocities in China, but Pearl Harbor really kicked it into high gear. Calls for the internment and displacement of the Japanese were immediately raised by so-called "loyal" Americans. Apparently in the minds of many of them, the Japanese were not Americans and instead enemies loyal to their "home country." (Note: 2/3 of the Japanese on the West Coast at this time were born in the US). On Febrary 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, giving the military the authority to round up enemy aliens they thought would pose a threat to the safety of the United States.

Imagine the swirl of emotions that many of the Japanese felt at the time. Many of them did not question the fact that they were Americans. Americans of Japanese descent, of course, but Japanese nonetheless. Merely months later for some, their lives were being turned upside down in the name of "national security," in which there was little to no evidence that any of them participated in such shenanigans.

This does not mean we should discount those who died at Pearl Harbor and those there who worked to save who they could. Nevertheless, we should also understand and look beyond the immediate event to see the larger tragedy at work.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Show Review

As someone who grew up in New Jersey, you deal with a lot of crap. Not only from within the state of New Jersey, but also outside the state. You either survive Jersey or you wind up crushed and defeated. Or buried in the Meadowlands.

MTV is now airing Jersey Shore, one of their cheesy "reality" "shows." Think something like The Real World on the shore and you get the idea. They somehow got the idea to find a half dozen of probably the most airheaded and vapid nimrods you could find on the face of the earth, tan 'em up, and stick 'em in a shore summer house. More or less these are the guys that inspired the "New Haircut" viral video on YouTube, and the girls on the show...well, they probably just sat in Belmar or outside Club Abyss in Hazlet to get inspiration on the appropriate personalities to target.

When I first heard about this, I thought, "FUCK THIS BULLSHIT." (Sorry if the kids saw that.) It seemed like MTV had decided to reach further in the stupid barrel to find ideas for their show. No way I was going to patronize and further their cause by allowing my very "important" clout to further their machinations.

But then I gave it a thought and figured, "Eh, it'd be interesting." What changed this besides a glass of scotch? Well, another glass of scotch and the sheer irony of the acrimony surrounding the entire show.

Checking my news feed on Facebook, it was amusing to see the irritation by some regarding the Jersey Shore series. After having seen the "trailer" for the show, it was a bit scary how familiar some of the "personalities" in the show were to me. These people made up a surprisingly large demographic of the mouthbreathers that I grew up with back home in New Jersey. It was like spending time after-hours with the bleary-eyed dimwits that populated my summer microeconomics class at Brookdale Community College. And they were complaining about being shown "inaccurately" or "misrepresented."

As a result, I decided to watch the show. Unfortunately, my roommate was occupying the couch and the television watching various sports, so I decided the best alternative was to sit in my room, read a few articles for class, and have a drink or two. I also decided in that time period that I should also write a review/synopsis of the show. However, at the time of this writing, I did not catch the first hour, so the review presented to you will be fairly incomplete. To further exacerbate the issue, I had a few drinks while watching the show, so things are a bit fuzzy.

So more or less they collected a bunch of twenty-something dipshits from the tri-state area...okay, really just New Jersey, Staten Island, and some random dude from Rhode Island...and stuck them all in a house, where they seem to be drinking a lot, having a good time, and making full use of the hot tub. This is a show on MTV.

Lest you think that they're sitting around and whistle-dicking it, they're actually working in a T-shirt shop on the shore. What responsibility. It's hilarious to watch them actually trying to sell the cheesy ass t-shirts that are peddled by the various stores. I'm pretty sure a salesman is not going to convince me to buy some retarded ass shirt with some sentence of phrase that was amusing before I graduated middle school.

When they're not working at the t-shirt shop, they're doing the usual MTV show schtick. They get drunk (apparently their favorite pregame drink is some vodka punch they make in the house), hook up, fight, argue, all that good stuff. Now before you think it's one incestuous pool of people getting to know each other, they bring other random dudes back to the house. One hilarious episode in the part I saw involved a guy one of the "guidettes" brought home. ("Guidette" is a word they use. Don't sue me.) He managed to vomit on the lovely Astroturf like floor of the porch/balcony but also give the side of the house the business. Way to go. Hooray for MTV.

While the chronological details of the show are a bit fuzzy due to the fact that I decided my enjoyment of the show would be heightened by a few glasses of scotch, the fact remains that the show is hilarious in the overly manufacture drama that is typical of MTV shows. Plus, these folks are more or less cartoon characters. Cartoon characters that I went to high school with, but cartoon characters nonetheless.

Watching the show led me to believe that the folks in the giant MTV towers (or perhaps the section at Viacom reserved for MTV) have a set formula that they follow for every one of their damn shows. Jersey Shore is no different. Conflict brews in the part I saw over the issue of one of the overly tanned meatheads getting friendly with one of the "guidettes" that another overly tanned meathead is pining for or whatever the meathead equivalent is for that sort of emotion. What a shocker. Watching it unfold didn't really elicit anything like empathy from me, only a few very well deserved chuckles.

Now the show is honestly probably ironic comedy at its best. Anyone who takes it seriously probably has a bit of an over-reactive temperament. Word is that the anti-defamation folks representing the Italian community in New Jersey weren't too happy about it. In that case, I'm sure they're all up in Nintendo's business right now over not only Mario and Luigi, but also that Waluigi character. Maybe some representatives of the RAF should be suing the Peanuts folks for their misrepresentation of the fighter pilots during the First World War as a bunch of incompetent beagles.

But then again, there's nothing to be proud of here. New Jersey has gotten a bad rap, mostly due to the trash from the city and also the apes from Philadelphia (city of brotherly love my ass) who run up on the shore and decide to ruin it for everyone else. Now we have a televised series entitled "Jersey Shore" with a cast of idiots who are mostly not even from New Jersey. In fact, there is only one person, Sammy "Sweetheart", who is from New Jersey (Hazlet to be exact). This is a prime example of how New Jersey's image has more or less been tarnished by the unwashed masses that flood the place during the summer. Of course, there are plenty of other dopes and animal-brained humanoids running around to keep the dickwad coffers full, but the shoebies and bennies aren't helping.

So will I continue watching? Sure. Will I really care? Not really. Do I like drinking scotch? Hell yeah.

[Note: might be edited once first airing is fully viewed.]